Blog Archives

New Editions of My Guidebooks to Cancun/Mayan Riviera and Chiapas

I’m pleased to say that I have updated both of my guidebooks (in May 2018): the Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary (4th Edition) and Your Chiapas Adventure: San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, Mexico 5-Day Itinerary (2nd Edition).

Both guides are published by Unanchor, which means that they are more than guidebooks, but detailed itineraries to each region. You don’t have to follow the itineraries exactly, however–in both I give lots of options: activities that are relaxing or adventurous, beaches that are world famous or barely visited, gourmet restaurants or public markets, and fancy hotels in colonial mansions or rustic bungalows in the jungle.

In sum, the guides are for travelers who want practical, detailed information so they can travel independently and make the most of their trip. Either guide will pay for itself the first time you follow my advice for a restaurant, hotel, museum, or public transportation. I even include inside tips for traveling to other destinations in Mexico by bus, plane, or rental car.

You don’t need a Kindle to read the guidebooks–you can download a free Kindle reader from Amazon. Or you can buy the .pdf version directly from Unanchor.com.

SONY DSC

Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary (4th Edition)

Updated May 2018. 

Most famous for Cancun, the Mayan Riviera is Mexico’s travel wonderland, a jungle coastline of white-sand beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, laid-back colonial towns, and cenotes—the crystal-clear, freshwater caves and sinkholes found throughout the flat limestone sponge of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Many visitors stay at a resort in Cancun. These all-inclusive monstrosities can be a good deal. You’ll be right on the beach, have a pool, get unlimited food and drinks, and all-in-all have a fun, relaxing vacation.

But even if the package includes some tours, you won’t get to know Mexico… Read more at Amazon.com (or click the book icon):

Also available here at unanchor.com.

SONY DSC

Your Chiapas Adventure: San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, Mexico 5-Day Itinerary (2nd Edition)

Updated May 2018. 

One of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, colonial San Cristobal de las Casas sits in a wide valley of the forested Central Highlands in the southern state of Chiapas. Founded in 1528, it’s not polished to a museum shine, but not rundown either. Its vibrant international scene blends seamlessly with the local Mayan population, many of whom come from nearby autonomous communities protected by the Zapatista army.

About five hours away is Palenque, an enormous, ancient Mayan city where you can climb tall pyramids and wander down jungle paths while streams bubble and howler monkeys howl.

A visit to Chiapas shows you an exotic side of Mexico full of friendly people and lovely landscapes… Read more at Amazon.com (or click the book icon):

Also available here at unanchor.com.

If you’d like a sample of either guidebook, click the cover of the book in Amazon to see the first ten or so pages. If you’ve already bought an earlier edition, thank you very much! Please write me at nohaybroncablog (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you the new edition.

To get an idea of the style and content of both books, please take a look at these articles:

15 Money-Saving Tips for Cancun and the Mayan Riviera

Top 12 Places in Cancun and the Mayan Riviera, Mexico

8 Tips for Visiting the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza

One Week in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas: What to Do?

8 Tips for Budget Travel in Chiapas

If you have any questions, either about the guidebooks or the places described in them, please leave a comment below.

Amazon Link

Advertisements

Destination Events in the Mayan Riviera, 2018

Jambands in the Yucatan, 2018 edition

SONY DSC

A year ago I wrote about something really cool: U.S. bands putting on multi-day concerts at resorts in the Mayan Riviera.

With support acts and a beautiful natural setting, these shows have a lot in common with U.S. music festivals. In fact, many of the bands are festival mainstays, especially jamband festivals. Time-tested road warriors like Widespread Panic and My Morning Jacket are known for long, multi-set, dynamic concerts with unique setlists, making them perfect for both festivals and destination events.

The big difference, of course, is that at a resort you won’t be sweating like crazy in a stuffy tent full of your drunken friends, lining up for filthy porta-potties, or surviving on veggie burritos and lukewarm beer.

Instead, you’ll stay at a sprawling, super-luxury complex with all the food and drinks you want, on a private white-sand beach and the stage a short walk from your hotel room, if not within view of the balcony.

Hell yeah. Sounds awesome. Ok, I’ll admit, I’ve ever been to one, at least not yet. Well, not through the front door, hahaha. (That’s another story.)

These shows aren’t cheap, that’s for sure. If you look at the Facebook pages for these events, you’ll see plenty of complains, mostly about price. The fact is that these resorts cost a lot anyway, any time of year, even without a great band playing. But there’s no denying that they are expensive. For instance, my wife and I saw five shows of Phish’s Baker’s Dozen last summer, staying in New York for a full week. Our modest but nice hotel was a short walk from Madison Square Garden. Even with all the restaurants and bars we patronized, it was still cheaper than the three-day Phish event at the Mayan Riviera. (Which would have felt even more expensive to me, because I typically stay at small hotels in nearby Playa del Carmen for about $20 USD a night.)

On the other hand, if you really love music and have the money, what could be better than watching your favorite band while standing in powder-soft sand with gentle lukewarm waves lapping at your ankles?

no-hay-bronca-jambands-phish-mexico-2

This year, 2018, January and February will be busy months. The events are at either the Hard Rock Resort (not the restaurant in the hotel zone in Cancun) or put on by CID Presents at the Barceló. Both resorts are between Playa del Carmen and Tulum on the Mayan Riviera, an hour or two south of Cancun.

Day 5 a mayan riviera.png

I’ve listed the shows below, although for general interest more than anything else, considering that most of them are sold out already. So if your favorite is sold out, check out the photos, prices and all other info, and start planning for next year.

If you’re going to one of these shows and want some tips about the area, check out the article I wrote last year. I give some advice about getting out of the resort and checking out the fascinating and gorgeous surrounding areas, which have secluded beaches, Mayan ruins, colonial towns, and clear-water limestone sinkholes called cenotes.

SONY DSC

Or (shameless plug), you could buy my guidebook, the Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary, written for the independent traveler who likes the beach but also wants some culture:

From Amazon:

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments, however.

Here’s the list for 2018:

January 12-14, 2018

Dave Mathews and Tim Reynolds

http://daveandtimrivieramaya.com/the-event

Dave and Tim come up first in early January.

January 17-20, 2018

Crash My Playa: Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Sam Hunt, many more

http://crashmyplaya.com

Sure, country isn’t a jamband, but this 4-day event deserves mention.

January 26-30, 2018

Panic en la Playa: Widespread Panic, with various jamband supergroups

http://panicenlaplaya.com

This is the seventh edition of WSP’s big party. Unknown in Mexico, Widespread Panic was one of my favorite bands in the ‘90s, and they’re still going strong.

no-hay-bronca-jambands-wsp

(Side note: Beach Vibes with LCD Soundsystem was originally announced for these dates, but it was cancelled last summer.)

January 31-February 4, 2018

The Avett Brothers at the Beach: The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, John Prine, more

http://avettsatthebeach.com

Look no further for than this for some excellent U.S. roots rock, including legendary John Prine.

February 15-19, 2018

Playing in the Sand: Dead & Company, Michael Franti & Spearhead, more

http://playinginthesand.com

Last year the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, along with the String Cheese Incident, hosted Los Muertos Con Queso. This year they return in a different format: their collaboration with John Mayer (among others) in Dead & Company.

March 2-6, 2018

One Big Holiday (Dominican Republic)

My Morning Jacket, Portugal the Man, Broken Social Scene, Toots & the Maytals, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, more

mmjonebigholiday.com

Although this took place in the Mayan Riviera last year, in 2018 it’s in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Nice place I’m sure.

no-hay-bronca-jambands-phish-mexico-8

Finally, if you’re into classic rock, check later for Rock Getaway, which happened on October 26-29 in 2017 with Santana and many more. There’s no announcement yet for 2018 dates, but the website is up and ready.

Thanks for reading, and if you’re going to any of these, I would love to hear from you.

15 Money-Saving Tips for Cancun and the Mayan Riviera

How to save money and avoid getting ripped off in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum

no hay bronca tulum 2

From Cancun to Tulum, the Mayan Riviera is 90 miles of white-sand beaches, small towns, and big resorts between the deep jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula and the calm turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea.

Fortunately, this paradise can be quite affordable. Sure, staying at one of the fancy resorts can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a night. But search out smaller hotels and eat in local restaurants in Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Puerto Morelos, or downtown Cancun, and you may find that a vacation in the Mayan Riviera is cheaper than staying home.

SONY DSC

Elsewhere on this blog you can find my article Top Tips for Travelers to Mexico, which lists all the important ways you can minimize your expenses and maximize your fun on a trip to Mexico.

There’s some overlap with the tips on this list, but as the title suggests, these are specific to the Mayan Riviera, one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of Mexico—perhaps even the world.

Day 1 a Mex and Cancun

1. Stay in a small hotel a block or two from the beach

The huge resorts in Cancun’s hotel zone and in other parts of the Mayan Riviera are a lot of fun, with all-day pool parties, unlimited booze, and all-you-can-eat restaurants.

Similarly, the fancy hotels right on the beach in smaller towns are lovely, that’s for sure. And while they may be cheaper than the big resorts or a similar hotel in your home country, if you are really looking to save money, you can find great value if you search for a hotel away from the beach.

By great value, I’m talking about as low as 200 pesos a night (about $10-12 USD) for a modest but reasonable room, nothing fancy but a decent place to crash. For a little more, say 400-600 pesos (about $20-35 USD) you can get something perfectly good, with a TV, hot water, and air conditioning.

Look for cheaper hotels in downtown Cancun (the beach is a 20-minute ride away on a local bus), two or three blocks from the beach in Playa del Carmen, in Tulum town (which is on the highway, not on the beach), or just off the beach practically anywhere else on the Mayan Riviera.

You can search for hotels online, but the best way to find the cheapest hotels is just by wandering around and looking for them, which is easy to do in low season.

2. Avoid high season

If at all possible, don’t go during high season, which is late December to early January, Semana Santa (the week before Easter), and late July. Besides more crowds, many hotels raise prices during those times.

If you can only visit during a high season, however, don’t cancel your trip—just give yourself a little more time to visit popular places like the Mayan ruins of Tulum or Chichen Itza.

SONY DSC

3. Don’t pay in U.S. dollars

Use pesos for everything, especially for souvenirs and meals. Although many restaurants and stores accept dollars, the exchange rate they use will be outrageous, automatically adding 10% (or more) to the price.

Exceptions to this are big nightclubs like Coco Bongo and the big adventure parks like Xel-Ha, which have fixed fees in U.S. dollars.

4. Get pesos from an ATM

Exchange rates from bank ATMs are usually good, much better than changing money at the booths in the Cancun airport.

Make sure you use a bank, not a “private” ATM, which charge higher fees. Banks are all over downtown Cancun and in Playa del Carmen, and you can find bank ATMs in bus stations too.

Basically, if you see a machine on the street or in a restaurant with only “ATM” written on it and no bank logo, then you can be sure it’s a private ATM and will charge high fees and perhaps even give a bad exchange rate.

Common banks in Mexico include Bancomer, Banamex, Santander, Banorte, HSBC, and Scotiabank. Look for these to save on fees when withdrawing money.

SONY DSC

5. Ignore the “tour guides” on the street

As you walk around Quinta Avenida in Playa del Carmen (5th Avenue, the long pedestrian street that follows the beach), guides will constantly call out to you, offering nightclub tickets, trips to ecoparks and ruins, trips to Cozumel…pretty much any activity you can imagine.

Sure, talk to these guys and ask them questions, but keep in mind that you don’t need them for anything. Taking public transportation to Tulum or Chichen Itza is easy. For Cozumel or Isla Mujeres, simply go to the ferry terminals. For the big adventure parks like Xel-Ha or Xplor, buy tickets online (more on this below).

It’s possible that these “guide” have discounted tickets for nightclubs, but before buying them, stop by the nightclub (or check online) to find out the regular price.

6. Buy tickets online for ecoparks and shows

If you want to go to one of the heavily-advertized theme parks like Xel-Ha, Xplor, or Rio Secreto, always check the prices online—they all have websites in English. Besides offering inflated prices, the salespeople on the street may pressure you into a package you don’t want or don’t understand.

7. Take public transportation to Chichen Itza and Tulum

If you read this article about Chichen Itza, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of guided tours. For the famous Mayan ruins like Tulum and Chichen Itza, you can just show up in the morning when they open. (Go extra early in high season, however.) Then you can enjoy the site without being part of a big, noisy group. You can stay as long as you want and search out all the hidden corners.

Besides, it’s cheaper to take public transportation. Colectivos (passenger vans) constantly travel along the coast. In the towns they leave from specific places—easy to find, or ask at the front desk of your hotel. On the highway, all you have to do is wave at them. If one has space, it will stop for you.

And by cheap, I mean between $1 and $3 USD. (But pay in pesos, of course.)

For places inland, you can take the modern and safe ADO buses, which leave from bus stations in every town. Check schedules and prices on their website. At the moment it’s only in Spanish, but easy enough to figure out.

8. About resort and timeshare sales pitches

Some resorts offer a free drink and access to their swimming pool if you listen to their sales pitch. In my opinion, this is a huge waste of an afternoon, but go for it if you’re interested.

Ignore anyone offering this outside of the resort itself, or if someone wants to tell you about a timeshare opportunity. Listen if you want, but by no means give them any personal information, such as the name of your hotel.

SONY DSC

9. On buying souvenirs

The same souvenirs are available everywhere—in stores, in markets, and from people walking around the beach.

The rule is, basically, the farther away you are from the beach or places with lots of tourists, the better the prices will be. So this means never buy from someone offering you something on the beach. (Unless you want to, of course, but understand that the prices will be higher.)

Don’t buy anything on Cozumel—prices are higher by like 200%. Cruise ships dock in Cozumel, and every day thousands of tourists pour out of them. They have no idea what the peso is worth and get ripped off like crazy.

The same goes for Isla Mujeres—even though there are no cruise ships, the tourists there are a captive audience. It’s an island, after all.

So, for your best deal on a souvenir, head to a place with lots of shops in one place. In Playa del Carmen there are a bunch of small shops just inland from the Cozumel dock, and in downtown Cancun there are several markets like Mercado 28 or Mercado 23 that are full of souvenirs.

10. On buying souvenirs in markets

Probably the best market for souvenirs is Mercado 28 in downtown Cancun, an easy walk from the ADO bus station. Lots of vendors means lots of competition between them, meaning lower prices.

The downside is that the vendors constantly call out to you as you walk around. You may find it annoying, but just ignore them. Don’t get excited about something you like, just calmly ask the price and move on. You’ll almost certainly see the same thing elsewhere—ask the price again, and keep looking until you hear a price you like. Which brings us to…

11. Haggling

In markets and souvenir shops, if you don’t see price tags, then get ready to haggle. Expect to be quoted higher prices if you don’t speak Spanish.

Don’t show any emotion when haggling, positive or negative, like saying how nice the product is. Just ask for the price, and then either offer a lower price or ask for a discount. If you don’t like the price, thank them and leave.

When you start leaving, usually they say nothing. In this case, yes you’ve been given the final price. Go look in other shops for the same thing or come back to buy it.

SONY DSC

Sometimes, however, when you start to leave they will stop you and give you a lower price. When this happens, the real haggling begins. You can probably get an even lower price than what they offered.

But please don’t do this when buying fruit or some non-souvenir in a regular market. Typically you get the real price when shopping for food, and haggling over nickels and dimes for a bag of oranges or a loaf of bread is a little rude.

12. The Russian Discount

I noticed this first in Moscow, which is why I call it the “Russian Discount.” A big sign in the souvenir shop window says “Everything 50% Off!”

Check the prices—I’ve noticed that, almost always, everything in the shop costs double what other stores charge, so your 50% discount really isn’t a discount at all.

13. Eating in

If you have a hotel that includes free breakfast, you will automatically save money by not going out for breakfast every day. The free hotel breakfast will also save time, especially with a big group—not discussing where to go, waiting for a table, looking at the menu…

If your hotel has a kitchen, you can save even more money by eating in. I’m not talking about cooking a huge feast—it’s your vacation after all, maybe you don’t want to make such an effort—but it’s a good idea to buy some fruit or supplies for sandwiches, which is particularly convenient to bring along on a day trip.

14. Choosing restaurants

Same as with souvenirs—the closer you are to the beach or a place full of tourists, the more expensive the restaurants will be.

But it’s not only price—the Mexican restaurants geared toward tourists are not only more expensive, but also not nearly as good. For authentic Mexican food—obviously much more delicious than the bland stuff made for tourists—look for modest restaurants away from the beach, such as in downtown Cancun or three blocks from the beach in Playa del Carmen.

The best way to find these places is to ask a local, but not a cab driver or even the person at the front desk of your hotel, as they will probably send you to their friend’s touristy restaurant.

Whoever you ask, make it clear that you want something real, what the locals eat.

SONY DSC

15. Check your bill carefully

Overcharging is common—adding a few more beers to the count, thinking you won’t notice. Make sure you actually ordered everything on your bill.

Tip 10%, but check to see if it was included already.

Pay in cash, not with a credit card. If the wrong person gets hold of your number, they can empty your bank account. Besides, if you use your credit card for every meal, it will be hard to keep track of all the expenses—which ones are correct, which are not.

Bonus Tip: Buy my guidebook

Shameless plug: All these tips and many more are detailed in my guidebook to the region, the Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary. It’s for the independent traveler who likes the beach but also wants some culture. Besides saving a lot of money, you:

  • Have two full days on two gorgeous beaches: Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
  • Explore two Mayan ruins: Chichén Itzá, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and Tulum, a sunny fortress built on cliffs overlooking one of the most iconic beaches in Mexico.
  • Dip your toe into local culture in Valladolid, a small colonial town in central Yucatán.
  • Swim, snorkel, or scuba dive in the clear, freshwater Dos Ojos cenote.
  • Eat what Mexicans eat: seafood, tacos, and Yucatán specialties like panuchos and salbutes.
  • Shop, party, get tan, and learn some Spanish, history, and culture. And, if time permits, explore more places in the region, including Puerto Morelos, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, the Cobá ruins, Xpu-Ha beach, and many more.

You can get a free Kindle reader from Amazon to read the guide on your computer, or you can now buy a paperback version.

This part of Mexico may be the most visited, but in some ways the least understood. I try to remedy this with my guide.

From Amazon:

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

Please leave a comment if you have a question about any of these tips or my guide.

 

%d bloggers like this: