A warm place with no memory
June 28, 2012 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Mexico beach filter: Is there anywhere I could go on the Yucatan for a low-cost, laid-back, bohemian-esque week on the beach this November? Or should I stick with the area around Zipolite on the Oaxaca coast?

I'm planning a trip to Mexico this November. I have 3 weeks for this trip and was initially planning a couple of days in Mexico City, 4-5 days in Oaxaca, a week around San Cristobal de las Casas/Palenque/Agua Azul and a week on the beaches around Zipolite.

Zipolite sounds perfect to me in many ways - I like my beach experiences rustic, cheap and laid-back. I'd rather avoid cruise ships, big resorts and tour buses. And I don't have a ton to spend on this trip.

But I've been reading that the beaches around Zipolite, while beautiful, are not good for swimming. And it seems like there's so much cool stuff to see/do on the Mayan Riviera: bioluminescent bays, snorkeling near reefs, cenotes.

Is there any beach in that area where I could stay in a very basic cabana/bungalow on the beach, free of huge resorts, for under $20/night, and where I can also get around to see other stuff in the area? I guess Tulum used to be like this, but not anymore - what about Isla Holbox? Alternately, is there anywhere on the Oaxaca coast where swimming will be ok?

Oh, and I realize this is pretty early to be asking, but my decision about this will determine whether I fly into the DF or Cancun, so I want to decide in the next few weeks so I can get a good deal on a flight.
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
posted by chrchr at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Isla Mujeres/Tulum is great. avoid Playa del Carmen like the plague though...
posted by supermedusa at 1:35 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So, Tulum and Isla Mujeres are still cool/laid-back? I've heard otherwise, but I'd love to be wrong about that!
posted by lunasol at 1:38 PM on June 28, 2012

There's nowhere to stay in Tulum for $20/night. I have stayed in the no-frills cabana ($55) at Luna Maya, back before they had full-time electricity, and it was a really nice stay. It's on the Sian Kaan end of the beach road, as well, so getting there is not as major an effort.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:55 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Isla Mujeres, at least, was fantastically laid-back when I was there 3 years ago. It's maybe my favorite place in the world.
posted by COBRA! at 2:10 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Puerto Morelos is an amazing fishing village 30ish minutes from Cancun. Amazing food, no resorts allowed in the small village, nice beaches, cenotes for diving and snorkeling not too far away. I hate resorts, and and love this place. PM me if you want some recommendations.
posted by evadery at 2:34 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I lived in Oaxaca for a couple of years and have been to Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, and Zipolite. By far, Zipolite is the most beautiful and the least touristy. Like you said, the water is pretty dangerous for swimming, but it's definitely the hang in a hammock type of place.

Oaxaca is beautiful and I would recommend staying there for a week. There are tons of little villages to explore and lots to see. One or two days in MC is probably enough, and Palenque, San Cristobal, and Agua Azul are definitely must see places.

You might take a look at this website for insider info.
posted by Sal and Richard at 2:47 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like you're looking for something more laid back than Tulum or Isla Mujeres. I think they both became over run several years ago.
I recommend Puerto Morelos every time. See my comments in this Askme. It's incredibly easy to get to, very laid back, but no $20 cabanas on the beach. Some $30-$40 night rooms in the small village sure, but on the beach are mostly houses that people rent out or one or two hotels that are slightly more expensive than what you're looking for.
It's also less beach bum and more mexican village than what I think Zipolite is. A friend goes on at length to me about Zipolite all the time, and she describes it as having a more rustic or undeveloped vibe.
I loved Isla Holbox, but it is comparable to Puerto Morelos, and would choose PM over it because of the ease of getting there and the sheer number of things to do in the area. Beaches are great for swimming, snorkeling, scuba, fishing boat excursions, and there are Kiteboarding lessons in town. There is a tourist booth in the main plaza that will arrange transportation to the nearby cenotes and attractions if you don't have access to a car.
It's a great little town.
posted by newpotato at 3:20 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm trying to remember the name of one of the cenotes south of Puerto Morelos that we went to.
It was amazing. It was unlike the other cenotes in that there was this large area that you had to snorkel above, below, and through a cavern packed full of stalagtites and stalagmites and it was often times a pretty tight squeeze. They made you hold on to a rope or something from the person in front of you and go single file through that area. It was a little bit scary and if you're at all claustrophobic you definitely want to avoid it...but it was a great experience.
I'll post back if I can google up the name somehow...
posted by newpotato at 3:27 PM on June 28, 2012

Peruse your price range at airbnb for private rentals. Choices include shared or private room in homes, and completely private units. Sort of a step up from couchsurfing.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:49 PM on June 28, 2012

I was in Isla Mujeres 1 year ago and yes its still very low-key
posted by supermedusa at 2:48 PM on June 29, 2012

Looove Isla mujeres
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:22 AM on June 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone for the excellent advice. Especially the Puerto Morelos tips. It looks like low-key is doable in the Yucatan if I'm willing to pay more, so I might just have to wait and see what my budget looks like when the trip gets closer.
posted by lunasol at 11:10 AM on June 30, 2012

I stayed at a hostel in Tulum at the end of 2010, kind of tent village set up with more permanent structures for the kitchen and communal areas. It was beautiful - across the road from the beach, set amongst the trees, private cenote at the back. There are a lot of swanky resorts in Tulum but this place was a little world of its own. Can't remember the name but shouldn't be hard to spot it if you search for hostels. You'd have to want to pretty much do all your own cooking though as it's a few miles from town (a good thing, in my view). We stayed there three weeks and caught a lift into town once a week for supplies.
posted by MrChuckles at 1:50 AM on July 1, 2012

The tent hostel was Cenote Encantado.
posted by MrChuckles at 1:59 AM on July 1, 2012

There are a number of beautiful beaches you can swim at in Huatulco in Oaxaca. The catch is this is a very carefully developed area and they developed it so that you stay in hotels. You might be able to catch a hotel room in the thirty dollar a night range but it's not going to be on the beach. This area is also very difficult to get to.

One important thing to consider is that Oaxaca is possible to get to from Mexico City by bus while the Riviera Maya is not. That airfare could buy you a pretty nice hotel room in Oaxaca. Oaxaca City and its surroundings are not to be missed if you're passing through.

This is probably the cheapest place that's not a hostel that you will find on the beach in the Riviera Maya. It's in the most well-preserved part of the region that's just south of Tulum: http://cesiak.org/deluxe.htm

But there are some pretty nice hostels right on the beach in Isla Mujeres.
posted by pynchonesque at 10:17 PM on August 6, 2012

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