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Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

California
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Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

Hello,

I'm a pretty steady traveler, not quite a backpacker, but someone who loves culture and not commercialization and who doesn't happen to be wealthy (a teacher). I usually stay in lower-end/mid-range hotels when I travel and eat locally, avoiding other tourists and tourist traps as much as possible. I'm just back from a mind-altering trip traveling 2200 km through Mexico where I traveled through five states (Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo).

I fell so in love with Mexico that I literally cannot wait to return, and since I live in California, that will be easy. I hope to return next summer. At the end of our trip, we found ourselves in Tulum, and I could barely stand the four days there -- although the beach itself was gorgeous, it was so filled with other tourists and so marked up and lacking any real culture, even the town seemed to have been impacted badly by this.

So my husband and I plan hopefully to return to Mexico for a month or so next summer, and we would like to visit the beach again. We wondered if the Costa Maya had places that were more... Mexican? Where we could stay. Places that still had culture to them and felt more "alive" instead of just 95% people-trying-to-sell-us-hippie-stuff-for-high-prices. I don't mean to sound harsh toward Tulum, which was a beautiful beach with a fantastic hotel, and the town, once off the main drag was cute but felt too separated from where we were and was a 20 minute drive. We looked at a map of Mexico and saw that North of Mahahuel, there were some towns, but can find little info on them. When in Tulum, I would drive into town JUST to feel back in Mexico again, I got so sick of other tourists and the whole tourist-trap vibe of the beach that I actually felt kind of sick sometimes. I went to Palenque and stayed in the hotel area and never had that feeling, and I stayed in Merida centro and also really enjoyed it. But the Tulum beach was some of the worst. It just ruined such a beautiful place. Not only was it filled with tourists, but it was filled with some of the worst sorts of tourists: the ones who are trying to pretend to be travelers. I suppose the other worst kind, the ones who are absolutely just tourists, are up in Cancun!

I've heard of Xcalak but know little about it. Is it still a Mexican-feeling town? Are there other places to stay in the Costa Maya that are less touristy?

Thanks for any advice or thoughts!

Cozumel, Mexico
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1. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

You pretty much described my feelings about Tulum. And really, it is becoming more and more difficult to find what you are seeking anywhere in this area. In the State of Quintana Roo, it seems anything goes if the developer shows them the cash. It has been much time since I have visited Xcalak but I believe it still remains not so developed.

While not a beach resort, Bacalar Lagoon is a favorite of mine. My Chetumal friends have a lagoon side house and I enjoy swimming in the lagoon so much. It is a very large lake with crystal clear water. And the town remains much as it always has despite attempts to promote it.

Have you considered Isla Holbox? It remains pretty much untouched and undeveloped--so far. The streets are not paved and even the taxis there are golf carts. Reminds me of Isla Mujeres before it became so busy and developed.

You have been to some of my favorite places, Chiapas and Merida!

Hope you find what you are seeking!

California
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2. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

Thanks Robertsdf, you gave me really sound travel advice before I left for my trip, so I really appreciate your thoughts on Bacalar. We passed briefly, on the highway, through the area, but we didn't stop or see the town. But now that you mention it, it might really be just the ticket to what we're trying to find in the area. Isla Holbox is another great option that I didn't think of, so thanks!

It's sad about Quintana Roo. It's a beautiful state, but the moment we crossed the border to Yucatan, the feeling changed to one that is much more local. I loved Yucatan and Chiapas best. We struggled over where to base ourselves torn between really these two areas, wound up deciding to check out the entire area, and then found out we loved both regions for different reasons.

I'm glad I'm not crazy about my Tulum feeling. I hadn't read anything bad about it online, and even when I was there, I was in a really gorgeous hotel (Hotel Amoreira, highly recommended to anyone who stays there because it's so much prettier than the other hotels, and with a communal kitchen and prime spot on the beach). But the whole time, I had to tell myself, "I'm enjoying this." Then I would take two steps off the property, which was lovely, out onto the street and just feel sad. I literally MISSED Mexico while I was there.

Mexico is pretty amazing. I've been to a pretty odd assortment of countries and love them all for different reasons, but Mexico really got under my skin and made me feel right at home; I could see myself living there, no problem. It was the people and the culture both, I think. That must be why Tulum was so hard. I think it would be a nice place if someone had never been anywhere else in Mexico, but we were really spoiled by it all by the time we got there, so it was like culture shock. All the talk of eco-chic sounded nice. I didn't realize that it meant uber-rich tourists on a spiritual kick!

I will absolutely check out Isla Holbox and perhaps Bacalar when I return. Thanks!

Cozumel, Mexico
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3. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

"the moment we crossed the border to Yucatan, the feeling changed to one that is much more local."

I agree. The Yucatan government seems to put some effort in enforcing rules and preserving the area. As I said, in Quintana Roo, it seems to be show me the money and the rules change. I always thought if Holbox were a few kilometers away in the state of Yucatan, things would be preserved much longer..

Bacalar remains pretty much the same but the Quintana Roo government is doing its best to promote it so afraid it will also change. I think one thing that has saved Bacalar is that it is further South than many want to drive. Of course , that has also helped Holbox--it is out of range of many Cancun tourists..

Of course, I feel no attraction to Cancun or Playa del Carmen and only pass through.

Good luck in your planning! Let us know how it all works out!

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4. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

Xcalak is a great little town. Very isolated. Has many different types of places to stay. A half dozen good restaurants. Frequented mostly by divers and fisherman. Populated by local Mexicans, US and Canadian ex pats. Population 250- 300 at max. Might as well be an island although you can drive to it.

The reef and shoreline are a protected park, from Belize to just south of Mahahual. Best swimming beaches are a bit north of town. Reef access just about anywhere. Accessing can be done by snorkel, kayak, or hiring out a local company like XTC divers. Chetumal Bay is huge and has some interesting things to see also. You'd need to hire a guide to show you this area.

Bacalar is definitely an interesting place and worth days of exploration. North or south of Mahahual will give you isolation, but no towns really. Empty beaches and reef access. The Costa Maya is really just the 2 towns and everything above and between.

San Jose, California
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5. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

We enjoyed Tulum, but we went in not expecting it to be authentic Mexico, so I think that helped. We were on a road trip around Yucatan and then had our last several days in Tulum before flying home. We went to Tulum specifically for the beach and because it was relatively low-key and quiet (relatively, of course). Our plan for Tulum was basically to hang out on the beach, swim, read, drink beer, eat ceviche, wander around, and repeat. That worked well. It did seem that Tulum is on the cusp of becoming too much though - as though it still has enough of what it used to be, but has almost lost what made it good. Prices are going up, that Aldea Zama (sp?) development is being built, there are land grabs that are taking over small hotel properties...

maine
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6. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

Tulum has changed hugely in the five years we have been going there. Even though we rented a house in the Sian Ka'an twice, we, too, wanted to get away from the Chedraui, the "beautiful people", the endless traffic on the beach road, and the soaring prices. Aside from the weather and the beach, why leave home?

Check out the Mahahual area. North, there is Rio Indio and Sapphire Beach. South there is Puerto Angel where we rediscovered the Q. Roo we fell in love with. Great swimming (no turtle grass like Xcalak), wonderful snorkeling and not an American style grocery store in sight. Almaplena (SP?) is a quiet, off the grid resort with very few rooms. We rented a house (also off the grid) and loved it. Had fish, fruits and veggies and breads delivered right to the door. I think you'll find what you're looking for.

maine
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7. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

BTW, don't be put off by the fact that cruise ships dock there. Unless you were to stay right in town you would not even know they come there...We just avoided town when they were in.

Minnesota
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8. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

We love Xcalak, and have used XTC several times......and agree that Tulum has been over-run in the past 12 years. If you are not looking for water or beaches, Felipe Carrillo Puerto is an interesting city with a great history.

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9. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

I love Xcalak and it is a lot more authentic feeling than say Tulum, which I didnt love (and my most status oriented friends are now discovering - LOL). There isn't much there there. A few tiendas with foods locals would make at home. Unless things have changed drastically since I was last there (4 years ago?) you couldn't even get dark Mexican beer! Great fish and ceviche in town at a few places.

Stayed at Costa de Cocos, which thrived on being rustic - but the rooms are nice and on a great beach. Maybe they bought new beach chairs by now - it was pretty comical - it's a place for fishing and diving - not lolling. Every single lounger was broken; no clocks had the right time; the owner was hysterical when I told her of a 4am bat visit.

SuitcaseReady.com

Edited: 22 September 2014, 17:58
Cozumel, Mexico
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10. Re: Less touristy area than Tulum in Costa Maya?

Good advice from evening. She describes my feelings about Tulum---I don´t love it. It was never my favorite but, at one time, a nice laid back place with low cost accomodations. Now, as evening says, it has been discovered by the status seekers and prices have risen accordingly. Take evening´s advice and head further south.

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