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!