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New Train From Cancun Makes It Easier To Visit This Beautiful Unspoiled Coastal Region

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A month into its launch, the Tren Maya is already revolutionizing travel in the Mexican Caribbean.

With AMLO's signature train, it's become much easier for tourists based in Cancun or anywhere along the Mayan Riviera to explore the mystical peninsula without wasting precious vacation hours in long, uncomfortable bus rides or stuck in chaotic traffic.

Aerial View Of Lake Bacalar, Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico

While the media has been hyperfocused on the improved connectivity between the Hotel Zone and beach hotspots like Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, little is being said about how the scenic railway has opened a portal into an undiscovered part of Mexico.

This beautiful coastal region that, prior to the introduction of trains, was a dreadful five-hour drive from Cancun (at best), and now, it won't even require a car to get to:

Costa Maya Is Now A Short Scenic Ride From Cancun

Beautiful Coast In Costa Maya, Mexico

In the southern end of the Yucatan Peninsula lies a largely unspoiled section of the coast known as Costa Maya, which, as the name indicates, has cultural and historical ties to the bygone ancient civilization that was once called the dense jungle home.

Instead of Mayan crops and sacrificial sites, tourists these days will now find a rapidly-developing leisure destination, linking the resort towns of Chetumal, Bacalar and Mahahual, as well as several smaller, traditional fishing settlements.

A Pier Stretching Out Onto The Sea In Mahahual, A Caribbean Beach In Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico

The Costa Maya is nowhere near as ready to host international visitors as Northern Quintana Roo (QR), as it lacks the ultra-luxurious resorts and world-renowned hospitality brands, and certainly the all-inclusive deals that have transformed Cancun into America's go-to sunny getaway.

That's not to say it's not touristy: boutique hotels have a well-established presence in Bacalar already, and prior to nonstop flights between Chetumal and the United States being axed, it was growing to be a moderately successful alternative to Cancun.

What's So Special About Costa Maya?

Crystal clear water on Costa Maya beach, Mexico

Unlike Northern QR, Southern QR has not almost fully lost its cultural character: in Lake Bacalar, perhaps the biggest attraction around Costa Maya, most of the businesses on the waterfront, accommodations, and restaurants are locally owned, and gentrification is less pronounced.

That's the charm of Costa Maya: it is as gorgeous as the much more popular Riviera Maya, with white-sand beaches and turquoise-colored seas, but it has not yet become an American tourist playground or bachelorette party hotspot.

Maya Train Tracks In Mexico, Latin America

Thanks to the Maya Train, a megaproject connecting the whole of Yucatan by rail, tourists landing in Cancun, the largest hub in the peninsula, will be able to travel South to the pristine Costa Maya without paying exorbitant private transfer fees or resorting to inefficient public transport.

According to the Cancun Sun, the train is one of the main drives behind the expected surge in tourism to the region, which is now expected to host nearly 80,000 visitors this winter, with Chetumal alone concentrating around 51,000 travelers.

Woman looking at phone on a train

That's hardly a surprise, seeing that the train is expected to call at the newly-built Chetumal Station, deemed the official gateway to Costa Maya.

The Cancun-Chetumal route has not yet been launched, but with the inaugural journey set to take place at some point this year, it shouldn't be long until tourists are able to book tickets to Costa Maya.

What To See Around Costa Maya Once The Train Line Is Open

A Vibrant State Capital

Aerial View Of Chetumal, Capital Of The State Of Quintana Roo, Mexico

Chetumal itself is the overlooked capital of the state of Quintana Roo, home to a charming city center, whose cultural value is being highlighted through the ‘Magical Neighborhoods' initiative and a popular destination for Mexican locals themselves, thanks to its affordable hotel rates.

The four-star Fiesta Inn Chetumal costs only $82.30 to book per night this season, and it provides the perfect base for exploring the wider coast, its verdant jungle reserves, unruffled coast, and of course, the landmark Lake Bacalar.

Panoramic View Of Chetumal From A Balcony In A Central Apartment, Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico

A Lake Of Seven Colors

Though it does not straddle the coast, the lake of ‘seven colors', as it is alternatively called, is best known for its waters' serene nature and various shades of aqua blue.

It is popular for swimming, especially during sargassum season when seaweed often makes landfall on beaches, yet Bacalar remains unaffected as it is a freshwater lake, as well as for water-based activities, with kayaking tours departing from the public pier.

Aerial View Of A Couple Embracing On A Pier In Lake Bacalar, Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico

Vacation rentals include Hotel Sun Ha, a budget-friendly, three-star listing with a rustic feel with room rates starting from $82, the mid-range, thatched-roof, bungalow-style Ecotucan Villas ($128), and the more exclusive, lakefront Hotel CasaBakal, at $214 per night.

Other attractions near Lake Bacalar include an 18th-century fort built by the Spanish during the colonial period, a state monument now housing a piracy museum, and the beautiful San Joaquin Parish Church, distinguished for its vaulted ceiling.

Bacalar, Lake Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Adjacent to Lake Bacalar, the beautiful Cenote Azul is a major point of interest. Costing roughly $1.48 to enter, or 25 Mexican pesos, it is a stunning, deep azure open-water cenote associated with ancient Mayan legends.

A Charming Mayan Village

That's all inland, but on the coast, Mahahual is the place to be. Costa Maya's busiest cruise port, it is predicted to accommodate 8,000 travelers this season, taking the province's tourist toll to nearly 80,000 (including Chetumal and Bacalar).

woman sitting on a swing in Mahahual, mexico

The fishing-village-converted-into-tourist-destination is bounded by an elongated strip of white sand, within easy reach of beautiful Caribbean beaches, and it's famous for its Dolphin Discovery center, where guests can swim with the elusive, playful marine creatures.

You can learn more about the Maya Train, and other incredible destinations that will soon be within a short three to five hour ride from Cancun here.

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