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These 3 Beach Towns In The Mexican Caribbean Are Surging In Popularity

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Quintana Roo is an extraordinary destination for many reasons, and I'm excited to share my enchanting experiences in Chetumal, Bacalar, and Tulum.

Whether you're a solo adventurer, traveling with your partner, or seeking an unforgettable family vacation, my recent trip to the Mexican Caribbean will surely help you plan your next visit!

Aerial view of Bacalar Lagoon

Chetumal

As the capital of Quintana Roo, Chetumal is a common entry point for travelers exploring the southern Mexican Caribbean.

Typically, you might look for flights from Mexico City to Chetumal. Another popular option for travelers is to drive or take a bus from Cancún, although, unfortunately, there are no direct commercial flights from Cancún to Chetumal. While private flights are an option, they are super expensive!

Chetumal building with blue sky

From Mexico City, you can arrive in Chetumal by or before noon, giving you plenty of time to explore its main tourist attractions. Despite being the capital, Chetumal is relatively small, with fewer than 200,000 residents.

I personally recommend booking your accommodation in either Tulum or Bacalar, as both towns offer superior options. Plan to check in by evening, and use your first afternoon to discover the ancient wonders of Chetumal, starting your journey in the area on a high note.

@traveloffpath Quintana Roo is so beautiful. Summary of our trip to Mexico. @visitgroo @visitbacalar @mytulum @visitcaribemexicano Everything is amazing there, the people, food, landscapes, weather #presstrip #mexico #quintanaroo #quintanaroomexico #traveltomexico #traveltobacalar #traveltotulum #bacalar #tulum ♬ you and me rivo remix – Rivo

Chetumal's Charm

Chetumal may remind you of the sound of ‘Cheetos' in Spanish, but its true majesty lies in its natural beauty and historical treasures. Here, dining is a regal experience, offering fresh, delicious fare and a blend of cuisines that surpass the appeal of any addictive snack. The food, the people, archaeological sites, beaches, and other natural wonders are simply part of its allure.

The restaurant I must recommend is the only one I visited, boasting an incredible view of the Caribbean Sea. If the prospect of such a scenic dining experience isn't enticing enough, the food will definitely draw you in.

Imagine fresh seafood and a variety of cooked dishes like fried fish, all exemplifying the esteemed reputation of Mexican cuisine. This gem is Riveros Restaurant & Banquets, located a few miles from downtown Chetumal in the quaint town of Calderitas, which translates to ‘baby kettles' in Spanish.

View from Riveros restaurant

For those who love seaside destinations, you'll understand that photos and videos rarely do justice to the actual experience. But here are some snapshots of the spectacular view I'm describing.

An added bonus of this restaurant is its banquet services for events. If you're on a family trip and celebrating a special occasion, it's an ideal venue. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, perfect for family gatherings.

While it's great for a relaxed outing with friends and some beachside beers, if you're seeking a spring break, party-hard atmosphere, Chetumal might not be your ideal destination.

aerial view of Chetumal, Mexico

Astronomy

I must apologize for not capturing the full depth and passion that astronomy deserves in my description.

If you're fascinated by the cosmos and stargazing, start planning your trip now, because this destination is perfect for you. I was astounded by the number of telescopes I saw in just one day. The Yook’ ol Kaab Observatory and Planetarium particularly impressed me. It's rare to find such outstanding centers or parks in smaller cities, and this one truly exceeded my expectations.

My experience there was like being a child again, journeying through outer space, filled with wonder and awe. The tour guides and instructors were exceptional. This is another activity that's not only family-friendly but also wonderfully suited for kids and those who are kids at heart. You definitely shouldn't miss out on it.

Planetarium in Mexico

Museo de la Cultura Maya

The Museum of Mayan Culture is an absolute must-see for everyone. I'm not typically a museum enthusiast or particularly academic, but my experience there was incredibly engaging. Being up close with the ruins and ancient artifacts was both vibrant and exciting.

While I can't match the expertise of the museum staff who enlightened us about the Mayans, I can share a few photos of the incredible sights. This was the closest I've ever felt to being in an Indiana Jones movie, even surpassing the ride itself!

Whether you're a fan of ancient cultures and archaeology or just casually interested, this place is a paradise. And if you're not usually into such things, like me, prepare for a wonderfully enlightening experience in history and magic that you won't regret.

@traveloffpath MAYA CULTURE. Mayan culture museum 📍Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico #visitchetumal #chetumalqroo #chetumalmexico #traveltiktok #traveloffpath #presstrip #museum #mayaculture #mayancivilization ♬ original sound – Imaginations of a Mad Man

These places are very clean and safe, attracting people from all over the world. The presence of international tourists is always a positive sign.

Additionally, it's both admirable and exciting that many locals still speak the Mayan language. Quintana Roo is the Mexican state with the highest number of Mayan speakers, adding an extra layer of cultural immersion alongside the ruins and other wonders.

And the affordability of the museum is just another plus. The admission fees are very reasonable, with different rates for locals and foreigners: 55 MXN for Mexicans and 110 MXN for foreigners.

What to Pack for Quintana Roo

Expect warm weather year-round; I visited in October and it was quite hot. You'll want to pack light—think breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Opt for light colors, shorts, sandals, and don't forget a hat for sun protection. Oh, and a must-have is mosquito repellent!

When it comes to getting around, while buses, taxis, and rideshare services like Uber are available, renting a car or hiring a driver can save you a significant amount of time and hassle. This is especially useful for traveling between towns and to various activities. This advice holds true not just for Chetumal but for any city you might explore in Quintana Roo.

Woman in Quintana Roo

Kohunlich Mayan Ruins

Visiting the Kohunlich Archaeological Zone is an indescribable experience. While the museum, planetarium, and observatory were rich in history and fantastic in their own right, the ruins offer a raw and authentic encounter with the past.

It's not a simulation; it's as real as nature itself. The ruins, the towering trees, the ancient rituals—they all give me chills just thinking about it.

@traveloffpath Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico . . . Mayan ruins at konhunlich 🤍 #mexico #traveloffpath #traveltheworld #konhunlich #chetumalqroo #quintanaroo #mexicotiktok ♬ original sound – Top World Hotel

I visited Kohunlich during my stay in Chetumal, but you can easily access it from Bacalar as well. It's located in the northern part of the state, close to Yucatan's southern border, with similar distances and travel times from both starting points.

Now, let me share an experience that might be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I was fortunate enough to visit during a lunar eclipse. They provided us with special glasses to safely view the sun, and the sight was phenomenal. We ascended the ruins, and from the summit, I beheld the entire park—a jungle punctuated by towering trees—and watched the moon obscure the sun.

This location was one of the prime viewing spots for the eclipse in Mexico, making it an unforgettable experience. Being among people who are direct descendants of the Mayans, who possess deep respect and knowledge of their culture, was incredibly enlightening.

To walk upon the same temples, pyramids, and paths as they did felt both powerful and fulfilling. As the eclipse progressed, all the animals and birds quieted down as if in reverent silence, adding to the profound atmosphere.

Woman watching a solar eclipse

One aspect you can certainly embrace is the local rituals. Rest assured, no drastic religious conversions or sacrifices are involved.

I participated in a purification ritual led by a Mayan shaman. It was a novel experience for me, an opportunity to connect with spirituality, cleanse your thoughts, and find harmony and peace with life and the environment.

Bacalar

Now, we're truly reaching the pinnacle of the journey. Bacalar is an absolute gem for anyone with a wanderlust. I must admit, I fell head over heels for its stunning vistas, delectable cuisine, and impeccable service. While Bacalar is a haven for honeymooners, don't think it's exclusive to just-married couples. Whether you come with a group or solo, Bacalar will enchant you into feeling as if you're on a honeymoon.

The Lagoon of Seven Colors

This isn't just a fanciful name or something from a fairy tale. The lagoon truly boasts seven distinct shades of blue and green, making you feel as though you've stepped into a mythical realm.

Woman on boat in Bacalar

Setting sail on the lagoon, you might begin your journey from the dock at the Amainah hotel. The excursion lasts around two hours, but if you're inclined to linger for the entire day or perhaps a bit longer, there's room for that—and other water activities like jet skiing.

I've enjoyed motorboat trips on the ocean before and have always found them exhilarating. However, to sail quietly across the calm waters, soaking in the natural beauty, the expansive sky, and, of course, enjoying a glass of wine, is both serene and delightful. It's like a honeymoon with yourself.

People on a boat in Bacalar

Hotel Amainah

A round of applause for this dream destination! Hotel Amainah is an adults-only retreat, perfect for those seeking relaxation and pleasure. It's an ideal escape from the frenetic pace of urban life.

Whether you're looking to spend quality time with your partner or take a break from parenting—perhaps sending the kids to camp or to spend time with grandparents—this hotel is a sanctuary of tranquility and privacy.

The allure of Hotel Amainah isn't just in its amenities or spas; it's the experience of unwinding in your room before and after exploring the town. The accommodations are impeccably clean, spacious, and feature comfortable beds, pristine sheets, well-appointed bathrooms, and exceptional service.

What's more, if you plan to set sail on the lagoon, you can conveniently embark from the hotel's own dock, saving you the trouble of traveling to another location.

@traveloffpath Hotel @amainahbacalar #visitbacalar #visitquintanaroo #visitmexico #visitcaribemexicano #caribemexicano #mexicotiktok #perfecthotel #bacalarhotels ♬ strangers slowed – xxtristanxo

Tulum

Okay, Tulum is likely the most recognized city in Quintana Roo, or the Mayan Riviera, for many readers. It's steeped in history, with ruins, pyramids, cenotes, and stunning beaches that boast the signature light blue waters of the Caribbean. It's a place that deserves a spot on anyone's travel bucket list.

Since we've already touched on some of the ancient wonders of Mayan culture, I want to shift gears to a different topic:

Shibari

Yes, you read that right. Shibari is the art or technique of Japanese bondage—quite the spicy subject, indeed. And I'm not veering from Mayan to Japanese culture without reason. Tulum is home to a rather unique accommodation that opened in June 2023, so it may not be on your radar yet.

Hotel Shibari Tulum is inspired by and conceptualized around this art form, offering a very sensual and exotic place to stay. In my view, the hotel strikes a perfect balance of sensuality that's enjoyable without being overwhelming. If you were intrigued by the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,' then this could elevate your concept of an experiential stay to a new level, as it did for me.

@traveloffpath Couples trip to Mexico? We highly recommend this Hotel in Tulum called: Shibari — amazing resort for a peace, sexy, interesting trip with your couple. 👫🏼❤️🇲🇽 #visitmexico #visitquintanaroo #visitcaribemexicano #mexicotiktok #perfecthotel #traveltiktok #traveloffpath #coupleshotel #tulumhotel #tulummexico ♬ Who Loves The Sun feat. Jo.Ke (Edit) – Nu & Jo.Ke

In the communal areas and guest rooms, you'll encounter large artistic photographs of tastefully nude models in bondage (nothing explicit). One of the unique activities on offer is the Shibari experience itself.

You can participate in the Shibari experience with a partner or on your own. It has therapeutic elements, aimed at releasing blocked energy points in your body that may be under tension.

The bondage knots are firm and may leave temporary marks on your skin, which is part of the aesthetic appeal of the session. Trusting and surrendering to the therapist is key to reaping the full benefits.

@traveloffpath 📍Shibari Hotel in Tulum, Mexico. Room tour! #visitmexico #visitquintanaroo #visitcaribemexicano #caribemexicano #mexicotiktok #perfecthotel #traveltiktok #traveloffpath #presstrip #tulum #shibari ♬ life gets hard – iilliaa

Your instructor will consult with you on what you're seeking from the session and target specific body parts accordingly. It's a type of therapy not commonly found everywhere and is certainly worth a try. For me, it was instrumental in confronting fears and managing anxiety, resulting in a profoundly freeing experience.

So, are you ready to embark on an adventure to Quintana Roo? I'm curious about what other marvels and mysteries are waiting to be discovered.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.