Every time I talk about the city where I lived in Mexico, Mérida, as it isn’t “famous” in Portugal, I always tell it is near Cancún. Actually there’s a five hour way separating both cities, but for Mexico that’s close. Though there are beaches next to Mérida, we always preferred to go to the beaches of Quintana Roo state, where the sand is white and the water turquoise, the typical colors from the Caribbean Sea and very different from the green grayish of the Mexican Gulf.

I know that most of the people who go to Mexico on holidays usually don’t even leave the hotel in Cancún or Playa del Carmen, but for me there are the two least interesting beaches, exactly because they are full of tourists, you almost don’t ear spanish, unless from Spanish people who are there on holidays, skyscrappers some meters away from the water… For those who are looking fo an authentic Mexico, these are some of the options:

Holbox

Holbox is an island on the north of the Yucatan Peninsula where the only motorized vehicles are golf carts – that you can rent there in order to explore the 45km of the island. A green-emerald sea, impossible to take your eyes away from it, white sand and pelicans, seagulls (including some species I have never seen before), egrets, and other birds. From the just 450 rooms available in the island, more than half are located almost on the beach. Many of them are white “chalets”, very colorful on the interior, with its palm leaf roof, mexican masks on the walls, handmade pillows made by artisans from Chiapas. A relaxed luxury to make us believe that we arrived to paradise and to forget all the stress of the big city, just some kilometers away. The island is also known for its lobster pizza, beautiful graffitis and because it is part of the migration route of the whale sharks, that we can swim with from June to September.

Isla Mujeres

As the name says it is another island, this one right on front of Cancún. It has much more movement than Holbox, exactly as it is so close to Cancún and because a lot of people actually leave there. It even has a small airport, that occupies 1/4 of the island. Before Colombus arrived to the Americas, the island was sacred to the mayan godess Ixchel. When the spanish arrived to the island, on the 16th century, they called the island Isla Mujeres, Women Island, because there were a lot of figures honoring this godess. Also here it can be rented golf carts to drive across the island, though you can also find normal cars. It has a lot of good places for snorkeling, to eat good fish and it even has a sub aquatic museum of art, MUSA, that can be visited by glass bottom boats or scuba diving.

Tulum

Tulum is the ideal place to stay if you want to visit Riviera Maya. Away from the mess of big cities and hotel areas. Actually, if you are really looking for some peace, you can bring your tent and camp at Santa Fé Beach, the closest to the archeological site of Tulum, and be one of the firsts visiting the ruins on the morning, almost by yourself! The next beach and for those who don’t like to sleep on the floor, there’s a small hotel with some huts, very nice! From the beach you can take a little boat to see the mayan city from the sea, an unique view, as it is the only one built on the shore. Next to Tulum we have the cenote Dos Ojos. Cenotes are places where the subterranean rivers of Yucatan Peninsula come near the surface and can be acceded. They can be totally closed, like a lake on a cave, or opened, and they are something you cannot miss on this Peninsula. This one is just one from the thousand there are all over Yucatan. Also close to Tulum are the thematic parks of Xcaret and Xel-ha, where I never went, as they are made for american pockets and I was living with a mexican budget. Though all the people I know that went there recommend it. Also next to Cancún there is…

Akumal

I never went to Akumal but it is one of the places I have to go the next time I go to Mexico! As you can guess from the image it is a place full of turtles and you can swim with them. Of course, try not to invade their space or touch them, a photo and a lot of happiness will do! Also I was told that you don’t really need to book a tour to watch them, as they are everywhere. Just rent some snorkeling equipment and go for it 😉

Mahahual

The ideal place to go with friends! It is a calm village by the sea with some nice restaurants and bars, where you can have a drink after spending the whole day at the beach. But the best thing of this beach, perfect for instagram snaps and to make your friends at home jealous are the several hammocks inside the water along the beach (exactly like the one on the first photo). In front of Mahahual there’s Banco Chinchorro a great place for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Bacalar

Bacalar is known as the Seven Color Lagoon and though it isn’t exactly a beach, it is one of the places you have to go. When I say it is not a beach is just because it doesn’t has a proper sand area where you can lay down all day, but there are several restaurants and areas around the lagoon, with pears and leaning chairs. And of course there are a lot of activities to do in the lagoon, like kayaking, to do a boat tour around the lagoon to visit several cenotes. One of the things I also appreciated a lot in Bacalar, and that I don’t know if you can find in other places, are “camping hotels”. Basically it is an area full of tents, with mattresses and bed linen and everything, we don’t have to take anything! It’s called Magic Bacalar, in case you want to stay there.

Though I was five months in Mérida, I didn’t always had the time or opportunity to cross the peninsula and there are still places I have to explore, like Akumal, that I wrote about, but also the island of Cozumel, great for scuba diving, or the Sian Ka’an Reserve.