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I made my way from Valladolid to El Cuyo by public transport.
Valladolid was a big disappointment.
The problem was that Valladolid, itself, was boring.
ABANDONING ISLA HOLBOX:
I stopped off in Valladolid because I was making my way to Isla Holbox.
I wanted to stay on the beach in Isla Holbox … something that I have not yet been able to achieve on a GRANDPAcking Budget anywhere in Mexico. On my budget, I am limited to no more than MXP600 / night (including taxes) for a Double Room with Ensuite.
In Puerto Vallarta I was on the main road and 400 meters from the nearest beach. In Isla Mujeres I was in the town and 150 meters from the nearest beach. In Playa Del Carmen I was on the edge of town center and 1km from the nearest beach. In Tulum I was in town and 3kms from the nearest beach. In Mahahual I was in a back street and 100 meters from the nearest beach. In Bacalar I was in the town square and 600 meters from decent access to the lake …
If you are not on the waterfront in such locations, it dilutes your experience.
This time I wanted the full waterfront experience like I had many times in S.E. Asia: Gili Air, Koh Phayam, El Nido, Bantayan, and others. My question was … “Can GRANDPAckers do afford to do this in Mexico”?
For Isla Holbox, I searched all of the online sites for weeks in advance. Hotel prices in Isla Holbox are expensive and well out of GRANDAcker price range.
I got inventive. I started combing the internet for the website of each hotel that could be in price range. Sometimes booking directly with the hotel cuts out the ‘middleman’ and gets you a cheaper price. I found several websites. I found very few better prices.
I found one Hotel near the beach that I could afford: La Chaya. They were advertising a Promotional Rate of MXP750 / night (including Breakfast and taxes) on their MXP2,200 rooms from the middle of September to the end of October. To get that price you needed to book on their website. They didn’t respond to any of my bookings even though, on search sites, they still showed rooms to be available.
I got even more inventive. I went into Google Maps and virtually walked up and down all of the beachfront streets looking for unlisted hotels displaying phone numbers. I had no success.
It seems to me that Isla Holbox is, now, a well known destination and accommodation has been priced to Boutique Hotel levels accordingly.
I didn’t want to do another Isla Mujeres on Isla Holbox … so I decided to look elsewhere.
VALLADOLID TO EL CUYO:
I chose El Cuyo instead.
To get to El Cuyo on Public Transport from anywhere, you need to go through Tizimin.
I checked out of my Valladolid hotel at 9:30am. By 9:45am I was at the central Valladolid Bus Terminal. The next bus to Tizimin left at 10:30am. It was an Oriente Bus. The cost is MXP29. These are not long distance buses but they are still very comfortable.
We arrived in the Oriente Bus Terminal in Tizimin at 11:45am.
Their next bus to El Cuyo left at 12:00 noon. The cost is MXP65. The trip takes 1.5 hours.
There are 7 buses each day. They leave about every 2 hours.
This is, also, true in reverse. Buses leave from El Cuyo to Tizimin every 2 hours starting at 5:00am through to 5:00pm. You catch it in the main square.
ABOUT EL CUYO:
The town sees a few local tourists looking for a short beach vacation, but not many foreigners visit here. I like the sound of those sorts of places!
El Cuyo is set in a nature reserve.
You won’t find much information on El Cuyo by searching the internet.
So far, in Mexico, I have found free internet to be widely available in the restaurants and bars. Your accommodation usually includes free internet too. In the bigger towns and tourist areas, this seems to be reasonably reliable.
After my total frustration with Telcel, I was giving AT&T a try … I had my first problem in Mahahual. There is NO AT&T SIGNAL in Mahahual. There was no AT&T signal in El Cuyo either. You need TELCEL.
WHERE TO STAY:
A general accommodation search for the 1st week of November (the last month of ‘Hurricane Season’) reveals the following …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You, usually, have to add 19% to the displayed price to get the final price.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AIRBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A simple future search on TRIPADVISOR.COM demonstrates what’s available nicely (please note that these prices are in US$s).
Vacation Rentals are, usually, displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any Security Deposit (if required).
In S.E. Asia I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, in Mexico they are definitely worth a look. This seems to be their ‘territory’.
As you can see, accommodation in the first week of Peak Season is bordeline for GRANDPAckers.
If you start your search very early, you may be able to find the ‘deep’ discounts that you need in order to afford to stay in GRANDPAcker Standard accommodation in Peak Season. You should easily be able to find accommodation in Shoulder Season.
But, read on …
WHERE TO STAY – DOING A WALK-ABOUT:
There are many more places to rent than what you find on the internet. I decided to have a look around to see what I could find …
This is the beachfront road. The properties to the right have direct access to the beach. Heading back into town you find the following places for rent (in the order that you find them):
When you get back to town, you find the two main hotels.
Of course, I have no idea what any of these places are like inside … and no idea about price.
But, I have captured all of their phone numbers in the photos … so you can call them and find out. I would ask them to email me pictures before confirming a booking.
I booked 1 day before my arrival. I had my eye on El Cuyo for over 1 week and I had been watching prices as a ‘Plan B’ just in case I had to abandon Isla Holbox. Which I did.
Sure enough, as the time got closer, prices began to drop. This is Shoulder Season and the accommodation is never full … so there is always a good chance that prices will fall as your dates get nearer.
I used BOOKING.COM to pre-book 3 nights at the Hacienda Antigua Lodge. They were offering the best ‘last minute’ discounted price.
I got a discounted rate of MXP532 / night (excluding taxes) for a Double Aircon Studio Room with hot water ensuite. This should have come to MXP649 / night after taxes.
The property normally required full payment up-front by PayPal … but there was no time for that … I exchanged emails with the property and said that I could pay in cash on arrival. He asked for a total price of US$83 or MXP1,500. I said that I’d pay in MXP!
I arrived at the Antigua at 2:00pm. My accommodation wasn’t ready. I waited until 3:00pm. They gave me a free coconut to drink whilst I waited.
The accommodation came with everything that you needed for a long term stay including an iron and ironing board.
The short walk to the beach revealed a sandy surf beach empty of people.
Have a look yourself:
You can walk everywhere on foot.
Scooter / Bicycle:
You don’t really need one. But, I did see a place in town offering bicycles for rental.
EAT & DRINK:
My landlady approached me after check-in to ask if I needed meals.
She offered Breakfast for MXP40 and Dinner for MXP70. I booked both with her for my 3 day stay. I decided to do my own Lunches.
Yes, above you see 2 whole grilled fish and the bowl on the side contains savoury squid … for MXP70!
You will find 2 or 3 restaurants in town … but I have no idea of their prices.
You can buy beer and other drinks around town. You are best to go to a SIX Store … they have the better prices. A 1.2L bottle of beer (to take back to your own fridge) costs MXP30 plus MXP8 deposit on the bottle.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe here. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
Nowhere and nothing.
El Cuyo is an ‘escape’. You come here to relax, read books, swing in a hammock, laze on a beach (in the fresh breeze), and swim.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There is no ATM. Come with plenty of cash.
There are several small shops around the town center selling necessities.
For anything ‘fancy’ you will have to go back to Tizimin.
WHEN TO GO:
The climate is similar to Isla Mujeres.
July through October is hurricane season in this part of the world, and the weather becomes more changeable and less predictable during these months.
The rainy season is May through October.
The high season is November through May as these are the months with the most temperate and driest weather.
GRANDPAckers should find affordable accommodation easily out of Peak Season.
Peak Season is likely to be a bit more difficult … but still possible.
From El Cuyo, I head west along the northern coast to make my way to Merida by 26th October.
I start in Rio Lagartos and move on to Progreso.
I will tell you more about that in a later post.
Finally … I have found some ‘real’ Mexico … the downside of that, is that you do need to be able to speak at least some Spanish (or be pretty fast with a Phrase Book) … there is very little English spoken here.
GRANDPAckers looking to ‘escape’ to a quiet, beachfront location should consider El Cuyo. But be warned … there is nothing to do here but relax.
El Cuyo is more of a Kite Surfer’s paradise. Somewhere they can come to on the cheap that has a constant sea breeze. A group of budget Kite Surfers would just adore being in El Cuyo.
This place is still unspoilt and ‘rustic’ … but it won’t be long before it is ‘discovered’. Come soon before it’s gone forever.
If I can get accommodation like mine for MXP500 / night just before the start of Peak Season (for only a 3 day stay) … imagine how much you could negotiate a monthly rental for. The usual rule of thumb is a 40-50% discount. You could get a place like this for as little as MXP350 / night. Take up their meal plan offer of MXP220 per day for 2 people … and, you really are LIVING in Mexico.
El Cuyo makes it into my Holiday Destinations list.
But, it does NOT make it into my Retirement Locations list … it doesn’t meet the criteria and lacks the infrastructure.
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