el-cuyo-kite-surfers

El Cuyo – Mexico – An Almost Perfect Escape


OCTOBER 2016:




Click here to read our Mexico Retirement Reviews.


OVERVIEW:

I made my way from Valladolid to El Cuyo by public transport.

Valladolid was a big disappointment.

valladolid-gayser-kitchenettevalladolid-gayser-ensuiteIn Valladolid I stayed in a GRANDPAcking Standard apartment hotel: Gayser Apartments.

The Gayser is reasonably clean and pleasant.valladolid-gayser-furniture

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.

Bantayan - Kota Beach Restaurant ViewGili Air Southern Beachfront RestaurantThis 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”?Ko Phayam - Lazy Hut - Wine Sunset

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 could get accommodation in town or in the center of the island for MXP550-600 / night (including taxes) … but it was not what I was looking for. I wanted to be next to Playa De Holbox.isla-holbox-map

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.el-cuyo-bus-valladolid-to-tizimin

We arrived in the Oriente Bus Terminal in Tizimin at 11:45am.

el-cuyo-tizimin-bus-terminalel-cuyo-tizimin-bus-station-waitingTo get to El Cuyo from there, you walk next door to the Noreste Bus Terminal.

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.

This was an older bus but still comfortable.el-cuyo-tizimin-bus-to-el-cuyo

We arrived in El Cuyo at 1:30pm.el-cuyo-bus-tizimin-to-el-cuyo


ABOUT EL CUYO:

El Cuyo is near Isla Holbox on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.el-cuyo-location

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.


COMMUNICATIONS:

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.

el-cuyo-main-road-into-townNormally, this means that you don’t need the usual GRANDPAcker 2GB Mobile Phone Data Package; you should be able to get away with less data.

El Cuyo is different. There isn’t a lot of internet around (your accommodation may not have internet either).el-cuyo-central-square

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.

But, I managed to survive on the free internet in my accommodation.el-cuyo-central-park


BEACHES:

This is a surf beach with a constant breeze.el-cuyo-1-beach-east

It stretches further than I could walk.el-cuyo-beach-3-kms-east

And, it is almost deserted. You can spend all day on the beach and not see another single person.el-cuyo-beach-further-east

Except for kite surfers.el-cuyo-kite-surfers


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):

BOOKING.COM:booking-hotels
AGODA.COM:agoda-el-cuyo-hotels
EXPEDIA:expedia-el-cuyo-hotels

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).

TRIPADVISOR:tripadvisor-el-cuyo-rentals
AIRBnB:

airbnb-el-cuyo-rentals

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’.

IN SUMMARY:

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 …

The eastern dirt track ends about 800 meters from the town center. Further east from here is farm track … GRANDPAckers have no transport, so you don’t want to be any farther east of here anyway.el-cuyo-2-beach-road-1km-to-village

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):

el-cuyo-3-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-4-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-5-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-6-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-7-rental el-cuyo-8-rental el-cuyo-9-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-10-rental el-cuyo-11-rental el-cuyo-12-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-13-rental el-cuyo-14-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-15-rental el-cuyo-16-beachfront-rental el-cuyo-17-beachfront-rentalWhen I reached town, I hit the beach and stopped at the end of the pier to take a couple of pictures of the town.el-cuyo-18-east-of-pier el-cuyo-19-west-of-pier

I continued on west to see what else I could find. The properties on the western beach are set back much farther than those on the eastern side. The beach and water were also not as clean.el-cuyo-20-western-beach el-cuyo-21-resting-birds el-cuyo-22-view-back-east

After about 400 meters you reach the harbour.el-cuyo-23-harbour-entry el-cuyo-24-harbour-birds el-cuyo-25-harbour

This is not a nice area of town, so I headed back along the beachfront road where I found a couple more rental properties.el-cuyo-26-road-back-to-village el-cuyo-27-rental el-cuyo-28-beachfront-rental

When you get back to town, you find the two main hotels.

The Aida Luz has a website. They advertise aircon rooms for MXP500 / night. I emailed them with an enquiry in English & Spanish … they did not answer.el-cuyo-29-mar-y-sol el-cuyo-30-aida-luz-hotel

Next to the Central Park I found one more rental.el-cuyo-31-central-rental

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.


MY ACCOMMODATION:

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.el-cuyo-beach-road-east

I used BOOKING.COM to pre-book 3 nights at the Hacienda Antigua Lodge. They were offering the best ‘last minute’ discounted price.el-cuyo-antigua-frontage

It wasn’t on the beachfront, but it was on the beach road and I could see the sea from my porch.el-cuyo-antigua-path-to-beach

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!

Check in was listed as after 5pm but, as a BOOKING.COM ‘Genius’ member, I asked for an early check-in of 2:00-3:00pm. They confirmed that this earlier time was OK.el-cuyo-antigua-road-away-from-village

I walked down the dirt track from the bus stop to the Antigua. Not easy with a suitcase – but not impossible. I didn’t see any taxis around to help me anyway.el-cuyo-antigua-road-to-village

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.

At 3:00pm, the lady caretaker approached me and upgraded me to the larger lodge at the front.el-cuyo-antigua-living el-cuyo-antigua-lounge

This lodge had a lounge with separate kitchen. The kitchen was fully equipped. There was no aircon in this area but it came with ceiling fans and floor-standing fans.el-cuyo-antigua-kitchen

And an outside screened patio.el-cuyo-antigua-patio

The bedroom was large and came with aircon.el-cuyo-antigua-bed el-cuyo-antigua-bedroom

el-cuyo-antigua-showerel-cuyo-antigua-ensuite-entryThe ensuite was big too. Alas, the shower had no hot water. After being upgraded, I didn’t want to hassle them about that.

The accommodation came with everything that you needed for a long term stay including an iron and ironing board.

It also had free wifi which worked well most of the time.el-cuyo-antigua-ensuite

The short walk to the beach revealed a sandy surf beach empty of people.

If you want to call the Antigua Lodge directly to discuss a long term rental, you can call them on +49 176 95598116. The person on the other end speaks English.el-cuyo-antigua-beach-east el-cuyo-antigua-beach-west


ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com






TRANSPORT:

By Foot:

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.

Taxi:

el-cuyo-central-churchI didn’t see any taxis. You might catch the odd one if you hang around the Main Square.


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.

As it happens, I didn’t need lunch … her meals were so big I couldn’t eat them all.el-cuyo-antigua-2nd-breakfast-mxp40

I strongly advise you to take up this offer. The tacos, above, will cost you MXP12-15 each from a street stall … I got 6 of them for Breakfast on my second morning.el-cuyo-antigua-fish-dinner-mxp70

You will be hard-pushed to do better yourself.el-cuyo-antigue-seafood-dinner-mxp70

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.

If you are lucky, a Circus might come to town. Entry is MXP30. But don’t expect much.el-cuyo-circusel-cuyo-circus-stage


MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:

MONEY:

There is no ATM. Come with plenty of cash.

SHOPPING:

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:

Isla Mujeres Climate

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.


GETTING AWAY:

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.


CONCLUSION:

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.

TTFN


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