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I made my way from El Cuyo to Rio Lagartos by public transport (local buses).
El Cuyo was a very quiet fishing village on Mexico’s northern coast with a nice surf beach. It offered good value ‘living’ and a laid-back lifestyle.
El Cuyo accommodation is expensive; I couldn’t afford to stay anywhere on the seafront.
It was time to head for Rio Lagartos. I planned to stay there for 3 nights so that I could take the ‘famous’ Flamingo Tour.
EL CUYO TO RIO LAGARTOS:
The Noreste buses leave from El Cuyo to Tizimin every 2 hours starting at 5:00am. I targeted the 11:00am bus. I left my accommodation early and arrived at the square at 10:40am.
It is just as well that I did. The bus was early and passed at 10:45am. I flagged it down and got on … suitcase and all. They don’t bother putting your suitcase in the luggage compartment … not on these rural buses. Your luggage goes at the back of the bus with everyone else’s “carry-ons”. The cost to Tizimin was MXP60.
My trip on the Noreste bus from Tizimin to El Cuyo took about 1.5 hours. The trip back took 2 hours … we stopped at a few more villages on the way.
I immediately purchased my onward Noreste bus ticket for Rio Lagartos. Again, they leave about every 2 hours. The cost was MXP37 and the bus left at 12:15pm.
Normally, the bus has its destination displayed on the front window. The bus to Rio Lagartos didn’t … it had other names displayed. If I hadn’t of asked the bus driver if he was going to Rio Lagartos, I would have missed it.
These are cheap local buses. They aren’t luxurious, but they are perfectly comfortable.
ABOUT RIO LAGARTOS:
The estuary is surrounded by mangroves and is the natural habitat of an estimated 40,000 Flamingos.
Rio Lagartos is where you come to see Caribbean Flamingos.
In Mexico, free internet is normally widely available in the restaurants and bars. Your accommodation almost always provides free internet too (quality can vary). In the bigger towns and tourist areas, this is reasonably reliable.
This normally means that you don’t need the usual GRANDPAcker 2GB monthly Mobile Phone Data Package; you should be able to get away with less data.
This is not so in Rio Lagartos. Internet here is poor.
After my total frustration with Telcel, I was giving AT&T a try. I had NO SIGNAL problems in Mahahual, El Cuyo, and (now) Rio Lagartos. Here you need TELCEL.
There aren’t any … not in the village anyway. To get to the beaches, you have to catch a boat to the other side of the estuary.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are very few options … and they are all listed on the internet.
A general accommodation search for the 1st week of November (the last month of ‘Hurricane Season’ and the month immediately before Peak 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 for the first week of November demonstrates what’s available nicely (please note that these prices are in US$s).
Tripadvisor had no Vacation Rentals in Rio Lagartos.
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 is expensive for GRANDPAckers.
But, if you start your search very early (or at the last minute), you may be able to find the ‘deep’ discounts that you need in order to afford to stay in GRANDPAcker Standard accommodation.
I booked only 1 day in advance. I did this on purpose … I was looking for a ‘last minute’ discount. I needed a discount to be able to afford to come here.
I used AirBnB to book 3 nights in the Punta Ponto.
This is still Shoulder Season in this part of Mexico, so I got my room at a discounted rate of MXP666 / night (US$37). This included Breakfast for 2 people.
It has a downstairs area with tables and chairs where you eat your Breakfast. Alas, the Breakfast was very poor quality considering the price paid for the room. You got a pot of coffee to share, a jug of orange juice to share, bananas, some ”sugar breads’, and toast with butter and jam.
My room was at the back of the rooftop area – not overlooking the water.
The Punta Ponto meets GRANDPAcking Standard.
The in-room wifi was very ‘variable’ and not good enough for video streaming.
The cable TV only had about 7 channels but one of these was in English: the Golden Edge movie channel. No surprises there! Even if you have 100 channels, the only English channel is Golden Edge! Even then, if the owner didn’t like what movie was on, he’d change it to a Spanish movie … which changed it in all of the guest rooms … a bit annoying when you’re relaxing in your room at night in the middle of a movie.
There was never anyone in reception. I saw the cleaning lady once … she was kind enough to empty my Toilet Paper Bin on my second day and tidy the bed that I had already made.
Have a look yourself:
Taxis are reasonably cheap in Mexico if you know what the Rule Of Thumb should be. Alas, tourists get over-charged frequently.
Taxis do not use meters and the price should be confirmed first. The guideline is MXP10 for the ‘flag fall’ plus MXP10 / km. You can almost double this at night.
So far, I have found UBER Taxis to be a safe and cheaper option than using Taxis on the street. But, alas, UBER does not operate here.
EAT & DRINK:
There are surprisingly few options.
There are 3-4 Tourist Restaurants along the waterfront. Obviously, they serve a lot of seafood. A typical main dish is in the MXP110-150 price range (excluding tips).
There are no street stall options.
There are a couple of cheap ‘local’ eateries where you can get your usual Taco-type fare.
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:
You can find some beautiful pictures on the internet about the Flamingo Tours in Rio Lagartos. I came here to see the Flamingos.
The standard trip doesn’t include going out to the beach on the other side of the estuary … so, we paid MXP50 extra (each) to add this to our trip. A total of MXP300 each (including tip).
In the middle of the estuary, the waters are so shallow that the Flamingos congregate to wade in the water. There weren’t many there … perhaps 20-30.
I have been on safari in Kenya and we visited the Serengeti where we waded through fields of Flamingos … this was a bit of a disappointment.
Before stopping at the ‘famous’ lagoons where they make salt. It is famous for its pink tinged waters and the Maya Bath where you can smother yourself in rich mud.
So, we headed back down the estuary and through the Spit towards the beach. It wasn’t a very good beach. Apparently, the best beach was on the other side of the Spit … but we would have had to have gone another kilometer … and, apparently, our extra MXP200 wasn’t enough to get us there.
We had a swim and headed home.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There are no ATMs / banks. Bring plenty of cash.
There are no supermarkets. There is one large Supermini near the square. Otherwise, it is all small convenience stores.
Most close at 6:00pm. Finding a beer to take back to the hotel proved to be more of a problem than I was expecting!
WHEN TO GO:
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 December through May as these are the months with the most temperate and driest weather.
From Rio Lagartos I head back to Tizimin to catch a bus to Merida and on to Progreso.
I will tell you more about that in a later post.
Accommodation is priced at a ’boutique’ level accordingly.
US$37 / night is the most that I have paid for accommodation in the 2 years that I have been travelling (this time). But I figured that it was worth paying this premium as long as the Flamingo Trip was worth while.
But, Rio Lagartos needs to live up to the ‘hype’. It did not.
The basic quality of the room and the ’embarrassing’ Breakfast put the Punta Ponto in the top 5 ‘Worst Value For Money’ hotels that I have stayed in within the past 2 years.
The MXP300 / person paid for the Flamingo Trip would have bought you a whole day of Island Hoping and Snorkelling almost anywhere in South East Asia.
Simply put, Rio Lagartos is over-priced for the experience that it offers. The Flamingo Trip is nothing special.
3 nights in Rio Lagartos is enough.
Rio Lagartos does NOT make it into my GRANDPAcking Holidays list nor my GRANDPAcking Retirement list.
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