Valladolid Stole My Heart

faql8390.jpgSurprise! I’m back again at this travel blogging business.  And like usual, its a post about Mexico.  I spent a week in the Yucatan in March with my friend Sarah.  We did some beachin’ on Isla Mujeres, which was great, but the colonial city of Valladolid won both of our hearts.

Valladolid is in the Yucatan State and seems to be used as a lunch stop for tour buses headed to Cancun after a visit to Chichen Itza.  You should really spend a few days there either as a base to visit the ruins of Chichen Itza and Ek Balm or just to enjoy the beautiful architecture and amazing food!

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Christmas Day in San Agustinillo

IMG_0396.jpgOnce we decided that we’d spend our week off during christmas in Mexico, we had to decide where to go outside of Huatulco.  I think I emailed every single hotel between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido desperately trying to find vacancy with less than 2 weeks to go before we landed.

And that’s how we ended up in San Agustinillo, solely based on our ability to find vacancy.  I’ve never traveled like this before and I was pretty nervous, but it worked out perfectly.

San Agustinillo is a little fishing town on the coast Oaxacan coast between Hualtulco and PE.  If you like surfing this is the area for you.  The waves are intense.  You can still find some spots to swim, but you have to be very mindful of those warning flags.

We got the hotel in Huatulco to call a taxi for us, I knew from previous research that it would cost 500 pesos to get to San Agustinillo and that’s exactly what the man charged us.  He was lovely, spoke a little English, taught me how to properly say all the town names we passed through.  It was about an hour drive but it didn’t feel that long at all.

Our first hotel was Casa Bagus right on the beach.   A lovely French Canadian named Manon runs the hotel, she was super helpful, especially letting us know what parts of the beach were the safest for swimming.     IMG_0349.jpg

We dumped our bags behind the checkin desk and headed down to the beach chairs.  We took some time to watch the waves and try to get an idea of what we’d be getting ourselves into.  There were plenty of younger kids in the water so we figured we’d be fine.   And we were, but holy shit are those waves intense!   Our hotel was in what was considered the quieter, calmer part of the bay and we still fought the undertow and waves every time we dared to venture into the water.IMG_0430.jpg

That’s Shawn being eaten by a wave in front of our hotel!  We didn’t last long, it was a very exhausting workout trying to stay above the waves.

I can’t sing the praises of Casa Bagus enough.  We were so lucky to get a room because the hotel was still very new, if you’re going to be in the San Agustinillo area you should look them up and see if they have vacancy.   It is a bit on the spendy side BUT we had a full kitchen (that we did not utilize), a sofa bed, dining room table, separate bedroom, large bathroom and, the best part, a long private balcony that faced the beach.

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San Agustinillo is very small, with a few restaurants, mostly in the hotels.   Casa Bagus has its own small restaurant run by Chef Oscar.  He told us that he plans the menu around whatever is caught that day.IMG_0398.jpg

For Christmas dinner Oscar was serving filet mignon and tuna steaks.   Shawn got the filet and I went with the tuna.  IMG_0397.jpg

It was quite possibly the best tuna, or fish, I have ever had.  And a massive portion.  Shawn’s steak was perfect.  We each had two margaritas with dinner and ended up paying $40.   We couldn’t believe it.

We headed back up to our room to drink some beers we’d bought earlier at a tienda.  Sitting on our balcony, drinking beers and listening to the surf was the perfect way to end the best christmas day I’ve ever had.

Christmas in Mexico 2017, or how I’m months behind on this blog

We had a solid plan for our christmas 2017 week off.  We were going to rent a car, drive down the Washington coast and stay in a cabin right on the beach for a few days.  Super romantic and low key.

Aaaaand 13 days before christmas I found a really cheap airfare deal to Huatulco Mexico.   Westjet has seasonal direct flights every Sunday, and its a decent 6 hour flight straight down

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Huatulco is a tourist development like Cancun, it was developed in the 80s when the government decided to do more to attract tourists to the area.  Now there are loads of all inclusive resorts and cruise ships dock at Huatulco.

Shawn and I aren’t resort people so we decided we would head out of Huatulco along the coast and spend most our time in a small town called San Agustinillo.

Our flight arrived in the evening so we had to spend a night in Huatulco, we stayed at Hotel Casa Danna, a smaller hotel close to the ocean.   It was super easy to get to from the airport, we decided to splurge and get a taxi directly from the terminal.  If you want to save money you can walk out of the airport grounds completely and hire a taxi on the main highway.   I think it ended up costing us around $430 pesos, which was worth it for us to not have to walk down toward the highway in the heat with our backpacks.

IMG_0348The view from our hotel room, you can just see the ocean peeking through the trees.

Our hotel was a easy 15 minute walk into the La Crucecita area.  We tried El Grillo Marinero for dinner and I had the octopus in butter and garlic, and guys, it was amazing! And it was super reasonably priced.img_0311.jpgIMG_0310

We headed to the main square after dinner for some margaritas and to watch some traditional Oaxacan dancing. IMG_0319IMG_0329

We ended the night on our hotel balcony enjoying some Tecates from OXXO and watching the fireworks over the ocean.

I Like Piña Coladas, But Not Getting Caught in the Rain

That song’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? You’re welcome! We heard it a few times over the course of our trip, along with some other island gems, like Margaritaville.

Anyways, it turns out I do like Piña Coladas, I tried my first one on the beach at Mawimbi.

Our week on Holbox was all about relaxing, which was a first for me.  My vacations usually involve me spending 3-4 very jam packed days in various cities trying to see ALL THE THINGS.   I did that twice in Europe in 2016 and will be doing it again in August, so a week with zero things on my agenda was a much needed change.  Shawn was a little worried I might go crazy, but you guys, I loved it!  I had no idea doing nothing can be so satisfying.  I don’t think I could handle two weeks of it, but 7 days of total relaxation? Yes! Yes! Yes!

So what did a day in the lives of Carly and Shawn look like?

Get up, have breakfast, lounge on beach, read, swim, read, swim, talk about where to have lunch, go for lunch, lounge on beach, swim, nap, watch sunset, walk around town and discuss dinner options, have dinner, have drinks, night time swim, bed.

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The food on Holbox is amazing.  We did not have a bad meal.  The seafood is so fresh, like caught that day fresh.  There were so many different options, mexican, seafood, italian, american, fancy, budget, vegan, sushi… you can find something to satisfy even the pickiest eater.  Which we are not.  There were almost too many options 😉

Las Panchas

Las Panchas was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.   It was Shawn’s favourite of the trip.  We ate there twice and wanted to go back a third time but they’re not open on Mondays.
We highly recommend the mixed ceviche, fish and shrimp tacos and guacamole.  Oh and the potions are massive.  When they say large, they mean it! The food was so cheap too, the large ceviche was $180 pesos, shrimp tacos $130 and fish tacos $100.  Beers were very reasonable at around $25 pesos I believe.

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Raices Beach Club

Raices was just down the beach from our hotel and responsible for all the terrible island music that got stuck in my head.  They have a stage and a band that sets up around 2 p.m. that plays until the sunsets.  If you don’t like live music this is not the place for you.

Also if you’re super fancy you will hate this place.  The tables are in the sand, with a few waiters who don’t speak much English and service can be slow and I’ve heard the food can be a little hit and miss, but we didn’t experience that.

We ate there twice and ordered their guacamole and whole grilled fish both times.  The fish, oh lord the fish.  I hated fish as a kid.  Over the last 10 years I’ve grown to like it, but this was the first time I had ever ordered or eaten a whole fish and I was pretty freaking nervous about what I was getting myself into.   It was perfect.  Garlic and buttery, caught that day, melt in your mouth.  God I miss that fish.  And eating grilled on the beach fish with your feet in the sand was a dope experience.  Prices were pretty reasonable, the grilled fish for two was around $270 pesos.

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La Isla del Colibri

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One of the few restaurants open on a Monday afternoon, Colbri was a delightful find right on the main square of Holbox.  The decor is very eclectic and bright, filled with art.  The service was friendly, a little slow, but that’s island time.  I think I had the largest margarita ever made.

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Seriously, that thing is like a chalice for kings.  It should be called “The King of Margaritas”.

I had the coconut shrimps and Shawn had fish with mango

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Some other restaurants we ate at that I would recommend are Taco Querto and Taco Gordo for cheap no frills tacos and really fantastic Horchata.

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Miriam

Miriam was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox.   They didn’t seem to serve any alcohol, so that’s something to consider if you want a drink with dinner, but they have pop.  Its a small place, a few tables outside, a few in.  Salsa that came with dinner was very tasty and very spicy.  Shawn splurged and got the lobster and I had the octopus. And the food was so amazing we both dug in before I took any photos.  Whoops 😉 The lobster was quite spendy, but the octopus seemed reasonable.  Another tourist who was just leaving the restaurant told me I had made a great decision eating there as it was the best restaurant on the island.  I think he was right.  We wanted to eat their more than once, but it was also closed on Monday…

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Getting Your Booze On

There’s really no shortage of places to drink on Holbox.  Most of the hotels on the beach close to town have bars, and in the centre of Holbox there’s so many places within walking distance to get your drink on.  Our favourite was El Mesh

El Mesh

Connected to the eco-hostel, El-Mesh was a few buildings down from our hotel, so we passed it a lot.

Only a few stools at a very lovely wooden bar, they make solid cocktails.  We found the drinks very reasonably priced, the service friendly and the music not the typical “island fare” or club noise.

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Hot Corner

We stopped at Hot Corner to pass the time waiting for Las Panchas to open.  It was a cute little set up with swings to sit in.  Very loud music.  Shawn really enjoyed his Mojito.  My margarita was solid as well.

Isla Holbox

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Isla Holbox (pronounced Ol-bosh) or the Black Hole as it was once known in Mayan, is a tiny island in the Gulf of Mexico that you’ve probably never heard of.  Or you found this blog because you just discovered Holbox and are now trying to find out everything you can about this sliver of paradise.

Shawn and I spent 7 days on the island and I’m already trying to plan our next trip back. It was a perfect week.    Beautiful water, delicious food, amazing cocktails, friendly people.  If you’re looking for a lower key beach vacation in Mexico, I would highly suggest Holbox.   So with that said, here’s some handy info to get you to Holbox.  If you’re looking for stuff to do when there, where to eat, I’m saving that for another post, so stay tuned!

Getting There

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You’ll most likely be arriving via Cancun, the closest international airport.  You could drop some serious cash and take a pre-arranged taxi or shuttle straight from the airport to the ferry to the island, but where’s the fun and adventure in that?  And, if like us, your flight got in too late you’re going to have to stay in Cancun overnight.  ADO buses run every half an hour from the Cancun airport into downtown Cancun, they’ll cost you $72 pesos for a one way ticket.

There are cheap hotels around the Cancun bus station.  We can recommend Hotel Kin Mayab, it was clean, less than 5 minutes away from good restaurants and the bus station, plus a swimming pool and air conditioning.

To get to Holbox from downtown Cancun you can either take another bus, like ADO/Mayab/Oriente or a private or shared shuttle.  The town you’ll be arriving in is called Chiquila, and from there you catch the ferry.

We took the bus to Holbox and the shuttle back and we can easily recommend either.   We took the 9am first class ADO bus that has a bathroom and only makes 2 very brief stops along the way.  The bus is nice because it has a toilet and air conditioning.  Make sure you book the first class ADO bus, Mayab/Oriente do not have toilets or aircon and take a lot longer to arrive.

The downside to the bus is it goes slower and they show very loud movies.  The cost for one way tickets on the first class bus was around $270 pesos.  We bought our tickets the night before, but its probably safe to buy them day of as well.  The bus was not even half full.

Once you get to Chiquila there are two ferry companies that run ferries every half an hour.  The cost is the same for either company, $140 pesos one way.  Its about a 20 minute ride to Holbox and it can get pretty bumpy and rocky on the boat.

33349383493_52f236a23b_oWhew, I’m exhausted just recounting all that.  But you guys, all that travel is so worth it to get to paradise.

If you decide to use a shuttle service we can recommend Cancun Shuttle.  They depart twice daily from Chiquila and twice from Cancun.  Its $200 pesos each.  You don’t need to reserve ahead, you just look for them at the Commercial Mexicana across from the ADO bus station in Cancun or once you get off the ferry in Chiquila.  They leave Cancun at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and leave Chiqulia at 7:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.  The shuttle has room for around 10-12 people and has air conditioning.  Taking the shuttle saves you about half an hour of travel time.

A great resource for information on getting to and from Holbox is: https://the.holboxeno.com/getting-to-holbox-transfers-ferries-buses-and-flights#–chiquila-cancun

Where to Stay

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There are so many hotel/hostel options on Holbox which means you have a lot of control over how much you want to spend on accommodations.

Shawn and I decided that this was an area we were willing to spend more money on since we saved on airfare and local transportation.

We stayed at Posada Mawimbi and if you can you should too.
http://www.mawimbi.com/

Its the number one related hotel on Trip Advisor, but not the fanciest or most expensive.  Its a boutique hotel with only 11 rooms.  Its right on the beach! We stayed in the basic room and it was perfect.  Large bed and air conditioning is really all I need.  No we didn’t face the ocean, but whatever, we could go sit on the beach if we wanted to see the ocean.

Mawimbi has a restaurant and bar that serves delicious drinks and well made food.  Your stay includes a continental breakfast of fresh fruit, toast and jam as well as juice and coffee.

They have a large beach area with many different chairs, bed and hammocks to choose from.  The beach itself was clean, pretty much devoid of seaweed and great for swimming.

The staff at Mawimbi were lovely, they learned our names and were happy to book day trips for us.

I don’t think I could stay anywhere else now that I’ve experienced Mawimbi.

Oh and if you pay in cash you get a discount! Who doesn’t love that??

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Day 12 -Lazy Independence Day 

We got wet last night.

Almost as soon as we got to the Alhondiga thunder and lighting started and the skies opened up.   We stayed for almost an hour, watching dancers and then a 13 piece band.

It got too wet for us and we went home and listened to the fire works going off around us until well after midnight.

This morning it was back to the Mercado for breakfast.    Enchiladas Mineras for me again.

  And a donut for dessert.


All the museums are closed today so we’re just walking around,  stopping for drinks.  Last night before heading to the big celebrations we stopped at La Clave Azul for more tequila.

The man who owns the bar wanted us to try a “little piece” of the special he had last night.   It was a giant plate of roast baby pig.   And it was amazing.

And then he brought us cake! All for free.

We had an amazing time with the owner and the bartender.  They were both so happy we came back a second time.

So it only makes sense to go back a third, right? It is absolutely the best bar in Guanajuato.   We had 6 beers, and got 5 plates of free food! And not crap nuts or popcorn, but actual appetizers that left us full.  Jimca and cucumber tossed in lime and chili salt, roasted baby potatoes, tomatoes with oregano and cheese, soup and flautas.

I will miss this bar a lot.

We had drinks at a different outdoor patio, met a gal named Nancy and a man Juan and tried to converse with them.  Maybe 40% of our conversation was understood.

We met our airbnb host’s Mom last night.    She invited us in for some tequila and we ended up talking for a few hours about travel, Mexico and Canada.

We are leaving a day early to spend an extra day in Leon, get our shopping on.   Leon is apparently quite the leather shopping destination and I want some boots and a jacket.