We decided to start our travels in Central America in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, famous for Cancun and the nearby beaches of the Riviera Maya. Although we planned to skip Cancun entirely, we were still worried that the whole area would be overly touristed. But flights to Cancun from the United States are cheap, and we’ve heard good things about the snorkeling and Mayan ruins here, and we love Mexican food, so we decided to give the Yucatan a try.
Local trivia: the name of the area may derive from a language barrier. Yucatan appears to be a corruption of the Mayan words for “I don’t understand your language”—maybe what the locals answered when Spanish conquistadors asked them the name of their country.
On our first day (January 8), we headed straight from the Cancun airport to the little seaside town of Puerto Morelos. It’s a funky little place on a long beach, with small boats moored just off shore and a constant break of waves along the reef a few hundred meters out. The town has lots of expats (especially Canadians), but it still feels authentic.
We spent our first hours there sitting on a restaurant veranda and watching the sea while sipping sour lime limonadas and eating shrimp quesadillas and guacamole. With strolling guitar players in the background, a buzz of Spanish around us, and the afternoon passing slowly, we gradually relaxed back into vagabond mode, with an extra coating of “island time.”
The hotel we’d booked turned out to be full (the previous tenant of our room had not left on time, and his things were still there), so the hotel owner arranged for us to stay at another place a few blocks away for the same price. The new place turned out to be a big beach-front suite with its own bathroom, living room, kitchenette, and veranda overlooking the ocean! It was great to start our trip by getting bumped up to “first class.”
The next day we took a boat out to the reef, Puerto Morelos’s main draw. The snorkeling was amazing: we saw lots of healthy coral and the colorful fishes that we love. We even spotted two big turtles and a mean-looking green moray eel hiding in a crevice. After two years without snorkeling, it felt wonderful to be spying on the underwater world once again.