Travel Story Mexico
The United States of Mexico is located in the south of North America and is bordered by the United States to the north and the southeast by Guatemala and Belize. Furthermore, it is enclosed by the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Due to its rich culture, biological diversity, varied climate zones, and geography, Mexico is one of the most diverse and most visited tourist destinations globally.
My purpose in visiting Mexico was a 5-month internship from my studies, but I also used the time there to explore and see as much as possible. This is why I would like to give a small insight into my experience in Mexico and hopefully some travel inspiration.
Since my sister was doing a volunteer year in Mexico in 2014/15, we still had contact with the Mexican family with which she was staying back in the day, so they were happy to receive me when I arrived in Mexico. In general, I can say that the Mexican people are very welcoming and caring and try to make you feel at home. This was also the case with my Mexican mum “Lupita”; she was taking me in as her daughter and made the change to another culture and country for me much more manageable. So, if you want to meet amicable and welcoming people, I can only recommend you to visit Mexico; in my time living and traveling, I did not meet one unfriendly person; they all try to help you and make you feel welcomed.
In the following part, I will tell you about a few places I visited in Mexico and give some tips on what to see. Nevertheless, keep in mind that Mexico is super big, and tons of excellent sites are missing; just remember that there is so much to see and explore in Mexico.
Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Our first travel story begins in Mexico City, we (my Mexican mum Lupita and I) took a flight of almost 2-hours to get to San Jose del Cabo. Once landed, you must take a taxi, bus, or Uber to the Cabo San Lucas because this is the actual destination right at the ocean. We took the cheapest option, the bus, for 80 pesos (less than 4 euros) it reached Cabo San Lucas in a roundabout half an hour and luckily it was passing by right at our hotel. Cabo San Lucas itself is pretty touristic, and if you walk on the street, you will find a lot of people from the United States because of its proximity to the States. Because of that, the tour operators can speak English. I preferred talking Spanish with them to improve it because Lupita cannot speak English. One of the activities Cabo San Lucas is known for is Whale Watching. Every year between mid-December and April, grey whales migrate from Alaska to their birthplaces and pass Los Cabos. Of course, we could not miss this, so we booked a tour with a responsible tour operator because there are some things you should pay attention to. At the same time, for Whale Watching, you should always keep a certain distance from the whales and approach them only from a certain angle. So, it was essential to book a tour with a tour operator who follows the guidelines for a sustainable and responsible Whale Watching to ensure we do not disturb or harm the whales during our experience. Once on the boat and equipped with lifejackets, the tour started in the beautiful harbor, and from there, we passed “El Arco,” an arch/ a beautiful rock formation and one of the most popular photos taken in Los Cabos.
After a drive of around about half an hour, we saw the first water fountains and, therefore, could tell that we were at the right spot. We also passed some rocks with sea lions bathing in the sun on our way to see the whales. Our tour guides followed the whales carefully but always kept a safe distance and gave us some information about the whales. Fortunately, we were lucky that on a few occasions, the whales were curious and swam to the boat so that we were able to see them up close. Everyone on the boat was screaming with excitement every time one of the whales came up close to the ship, so it was pretty exciting because everyone was busy looking out for the next whale to come up to the surface. After roundabout 1 ½ hours, we made our way back, happy that we could see these fascinating creatures so close.
Another travel story from Mexico is going to watch the sunset from “Cerro de la Zeta”, which is a mountain not far from the city center. We took an Uber to the place because it was the most convenient and fastest way to go. Walking up to the top took us around 20 minutes, so it was not too exhausting and Lupita is 67 years old, so I am sure if she can do it, you can do it too! The view was super amazing, you can see the city of Los Cabos and the ocean, and if you look close, you can even see the water fountains from the whales from up there. Therefore, if you have time and want to see a beautiful sunset, I recommend visiting Cerro de la Zeta.
Since we only had a few days of vacation, we decided to take a bus and visit “La Paz”, a city located north of Los Cabos. We took the earliest bus to reach there early and to have the whole day to enjoy and explore. The journey took around 3 hours to get to la Paz, and for me, it was worth it. My first impression was that it was way more beautiful than Los Cabos because you have a beautiful pier where you can take a walk alongside the ocean and enjoy the view.
That is what we did before we called an Uber to go to our actual destination, “Playa Balandra”, which is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. Located 30 minutes from la Paz, we passed the dessert and saw some unique nature. Unfortunately, at one moment, the road was blocked by police officers who told us that the limit for the people who can visit the Balandra is already reached for today. Due to the pandemic, the beach is limited to 400 people by land a day. At first, I was disappointed because it was our primary goal to see this beach, and it was only 10 am, and it seemed like we could not make it. But one of the things I learned in Mexico is that there is (almost) always a way to make things happen. Our uber driver brought us to a different beach nearby, where we learned about the option to reach Playa Balandra by boat. Fortunately, we met a group from Guadalajara who also wanted to get to this beach, so in the end, we were able to negotiate an excellent price with one of the tour operators, and he agreed to take us with the boat to the beach. I was happy about it, and in the end, it was an extra adventure to go with the ship to the beach, because this way you can see more, and it is much more exciting. The beach itself consists of 7 parts; and it is beautiful and calm, and the water close to the beach is flat. If you want, you can climb up a small mountain to view the beach. When you are in La Paz, visiting Playa Balandra is recommended and worth the travel; just make sure that you either come early or book a tour to make sure you can access the beach eventually.
Back in La Paz, we ate in a fish restaurant right by the pier, and it was delicious. If you like fish and seafood I recommend you try it, you won’t be disappointed. Besides, most of the time the food is very cheap compared to European prices. As mentioned before, we only had a few days in the peninsula of Baja, California, so there are still a lot of places to explore and worth visiting.
Another trip I would like to tell you about is to the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo which are in the southeast of Mexico. Once landed in Cancun, you can take a bus to the city center and another bus to the hotel zone, depending on where you are staying. I learned that if you not only want to stay in Cancun, it would be better to stay in the city center of Cancun because the Bus Terminal ADO is closer. But since I did not know I was staying in the hotel zone the first days, which is also nice and close to the bars and discos where you can have a party every night if you like to. But since this was not my purpose, I was visiting Isla Mujeres, an island that you can reach from Cancun in 20 minutes by taking a ferry. The island itself is beautiful but also packed with tourists. I recommend renting a bike or golf cart to visit the island’s south side, which is a bit less touristic. I rented a bike and enjoyed the ride to the other side of the island because you can make stops wherever you want and get to know the part of the island where the local people live. It would be best if you made a stop at “Punta Sur”, which has a magnificent outlook on the super blue ocean. I was fascinated and never have seen such a blue ocean before.
After exploring the Mayan city for some time, we made our way to the “Cenote Saamal”. Cenotes are flooded sinkholes of karstic origin; there are different types of cenotes; this Cenote is an open-aired one. One was able to take a swim in the Cenote and enjoy the clear and refreshing water, really worth the visit! As this was my first Cenote, I was unsure what to expect, but I was super stunned by how beautiful it was when I saw it.
The last stop was “Valladolid,” a city with Spanish colonial-style architecture. We only spend half an hour in the city center because the cathedral from colonial times and the main square are the most worth seeing things.
Another trip worth taking if you are on the peninsula from Yucatan is to Isla Holbox, which is a 2-hour drive with the bus from Cancun. Arriving in the village of Chiquila, you are going to take a ferry to Isla Holbox. On the island itself, people mostly move with golf carts or bicycles. During my time on the island, I made a tour with a boot visiting an “Ojo de Agua,” a freshwater fountain in which you can swim, and two small islands. One evening I was doing a tour where we went to a beach to see the phenomenon of bioluminescent in the water. If you move the water, you can see the water glowing due to a chemical reaction with living organisms. This was a unique and exciting experience. Another activity you can do is visit “Punta Mosquito”, which is a long beach with the following nature reserve which one can not enter. To reach there, you can walk along the coast and even in the ocean because the water is not deep.
Turtle Project, Marquelia, Playa Las Penitas, Mexico
In addition, as part of my internship in Mexico, I had the opportunity to travel to, participate in and support a project that works for the protection of turtles. In December, we went to the state of Guerrero to Playas Las Penitas for the turtle project called “Sirenito Macho“. The people from this project are committed to protecting the turtles and their eggs or offspring because it is still widespread in the population living there to consume turtle meat and eggs, and traditional reasons play a role as well because the eggs of the turtles are considered an aphrodisiac. Besides the natural predators, there are additional threats such as the increasing construction and the advancing tourist development of the region, which lead to the fact that there are fewer places for the turtles to lay their eggs and build their nests. These problems are tried to be mitigated by the project leader Don Javier, by renting out small cabanas with his family and educating volunteers or tourists about the turtles and their increasing threat, and trying to sensitize people to the issue. My task in this project was to help with counting newly hatched turtles and releasing them. In addition, Don Javier explained to me how to properly excavate a nest and seal it. One of Don Javier’s main tasks is the nightly beach patrol, which means he drives his quad bike along the approx. 18 km long beach starting around 10 pm and looking for turtles about to lay their eggs or for freshly laid nests. On one of those tours, I was allowed to accompany him and help dig out the found nests, count the eggs, and relocate them safely packed into the fenced area of the project. The eggs remain safely protected until they hatch and are released after about 45-70 days. Looking back on it, this was one of the best experiences I had in my time and Mexico and going on this nightly beach patrol looking out for turtles or nests was super exciting and additionally a significant work to help protect the turtles.
Concludingly I can only point out again that I had a fantastic time in Mexico; they received me with open arms and made my internship and my travels super special! I will definitely return because there are still missing so many beautiful places. If you have not been to Mexico yet, I hope I could inspire you with my stories so that the next flight ticket you book will be to beautiful and welcoming Mexico.