Hierve el Agua and its petrified waterfalls is an easy daytrip from Oaxaca City and totally worth the trip. Here are 3 ways you can visit it.
Celebrating Dia de Los Muertos in Oaxaca was the most beautiful cultural experience I’ve ever had. Here’s how to get the most of your visit.
There are literally thousands of these sinkholes in Yucatan, Mexico. Here are 5 of our favorite cenotes.
Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico
Las Casa de Los Venados (The House of Deers) in Valladolid is owned by an American couple, John and Dorianne Venator. They bought this hacienda style house in ruins, spent 10 years renovating and filling it with the largest collection of Mexican folk art in a private collection.
Even though it is a private home, the Venators open their house to visitors everyday on a guided tour. Some thoughts that crossed our minds as we poked around their house:
1. I wonder what it’s like to live here.
It’s like a house that doubles as a museum. Or more appropriately, a museum that has beds so you can use it a house if you want. The art dominates. Even the bathrooms don’t escape the onslaught of 3000+ items of Mexican folk art.
Every piece of furniture is an art piece. Check out the crazy painted chairs in the main dining room.
Calaveras (skeletons) seems to dominate the art scene. It would’ve been more disconcerting if only the skeletons were not brightly painted and looking pretty darn happy with those toothy grins.
2. Oh my god, the pool!
This courtyard pool was the most inviting swimming pool I’ve seen.
It might have something to do with the fact that I was so, so hot. It was summer in Mexico. I was literally dripping sweat on the floor. The nice lady giving the tour, seeing my predicament (and probably afraid of people slipping on my sweat pool on the floor), talked briefly on the walkie talkie. Soon, a young lad came and handed me a pack of tissue.
But I digress.
The architect responsible in designing La Casa de Los Venados has won many awards. We weren’t surprised.
3. Cleaning this place must be quite a challenge
There are more than 3000 items of art in La Casa de Los Venados. 3000 and plus items to dust.
I trailed a discreet finger behind the two-headed Friday Kahlo.
We don’t usually go out of our way to visit museums. But La Casa de Los Venados is not a regular museum. It’s a house with history. A house that exudes the personal love the Venators have for Mexican folk art.
There’s no reason NOT to visit La Casa de Los Venados, located half a block from Valladolid’s main square. Come to gawk at the art and at the architecture.
You don’t need to be an art lover to walk away impressed.
Even better, the tour is donation based and all of it goes to charities.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
It’s not hard finding a place to eat in Playa del Carmen. One of the busiest towns in Riviera Maya, its main street, La Quinta Avenida, is jammed packed with restaurants. But we were looking for something more low-key and let’s be honest… something that doesn’t cost the same as a dinner in San Francisco.
Thankfully, after trial/error and with the help of Twitter friends, we discovered some pretty awesome restaurants in Playa del Carmen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once we find good places to eat, we tend to stick to it.
So, this is what we had almost every single day we were in Playa.
Right in front of the ADO bus terminal in Playa del Carmen, there’s a line of taco stands. You’ll see it right away because of the morning crowd.
Choose your taco filling from Yucatan specialties such as cochinita pibil (bright orange marinated pork), pollo en relleno negro (chicken in roasted pepper), or shrimp/fish. Eat your tacos standing up like the others. 10 pesos/taco.
For chasers: a freshly squeezed orange juice from a stand next to the taco carts.
Close around 2 pm.
Walk or take a taxi to Los Aguachiles at Avenida 25 and Calle 34th. This seafood-only place serves delicious tacos, tostadas, ceviches, and aguachiles on red plates wrapped in plastic bag. Everything is so darn good.
If you’ve been thinking about trying ceviche, this place is a good place to lose your ceviche virginity. After trying their shrimp ceviche tostada, I’m a fan.
My mouth waters just writing about this.
Other equally mouth watering dishes include their pescado empanasada and pescado al vapor taco.
Close at 6 pm.
Thanks to Ayngelina for the tip.
A couple of blocks towards the beach from La Quinta Avenda (the 5th Avenue), on the way to Mamita Beach Club is Bro * Chetas. Come here for reasonably priced and deliciously executed brochettes. Mix and match between chicken, shrimp, fish, octopus, and salmon brochettes. For the vegetarians, they have home made falafel.
Even the side dishes (steamed broccoli and french fries) deserve a standing ovation. I know what you’re thinking – ‘How good can steamed broccoli can be?’ Give this place a try and you’ll find out.
Eating and swimming in our favorite cenote in Yucatan was the highlight of our stay in Playa. It’s no surprise that we came back home a little tanner and just a little tighter around the waist.
On a whim, I jumped on a bus to Izamal from Valladolid. The promise of a city painted in egg yolk yellow, basking in gold in sunset prompted me on. The only bus to Izamal was leaving in 20 minutes. A sign? I think so.
The guidebook says it’s 1.5 hour ride. On a second class bus from Valladolid, it took me closer to 2.5 hours passing through and stopping at every tiny dot on the map.
Upon getting off, I learned that the last returning bus to Valladolid was 55 minutes away.
I was hoping to do some souvenir shopping in Izamal. Izamal is home to a group of artisans – clearly posted signs direct you to different workshops: papier mache, hammock, jewelry, and more. I was really looking forward to that.
But 55 minutes just about gave me enough time to check out the Monastery at the center of town, which was worth the trip by itself.
I had enough time to make a dash around the plaza, peeking my heads around corners to see rows and rows of yellow painted buildings with white trims.
Izamal proved me wrong. I thought I had enough of colonial towns after South America, but I guess there’s always room in my heart for yet another one. Especially a brightly painted yellow one like this one.
We were feeling somewhat lukewarm about Playa del Carmen. Until we stumbled upon Chaak Tun cenote – it’s so awesome we can say it ‘made’ the Playa for us. For us, Chaak Tun is the best cenote in the whole Yucatan.
Like any awesome find, I want to keep this gem for ourselves. But just like any other awesome finds – I love sharing them as well.
Confession: We have a love affair with cenotes.
A minute ago, all 8 of us were brimming with excitement about the prospect of swimming with whale sharks in Mexico. Now that we’ve seen the whale sharks – hesitation creeps in. These guys are HUGE!
Utter disappointment. That was how I felt when I found out that I wouldn’t be able to go to Djibouti to swim with whale sharks.
An item on my bucket list for a long time was to go diving with sharks. But since I can’t swim (really) and I’m terrified of sharks (not to mention of the ocean in general), I thought snorkeling with whale sharks (which don’t really count as one of the scary sharks since whale sharks eat planktons) is the next best thing.
“You can always go to Mexico if you want to swim with whale sharks”, a friend said when I told her about Djibouti.
No way! Really?
The Yucatan Peninsula where we’re heading offers so much more than the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. There’s the food, the beach, the arts, and apparently there are a bunch of famous Mayan ruins there as well. The more I read about the Yucatan peninsula the more I realise that it sounds like a really cool place to visit.
But can I be really, really honest with you guys? If we come back from our Mexico trip having done nothing but snorkeling with the biggest fish in the world – I’d be completely, utterly, happy.
I want it to happen to bad I’m afraid if I think too much about it, I’ll end up jinxing it altogether. Maybe I should be talking in whispers (or whatever the writing equivalent of a whisper)
“We’re going to Mexico to snorkel with whale sharks”.
So tomorrow, we’ll be on a plane heading to Yucatan, Mexico. Do you think we’ll get to see some big fish?
Eeeek! Let’s hope so.
If not, I guess I’ll just have console myself by Plan B that consists of me stuffing my face silly with Mexican food, and go snorkeling in the world’s second largest barrier reef system. Or maybe I’ll go down to Oaxaca to swim with some glow-in-the-dark planktons.
You have to agree, I want Plan A to happen, but Plan B doesn’t sound so bad after all.
Long layover sucks. On the way to New York from South America, we had a 10 hour layover in Mexico City. But getting out of the airport to enjoy a little bit of the city definitely beats moping around at the airport.
It was our first time in Mexico. Well, actually it was technically my 2nd time, but since the only thing I remember from my first visit is having been put for a photo on top of a donkey, crying my 7 year old heart out, with a gigantic sombrero that says ‘Tijuana’ at the front, it doesn’t really count.