SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Tam Agosti-Gisler and her husband just returned from three weeks in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This is her report.
Here’s a tip for those traveling to the Yucatan who want to visit a less touristy area with a lot less people. In the south, Bacalar is like Cancun was 30 years ago.
Laguna Bacalar is a large multi-colored lake that is quite warm, very swallow for a long way out, not salty and has no dangerous water creatures! You will also see the protected stromatolite “rock-like” structures in the lake which clean the water and oxygenate the planet!
You can rent kayaks, sailboats or take boating excursions. There are a lot of small hotels, pensions and AirBnBs for large groups located on or near the laguna.
The ‘Costera’ road the runs the length of the laguna is in horrible shape, but it is being currently rebuilt. (It’s faster to take the highway sometimes since the laguna road must be driving at 5 mph due to the potholes!) A popular beach for locals and tourists is Cocalitos with a mere 50 peso ($2.50 US) admission.
They have swings as well as hammocks in the water for kids and adults to enjoy. Another more expensive beach is the Blú Beach Club. The entrance is 400 pesos ($20 US) per person but 250 of that goes towards food or drink purchases. Padded lounge chairs, towels, tables, showers are all included in the price and the food and service are wonderful.
There are lots of cenotes (giant subterranean blue holes) in the area nearby for swimming too. (Cenote Azul is a famous one and entrance is only $1.25 US.)
There are several Mayan ruin sites in the area to which you can make day trips if you have a car. We visited Kohunlich which was about a one hour drive away from Bacalar. (We did see a group who came in a shared taxi.)
Unlike the popular Tulum or Chichen Itza, we shared the entire site with only about 15 other visitors, and it was so large, we barely saw them. Entrance was only 85 Mexican pesos ($4.25 per person). No one bugged us to be our guide or to sell us anything.
Chetumal (on the border with Belize) is 25 miles from Bacalar and has an airport. Flights between Cancun and Chetumal are quite cheap. However, we chose to make the 4.5 hour drive from Cancun.
COVID TRAVEL NOTES:
1) We filled out the required health questionnaire 12 hours before our flight.. But nobody asked about it on arrival.
2) We had the required COVID tests for return to the US done at one of the many “pop-up tent” lab clinics found in any tourist area of the Yucatan for $30 per person. We received results and a scan code within 3 hours via email.
However, on arrival at the airport, that they have a lab right there in the departure hall for $15. (Results in 30 minutes). Depending on the number of people in line, however, it could take longer. Tests are required “one day before flight” rather than, say, 24 hours before flight time.
3) Quintana Roo government officials had signs at departure check-in stating that it was MANDATORY that all foreign visitors scan the code on their signs, go on the government website and pay the $11 per person departure tax. I did this and got a scan code back that they put into their records. However, I then noticed that the majority of people checking in were not aware of this “requirement” and did not do this. There was a sign with a long list of everything needed for departure but this one not on the list.
4) Departure requirements: passport, vaccine card, testing results, Mexican immigration exit paper (received when you arrived in the country) and US Entry Attestation form. That attestation form was being handed out by a man when we were in the check-in line. He looked at our testing results and stamped the back of our Mexican immigration exit paper, but the check-in agent wasn’t interested in seeing our testing results nor our vaccine cards.
5) We were surprised that upon our arrival in Seattle, neither our vaccine cards nor our testing results were looked at. The CDC was only randomly checking people.
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