After four days at Isla Aquada we decided to get an early start for Chetumal. We left 6:30 AM on Sunday morning and had good roads and light traffic all the way. We got to town around noon and saw a Propane/Butane place. We were down to 1/4 tank and needed more before heading to the coast. Believe or not he said none would flow into the tank. In Mexico they use Butane instead of Propane. So we left, found a bank machine and nice big grocery and a Pemex for gasoline.
Well as careful as I am, they scammed me at the Pemex. He stopped filling twice and re-zeroed the pump. He had trouble adding the two numbers together and walked away with my money as I waited for change. He walked back and said I didn’t give him enough. I knew I did but I had no way to prove it. No matter how much I protested he refused to let me go without more money. I lost 200 pesos, about $15. It broke my heart but I learned a good lesson. Don’t get distracted by the other employees talking with you. Never take your eyes off the total and if he stops just pay and move on to a more honest place. He hadn’t even come close to filling my tank.
We found a nice place to camp in Bacalar right on a large lake. There was a small camper from Minnesota camped there. I was planning on staying a few days but kept worrying about getting more Butane. I thought that the problem may have been that my tank was warm and Propane has a much higher vapor pressure than Butane. If his pump didn’t put out enough pressure it wouldn’t open my tank valve. But since it is cool in the morning we went back to the gas place.. We got there about 8 AM it filled it right up, maybe I was right. Now that I have mostly Butane it shouldn’t have the problem.
We debated should we head back to the campground in Bacalar or continue on to Xcalak. It was early and we were anxious to get there so we headed for the coast just North of Belize’s Ambergris Cay on a beautiful coral reef. We decided to drive into Majahual first to take a look at the hurricane damage from 15 months ago. The town was primarily a Cruise Boat stop with a pier big enough to hold 3 large ships and all the amenities in town to keep the boat people happy for an afternoon. It was wiped out totally including the vegetation. They were slowly rebuilding the place. The dock was supposed to reopen in November.So off we went on the beautiful 50 miles of smooth paved road to the little sleepy town of Xcalak. There are a lot of North American expatriates here. We had the name of a gal who was house sitting a small home and living in her trailer. She said the owners were coming in a week but we could stay as long as we leave before they arrive. It is a paradise. We are right on a white sand beach beneath some tall coconut trees, with enough sun to get plenty of power for my solar panels. No hookups but a nice bath & shower.
Map – Bacalar to Xcalak
I’m happy that I did a little research this past summer and found out that Paula Preston, caretaker at a private home Ceilo y Sol, said that we may be able to camp here. It’s close to town, just across the bridge from the Leaky Palapa restaurant which is run by two Canadian women and is so popular that we had to make reservations for dinner on Thursday evening.
The little fishing village of Xcalak (Ish-ca-lac) has only has about 300 full time residents and many small hotels North of town on the potholed sandy beach road. We took a 3 mi walk up the road on Tue morning before it got too hot. There are a few nice small hotels and two dive operations plus a lot of private homes mostly owned by North American expatriates. Ivan from Ontario is building a new home and he hired an artist from Chiapas to carve Mayan designs into his porch columns. The artist did great work as seen from the photograph. We met him on our bike ride, he had just flown in for a week to see their progress.
On Wed morning we rode our bikes South of town and it was mostly a jungle preserve with no houses or views of the ocean. The temperature was in the high 70’s but it was so windy that it was too cold to sit in the shade. We read books most of the day and stayed out of the wind. It’s interesting that even with the high winds there is very little surf since the reef off shore knocks down all the waves. It is very quiet here also, the waves are but a dull off-shore roar. A vegetable truck stopped by today so we could replenish are fresh veggy supply. This place is 90 mi from the main road so it is surprising that anything gets delivered here. There is electrical power but the lines only go about 1/2 mi North of town. The small hotels all have solar or wind power and generators.
If your looking for an undiscovered little place in Mexico this could be it. There is a lot of real estate & ocean front lots available. The local real estate company donated funds to fix up the school. The biggest excitement in town this week is that they dropped off a large bulldozer that is supposed to start repairing the beach road from Xcalak to Mahahual. The main road to Xcalak is smooth asphalt with wide lanes but the beach road as it now stands is more like a series of huge craters. It made us laugh when some places created small topes from rope. The road is much worse than going over a large rope.
On Thursday we got out for an early 10 mi bike ride on the bumpy beach road going North. There is another settlement and small hotels about 5 mi North of town but with the bad road it could take 20 minutes by car to get there. There really are no campgrounds but there are lots of small areas to boondock. We like the place that we are camping since it is so close to town and we are the only people other than the caretakers. However, we need to move out on Sunday morning. We don’t need to get up to near the Cancun airport until about 2 weeks from now, So we are looking for other places we want to try camping between here and Cancun.
We had a great week at Xcalak, went out to eat twice at the Leaky Palapa a really nice restaurant just a short walk from our camping spot. Of course Peggy got Lobster both nights while I stuck with the fresh fish catch, very well prepared.
We got two nights and two mornings of rain but the temperatures were always in the mid 70’sF. The rain and salty air may have caused our refrigerator to stop working one morning. I fooled around with electrical connections to the circuit board gave it a few bangs and it all started working again. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t stop again. I caught it before anything got too warm.
We did a little bit of walking, rode our bikes a few times and I went kayaking a few times. The beaches here have mangroves here and there so that long beach walks are not possible. We would like to stay here longer but it is a private home and the caretaker tells us that the owners are arriving on Monday and would like the beach to themselves without our RV in front of their place.
We also have Wi-Fi here which is really nice for staying in touch. I’m not sure exactly where we are going next but probably somewhere near Tulum. We need to take on some more bottled water since my 40 gal tank looks like it’s near empty. I’m sure we will see some water trucks along the way when we get to the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the main road to Cancun.
We got an early 6 AM start from Xcalak. with 90 miles of good road back to the main highway, MX-307. MX-307 alternates from a very good four lane divided highway to two narrow lanes through miles of construction but the traffic was light and we got to Tulum before lunch time. We filled up on drinking water and gasoline and took a look at the camping possibilities near the Mayan ruins. The white sand beach and turquoise water looked great including all the young women in bikinis. However, the camping for an RV looked bad with all the soft sand and lack of room, so we passed and drove a little more North to an area called Xpu-Ha.
There are two campgrounds here; La Playa and Bonanza. La Playa was full but had one very tight campsite that we could squeeze our small RV into. Most of the people stay here all winter and were very friendly. They said that the Bonanza campground had no sewers and water but a little electricity and was only $8/nt vs. $15/nt at La Playa . We decided to stay with the friendly campers.
The electric hookup here looks like an accident waiting to happen. I had to run my own ground wire, the voltage varies from 100-135 volts, depending on whether your neighbor runs his A/C or not and I don’t think they have any fuses or circuit breakers.
The beach here is also beautiful white sand which was great for morning beach walks. It is about 1-1/2 mi. long and has one small all-inclusive resort and a couple of resorts that were out of business. The two camps have scuba diving, kite boarding, kayak, ski-doo rentals and a few gift shops and a restaurant. I think they bring cruise ship passengers here to spend the day as we are only 17 mi south of Playa Del Carmen.
We left on Saturday morning to shop at Playa Del Carmen and camp at Palmul. Next we will go to Puerto Morelos.
Map – Xcalak toward Cancun
We snagged a small RV site near the beach & showers early in the morning then headed to Playa Del Carmen to do laundry, grocery shop and buy some propane (Really Butane, since that’s all they sell in Mexico). The Butane run was a real boondoggle. We found the really nice laundry in the Chedraui supermarket. While Peggy was washing I followed the girls directions for Butane, just across the street she said.
Well we are on a 4 lane divided highway with 2 lane lateral roads and you could not go across, so I headed to next main intersection. However there is no U-turn allowed, so I managed to finally head in the correct direction and saw a place that had gas bottles in front. I went around in another circle to get there. They informed me that they don’t fill bottles here, I must head 5 miles west. The road turned to gravel, I passed the prison and found a huge Gas depot. However, they only fill bottles not RV tanks. They said go back to the city it’s across from the store that Peggy was at. I finally found it and then had to drive out of town to find another place to make a U-turn. When I got back, Peggy was just finishing up. What a way to spend the morning. After shopping, we had go around in circles a few more times and found our way back to Palmul.
It’s $30/night and most of the people have permanent palapas built over their rigs. For pictures and a description of these palapas there is a great Blog by Glen from Ontario. We met him and he gave us the tour of his new palapa. It was very impressive but I’m not sure I would ever buy into something as elaborate as this. Many are for sale, depending on the condition and site location they seem to run from $69K to $150K usd, in addition there is a $6 k/yr rental fee plus which includes the utilities.
They have a swimming pool, a large restaurant and a dive operation plus many activities. There is not much of a sand beach for our morning walks but it looks like there is some nice coral for snorkeling.
I can’t see us spending an extended stay here so we may stay for two nights and then see what Acamaya Reef Resort & campground at Puerto Morelos looks like.
Only a one hour drive North of Palmul is Puerto Morelos and Acamaya Reef Campground. It is a tiny hotel and a small campground which could handle motor home less than 28′ OK. There is about 10 very tight spaces. However there was only one other camper here, Vito from Wis. that we met in Bacalar.
Map – Xpu-Ha to Cancun
They have a really nice beach, Wi-Fi for a steep price and clean showers and toilets. They are a little pricey at $30 per night but it is really nice but because of construction on a brand new mega hotel right next door there is a constant noise of hammers and saws going on from 7 AM to 9 PM.
There is a constant strong breeze so there are not any insects to bother us. We took a 4 mi walk each morning. The first morning we walked to town, went to the market and book store run by a couple of Canadians.
Of course Peggy had to try to keep their old Lighthouse from falling over. I guess it is the Leaning Faro of Morelos. On the second day we walked North about two miles past four huge all inclusive hotels.
I took our bikes off of our rack and found that the chains were super rusty from the salt & sand. So I cleaned and oiled them and we took a ride to town. We wandered around all the way to the ferry dock for freight to Cozumel.
We drove one hour North of Acamaya Reef campground, through Cancun & Puerto Juarez to MecoLoco campground. The campground is not on the beach but is only 1-1/2 miles from the Punta Beta ferry dock, so we decided a fun day trip would be to bike down to the ferry & load our bikes on board.
The one hour ferry ride including our bikes was $6 per person each way. We loaded our bikes along with the big trucks and enjoyed the views from the top deck.
Once we reached the island, it was about a 10 mile bike ride to circumnavigate the small island. The West shore was a little hilly with some light traffic.
When we reached the end of the island near Garrafon Park the traffic disappeared and the views were spectacular along the Panoramic Highway.
There was a private residence along the drive that was built in the shape of a shell. It was really cool.
After the Panoramic Highway we ended up back in the downtown area with lots of hotels, restaurants, beautiful beaches and the typical souvenir shops.
I liked the large statue in the middle of the glorietta (Traffic Circle) of a fisherman and women (Mujeres) with child.
When we were here 23 years ago I only remember a few stores and tiny hotels. It now has 15,000 residents and would be a nice place to stay for a while.
We read all sorts of different reports about this campground while planning for this year’s trip, some good, some bad. I would like to report that it is run by a very friendly Mexican family with good English skills so that us Spanglish speakers can actually communicate.
The park has 100 sites with good 15 amp electric power, properly grounded, they have water and sewer connections. They can accommodate the biggest rigs and has room for your Toad. They often host Caravan tours. They are very close to Cancun and the ferry service to Isla Mujeres. There are some shady sites.
The cost is 220 pesos per day or 3300 per month. The best part is that you can leave your rig here while you fly back home for the holidays or whatever. The storage rates are 55 pesos per day or 1100 per month, and it is in a safe walled park in a relatively unpopulated area.
They have Wi-Fi service available with a daily or weekly fee. They are on a busy road with collectivos that run up and down the road every 10 minutes to the shopping areas and the bus terminal in Cancun.
For those that like to take more than a short bike ride, you can bike on paved roads past the Punta Sam ferry, past Isla Blanca (Upscale condo community with huge golf courses) with relatively light traffic.
Now the downside; If you are a beach person the park not on a beach but is across the road from the beach. Public access is not very close. You need to walk about a 1/4 mi in either direction to find a way to get to the beach which is clean except for the piles of seaweed that is typical along the Mayan coast.
There is a mangrove swamp adjacent to the park but the mosquitoes around dusk are not too bad since they fog spray the park with insecticide about once a week.
We flew back home from Cancun on Saturday 12/20 and will be enjoying Christmas with our 4 kids and spouses along with our 11 Grandchildren.
We will party with our friends on New Year’s Eve and then fly back to Mexico on Sunday 1/4.
We will then continue our Mexican RV adventure.
If you want to see all of our pictures in a slide show format go to link displayed on left side of page labeled A 2008 Mexico Slideshow or just click the link in this post.