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Have you ever seen a photo of a place and thought, “I’ve got to go there!”
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The Mayan Beach Garden Inn in Mahahual, Mexico, is that type of place. This is where we wanted to spend a glorious week on the beach.
Deciding when to go on our trip was easy. Our anniversary is in September. We like to travel at times of the year when school is in session, so places are less crowded. We also like low season travel, which makes accommodations and travel less expensive. My full-time job requires that I give at least 90 days’ notice, which helps with planning. Because we had flexibility, we were able to shop around for the best airfares. I didn’t foresee that the low season meant fewer methods of transportation would be available.
Travel to Mexico
The two airports most accessible to travel on to Mahahual are Cancun and Chetumal. Cancun flights can be found for a very reasonable rate from most American and Canadian cities. We flew American Airlines from Charlotte, NC to Cancun. This is a direct flight lasting just over three hours.
We noticed when we were in Belize last year that there are commuter flights offered by Tropic Air to Chetumal. Multiple airlines, including West Jet, are offering inexpensive flights to Belize City from which you take the short flight to Chetumal. For the best rate on these commuter flights, be prepared to pay in cash (the US and Belizean dollars are equivalent).
Getting to Mahahual
Arriving in Cancun or Chetumal is not the end of the travel. Mahahual is a four to five-hour drive from Cancun. Mahahual is a two-hour drive from Chetumal.
This part of the trip is one I seriously miscalculated — mostly because I put off looking at how we would get from Cancun to Mahahual until close to our departure. Rental cars from American companies were enormously expensive (over $800 for the nine days). Stories about insurance, military checkpoints, and other concerns panicked me about renting a car.
We considered getting private transportation, but with only two of us, that became super expensive. We were going to ride a local bus, from a company going from Cancun to Playa del Carmen to Mahahual. But since we were off-season, the routes were limited and the companies wouldn’t guarantee availability. Some only ran in one direction on specific days of the week, something I had not considered in making our plane reservations.
I resumed reading various posts concerning Mexican car rental companies. I figured out what types of insurance we really needed and what they covered. We rented from Easy Way, which charged less than half their American counterparts. We had a great experience with them. They picked us up from the airport, made sure to show us any special features, and at the return, dropped us off at our hotel. They answered all my emailed questions. It was nice to know that we could pick up the phone at any point if we had issues because they had locations throughout the area.
The road from Cancun to Mahahual was new and well maintained. We did have one section that confused us due to construction that was not reflected on our GPS, which added some driving time. The last bit of road turning off from Mahahual to the hotel was not in great shape due to heavy rains and the last little bit was a dirt road with huge potholes. You should plan on driving during the daytime if you are unfamiliar with the area.
Mayan Beach Garden Inn
The hotel itself is fabulous. This is a small property with seven guest rooms. We could walk straight onto the beach from our room. Unfortunately, we visited in 2015 when this area was hard hit by sargassum (sargasso) seaweed. Although we could layout, it was impossible to enjoy a quick dip or take advantage of the kayak without leaving the property. And the smell! But again, that was a pretty unique situation that has resolved.
The hotel is run by Marcia, who oversees every step of the operation, along with her husband, Kim. She answered so many of our questions, both before by email and on location. This hotel is eco-friendly. Because electricity is produced by a generator, you should avoid using electricity whenever possible. There are no televisions. I caught up on some reading. There is good WiFi access, so you will not feel like you’ve left the world behind (although would that be so bad?).
We stayed in the beachfront king which had a wonderful terrace with hammocks. We spent the last few nights in one of the beachfront balcony rooms because there was very little breeze downstairs. The rooms have ceiling fans, but it is a big deal to use the air conditioning units because the power comes from a generator that has to run during the night. The windows have screens to keep out the bugs and there are glass panes you can close. If you’re keeping the windows open to generate a breeze, you will lose some privacy – meaning you can hear your neighbors (and they can hear you!).
Because the hotel is located outside of town, we participated in the full meal plan, even though we don’t usually eat breakfast. We weren’t disappointed! Everything is made to order from a pretty extensive breakfast menu. Lunch featured two options that changed daily. Dinner was listed on a board and an alternative was fixed for those who didn’t eat or had an allergy. Allow yourself to be open to the new flavors and cuisine – I gained ten pounds during the eight days we were there!
Breakfast and lunch at Mayan Beach Garden were served at small tables. Dinner was served “family style” with everyone together at one sitting. When we were there, only two other couples were staying too, so we fit at one table. When all the rooms are booked, I don’t know how they do it. Some guests didn’t like the family-style dining from what I saw on the feedback. I enjoyed chatting with others and getting to know them. This may be harder to do with children though and if you really want to stick to just your own group.
If you’re looking to get away and truly relax without having to think about anything, stay at the Mayan Beach Garden in Mahahual!
Read about places to visit in Mahahual here.
Annick, The Common Traveler