Story and Videos by Lydia Linton Pontius (Feb. 2011)
Photos by Alexandra Bradley
Heading south from Laguna Bacalar, we pass by Cenote Azul; I make a note to stop there next time. But this trip we are on our way to the state of Campeche and I am anxious to get on the road. We are going to Calakmul, about a three-hour drive. Another note to self: Next time it might be wise to fill up the tank and stop at the ATM in Bacalar, or swing through Chetumal, before heading off to places unknown. We assume that there will be something in Xpujil, and there is; we find gas along the way with no problem and in Xpujil we also find an ATM at the bus station, but it isn't working.
To get to Campeche you head west just before you get to Chetumal. The road is in great condition and most of it has been recently widened and resurfaced, especially past Xpujil.
As the road takes you inland, the landscape quickly begins to change. The flat, coastal scenery is replaced by rolling hills and very green pastures. It appears to be real farmland in parts of this area with small ranches and great views. For those looking for something new and different, a change from the crowds along the beaches, and adventurous enough to step past Highway 307, we challenge you and say unequivocally that you will not be disappointed. The beaches are great—we love the beach—but what I find traveling inland is that I reconnect to my wanderlust, my sense of adventure, and feel again, the AHHHH factor. It takes me back to the time I first arrived in the Riviera Maya. Sometimes the familiar is nice, but other times you just want to seek out what is new and different.
Over each hill I find my self saying, "Oh look, it is so beautiful ... so green." We are there in November and I find it to be a great time to travel. The landscape is lush and the wintering birds have arrived. We stop for lunch at Xpujil. When you get the check, you will realize another good reason to get off the coast and do some exploring. You really can afford to rent a car and take off, with lunch spots that are under $5.00. Next stop is the grocery store for some last-minute supplies for our cooler, and again we are pleasantly surprised by the cost. With the ATM out of order, it is great we are saving money.
Back on the road, the next stop is Calakmul. The entrance to Calakmul is well marked and our resort, Puerta Calakmul, is just to the left of the entrance to the park. We follow the road and it takes us right to the reception area. The parking lot is a clearing in the jungle, the reception area an open-air palapa, with lovely hand-made chairs and loveseats, tables and lamps, and beautiful local art. Simple, but elegant and sustainable, are our first impressions. The next impression is the staff; they could not be more welcoming and professional. They greet us, sign us in, give us a tour of the property, help with our luggage, and make sure we have anything we need. I had hurt my foot a few days prior and it was badly swollen; they immediately get me an ice pack and a cold drink. They even move our room to one closer, so I don't have to walk as far to the restaurant. Every imaginable step is taken to assure our comfort comes first.
We settle in our rooms, wander around, take a few photos, and shower before dinner. The dining room at Puerta Calakmul is one of my favorites. It is a two-story open room with floor-to-ceiling screens, so you are as close to the jungle as possible without the worry of a squirrel or bird stealing your meal. Beside the dining room is a lovely small pond which is the perfect spot for the birds and squirrels to come drink and bathe. The dining room tables are hand carved in the shape of leaves that can sit four people or be put together to accommodate larger parties. And you may be miles away from the nearest city but there is still attention to detail. The napkins are linen, and they use nice china, stemware and substantial stainless. These little details mean to me that some one is conscientious about your comfort.
These details don't stop at the public restaurant but follow through to the rooms. Each room is individually decorated, has nice thick towels and wonderful mosquito netting. The same hand-made, but very comfortable, furniture is on each porch. The furniture is unique and so is the artwork, right down to the lampshades.
They have a small but very nice pool in the middle of the resort. The lay out of the property gives everyone their own sense of complete privacy. And it is the closest resort to the Calakmul and Balamkú Ruins. Another must-see-and-do we heard about is the bat cave; due to my injury we had to put that off until the next visit. But we will be back!
We recommend this for the adventurous traveler who doesn’t mind being in a rather remote place. At night the sounds of the jungle are either very quiet or, if the howler monkeys get disturbed, it is like the night air moans! We will have more articles about our trip to the ruins and birdwatching in upcoming issues, along with more videos. We were even lucky enough to see a wild jaguar on this trip!
This resort would also be great for retreats, small groups and is a perfect romantic getaway. You will feel pampered and relaxed after your stay, we guarantee it. View video.