We have now reached the traveling with people phase of our adventure. My good friend and former coworker Shauna accepted my invitation to join me along my journey. Also joining us were her friend Adam (for Tulum) and our good friend and former coworker Hali (for Belize). Then Shauna and I continued on to Guatemala. 

I’m going to try breaking these blogs into smaller chunks, as the pictures take a long time to load and the blogs take a long time to write (and read). 

I found Shauna at the airport – after some confusion. It is impressive how the tiny Cancun airport still manages to create big time confusion in where to meet someone getting off a plane. We had some dinner that was a lot more expensive than I was used to in Mexico (but prepared for), then headed back to our AirBnb.

We had more confusion finding it and getting in – which is normal for an AirBnB. So after all that confusion we were glad to see such a nice place. Shauna had researched and picked well. 

But the coolest part was the trampoline ceiling! It took a bit of a leap of faith to step out onto it with my 250 lbs – even when told it was safe by our host. But no jumping! Once I did and got used to it, I had a nice comfy rest while Shauna unpacked, I believe about 1/3 of her total possessions in life, into her room.

Ceiling net! It was definitely a leap of faith the first time on it.

The next day we headed to Cozumel Island, which I had always heard of but knew nothing about. We had some lunch and checked out the main town, then decided to rent a Jeep to explore the rest.

These sunglasses are of course lost, because I actually liked them
Looks fun! I think we got this later on in the river in Belize w/o even having to pay for it!
Hmmm – nahhh

Off to adventure

This is the most detailed map we could find – but it worked!

We headed over to the Mayan ruins on the island, where we also saw dozens of iguanas of several different varieties.

Cozumel ruins – pretty cool to have Mayan ruins on a small island

These gray iguanas blend in perfectly with the building stone or tree roots. We got startled by several that blended in with a tree and didn’t move until we were a few feet away.

This guy ran into the green tree tops when we walked towards him – where he has camoflouge

This guy is apparently big enough that he can just be orange and lay out in the open like a boss.

After the ruins we headed down the Carribbean-facing side of the island and closed out the bar there. Seems like everything was done by 4pm or so on that side.

Chilling on the sleepy side of Cozumel

Then we took the ferry back to Playa del Carmen – where Shauna’s friend Adam was waiting to meet us – having taking the bus down from Cancun Airport.

We got to Tulum kind of late but managed to find a really cool Italian Restaurant that looked like it was decked out by a Restoration Hardware catalog.

Very tasty

The next day we rented some bikes and headed out to the local beach – which was bustling. I guess some of the other beaches were having a massive seaweed (the brown stuff) problem, but Tulum wasn’t too bad.

I guess Tulum is having some big controversies about developing the land between the beach and the developed city. This explains why it’s such a pain to get the to beach – unless you stay at one of the super pricey resorts on the beach.

The green stuff is apparently being encroached on

Here’s an article about the whole problem. Amazingly. I’m pretty sure the roof and pool of our AirBnb is actually featured in the second picture:


That night we went shopping for food and alcohol. Then I made margaritas while Shauna prepped food and Adam worked on the grill. I used the agave nectar given to me by Stretch Gillum at Overlander Oasis – as well as his recipe. Somehow, through a series of mishaps, we managed to not get our food cooked until midnight. So for the rest of the trip we referred to this night as our “midnight barbecue”.

Best margaritas I ever made – 2 parts tequilla, 3/4 parts agave nectar, juice of one big or two small limes, shake with ice.
Shauna’s sketchy looking spice collection – not sure I’d want to risk travelling with that
No idea

Interestingly, that day my distant cousins from Positano, Italy – Erika and Rosida – reached out to me on Facebook that they saw one of my posts and were in Playa del Carmen. Here is my original proto-blog post about my first trip to Positano – one of the craziest things that every happened to me. FRUSTRATINGLY the pictures somehow got lost in transferring the website, and I don’t have them with me to restore. So You can read the text – but w/o pictures it’s kind of lame. Also the link to my second trip, where I brought my Dad and he had an amazing reconnection with his Brother (from Positano back to New Jersey – yes it’s crazy) is also broken. I will fix it when I get back to the US – ARGH!

Anyway, so my cugini and I communicated on Facebook many times, and I had tried on the last two of my trips to Positano to meet up with them, but we failed to connect. I told them I could come up to Tulum, or they could come down if they want. They took the bus down and showed up bright and early in the morning! So amazingly my distant cousins from Italy and I finally meet face on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Erika struggling with the leap of faith, Rosida flat refused
Breakfast chilling with sketchy lighting

We decided to all go to a local cenote called the Gran Cenote (cenotes are fresh water sinkhole caves very common in the Yucatan) and go snorkeling, which was amazing. Unfortunately I don’t have any pics because we were all in bathing suits w/o our phones. The pics below are from the restaurant after our snorkeling.

Shauna’s Mayan admirer – funny dude

That night I crashed early while Shauna and Adam went out for late dinner. The next day I had the beginning of a head cold. And Shauna looked like this, or worse, all day:

Only pic I have left from Shuana’s sick day. She made me delete all the others 🙂

She was really bummed at missing a whole day, and tried to rally several times, but just couldn’t. I thought it could be the ceviche Shauna ate late at night (#1 rule with ceviche is don’t eat it later than afternoon), or maybe the cenote. Adam also caught something weird and thought it might be the cenote, particularly the bat cave with guano falling down all day. Who knows but 2 months later my sinuses are still gooky. 🙁 

Breakfast the next day at a tasty local place

The next day Shauna was back in business. We got breakfast and headed to Chichen Itza, possibly the most popular (and crowded) Mayan ruin – partly due to it’s proximity to a bunch of tourist meccas and cruise ship docks, but also because of the ruins themselves and in my opinion the most beautiful buildings ever constructed – El Castillo also known as the Temple of Kukulcan:

I could sit and look at this pyramid all day, reminds me of the Pantheon in that regard

Our guide demonstrating his theory that Mayans have Chinese influence, the left is a Mayan figurine – the right is one of the Terracotta Warriors

I always like to get guides on these things because you always learn a few things you wouldn’t find out any other way, and it supports the local economy. I asked our guide what happened to the Mayan empire. Pop quiz: what do you remember learning about the Mayans in school? I swear we learned they just disappeared one day and no one knows why (or something to that effect). Then the Aztecs arose – and then Cortez came and conquered them. Well not exactly. All our guides on these trips are full blooded Mayan. There are radio stations that broadcast Mayan. So it’s not like they disappeared by any stretch.

As far as what happened to their empire? According to our guide – it was a peasant revolt. I guess the common people got tired of being conscripted to build big structures and I have a hunch they might not have been too nuts about the constant sacrifices either. But since only the elites knew how to read and write, and how to build giant buildings, written history and construction kind of stopped at that point. But the people, language and culture still lived on. Maybe in Communist-terrified America they didn’t want to teach us about a more or less successful peasant revolt.

And this is one of the #1 reasons I love travel. Unless you become some kind of scholar, you generally don’t get these kinds of insights sitting at home. And even then, scholars probably expand their knowledge exponentially by traveling to the places they study and talking to locals who carry on the culture.

The hall of 800 pillars (or something like that)
Not sure what was going on here
I have about 80 more picutres of this pyramid

Delicious Mayan pork taco we had in the Chichen Itza restaurant. Usually restaurants at attractions like that aren’t very good, but everything we ordered here was very tasty.


World’s largest porcelain store (assuming) that we stopped at on the way home

The next day Adam had to leave to meet his parents on Cozumel. Shauna and I checked out the Tulum ruins, then headed south.

Playful coatimundis at the ruins entrance – but no tocar (touching)!

Supposedly this is where the first Spanish ship laid eyes on a Mayan city, and first time they saw a Spanish ship. I can’t begin to imagine what was going through each of the groups’ minds.
The Tulum ruins are not the biggest. But being right on the beach gives them an amazing presence

After Tulum we checked out the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. We thought about getting on a boat tour, but decided to save our time for more exploring.

The reserve is a fresh-water estuary with interesting-colored green water that isn’t really coming across well in this picture


We decided we had enough time before our planned night stop of Chetumal to check out one more beach town – Mahahual – which seemed to be having a lot of fun with the seaweed invasion.

Finally cheap food and drink on the Yucatan!
And check out the view!
Your seaweed needs will be met at Mahahual


Apparently KC Chiefs Lucha Libre masks are popular down here for some reason

And with that we headed to the border city of Chetumal – to begin the next leg of our journey and first new country after 2 months in Mexico (for me) – Belize.


  1. Wonderful story, photos, adventures! Your funny, informative commentary adds just the right spice. Great to meet Shauna. She’s gorgeous, obviously full of fun, and livened up your blog delightfully. And Holy Cow–your meeting up with Positano cousins Erika and Rosida! Hello to you both from your distant uncle “Roberto” Savino! I’ll never forget our visit and “The Miracle of Positano.” The Mayan temple is other-worldly. What great times. Rock on!

  2. Ok, I’m only 2 days behind on your post.
    This is my favorite part of Mexico, so far. Back in 1995, I pretty much spent most of the year on the Yucatan Peninsula working for the Grupo Posadas, which own the Fiesta Americana Hotels. (and Fiesta Inn). I even almost married a gal from Playa Del Carmen too.
    Back then, Cancun was still “Little Miami” and American-ified. Playa was a little sleepy town. A lot of “Barrio” for the little tourist section by the beach. The only americanized business was a dominos pizza franchise on the main road into the town.
    Back then you could climb the pyramid at Chichen-itza. I have a photo of me on top. You could also wander around the ruins of Tulum, but they had the paths roped off.
    On Cozumel, the Mayan Ruins were all still deep in the jungle, I don’t think they were cleared out much, yet.
    I also spent a few weeks on Cozumel, went through Hurricane Roxanne on the island and got sent to Mexico City the next week, where I went through my first earthquake, lol.
    Fun times!
    Hey, did you ever meet up with the Mexico FJ group from Facebook?

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