We started our stay in Mexico on Isla Mujeres where we never had a communications problem. This was not so in Valladolid where almost no one we encountered spoke English. We drove from Cancun in a rental car and took the toll road which is faster and also more frightening than traveling the free road .Crazy drivers ! The toll is 241 pesos which is collected about 3/4 of the way between Cancun and Valladolid. On our return to Cancun, we used the free or "libre" highway. It is slower because it goes thru many little towns , each with it's many topes ! But I think it was worth the bumps-- each was fun to drive thru. It gave us a more intimate view of the people of this area.
We stayed at Tunich Beh which is a very small hotel, I think maybe 7 rooms. It was plain,nothing special,but very clean. The "breakfast" is not good. Bad coffee, toast, jam.bananas, cereal and , of course boxed milk. Not even good orange juice. We did use the pool once but we a little concerned that the water seemed cloudy.The towels looked to be about 20 years old !
We happened to be in Valladolid on a Sunday evening when they close off part of the street around the square. There was music and dancing in the street and people everywhere.. Vendors had set up their bicycle carts all around the square and children were eating sweets and ice cream. It was a highlight of our visit.
Our choice of Valladolid was for Ek Balaam and some of the cenotes around there. We chose not to go to Chitzen Itza because of the crowds.We were not disappointed at Ek Balaam. It was spectacular and truly not crowded .The first cenote we visited was Dzitnup. It has stone steps going down into the cenote as well as stone steps to enter the water.Since I have trouble with bending one of my knees I was afraid to go down those steps into the water. And there were a lot of people just sitting on those steps, too. So I didn't go in but it is fabulous to see . The cave has only a small opening in the very top so most of the lighting is artificial.Then, by recommendation of a bartender we talked to, we found the Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman cenote. It is an old hacienda that has a restaurant and pool as well as a cenote.This one seemed to have only locals visiting. The steps down to the cenote were cement and the steps into the water were like a wooden ladder so I was able to get in this time. It was quite an experience for us. My feeling, as we floated around surrounded by the black eyeless fish, was that this thing must be forever deep.And this cenote is completely open at the top, which I understand is unusual.
We visited the artisanal agave distillery which is right outside of town. The tour is short and sweet and interesting.It's really not much,but I'm glad we went. It did cost to go in , I can't remember exactly, but not much.
Shops are everywhere in the center of Vallaodolid and for blocks on end as you drive away from the square. We purchased wonderful handmade leather sandals for about $20US.I think the place is known for it's sandal making and the shops are there by the dozens.And there are probably hundreds of shops selling the traditional Mayan dress, which you see many women wearing.
We didn't find much in the way of food that we really liked.It was really traditional Mexican. The food at Taberna de los Frailes was good but pricey. The two large hotels on the square are lovely but the food is just so-so.On our last night we discovered La Casona de Valladolid ( Calle 41 near the square) and loved the place and the food. But if you really like Mexican food, you'd probably love all the food !
I wouldn't choose to go back here again whereas I might be tempted to revisit Isla Mujeres. But we enjoyed seeing a different side of Mexico. And before I go , let me warn you that getting google map directions around this part of the world seems to be hit and miss.And street addresses on websites can be completely wrong ! So.... rent a car and drive at you own peril !! Or maybe just call a cab !!!