Backpacking Nicaragua

Week 10 – Leon to San Juan del Sur

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Another day another country. This time backpacking Nicaragua. The border crossing was something else. Probably the longest and toughest ones I have encountered to date. That was even with a company doing it for you. This was the only border where our bus was checked over plus we had to take our luggage inside for the scanners.

Border Crossing from Hell

The border crossing started with a dodgy Covid test. I think it was dodgy as we got the results back within 10 minutes. Therefore, this makes me think it’s not all above board. Anyway, we were nearly at the border after traveling 10 hours in a cramped mini-bus. We had set off early from Honduras to be able to make it to Leon, Nicaragua at midnight. It was well over the 12-hour time scale given but we arrived in one piece with negative covid tests. That is the main thing.

The Next Morning

Volcan Negro's Crater with vibrant green forest as the backdrop
Crater at Volcan Nergo

After hanging most of my clothes out to dry due to them getting wet on the roof of the mini-bus. We set off to explore the town of Leon. Then came the pouring rain. Well, due to it being the wet season it was to be expected. Leon was our first experience of the wet season, we knew it would rain for maybe a couple of hours in the afternoon however it rained all day long.

We were here in Leon to do one activity. The only thing I wanted to do was volcano boarding. Yep, sliding down the side of an active volcano on a wooden plank.

Me getting ready to sandboard down the side of a volcano
Volcano Boarding

Volcano Boarding

This activity is why everyone stops off here as well as the cathedral. However, as we set off to Volcan Negro the nerves started to set in. I am someone who gets a little nervous before trying something new. So, with the short hike to the top over with stunning views all around, it was time. Time to suit up and look like we have just escaped from prison and slide on down. It was so much fun and when the speed picked up even more fun. Well worth the experience.

Backpacking Nicaragua Some More

yellow circular sun over the shadow of Volcan Conception whilst backpacking Nicaragua
Sunset over Volcan Conception

Next on the list of places to go was Granada which was a cute town but again the rain was intense. So intense we couldn’t really explore and partake in the activities on offer. One was closed because of the landslide, the party was canceled and the clouds ruined the magma experience.

Therefore, we just went on our way as planned to Ometepe. An island in Lake Nicaragua made up of two volcanos. It was pretty impressive. Again, the hikes were closed and it rained non-stop whilst we were exploring the island by moped. However, there was one night when the sun was out and we watched it set behind Volcan Conception. It was a truly magical sunset.

Our Last Stop San Juan del Sur

The last stop was this unique, charming beach town. I really liked it despite it being the wet season here there were breaks in the rain. It looks a bit rough around the edges but I enjoyed it. Maybe because this is where I caught my first green wave and rode it all the way! What a feeling, these three days here really made me realise that I want to be able to surf. Therefore it has kicked started a new hobby. It was again nice to be somewhere for four days to relax. Finally, I was able to get some dairy-free ice cream again so I made the most of that.

Summary of Nicaragua

Backpacking Nicaragua was charming, you really get to see the day-to-day lives of the locals. I enjoyed this country for this reason despite the onslaught of rain, I was won over. I would definitely like to go back and experience more of this beautiful country.

Next week I move on to Costa Rica, a country that I’ve wanted to visit for a while. So I’m excited.

Caye Caulker in Belize

Week 6 – Caye Caulker in Belize

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Well It Is Finally Time

New country. New attitude. A new positive one. Goodbye, negativity. I’ve got this. I feel like the tables are going to turn for us and what better place to do it than on an island? A Caribbean island at that. Are you ready to hear about Caye Caulker? Is it on your list? Well, I can tell you it should be.

a nurse shark swimming in crystal clear blue water
A Nurse Shark

As soon as I stepped off that ferry from Belize City I felt my shoulders instantly relax. It was a rush of emotion draining from my body. I had been craving a nice relaxed island for a while and this hidden gem did not disappoint. As soon as we started walking through the main street everyone was friendly. No intense sales pitch like Mexico. Everyone was relaxed here. I felt like I could breathe again.

This island instantly impressed me and things only got better from there. The next day we had a boat tour booked. This was a tour of the Great Blue Hole. This boat trip was amazing. It was pricey but worth every penny. We got unlimited drinks and snacks. There were three snorkeling sessions lined up for scuba diving if you are qualified.

The First Snorkel

The first snorkel was around the Great Blue Hole and the barrier reef. The guide was great and pointed out everything. He was so knowledgeable and nice. We snorkeled along the wall of the blue hole which was filled with pretty colourful corals and plenty of marine life. I felt at home swimming around in the sea.

The sun was shining. Perfect. After, the snorkelers got dropped off at Half Moon Bay. This tiny bit of paradise. It was an uninhabited island with a beautiful coastline. You know the one you picture in your head when dreaming of that deserted island. This was that place. We walked along the dock where we were greeted by a baby lemon shark in the shallows.

We Hadn’t Even Entered The Water and Saw A Shark

Half moon bay with palm trees looking out to crystal blue waters
Half Moon Bay

The shark coupled with the first snorkel I was even more hyped up. This time the snorkel was a drift snorkel. That suited me fine. I like laying back and relaxing. Drift snorkel means that you let the current take you. We were greeted by an abundance of sea life. Everything from tiny colourful fishes to Barracuda and a big reef shark. What another great experience.

Now, time for lunch on this perfect island. I couldn’t picture a more idyllic place to fuel up. After, there was a short walk to see the red-footed boobies at their nesting site. They nest out in the open at the top of trees and my god they smell bad, really bad!

Back To The Boat

We set off for the third and final snorkel in an area called the aquarium. Yes, this place did live up to its name. The clouds were starting to roll in overhead so it was kinda a race back to the boat. Head down take it all in and kick those flippers. This is where I saw shrimp in the sea for the first time. Two of them quickly swam along. It was amazing. That was a great end to the day! I couldn’t complain at all.

Just don’t do my rookie mistake and forget your rash vest or not reapply suncream. SUNBURN HURTS!

The Seven Stop Snorkel Tour

A bright orange and pink sunset over the sea in Caye Caulker in Belize
Sunset on Caye Caulker

This tour took us around Caye Caulker in Belize. First, you look for manatees. We were unsuccessful. Next was the clamshell graveyard. The best area was Hol Chan Marine Park. A protected area where sealife was beaming. We even saw a turtle and a stingray.

Another stop was Shark Alley, this does have a bit of history as originally this was where the fisherman dumped the fish they didn’t need therefore causing all the sharks to gather here. You get to swim with nurse sharks here which was cool. However, some companies feed them which I disagree with. The company I went with did not do this.

The Only Downside

However, the only downside to Caye Caulker is that they feed wild animals. A bar had stingray feeding to help get tourists to spend at their place. Although, it is a good place for sunset. You can enter the grounds for free. Also, here is an artificial home for seahorses. You have to look very very hard for them. There is also a place called “the Split”. A great place to hang out and chill for the day.

All in all, this was the experience I remember traveling used to be like. I was happy again to be on the open road exploring and learning about new cultures. Finally, with a positive mindset, it was time for the next destination.

Read about other adventures from my travel journal here!

Caribbean Coast of Mexico

Week 4 – Cancun to Cozumel

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We Finally Made it to The Caribbean Coast of Mexico

A day later than planned but we were finally on the ferry over to Isla Mujeres. I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. So far on the Carribean coast of Mexico; we had been ripped off by the bus driver and the ferry sales lady sold us first-class tickets. Even though we didn’t ask for it. This was not a great start to this coastline after the turbulence 48 hours we just experienced. Oh well, we were at the beach again. My happy place.

First Was Making Sure We Still Had

a yellow and orange sunset over the clam sea on the Caribbean coast of Mexico
Sunset on Isla Mujeres

our hostel booking. We contacted them to move the booking and they kindly agreed. Maybe our luck was changing. Someone did something good for us finally. We enjoyed the grounds of the hostel while waiting for check-in. However, when check-in came. The problem started. They wouldn’t let us have the room. After, back and forth for 2 hours they finally agreed to honor it. It was a lot of unnecessary stress. We had to cancel our tour. Also, cancel, re-book then cancel another hostel. Mexico had been filled with these little hiccups. It was sucking the enjoyment out of travelling. Yet, I guess travelling has both good and bad experiences. So hopefully our luck will change soon.

Finally in Our Room

It was time for sunset. With a south-facing beach a short walk away, we headed there. A massive sand area that was all for free (for a change). There were no beach clubs. We found a spot to sit and finally relax on this beautiful Island. I can’t come to the beach without having a dip. The amazing crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea were warm and welcoming. I automatically distressed and washed away the day we just had. The sunset also showed up for us. It was very impressive. A perfect end to a stressful day.

Exploring Cozumel

A view overlooking a seaweed filled beach
San Martin Beach in Cozumel

Next up, was the Island of Cozumel. I was here to see if scuba diving was something I could enjoy. I love marine life and want to be comfortable underwater. This is because I want to experience the underwater world. My instructor was great and put me at ease straight away. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience with Deep Blue Diving and I would recommend them. For all the stresses we’ve had on this trip, there have been some great experiences in between.

The Bike Ride From Hell

two bikes resting in the sand on the beach
The Bikes at the Beach

Now it was time to find a free beach. I am not a fan of beach clubs. Plus, as a budget traveller those places can eat into your budget drastically. So, we set off listening to the advice of the bike shop guy. This was to be our first mistake. He said ’45 minutes that way to a free beach’. This was not the case. At this point, we should have turned around. This was mistake number two. Also, we had applied no suncream, obviously, this was mistake number three.

It took three hours to reach a beach under the hot sun. That meant another three hours to home. We ended up cycling half the island. 47km. We were sore. Sometimes it is only you that can get the blame when something isn’t that great. This one was our mistake and I own that. However, it didn’t make it any less stressful.

The Caribbean Coast of Mexico

This coastline in my opinion is very very touristy. A very different vibe to coming through the centre of the country. It was all rush, rush, rush. The prices here charge top dollar for even the shortest taxi journey. I did feel more of an American tourist vibe rather than a backpacker vibe. I am looking forward to leaving Mexico and all the negativity it has brought us.

My other entries in my travel journal can be found here!

An Ultimate Month in Mexico

This is the ultimate month in Mexico route that I followed. However, I chose these places based on other blogs I had read. Then I selected what I would find interesting. Therefore my advice would be for you to do the same. Use this guide to help you make the perfect itinerary for yourself.

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

All prices are correct as of May 2022

Mexico City – 3 Nights

me sitting down enjoying the Teohiuacan ruins on the ultimate month in Mexico
Teotihuacan Ruins

I started this trip in Mexico City and the first thing I did was a free walking tour. This is a great way to see the highlights and learn about the city. I just found one online from a basic Google search and went along to the meeting point. These do work on a tip basis so make sure you bring some cash with you.

Teotihuacan Ruins is a day trip from Mexico City. It is pretty easy to get there with local transport or a tour. First, you get the metro to Autobus del Norte metro station (MXN5 per trip). For females there is a women’s and children-only section, I would advise you to use this. My trip was hassle-free but not all are. Next leave the metro station and the bus station is directly in front of you. At the bus station look for the ticket office labelled ‘Piramides’ and the bus leaves through gate 8. This costs MXN 52 for each way. The bus does take a while (roughly an hour) as it stops many times to pick people up however it drops you by the entrance gate 2. The ticket price for the ruins is MXN 75. To get back to Mexico City you do the route in reverse.

The Colourful Puebla City – 1 Night

A beautiful coulorful street full of houses
Puebla City

Here we ended up just walking around the streets. These were so pretty and colourful. I would add this to your trip as it is a simple 2-hour bus ride from Mexico City. I caught the ADO buses throughout Mexico. It was simple to book through their App and they cover the majority of the country. Unfortunately, we were here on a public holiday therefore everything was shut. Hence just walking around was the only activity I did.

Beautiful Oaxaca City – 3 Nights

This walking tour was very good and the guide spoke very good English. Again, I would always recommend a free walking tour as it is a great way to get your bearings in a new place. Remember, these work on a tip basis.

ME standing looking over the valley
Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua is a beautiful waterfall 45km from Oaxaca City. It was simple enough to get to using local transport. First, you can catch a bus (MXN20) from the second-class bus terminal to San Pedro de Mitla. The company for this bus is ‘Goma’. The information online says it comes every 15 minutes but we ended up waiting nearly 2 hours that morning. Crazy. Next was the pick-up truck up the mountain. I should warn you that they cram in as many people as possible. I paid MXN75 each way and we were a total of 11.

Along the way, you have to pay the ‘town tax’ of MXN10-15. Yes, really, the locals have made this up but you can’t get around it and finally the entrance fee of MXN50. Again, to get back follow the same route but in reserve. Also if you are a solo traveller a tour would be a great way to meet people.

Monte Alban ruins is a perfect morning out as it is only 10 km from the centre. I got the tourist mini-bus at 8 in the morning costing MXN100 for both ways. It was worth it as I arrived before the crowds and enjoyed Monte Alban in peace for a short while. The entrance costs MXN70. After exploring for a couple of hours I got the mini-bus back at 12pm. That was plenty of time to wander around and explore.

Amazing Puerto Escondido – 3 Nights

my turtle in a coconut ready for release on the ultimate month in Mexico trip
Turtle Release on Puerto Escondido

After exploring three cities I was ready to explore the beaches of Puerto Escondido on this ultimate month in Mexico adventure. I did just that by foot. I explored the coastline simply by walking to a different beach each day sometimes two in one day. The only activity I did was the realising of a turtle. This cost MXN100. I had read good reviews about the company online however once there it did feel that they cared more about the money than the turtles. In future, I would skip this experience.

San Cristobal – 2 Nights

El Chiflon Waterfall was the reason we stopped by San Cristobal. The waterfall was still 3 hours away by local transport. The journey there included a straightforward ADO bus to Comitan then a colectivo to El Chiflon (MXN35 each way). The entrance was MXN50. This place is incredible and definitely worth the trip on the local transport or guided tour. Again, reserve the route back to San Cristobal.

Beautiful Isla Mujeres – 4 Nights

a yellow and orange sunset over the clam sea
Sunset on Isla Mujeres

This island felt very touristy and it was more appealing as a 2-week holiday destination rather than a backpacking experience. To get over to the island I got the ferry with Ultramar costing MXN362 for a roundtrip. Once, on the island, we explored the beaches and the southern point of the island. This place does have some good snorkel sites you can access through tours.

Cozumel – 3 Nights

I did a shore scuba dive here to see if I like scuba diving still. The answer is yes. I didn’t see much marine life on this dive but people who went out on the boat saw lots. So, even if you want to try scuba diving for the first time I recommend going out on the boat. Also, I cycled to the beaches on the far side of the island as they aren’t lined with beach clubs; however, they were full of seaweed but still so beautiful. If you like beach clubs then you will find a great spot with good snorkelling and free of seaweed.

Vibrant Valladolid – 2 Nights

Ruins at Chicken Itza
Chichen Itza

This was a last-minute change to the ultimate month in Mexico as once I researched Chichen Itza, I felt it was best to go from Valladolid. The town is very cute and colourful much like Puebla.

Chichen Itza is a world wonder therefore it was a must-stop for me. To get there I took the 7am colectivo from a car park opposite the ADO bus station. The entrance fee was expensive at MXN571, MXN80 has to be paid in cash and the rest was either cash or card. If you plan well you can visit a nearby cenote before heading back to Valladolid.

Also, I visited Cenote Oxman whilst here. I got a taxi both ways for a good price and an even better price on the way back. I did get lucky as a taxi was dropping more people off as I left. This is a cool underground cenote with a nice pool area to chill out in after.


Touristy Tulum – 3 Nights

The second to last stop on an ultimate month in Mexico adventure was the very overrated touristy Tulum. Yet, if you don’t mind paying for beach access through many wonderful beach clubs then you will enjoy this place more than I did. I rented a scooter (MXN500) for the day. I visited Akumal Bay to see the turtles that feed there. However, this experience was very unpleasant. You have to pay to even access the beach. Also, they try and stop you from swimming in a certain area of the sea where they run the snorkel tours. It is possible to see turtles for free with great patience and ignoring the locals telling you where you can swim.

Incredible Laguna Bacalar – 2 Nights

A boat perfectly framed by two beams floating on lake bacalar. The last stop on an ultimate month in Mexico
Lake Bacalar

The last stop on an ultimate month in Mexico was this gorgeous lake. The lake was beautiful and there are two free spots to sit on a deck and enjoy. The water here is known for having 7 different shades of blue. The town itself isn’t much but it getting more discovered by tourists. So, get there quickly before it is overrun just like Tulum.

You can read about my other experiences in other countries here.