Chetumal is the state capital of Quintana Roo and the nearest city near the Belize border. From Chetumal, you can travel by car or walk across the border. When you walk you take a taxi from the Freezone into Belize. Since you are not allowed to enter Belize on foot.
Many people get off the ADO bus in Tulum and Bacalar. Only a few people travel as far as Chetumal. Is the city worth a visit? I spent 4 nights in Chetumal and I think it is worth it.
Although all tourist hotspots like the Laguna Milagros, and the ruins of Oxtankah and the Free Zone in Belize are not in Chetumal but require the rent of a taxi and take lots of travel time. There are actually things to do in Chetumal itself.
Since other blogs write a lot about the far way things to do in Chetumal, I want to write about Chetumal itself.
The city has a rich history when you walk down Mainstreet, Avenida Los Heroes you see information displays explaining the cities history and important buildings in the street. Most of the city was lost during the great hurricane of 1955 named Janet and later by Dean in 2007. That explains why the skyline of Chetumal is not so impressive when it comes to cultural heritage. Many of the wooden houses, a typical Caribbean building style, were lost. But a few remain and are recognizable by a plaque that marks them as significant for the cities history and past.
Two museums in town
The one that made the biggest impression on me was the Museum of Mayan culture. You travel around La Ceiba, the tree of life, from the underworld to the heavens. Although many of the interactive displays were out of order the museum if very informative in both English and Spanish. (entrance fee for tourists 110 Pesos)
The Museum of the City of Chetumal was expensive, especially for tourists, who pay triple the price of locals. And I did not find it worth the visit. It is a huge history book, written down on large wooden panels. It is a lot of reading and only in Spanish. Shame, for the history of the state of Quintana Roo, is very interesting and pieces of the puzzle of information collected in other museums I visited in Quintana Roo feel into place while struggling my way to the Spanish explanation of the wars and battles for independence. and English translation would have helped to get a clearer picture.
Still, I think it was worth a visit. (entrance fee for tourists 110 pesos)
The zoo is amazing!
I know the Zoo has become a tricky subject for many, due to animal captivity. And after visiting numerous Zoological parks in the Philippines I could not agree more that in developing countries a zoo most of the time is related to animal cruelty. But the Zoólogico Payo Obispo is a sight for sore eyes!
The entrance isn’t very promising, but once passed the abandoned buildings a luscious jungle park with wide lanes opens in front of you. The grounds and animal habitations are well kept. And the zookeepers seem to enjoy taking care of the animals. All the animals look well-fed and happy. And it was fun to watch the spider monkeys eat their breakfast of fresh-cut fruits, see the hippo float around in his cool pond and I have never been so close to a jaguar that made me forget the glass between us and see him pass my path.
In the centre of the parc is a food place, you can buy delicious Mexican food for a low price. Drinks, snacks, all are available, the only thing that is not much are the toilets.
it is a shady place and although int he middle of the city extremely quiet. There is a butterfly garden, and a bird section and only the Siberian tiger had a real cage. Big but still a cage.
Entrance fee only 20 pesos for a wonderful walk in the shade and among beautiful flowers and trees.
The public market is a gem!
Halfway Avenida Los Heroes you find the public market. It is the town’s most busy place. Lots of people visit, you see people from all neighbouring villages and Mennonites who live near the Belize border on Mexican soil.
When you walk through the market you can buy, meat, fish, vegetables, kitchen supplies and clothes.
People are relaxed, friendly, love to chat with you and it was a fun visit.
The boulevard and the monuments
When you want to walk along the Chetumal Bay, a protected nature reserve you can walk along the Bahia boulevard. It is a long walk all the way from one end of the city, near the exhibition tower down to the other end, where the yacht club is.
In between, you see plenty of monuments and even a small lighthouse museum. you can admire the architecture of the government state buildings and at night the square in front of that building comes to life with lots of street vendors, and food stalls. People from the city come here to spent time together and eat.
When you walk the boulevard you pass the convention centre. make sure to go inside.
The Murals of Chetumal
Inside the new convention centre, there are huge murals telling the story of Quintan Roo and the city.
The building is not open for tourists and visitors, but when you ask the guard he will let you in to watch them. The walls and ceiling tell stories of bloodshed, wars, and progression. Stories about growth, wealth and the importance of education throughout the ages.
Chetumal, it is certainly worth a visit
After living in playa del Carmen for over a year and being exposed to so much tourism, Chetumal is a relief. it is nice to get a better taste of Mexico. And the city provides that. The people are more relaxed, open, easy to talk to and eager to talk to you. They are extremely helpful, other than in play del Carmen or even Cancun.
It was nice to be in a place where you really are a tourist, a visitor and treated as such. I loved every minute of my stay in Chetumal, although I did not visit any tourist hotspots. But seeing the bus empty itself in Bacalar I did not feel the urge to visit it. Since I needed a break from tourism for a few days and get a taste of the real Mexico.