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Mexico-Belize Vacation: Chetumal Hotel & Food


Don’t miss the beginning of the trip…read about the trip in order.

Trip planning 1
Trip Planning 2
Don’t Forget Your Passport
Getting There
Chetumal Attractions

Chetumal Hotels:

My brother has stayed in a few Chetumal hotels since he moved to Mexico a few years ago. Between his experiences and my TripAdvisor research, we agreed that Hotel Los Cocos was the best choice for us.

Los Cocos is centrally located in easy walking distance to restaurants, the Mayan Cultural Museum and the Bahia (the street along the Bay of Chetumal). While it is also surrounded by stores, they aren’t the typical souvenir shops tourists are used to finding near hotels.

I only saw one or two stores with goods geared to tourists. The rest sold merchandise needed by local residents. They seem to be especially fond of clothing, handbags and shoes.

The big tourist hotel in town is the Holiday Inn, but my brother had stayed there and found that the kids playing in the pool were annoyingly loud. There are plenty of other small hotels without much in the way of amenities that are perfect if you are just staying for the night like the couple we met on the bus who just needed a place to sleep as they were heading on to Corozal, Belize first thing in the morning. They booked a room at the brand new Hotel Juliette and promised to write a review on TripAdvisor after their trip.

Besides location, there were a few reasons we decided on Los Cocos.

Most of the hotels don’t have swimming pools. While we only went into the pool once, it’s hard for me to imagine staying in hot Mexico without access to a pool.

The rooms, while plain, had everything we needed. The basic rooms have 2 double beds, air conditioning, a small table with chairs, a refrigerator and plenty of space. Our room also had a slider door that opened to a tiny space enclosed by metal bars, but was big enough if you wanted to check the temperature or put a wet swimsuit out to dry.

Our room also had a TV with a couple of English speaking stations…but since there were only a couple of electrical outlets in the room for recharging our stuff, I had the TV unplugged the whole time so I could charge up my computer.

The bathroom was basic. It could have used a little touch up to the grout in the shower but otherwise was fine. I liked that the sink area was around a corner so the light didn’t interfere with someone sleeping, but separate from the toilet/shower area.

What we didn’t like about the room:

  • beds with very hard mattresses (which seems to be typical in Mexican hotels)
  • pillows that were almost as hard as the mattresses
  • no furniture to unpack anything – there was a closet in the bathroom with a few shelves, but it would have been nice if they had put a dresser with some drawers under the TV area
  • nothing to put your suitcase on other than the floor
  • the TV is mounted to the wall in a place where you could easily hit your head on it when walking at night or standing up after getting your stuff out of your suitcase on the floor

Even with these negatives, I still would recommend Los Cocos.

The grounds were pretty and well kept. The staff was very attentive and friendly. The wifi was free both in the lobby AND in the room, plus a small computer center area if you need to get on the internet and didn’t bring a computer.

Plus they have an attached restaurant and can arrange for a rental car to be delivered to the hotel if you need one. If you are there on business, they had several conference rooms that were in use for meetings on our last day there and everything seemed organized and running smoothly.

And the pool area is fabulous for a small hotel.

Food:

Breakfast – Hotel Los Cocos:

Hotel Los Cocos has a restaurant and the regular room rate comes with breakfast included. The restaurant gets a crowd at breakfast, primarily local residents who are ordering off the menu. After seeing all of the choices they were having delivered to their tables, I was a bit disappointed to discover that the complimentary breakfast included a choice of pancakes with watermelon or scrambled eggs with potatoes and bacon or sausage. You also could choose either orange juice or a fruit plate (cantaloupe and papaya). I tried each of these items in the first 2 mornings, and wasn’t all that impressed. By day 3, I decided to forgo the included breakfast and ordered french toast dusted in cinnamon sugar. It was better, but not so great that I would have ordered it again vs trying something new.

Service was hit or miss too.

My brother has stayed at Los Cocos before and got a room without breakfast included. Based on our experiences, I would try to negotiate a room rate without breakfast and pick up something outside of the hotel or at least order off the full menu.  Even if you end up with the complimentary breakfast, prices are so cheap that you should still consider ordering what looks good rather than being stuck with limited choices.

Lunch for our two full days in the Chetumal area were at small roadside stands in the Free Zone and in a small town between Bacular and the Mayan ruins we visited. They are described along with the activities we were doing when we stopped to eat.

Marisqueria Mi Viejo:

This restaurant was a fun place for dinner. The waiters were dressed in hats & traditional white shirts and slacks (how they work in a restaurant and keep them clean I’ll never understand). The food, traditional Mexican, was very good. They started everyone with a cup of complimentary broth style fish soup (tasty!) and chips. I ordered chicken fajitas and it was the best Mexican meal I had during the trip.

Mi Viejo is huge and includes a comedic stage show including a cross dresser and singers. I missed a lot of it as I had my back to the stage. There were a lot of people sitting on the same side of the table so both people could watch. It was also really loud and hard to hold a conversation, but I think that was the point of this place.

If you do stop by if you are in Chetumal, pick a table a bit far from the stage if you plan to chat over dinner.

They even had a little plastic slide near the bathroom for the little ones.

This restaurant wasn’t listed on TripAdvisor (I’m trying to get it added) but every visitor should add this to their itinerary. It was very good and loads of fun.

Charlotte Cafe:

After a few days of Mexican food, we were ready for something different. A drive down to Bahia Blvd gave us some more upscale options. We drove the length, then turned around and parked near a cluster of restaurants. The first one we approached had a great menu, so we grabbed patio table. The modern decor and a waiter with excellent English was a welcome change.

Mom, me and Mark at dinner

Notice the short coat rack looking thing in the corner of the picture above…this is actually a stand to hand purses on. We saw them at another restaurant too, and if the waiter sees you put your purse on the ground, they bring it over to your table so your purse stays clean. How nice!

This restaurant has a lot of menu choices. I ordered pesto pasta, my brother had a fish entree and my mom ordered a margarita pizza…which looked more like a tart when it arrived…but she said it still tasted great.

Pesto pasta

Margherita pizza

We also split a wonderful dessert – a warm brownie covered in vanilla ice cream.

I would definitely recommend this place for anyone staying in Chetumal who isn’t on a super tight budget.

El Fenicio:

Mom – hot and not a fan of Mexican food, ready to eat her last meal in Chetumal and head to Belize

We planned to grab a quick bite at the pizza place just a block from our hotel before heading to the pier for our water taxi to Belize, but it was closed so we opted for another Mexican meal at El Fenicio which my brother had eaten at before. I had such good luck with the chicken fajitas that I ordered at Mi Viejo that I tried it again. This time they were a bit disappointing. The chicken didn’t have much flavor and they didn’t come with any avocado spread/guacamole.

No one working there seems to speak any English, so we were lucky that another customer overheard us trying to order and jumped in to translate.

Passable but not great, we ready to head to Belize and find some non-Mexican food.

Lessons Learned:

  1. When traveling in Mexico, don’t assume there will always be someone that speaks English or you will get English translations on the menus. Brush up on some basic vocabulary including food items and numbers so you can understand how much stuff costs. A couple of other helpful phrases are “Donde esta el bano?” (where is the bathroom) and “Cuanto cuesta?”…followed by pointing to an item (how much does this cost?)
  2. Find something you can count on to order at any Mexican restaurant. For me that was chicken tacos (tacos de pollo…pronounced poy-o). It was always a safe bet if I was in a jam.
  3. Be willing to try restaurants not listed in the guidebooks or that have online reviews. The best 2 meals were at restaurants that I only found on Spanish websites after searching on their names.
  4. Don’t expect to get American standards in Mexican hotels. You’ll be disappointed. Instead go in with an open mind and be happy if the room is clean, spacious and has good air conditioning.

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Next Up – Laguna Bacalar & Dzibanche Ruins

 


2 Responses

  1. Julia Blues says:

    What a thorough experience you have posted here. Though I’m always game for trying somewhere new, I’m not so sure I would add this part of Mexico to my vision/dream book. The hotel was very plain. But I guess all that matters is a bed, bathroom and Wi-Fi, right? =)

    You mentioned not expecting to find English-speaking people or translations on menus. I would expect that in Mexico. But it is rare to go to other countries and have people accommodate your language unlike the US.

    Thanks for this experience.

    • Karen says:

      I would absolutely expect people to speak English or to have English translations when you are in touristy areas. Chetumal isn’t for tourists. We were only there because it’s the nearest city to where my brother lives. Other people go if they are opting for a land route to Belize which is cheaper than flying directly to Belize.

      I agree completely that this is not the place to go if you are looking for the resort-beach vacation 🙂

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