What am I still doing in Cancun?

The adventures of an American single mommy working and playing in paradise.

Our Weekend Visit to Chelem, Yucatan


In February we met up with some dear friends from home (as in the U.S.) for a whirlwind weekend (less than 48 hours) in Chelem, Yucatan, which is located on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. I love an opportunity to see treasured friends and anything in Yucatan, so despite the 4-hour drive from Cancun, I was really excited.

Toll Road Cancun – Merida

There is a “free” highway to Merida, but it goes through many small towns where there are lots of speed bumps and would take significantly longer than the toll road. However, if you’re in the mood or have the time for sightseeing, it’s a good option. We took the pay road or “autopista” from Cancun to Merida, then took 261 north to Chelem. There were loads of signs and I never had to use a map. The autopista is very well maintained but also quite expensive these days, 518 pesos each way for a grand total of 1036 pesos. There is no way to get off the autopista, except at Valladolid, and there is only one place to stop between Cancun and Merida where there are convenience stores, restaurants and restrooms.

Here is where Chelem is located…

Note where Cancun is, on the eastern coast. It’s quite a drive! And for the most part, from Cancun to Merida, it’s one long, boring, straight line…

toll road Cancun Valladolid Merida

Chelem, Yucatan

The population of Chelem is only about 1,000, and although it has been a vacation getaway for well-off Merida residents for many years, it has recently come to the attention of foreigners looking for affordable beach property.

We stayed at Bears en la Playa a charming bed and breakfast run by the equally charming Rob and Roy, a gay couple who welcomes anyone who is accepting of other lifestyles. Although children are not generally permitted, they made an exception for Bebé. (Should I change his “name” to “Niño” now??)

There are three guest rooms, two with a king size bed and one with two twins. They all have their own bathroom. There is also wifi and a rooftop deck with a bar and hot tub. Not too shabby!

And here is the beach…

Breakfast was wonderful both mornings. The first morning we had Egg McMuffin type sandwiches and the second, blueberry pancakes. We sat right out on the patio to eat…


Chelem doesn’t have the colonial architecture or charming town square that you find in Merida or Valladolid. It’s rustic and has that lazy, relaxed, fishing town feeling.

Walking up and down the beach is interesting, because you see new, modern homes and then you see places like this…

And each place has its own story.

Because of the growing expat community, new bars and restaurants are opening. On Saturday night we ate at Taqueria la Tejana, a little spot on the main square where you sit at plastic tables right in the street, so we could try their giant loaded baked potatoes, something you don’t find often in these parts. I chose the beef version and it was scrumptious, and so large that I couldn’t even finish it.

Afterwards we headed to The Edge for karaoke night, which was mostly expats who were fun and welcoming. Again, we’re talking a cement floor and plastic chairs, but that’s what gives the place character. Bebé got to play pool for awhile and I sang a song.

Progreso, Yucatan

On Saturday during the day we visited Progreso, a larger port city to the east. Whereas Chelem is just a regular town that happens to have some expats living there, Progreso feels much more touristy. It is also a cruise ship destination, so they have been trying to spruce up their boardwalk/malecon and beach area.

The pier is no joke. It’s so big that there were trucks driving on it.

After we walked around for a bit, we ate at one of the many restaurants on the beach.

It was way to short, but it was a wonderful weekend. During Mexico’s daylight savings time, you gain an hour when traveling to Yucatan from Cancun, and lose an hour coming back, so we headed home at 11 am Yucatan time, but first we took a few minutes to take some photos.

Chelem’s pier is much smaller than Progreso’s! You can see it in the background here. heehee

We arrived home shortly before 4 pm Cancun time.

Beware! I was stopped on the way back on the toll road by a federal police officer for speeding. He gave me a very stern warning (I’m pretty sure he’s seen some ugly accidents on that road) but behaved in a completely professional manner. I however played the shameless dizzy blond, “Was I going to fast officer??”

We hope to return to Chelem and spend more time there soon!


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