Today, I woke up with a smile sneaking across my face as I stretched my long legs to reach the extents of the little metallic tent I’m staying in. I arose to the wind whipping the tent’s tethers like a billowing sail. I’ve never really thought about the possibility of camping while backpacking, but after my stay in Valladolid on a honeybee farm, I’m searching specifically for camp-sites on Hostel World and Booking.com. Sleeping on a foam mat atop the silky sand, under rustling palm trees, and reconnecting with the Earth while camping has been really good for me—it’s exactly what I needed. People are meant to be exposed to the elements. My eyes open to the sunlight and I feel ready to drift asleep as she dramatically sets over the crisp horizon, the sound of the breeze beckoning her across the sea. All day is spent walking barefoot, watching crabs and crustaceans scoot into small silt-lined holes. Spotted Sandpipers circle the docks in musical movements; Pelicans post high up on piers, wings spread wide in order to dry, always keeping a sharp-eye on the miniscule fish that float in with the tide. You realize a place is “chill” when all the dogs are calm, never barking, quietly rolled up in comfortable balls, snuggling their way into a warm womb of sand.
The place to camp in Mahahual is on the beach at Lunas Restaurant and Bar. Everyone is so friendly here; It’s a family-owned and operated business that treats their guests like extended family as well. Seating around the bar is strung up on swings, and you can spend your whole day pushing yourself back and forth in the breeze while eating popular Mexican dishes and drinking ice-cold cocktail concoctions. I spent several days there—swinging, reading, relaxing and chatting with lots of interesting people that came through, from all walks of life, both tourists and locals alike. Each person you meet has their own unique stories to share and express. A few cocktails and conversations in, a vintage Volkswagen van drove by, honking their harmonious horn, a “for sale” sign pasted on the window inside. I ran out to the guy to take me on a test-drive, as I thought it’d be a great travel van for getting me back to the USA.
Mahahual is a well-known cruise-ship destination port. All the shops and seaside restaurants cater to an upscale cruise clientele: those climbing offboard and scuttling around this quaint and quiet beach town. A three-mile Malecon footpath runs along the entire length of the shore in front of hotels, restaurants and bars, ending up at a romantic viewpoint boasting a towering white lighthouse. Every morning, rambling along the perfectly-paved Malecon, you’ll witness delightful merchant stalls popping up to peddle seashells, colorful cut-glass ornaments, decorative driftwood designs, cute coastal carvings, and of course, traditional Mexican artisan crafts and regalia. Couples with laced-fingers stroll along the boardwalk, purchasing tacos from small street-carts, and ice-cold coconuts to sip on after a night full of fresh seafood and one-too-many-margaritas by the sea. Here, you can explore hundreds of sweet little rickety wooden docks that span over a thousand shades of soft turquoise water.
Being seated beside the ocean, Mahahual is famous for their selection of delectable seafood dishes, including well-priced lobster and catch-of-the-day garlic-grilled “pescado.” Watch closely, and you’ll witness fresh-caught fish being brought in from little dingy-boats that the captains drive directly up onto the sandy shore. A friendly man selling painted hats pointed me toward his favorite resident restaurant, Sulumar, with the best priced lobster and local deals found on the beach. The caring fellow lent me his bicycle for the day while he worked trading garments for pesos between a multitude of gawking cruise-ship voyagers. I wheeled myself around, making sure I stumbled upon all the ins, outs, and special crannies along the coast, stopping in to several dive shops for shared jokes and laughter amongst these newfound networks. Upon return, I tried to pay for the bike, but he wouldn’t accept: “Friends always ride for free–keep smiling chica!” I bought a glass of fine white wine to go with my lobster platter—a dreamy date with myself because, “GIRL! I deserve it!”
Every morning, I laced up my sand-covered sneakers outside my unzipped tent and set off for a long run along the coastline. Usually, the waters in Mahahual are crystal-clear-blue and make for perfect diving conditions offshore, however every year, “El Norte” winds whip through, preventing people from pursuing their diving addictions. Mahahual—”a little drinking town with a diving problem,” noted many hand-painted signs. Away from the paved Malecon, a beachy road stretches all the way down to Belize. My sunrise runs took me through hurricane-blasted homes and it’s crazy to see the destruction that nature can have. Palm frond thatched-roofs were torn off their foundations and strewn across the sand, rubble is eroding into the mangrove jungle, and many homes and hotels have been shuddered for good. The hurricane happened several years ago and took a noticeable toll on this little town, but locals mentioned, “It’s not all a sad history.” Hotels used to stud the shoreline, blocking views and public access. After the hurricane, the government, city, and nature-preservation institutes set new laws in place. “The beachfront is meant for public use,” so all future building structures would be pushed back to provide sightlines and cooperative-sharing of this magical seaside village.
THE WAVY BUNCH
Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato