Choco Story & Uxmal Ruins
Choco-Story is a museum where you learn about cocoa and its importance to the Mayan people, you will see a Mayan ceremony, and it’s an environmental wildlife refuge. We saw monkeys, jaguars, a crocodile, and many birds. You will see a timeline of how the Mayans lived, along with a lesson in turning cocoa into chocolate with a hot chocolate tasting. It’s a walk through time explaining the evolution of chocolate, cultivation techniques and how it impacted the Mayan’s from the 1800s until the present day. There is a choco-story app you can download on your smartphone which explains the exhibits in your language; however, it did not work on our phones.
Monkeys & Jaguars
We spent a couple of hours at Choco-Story and enjoyed it more than we anticipated. We loved feeding the monkeys, who would come up to take the food right out of your hand. Make sure you have 1 peso coins if you want to feed them (there’s no change machine) There is a “gumball type” food machine right outside the cages.
According to the signs, these are all rescue animals. On the jaguar cages, there was an explanation as to what happened to each of the jaguars. One was shot in the leg, and rehabilitated; however, he still walks with a limp so he cannot be released back into the wild. The other jaguar had been illegally purchased as a pet when she was a cub, and when she got older, she mauled the owner.
Cost: 140 pesos
Hours: Daily 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
After finishing at Choco-Story, we drove to the Uxmal ruins. As I stated earlier, you can leave your car in the Choco-Story parking lot if you don’t want to pay for parking. The walk is approximately .45 miles or about a 10-15 minute walk to Uxmal. It depends on how much walking you want to do.
The Uxmal ruins are the largest ruins in the Purc region of the Yucatan. The Uxmal ruins are neighboring to the Kabah ruins, and both are located in the “Purc route.” It was thought to have 20,000 Mayan inhabitants during its most populated period. The name Uxmal means “thrice built” or “three harvests.” The name was derived from the structure called the “Pyramid of the Magician.” This is the first structure you see when you enter the ruins, it’s 115 feet high, and it was built on a pyramid with 5 phases of construction.
Palace of the Governor
Another structure we found to be quite impressive was the “Palace of the Governor” which is on a raised platform with many intricate ancient carvings throughout, including numerous stone masks of the Mayan rain god Chac. The structure is on a platform which is 26 to 40 feet high, 613 feet long, and 557 feet wide. The Palace of the Governor was considered the administrative center or the royal residence. The structure is regarded as one of the most famous examples of Purc style architecture.
The buildings are situated based upon an astrological influence, with an emphasis of Venus. If you can interpret Mayan writings, there is thought to be Venus glyphs carved into the front of the building.
We found Uxmal to be very interesting, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring these ruins. I loved taking a step back in time to imagine what it may have been like to live during this period.
Cost: 80 pesos to park & 413 pesos per person
Hours: Daily 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
We found Uxmal to be very interesting, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring these ruins. I loved taking a step back in time to imagine what it may have been like to live during this period. This was our most exhausting day of the 4-day itinerary, so if you follow this itinerary, please stick with us, every day is not this exhausting. I will be honest my legs still hurt three days later after walking the steps to see the pyramids. I guess I’m a bit of a wimp (Joel’s did too… lol).
Day 2 – Dzibilchaltun ruins/Xlakah Cenote/Museum/Cenote Chen
Our first stop today was to see the Dzibilchaltun ruins, Xlakah Cenote, and the museum. All of these attractions are located in the same place and offered for one admission fee. Although, these are not the most extensive ruins or as impressive as Uxmal they are the closest to Merida, and with a cenote and a museum we found them to be a fun 1/2 day experience. Another added benefit is you can climb on the ruins, which added to plenty of photo opportunities. It’s a short 30-minute drive north of Merida along the 261 highway.
Dzibilchaltrun means “place where there is writing on the stones.” This name is due to the many stones found with writing on them. The area was inhabited between 500 BC until 1540. It is believed, at one time the population was 40,000, which makes it one of the largest ancient cities in the area. Dzibilchaltrun is located within a National Ecological Park.
Temple of the Seven Dolls
One of the most well-known structures is called the Temple of the Seven Dolls. It was constructed on a pyramid base with a short tower built on its roof. The structure was named after seven small figurines discovered at the site by an archeologist in the 1950’s during an excavation. You can see these figurines when you visit the museum. Many of the artifacts are well preserved, and it’s a fascinating look back into the past at these ancient relics.
The temple has many carvings within the structure; it’s quite beautiful and amazing to see. If you visit during the vernal equinox in the spring or fall, at sunrise you may have the opportunity to see the sun pass symmetrically through the portal. It is thought, because of the origination of this ruin, the Mayan people had an understanding of the solar system. I’m sure this is a magical sight and something not to be missed if you are in the area during those times.
Costs: 20 pesos to park, entrance fee for the ruins, cenote and museum is 220 pesos ($11.00) – They do not accept credit cards
If you’re a local, it’s free to visit the ruins on Sundays, having said that if you are a tourist, you may want to avoid Sunday.
Hours: Daily 8 am to 5 pm Museum is closed on Mondays.
The Dzibilchaltrun ruins not as high as Ek Balam; however, they are impressive in their own right. If you are afraid of heights at all, which we are they can be a bit intimidating to climb. The steps are very steep, and many give the feeling you may fall backward. The steepness resembles that of going up a ladder. Going up is a lot easier than coming down if you are at all afraid of heights or if your balance is a bit shakey take it slow.
The Xlakah Cenote was one of our favorites because it is warmer and bigger than most we have visited. The only downside was it was the most crowded. We visited on a Saturday, and it was quite busy. If you can go through the week, I would assume it would be less crowded. Be prepared to have an exfoliating pedicure, as the little fish will nibble at your toes.
It is considered one of the largest and deepest (144 feet) open-air cenotes found in the Yucatan. There are beautiful lily pads in the center and one side is deep enough to jump into and the other side shallow.
Divers have found many artifacts, human bones, and pottery in this cenote. The archeological artifacts indicate the cenote may have used for religious purposes.
It was great to have a cenote as part of this attraction because it was so hot and it was great to be able to jump in and cool off in between checking out the ruins.
One of the cool things about visiting Dzibilchaltrun is that we were able to see a cenote, ruins, and go through a cool museum for one price and at one time. The museum has many Mayan and Spanish artifacts, along with statues and stone monuments from the colonial era.
When walking through the museum, I couldn’t help but imagine what it might have been like to be alive during the Mayan era hundreds of years ago. The museum has a timeline where it shows you the progression throughout the Mayan Era, along with the changing times and economic conditions the Mayans endured. It was quite fascinating.
Many of the artifacts are well preserved, and it’s a fascinating look back into the past. Most of the explanations on the wall displays are in English and Spanish. If you go outside of the museum, you will find a traditional Mayan home — such an interesting museum, which takes about a 1/2 hour to go through.
After visiting the ruins, we decided to head about 20 minutes southwest to Cenote Chen. This small open-air cenote was a lot of fun because we were the only ones there and we got to swim through caves. It was the first time we have swam through caves, and it was awesome. It was kind of strange to be the only people there. I kept feeling like maybe there was a crocodile that was going to come to get us. LOL
At first, we passed the road because there is no sign. The GPS is correct, except it ends at a dirt road. Take the dirt road to the end, and you will hit the cenote. Part of the fun for us was having the cenote to ourselves out in the middle of nowhere.
We had a great time visiting the ruins, two cenotes, and the museum. Depending on how long you want to spend at these locations this would be considered a 1/2 to a full-day itinerary. We have been on a mission to slow down and enjoy every moment, so this was a full-day itinerary for us.
Cenotes, El Corchito & Progreso
Day 3 – Grutaus Tzabnah Cenote/Cenote Yaalutzil/X’Batu Cenote/Cenote Dzonbacal
Our first stop today was to climb through a cave to see Grutaus Tzabnah cenote. This was by far our most adventurous excursion to see a cenote since staying in the Yucatan. It’s a 40-minute drive south of Merida along the 180 east to the 184 south to Calle 28.
You are given a hardhat and flashlight along with a guide to show you the way. To get to the cenote you will need to walk 55 feet into a cave, with no lights, and at few parts, the opening is only a few feet high. Joel is 6’3, and he had to crawl at some points. It is dark, except for the dim flashlights we had, and it is humid, but it was fun. If you are claustrophobic (which Joel is), this may be a tough one for you. There are many bats (one flew at my head). Make sure you wear the helmet, I hit my head a couple of times. Lol This is a one of a kind adventure!! Be ready to get dirty!!
Cost: 70 pesos, includes guide, hardhat & flashlight.
Hours: Daily 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cenote Yaal Utzil
Head south on the 184 and continue on Mucuyché to Cenote Yaal Utzil. There are two cenotes in this area, Cenote Yaal Utzil, and Cenote Hacienda Mucuyche. Unfortunately, we were there on a Monday and Cenote Hacienda Mucuyche is closed on Monday’s, so if you go on another day, you could see both cenotes. One thing to note is Cenote Hacienda Mucuyche has limited hours. They’re daily from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, except Mondays.
We enjoyed Cenote Yaal Utzil. The blue crystal clear water was warm and deep enough for jumping. The wood stairs are steep, and there’s a platform for jumping about half way down. There were only four other people there with us, which was good because the platform where you get in and out of the cenote is small. You can scuba dive or snorkel at this cenote.
Another cenote very close to Cenote Yaal Utzil is Cenote Kankirixche. It was closed for renovations the day we went, but from what I understand it’s pretty spectacular. It’s a 12-minute drive northwest from Cenote Yaal Utzil.
Cost: 20 pesos
Hours: Daily 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
X’Batun Cenote & Cenote Dzonbacal
X’Batun Cenote & Cenote Dzonbacal are located next to each other, and you can see both for one admission fee. They are a 30-minute drive from Cenote Yaal Utzil. GPS is correct for this destination. For the most part, our GPS worked for this entire 4-day itinerary.
Both of these cenotes are open air, with Cenote X’Batun being the warmer and larger of the two. The water is clear, a bit on the cooler side compared to most of the cenotes we visited, and there’s lots of fish.
Cost: 50 pesos for both cenotes per person
Hours: 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Day 4 – Ecological Reserve El Corchito & An afternoon on Progreso beach
Today we decided to utilize public transportation to Progreso. We caught the Auto Progreso bus at the main stop on 62 between 65 and 67 in the center of Merida. We hopped on a city bus right outside our rental unit in North Merida, and the cost was 8 pesos each to go to the center of Merida (20-minute bus ride). Once we got close to the Auto Progreso bus stop, we walked the rest of the way (4 blocks). The bus to Progreso is an hour ride in a comfortable, air-conditioned bus.
Ecological Reserve El Corchito
We chose to go to the Ecological Reserve first, so we got off the bus just as it entered the town of Progreso and we walked the rest of the way. It’s about a 30-minute walk. GPS works great so follow the directions, and you will see it on the right. I’m sure you could get a cab if you would prefer to ride.
You will see a ticket counter with picnic tables, food and drinks are for sale. If you have a backpack, or bag (like we did), you will have to leave it with the person selling tickets because they will not allow any food, or sunscreen on the island. You will understand why after you get there. Ferry boats are leaving every 15 minutes. The only things we took with us to the island were water bottles, Joel’s GoPro, and my camera.
You will see four cenotes while on the island, three of which you can swim in if you want. The best part for us was seeing all the raccoons and coatis running around. They are very tame, but not safe to touch. The workers throw food out and they will feed them by hand, so that was fun to watch. They are the reason you can’t bring food onto the island, as they would attack you trying to get your food.
All in all, this is probably an hour experience. It was fun to see the animals and mangroves, but it seemed rather commercial. I’ve heard if you go during the summer, there are a lot of mosquitos, we were there in February, and I think I got one bite, so the mosquito issue may depend on what time of year you visit.
Cost: 90 pesos per person
Hours: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
After finishing at the Ecological Reserve, we walked across the street towards the beach (Progreso) through the town. Once you hit the beach, go left, toward the pier, and you can walk along the ocean to the central part of Progreso where the chairs and restaurants are located. We hit 17,000 steps on our pedometer on this day, so if you don’t want to walk that much don’t worry there are cabs available. We found Uber to be really cheap all over the Merida area, including Progreso.
The pier in Progreso is the longest pier in the world. Many cruise ships stop in Progreso, so you may want to make sure you go on a day they aren’t in port unless you like crowds. Here is a link to check the cruise schedule ahead of time.
In Progreso, we tried a couple of fun restaurants, the Milk Bar and Eladio’s Bar. Milk Bar is a place a lot of expats like to go, and they have great food and wine which makes me happy because we didn’t find many places that serve wine. Another restaurant that has the best deal if you love tapas or bocas is Eladio’s. If you order a couple of drinks, they will bring you plate after plate of free tapas to try. I’m not kidding they brought us ten plates of food!! I couldn’t eat anything after sampling all the tapas. So go with a big appetite.
Tips for The Ultimate 4-Day Itinerary in Merida Mexico:
- Make sure you bring lots of water.
- I would suggest visiting the ruins in the morning because of the heat.
- Bring a camera or GoPro if you have one. Joel brought his drone for the beach shots.
- Wear a swimsuit under your clothes so you can take a dip in the cenotes.
- Wear biodegradable sunscreen if you plan on getting in the cenotes.
- Wear good shoes and come prepared, you will be walking a lot, as these ruins are spread out and there are many to see.
- Make sure if you are driving yourself you don’t wait too long to gas up your car because the gas stations are spread out in some of these areas.
- Bring an ice chest or backpack cooler with drinks and food. We use the Primocean insulated cooler bag. The restaurants and food options are limited in some of these areas, so we suggest you bring your own. We’ve saved a ton of money by packing our food and drinks. Every morning we throw 2-4 frozen water bottles in the bottom (as our ice packs), snacks, and lunch.
Video & Article Links For The Yucatan
We spent a month traveling throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. If you’re interested in visiting the area, we hope you will find our articles and videos helpful. All of our posts have a video included, and we have new videos on our YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel too so you won’t miss a video.
Below are a few articles and videos from our stay in the Yucatan:
2 Traveling Lovers Videos only on YouTube
We hope you enjoyed our itinerary and videos that went along with our 4-day itinerary while visiting Merida Mexico. We loved spending time in Merida and all the surrounding communities. There is so much to see and do I know this just scratched the surface. Enjoy your time in the Yucatan and let us know how your trip goes. We love to hear from our readers.
Note: If you have time check out the free morning walking tour through downtown Merida. It lasts about 2 hours, meets in the Plaza de Santa Lucia every morning at 10 am. The guide speaks English and it’s very informative in regards to Merida’s history. Here is the link if you’re interested.
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