Living in Mexico. EVERYTHING you need to know (and then some)
camping in riviera maya at mundo chalio xpu-ha
August 2, 2021
I love camping. As a Canadian, I grew up with it and found it to be one of the things I missed most about moving to Mexico. One good thing about living on the Atlantic-Caribbean Sea side of the country, I eventually learned, was that there are camping areas.
While very different from the thickly pine-treed forests I remember, there are a handful of RV-Camping places along coast from Cancun downward. Since I live in Riviera Maya, I camp in this area rather than in the Isla Blanca-Cancun area in the north, although they are on the list.
I’ve tent-camped for the past several years in the same area since it’s an easy drive, safe, on the beach and open to fido coming along. This year, though, I thought I’d try someplace different so I began a search for Riviera Maya camping and boy did I get results.
I ended up with a few pages of “camping riviera maya” results, most of which I attempted to make contact with. Unfortunately, very few responded. It seems covid did them in. But I did get a reply from one place that allowed me to bring my dog, so we packed up and headed out for the highway.
I drove south of Playa del Carmen for about 30 kilometers to a place called Mundo Chalio in an area of Riviera Maya called Xpu-Ha. The place, according to its website, has open spaces, electrical outlets and water not to mention a supermini store and easy beach access.
I packed to stay for the week. Using the internet, it was easy enough to find the narrow dirt road that lead to the campsite. I was taken a bit back by how bad the road was considering how popular the place seemed to be. It is not a road I would recommend pulling a trailer along.
The road, which is 100 percent dirt, did eventually open up from its rather narrow start, but the endless deep potholes truly did take away from it all. After driving about 150 meters, I came to a kiosk stop where a young 20-something-year-old kid monitored who came and went. After explaining that I was expected (which I was), he continually denied me access even after I showed him my phone with messages to and from the current guy in charge.
After sitting in the hot sun for 10 or 15 minutes, I finally convinced him to call “the guy in charge”, which he did. Within seconds his demeanor changed and I was permitted to pass. I was pretty pissed at this point due to his attitude. It was not a great start.
After continuing to drive another 500 or 600 meters down the extremely pot-holed road, a road that provided a challenge even for my Jeep, I finally came to an opening that was chalk-full of cars and buildings. I was met by a guy who guided me up the side of a small hill where I was met by another guy (the guy in charge for the summer) who pointed to a place for me to set up camp.
It was mid-day by the time I got there and got set up. The guy in charge happened by, so I paid him 2,000 peso cash for the week. While he was there, he proceeded to tell me areas to avoid (which were many) due to all the loose dogs. He also spent a great deal of time trying to find an electrical outlet that worked, since, as you can see, the ones they offer are well, rundown and non-functioning to say the least.
After he left, I leashed my dog and headed out for a desperately needed walk around our new area. We walked less than 20 meters before we were guided back to our site by default. The place is super small and the “RV Park” even smaller. The entire park, where more than a dozen campers are crammed, is less than 25 meters wide. Concentrating on parking and setting up, I failed to notice all the obstructions that filled the areas around me.
Also, forget about any sort of easy beach access! The only way to the beach was to walk around houses, boats, through a public parking lot toward a restaurant. There, one can access the beach by walking between that and a two-story apartment building.
The small Mundo Chalio RV park (of sorts) stood on a slight incline to my right. I was camped on the outskirts of this. In the center were broken down fishing boats, a long stained wooden table of parts and barrels (of motor oil??) not to mention garbage. A lot of garbage.
On the other side of this was the one and only bathroom. It was the only toilet / shower available and was used by RV guests as well as scuba tourists, restaurant goers, beach visitors, staff and anyone else who happened by.
It was in deplorable condition with molded walls, peeling paint, soaking wet floors, a homemade back tank cover and a handle that dripped of rust. It lacked toilet paper, a shower head, a working light bulb and soap (not to mention a good disinfection!). The only way to this “bathroom” was by walking either around or through the boats, which were full of stagnant rainwater that had become home to mosquito eggs.
After securing my dog inside my Jeep (I did not trust the loose dogs to stay away), I decided to extend the walk a bit only to be barked at by a plethora of off-leash dogs. I went back to my tent.
The dirt road around the RVs and boats was spotted with dog shit. On the right of the RVs was a massive heap of old shacks that had fallen and remained in their rotted condition which looked to be frequently used to toss garbage. In back of the Mundo Chalio RV area was a wire fence separating a hotel’s property from them, while successfully preventing beach access.
In front of the RV area was a private home with a screaming diaper-aged kid and a heap of open air garbage on the side. Another private home to the immediate left of the last RV is where nearly 10 dogs ran free. The house lacks a fence and the owners, social responsibility.
That was the only available space and is where I was placed.
On the other side of that is a restaurant, a scuba place, a roundish dirt area for public parking and then apartments offered for rent. In front of that, I understand, is where tent campers are sent*. Out in the full sun, lacking any shade or amenities (or protection from the free running dogs), not to mention privacy from the restaurant users, apartment dwellers, scuba divers or beach goers.
*I was permitted to set up my tent along a section of fence between two vacant RVs after refusing to sleep in that unprotected beach area. Even there in the RV area, those dogs happened by my tent on several occasions.
Behind these apartments are more private shack-style homes with large off leash dogs that bark day and night.
I went back to my site and messaged the current guy in charge, asking for my money back. I left him 600 in cash for a 2-night stay, but packed up and headed out the next afternoon. I decided that since I was there, I would make lemonade out of lemons, so I cooked a late breakfast and then walked the entire beach before leaving, not feeling any pressure to “check out” by their recommended time of noon.
After packing my Jeep, I got back on that extremely potted dirt road, apologizing to my Jeep repeatedly as I made my way back to the main highway where I drove to my usual camping spot where the site was clean, the electrical outlets worked and all dogs were leashed.
As for my new camping experience, well, let’s just say it’s all part of the living in Mexico journey.