The capital of Quintana Roo is approximately 1 ½ hours from Mahahual, south on highway 307. The city is situated on Chetumal Bay, next to Belize, and close to the beautiful Rio Hondo river which runs between the two countries.
During the Spanish conquest of the Yucatan, the Maya state here fought off several expeditions before it finally fell in the late 16th century. The 1840´s revolt of the indigenous Maya peoples against Mexican rule, know as the Caste War, drove most of the Hispanic people from this region. The city of Chetumal was established as a Mexican port town in 1898.
In the 1940´s, Chetumal was devastated by two hurricanes and the rebuilt city reflects a commercial, relatively modern city.
Chetumal is a mix of old and new: A traditional market place, street vendors, countless small specialty stores (eg. pet food and live chickens; ice cream and juices; plastic items), a new large air conditioned mall with expresso cafes, and very few souvenir shops. It´s a commercial city of contrasts: taxis rushing around (10 pesos) and vendors slowly pushing their carts. The main street, Heroes, hosts some very smart shops and many shoe stores.
The museum, easy to find on Heroes, has few artifacts but clearly tells the story of the Mayas. It´s interactive, informative and very worthwhile. Closed Mondays
Museum of Maya Culture
Proud of their past,
you´ll see famous figures on most glorietas, or roundabouts. But watch carefully for cars racing around these circles: the car on the left usually has the right of way.
The Chetumal Bay waterfront
is lovely for strolling, biking or looking for manatees that live in this bay.
Oxtankah , a Maya ruin worth exploring is close to Calderitas, a small place north of Chetumal where many Mexicans spend their weekends. Good restaurants there.