Chetumal is the capital of Quintana Roo in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. It is on the Bay of Chetumal, a sheltered inlet of the Caribbean Sea at the mouth of the Rio Hondo. This bay, together with the Rio Hondo, forms the border between Mexico and Belize.
Lying by the border of Belize, Chetumal is much more than a mere travel hub between Belize and Mexico. It offers many tourist attractions. English is fairly generalized, whereas Spanish happily coexists with Maya, Criole, Lebanese Arabic and an impressive set of the growing multinational population of the city. There is a bit more than 260,000 Chetumaleños. The City of Chetumal is the capital of the Free and Sovereign State of Quintana Roo, and the capital of the Municipio (County) of Othón P. Blanco. Othón P. Blanco is the only municipio of Mexico, that has land borders with two nations (Belize and Guatemala), thus sharing this characteristic with the state of Quintana Roo.
The city was founded by the military, in 1898, who had the mission of protecting the borders (after more than 50 years of disagreements) accorded by the governments of Mexico and Great Britain. A lot earlier, it had been a Mayan realm governed by Nachan Ka án. He was given two Spanish slaves, one of whom was Gonzalo Guerrero. Guerrero assimilated to his new society, learned the language and taught new war tactics to Nachan Ka án's warriors. With this knowledge, the warriors defeated incoming Spanish conquistadors and Nachan Ka án became a great leader. He made Guerrero a captain and gave him one of his daughters, Zazil Há. Guerrero and Zazil Há had many children who are known to be the first mestizos in America by matrimony. For this reason Chetumal is called Cuna del Mestizaje (cradle of the Mestizo).
- 1 Chetumal Airport (CTM IATA). It offers a limited selection of flights to cities in Mexico and the US. Inside the building is only a Multiva ATM with a withdrawal fee of M$67 ((pesos, Nov 2021). From the airport go shared taxis to Bacalar.
The airport is located 3.5 km west of the Chetumal city center. A taxi to the center is about M$70 (April 2022). Locals usually walk 7 min out of the airport area on a shaded sidewalk. At the intersection of the street Antonio Pl. you can catch a local taxi for M$30 (April 2022) to the city center. Agree on the price before. The driver may offer you the ride for M$70, but you can haggle it down easily. When the driver asks you, if you have a reservation of an accommodation for the upcoming night, just answer yes.
It is also possible to fly to Belize City (BZE IATA) or Corozal (CZH IATA) across the border in Belize, and cross by land into Chetumal. Another option is to fly into Cancún or Merida. From the city of Merida go first and second class buses to Chetumal. From the Cancun airport take an ADO bus to Playa del Carmen. And from there a first or second class bus to Chetumal.
Mexico's Federal Route 186 traverses the sparsely populated southern half of the Yucatán between Escárcega and Chetumal. After Ucum, the only municipality with services such as gas and lodging between Escárcega and Chetumal is Xpujil. Federal Route 307 branches off Route 186 to the north towards Cancun, from a point about 30 km west of Chetumal.
There are two ADO terminals:
- 2 ADO Terminal Chetumal. This terminal is where all ADO first and second class buses arrive and depart from. Inside the building is a Santander ATM. The terminal is located about 4 km north-west of the center. A taxi to the city center is M$25-30 (April 2022). There are also colectivos to the city center (near the Mercado viejo) for M$8 (April 2022), they just don't go to the south of the center and don't operate on Sundays.
- 3 ADO Chetumal Centro. It's in the city center and served by all ADO second class buses, which are operated by Mayab.
You find the schedules and prices of ADO, OCC and AU buses in the ADO app or website. The schedules of second-class Mayab buses you see on the LCD monitor of an employee inside a Terminal ticket booth. The price for Mayab from Tulum is M$270, Feb 2022) and M$353 (April 2022) from Playa del Carmen.
If you're arriving from Belize, your bus might arrive to the "old ADO station" (la terminal antigua de ADO) on Salvador Novo street near Av. Insurgentes and Av. Belice. This is also where you go to catch BBOC buses to Belize. Buses no longer stop at the New Market (Nuevo Mercado).
When leaving Mexico at the Belize border, you will be charged a tourist tax fee of M$594 (Oct 2021).
Coming from Bacalar or Xu-Hal you may think about taking a colectivo to Chetumal. Just note, that the combis don't have a car trunk. You need to store all your luggage at your seat. For travelling with your luggage, the colectivos are less convenient.
- 4 Terminal Marítima Internacional.
- San Pedro Belize Express, [email protected]. has air conditioned boats leaving Caye Caulker at 07:00 & San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize to Chetumal daily at 07:30. The boat returns from Chetumal at 15:30. The terminal is on the pier in front of Wahoo's Bar and Grill in San Pedro, in front of the basketball court in Caye Caulker, and from the Municipal Pier in Chetumal. Tickets can be purchased at their website. Note: As of 2020, routes to/from Chetumal have been suspended due to COVID-19 complications.
Taxis for a short hop cost about M$25-30 (April 2022).
Buses to the border Depart from a small office on Av. Primo de Verdad between 16 de Septiembre and Miguel Hidalgo. It is walking distance from the Maya Museum and the cost is M$14 (Dec 2018).
- 1 The Museum of Mayan Culture (Museo de la Cultura Maya), Av. Héroes, in the corner of Mahatma Gandhi, ☏ . Tu-Th Su 09:00-19:00, F Sa 09:00-20:00. Get to know the importance of the Yucatan peninsula's Mayan civilization, see many sculptures and scaled down versions of temples and palaces. Learn about the Mayan principal economic activities and how they are carried out while discovering the Mayan numerical system. You can also learn and use the Mayan calendar.
- 2 The Fine Arts Cultural Center (Centro Cultural de las Bellas Artes), Av. Héroes, in the corner of Chapultepec. Tu-Su 09:00-19:00. Located within the walls of the antique Belisario Dominguez school. Inside you'll find an open air theater, an art walk and the Chetumal museum. There's also a dance school, music school and the institute of culture.
- 3 Malecón de Chetumal (by the sea shore). About a 3-km-long walk by the sea. Many restaurants and bars, the governal palace and park, and many sculptures. The board walk ends at the sculpture of the manatees but the road continues to village of Calderitas
- 4 Renaissance Statue (Monumento al renacimiento).
- 5 Gran Parque Ecológico Zazil.
- 6 Calderitas (6 km north of Chetumal). A fishing village with many seafood restaurants. If feeling adventurous, get in by the cheap and crowded communal ride that leaves next to the Mayan culture museum.
- 7 Archaeological Zone of Oxtankah (7 km north of Calderitas). A Maya city which includes small temples, palaces, plazas etc. about a kilometer from the bay line. It's open 8am-5pm. Bring some water and a mosquito repellent. You can take a colectivo to Calderitas first and from there a taxi, or a taxi for the whole 16 km.
- Bulebuzz (Leaves by the Mayan culture museum). Ride the Bulebuzz and see the city. Bulebuzz is a small bus that runs down the Avenida Héroes to Boulevard Bahía, which it covers fully.
Out of town trips
- 1 Xul-Ha. 20 km away. A tranquil village at the very south of the Bacalar lake. You can take a colectivo heading to Puerto Carillo or a second class bus there.
- 2 Balneario Obregon Viejo. 50 km away. A natural water park right in the rain forest. 5 Combis to the Balneario Obregon Viejo are the ones in the direction of Rovirosa, cost around M$50 (April 2022) and take about 1 hour. You can also take the less frequent combis to La Union. For going back to Chetumal, be at the main road of the village not later than 17:30 to catch the last combi.
- 3 Reef diving and snorkeling. The city does not offer diving but you can go to Mahahual (140 km) to dive and snorkel with access to Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
There are many archeological sites around Chetumal and they're relatively close to each other. The ones below are open 08:00-17:00 daily, admission only until 16:20. Bring a lot of water and some snacks with you as many of the sight stores are not always open. A mosquito repellent doesn't hurt either.
- 4 Kohunlich (65 km east of Chetumal). Famous for its grand stone carved masks and exotic species of flora and fauna. The temple of the masks was built on the 6th century and is one of the most noticed amongst the Mayan culture.
- 5 Dzibanché (75 km east of Chetumal). Mayan city ruins. The temple VI was built around 200 BC, and about five hundred years later Dzibanché developed into a greater city.
- 6 Kinichná (Two kilometers from Dzibanché). Partly well preserved town. It was originally lesser in hierarchy than Dzibanché. Principal pyramid consists of three levels with a wide stairway that leads to two other temples.
- 7 Chacchoben (60 km north of Chetumal). Largest Mayan settlement belonging to the region of the lakes.
Chetumal is more and more becoming the Mesoamerican center of environmental friendly technologies. Efforts by individuals belonging to the private sector, in this direction, have begun to show signs of success.
Low withdrawal fees in the city center have the ATMs of:
• Banca Inbursa
• Banco Azteca
And around the bus station are:
• Banco Azteca
For buying groceries in the center Oxxo and minimarkets (tiendas) are around. A bigger variety have Dunosusa in the north, Super Willy's in the middle of the center and Waldo's in the south. Large supermarkets are Super Aki west and Soriana north. For buying meat, the butcher shop Maxicarne is in the center. Around the ADO Terminal Chetumal is the supermarket Bodega Aurrera and the large supermarket Chedraui.
Finding other than Mexican products from Chetumal is not easy. As there are not many tourists, most of the stores actually sell stuff to the locals.
- 1 Belize Free Zone (Zona Libre de Belice) (11 km from the city off the Chetumal-Belize highway). Located by the border Belize Free Zone houses over three hundred stores. You can shop at many of the duty free stores for clothing, perfumes, liquors, and electronics. You can try your luck at any of the three casinos or eat in one of the many restaurants. No documents or passports should be needed as you will not go through Belize immigration, but take them with you anyways just be safe. Entrance fee about US$1.
Typical local joints can be found here and there around the city. For fancier places go to Boulevard Bahía. The fishing village Calderitas' main economy is restaurant industry and you can find a lot of good seafood restaurants there.
There is some street food in Chetumal, in the city center especially along the Av de los Héroes.
- 1 Hot Dogs Parque Del Queso 2. Tasty hot-dogs. Taste one that has cheese inside the sausage. Price starts at M$15 (April 2022) and includes some self-made crisps.
In the city center
- 2 Hamburguesas Las Mismas. Very popular among locals. They serve tortas from M$30 (April 2022) which look different than elsewhere and hamburgers.
- 3 Taqueria El Almendro.
Near the city center
- 4 La Casita Azul.
Around the ADO Terminal Chetumal
- 5 Cafetería Chetumal Cocina Económica. A simple local restaurant. A menu del dia is for M$85 (April 2022).
- 6 Little Caesars Pizza. An US American chain. A whole pizza is from M$99 (April 2022).
- 7 Ceviches Yorch el gemelo. A simple seafood restaurant.
Also the bar scene of Chetumal is quite thin. Boulevard Bahía has some bars.
- El Horno Creativo: Biergarten Café (El Horno: Biergarten, café &Snacks), 17 Zaragoza Ave, Col Barrio Bravo,Chetumal, Quintana Roo CP 77098 (Corner with Isla Contoy Street (15 meters from Bahía Blvd)), ☏ . Tu-Su 20:00 - 02:00. The coffee beverage (cold or hot) that you prefer, prepared according to quality standards of Cafetería La Barra, Mexico City.; The genuine barrel beer at 2°C, as in the famous German beer gardens (biergartens); Snacks, with original recipes of El Horno Creativo (Buffalo chicken wings, roasted ribs, tacos al pastor)
There are at least 20 places to sleep in at Chetumal. Get a copy of a guide magazine from the Mayan culture museum or ask a taxi driver if you don't know where you're going.
in the city center:
- 1 Downtown Hostel Chetumal. It features A/C, a terrace, lockers and free drinking water. The price for a dorm is M$280 (April 2022). It can be booked on booking.com.
- 2 Hotel Ucum, Av. Mahatma Gandhi 167 (100 meters east of Museo de la Cultura Maya), ☏ . Clean and well located budget hotel. A double room with private bathroom and fan and without TV is M$270 (April 2022) for 1 or 2 persons. With A/C it's M$450 (April 2022).
- 3 Hotel El Dorado.
- 4 Hotel Rosa del Alba.
- 5 Hotel Hospedaje Don Cuco. A basic hotel with private bathroom and without hot water. Some rooms have A/C, others are with fan.
- 6 Hotel Xcalak Boutique. A simple boutique hotel. It looked temporarily closed in April 2022.
Around the ADO Terminal Chetumal
- 7 Hostel Manik. Opposite of the bus station. Quite modern looking inside. All rooms have A/C. The hostel offers private rooms, and a 4 bed dorm with only flat beds (no bunk beds). The dorm can be booked on Hostelworld and is for M$250 (April 2022). A private room is from M$480 (April 2022).
- 8 Pause Hostel Chetumal. It offers dorms and private rooms.
- Tourist Security (Seguridad al Turista), ☏ .
- Quintana Roo Police (Policia Estatal), ☏ .
- Emergency (Emergencias). Dial 066.
- General Hospital, ☏ .
- Chetumal Tourism (Turismo Municipal), ☏ .
Chetumal is quite safe. Since there are not a lot of tourists, you can easily get through a week without anyone trying to fool you. Taxi drivers don't usually try to drive you into places more expensive than what you are looking for.
Your next destination for staying can be:
To the west
To the north and north-east
- Mahahual (Costa Maya)
- Costa Maya
- Tulum – The second class buses from the ADO Terminal Centro depart at 06:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 17:00. And there is a 23:00 departure from the ADO terminal outside the city center (April 2022).
To the north-west
There is a departure tourist tax when leaving Mexico of M$594 (Oct 2021).
Get on the Chetumal-Belize highway and drive to Belize.
To get a bus to Belize, you go to old ADO terminal. Buses from old Ado terminal to Belize City run fairly often via Orange Walk where a break of 15 minutes is usually scheduled. These buses are older and have no A/C, and they stop often. Once you arrive at the old ADO terminal, someone will approach you and tell about the schedules. These guys are working for the bus company and not just there to rip you off.
The new ADO terminal also has a service to Belize but it's less frequent and more expensive.
You can also get a boat from Chetumal to San Pedro on the island Ambergris Caye, from where you can continue to the island of Caye Caulker or to Belize City. A one-way trip from Chetumal to San Pedro is US$45 (Jan 2015) on Belize Express Water Taxi  and US$50 (Jan 2015) on San Pedro Water Taxi . Including preparation to depart, the latter took around 2 hours.
|Routes through Chetumal|
|Escárcega ← Xpujil ←||W E||→ Jct north-south branch → END|
|END at Jct 5 km north of border ← Santa Elena ←||N S||→ → becomes Northern Highway → Corozal → Orange Walk → Belize City|
|Cancun← Felipe Carrillo Puerto ← Mahahual ← Bacalar ←||N S||→ END at Jct 20.5 km west of town|