ONE of the best ways to experience Mexican culture is to skip the tourist traps and popular tourist destinations and roam around a rural village even just for a day. Let’s put a village of Limones, a town in Costa Maya, Mexico in the spotlight.
You can fly to Cancun and take a bus or rent a car and drive to Limones which is about 200 miles away. As you drive through the streets of Limones, you will immediately notice the hospitality of the locals. People will wave at you on the streets.
Next you notice the simplicity of life. Although there are modern and concrete structures, a lot of the people live in thatch-roofed wooden houses with dirty kitchens behind the houses and fetch water from water wells—similar to the way of life the rural Mayans lived centuries ago.
Limones has one small medical clinic, a school, a village meat house, a church, and some food stalls along the road selling tortilla and other Mexican favorite foods.
One of the main attractions in Limones is an old Mayan ruins by the side of the road. There are other bigger Mayan ruins in Costa Maya but this one is just a single pyramid restored around 2000 located right in the village. You have to listen to the tour guide telling the story about the pyramid and temple ruins to fully appreciate this ancient landmark.
I also got a chance to sample an authentic Mexican chicken dish cooked in a traditional underground stove. The ‘big momma’ of the house who wore Mexican traditional clothes told us that the chicken was soaked in spices and flavors and cooked underground for four hours.
We were all seated in crudely built benches and bamboo tables surrounding the pit where the stove was, and a local ceremoniously took the pandan leaves that covered the ground, shook off the ashes and unearthed the big clay pot containing the chicken. They then shredded the chicken and put them on top of homemade tortillas and we lined up to get our share of the Mexican lunch. We also get to see a demonstration of how the locals scrape off barks of trees to make sturdy ropes.
Limones mean “limes” in Spanish. According to history, the Mexican government wanted people living in the less populated areas to make a living so the government gave the people parcels of land to plant limes for export. The town expanded to agricultural products in addition to limes.
Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Mexican Caribbean and the Mayan jungles, Costa Maya offers tourists more to do you will have a hard time deciding what to do first.
You can start off by tasting the delicious Mexican cuisine served at the restaurants, check out the local products and souvenirs in the stores, or just hang out in one of the pristine beaches. Tour the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins and learn more about ancient Mayan culture.
Visit the Lost Mayan Kingdom Adventure Park and have fun with the thrilling water slides, ziplines, and a 400-meter Zip Coaster. You can also go snorkeling, or partake in a Mayan healing ritual to pamper your body.
And yes, take your Spanish language knowledge with you. It will come in handy.