Customer Reviews: Hidden Cancún and the Yucatán (Hidden Travel)
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on May 16, 2000
If your idea of a vacation in Mexico is flying to Cancun and only leaving the Hotel Zone for hours of busrides to and from Mayan Ruins, you don't need a guide.
But if you have any idea what a wonderful spot on earth the Yucatan is, you need to break out from the Hotels and explore. This book and a really good map is just about all you need.
The level of information was perfect. Overviews of different parts of the peninsula, descriptions of major Mayan sites, and enough detail about places to eat and places to stay that you can really find your way around.
Fresh, usable, and very helpful. Take it with you, rent a car, and just GO!
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on September 12, 2005
I just returned from a 2 week trip to the Yucatan peninsula. Starting off in Cancun and driving the cultural triangle route to the east to visit the Mayan ruins (Chichen Itza, Coba, Uxmal etc... and Spanish colonial cities (Merida, Valladolid etc...). For professional reasons I took along 4 travel guides (The Rough Guide to Cancun & Cozumel, DK's Eyewitness Top 10 Cancun & The Yucatan, Hidden Cancun & the Yucatan, and the Cadogan Yucatan & Mayan Mexico. In the past I've also used the frustrating Moon guide and weak Lonely Planet).

Of the 4 guides, each quite different in focus and style, I found "Hidden Cancun and the Yucatan" undoubtedly the most annoying and rate it 2 stars. Perhaps it's a bit stingy with the stars - other people have given it 5 stars, but with several other guides to compare it to, it's weaknesses became more and more apparent. Neither a good detailed history of the region nor particularly interesting or detailed in describing towns, cities and Mayan sites. The "Cadogan Yucatan & Mayan Mexico" though slightly larger and heavier was in a different league and perhaps the best book on the region for these purposes but also immensely enjoyable and readable with many excellent recommendations for food and accommodation.

The format "Hidden Cancun and the Yucatan" (a largish thick paperback seems) to suggest the same purpose but I think did a mediocre haphazard job. Even as a reference guide it fails to deliver with a pathetic lack of photographs and maps - those provided were as good as useless for reference (instead The rough Guide and Top 10 were infinitely superior and genuinely useful). By contrast, the reference information in "Hidden" is so poorly layed out and not conveniently accessible - excuse the pun, but without much better visuals, layout and concise text, "Hidden" does a good job of hiding it's information - not good when one is on the fly. For example different towns and villages were blended in a linear text dictated by routes (for example drivngh from Cancun to Playa del Carmen), so information for a given place you might want to visit might start at the bottom of a left page and run over the next without the name place ever making it to the top of the page. Places to dine, stay or shop would haphazardly fall wherever the text put them, never in sections starting a page top or in any consistent structural order. Perhaps the idea was to list everything in a rambling travelogue, place drifting into place running north to south, east to west, broken down by region. I just thought it made the book frustratingly inflexible and to idiosyncratic.

By the way, why on earth produce a guide book for use in the tropics on cheap uncoated paper? Perhaps because they publishers decided to give the traveler only 4 pages of photographs. This book really absorbed moisture and seemed to get heavier and heavier! I know that sounds silly but simple details like trying to turn a page when they seem to cling together in the humidity added to my wondering about the wisdom behind this book.

The 'hidden" part, the supposed trump card of this guide is of dubious merit. The "hidden" discoveries were few and far between, disappointing on the odd occasion I checked them out (I stopped after realizing that they weren't so special) and just not strong enough to hang the (title) concept of a travel book (series). Indeed I often found the 2004 version very dated and in the course of traveling, made far more interesting discoveries of my own. By contrast, "The Rough Guide" and "Top 10", both thin compact picture filled books with plenty of good maps and guides also contained far more recommendations of places to eat, stay and visit in a concise, coherent well layed out and easier to navigate manner that "Hidden Cancun & Yucatan" lacks. My girlfrined and I felt that they both immensely increased our interest in visiting various restaurants, Mayan sites, colonial towns, beaches, churches etc... In conjunction with the "Cadogan Yucatan" we were very well informed culturally, historically, visually and geographically. The 2 small pocket guides were excellent for walking about with when we left "Cadogan" and "Hidden" in the car - though we'd often bring "Cadogan" with us anyway because we couldn't stop reading it.

Another thing that I found grating and contrary to the "hidden" concept was the authors occasional statements of his personal preferences in side bars. Normally it's great to get another traveler's insights, but personally I found the actual comments annoying. For example, I strongly question how a writer appealing to people seeking out hidden and undiscovered corners of the Yucatan can suggest that Palya del Carmen's beach is his favorite on the Mayan Riviera. Maybe it was different when he was last there a couple of years ago. Another dated reference (or just downright crass) was his reference to the actual pueblo of Tulum as "a drab eye-blink off the highway, with a few stores, a taco shop and a palapa-roofed church". Instead we are treated to the authors name dropping of personalities he's rubbed shoulders with at Maya Tulum, a chic place on the beach. In fact the pueblo of Tulum is a fast growing little town with an impressively paved main street with many interesting shops including a large "Misik Artesanias" (another smaller one is on the beach) and the adjoining palapa-roofed "Charlie's". There are a couple of big bank branches (HSBC and Banamex) with ATM machines, a couple of laundromats, an excellent large supermarket at the entrance to town (opposite the road down to the beach). Get my point? This is a fast growing town that is trying to make itself interesting and attractive without making itself into another souless eurotrash hole like Palaye del Carmen. How long ago did Richard Harris write his review? Is he aware that a 4 lane road is being constructed between Tulum and Coba (and onto Valladolid) and an international airport in pre-construction there? This may be a particularly dramatic place for change but my point is that the book was often out of date and unfocused.
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on February 3, 2005
We just returned from the Yucatan and using Hidden Cancun. We found much of it was not up to date. I think the author visited 25 years ago, revisited a few sites recently and used much from his previous visit without checking it out throughly. We did not think this was a good traveling book.
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on February 6, 2013
I bought this book after discovering it at our local library. This is just the kind of travel guide I prefer as it tells me about places that are filled with charm and character and not homogenized for the masses.
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on February 18, 2006
I guess the "hidden" in the title suggested the author was familiar with the territory. So this was the only guide I took along on my recent trip to the Yucatan. Big mistake! A pre-trip reading made it this guide look worthwhile, but in actuality, it misinformed.

Take credit cards. Harris says, "Credit cards are just about as widely accepted in Mexico and Central America as they are in the United States." Has the author ever tried to use one in Tulum? Or even in the resort town of Akumal? The big hotels in Cancun and other places take them and a VERY few upmarket shops and restaurants do, but that's it. We couldn't even use ours at a gas station in Cancun.

And thinking you'll be able to navigate with the maps in the book is another mistake. The maps are inaccurate. The one of Cancun bears little resemblance to reality.

After a few days, I imagined the author having taken a hasty taxi ride through the Yucatan and jotting down "hidden" findings whenever the taxi left the main road.

A lot of research went into this book. But not all of it was on site and not all yielded accurate information. Harris writes: "Palenque was made famous by American adventurer and travel writer John Lloyd Stephens during his first expedition to Central America in 1837." Actually, Stephens and Frederick Catherwood first traveled and explored Coba.

Senior travelers are informed of Elderhostel trips, but told they must be 60 ( not 50) years old. This is being picky-picky, but when it's yet another of many inaccuracies (and you stupidly took along only this guide), it rankles.

A better, more accurate guidebook would have made our trip more pleasurable.
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on March 26, 2006
This book is lacking in the detail that many other guidebooks to the area offer. I used it for a trip to Cozumel, and apart from comparing restaurant reviews with those found in other sources, I found it lacking. For a better guide, I would pick the Moon guide to Cancun and Cozumel.
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on December 14, 2012
We found this book addressed our way of traveling and offered information not found in other travel guide of the region. We wanted to see authentic Yucatan, not Cancun and Cozumel. It was the basis for our itinerary planning.
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on April 25, 2005
I picked up this book in San Francisco on a stop over on my way to Cancun though I had read other books on the area and indeed had them with me, this book became my travel bible. Chocked full of off the beaten path destinations, and unsurpassed detail of the Mayan Ruins lead me on a great adventure. The advice enclosed is priceless the descriptions of Uxmal go into great detail of not only the site itself but also includes a history of the city
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