Day tripping, the travel type not the hallucinogen type, is like a box of chocolates. You never know what your gonna get. Sorry Forrest's Mama.
One trip might be easy and then next a bit trickier. The quality of transportation that you stumble upon could include buses, colectivos, combis, a mystery transportation or any combination could be used to reach your goal. Although this can be a part of fun and adventure of it all. Yes, you do a bit of research online but you must keep all options available and an open mind. There must be the willingness to accept any change that is beyond your control. "But it did not say that when I was reading it on the website" but never, if ever be apart of your lexicon. In the end, complications and changes can lead to something more interesting and a better story.
I went with my friend Ana to Dzibilchaltun, a Mayan Site which included both ruins and a Cenote. We took an UBER (stupid tourist) as it was only about 30 minutes from Merida. The site was nice enough, small but historically important. We spent a few hours exploring and taking photos. Ana needed photos, lots and lots of photos. She actually asked me to hold her purse once and I laughed out loud. She responsed with "Mexican Boys Do It" and I had to remind her I was not Mexican. She looked puzzled. I laughed, she frowned but we moved on. As with many Mayan sites, it was wide open and hot, Africa hot!
The trip back was a bit more fun than an UBER ride. Leaving the site we needed to get to the main road to flag down a bus or taxi, which would have been about a 20 minute walk. Not a huge issue but again it was crazy hot and my Mexican friend was starting to complain a bit about it. "Seriously, you are Mexican and are complaining about the heat" I asked. Again, an unhappy puzzled look was returned in my direction. As we left, one of the site security guards explained we could take a Moto or motorized scooter into the town of Dzibilchaltun where we could catch a local bus back to Merida. Sold! The Scooter cost 30 pesos and the bus back was 12 pesos each. Total trip was 54 pesos, about $3.35. The UBER was 250 pesos, $15.00. Still reasonable but with a bit of work you can save money when you travel allowing you to go further and longer. You just need to put in the effort. Plus the motor scooter was pretty cool.
Izamal, The yellow city, was an easy one hour bus ride from Merida. There is a secondary bus terminal in Merida on Calle 50 which was easy enough to find. Although the COVID safety at this terminal was the most extreme I have come across so far in Mexico. The land of "COVID, yeah whatever". I read quite a bit that the buses to Izamal were run down and a terrible ride. To that point I always take any review with a proverbial grain of salt. Reviews are subjective. For this bus, I think many of the traveler's expectation were pretty high for an $8/1 hour bus ride. Sure the buses were not all shiny and brand new like ADO. A little worn but it was clean, safe and modern, I did not see a chicken or goat anywhere. As I said, I take all reviews on anything with a grain of salt. Some expectations are pretty high and complaints are usually petty like "there was no soap or shampoo and the free breakfast was not very big" for a $10 a night hotel. Keep an open mind.
Izamal did not disappoint. I was greeted with the huge entrance to the Monastery which gave me great views of surrounding town. As I wandered I was greeted by a toothless old man selling oranges and I made eye contact. That was it. I figured what the hell and I bought a few (they were sour) and we chatted for a few minutes. With no teeth and am not sure if he was smashed or just did not have the ability to speak properly. As I was leaving he asked for more money. Don't make eye contact.
My next stop was Archaeological Zone of Izamal. It is larger than it looks and is short walk from the town square. I missed the entrance and actually climbed up the pyramid from the backside, to the amusement of the few tourists that we at the top and quite a few locals on the street. Once I found the top there was a great view of the surrounding area including the "yellow town" itself.
It was a nice town to just wander around and explore. There were few tourists and was told that is usually the case, which is amusing to me. An easy daytrip to such a great place.
Uxmal is an important Mayan site about an hour south of Merida and the second most visited site after Chitzen Itza. I met Michiko at the hotel earlier in the day then bumped into her at a local bakery. She was getting snacks for her trip to Uxmal the next day so I invited myself along which she happily agreed. She is a Digital Normad working for the Japanese portals of Booking.com, AirBnB, Hotel.com and a few other aggregators. She has traveled extensively and was really interesting to chat with. We ended up hanging out a quite a bit over three days, as you do.
At the end of the tour of the site we headed back to the highway to wait an hour and half for the bus that would be coming along. There were about a dozen or so other waiting so there were lots of hellos and easy conversations about travel. A Taxi/Van pulled up offering a ride and someone had the idea that they had read you could get a taxi to the Lazaro Caderas, the next town up the road on the way back to Merida. From there, there are more buses leaving to Merida. We had been waiting about 45 minutes. I looked at Michiko and it was obvious, we both were going to wait. We had our return ticket. So, off about 8 of them went, crammed into the van, on the way to find a quicker bus. The final warning to us was that the bus would be coming from Campeche and would be full, we would probably have to stand the entire way. We waved good-bye
Our bus arrived about 15 minutes later, almost empty and we merrily boarded and were back in Merida within an hour. The 8 of us who waited smiling knowingly that the others were going to get to Merida after us.