An old world in a new age this historically pre-Columbian Mayan walled city on the Yucatan Peninsula skirting the Caribbean Sea boasts for their gorgeous beaches, ancient ruins and beautifully preserved architecture. Tulum is known for it’s blue teal waters, relaxing secluded beaches and ancient ruins creating a romantic and secluded getaway. The Yucatan’s beautiful blue and teal waters, beaches that stretch on for miles, comfortable accommodations and delicious market fresh restaurants make it a must for your next Caribbean vacation. Get off the grid, get in some R&R by your self or with a partner, explore a new area, go on an adventure, swim in a fresh water cenote or maybe to go the all-inclusive route and literally do nothing.
Accessing Tulum is easy – fly into Cancun and catch a cab south. Tulum Pueblo, or city side, skirts the highway and allows for full access to bars, hotels and restaurants of all price ranges. Head down to the beach area or Hotel Zone for a more secluded experience and access to the Maya Ruins of Tulum. Down by the beach access there is a jungle side and the beach side, each featuring boutique shops, antique stores and traditional home good shops, jewelry makers, local restaurants that turn to hip nightclubs when the sun goes down, and hotels everywhere. Everything runs on generators, solar power and wind turbines, there is no electricity on the beach and the locals like it this way.
Before heading out we did some research on the area and picked a beautiful place to stay at the end of the beach strip –Rosa del Viento, made a list of which restaurants we wanted to try and made sure we could easily get a bike rental as we would not have a car. Websites like this one are great learning what to expect. One thing we quickly learned from reading Trip Advisor reviews of the area was that the Maya Rivera area had been plagued with the ever feared sargassum seaweed epidemic and the possibility of us having some wash ashore was likely. We didn’t let it stop us, we packed up our new swimsuits from Chubbies, grabbed some sunblock, bug spray, hats and minimal beach wear and took off.
We arrived in Cancun, Mexico mid-afternoon and arranged for the hotel car service to pick us up from the Airport and take us back to our hotel. A lot of hotels will offer this if you don’t want to rent a car, just bring US cash to pay. Our driver was a very sweet woman, she spoke little English and my hubby who is fluent in Spanish really wow’d her as they were able to conversate on the drive back to Tulum, which was just over an hour. On the way we did go through a few ‘checkpoints’ but never had to stop or be searched, it is simply traffic control and to deter the cartel. The police in Mexico are federal agents and look a little scary but really nothing to worry about. As we got closer and turned onto the main road down Tulum beach area we could smell the salty ocean air and then see… the seaweed. It was really everywhere, stretching for miles washed ashore on the beach and in some areas the hotels had shoveled it, piled over 5-6 feet high.
Our hotel was at the end of the beach strip. After a speed bump filled ride down the quaint street we ended at Rosa del Viento, a beautiful Italian run hotel/ bungalow getaway on the beach. Our room had a garden view with private patio, adorable hammocks out front and sandy pathways leading to the restaurant and best of all, the beach. That afternoon wasn’t so bad. The weather was pretty balmy, getting into the 90’s with 100% humidity. I am primary used to Hawaii beaches where its 70 and breezy so this was something quite the opposite. After getting settled in we had dinner in the main restautant, watched the sunset over the beached and laid around star gazing.
Breakfast at Rosa del Viento in the morning was beautiful overlooking our own personal beach. The easy sunlight and sweet sounds of the ocean current, fresh fruit presented with style, yummy Italian coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.
The weather was suprisingly hot for September, a scorching 89 degrees+ with 100 percent humidity. The beach out front of the hotel was covered in seaweed, and every morning a few workers would come out to shovel it all to one side to bury it in the sand… which was awesome becuase it smelled like rotting fish. Sadly the water was also filled with the sargassum and being in the water would have been refreshing if not so incredibly itchy. Thankfully the hotel had beautiful straw covered palapas on the beach, lounge chairs with pillows and waiters so we could relax and enjoy the view.
The hubs went over to check out the MangleX eco-hotel and Cenote across the street, the guy said we could rent paddlebaddle boards and swin around, that the cenote is in a mangrove and there were no snakes or aligators. We rented two paddleboards, put my phone in a waterproof case and jumped in. There was something about that mangrove, it just didnt feel right and I was reluctant to get, whereas the hubs jumped straight in without hesitation. The water was incredibly refreshing but the twisted roots of the mangrove forest and little spikes coming out of the water just creeped me out. We paddled down the river and eventually it opened up to a beautiful clearing. The Cenote opening was beautiful… Little did we know two days later we would meet someone who told us there IS an aligator that lives in the cenote! And they were surprised we didn’t see him as it comes out in the heat of the day. I was like WHAT! I knew there was something off about it.
Later that afternoon we rented bikes from the hotel and rode up the main road back toward the shops. Casa Banana was perfect for lunch, with a big open patio bar and outdoor wood ovens. Being on the jungle side of the beach now it was sweltering. We ordered a couple burgers, enjoyed a few Dos Equies, then rode around checking out some shops, grabbed a street ice cream and then rode back to the beach for more lounging.
Getting to Gran Cenote, or any of the Centoes was pretty easy, the hotel offers a variety of activities and daily tour groups but wanting to be on our own we just asked a cab driver out front of the hotel to take us. The driver was very polite and we were able to converse about our needs easily. As we left he tried to sell us on a few different Cenotes that were futher away, up to 45 min one way by cab but Gran Cenote was closer so we opted to stick with that. Upon arrival the cab driver said he would stay and wait for us outside and we could pay at the end, pretty trusting. (Apparently he never left, so we could see why the longer ride would make more sense as he was hoping to get a days rate out of us).
A Cenote is basically large sinkhole from where limestone bedrock dropped from underneeth exposing an underwater cavern with fresh groundwater well. Cenotes can take on various shapes and sizes ranging from open chasms to dark tunnels and caves filled with both staglagmites and stalagtights, and attract thousands of snorklers and Scuba divers per year. The Mexican state of Quintan Roo has the longest and deepest range of Caves within the state. Fish and turtles all live in the Cenote. It’s a little eerie at first but rent a snorkel and you get used to it pretty quick. At Gran Cenote the water was refreshing and cool around 65 degrees so being in for about 2 hours did us just right lowering our body temperature enough to go back to the boiling beach.
Later in the afternoon back from the cenote we hopped on the bikes and rode up to Cabanas La Luna. We had not intended to go here but was biking around looking for something to eat when a guy pulled in to their drive way, stopped and told us they have a greally good restaurant. He turned out to work there and showed us where we could lock up our bikes and where the bar was. Score! Again we were alone at the restaurant for most of the time with a great table over looking the beach and in the shade. The bartender made small talk with the hubbs and made us a couple of extra large pina coladas. We shared a guacamole and each ordered tacos, fish and beef.
On our way back we drove past a few shops stopping at the Coqui Coqui hotel, spa and perfumery, an antique-ish type shop admiring the art work and home goods; we attempted to check out Hartwoods but they were closed for the end of summer, and across the street were a few boutiques with beautiful jewlery from local artists. That night we ate at Casa Jaguar, a beautiful Mezcal bar tucked in the jungle side of the strip and had fresh scallops, a giant kale salad and more mezcal than we bargained for. The Cafe was delightful, candle lite with open seating and modern architecture with open overhanging patio, very friendly staff who wanted to learn about where we were from and what brought us there. She educated us on the different areas of Tulum and encouraged us to try a few new menu items. Had it been a little cooler we could have sat there for hours but with full bellies we biked back to our beach bungalow.
First thing in the morning we rode in to town to sample a little coffee shop called Mayalum. The owner was really friendly and spoke English, he was an american that traveled all over and landed in Tulum. When we came back to Rosa del Viento for breakfast the owner of the hotel had rescued an adorable baby turtle on the beach and was showing him off to all the guests during breakfast. Tulum has a large sea turtle population and restricted areas when hatching. Everyone was thrilled, they quickly took photos of the little cutie and made small talk with the owner. The rest of the day we spent relaxing on the beach, reading and snoozing, drinking and biking around town for one last round of captures and trinkets. The beach was very pleasant minus all the seaweed and I believe it has since been washed away and Tulum is back to being as beautiful as ever.
The next morning, day 5, we packed up, caught a cab back to Cancun and flew home. Tulum is a short hour and half plane ride from Austin, and was a fabulous little getaway. Happy to say we were able to experience this beautiful place, meet so many nice people and enjoy delicious food and relax. It is defiantly worth a visit and maybe next time we visit we can plan a trip to the Mayan Ruins, just when it’s a little cooler out.
I’ve been reading a lot of books about women traveling, if this is your style as well check out these books: The Lost Girls featured in photo above, Wanderlust, What I did while you were Breeding, Wild, About a Girl, (anything by Lindsey Kelk is just fun and easy to read), or for something more serious, The Girls from Carona del Mar.
Till next time… Adventure On, Y’all.