Tulum

Posted from Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Tulum mural

We left Cancun around 11 a.m., not really in a rush to get to Tulum, but not wanting to waste the entire day. Tulum is about two to three hours from Cancun and is synonymous with hippies, yoga retreats, and people who live on spirituality and once a week showers.

How to get there

We took a colectivo for $36 MXN to Playa del Carmen where we easily switched to another colectivo to Tulum for $45 MXN – this was the beginning of us noticing prices going up. The ride took under three hours as the drivers drive like mad men. No one wears seat belts. I don’t even think the van had them. We asked the driver to let us off at the Scotiabank (which by the way is super expensive to draw money from. Go to the HSBC in town, way cheaper.) From there it was an easy walk to our hostel.

Tulum, from the main built up area, is a bit nicer than Cancun, definitely smaller, but much pricier. While it was always very easy to eat cheaply in Canucn, like $20 MXN tacos, those food stalls didn’t usually emerge until evening.

Our hostel, Day Tripper Hostel ($220 MXN/night) was conveniently located a few side streets up from the main strip. The owner, a Canadian guy, was really kind and helpful, providing us with lots of tips for our future travels.

What to do

On our second day we rented bicycles ($100 MXN) and went to the ruins. Our original plan was to leave early in the morning so we could miss the crowds, but as it goes with planning early mornings while on holiday, some of us slept in. We took the long way to the ruins, rather than the highway. This allowed us to pass by the beaches – which you can’t really see from the road.

When we arrived, the Mayan City was overcome with tourists. But it was still worth it. The ancient seaside settlement is rare, the signs say – the Mayans preferring to remain more hidden. But this city served as an important trade port.

Tulum Ruins

The ruins in Tulum are impressive and spread over a rather large area.

beach lunch

After our visit, and still hot from our bike ride, we ate lunch in a tiny cafe close to the ocean and a public beach. There really are no bad photos when you eat at a place like this.

With daylight hours remaining, we opted to bike to Grand Cenote (150 MXN) – a cavern which is part of a large system of fresh water caves of which were only really mapped starting in 1986. We had to bike down the highway to get there, and it started to pour. Cars and trucks passing us likely thought we were bonkers. 

The water is refreshing – which is a gentle word for cool, but it’s worth it when you get to follow a turtle swimming around, see bats flying past, or watch fishes zip past your legs. I didn’t rent a snorkel and mask ($80 MXN, and lockers are also available for $40 MXN) but I wish I had. The cave systems continue well under what is visible on the surface. Scuba diving is available in some of the cenotes. After 40 minutes swimming around I think my core body temperature finally cooled enough and the edge of heat stroke I was toeing went away. 

Grand Cenote

The cenotes in Tulum and surrounding area are beautiful and refreshing.

That night we all went to bed exhausted, from the bike ride, the heat, and the swim. In the morning me and my travel companion opted to leave from Tulum on the night bus to Belize City. The owner of the hostel allowed us to hang out until 11 p.m. as our bus didn’t depart until 12:30 a.m. We spent the majority of the day catching up on writing, surfing the Internet and walking around Tulum taking in a bit more of the city’s vibe.

Tulum sunset

The sunsets from the rooftop of the hostel were gorgeous.

Is it worth it?

My opinion of Tulum is that it’s a smaller version of Cancun – and not quite as touristy. It has a hotel zone – so this may change in the future as more and more businesses move in. This shift is also presented in the cost of things. Sarongs were more than $20 USD, for example. But the vibe is a lot more chilled out and down to earth – this could be because of the large number of people who come here to stay for months on end – no worries. 

Now the journey to Caye Caulker, Belize begins.

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