Tulum, Mexico: A Vision of Paradise
January 1, 1970
by Dan Baker
Welcome to Tulum!
Beaches, Cenotes and Mayan Ruins in Mexico…
Tulum was one of the first places I visited in Mexico and it has stayed with me as one of my favourites. Just down the coast from Cancun, it has a lot to offer anyone, with crystal clear waters and champaign coloured beaches, fantastic looking Mayan ruins, cave diving and Cenotes being some of it’s highlights.
Where to stay…
I arrived in Tulum fairly late in the evening by bus and quickly grabbed a collectivo from the bus station out to my hostel, Lobo Inn. Which, by the way, was one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in. A bed in their 14 bed dorm cost $10 a night, and were plenty comfy. It had a great atmosphere and despite being out from the town, it was close to the ruins and beaches. The staff are really friendly and helpful. One of them even gave out cheap haircuts. The free breakfast was incredible, changing everyday, and you could rent a bike for free whilst you stayed. I couldn’t give the place a stronger recommendation, and for $10 a night, it was ideal for a budget stay in Tulum.
Tulum’s Mayan ruins…
If you only do one thing whilst you are visiting Tulum, make sure it’s the Mayan ruins. They are a 15 minute walk from the hostel, or a much shorter bike ride, and in the same direction of the public beaches. If you decided to stay in a hostel in town then you can get one of the many collectivos that run back and forth. Try and leave early, you will miss the wait to get in, plus avoid the midday sun. And make sure to bring plenty of water, otherwise you will have to pay for the overpriced bottles on sale passed the gate.
Always one to ignore my own advice, I left the hostel much later then I had planned so there was a bit of a wait to get in. Eventually I reached the front and purchased a ticket for 65 Pesos, which is very reasonable considering how impressive the ruins are, but I’m getting ahead of myself. After picking up one of those pre-mentioned expensive bottles of water I headed in.
Following a short path leads to the exterior wall of the town, which was built for both defensive purposes and to segregate the sacred area of the town from the general residential areas. The wall ran along three sides of the town, leaving the side facing the sea exposed, and had an irregular height, keeping with the natural contours of the land.
Once I had breached the wall I headed up a path that opens up on top of a hill, overlooking the coast. Crystal clear water sparkled in the sun light. Those Mayans sure did know their real estate, getting some nice beach front property. The main buildings were situated on top of the hill, overlooking the rest of the settlement.
The first building I came to was the casa del cenote. A fairly large house that was built above a cave entrance covering a cenote. Next along was a small temple, the temple of the god of the wind, with a circular base with a cube building sitting on top. The temple was built overlooking Tulum’s sea entrance bay, so you had a pretty amazing view of the sea and the town from there.
Next I headed back down to the lower level. Here you could walk on the grass in amongst the ruined foundations of houses, scattered around the bigger ‘grand platforms’. Tulum was a thriving trade centre before the arrival of the Spanish, and you can get a sense of this grandeur from the Castillo, or castle, which sits atop a 12 metre cliff, overlooking everything with a regal dignity.
Down from the Castillo is the temple of Frescoes, a well preserved and incredibly interesting building. Inside you can just make out a mural, made up of three sections. The first part represents the world of the dead, the middle is the world of the living and the final piece is dedicated to the gods.
After you have finished taking in the splendor of the ruins, head down to the small beach that you can enjoy. There is also an area that is preserved for sea turtles, which is nice. I spent a couple of hours at the ruins, you could see it in less or stay longer and enjoy the beach. But I really enjoyed my time there and would strongly recommend a visit to anyone who is in the area. Of course make sure you get there early, the place opens at 8am and costs 65 Pesos to enter.
Cenotes and Beaches…
On my last day in Tulum I decided to visit the casa cenote with one of the girls I met at the hostel. After impressing everyone with my incredibly white legs we rented some free bikes from the hostel and headed out. Of course it had been some time since I had ridden one, and I found it a bit of a struggle at first. It eventually started to come back to me and I, rather ungainly, proceeded to peddle after her.
Just as the ache in my legs began to reach a new level of discomfort we reached our destination and it was well worth the effort. We locked the bikes up and went to take a look at what had brought us all the way out here.
The cenote was beautiful, a mix of greens and blues that seemed to go down forever. The water was crystal clear and you could see the schools of fish swimming around it. A group were heading in with diving gear, which was unfortunate timing as they obscured the view somewhat. It was 70 pesos to go in, plus renting snorkelling gear.
Tulum is also well known for it’s beautiful beaches, something we also took advantage of. We decided to go off road and force our way through the thin strip of jungle that separated the road and the beach. It took some effort, skirting around the mangroves and pushing great fan palms aside, but eventually we reached a small clearing near the edge that provided a great view of the beach and sea.
If you didn’t look to your right, towards the tourist houses, you could pretend you were on a deserted island it was that secluded. The water still had that crystal clarity from before, and the champagne coloured sand felt great between my toes.
We headed in for a swim, and the water was lovely. The tide was virtually non existent, because of the natural bay the beach formed, and the water was warm, making it a very pleasant experience. We were joined by a school of fish bursting above the surface of the water repeatedly.
After our swim we sat on the beach and waited for the sun to set. To make the moment even more amazing, I heard a sound of something breaking up from the water and managed to catch sight of a turtle coming up for air. We managed to see two of them coming up every now and again. It was a really nice treat to end the day on.
Travelling is such a wonderful experience, full of amazing sights and lovely people, and that day still stands out now as a particular spectacular one. That beach really was a vision of paradise and despite the aches from the bike that lasted the next two days, it was well worth the trip.