Most know the Mayan Riviera for Spring Break’s ultimate destination: Can Cun; but just 45 minutes south is a little town known as Playa del Carmen, which is one of my favourite places to go for a chilled-out beachside vacation (read about it here).
Another 45 minutes further south is somewhere even more incredible – Tulum, one of the most-visited Mayan ruin sites.
“Tulum is one of the earliest resorts in Mexico, offering a place of worship and solitude for the Mayan Kings, clergy and Gods in early times. The tropical beach backdrop is the main attraction of this picturesque, much-visited small ruin on the shore of the Caribbean Sea. Shortly after your arrival, you will understand why early Mayans picked this beautiful place to relax.” – Wikitravel
Tulum is broken into three areas: the town (Tulum Pueblo), the beach (Tulum Playa), and the ruins (Tulum Ruinas). Although, I would add in a fourth: the cenotes.
From what I’ve seen of Tulum Pueblo, it’s pretty dusty and ugly. It sits on the highway, “making it feel more like a truck stop than a tropical paradise.” (Lonely Planet) This area is purely for necessities at the supermarket, and/or cheap meals and accommodation.
The pure white Caribbean beaches are lined with a mass of fancy spa resorts, boutique hotels, as well as cabana-style lodging for an affordable stay. This is one of the most stunning beaches I have ever seen.
The locals take great pride in trying to preserve the beauty of this area, so most places are eco-friendly and may not provide electricity past midnight. Also remember that toilet paper can not be flushed, which you’ll find is the case in most Mexican beach towns.
Tulum Ruinas is the archaeological site where the Maya ruins stand, from the days when Tulum served as a point of defence. Every tourist in Tulum visits this site, so be warned: it gets busy. I suggest that you stay in Tulum overnight, and then visit the ruins early in the morning before all the tour buses arrive.
Not only is the site breathtakingly beautiful, with the ruins perched atop of a cliff that sits over the turquoise waters, but the energy here is exceptionally peaceful – no matter how busy it gets.
A cenote (pronounced seh-NOH-teh) is the opening of a site of rainwater that collects in underground caves and tunnels. They are fresh water, so often quite cold, and most allow for swimming and diving, with major sites renting the required equipment.
There are many cenotes in and around Tulum. Most are great to take a refreshing swim and snorkel, while other deeper sites are a haven for divers. We hired a car from Playa del Carmen and stopped at Cenote Azul along the highway to Tulum. The sites are easily missed, with most having nothing more than a small handmade sign stuck in the ground.
Where to Stay in Tulum?
If you want to splurge on your visit to Tulum, then I HIGHLY recommend Ana y Jose Charming Hotel and Spa. This hotel is absolutely incredible, and ideal for a romantic getaway. My words cannot describe how incredible it is, so I will let the pictures do the talking: