Don’t hate the Playa… hate the demand for parties, over developed beaches and resorts.
Ok so Playa wasn’t THAT bad, but it certainly wasn’t what we were looking for on our travels. Without hesitation, we packed up, loaded up and jumped into a collectivo toward our next destination. One hour south of Playa Del Carmen, along HWY 307, we reached Tulum.
Tulum sign @ Tulum
Tulum, meaning “wall” or “the walled city” which was named after the ruins which are surrounded by… a wall, surprisingly enough. Tulum was one of Mexico’s last ancient cities to be abandoned, around 75 years after the spanish conquest.
At first glance, Tulum looks a little off putting being right on the highway, but lined with cheap eats, drinks and sleeps, along with the absence of the over developed tourist attractions we were pretty happy.
A short walk to our accomodation RevolECO. An eco-minded backpackers who have only been up and running for a month and a half. They have built everything out of recycled materials, including the bunks and lockers, which are built from wooden pallets. Beg bugs are going to be a nightmare for these guys in the future… but the lockers were big, the bunks comfortable and the bathroom facilities clean and spacious! The outside area was a really chilled out area… like REALLY chilled out. The smell of Mary Jane filled the air, so we spent a lot of our time out exploring! This explained a majority of the travellers here, sleepy, hippy and the friendliest bunch of people around. And boy, they cooked up massive feasts, what a place to have the munchies!
We headed out to find some bikes. Our hostel manager highly recommended us a cheap and easy rental place- “El Tigre de Tulum” ($80MX/day). We rented fluorescent, retro 80s bikes. Probably our favourite bikes of all time. They only had two left and as we were renting over night for 2 days, the guy kept asking if we wanted to come back and swap them. No chance! They were amazing! Plus, who needs gears or brakes?!
So off we pedalled. Just, 4km – 15 minutes down the busy, flat, under construction road with snorkel and togs in tow. We arrived at Gran Cenote. A limestone sinkhole that you can snorkel and dive in. We jumped into the crystal clear water and explored our way through little caves and followed around some terrapins and fish.
The Maya believed that these Cenotes were the gateways to the other world and that the rain god, Chaak, resided in these caves and natural wells.
Alice or stalactite? @ Gran Cenote, Tulum
Entrance into the Gran Cenote @ Gran Cenote, Tulum
We headed to the supermarket to pick up some dinner supplies and some snackitos for the busy day in the ruins tomorrow. On our way we pulled out our phone to check directions when a man on the street stopped and helped us find our way, giving us the run down on both supermarkets and their features and benefits. Genuinely lovely and helpful, like everyone we have met.
We picked up some pasta, sauce, veggies etc to have a break from our Mexican diet.
Alice’s cooking night was tomato paste pasta with cheese that refused to melt. Delicious. The next night however, I took over… watered down the tomato paste that belonged as a pizza base and melted cheese into it. Actually delicious. Alice is off cooking duties… again.
Up early the next morning for Tulum ruins and literally no one in the hostel was awake, which wasn’t a big surprise. We jumped on our bikes and made our 2km journey to the ruins. Getting there for opening made it feel like we were the only ones within the city. Being the first ruins we had seen, we were awestruck. These ruins sat atop a cliff over a beautiful white sand beach looking out to the Caribbean ocean. The ruins took around an hour to slowly walk around, and by the time we left, the car park was full of buses.
Sunrise through the ruins @ Tulum ruins
Face of a Mayan god @Tulum ruins
View of the beach and Caribbean Sea @ Tulum ruins, Tulum
We decided we hadn’t had enough of ruins, so jumped into a collectivo (after waiting slightly in the wrong place for half an hour…) and headed 48km north west of Tulum, to a classic Maya City that is set deep tropical jungle, Cobá.
Cobá is thought to be more linked with Tikal in Guatemala than Tulum or Chichén Itzá. It was home to 55,000 Maya at its peak (AD 800-1100). Talking of peaks… we climbed one Maya pyramid called Nohoch Mul (big mound). At 42 metres tall, it is the second tallest Maya structure on the Yucatán Peninsula. I got a little vertigo and a dirty butt from going down the old fashion “butt slide/cling on to the rope for dear life” way while five year olds overtook me laughing way. Meanwhile, Alice got told off for going to close to the edge (by me).
Butterfly @ Cobá ruins
42 meter high pyramid @ Cobá ruins
The site here was so big, that people would hire bikes from inside the gate, or hire a human powered bike tuk-tuk. We decided to use the walk to start burning off the quesadilla breakfasts and ten taco dinners we had been having.
Back in Tulum we grabbed our funky 80s bike and spent the afternoon on the white beaches.
All in all, the day of ruins was educational and breathtaking, with a slight bruise to the bum.
Back at the hostel, for our last night. We were packing up our bags and a bearded man with an unmistakable accent asked how our day was. We met our first kiwi!!We had dinner and a good yarn with kiwis Steph and Jason and exchanged details to catch up hopefully down the track.
We loved Tulum. A perfect mixture of beautiful beaches, incredible cenotes, relaxed (maybe too much so) vibe and the breathtaking ruins. We will be back Tulum!