Places

Sand, Water, and Ruins| Tulum, Mexico

We flew into Cancun during the pinnacle of Spring Break. Looking to avoid the Girls Gone Wild, MTV-style of debauchery, we quickly boarded an ADO bus towards Tulum. Tulum is known for its well-preserved Mayan ruins on the beach, picturesque beaches, and a litany of enchanting cenotes nearby. It is no wonder that this little town is a haven for young backpackers.

Pueblo Tulum, or the town, is essentially one long main road. After arriving by bus, we headed towards the “new part of town”, aka the undeveloped area, where our hostel was located. Our hostel was very green and full of hippie vibes.

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view of new, undeveloped area
El Jardin de Frida
El Jardin de Frida
breakfast area
breakfast area

You can’t go to Tulum and miss out on the ruins, which are featured in every quintessential photo of Tulum. And for good reason. The juxtaposition of the Mayan ruins rising out of the cliffs against the backdrop of turquoise waters is truly breathtaking, in photos and in person.

To get there from the town, you can hop onto a collectivo, or local bus for 20 pesos (less than $2) which will take you all the way down to the end of the town where the ruins and beaches are located. From there you can either take a 10 min. walk or take a train for another 20 pesos to the entrance of the ruins (the ticket is good for your return trip as well). The ticket to enter the ruins is 59 pesos per person and can be bought at the taquilla or ticket booth right at the entrance.

Note: When you first get off the bus, there will be booths saying “Information Tours”, and we stopped at it thinking that they were operated by the Tulum ruins themselves and had information for tourists. However, these are tour companies trying to sign people up for guides and snorkel trips. We ended up booking a snorkel trip with them later, which turned out to be very enjoyable, but I did feel a bit tricked by the name.

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one is the loneliest number
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entrance ticket. for all the ruins, there is usually a discounted price for locals

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Tulum (meaning wall) is the only Mayan city that was built on the coast. Admittedly, we were only able to look around the ruins and read a few plaques since we didn’t hire a tour guide. We probably missed out on a lot of interesting information that would have transformed our view, however, we were only able to marvel at the photogenic nature of the ruins during this visit. We will post about the different ruins we saw in the Yucatan, but I think hiring a tour guide at Chichen Itza and learning about the different fact nuggets behind the history made the visit so much more meaningful. If Tulum is the only Mayan ruin you’re visiting, I wholly recommend shelling out dinero for a guide.

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lots of iguanas posing around the ruins
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this cove was blocked off to tourists at this time. someone informed us that it was turtle season, and there were baby turtles hatching in this area

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stairs from the ruins to access the white sand beach

The ruins will take you about 45 minutes to an hour. After exiting the site, you can go down a road to the left that leads you to all the beaches. It was a tad confusing finding the beach our first go around because you walk down this road for a good 15 minutes with no beach in sight, but only the sound of waves tantalizing you.

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The beaches were little slices of heaven as promised. One of the people at the fake information booth/tour sellers told us that Playa Paraiso was named on of the top five beaches in the world. This is unconfirmed. However, they were indeed beautiful, with soft white sand and water that was a luscious shade between turquoise and jade. The water is also very clear, as we went snorkeling in this area the next day and it was full of amazing coral and fish.

Playa Pescadores or Fishermen's Beach
Playa Pescados
fútbol en la playa
fútbol en la playa

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There was also a campground full of tents behind these coconut trees which looked like it could be great fun. The luxury resorts and swanky hotels are concentrated by the beach, but not to the point of commercialization that warrants being labeled “Hotel Zone” such as is in Cancun. If you’re looking for a quieter beach getaway in the Maya Riviera, I think Tulum can deliver exactly that and more.

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