Waking up at 7am in island paradise is not easy but it was time to leave and head for mainland. After brekky (huevos a la mexicana) we took the ferry back over to Puerto Juarez in Cancun. From the port we hailed a cab to the central bus station (around 10 mins away) where we needed to catch a bus to Tulum. The bus station was fairly easy to navigate, for 170 pesos each we hopped on a big air-conditioned ADO coach with seats that reclined back into almost sleeping position. The 2hr 30 min journey was comfy and fairly quick, it felt like no time at all!
Tulum was our second stop, 5 nights on the beach that was also a base for the sightseeing part of our trip. The bus dropped us inland so we took another cab 10 mins to the beach (far too hot to walk!!) and we were at the little eco hotel by 12pm. We had a ground floor shack literally a stones throw from the beach, no need for shoes here! We could see the sea from our window and all for £70 a night. The hotel was powered by wind and solar energy, neat huh? The downside to this was no air con, which we didn’t think would be an issue at first but its absence was an absolute nightmare at night. Downing tools we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, which (for me) wasn’t as good as Isla Mujeres, (huge waves, lots of seaweed in the water, lotsssss) but the beach was quiet, semi-private and had comfy beds to relax on. Everything was going swimmingly on day 1, until one of us managed to get a bottle top lodged in the sink. I’ll skip the details but we basically broke the sink a bit and stunk the room out with the odour of raw sewage. Yummmmy. Eventually it was fixed (by the poor lady on reception..) In terms of nightlife, apart from waking up the hotel staff with sink issues, there isn’t much here. This area of Tulum is not party party, for that you’d need to stay in-town – a few restaurants and a couple of bars and that’s it! Mucho relax-o.
The first night’s sleep, and every subsequent sleep in Tulum were terrible. 29 degrees at night with no air con, relying only on a ceiling fan that just moved hot air around and didn’t cool it, meant that it was a sweatbox. We couldn’t leave the door open for 1 main reason: unwanted visitors. Like mosquitos, or lizards or the night guard, (he’d probably run a mile anyway if he’d seen our sweaty asses.) There was literally no way to get cool; the gentle sea breeze was still 29 degrees!! Don’t get me wrong, I love nature and being all eco and stuff, but this was tooooo much. Fortunately this hotel has breakfast included, so after each crap night’s sleep at least we didn’t have far to go for brekky (restaurant on the beach) and we all know how much I love Mexican eggs!! Don’t get me wrong, I’d still recommend the hotel – but maybe in the winter.
So the thing to do in Tulum is rent bikes and go cycling along the coastal road. For 200 pesos each (£9) we hired a bike each for 24 hours and it was awesome. We cycled from our hotel up the coast on a purpose-built cycle path and then we veered off to cycle along the road toward Tulum ruins. Having the freedom of our own transport was great, until then we had to rely on other people ferrying us around all the time, but finally we could stop wherever we liked! The beaches along the coast were beautiful, long stretches of white sand as far as the eye could see; we stopped for a swim (cycling in 31+ degree heat is not for the faint hearted!) to cool down.
We continued on our bikes to the Tulum ruins, parking up just outside. The entrance fee is 70 pesos, (£3.20) glad to see Mexico isn’t exploiting tourist attractions by charging extortionate entrance fees (London must learn!) Walking around Mayan ruins in that heat was really hard with almost zero shade, plus there were iguanas absolutely everywhere.
I’m not going to go into Mayan history, (don’t want to butcher it) but they seem very interesting from what we learned walking around the ancient ruins (and additional googling). Loadssss of human sacrifices to the Mayan gods, ripping hearts out and putting them on top of columns, cool huh? There weren’t many signs around the site to read, so without a guide it’s near impossible to know what the ruins are specifically. Definitely suggest getting a guide, or tagging along to a group tour to understand what’s going on. The best bit about the ruins was the little beach nestled next to the main temple, it was packed full of people cooling down in the waves from the intense heat. I’ve never been to an archaeological site with a beach included in the ticket price before! The breeze along the beach and the cool water were exactly what we needed before continuing our cycling adventure.
After lunch in a restaurant where the portion of ceviche for 1 person could feed a family of 4, we cycled back along the coastal road, past our hotel to a long stretch of beach just south of our hotel. Along that particular stretch, the waves were not as strong as the other beaches; perfect for lil me who loves to lie in water that laps the shore. We rested our legs lying in rock pools, had a look around for tropical fish, before heading back to the hotel for dinner.
The following day we headed to Chichen Itza, (it was an epic day so there’s a separate blog post for it, including how I fell and twisted my ankle..)
To recover from our long Chichen Itza tour, we spent all day at the beach by our hotel. We literally did nothing. Nothing. The furthest we went was across the road for dinner. I can’t remember the last time I’d been that lazy, being a tourist is tough work!
Our final day in Tulum was somewhat subdued due to a bout of sickness that hit my bf, a 24-hour bug type deal of nausea/dizziness/feeling week type combo. We had loosely planned to go to Coba for the day to see some more ruins (ones you can actually walk on this time). I contemplated going alone by taking the ADO bus from Tulum bus station to Coba and back again (cheapest and most convenient way to go by far), but it wouldn’t have been the same (soppy me – WHO AM I?!). So instead I rented a bike and decided to stay local, check out Tulum a bit more and then be home in a few hours to look after the boyf like the good gf I am… (HA)
Instead of cycling north to the ruins as we had previously done, I decided to cycle south along the coastline, positively buzzing for my lil solo adventure. I don’t think I mentioned before, but the bikes here are weird, they don’t have breaks on the handlebars. Instead, you have to back pedal to break, which is really tricky at first and difficult to remember to do. Within 3 mins of hiring the bike, I came to a hump in the road, which I thought I took quite slowly, but the bike juddered and my (SpongeBob) towel fell out of the basket and into the middle of the road. I panicked slightly and tried to stop, forgot about the whole break situ and crashed into a fence on the side of the road. I was cycling slowly so it was somewhat of a pathetic crash, but I cut my knee (I was brave, I didn’t cry!!) then had to run back to the middle of the road to retrieve my towel before it got run over – I couldn’t do that to SB. Pride slightly hurt but intact, I carried on cycling south for a good 5km or so, looking for little beaches to park up at. At first, there were a few public beaches, but before long you couldn’t see the shoreline anymore due to row after row after row of beach clubs, hotels and properties that guard the shoreline and claim the beach as their own. I carried on cycling until on the right hand side there was a sign for a cenote. I stopped and parked up my bike to find out more. So for 110 pesos (around a fiver) I could go in the cenote, swim and rent a kayak for as long as I wanted. This seemed like an extremely fair deal so I paid, the man gave me a paddle, pointed left and said “down there”. With some trepidation I followed a wooden path down into the jungle with just the paddle and my dusty towel. At the end of the path was a wooden floating platform with 3 kayaks on it on the cenote, which looked more like a lake. As soon as I stepped onto the platform it wobbled, how the hell was I supposed to get into a kayak and get in the water?! I stood there for a moment assessing my options (which there were was one; jump into the water, pull the kayak off the platform then somehow with superhuman strength pull myself up into it, no joke). Turning to my right I saw a sign saying that “swimming was at your own risk”, and a mural depiction of the wildlife at the cenote, next to a MASSIVE hand painted picture of a crocodile. I was down to zero options. Thankfully a family came along the path to the platform with towels and swimming stuff, so I asked them if they had done the whole kayak thing here before. Fortunately the dad helped me get the kayak into the water, and then stabilised it whilst I slid/crashed into the seat (backwards I may add) and I was off! I tried not to think about how I would get out.
I kayaked around the cenote once, and then I was a bit knackered and really hot so I paddled into the middle and had a lie down. In terms of wildlife, I kept my eyes peeled for crocs but I didn’t see any (still didn’t swim though) I did see a few different species of bird and there were mozzys everywhere (they totally count). In the 1.5hours I spent rowing and lying down, I didn’t see a single fish but I’m sure the freshwater cenote was full of them. Feeling like I’d had a bit of an upper body work out and had topped up my tan, I headed back to the floating deck thing and managed to disembark the kayak far more gracefully then when I got in.
After a quick costume change I continued to cycle south, and a few mins after leaving the cenote I entered Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, a huge national park that goes on for 50+ km down toward Belize. Obvs I wasn’t going to cycle that far on a push bike that I’d already fallen off of, but I decided to go in and check it out anyway. Entering the park I had to sign in with security; my name, nationality and what I was going into the park for. ‘Playa’ seemed pretty reasonable (beach) but the guard laughed when he saw it and asked if I had enough water… I rode off to the sound of him chuckling and I wasn’t all too sure why..
The road was pretty hellish I have to say, it was dusty and long and straight and absolutely nothing to see in the blistering sun for kilometres on end. I was the only bike on the road, overtaken a handful of times by cars going past wayy to fast. No speed restrictions here. I stopped a few times just to check google maps that I hadn’t fallen off the face of the earth (I mean if offline maps still worked I had to be somewhere right?). I started to realise why the guard was chuckling, “stupid gringa” he must have thought, he could have warned me!! After what seemed like forever, I finally got to a beachy area and I stopped my bike immediately in the shade to recover. The beach was completely fenced off, but there was a little shack by the side of the road with two guys outside. I went over and asked in terrible Spanish/English tourist language if I it was possible to get to the beach here, to which they said no – it was all private land. Disappointment must have shown all over my face (all that cycling for nothing!) as well as sunburn from the cycle, so after hesitating they followed up to say I could sneak around the side of their shack down a path to the sea. Hallelujah! I must have looked both terrible and elated because they had a look of pity and amusement all over their faces as I headed off.
The private beach was beautiful, crisp white unspoilt sand and I was completely alone apart from a couple of pelicans diving into the ocean looking for lunch. Further up the coast there were a few people in the water – must have been a special hotel or some kind of retreat because there was literally nothing in this part of Mexico. I felt like Robinson Crusoe or some kind of explorer walking on this part of land for the first time, the beach felt like mine and it was totally worth the horrendous cycle. To top it off, all I needed was a beer and a burrito and I would have been in heaven. And my poorly bf. Obvs. I couldn’t have any of those so I spent around an hour on the beach mucking around in the water, watching the pelicans, taking loads of dumb photos and having a lie down – important cycle recovery stuff. It was now wayyy past 3pm and I hadn’t had anything to eat since brekky, hanger was brewing and I needed to get back to civilisation immediately.
Cycling back through the park didn’t seem so bad knowing I was moving toward food rather than from away from it, I peddled my heart out down that dirt track and decided I’d eat at the first place I saw, I was MARVIN. I’m picky about where I eat (not what I eat) so this didn’t end up happening but eventually by the side of the road I saw this little pirate-y looking sign swinging in the gentle sea breeze and loads of bikes and motorbikes parked outside. I couldn’t see anything else because you had to walk down a narrow path to the place on the beach. I found somewhere to park by bike (the only room was behind some bin bags – classy) and headed down the path to see what was going on. The path came out to a taco bar on the beach jam packed full of all sorts of people eating food and drinking beer – it was like a slice of hippy heaven. I went straight to the nearest waiter and ordered fish tacos and a beer and then nabbed a blow up bed on the beach and had a lie down whilst waiting for the food to arrive. Turns out the bar I was in was called Taqueria La Eufemia – DEFINITELY GO IF YOU’RE IN TULUM! Having strolled in hot, tired and hangry I ended up having a whale of a time, I even made new friends with some muchachos from Play del Carmen who own a hip hop clothing shop and were covered in tattoos. Def think they were in some gang, but they had a husky called Igloo so naturally I became besties with the dog and wasn’t concerned by this at all. I ended up staying much later than I should have done, (like 6pm – bad SJ not looking after her bf) and my ill other half even tried to make it to the bar because I’d been out all day! Doh (we all played spot the gringo boyfriend for half an hour which was fun). Eventually I had to drag myself away from the bar, which was sure to liven up as the sun went down but I’d been out alllllllllll day and needed water and sleep. I cycled back to the bike shop and then back to the hotel – the final day was random and brilliant and left me feeing sad to leave Tulum the next day. There’s a lot more to Tulum than the touristy stuff, you just have to seek it out/stumble upon it….