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Traveling Mexico – Yucatan
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Location: Yucatan peninsula, Quintana Roo.
Tulum Mexico is the combination of beach (coastline), archeological zone (Mayan ruins), and town (pueblo). You could say that there are three distinct zones making up what people commonly refer to as Tulum.
The further away from Cancun you get, the more laid back things become. Tulum is a perfect example of this. There is only one road heading to Tulum from the north – it’s Mexican Hwy 307. By car, Tulum is about 1’15” from Cancun and only about 25 minutes drive from Playa del Carmen.
Tulum is a small town at the very end of the Mayan Riviera. For many years Tulum remained as a quiet fishermen village right on the Caribbean coast with less than 10,000 inhabitants. It has one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been, with miles of white sands, turquoise waters, lush jungles and Mayan Ruins. It is a heaven for those trying to escape of the noisy and crowded beaches and big All inclusive resorts.
Called to be the Next Playa del Carmen (the next touristic development after Cancun and Playa in the Mayan Riviera). Tulum is trying to preserve its eco-archeological character and avoid the massive touristic projects built in other Mexican beaches.
This is where many of the locals live who work in the nearby resorts and hotels. Many support workers such as bus drivers and construction workers live here as well. It is a diverse population with everything from computer programmers to dive instructors.
Tulum Main Street – where the restaurants are
You enter Tulum Pueblo on Hwy 307, which turns into Avenue Tulum. Avenue Tulum runs right through Tulum Pueblo then turns again into Highway 307 as it exits town. Along both sides of Avenue Tulum as it runs through town, are side roads paved in cobblestones. These side boulevards are one-way traffic. The west side runs South and the East side runs North. There is parking along the Avenue Tulum side boulevards and parking along some of the side streets. Do not park in a no-parking zone.
Tulum was an ancient sacred Mayan City located at the southern tip of the Riviera Maya… just a few miles before the main entrance to the Siaan Kaan Biosphere Reserve. Today Tulum is a very small town and the hotel zone consists in a few cabañas hotels spread along the Caribbean coast. No big developments are allowed in the Tulum Beach zone. Nevertheless, there are some All inclusive hotels that are trying to get a piece of this heaven.
Tulum has been doing well trying to keep its natural charm so far, and a typical day in Tulum is to wake up with a sunrise yoga session at the beach, a breakfast while feeling the early beach breeze, a visit to the ruins and a relaxed afternoon laying in the beach under a palm tree. Tulum is still a favorite spot for hippies, yoga teachers, newlyweds and those who are looking for spiritual healing.
There are dive shops, tour companies, car rental agencies and finally now banks. Along each boulevard are shops and restaurants of every description servicing the local community and visiting tourists. Off of the highway are residential streets with houses, schools, parks and businesses.
Air view of ruins in Tulum
Tulum ruins are located 130 km south of Cancun. The “Tulum Archeological Zone” is the first distinct zone. You can’t miss the ruins driving along Hwy 307 either in a rental vehicle or in a bus/colectivo. There are numerous signs and once in Tulum, there is a big pink hotel on the corner.
Tulum ruins are approximately 1 km East of Highway 307 towards the coast. There is a large craft market there as well as a few fast food restaurants and assorted stores. The gift shops outside of the site had very pushy salespeople…
Along the road towards the ruins on your immediate right is where the Mayan Pole Flyers do their pole flying. They perform throughout the day and you can sit and watch.
The ruins are absolutely amazing!!! I have never experienced anything so beautiful in all my life. I loved the architecture, the history and the surroundings. Tulum is all that is it however – it is hands-off. Mostly roped off to be preserved. It would be much more interesting to be able to touch, climb, enter buildings while you can. Spring for an on-grounds guide to really have fun and an understanding of what you’re seeing. The university students, volunteer docents and residents, are inexpensive, knowledgeable. Well worth it.
I wish we had gone swimming though, but we only had time to walk around the buildings. Tulum ruins have one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. You can jump in the water at Tulum ruins and swim north to Boca Paila. Even if you are just going to visit the ruins it is still quite an experience to swim out on the ruins beach and see the ruins from the water. On a hot summer day it is a great way to cool off.
Very touristy place
View at the beach
Another beach at the ruins site
Swimming at Tulum ruins site
You can take the most incredible pictures there. Make sure you bring, water and good walking shoes. Definitely wear your swimsuits because you can go into beach after touring the ruins. Get out by 11:30 AM. It got VERY hot and crowded after 11:00 AM Bus loads of people came in. You can spend a couple hours visiting Tulum ruins or you can spend the day.
Boca Paila has yet to be invaded by the all-inclusive resorts and remains one of the last popular bastions of hedonistic culture in the Riviera. Along the beach you find inexpensive cabana’s for rent [no reservation needed] and the odd drink stand/BBQ joint.
Endless white sand beach
Paradise on earth…
Snorkeling along the coast here is not that good. Lots of sand and weeds. Tulum Beach can be accessed through a number of points. You can walk in via the road that takes you to the ruins. Just keep following the road south when it hits the ruins. This same road takes you to the Sian Kaan Biosphere and Punta Allen. You can access the beach by walking through an opening or access point from the road.
There is also access at Tulum Pueblo. When driving South on Highway 307 you will hit an intersection with traffic signs pointing to the road to Coba – Chemax – Chichen Itza. You want to go left here [east] towards the coast. Going right takes you to Coba ruins in the jungle. Going straight takes you into Tulum Pueblo.
Staying somewhere on the Tulum Beach Road puts you in close proximity to a number of exciting outdoor activities, especially if you are interested in Mayan culture and history.
Mix of sky, sea and sand… heaven on earth!
White sand and palm trees
Follow the road until it turns right. After the turn you are on the beach road that runs along the coast for miles, all the way through Sian Ka’an to Punta Allen.
All beaches are “public”. There are no “private” beaches, although getting access to the beaches in most cases can only be achieved by access through private land or Beach Clubs. It is not a good idea to just park your rental car on the road and walk through the jungle to a hidden beach.
There are a number of Beach Clubs operating along the Tulum Beach Road. Here you can find change-rooms, bathrooms, lockers, beach gear for rent, beach chairs and restaurants/bars. For information and listing of beach clubs see: Tulum Beach Clubs . You can also drive into Sian Ka’an which has some lovely beaches although some are natural beaches and not maintained.
Lets see some more pictures of Tulum: