Tulum

Tulum is on the Yucatán Peninsula, in Mexico. It 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.

Be prepared for LOTS of people and tour groups at the archaeological site. To avoid the crowds, it is best to stay overnight and visit the ruins early in the morning before the buses arrive, or later in the afternoon. Morning is recommended since you can catch spectacular vistas when the sun is rising over the Caribbean.

Get in

Tulum

From Cancun International Airport

You can catch an ADO bus to Tulum directly three times a day: 2:10PM, 7:45PM and 8:45PM. Ticket prices are about $15 USD. The ride will take about 2 hours.

You can also take the ADO bus to Playa del Carmen with departures nearly every hour for about $12 USD. Once in Playa del Carmen you transfer to a second bus to Tulum for an additional $5 USD.

Rental cars are priced reasonably and are the easiest way to get around the Tulum area. Shop around rates upon arrival, and feel free to haggle. Check with your credit card company to see if they automatically insure you, most do so you don't have to pay the additional insurance that the rental agency often tries to insist you purchase. It is a very easy drive to Tulum. To get there you take the only highway south from Cancun Airport straight down past Playa del Carmen, Akumal, etc. About 90 minutes from the airport you will arrive in Tulum.

Many of the hotels in Tulum offer a pick-up service from the Cancun International Airport for an addition $80 to $120 USD depending on the hotel.

You can also take a taxi from the airport from $145 USD.

By bus

Buses from Cancun run quite regularly. There is also an ADO bus direct from Cancun Airport.

Buses from Playa Del Carmen run hourly or so. Bus station is at southern end of Fifth Avenue near Playacar. ADO Bus stops at Xcaret and Xel-ha en route to Tulum. Mayab bus stops more frequently en route to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen.

To visit the ruins, get off the bus at the first Tulum stop at the intersection with the access road to the ruins. It's an easy one mile or so flat walk to the ruins from the intersection.

An alternative to the buses is to catch a "collectivo" van. In Playa Del Carmen you can find these on Calle 2 towards Avenida 20. One-way trip costs 40 pesos.

By car

If you drive yourself to the ruins before opening time, it may be a bit confusing as to where to go and what to do. As soon as you park, a man on a bicycle should find you and charge you for parking (50 pesos). You must go through a sort of half open-air mall (which is empty before 8AM). From there you can either sign up with a tour guide (US$20 per person?), pay for a shuttle ride to the ruins (20 pesos), or walk a mile along a road to the ruins. The guides are reported to be better story tellers than actual experts on Mayan culture. The walk is on level ground and passes quickly as you admire the jungle and abandoned shops along the way. If you can walk it, do it and save a few bucks! As you approach a stone wall, to the left will be a brown wooden building where you can purchase your ticket into the ruins (51 pesos, an additional 35 pesos if they see that you have a video camera). From there, head along a stone path through the jungle and into the ruins...

Three Tulums

What most folks really need to know, and only manage to figure out once there, is the fact that there are really three different areas all referred to as TULUM only minutes away from each other, not close enough though to walk to and from.

Tulum Pueblo sits split by highway 307 running South-North. "El Pueblo", as referred to by locals, is home to most workers of the tourist industry and where many of the stores, supermarkets, two bus stations, inns, hostels and small hotels are found. This section of town has a definite feel of existing mostly to cater to the Tulum ruins. Tulum pueblo is indeed a destination for shopping, great restaurants, a modest night life, studying the language at Instituto Chac-Mool Spanish School, booking tours, banking, shopping for food, local vegetables, fruits, cafes, and local flavor. Do not miss it.

Tulum Playa nests along the coastline that leads into the Sian Ka'an Biosphere [Ecological Reserve], the Caribbean white sandy beaches to the east, an impressive mangrove & wetland reserve to the south. Tulum Playa embraces many of the fancier, ecological, boutique and spa hotels, and it has a decent to excellent selection of restaurants and night spots. There are also a number of affordable beach front cabana-type lodging locations. Walk the beach and simply step in and inquire about accommodations and rates. You will be surprised and delighted.

It should be noted most of these establishments are Eco-friendly and do not provide electricity past midnight. Toilet paper can not be flushed and it is asked that water and other resources be used sparingly. The hotels in Tulum aim to keep Tulum as it is and stop the ecological problems that have already taken hold in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.

If you are staying on the beach and trying to save money, it is wise to stock up on food and drinks in the pueblo. There are not too many restaurant options on the beach, and the ones that are operational are comparatively quite expensive.

Taxis have a near monopoly on transport to and from the playa. Buses come from time to time, but hitchhiking can also get you where you need to go.

Tulum Ruinas is the archaeological site where the Maya ruins of Tulum stand. It is conformed by a-mile-long road leading into the ruins from highway 307. The road is flanked by several restaurants, a commercial area geared to one-day visitors, a huge parking lot, a small bus station that operates part-time and a handful of middle range hotels.

Archaeology

Wall & Fresco Detail - Temple of the Frescoes

Tulum is mostly known for its ruins, which strike an impressive image next to the sea, but were constructed during a time period of Maya culture that was waning. The site is notable for a small cenote (albeit dry during Jan 2009), beautiful beach below the ruin laden cliffs and some well preserved stellae in only one of its structures. After visiting other ruins in the area such as Coba, Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, Tulum's main claim is the sea-side setting. It is best visited on a clear, bright day or at sunrise. Bring your swimming suit. At the time of writing, one of the best sections was closed to visitors and covered with plastic bottles and other refuse.

A standard to telephoto zoom lens does well if you must photograph during times of peak tourism. This strategy will keep people out of your shots of the ruins. Tripods are allowed only with a permit that is exclusively available in Mexico City for a $500 fee. A monopod may be a possibility.

Get around

See

Do

  • Extreme Control - the beaches of Tulum in Playa Paraiso, certified instructors, all levels, full facilities and rentals.
  • Ocean Pro Kite - kiteboarding school located on Tulum beach. It provides kitesurf lessons following the most professional and safest method of teaching, known as IKO (International Kitesurfing Organisation). From a one-hour lesson to "ready to go" packages.

Cenotes

See also: Cenotes of the Yucatán

In much of the Yucatan, rainwater collects in a system of underground caves and tunnels. Where these tunnels reach the surface is known as a cenote (pronounced seh-NOH-teh). Cenotes usually allow swimming and diving, and rent related equipment. They are fresh water and are often quite cold (24 °C).

Learn

If staying for more than just a couple of days, you may want to experience taking some Spanish lessons at the beach or at the Spanish school.

Buy

Markets catering mainly to the bus loads of tourists are situated on the road leading to the entrance of the archaeological site.

There are also markets in town on 307 in the main stretch of town. Many cater to tourists however be sure to give them a look anyway. There are a lot of beautiful hand crafted Mexican pottery and fabrics. If you turn off of 307 and vere into town away from the main strip you can discover tons of tiny establishments and get a feel for the truly sleepy town of Tulum.

Eat

Drink

Also try a few other cool spots in Tulum that offer fun drink specials with a hip tropical flair:

Sleep

The sleeping options have a poor price-performance ratio. In the zona hotelera (at the beach) really simple rundown cabanas with shared bath and without seaview are sold for 550 pesos.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Note: You may encounter problems if you try to make phone calls from the beach. Payphones are sparse and often broken, and they are all owned by one company. These phones require you to purchase a special proprietary card of at least 100 pesos, and the cards cannot be used at regular payphones. A better alternative is to use a normal payphone in the pueblo, or use a Mexican cellphone (There is reception on the beach, but make sure to recharge in the pueblo beforehand).

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, April 01, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.