January 6, 2019
After traveling to 4 countries last year with the furthest being Asia, I was not so sure I wanted to travel internationally at all for my birthday month. However, with all things aligned, everything was calling me towards Mexico, Tulum, in particular. While most of the photographers I admire tend to choose other places for photographic moments, most of the lifestyle bloggers I follow, all seem to end up traveling to Tulum. To be honest, I was not entirely sure why Tulum was such a hot spot for bloggers besides the beaches. It was not until I arrived in Tulum that I realized that there was more than meets the eyes.
While there were a plethora of places to reside in Tulum, staying by the beach was probably one of the safest areas of Tulum. Bonus to staying on the beach, was your backyard is literally the beach! There were many options of hotels at the beach, and the deciding factor for me were based on availability, price, and safety. I stayed at Villa Pescadores by Ahau Collection with my cousin and friend. Hotel was on the beach, and their restaurant was on site as well, with a choice of eating at the bar, which is open until 6pm, or at the restaurant, which is open until 10pm! I loved that their restaurant stayed open late because we ended up eating dinner around 9pm each night…
Tulum is known for their cenotes, although there are also cenotes in Cancun and Playa del Carmen Areas. The photographs taken above were of Dos Ojos Cenotes, also known as Two Eyes Cenote. This cenote in particular was listed in a lot of blogs I’ve read, and collectively, everyone wrote that it was beautiful because of the blue color reflecting off the limestone. The only other time I’ve seen another type of blue color was in Greece! This cenote was one of the deeper sinkholes, and many people chose to either snorkel or scuba dive. My cousin and I did neither and simply swam in the cenotes!
Prior to arriving at Dos Ojos Cenotes, we learned that most taxi drivers are willing to wait in their vehicle while most tourists were swimming in cenotes; the price of the taxi fare included pick up and drop off locations, along with the duration of the tourist’s stay at each location. We also learned that it is much harder to call for a taxi when at the cenotes, which is why it was common for taxi drivers to wait on tourists.
Although most luxury hotels in Tulum have no open availability during high season/if you are reserving a hotel last minute, these hotels are open to the public as long as you purchase a drink or eat at their restaurant, which in my opinion, is a fare trade off! Casa Malca was one of my top choices of hotels, and it was all booked. Regardless, I still wanted to go to Casa Malca for photographic opportunities. Casa Malca was one of Pablo Escobar’s mansions that was transformed into a luxury hotel. What made Casa Malca so unique were their sofas and chairs that were made into swings and their uniquely-designed swimming pool!
Other hotels that have probably filled most Instagram feeds were Papaya Playa Project and Azulik. Papaya Playa Project has a collection of cabanas located in the jungle, alongside the beach! Although I was not able to visit this hotel, some of the photographs I’ve seen of the hotel were aerial views, which beautifully captured the architecture of the hotel, intertwined with the landscape. Seeing these photographs had me thinking of investing in a drone.. Azulik is another hotel that offers amazing photographic opportunities! What I’ve heard and have yet to witness, is that the hotel offers amazing sunrise and sunset views overlooking the jungle of Tulum! This hotel is almost always booked and even if you were here to grab a drink, there is no guarantee you can get in unless you booked a reservation at their hotel or secured a dinner reservation.
Besides the beaches, cenotes, and beautifully designed hotels, Tulum is a a town where people, especially locals, love to bike! What locals did not warn me or my cousin were that it is extremely dangerous bicycling here, especially at night! There are many potholes that have not been managed, and there are very few designated cycling lanes, which means a bicyclist is treated in the same terms as a driver in a car. Furthermore, there are no streetlights alongside the beach, which makes biking at night dangerous. However, we were told that biking at night is the best way to experience Tulum, also known as the “Tulum way.” My cousin and I definitely managed to experience the “Tulum way” unexpectedly.
Our initial goal biking in Tulum was to go to Raw Love and try their acai bowls. Sadly, it closed right when we arrived! However, the hotel next door offers AMAZING tacos and ceviche!
On my actual birthday, the staff at our hotel surprised me with a slice of cake in the morning! Afterwards, while we were at the beach, they decorated our room and filled it with balloons! I could not ask for a better surprise and kind gesture. Photographs featured above were memories of that day!
My friend arrived a couple days later than my cousin and me, and she shared with me that she wanted to visit at least one cenote while in Tulum. On my birthday, I chose another cenote to visit so that my friend can also experience visiting one with us! There are so many options as far as cenotes to choose from. I chose Gran Cenote because it was one of the most popular cenotes in the area! However, many bloggers have shared that it gets increasingly crowded as the day goes on. The best times to visit cenotes are early in the morning, right when it opens!
Although we barely made a dent in exploring most of the cenotes near Tulum area, I still made a list of cenotes that I want to visit if/whenever I return. I chose these cenotes based on my artistic eye, meaning which ones would provide the most unique/interesting photographs: Cenote Azul, Cenote Calvera, Cenote Chaak Tun, Cenote Hubiko, Cenote Suytun, Cenotes Labnaha, Cenote X’Keken, Ik Kil Cenote, and Laguna Kaan Luum.
We ended my birthday celebrations at Gitano Tulum. The ambiance was PERFECT, and the restaurant had an Argentinean band playing! My reservation table was not situated anywhere close the band! However, the staff accommodated after they found out it was birthday.
While we did not stay out super late for my birthday, Tulum is a fun town to go out! These were some places that either locals recommended or bloggers recommended: Batey Mojito Bar, Casa Jaguar, Curandero, Nawal, Papaya Playa Project, Pasito Tun Tun, and Santino Bar.
Tulum Ruins and Chitzen Itza were two ruins I wanted to explore while in Tulum. My friend and I explored Tulum Ruins, which were ruins alongside the beach of Tulum! The ruins are not as famous as Chitzen Itza, but you were able to go down to the beach from the ruins, which provided a secluded, unique experience on non-touristy days! What I learned while in Tulum is Chitzen Itza is approximately 2+ hours away from Tulum, which ultimately was the reason I never made it to explore this area! It’s on my list to check off, which means a return trip is in the works!
Most of Tulum alongside the beach is tourist driven! My friend was hoping to learn more about the way of life in Tulum and felt that exploring the town would be an interesting experience. While talking to some locals, I learned that most of Tulum Area, including downtown, is still packed with tourists, which made learning about the culture somewhat challenging! Downtown Tulum was beautiful at night, with Christmas-like lights that shined brightly throughout the streets.
While I visited Mexico in the past, I’ve never actually stayed in Mexico. My past memories of Mexico were from a family cruise experience to Cancun! Tulum was a beautiful town in Mexico, and I definitely learned how to navigate a part of Mexico better on foot! These were some tips I learned along the way while traveling to Tulum:
- ADO buses can take you from Cancun International Airport to Tulum and also other areas throughout Mexico.
- You can book your bus reservation online, although website is in Spanish. However, it is definitely easy to navigate even though it is in a different language.
- Buses leave ON TIME. Therefore, be mindful of your reservation time so that you do not miss your bus reservation!
- Taxi drivers set their own rates so after a couple of rides, you learn rather quickly how much a ride should cost and should not cost!
- ATM machines in Tulum/jungle area can run out of cash/stop working due to slow Internet. Therefore, take out cash at the airport and overestimate how much to take out rather than underestimate! OR I’d suggest exchanging money prior to arriving in Mexico.
- Most restaurants and taxi drivers only accept pesos.
- Taxi drivers will include fare to and from locations and even wait for you while you are exploring a cenote!
- Catching a taxi after leaving a cenote can be challenging so it would be easier to pay a little extra in order to secure a taxi driver to wait for you.
- Cenotes are the least crowed early in the morning or towards the end of the day, an hour before they close!
- There are entrance fees to most/all cenotes!
- For popular, high-end hotels, book your reservation early!
- If you want to explore one of the picturesque hotels, book a dinner reservation in order to secure a spot at the hotel!
- Do not ride a bicycle in Tulum if it is you first time riding a bicycle ever!
- Most cyclist are treated in the same rules/terms as a driver so ride with caution!
- There are no streetlights at night alongside the beach; therefore, plan accordingly and do not ride a bicycle while dark.
- If you end up riding in the dark, use your cellphone flashlight as a light source!
- Weather in Tulum changes rapidly! Therefore, do not be discouraged if your upcoming forecast in Tulum is expected to rain daily!
Where have I traveled in Central America?