Tulum city, Mexico – cristal clear cenote, Mayan villa with a view overlooking the Caribbean Sea and colorful, knitted bracelets.
Couple of well traveled friends recommended Tulum city to us, which was part of our plan anyways but this gave us more to look forward to.
Tulum city and some weird things about it
We arrive in Tulum city from Playa del Carmen by the well know ADO bus. The weather for the last couple of days is changing from pouring rain to unbearable sun. And like this every 20 min. Sometimes 5. The distance to the hotel is around 10-15 min and we decide to walk, hoping that the rain will pass and we’ll get there dry.
Nope! Two streets after the bus station starts raining cats and dogs, and elephants. Real, classical, tropical rain! There are no trees, no places to hide, nothing! We manage to take out the rain jackets at the last moment. The summer storm catches us on a street corner, together with two other poor souls. We manage to get under a tree but the rain is so heavy that it doesn’t really helps. I somehow hide the camera under my jacket, cover the documents and my phone. And now we wait.
After about 15 min and already soaking wet, it starts getting a bit better, so we decide to walk. Of course, the streets are not like in Munich. We are walking knee-deep in muddy water. Long live the Birkenstock and the Gore Tex rain jackets. The best investment so far!
Where to stay in Tulum city?
The receptionist in our hotel – Las Tres Palmas greets us with wide smile.
We have a terrace and kitchenette (because Tsveti is nagging for homemade pasta for the past couple of days). We put the wet clothes away, take a hot shower and an aspirin, just in case. The chance of getting sick with all of the spicy we eat recently is slim but.. safety first.
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It’s time for grocery shopping. We go to the big supermarket to buy everything needed for Tsveti’s pasta and for me – “tarator” (cold Bulgarian soup with yogurt, cucumber, garlic, nuts and dill). The store is quite big and the shelves are stocked with mainly American and local products. That’s why we spent quite a lot of time wondering around and not knowing what to buy.
There is a veggie store close to our hotel where I just go in for 2-3 things and spent 20 min. The best thing for me personally is the pilled onion. Just imagine! Big crates full of huge pilled white onion. Europe, when we’ll catch up on Mexico!? When I’m saying huge, I need to mention that all vegetables are gigantic. Carrots thick as my wrist and potatoes big as child’s head. Of course, there is plenty of water and sun in the country, but really!?
Calm dinner at the terrace. There is a wood workshop next to the hotel. So far so good, but the workers apparently motivate themselves listening extremely loud to Rammstein, Sepultura and for variety – a bit of Linkin Park. Good that they don’t like night shifts and everything goes quiet around 10 pm. Time to enjoy the homemade dinner! We screw up the pasta because of the weird tomato sauce we got and tarator… I’ll eat it some other time. It turns out that the yogurt they sell in Central America is always with sugar!
Where to have breakfast and good coffee
The next day we are surprised by free breakfast and warm coffee. Pff, americano again! Well, we need something real. We head to a place selling real coffee and great variety of delicious sandwiches – El Gourmet. It’s worth it checking it out.
How (not) to go to the beach from the city!
Tulum city is famous for it’s beautiful graffiti and amazing beaches, and of course we go to check. The clerk in the reception of the hotel hands us a map which besides all of the restaurants, ATMs and stores, has also the two stoplights in the village. But the more important thing is that the map is upside down and the distances are a total mess. The distance of 1 km is marked the same as distance of 5 km. Tsveti urges me to get free bicycles from the hotel but I insist to take a walk. As usual she agrees with me. And as usual it turns out that she shouldn’t.
Blazing sun, boiling hot, no shade, bare road, unbearable humidity and the two of us walking. People passing by on bicycles with questioning faces. Striding at first and dragging ourselves at the end for about 5 km. Tsveti checked on Google before we left and it’s around an hour walking to get there, but why should I believe her, when on the bloody map looks like a 20 minutes walk!?
I have no idea how many liters of water later we reach the beach. Thirsty, hungry and overheated. No one even thinks about laying in the sun at all!
We get into the first place with shade and order food and drinks. The waiter brings me a Coca Cola with Santa on it and in this moment I realize it. Somewhere in the shopping malls there are Christmas trees, people are planing where to go skiing and others are wondering where did they put this warm, soft sweater. Not us tho, we sit on the beach under the shade of the palm trees, counting the mosquito bites and wondering if the sun cream we carry will be enough for the next 3 months. Seasons are a weird thing, I’m telling you!
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Now, about the beach. It’s quite nice. It’s around 15 km long, clean white sand and warm blue semi-clean water. It’s a bit windy, so the whole experience differs from what we expected but we are not really sad about it.
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On the way back we pass by the best camping I have ever seen. And it’s 20 meters away from the water!
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The blisters on our feet from the morning walk don’t allow us even to joke about walking back home and the taxi drivers know this very well. From Tulum to the beach a cab ride is 70-80 pesos (~ 3-3,5 €), the way back is 100 (~ 4,5 €). Honestly, I’ll give them even 200!
Where to have some tasty fish in Tulum city
Next to the breakfast place is also the second restaurant of the same owners which we mark for dinner – Kay Nah, where Tsveti “enjoys” fish again. I try to order something more fancy, a specialty, which leaves me hungry at the end. Good that Tsveti doesn’t make any difference between fish dishes, so she offers me to switch the plates. At the end it’s not that difficult to travel with her!
Grand Cenote or the reason I would come back to Tulum city one day!
For the next day we have planned a trip to a cenote. Cenote is a natural pit (sinkhole) filled with water and surrounded by vegetation. The Mayans build their towns around them and also used them for rituals. Today they are heaven for divers and great fun for everyone else with just snorkel and a mask.
I was thinking that the only 3 cenote in all Mexico are close. Yes, there are 3 cenote that are really close… from all 6000 of them! We decide to go to the biggest one around – Grand Cenote. We check if they rent snorkel gear and they do, but we buy one anyways.
Important! The cab to Grand Cenote or the beach is around 70-80 pesos (~ 3-3,5 €), on the way back is 100 (~ 4,5 €). If you don’t want to spend so much you can always share a ride with someone. We did it.
Important! The entry fee for Grand Cenote is 180 pesos (~ 8 €) per person. For 80 pesos (~ 3 €) more you can rent snorkel gear for which you need a deposit of 300 pesos (~ 13 €) or your passport. There are lockers for 30 pesos (~ 1-2 €).
The place around Grand Cenote is well maintained, alleys, hammocks, grass for sunbathing and clean toilets. One of the rules before you go in is to take a shower. Freezing shower! We survive it somehow and secretly hope that the water in the cenote will be warmer.
Nope! But it doesn’t matter! There is nothing that can stop us in this moment. The hole bellow us looks magical. Without thinking too much we get into the water. It’s really cold. And deep. There are some shallow parts covered with huge rocks where you can stop for a while and fix your snorkel. We are not used to snorkeling at all – the glass gets foggy and the snorkel fills with water. Anyways, persistence is the key to success.
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The water is crystal clear. It’s full of different type of fish and I’m truly happy. Tens of turtles swim centimeters away from us (or at least this is how it looks like through the magnifying glass of the mask). Stalactites, stalagmites and stalagnates are everywhere, above and bellow the water. In the deepest, darkest parts you can see bright lights – divers exploring the underwater caves. Honestly, I envy them! Survival instinct in action – here and there I get scared and refuse to swim further because the black hole bellow looks ominous.
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Somehow couple of hours are gone and I’m still really excited where we happen to be. You can tell from my bright smile – we are coming back tomorrow.
Where to have argentinian steak or delicious pizza
This time we eat in one of the most charming places I have ever seen in the world – Estancia Jujeña. They have free beer with every pizza which sounds and tastes more than good.
Important! Definitely stop by Estancia Jujeña if you don’t feel like pizza they also have Argentinian steak which looks quite tasty. If not, the place also fits for a coffee.
The next day is spend in my favorite cenote! I just can’t get enough of it. This time the turtles are even closer and the fish are somehow way more. Magnificent iguana is walking around the alleys and the two of us entertain the tourists while running away from a peacock. How we escape from a rooster in Bacalar, I’ll tell you next time. City kids, we can’t help it!
At a bar in Tulum city
In the evening is about time to check the most famous bar in town – Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar. It’s two streets away from our accommodation, so getting back home will be easy. There is live music in the bar and in the breaks everyone enjoys classic songs. The guests are from all over the world and together we sing along to Queen, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bee Gees. For attraction they have a car with pedals, which produces freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. The reason behind it is because they offer 6 types of quite good mojito. Also in the menu are countless types of tequila, the one we tried (after the beers and the mojitos) was quite strong!
The situation suddenly turns into “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of tequila!”. Tsveti, we need to go home. Right at the entrance of the bar we find a hot-dog stand (or it finds us). I don’t know if it was the tequila but they were really, really tasty. We even wanted to go back for more.
I’m sleeping most of the next day (repeating, I’m sleeping, Tsveti wakes up at exactly 7:30 every day!), so we don’t have anything else left but go and check out the Zona Arqueologica
Where to withdraw money and where to buy bus tickets
On the way there we stop by to withdraw some money and buy tickets for our next stop Bacalar.
Important! Across the street from the bus station you can find HSBC where we manage to withdraw pesos and USD with the best withdraw fee so far.
Important! From the ADO station you can buy tickets from Tulum city to Bacalar for 224 pesos (~ 10 €). The trip is around 3 h and there are buses all day long. You can also get tickets from Bacalar to Chetumal for 62 pesos (~ 3 €) and the distance between the two cities is around 30min. Chetumal is the border town from where we’ll take the boat to Caye Caulker in Belize. Ticket for the boat you can buy in Chetumal. It’s not possible anymore to get it in Tulum city as some other blogs suggest.
How to go to Zona Arqueologica and what to see there
Important! Zona Arquelogica is situated 80 (~ 4 €) pesos away from Tulum city by a taxi and 100 pesos return, of course. The entry fee is 80 pesos (~ 4 €). For the more curious ones there are also guided tours.
The park is really well maintained – clean alleys, big signs and ropes protecting some areas. Right at the entrance of the ruins our attention is drawn by two small animals. To this day we have no idea what they were but they are really sweet and playful, looking a bit like raccoons.
There are iguanas everywhere, as well as tourists, taking selfies with the old ruins of the Mayan summer house. The place has also 2 small beaches – the first one full of people and the second one closed to public because the turtles are nesting there. We finish exploring for about an hour and head to the nearby public beach. Don’t make the mistake stopping by the place called Santa Fe. The service is just awful.
Where are the best tacos in Tulum city
In the evening we go in search for the best tacos in Tulum and we head to the most famous taco restaurant in Tulum – Antojitos la chaipaneca. It’s crowded but we manage to get a table. A group of cool looking Mariachi dressed in the traditional way enters. If they eat here, there is no way the food will be bad. It’s also quite cheap – meat taco is 8 pesos (~ 0,30 €) and meat and cheese is 12 pesos (~ 0,50 €). They are quite good and this place manages to get second place in our list of best tacos in Mexico (after the one in Cancun!). Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures.
On the way back we walk trough the main street which is full of souvenir shops. Next to all of the ponchos, hammocks and Chinese magnets there are colorful knitted bracelets. The ones we were making as kids but more bright and colorful – suiting the warm Mexican blood. The knits are quite difficult and I never managed to learn those. Some are with impressive size – 5-6 centimeters tick.
If you want to send some good old fashion post cards, you got to be patient, because neither Google, nor the locals know where is the post office. Well, Google was almost right. Mom, dad I sent you a post card, hope it arrives!
Somehow the time flew and it’s time to hit the road again.
Next stop on our Lazy Road Trip Central America – Bacalar, Mexico.