Getaways: Scouring Beaches and Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico

April 03, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
Just a stone’s throw from Cancun, you’ll find a quiet escape with sandy beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, spas and yoga classes overlooking the ocean. Tulum has been referred to as the anti-resort for its relaxed, sometimes rustic accommodations, but it would be impossible not to feel reenergized and enlightened after a trip to this Yucatan paradise.

Swim in the Shadow of the Ancient Mayans

Tulum’s multifaceted personality makes it appealing for a range of travelers, including families with children wanting an educational experience, independent backpackers trekking off the Cancun path or any work-weary soul needing a jolt of the exotic or a bit of sun.

According to Travel Yucatan, Tulum combines beaches with archeological sites and an intriguing pueblo, which “grew from being a small junction stop into a thriving town.” Tulum offers a unique glimpse into Mayan history and culture in the “Archeological Zone,” which appears during the drive along Highway 307 from Cancun airport. And the further you drive away from the notorious spring break spot, “the more laid back things become.”

Loco Gringo provides historical background on Tulum’s Mayan ruins with information gleaned from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. To begin with, the ruins are set in a gorgeous location: “on a bluff facing the rising sun looking out on views of the Caribbean.” Learn where the city square would have been, as well as various temples and groupings of structures, which were seen first by explorer Juan de Grijalva and his crew as they were sailing along the Yucatan’s east coast in 1518, according to Loco Gringo.

Excursions from Tulum

It’s possible to travel even further away from the crowds of Cancun but still be relatively close to Tulum. According to Destination360, Punta Allen is a town only about 90 minutes away (depending on traffic), whose biggest selling point is its simplicity. Punta Allen is very small and the generator that provides electricity is turned off at 10 p.m. Accommodations are typically cabanas, heightening the “ancient and rustic experience.”

Consider a sightseeing boat tour along a 1,200-year-old Mayan trade route in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve with Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an. The educational tours through the freshwater river travel past unique flora and fauna, while guide leaders explain “natural and Mayan history.”

Hotel Yoga and Snorkeling in Caves

Sure, Tulum boasts beautiful weather and intoxicating beaches, but the travelers at New York-based Jauntsetter took things further, attending yoga classes (offered at most hotels in Tulum), snorkeling in dark caves called cenotes and visiting sweat lodges for detoxification and rejuvenation. Jauntsetter suggests “staying in one of the palapas, or basic huts, found directly on the beach,” and highlight a few favorite places to stay by name, including one where guests sometimes amble out to the beach in the nude.

April is the start of Tulum’s off-season, when there are plenty of bargains to be had. And if you’re concerned about your environmental impact, know that “Tulum is super eco-friendly, somewhat by necessity. Because it's off the grid—almost literally,” according to Jauntsetter. The site also has a helpful rundown of Tulum ruins, highlighting Chichen Itza and Coba, along with entrance fees and hours of operation.

A video posted on Travelistic depicts an eco-lodge in Tulum, aptly named EcoTulum, that shows the area’s more luxurious, less anthropological side.

Fellini in Tulum and More Mexico Travel

Federico Fellini, one of the most influential film directors of the 20th century, was found to have been working on an outline for a film entitled “Journey to Tulum” before he died. The plot is based on paranormal events surrounding a trip to Mexico in the 1980s. Fellini reportedly never finished the work because Mexican Shamans contacted him and warned against completing it. Producers Michel Shane and Anthony Romano (“I, Robot”) stumbled across the piece on a trip to Italy and have plans to complete the film.

FindingDulcinea’s Mexico Travel Web Guide helps you plan a trip anywhere in the country. The guide links to the Web’s best hotel and flight Web sites, as well as sites with information on entry and exit requirements, tips for getting around in Mexico and blogs offering advice from travelers and locals.

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