Is Tulum Mexico a Good Vacation Spot?
On our vacation to Tulum we saw Maya ruins, walked magnificent beaches, and tried Mexican street food.
Most people visit Tulum to party party party on the familiar beaches with strange people. That is not really our style. We tried to stay as safe (and distant) as possible from others while still exploring the highlights of what Tulum has to offer. We did not visit the cenotes nearby as we visited some earlier in our trip in Mexico (read the full details on the Cenotes in Valladolid Mexico). But we did check out the ruins, walk the beaches and we tasted our favorite food yet in Mexico. Don't get us wrong. The parties were available...
Getting to Tulum
If you are just joining us, we have been in Mexico for some time. We flew into Cancun International Airport. From there we took a bus to Playa Del Carmen where we got our first taste of what it is like to travel to Mexico. Then we took a bus to Valladolid. We stayed in that city in order to be close to Chichén Itzá (One of the 7 Wonders of the World) and to be close to 3 Cenotes that really got our attention. The next stop for us was Tulum. We did pass through here on the bus from Playa Del Carmen to Valladolid, but this time this was our actual destination.
We took a proper ADO bus from Valladolid to Tulum; but it was packed. Although there was a designated space for bags and luggage, we did not want to put our bags underneath, because unlike the last time we took a full size ADO bus, there was no attendant. And it was raining. So if our bags weren't stolen they could have been ruined by rain. We have a rain proof day bag, but our travel backpacks are not rain proof.
And This bus ride was wild. Not because of a crazy driver this time, but because of the passengers. Some guy came on to sell popcorn and the guy next to me never said excuse me; he just awkwardly stood up and pushed himself pass me. One girl was watching TikTok videos on full blast with no headphones on. We had seat numbers but no one was sitting in their assigned seats. So we could not sit side-by-side. And there were too many people because the kids onboard I guess are not counted toward the capacity. Then on top of that we left 30 minutes later than we were supposed to.
A restaurant that we really liked was called Rincón Poblano. It was only a block away from the bus terminal. There we had guacamole, a mushroom burrito, and a vegetarian burrito. It was a good outdoor location for people watching.
While we were looking at people walking around the streets of Tulum, we unfortunately noticed that in Tulum the desire to wear masks were not as strong as in Valladolid. Tulum is more of an American destination so that makes sense. So if you want to go to a city where everyone walks around town with masks on, you may be uncomfortable here.
We had to visit the central park in Tulum; Parque Dos Aguas. This is where you can get really nice pictures with the letters of Tulum, stop by an HSBC bank, and check out a larger than life Maya Calendar.
I said in one of our TikToks that the birds must have thought that it was the end of times. There were so many birds and they were screeching so loud. Some guy in the main park downtown was telling us there was a magnetic field which is why the birds were freaking out. We asked if he was a local and he said yes and claimed to know a little about frequency. He also said that if we touched one of the poles it would vibrate. It did not...
One of the local coffee shops we visited was Cafe Hunab Ku. They offered free wifi and posted the wifi information up on a tree; which was nice. You don't have to ask anyone to try to figure out how to connect. They served food but as they say on their website; every good story starts with a cup of coffee.
They had a Tulum Cafe Drink that was sweet coconut cream with a shot of espresso, but we kept it simple with a cafe con leche and black coffee. One thing we didn't like was that they charged a "to go" fee automatically. So watch out for that.
Zona Archaeologica de Tulum (Maya Ruins)
One thing that was common in Mexico was the Taxi whistle. As vacant taxi cabs drove by the driver would whistle to get your attention if you needed a ride. We didn't take taxis until this part of the trip. We took this taxi to the Zona Archaeologica de Tulum; more commonly known as the Tulum ruins.
There was a 10 to 15 minute walk from the parking lot to the entrance. You pass a bunch of characters on the way offering photo ops. There were men and women dressed up in Maya Warrior attire. One guy was holding a monkey and one guy was holding an iguana. To get our attention someone even said "you can take a picture with Justin Bieber." In the gift shop area we even found our souvenir patch for the trip. The patch, or borada as they called it, was the Mexican Flag.
At the gate we got our tickets ($80 MXN Pesos per person) no problem but made the rookie mistake of filming with our camera on our gimbal as we walked in. Now keep in mind, we record on our phone so I don't know why the guy taking the tickets gave us a hard time but we had to go back and basically buy a separate ticket to film, which was $45 MXN Pesos.
The Tulum ruins have more of a sacred and historical feel than Chichén Itzá. We were liked the fact that there were not vendors everywhere you looked while walking around inside the ruins. Yes, there were merchants on the road leading in, but once you officially entered, that was not allowed. These ruins were special because they were waterside. They overlooked a gorgous beach. There were less ruins here, but more space to walk around. It was very open with not a lot of shade so definitely wear a sunscreen and a hat.
While walking around we saw a turtle, blue butterfly and iguanas. Many people were impressed with the iguanas. Being from Florida that was not a big deal for us. We have lots of them and they are huge! Unlike Florida, these iguanas were grey and black to match the ruins; instead of green to match the grass.
We learned that Tulum was originally called Zamá which translates as “place of the dawning sun.” These ruins had their own El Castillo, a human-sized tunnel you could walk through called the Entrance to the Walled City, and ruins named: House of the Halach, House of the Columns, and the Temple of the Wind. The temple is practically on the edge of the cliff and created a wind sound to warn the Maya of approaching hurricanes.
We stayed in the XscapeTulum hotel. You walk in and in front of you is a beautiful pool, then the buildings with the rooms are behind it and to the right side of it. To check in, you take a hard right. It is its own little area that is open and supposedly available 24/7.
There was even an atm but it only dispensed American Dollars. I guess that's how you know you are in a really touristy area. The Bus Terminal had separate atms with pesos and with dollars, so that was good.
We checked in and were escorted to our room. We had our own little duplex area. The weather was not so best, so we couldn't fully enjoy the hammock or outdoor sofa, but it was still nice to have those options. Inside there was an indoor sofa, comfortable bed, mini fridge and plenty of space. You can open a door to an outoor area with a tree and nothing else.
The shower was a salt water shower, which wasn't too refreshing. And it was super hard to turn off. I think it may have even leaked or turned on in the middle of the night because we would find a puddle of water in the bathroom in the morning and some salt residue.
Nonetheless, it was a great stay and would stay there again!
The Road Less Traveled
XscapeTulum was on the road Avenue Kukulkan which intersects with the main road 307. Good location but certainly under construction. They were building some kind of building next door as we were there. Maybe a restaurant? We enjoy finding hidden gems. And eating dessert. So we combined those two passions to journey down Avenue Kukulkan away from 307.
This quickly turned into a complete dirt road. There were people selling food and tours on either side and looked like some major hotels were being built. We passed the road we were supposed to turn down because I got distracted by someone on an atv and because I thought the road to the restaurant I found would be..ya know.. paved. Instead we turned down this dirt road. Well mud road. Well..some submerged under water road would be the most accurate way to describe it. We jumped from dry dirt to concrete patch like a frog leaping from lily pad to lily pad. We had to share this road with trucks that were not fairing much better.
Our Favorite Meal
At the end of this road we did arrive at a completely paved road. We continued our journey through a pretty modern development. This section of Tulum is definitely on the uptick. The building were not wide, but tall. There were hip shops and trendy type restaurants such as the Pitted Date vegan restaurant and the Chacabar which is supposed to have good pizza.
But our destination was Safari Campfire Zama. They create the essence of a campfire experience. The original location takes it up a notch by cooking their food in a 1971 airstream. That one is usually parked on Tulum's beach road but was closed at the time we visited. We went to their second location and had some delicious food.
We started with the yuca truffle fries. Then we got 2 tacos; one with fried fish and one with grilled fish. The grilled fish taco was wrapped in a beet tortilla. The main event though was also the main attraction. This was the Tamal Cacao and it was worth all the dangers we had to overcome to arrive at Safari. It is a warm dark chocolate pastry with mild pepper for a little zest and roasted pumpkin seeds for added flavor and crunch. And all of this yummimess is cooked inside of a banana leaf. There was a "mall" nearby that we walked over to afterwards. It wasn't a mall like I was expecting; more like a strip mall with a few stores and a couple of businesses. They had a fresh market but it wasn't the chain it was just literally a market with fresh food. The best way to describe this area is, "coming soon." We knew the road we took to get to this area was difficult in the daylight so we didn't want to try to trek it at night. We made our way back to our hotel as the sun started to set.
On our final day we finally made it to the world famous Tulum beaches. We took a taxi and were dropped off at the Tulum beach strip. Road and nature. It's what many beaches would look like if the trees were not torn down to build expensive condos and high rises. The northern end of the beach is right below the Maya ruins.
On the way back we stopped at Cinco Tulum. In Playa del Carmen and Valladolid we thought about this but in Tulum it became a reality; we got to drink out of coconut! This place is not just a restaurant but a full resort. You are steps away from the beach, but instead of staying in a condo they allow you to glamp in a tent. There are amazing views of the ocean. The tents come with a King sized bed and you can even get an air condition unit for an extra $20. Without it's about $120 a night.
More Mexican Food
The food scene in Tulum was our favorite out of 3 cities we visited in Mexico. We really enjoyed eating marlin earlier in this trip to Mexico when we were at the all inclusive Hilton in Playa Del Carmen. So when we saw the Sabor De Mar restaurant and their marlin options we knew we had to try them. And they did not disappoint. We had the marlin burritos and marlin tacos.
Another good restaurant was Burrito Amor. There we had a vegetarian burrito and a vegan burrito. They were both wrapped in Plantain Leaves. The vegan had cactus and the vegetarian had a bunch of eggs.
We also got iced coffees. They had a guy playing the guitar outside. The bill was $15 total; even including tip. We love Cafe Envy in New Orleans, but we have ordered a similar meal there for double that cost.
At night on our last day we went to Palma Central. This was also off of Avenue Kukulkan. It was the opposite direction from XscapeTulum and past 307. This area has many food trucks and a large area to sit and eat. There is also a stage where live musicans can perform. This spot was so trendy that they even had a guy walking around burning incense. We got some vegetarian tacos and dessert. The next morning we took an ADO bus from Tulum back to Cancun International Airport. That cost 276 pesos per person.
Bring Tulum to life by watching our travel vlog on Mayan Ruins, Beaches, and Street Food. Out now on on YouTube!
See how we got to the hidden gem that is the Safari Campfire Zama restaurant. Gaze upon the almost unreal beaches and view the coast-side ruins. All in Tulum Mexico!
What to you is paradise? In this travel vlog episode we found ours! We saw pelicans walking the beach looking for their next meal. We toured the Zona Archaeologica de Tulum where we saw the Temple of the Wind God that was used for religious purposes until as recently as 1924. We had the best waiter at Cinco Tulum where we drank out of coconuts and overlooked the majestic beach. Watch along as we explore the City of Dawn!
Thanks for reading our blog on Tulum Mexico!
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