The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

January 15, 2013

In Tulum, a relaxing Mexican escape to the beach

TULUM, Mexico — The all-inclusive Cancun resorts are not known for topless women on the beach or Argentinians with scraggly beards playing Gypsy music. But that's the norm in Tulum, a Mexican seaside spot south of Cancun that attracts a mix of bohemians, well-pocketed New Age types and sun-seekers to its turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.

Despite its proximity to Cancun and its fellow party neighbor Playa del Carmen, Tulum is not for the same spring break crowd.

"The college kids go to Cancun. The professors and teacher assistants come to Tulum," said Richard Contreras, whose family has managed properties in Tulum for nearly a decade.

That doesn't mean Tulum is cheap. We couldn't find a room on the beach for less than $150 a night that came with a bathroom. Meals nearby cost just as much as they do in my hometown of Seattle.

"Tulum is luxury, but the luxury here is nature and the beach," said Mimi Contreras, Richard's sister.

Our trip was a five-day sun-seeking dash in the first week of January, during the area's high season, which stretches from winter through spring break. Tulum, located on Mexico's lush green Yucatan Peninsula, was an ideal destination. The weather was perfect. The bright sunshine was rarely obscured by fast traveling clouds. December and January are among the driest months on the Yucatan Peninsula and offer hot weather, but no debilitating heat. The dayside highs in our trip were in the mid-80s. The night skies were full of stars.

Tulum is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Cancun and the highway connecting both is well-paved. We flew into Cancun, rented a car ($25 a day plus insurance from Hertz) and made the drive late at night. It went smoothly and we hit no traffic, but watch out for speed bumps scattered around the area and pedestrians crossing the highway in some spots. There are also shuttles available from Cancun to Tulum, but the car gave us the mobility to visit attractions beyond the beach.

"Tulum is pretty laid-back and chill. And I think most of the people who live here, work here, who have property here, want to keep that way to a certain extent," Mimi Contreras said.

Tulum can be divided in to three parts: the town, the Mayan ruins and the beach.

Tulum the town is on the highway, about a 10-minute drive from the beach. Tourism has pushed the population to around 30,000 people, but the town retains the blueprint of many Latin American pueblos, centered around an open plaza or town square. Shops, street-food vendors, hotels and restaurants catering to tourists line the main drag. In general, hotels and restaurants downtown are much cheaper than those on the beach. (We found tasty Mexican food and great service at La Malquerida.)

Just past the town are the nearest "cenotes," which are water caves that are part of a network of rivers under the Yucatan Peninsula. We went to the Gran Cenote ($10 entrance plus snorkel rental) for a swim in its cool and clear waters. Snorkeling underwater, you can see how the water has eroded the cave's limestone walls over the eons into formations of many different shapes and sizes. The Gran Cenote even had fish in its cavernous pool and bats flying overhead. The Yucatan has many cenotes and some are deep enough for scuba diving.

Tulum may be best-known for its ancient Mayan ruins, which attract a steady stream of day-trippers, cruise passengers and tour buses. The complex of crumbling structures here is smaller and less impressive than some other Mayan sites like Chichen Itza, but its location atop seaside cliffs is one of the most scenic ruin sites on the Yucatan. The complex is surrounded by a wall (Tulum means wall) and was inhabited for centuries before Spanish colonialists arrived in the early 1500s. Entrance to the park is $10, which also gives you access to a beach where you can swim beneath the ruins. Guided tours cost extra.

Last but not least, there's Tulum the beach. Stretching for roughly six miles (10 kilometers), waterfront Tulum is lined with cabanas, "eco-chic" hotels, fancy restaurants and yoga spots, but it's less developed than some of Mexico's other resort areas, where the view of the beach often includes high-rise hotels.

There's only one main road and it does get crowded during the day. In spots, it barely accommodates the stream of cars, trucks, taxis, bicycles and pedestrians using it. Biking can be perilous; two women staying next to us fell off their bikes in the traffic, though fortunately they were not seriously injured.

We stayed in one of Contreras' seaside cabanas for $75 a night. It came with a shared bathroom, a fan and occasional insects common in tropical settings — including some that bite. The cabana rooms are large, cleaned daily and are nicely decorated. There's Wi-Fi, if you must. People staying at the cabanas can use beach beds, lounge chairs and a bar from the Contreras' next-door property, which hosts cruise ship tours in the afternoons. We were just footsteps from the beach.

"I want to have a place for people who are independent travelers... who can appreciate the little oasis we've built here," said Mimi Contreras.

Our $150 room was at Los Lirios Cabana Hotels. The room came with a huge bathroom, a balcony with a hammock and a view of the sea. Buffet breakfast was included.

The waves in Tulum were more soothing than daunting. The water was both refreshing and warm. Just watch out for kite surfers — I was nearly hit by one while swimming.

We spent much of our stay at the beach, only getting up to grab drinks, food and evening walks. There are plenty of people on the beach, but it doesn't feel crowded. It offered premium people-watching; the lone nuisance was bohemian types selling their handmade bracelets and bikinis.

Most of all it was sunny and relaxing, which is, after all, what makes the beach the most important of the three Tulums.

___

If You Go...

TULUM: Nearest major airport, Cancun, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Tulum, reachable by rental car and shuttle bus. Websites with information about Tulum include http://www.todotulum.com/ . Mimi and Richard Contreras' cabanas run about $75 a night, https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/150191 . Los Lirios Cabanas Hotel, $150, http://www.loslirioshotel.com/ . Rates may vary by season and type of room.

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • Resilient Stocks web.jpg Global tensions don’t dent U.S. enthusiasm for stocks

    As they have all year, investors responded by using it as an opportunity to buy stocks. In fact, they’ve “bought on the dip” consistently for three years, keeping the market’s slips from becoming slides. Stock pullbacks since 2011 have been rare and relatively small, and none have become severe enough to qualify as a correction, Wall Street parlance for a fall of 10 percent or more from a peak.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama leaders web.jpg Migrants: President Obama urges Latino leaders, Republicans to help

    White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said that House Speaker John Boehner’s effort to sue Obama over his use of executive authority “has opened the door for Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future.”

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Gaza sides agree to lull but truce efforts stall

    The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signaled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.
    Israel wants more time to destroy Hamas military tunnels and rocket launching sites in Gaza, while the territory’s Hamas rulers want international guarantees that a Gaza border blockade will be lifted before they cease fire.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Hospital Shoo_Hass.jpg Official: Hospital gunman intended to kill others

    A psychiatric patient ranted about a hospital gun ban before opening fire at the suburban medical complex, killing his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist before the doctor pulled out his own weapon and fired back.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 25, 2014

  • g000258000000000000245c0063741aaafcc815c5b3199362fb09f8a7c3.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    
Gibson called Diamond City Hall for help but the police chief was out on another call. The city clerk came to join in the surveillance ...

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Severe Weather web.jpg Tornado slams Virginia campground; 2 dead

    A couple from New Jersey was killed when a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son, in a tent next to them, had life-threatening injuries.
    He was among three dozen people hurt.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Aviations Bad Week web.jpg Bad week for aviation: Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Industry analysts and safety experts shake their heads at the seeming randomness of the tragedies, saying they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Economic Patriotism web.jpg Obama wants limits on mergers abroad by U.S. companies

    “They’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship. They’re declaring they are based someplace else even though most of their operations are here,” Obama said at a technical college in Los Angeles. “You know, some people are calling these companies corporate deserters.”
    He also charged that such companies are “cherry-picking the rules.”

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona Execution web.jpg As inmate died, lawyers debated if he was in pain

    Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan read a statement Thursday outside his office dismissing the notion the execution was botched, calling it an “erroneous conclusion” and “pure conjecture.” He said IVs in the inmate’s arms were “perfectly placed” and insisted that Wood felt no pain.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads