Long weekend in Mexico!
Fly into Cancun because it's cheaper that way. Don't be afraid to rent a car with a friend! The road from Cancun to Tulum is incredibly easy to navigate. If you're not feeling very confident about this idea, be sure to drive only during daylight hours. Follow all of the laws of the road and don't travel to places you haven't planned ahead to visit!
Cancun doesn't really deserve much of your time if you want to see what Mexico is really about. It's good for a private resort, but not for experiencing the rich culture of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Day 1: CENOTES!
The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the few places in the world that has cenotes -- literally translates to "sink hole" but ugh thats a terrible name for these beautiful swimming holes! Some are even accessed only by heading underground. Some of these cenotes will cost much more money than others, depending how developed they are. I'll give you a few names of cenotes to check out, but if you see a sign on the side of the road, just follow it. You will likely NOT be disappointed!
Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Carwash (yes, that's the name), and Cenote Zacil Ha
Spend all day lounging at these cenotes. Pick up some tacos or corn or fruit on the side of the road. If you're worried about your stomach, maybe stay away from some of the fresh fruit unless you know it comes from under a peel (strawberries will be washed with local water, mango gets peeled and never touches the water!) Skip the Starbucks and other chain food on the road and head to the local grocery stores to get tons of bread, avocados, tomatoes, and meat of your choice to eat sandwiches today. Who wants to feel weighted down by a big meal while they're swimming in an underground watering hole??
Day 2 - Ruins!
Start the day leisurely. Pick up some huevos at a local restaurant and fill yourself with mimosas. Then head to Muyil -- a very small site compared to some of the others, where you'll be one of few tourists on the grounds. I don't remember there being guides available here, so make sure you read all the information near the ruins to know what you're looking at.
This will take you a while to walk around, but bring a book and sit by some of the buildings. There is a great energy here -- and lots of trees, unlike at Chichen Itza -- so you can relax and recharge.
After walking through the ruins you'll come upon a little bay with some boats and a dock. Stick those feet in the water and relax some more! This isn't a place for swimming, but soon you'll come across another one :).
When you're finished at the ruins, drive a few minutes south of the entrance until you find a tiny little taco truck. This man and his wife were making some amazing tacos for very low prices. They even gave us information about a secret swimming area we didn't know about at all! Ask them about it :). It was filled with locals having picnics on the beach. We were the only people there who weren't from the area. It was beautiful.
Spend your evening at one of the restaurants in Tulum city.
Day 3 Tulum Ruins and the beach!
What would a trip to Tulum be without visiting the ruins and the beach? This is one of the few places in the world that the ruins overlook the beach itself.
https://tulumruins.net/ -- they have tours during the day, but they also have some tours at night where they light up the ruins as you walk by. We had headsets where we could listen to the tour in Spanish or English (or probably other languages too). It was really cool! If you go during the day, it's worth it to spring for the tour guide. It won't cost you much, you'll know what you're looking at, and you'll support local workers.
There are MANY expensive hotels and resorts on Tulum's shoreline, but we opted to stay in town and then drive. This way we supported smaller hotels or airbnb owners while still being able to experience the beautiful beaches.
Deciding on the beaches you want to visit? South playa has the most commercial development. You've probably seen the beautiful pictures! The northern end is a little less developed and quieter.
- Las Palmas beach at the southern end,
- Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach) in the middle, and
- Playa Ruinas at the north near the Tulum ruins.
Also a tip -- if you can eat salbutes and panuchos -- DO IT! Get some aguas frescas too. Ceviche. It's all amazing. Eat your way through Tulum.