Where to stay, what to see, and how to get around in Tulum
Welcome to my first chapter on Tulum, Mexico. Tulum is a beautiful little gem located on the eastern side of the peninsula, along the Carribean Sea, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico - about 2 hours down the coast from the Cancun Airport (CUN).
This was one of the last cities constructed and lived in by the Maya. The ruins of this city built on tall cliffs between 1200 and 1450, can still be visited by the public. In the Yucatan dialect of the Mayan language, Tulum means fence, or wall - which you'll see if you go and explore the ruins of the ancient walled city while in Tulum.
How Safe is Tulum?
I heard many, many, MANY warnings before travelling to Mexico. I have traveled to Northern parts of Mexico in the past, and felt completely safe, so despite recent incidents in the South, I chose to book somewhere in the Mayan Riviera and to disregard the negative feedback.
I know of many people who vacation in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum and who have been recently, so I took all warnings into account but considered anything bad to be isolated incidents.
I could not reiterate any better how true that last part is - most crimes in those areas are isolated. Not once on the trip did I feel in danger in any way, on or off resort. People just have an overall bad opinion of Mexico, and that makes me sad as it is a beautiful place with beautiful culture.
Every country has cities with crime. Crime happens everywhere. You should travel with common sense and street smarts ANYWHERE in the world, and as long as you do, you'll likely be completely safe. Isolated incidents happen, but you can't live in fear your entire life over what could happen anywhere. Exercise normal precautions, be smart, and be aware.
Where to stay
We chose to stay in an All-Inclusive Resort called Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa. This decision was based on a combination of things. Proximity to the beach, distance from downtown, and distance from the airport were all deciding factors.
Dreams was an absolutely beautiful resort. We were treated so well throughout our entire stay, and while there are countless resorts up the strip between the Cancun airport and Tulum Town, I would 100% recommend staying at Dreams or one of the other resorts in their chain. For more information on booking at Dreams, check out their website here.
I will cover details on the resort in a separate chapter.
Where to go
There are so many amazing places to fit in over the course of just a week long vacation. Tulum is only about an hour drive from Playa del Carmen, where the nightlife, shopping, and beaches are always a highlight to visitors. While we didn't get to Playa del Carmen this time, it's definitely on our list for a few night stop over when we go back.
While the beaches are a no-brainer, the next number one thing on my list of recommendations to do in Tulum is to visit a cenote. You won't have any trouble finding one as there are over 6000 in the Yucatan Peninsula alone.
A cenote (pronounced SEY-NO-tay)is a stunning naturally occurring wonder that is essentially a sinkhole caused by the collapse of bedrock, and is then filled up by groundwater.
With so many to see, how do you choose which one?
Stay tuned for the chapter on cenotes where I'll go more in depth!
There is also no shortage of ruins and Mayan history to experience in Tulum. While being home to it's own ancient city ruins, others to visit include Coba, and Chichen Itza. The Coba ruins are accessible to actually climb! More details on the ruins will be included with the cenotes in another chapter.
Another thing on my to-do list was to visit the downtown area of Tulum. Past the resort strip, and the Tulum ruins, is what the locals call "Tulum Town". Past Tulum Town, is another main strip called "Tulum Beach". Both are full of restaurants, bars, vendors, and shops, and also include some smaller resorts.
There was so much to talk about from Tulum Town and Tulum beach that they also have their own chapter!
We flew with Air Transat through Expedia from Toronto (YYZ) to Cancun (CUN). The flight was about 3.5 hours non-stop. The Cancun airport was very updated, with plenty of restaurants, shops, and even a Starbucks. On the way outside, don't get sidetracked by the section of people trying to get you sucked into a time share! Just keep walking. Trust me.
Once outside we had to find our arranged transportation with an Expedia rep. All travel reps have shirts on with their logos and are eager to help. It may seem crazy busy, but just have your transportation info ready and they will get you sorted.
Cabs are also available, but I do recommend pre-arranging your transport to your resort or hotel so you have zero worries after your flight.
HAVE PESOS TO TIP YOUR DRIVER!
I will have more on tipping in another chapter. Tipping goes a long way in Mexico.
Once at our hotel, travelling to and from town was easy. We had concierge call a cab, and the cab would come right in to the resort and pick us up. From Dreams to Tulum Town was roughly a 10 minute drive, and about 200-250 pesos. Always ask your resort for a cab fare estimate to make sure you aren't getting over charged. Also be sure to tip cab drivers too.
Upon leaving and entering the resort each time, you have to be cleared with the guard at the front gate. They'd take the cabbie's info, as well as your room number and name. Every. Time. Which also ties in with feeling safe the entire trip. Everyone is documented that enters or leaves the resort.
If you don't want to pay for a cab and feel comfortable with local transportation, you'll also see lots of white vans going up and down the highway. They are shared transportation vehicles called Collectivos. They are cheap and negotiable, but will not always drop you off right to where you want to go, rather the closest place on their route, often on the side of the road. We found cabs were easier for us but collectivos are safe as well.
One thing I don't recommend is driving/renting a car yourself, or walking anywhere near the side of the highway. Driving is INSANE there, even for the most comfortable and confident drivers.