The heavenly blend of limestone Mayan temples and white sand Caribbean beaches makes Tulum one of the most breathtaking and thrilling destinations on the Riviera Maya. Much more serene than its northern party neighbors, Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Tulum retains its laid-back beach vibe, in spite of the recent growth and the advent of several hotels. Most famous for its Mayan ruins, pearly white beaches, turquoise water and lushjungles, this enchanting little town offers visitors a whole lot to see and do:
Mayan Ruins at the Tulum Archaeological Park
The Mayan ruins site is undoubtedly the most visited spot in Tulum. Sitting atop a cliff looking over the turquoise blue Caribbean Sea, the Tulum Mayan ruins are remarkably fascinating for their location. The white stone structures contrast against the blue ocean waters issimply breathtaking. The ruins are spread over a small area of about 1,600 feet in length along the cliff edge.The site is a 10-minute drive from town and accessible by a 10-minute walk from the far end of the beach. More than 60 Mayan structures remain in Tulum including several temples. El Castillo, an ancient pyramid that exhibits typical carvings of plumed serpents, is the site’stallest structure and offers spectacular views from its upper levels. The Temple of the Descending God depicts a bee-like deity, which seems to be diving into the doorway. The Temple of Frescoes is a two-storey structure which is extensively decorated by statues, carvings, paintings and colorful frescoes depicting Mayan motifs. As compared to the other ruin sites of Mexico, Tulum is a lot more tourist-friendly and well maintained and the information slabs are in both English and Spanish.
After a walk around the ruins, visitors often swim and snorkel off the beach below. The ruins are accessible to public seven days a week between 8a.m. and 5.p.m.; a permit is required to enter with a camera. The site alsohas a beautiful little swimming beach where visitors can relax and enjoy the stunning views of the ruins.
The scenic Tulum Beach, with its powdery white sands, is located directly below the ancient Mayan structure called the El Castillo. The beach stretches about six miles, starting at the Tulum ruins and ending at Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. The creamy coral sand and clear turquoise waters spell nothing short of paradise.The cozy beaches of Tulum, with their soft sand, are perfect for tanning and swimming and remain safe from the bustle of inland resorts. The crystal clear waters and the rugged cliffs offer spectacular views. Go offshore snorkeling, surfing, sea-kayaking or even swimming in the shadows of a Mayan temple! Also, the beaches are not too crowded. They get more and more secluded as you move southwards the casual laid-back atmosphere on the beach is a welcome break from the heavily developed tourism in the resort towns towards the north.
The friendly town of Tulum is mainly focused along onemain road which is lined with several simple restaurants, gift shops, internet cafes, dive shops and travel agencies.It is also where the main bus terminal is located. Accommodations in town are more reasonably pricedthan the ones along the beach.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Preserve
Sian Kaan Biospeher Preserve, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is just a 15-minute drive from Tulum. This 1.3 million-acre preserve houses more than 100 species ofmammals and more than 300 species of birds as well as 23 different archaeological sites. Local fisherman lead tours through the lagoons and to offshore coral reef systems, where nurse sharks and spiny lobsters can be seen. The reserve is also a key nesting ground for two different species of sea turtles, which are often seen on the beaches.
Delphinus Xel-Ha Ecopark
The Delphinus Xel-Ha Ecopark, located inside Mexico’sopen-sea aquarium Xel-Ha, is just 8 miles from the Tulum ruins and features a program in which kids and adults can pet, hug and swim with the dolphins in a safe environment under the guidance of a professional trainer.
The cenotes spread around Tulum offer both snorkelingand scuba diving opportunities. Cenote Dos Ojos, north of Tulum, is ideal for both. Underwater flashlights light up the rock pillars and other underwater wonders making the activity all the more appealing for snorkelers. Another attractive cenote is Gran Cenote, which is enclosed by marvelous gardens. Cenotes and their enclosing jungle areas are also fantastic places to see wildlife like bats and birds.
About 26 miles from Tulum, is Coba, an archaeological zone enclosed by jungles. Coba was a prime city of about 60,000 people and exhibits architectural designs from the Classic Mayan period. Its appeal lies in its jungle location surrounded by five lakes. The 42-metre highNohoch Mul Pyramid in Coba is the tallest in theYucatán peninsula with 120 steps to its peak. The view from this pyramid is magnificent.
The captivating town of Tulum is conveniently located between two other heavenly destinations: Laguna Bacalar and Playa del Carmen. Laguana Bacalar is a large freshwater lake which can be toured on a boat. It also features a very interesting fortress-turned-museum.Tourists looking for a change of pace can head to the gorgeous town of Playa del Carmen which is located two hours north of Tulum and offers great shopping and a fantastic nightlife.
About the author: Martin Cowell is a Playa del Carmen real estate expert. When he is not selling & buying homes and condos, he travels cooks and blogs. You can reach him through his website www.iownakumal.com