Beaches and Ruins and Turtles in Tulum!

Tulum is an extremely beautiful beach town 2 hours south of Cancun. It’s off the grid so all hotels there are small. The sand is white and as soft as flour and the water is clear and calm most days. Pelicans fly overheard and you can often spot them diving into the ocean to eat a fish in the morning. It’s perfectly easy to spend days just laying on the beach and jumping into the water whenever you feel like it.

I like a bit of adventure with my vacations so during the afternoons when the beach got too hot, we went on a few really awesome excursions around Tulum. I would recommend renting a car if you go because it just makes getting anywhere much easier.

Our first excursion was to the Mayan community of Xyaat in the town of Senor, which is about an hour and a half drive from Tulum. When you get about halfway through the town of Senor, make a right and then ask one of the kids to take you to Marcos; this is how we found our way. =) It was super interesting to learn about Mayan history and meet with people in the village. Throughout the day we learned about the traditional plants used for curing various ailments including diabetes and stress headaches from Dona Catalina, heard about the Caste War from Don Abundio, and then made rope from an agave plant with Don Crecencio. We also had the chance to taste the local honey made from melipona bees (bees who do not have stingers and are quite stingy with their honey; they only make 1 liter of honey a year, but man is it delicious). The tour ended with a Mayan lunch; we had chaya with eggs and a sauteed mix of pumpkin, onions, and tomatoes as well as beans and fresh tortillas. Our tour was coordinated by Marcos Cante Canul, who you can email at to schedule a tour; they have an English-speaking guide on Saturdays and Sundays.

Don Abundio, 92 years young, telling us about the Mayan resistance


Our next excursion was snorkeling at Akumal, which is about a 25 minute drive from Tulum. Our hotel provided us with snorkeling gear but there are snorkeling rentals at the beach (includes a life jacket if you don’t know how to swim) for a reasonable price. Going here pretty much guarantees you an up-close and personal sea turtle sighting. We saw 7 large sea turtles, most of which had very colorful small fish clinging to their backs. While they are very beautiful, the thing that struck me the most was actually how well you can hear the sea turtles when they are eating the sea grass underwater. It was really amazing to both watch and hear the turtles eat and swim around.

The next day we went to Coba and Punta Laguna. Coba is a Mayan ruin located about 45 km away from Tulum in the middle of the jungle. It’s a very quiet place lined with trees and you can really feel the history of the place. We climbed Ixmoja, which is 42 m high and were rewarded with a lovely view of the surrounding jungle and nearby laguna. After Coba, we made our way to Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, which is about 25 minutes from Coba, and arrived there at about 3pm. This turned out to be the perfect time for monkey spotting and we saw both spider monkeys and howler monkeys on our hike. I truly recommend getting a local guide for the tour. Our guide, Julio, taught us a lot about the wildlife and history of the area and knew where to go for the greatest chance of finding monkeys. I had never heard a howler monkey before and their roar is tremendous. You can email to find out about operating times and tours.

 Bicycle Taxis are available if you overheat while climbing Ixmoja
A howler monkey at Punta Laguna Nature Reserve
Our final excursion was to Gran Cenote, which is about 5 minutes drive from Tulum. Cenotes are caves filled with freshwater. Different cenotes charge different fees and you can also rent snorkeling gear at the cenote. They are the perfect place for cooling off during the hot afternoon and the water is extremely clear in addition to being a bit cold so you also get to see fish and small turtles. We sadly did not get the chance to visit Sac Aktun or Dos Ojos, which are also good for scuba diving but will definitely visit them next time!


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