…at least for now. I seriously believed when I sat down to write this, I would be writing an ode to Tulum, a you-must-visit-now travel guide, probably even a love letter to Tulum. In fact as I always do, I dug into my research and I started writing a little ahead of time, so when I sat down, I simply started by deleting most of what I had already written. So, far beyond my wildest dreams, I am going to have the audacity to tell you to skip Tulum.
Crazy, I know! In a world where every day five more Tulum travel guides pop-up on Pinterest and Instagram touting it a bohomian, beachy beauty, I am going to say – stay away for now.
Tulum was quite possibly one of the most popular destinations of 2017. A chic, eco beach getaway that is close enough, yet foreign enough to intrigue. Just about everyone I know and every instafamous blogger/traveler has visited Tulum in the last two years – I guess it should not have surprised me that it might be a little over crowded.
So how could I possibly say that I wouldn’t spend my time and money there if I could do it over again? For the exact reason listed above – it has become a little too popular for its own good. What I am looking for in a beach vacation is the opposite of what I found there. Construction everywhere, a constant stream of traffic and honking along the beach road, garbage littered about, too many people, no place to comfortably and leisurely ride a bike like I had pictured; it just wasn’t exactly the laid back beach destination I had imagined.
Just 7-8 years ago my mom rented a car in Belize and road tripped through the Yucatan peninsula, driving the wrong way down one way streets and navigating in broken Spanish. At that time, Tulum was a small street with a few beach front cabanas and a couple restaurants. The main town of Tulum along Highway 307 was merely a quick stop to get gas, get off the bus and find a bike or taxi to take you down to the beach. In fact, at some point it was entirely possible to miss Tulum all together. In 2018, Tulum has exploded and even welcomed a Starbucks, which is located at the entrance to the ruins. I am not knocking Starbucks, I drink it most mornings, but I use it as a gauge of how popular a place is and how many Americans you can find there.[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Kiteboarding in Tulum, Mexico [/caption]
The discussion we (Jeremy and I) had while visiting Tulum went a little like this: As we made it to the beachside we thought yes, we could spend a couple days here relaxing, then as we came back to the roadside, we couldn’t really see the need to come back here. Based on the constant stream of traffic, my sister-in-law even commented that she was pretty sure if she rode a bike up the street that she would have easily been killed by one of the water potable trucks or the fifty thousand taxis looking for passengers. It would have been an easy accident to hit some of the ladies from a bachelorette party riding in the street; there isn’t a sidewalk until you get closer to the town, so cars, people and bikes all share the road and not in an organized fashion.
Don’t get me wrong. Tulum is everything you think it is. Instagram isn’t lying. It is cool, hip, full of beautiful beaches, white sand, turquoise water, amazing food, white wood swings, acai bowls and hammocks. Every meal that we had while visiting Tulum was phenomenal from the fish and veggie tacos at the Nomade to a beautiful dinner at Gitano and during those moments, we could definitely picture ourselves spending more time in this boho paradise. However, every time we stepped back on the street to wander the shops, visit a roadside cafe or drive down to a different location (everything was significantly further than we expected), we lost all of the relaxation we had cultivated. It was simply significantly busier and dirtier (off the beach) than we were expecting. Please note: If everything listed above is your idea of a dream getaway and lots of people sharing in it doesn’t bother you, then Tulum will be an absolute delight.[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] The Nomade, Tulum [/caption]
I travel to take a break, getaway from traffic, mobs of people, to get out in nature, to find some quiet and honestly run far from the onslaught of bachelorette parties and American tourists (I know I am one of them in some ways). If I wanted everything listed above, I wouldn’t have to travel very far, Miami is just up the street.
Now, if you already have a trip planned to Tulum, or are still considering it, but want to have a little space to yourself, I found one place, I would definitely go back to. The O Tulum is about 15 miles north of Tulum near Casa Cenote down significantly quieter road right on the water. We found this place just by happen chance and about 60% of the photos I took on this trip that you see scattered throughout this blog were taken in this area. For me the ideal vacation or getaway, is getting up, having a cup of green tea (sub coffee if that is your thing) overlooking the ocean, followed by a bike ride down to the cenote for a morning swim. From here it is also a quick trip to the main area of Tulum by car for a nice dinner out. We really enjoyed just journeying up and down this street seeing what we found. While it is considered Tulum, it is not in the main strip nor is it close enough to ride a bike, but if you are looking for somewhere you can ride your bike and just wander about for a couple of days, I would check this out. Car rentals are pretty inexpensive and the driving in Mexico, especially in this area, is pretty straightforward. If you are going to stay here, I would recommend a car so you can have a few meals in Tulum town and on the beach, plus visit the Tulum and Coba ruins.[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] View of the Beach at the O Tulum [/caption]
At this point, I think my new strategy is going to be to keep an eye on where everyone is flocking and joyfully run the other direction. It probably won’t always be successful, but I figure, why not give it a shot. I had an exceptional weekend away in St. Croix, a place I knew nothing about, had never seen on social media, and had only heard negative things in whisperings. I just found a pretty cheap flight and figured what the heck. It definitely panned out way better than I could have ever expected. Perhaps that is the secret, low to no expectations.
Since I still love everything about Mexico, here are a couple of other places to check out in the Yucatan Peninsula if Tulum doesn’t sound like your cup of tea:
Merida – for colonial charm, cobblestone streets and an authentic Mexico town experience.
Valladolid – stopover point for the Chichen-Itza ruins, which is crowded, but another pastel-colored colonial town. If you are looking for an offbeat experience, check out the ruins of Ek Balam which still haven’t been fully excavated.
Isla Holbox – Holbox is protected in that it isn’t the easiest to get to, but this laidback island is ideal for a true getaway and during whale shark season, it becomes even more epic.
Isla Mujeres – this has probably also grown in popularity, but is still quieter than the popular cruise stop, Cozumel. Plus, I have yet to find an island where golf carts are the primary form of transportation that I didn’t like.
Laguna Bacalar – A large turquoise, freshwater lake south of Tulum. Relaxed, significantly quieter and still pretty off the beaten path.
Celestun – this quiet beach town is a jumping off point for the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun, a large coastal wetland reserve and wildlife refuge and a great spot to see the flamingos. Mom, I am cool whenever you are ready to buy a retirement house here.
I hope with this information, you can create your ideal trip of getaway to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico! I always love feedback, so if you enjoyed this type of post or prefer a travel guide style or just want to hear something different, join me over on Instagram @dkristinanthony. I would love to hear from you![caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Quiet Moment by the Sea [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Somewhere North of Tulum, Mexico [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Hanging Bridge at Azulik, Tulum [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Tulum Ruins [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Puerto Morelos, Mexico [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Wandering the Tulum Ruins [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Casa Cenote, Tulum [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Found paradise in Tulum [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] O Tulum Hotel [/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Coba, Tulum [/caption]]]>