Leaving Isla Mujeres was tough but after having spent four nights there, I was happy to move on to the next adventure! Carolina and I jumped on the ferry and then took a collectivo downtown where we got the Playa Express bus (for about 40 pesos or so). We had a pit stop in Playa del Carmen (both deciding we were happy not to have stopped there for a few nights, having heard that there’s really nothing to do apart from party with lots of 18-20 year olds), then we took another collectivo directly to Tulum.
Having booked another hostel for the first night as the Weary Traveller was full, we stayed in La Cigana, just off the main strip in downtown Tulum. It was a slightly odd place; it reminded me of West Africa! Very humid, dark, wooden, shack-like rooms and it seemed to be a mosquito HEAVEN. Nevertheless, it was fine and clean and so we offloaded our bags and made out to explore downtown.
We stopped off at Don Cafeta on the main street and I ordered delicious enchiladas con mole (chocolate sauce) with a margarita. Not too cheap, but pretty delicious all the same. We hung out for the evening and later on met up with another Swedish girl that Carolina had met earlier in her trip at the Mint bar, a cool little spot on the main street, with an indoor and outdoor area, amazing cocktails and laughing gas was also on offer!
The following day, we packed up and moved on to our next abode, the Weary Traveller hostel. It’s a cool place, with a big communal outdoor area which was very welcome after our first night in the not-so-social La Cigana. I had booked into a mixed dorm and Carolina was in the girls dorm upstairs, so I was shown to my room on the ground floor (the receptionist saw the size of my bag and didn’t want me to have to haul it upstairs…). The room was TINY and pretty hot…but how and ever it was fine and it was nice to meet some new friendly faces!
Later on that day, I met Carolina and we hired bikes from the shop just down the street. I think it was about 80 pesos to hire the bike for the day, they were really cool city bikes, I wanted to bring mine home! We cycled down the highway directly to the ruins and paid about 50 pesos or so for entry. It was pretty busy by the time we got there (about 12 or so). The ruins themselves are nice, although probably the least impressive of the ruins I’ve seen to date – the fact that they are on a cliff and overlooking the sea, with a beautiful beach just beside them where you can swim and sunbathe is definitely the unique selling point!
After the ruins, we cycled down to Las Palampas beach and found a nice little restaurant bar spot right on the beach where I ordered my first ceviche of this trip, yum! A relative beginner to ceviche, my experience is limited but this was really tasty. Fresh and zingy with mango and fresh coriander, it was a perfect meal for a hot day at the beach, accompanied by a cold beer for good measure, por supuesto! I told Carolina I’d send her on a ceviche recipe I had tried out a few months ago (Rick Bayless’ classic ceviche) for her to try out when she got back to Stockholm.
That night at the hostel there was a free salsa lesson at 9pm which I wanted to check out, it was led by a stocky Mexican guy and his very beautiful dance partner, a real whirlwind dance class with about fifteen different moves crammed into the hour and lots of rotation, kind of like speed dating/dancing!
The following day, we rented bikes again and explored the Gran Cenote, just a short(ish) bike ride away from the hostel – everything around here is flat thank god! It was my first time at a cenote, and it was seriously impressive, so dramatic and also kind of eery, as if you’re on another planet. Cenotes are deep natural pits or sinkholes caused by the collapse of limestone rock exposing underground water beneath. They were supposedly sometimes used by ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.
I booked in with the hostel tour to go to Akumal beach and Dos Ojos cenote the next day, it was pricey enough (500 pesos) but for a half day trip i thought it would be worth it to do, and it was one of the highlights of my trip so far. At about 10am in the morning we took off on a shuttle bus to Akumal beach, where we donned our life jackets and snorkels and ventured into the ocean to swim with sea turtles! It was truly an incredible experience, they were so close to us, so big, they swam above sea level to catch their breath and it was so much closer in distance than the sea turtles I had seen in isla mujeres, it was amazing! The only downpoint was, that unfortunately about half way through snorkelling out at sea, I realised that i had conveniently forgotten to put suncream on my ass (that was sticking up in the air)…ouch.
Next stop was Dos Ojos and WOW…it was a million times more impressive than the Gran Cenote, which is saying something! It was also really nice to have a life jacket on to be kept buoyant the whole time (I had found trying to snorkel and stay afloat in really deep water a bit of a challenge the day before!) and we also had torches to guide us through the dark passages…it was really creepy in parts especially where there was no light at all! We went through what’s called the bat cave, with hundreds of families of bats sleeping soundly above our heads.
The next couple of days were extremely chilled out beach days filled with sunbathing, swimming, reading and drinking coconuts on the beach..aahh bliss! We ate in Tacos al Pastor next to the hostel and I ordered the torta al pastor and empanada. Such good value and really delicious food.
The night I was leaving, we had dinner across the road from the hostel and I sampled the ‘memela’, recommended to me by our waiter, it was a delicious pancake type base with toppings of chorizo, al pastor and avocado, egg, onions etc, it cost around 50 pesos and was extremely tasty and filling.
I went to get the night bus to Palenque from the ADO bus station just up from the hostel at 11pm, due to arrive the next morning at 9.30am, followed by another bus out of Palenque at about 5pm to get to San Cristobal de las Casas. I had such a wonderful time in Tulum and was so sad to leave, but happy to have met great people and to have had such amazing experiences with cenotes and sea turtles; forever memories!