I had a very short “must do” list for Mexico, that looked like this:
- Snorkel or Scuba
We got the beach taken care of right away! Then it was on to the next two things!
Playa del Carmen is relatively close to the Tulum and Chichen Itza ruins. Before the trip, we were undecided on which to visit, but had a recommendation for Tulum. Tulum was 40 miles away (Chichen Itza was 112), located right on the coast (potential for water activities after seeing the ruins), and a cheap Colectivo ride away. We went with Tulum!
At first we weren’t sure how to get there, but Steven did a bit of research and found out about Colectivo – a shared van that drops and picks people up along highway 307 between Cancún and Tulum (and beyond?). Cheaper than a taxi, and quicker than a bus… and the price was right at 40 pesos per person one way (about $2.70). AND – it gave us control over the schedule. I didn’t want to sign up for a tour and have to be on someone else’s schedule. This is my vacation, damnit!
That doesn’t mean we didn’t get up early, though. Ha ha, that was our earliest day there! We had read online to get to the ruins before the tour buses showed up and the sun got too hot, and that was a good tip. We got there around 8:30 am, right after they opened, and got to enjoy the ruins a bit before the crowds arrived.
The Colectivo dropped us off on the highway, then it was about a ten minute walk to the ruins site. You pay to get in (64 pesos), but I didn’t pay for a guided tour (and as it turns out, a lot of the English portions of the signs, explaining what things are, were rubbed away), so my only knowledge of what I was looking at was what I had read before the trip (and what I overhead English-speaking tour guides say, ha ha):
- (I think) Tulum was the only walled Mayan city – tulúm is also the Yucatan Mayan word for wall.
- Tulum was an important trading post, as it had access to land and sea routes.
- Only the important peeps got to live in the walled city – the rest lived outside of it.
- Yep. That’s all I knew.
Upon returning to the states, I read more about Tulum on wikipedia (where else?) which was more interesting for me to read, after being there.
These pics make the space look kind of small, but if you check out this map, you’ll see it’s quite large!
We spent an hour or so walking around, which was just the right amount of time for me! Then we ventured out of there. The ruins have some touristy shops close by, but the city of Tulum is just down the highway, about 1.7 miles from the ruins, so we walked there to check it out. There was actually a paved path along the highway, the entire way!
It would have been helpful to have data (the service, not our cat, ha ha) on my phone when we got to Tulum. Before we went to Mexico, I downloaded an “offline” map to my phone of Playa del Carmen (using the Google Maps app) but couldn’t get it to work for Tulum on our very limited wifi in the condo (I should note, the internet is very unreliable in Mexico, where we were). So… we weren’t quite sure where the town center was, and ventured off the highway too soon. I stopped at a little shop and asked in Spanish where all the restaurants and shops were. They kind of directed be back toward the highway, but said to go the opposite direction, back toward the ruins. Maybe that is what they thought we wanted?
Anyway. We eventually figured it out, and found some lunch,
then split for the day, after. Steven and I wanted to walk around and find out about diving or snorkeling, and Gina, Steve and Luca were going to go to the beach.
And what Steven and I found out about scuba diving is that most of the places wanted to take us to dive in a cenote, and that most of the trips started at 8 am and ended at 1 pm – we had already missed them for the day.
The idea of getting up early the next day (when I knew we had an am excursion the following day, our last day there) was NOT appealing to either of us. And we weren’t sure if scuba-diving in a cenote was, either.
So we decided to hit up the beach, and see what we could find there for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Oh gosh. So we got a taxi, from the funniest old Spanish dude who didn’t speak much English at all.
I asked him to take us to the beach (in Spanish), to which he asked “which one?” (makes sense to ask that…). I said, “no sé,” so he starts rattling off lists of names of local beaches… eek. I had no idea! We just told him to take us to the best one and that we wanted to snorkel, so he took us to El Paraiso.
The first thing that happened when we walked up to the beach was a waiter from the local restaurant/hotel asked us if we wanted to pay to rent an umbrella or table (lots of beach clubs do this so you don’t have to haul your own stuff around). I actually told him we wanted to snorkel, and he took us over to this little table that we probably never would have noticed, and we found out a snorkel adventure was leaving in 10 minutes!
Ha ha, again, these conversations were all in Spanish, so that meant I was only getting the gist of them (but I felt comfortable with that). I knew we were paying about $30 a person to go out on the boat and snorkel, and that we would be gone just over an hour. The woman telling us about it mentioned something about a ride then snorkeling, but I wasn’t following, and didn’t figure it out until we were out on the boat.
Oh my gosh! They took us right by the ruins! That was so darn cool! I actually thought it was neater to see them from the sea, than to see them up close, in person!
And after that, they took us over to the reef, which is apparently part of the second largest in the world. For about 35 minutes we followed our guide around (trying hard not to swim over the coral, or choke in too much salt water) while he showed us different things.
See the blue fish between the corral and rock? I kept thinking “Dory! I found you!” Ha ha.
I brought the GoPro just for this, and am so happy I did! We took a ton of underwater pics when we were snorkeling!
The snorkel trip was just what we wanted – short and sweet, and we got to see some corral and fish! Steven and I were so happy we stumbled across it (thanks to that taxi driver)!
We had a few drinks and a snack on the beach (it felt so funny to be ordering from a waiter, wearing only a bikini, ha ha!),
before we took a taxi back in to town then rode Colectivo back to the condo (and yeah, the taxi ride cost more than for both of us to ride Colectivo home)!
We got to the condo (after saying hi to Pedra, of course),
and it rained for a few minutes. That was the only time we had “bad” weather while we were there. And that certainly wasn’t bad!
Steven and I went out for dinner and got something we hadn’t had in awhile (since arriving to Mexico, I mean) – Middle Eastern food!
Ha ha. So, the owner of the restaurant was sitting out in front of the shop with his family and all these people would come up to chat to him while we were there. Every once in awhile, he would get up, walk to the back of the restaurant and turn up the radio really loud – which was miserable – I couldn’t hear Steven, and it wasn’t coming in. Then as soon as the owner sat back down, our waitress would turn it down. This went back and forth while we were there, and made us giggle (and grateful the waitress kept turning it down).
We also stopped for gelato/sherbet, after!
It was fun when we got back and got to hear about Gina, Steve and Luca’s adventures for the day! They ended up on the beach really close to the one we went to. I still need to figure out where it was, exactly – that would be funny if they were somehow on the same beach, or in our beach pics from the boat!