Thursday, February 6, 2014

3 Days in Tulum, Mexico

Here is a 3 day itinerary for Tulum, Mexico. At the end are helpful hints, and more ideas and some frequently asked questions. 

Day 1

When stepping off the plane in Cancun,  if you haven’t booked a shuttle or bus, head to the taxis and share the 90-minute ride south to Tulum.
Arrive in the downtown area – a grid of shops, parks and restaurants right off the highway – and hop out at El Camello Jr. for some mouthwatering fish tacos, grilled octopus or whole fried fish. Then grab a taxi to your hotel for $7, because every daytime cab ride in Tulum costs $7. With luck, you are staying at one of the hotel zone’s beachfront boutiques with its own stretch of soft sand and shady palapas. Recline, sip a salty michelada and bathe in the turquoise sea as needed. Don't linger too long as you still need to find a bike before sundown. It’s the perfect way to visit the oceanfront Tulum Ruins, which are best attempted at crowd-repelling hours of 8 a.m. (opening) and 4:30 p.m. (closing).
In the evening, consider entering Maya Tulum’s sweat lodge for a Temescal ceremony. This toasty Mayan tradition will not only steam away your impurities, but it will bond you with fellow travelers. Proceed to Hartwood to get on the list early, as three-hour waits are common at this beloved hotspot, where the cocktails are delicious and the farm-to-table menu changes daily. Finish the night with a stiff margarita at Mezzanine’s cocktail lounge or Ahau Tulum, a hip bar owned by a couple of Burning Man founders. Need restaurants in Tulum? Check out a list HERE.

Day 2

Rise at dawn, order huevos rancheros on the beach, and head for the cenotes – underground limestone caves filled with water and considered by the Mayans to be sacred entrances to the underworld. Licensed scuba divers can get down with some pretty spectacular stalactites and a bat cave at Dos Ojos, which has its own dive shopat the entrance. Gran Cenote is another diving and snorkeling favorite, as is Cenote Cavalera, otherwise known as the Temple of Doom, where visitors make a blind, 10-foot leap into the azure water.

Opt for a hearty lunch at relative newcomer Simple, where shrimp, beef and chicken are expertly simmered in their own juices by a charismatic Spanish chef. After the feast, retreat to Be Tulum’s stylish beach bar and divine new spa, or head for La Vita e Bella for a Mayan massage, which focuses on the stomach and helps with digestion.
If you didn’t get into Hartwood last night – or even if you did – think about heading back. But if you’re looking for something equally delicious with less hype and more indigenous flair, direct your taxi driver to El Tábano. You’ll have to get up to look at a long and detailed menu scribbled on a giant chalkboard, but just go with it. Every dish at this place, from the Nopal cactus to the fresh catch in a red pumpkin seed sauce is creative and flavorful. Work it all off at Gitano, a mezcal bar with a big dance floor.

Day 3
This was not a day or rest for Mayans and it won’t be for you, either. After a Mexican-style hot chocolate and some stuffed French toast at Zamas, hop in a cab and ask for the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. You’ll want the whole day to enjoy this 1.5-million acre UNESCO world heritage site, where tours guided by naturalists include lunch.
The emerald-green wetlands brim with flora and fauna, and there are several ways to take it all in. Birders will enjoy kayaking through the lagoon, where roseate spoonbills, herons and ospreys are sometimes sighted. Bolder guests should swim the fresh water mangrove channels, which feel like a natural lazy river. (Tip: wear your life preserver like a diaper, and you can float even higher in the water.) On the ride home, ask your taxi driver to stop at the Muyil ruins, a relaxing site spread out on a twisting jungle path. A quick siesta before your final meal, and you’re off. If pasta’s your weakness, there’s nowhere better than Posada MargheritaCasa Jaguar offers stylish dining by candlelight, serving up Asian and Mexican fusion. In town, El Pequeño Buenos Aires is renowned for tender and juicy steaks. 

The Biosphere is also a must see. 

If you want to horseback ride, we recommend Rancho Baaxal. All their horses are rescues, they take great care of them and the workers are knowledgeable, safety comes first and a ton of fun,
Nightlife Sunday is an easier choice – you will go salsa dancing at La Zebra. For those who suck, lessons start at 6 p.m. The band arrives at 8. When you've had all the margaritas and spinning you can handle, return to your hotel, get online, and change your flight to next week.

Need more ideas?

Pub Crawl in Tulum:

Understand the beach and map of the area
We start at OM with a few beer - take a photo of yourself on the bench - a keeper
Then off to La Zebra for a famous mojito with a real sugar cane stir stick
Then El paraiso for a dip in the pool and a few more cervesas
Then to Ziggy Beach - great 2 for 1 drinks, wonderful bathrooms and good food
Get them to call a cab
Finish off at Playa Azul
Best Mojito I ever had was from the fellow that has the mojito making Volkswagen.

What is a Cenote?
The Yucatán peninsula is well known for its  cenotes, which are natural freshwater pools or sinkholes with underwater caves and caverns that make a great place to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive. The word cenote is derived from the Mayan word D´zonot.
One of the most beautiful is the Gran Cenote, just 4 km. on the road to Cobá. Its clear water allows swimmers and divers to see the underwater cave formations and the small fish that live there. Cenote Calavera is located about one kilometer before the Gran Cenote, down small, marked path into the jungle (you will see a sign along the highway). Its three holes form the skull shape which gave the cenote its name. This is a beautiful place to jump into the water from above.
Farther up on the highway to Cancun and Playa del Carmen is Cenote Dos Ojos, whose two holes make an excellent place to swim or dive. Cenote Cristal andCenote Escondido are both located south of Tulum, on the road to Carrillo Puerto and Chetumal, just five minutes from Tulum pueblo. Admission prices include both cenotes.
All of the cenotes of the area are connected by a vast system of underground rivers, which are being explored by the region´s best scuba divers.
How were Cenotes formed?
During the last ice age (approximately 1.5 million years ago), the appearance of the Yucatan peninsula completely changed. The ice caps at the poles grew, while the sea level sank about 100 meters. At this time, the rain water carved holes into the limestone ground, thus creating the space for the evolution of stalactites and stalagmites. (Stalactites hang down from the ceiling of caves, and stalagmites rise up from the ground.) As the ice began to melt again, the sea level began to rise, and the caves were flooded with water once again.
In some places, the underground water streams had washed away the soil, so the ground fell in. The Yucatan peninsula´s world famous cenotes (often referred to as sinkholes or waterholes) evolved. The water which fills the caves today is partly intruding saltwater from the sea, but mainly fresh rainwater. Due to their different density and weight, saltwater and fresh water do not mix. The fresh water "floats" on the saltwater, causing an oily appearance. This is called the "halocline," and is not an impurity; it is a natural effect of the mixture of the two water systems.
Which Cenotes are best? 
Dos Ojos definitely has a lot of wow factor--it's so clear that you don't realize how deep it is until a group of divers goes beneath you. It's good value, too, but if I do it again I think I'll go against all of my usual instincts and use a guide. It seems like it would really help you make the most of it--they'll set you up with one when you pay your admission, if you want it, but aren't too pushy if you don't.
Nohoch Mul at Coba is where I discovered that I have, if not a fear of heights, a fear of climbing! Very few people go past that, so if you rent bikes you may find yourself alone in the jungle with ruins all around you--another wow factor experience.
You must do Dos Ojos, underground passage to the bat cave. Sian Kaan has some excellent day trips as well.
We enjoyed Casa Cenote, long mangrove canals with a bbq afterwards - you may be able to rent a kayak
Yal-Ku Lagoon near Akumal
This is a great list:
A good map:

Weather in Tulum:
Tulum is a great destination any time of the year, but you need to know what to expect before you go.
The weather is pretty much summery all year long (it cools off in the evenings in winter), so the seasons are divided into rainy and dry.
The rainy or wet season usually begins in June or July and lasts until November, with the heaviest rains usually being in July-August. This can mean rain all night, every night, with sunny days, or it can mean rain during the day as well. Rain is usually welcome during this time of the year, as the summer months are pretty hot and the rain cools things off. The rainly season does not scare away visitors, July and August are two of the busiest months of the year, with many travelers coming from Europe and filling the beach cabanas.
The dry season is, of course, for the remaining half of the year. There can be very short downpours or light rains during the dry season as well.
 Generally, the coolest months of the year are December-January, and the warmest are June-July.