BETWEEN CENOTES, RUINS AND BIOSPHERE
WHAT TO DO IN TULUM? MY JOURNEY
SIAN KA’AN BIOSPHERE
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere is one of the most protected places on the Maya River. Registered at UNESCO, it covers more than 670,000 hectares! Impressive, isn’t it? This is where you can see different sea animals. You’re obviously never sure to see all of them because they aren’t kept in captivity, but the guides know the places where you can have the best chance of seeing them.
For this excursion, we chose the Deluxe tour with Pixan Riviera. It’s possible to do it without a guide, but without a car it’s complicated to get there, and the price of the boat is the same, regardless of the number of people who get on it. To be honest, going there by yourself isn’t cheaper or faster.
To start, meet at your accommodation around 8am. After a short drive, you board on a first boat. The boats in the reserve can generally accommodate 6 people. There are only a few boats a day that do the tours on the reserve, to avoid mass tourism and try to preserve the place. They obviously all go to the same spots, but you don’t have all the boats at the same time at each stop, which is quite nice. Once on the boat, it’s off to navigate this huge reserve, sometimes surrounded by mangroves. You can see dolphins at the first stop. We saw two on the surface, it was a great natural show! Then, we went to another place to observe a large turtle that sticks its little head out of the water sometimes. It’s way too cute to watch it. Afterwards, a short snorkeling break. Did you know that there’s the second largest coral reef in the world here? Yes, you can observe it in this biosphere, and also in Belize. The guide explained very well the instructions before going in the water to respect the environment, such as not putting your flippers towards the corals, not touching them, not putting on sunscreen (even if the brand says that it respects the environment). The corals are very beautiful to observe! We saw lots of different fishes. Once back on the boat, it’s off to a lunch/buffet in a small village. Then back on the boat to see birds and also a crocodile near an observation deck. Afterwards, you return to your accommodation around 4 p.m.
The excursion was really good! We had the chance to see most of the animals that there are in the biosphere. I really liked the guide (French speaking) who gave good explanations on the fauna and flora, and on the biosphere. A good price-quality ratio.
Price of the excursion with guide, transport, lunch: 120€ for the classic tour – 150€ for the deluxe tour (longer boat trip to better enjoy the place)
BEACHES & CENOTES
Sunset at Playa Paraiso
When we think of Tulum, we dream of chilling on a beautiful beach, right? Well not that much actually, most of the beaches are private and belong to hotels or beach clubs. But don’t panic, I’ve a good plan for you! There’s still the public (and free) Playa Paraiso beach. A large beach with gorgeous blue water and perfect temperatures for swimming. A few bars and restaurants are on the beach if you want to have a drink or eat (and if you have the money for it).
There are several Cenotes around Tulum. That day, we rented a bike to ride freely around the area. Well, the bike rides are clearly on the side of the road, so not very pleasant, but it allows you to visit places without paying a taxi or looking for a collectivo each time. We went to the Cenote Escondido, which is a real wonder! The cash desk is on the other side of the road. Then there are a few minutes to do on an unpaved road, and you can leave your bikes in a small dedicated bike park where you can hang the bikes in one place. Then a few more minutes of walking to discover this incredible open cenote which has transparent water and such beautiful colors! Surrounded by vegetation, it’s really beautiful! If you have the opportunity, take some snorkeling equipment to see underwater. We saw a small turtle and some fishes. Some people even go scuba diving in the cenotes, it looks fantastic! Don’t hesitate to take your time here, the place isn’t very touristy so it’s nice to sit there and eat a picnic. No need for a life jacket to go in the water, nor limited time like some other cenotes. This is honestly my favorite cenote in Mexico, better than the one we did in Valladolid. You can also combine the Cenote Escondido with the Cenote Crystal which is right next to it, they’ll offer it to you when you go to pay the entrance. We met people who were disappointed, so we didn’t.
Rental bike from our hostel: €10 per day
Entrance fee to Cenote Escondido: €3.50
Yes in Mexico there are many ruins to visit. But each time, I was really surprised by the difference between all the ruins. This one is located by the sea, at the top of a cliff. Still different from what I’ve seen elsewhere in Mexico. To get there, you can take a collectivo from the main avenue of Tulum. Go to the signs that indicate a bus stop, and from there you can find a collectivo that goes to the ruins (make sure to tell the driver before getting on). There are collectivo quite often and the journey takes about ten minutes. He’ll drop you off at the entrance to the cash desks. For the return, it’s the same place. After paying your entrance and taking a map of the archaeological zone of Tulum, you have a small walk to arrive at the entrance of the archaeological site.
The Maya site is well preserved! You can see different ruins on your way. The archaeological site is quite large, we took about 2 hours to go around. It’s super beautiful to see these ruins above the cliffs and the sea right next to it. I really enjoyed visiting this site. There are some explanatory signs in Spanish and English. I advise you to go there at the opening because there are many people visiting and it’s more impressive to see the extent of the site when there are few visitors.
Price of a trip by collectivo: 25 Mexican pesos
Entrance to the Tulum Archaeological Zone: 85 Mexican pesos
Tulum is a very large city. If you can, try to sleep in the city center and not necessarily next to the ruins otherwise you’ll be a bit far from everything. In the city center, there isn’t much to visit, rather in the evening to party if you want.
There’s one place that we visited, not really in the city center, but where you can take a ride if you’re taking a bike ride, it’s at the Holistika Hotel. No need to be a hotel guest to go to the artistic trail. It’s a path in a forest with parts of walls in several places where there are artistic works. I found it very special, but like all art, depends on what you like. It’ll take you about thirty minutes to go around.
Price of the walk at the Holistika Hotel: free
Tulum is a pleasant destination where you can enjoy the beach, see ruins, party, relax at the edge of a cenote. It’s really nice to be able to do so many different activities in this destination. Pleasantly surprised by the destination.
WHEN TO GO?
We went there at the end of October, we had great weather every day.
I think 3 days is enough to go around. It’s a city where we could stay longer easily and discover a little more certain corners or certain cenotes.
WHERE TO SLEEP? MY ACCOMMODATION
Calle Sagitario Oriente 1289, Tulum City Center,
77760 Tulum, Mexico
Price: 28€ / night / person in a mixed dormitory of 6 people
Click here to book.
In the city center, right next to the street where all the bars are. The hostel is really good. The common room is a bit noisy because they mix all the time but no problem, you can’t hear anything in the rooms.
MY 3 TIPS TO VISIT TULUM
- Rent a bike to go around the city and access the cenotes not too far.
- Sleep in the city center of Tulum and not necessarily next to the ruins or the beach because if you don’t have cars you’ll quickly be stuck.
- Eat at the street food stalls. If there’s lots of people, that means it’s a good one.