Friday, January 15, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 3: Tulum

January 3, 2016

We decided to head out to Tulum early on Sunday morning to get to the ruins at opening time (8:00 am), so we left our hotel at 6:30 for the long drive. Tulum was the primary location we wanted to visit during this trip (we would have stayed there if it wasn’t so crazy expensive), so we were particularly excited. We were the third car in line for the ruins, which were clearly marked from the freeway and easy to find.

Tulum Ruins

The ruins are a huge tourist attraction, and we found ourselves dodging tour groups and weaving in and out of masses almost constantly. But the ruins themselves were amazing. From the parking lot, you have to maneuver through a mini town of souvenir stands, restaurants, even a Starbucks, to get to the entrance. Once you are inside, it opens up to a glorious Mayan city of ruins on the cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The view is spectacular. At the top, there is a huge wooden staircase you can go down to a secluded beach and take a dip in the ocean. We went down so I could stick my feet in the water, and saw some huge iguanas sun bathing on the rocks on the side of the cliff.

Check out the columns in the palace on the right

Stairs leading down to the beach

So many great buildings still mostly intact

This was a religious building only for priests and high officials

Notice the close up of the red hand prints on the side

Reinforcements to keep the columns up

View of the beach and ruins in the distance

Iguana getting some sun...he blends right in!

The attendant who gave us a map of the ruins also told us about going to Playa Maya after we were finished at the site, as it was a nice beach and you get a view of the ruins from another perspective. We thought this was a great idea and headed out, but the map he gave us was so vague and not drawn to scale, so we ended up going the wrong way for about half an hour or so. But instead of being a huge hindrance, we actually were able to see a really cool part of Tulum. The streets are narrow and lined with boutiques and treehouse-esque restaurants, as well as high-end resorts and beach clubs. I like to think of this part of Tulum as the Marin of the area…Tulum is to Cancun as Marin is to San Francisco; lots of yoga advertisements and hippie shops and classy boutiques, but all with a really earthy feel. I loved the look of the restaurants and other establishments, and had parking been an easier task, we would have stopped for lunch. Instead, we ended up in Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, which had dirt roads with huge potholes, much like Vieques in Puerto Rico, with some fabulous jungle scenery. We eventually got to a place where people were camping and renting boat and wildlife tours, which we considered doing, but instead decided to turn around and head back to our original destination.

Taking a rest from ruin hunting

We eventually got to Playa Maya, which was another Vieques-like adventure that reminded me very seriously of our trip to find Blue Beach. Once we found the tiny dirt road, we managed to wedge Matt into a space amongst the parked cars that lined both sides of the road and headed down to the water on foot. Despite the unwelcoming entrance, the beach itself was nice, though much more touristy than our own beach in Puerto Morelos. Bars with straw roofs offered seating in the sand, vendors peddled coconuts with straws coming from the tops, and beach clubs and resorts offered lounge chairs so there were plenty of people sunning themselves and in the water. The ruins could be seen distantly, and we dropped our bags on the sand and went to enjoy the water, since there was much less seaweed at this location. One of the fun things about this beach is the waves…one of them came up so high it crashed on my head and soaked my hair and sunglasses. Quite the adventure!

At Playa Maya

We had a long walk back to the car, sandy and salty, and sat uncomfortably in our wet swimwear and beach towels for the hour+ ride back to the hotel. I actually left my shoes on top of the car (my brand new sandals I had purchased specifically for this trip!!!) but remembered before we got going too fast and they were still there (phew!).

Once back in Puerto Morelos, we took much needed showers and went to dinner at a cute restaurant in the square that always looks like it’s having fun at night; it is on the second floor and its roof is a palapa, so it has the treehouse thing going on, and they have colored lights and loud, festive music playing. Whoever is in charge of the branding did a great job. Though it’s a local establishment and not part of a large chain, you can tell they have put a lot of money and care into the appearance, which is more unusual for this area. The tables are all made with old bike tires instead of legs, and the walls are covered with rustic looking window shutters and old doors (kind of like in Sol Food in San Rafael). The dishes are earthen and modern, with unusual slanting bowls, uniquely shaped entrée dishes, and wooden serving spoons. After 2 days and nights of trying disappointing margaritas, sangria, and piña coladas, I ordered a Caribbean Blue drink, which is essentially my personality in liquid form. It comes in a Tiffany Blue color with shaved coconut sprinkled on top, in cool tapered glassware that makes the presentation seem effortless. And the taste…wow! White rum, blue curacao, crème de coconut, and pineapple juice…so tasty! I had 2, as well as a pork shank in a dark beer glaze, and Todd had some Mexican IPA beer and lobster pizza. Great evening all around!

Caribbean Blue

Join us for dinner!

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