We arrived in Tulum in the evening after about a two hour long drive from Cancún International Airport to the sounds of the ocean as we drove up the driveway leading to Papaya Playa Project, our home for the next three nights.
Having never been to Mexico it might seem quite strange that Tulum would be the first place I would want to visit. Most people head to Cancun, Cabo or even Mexico City before they consider Tulum. However, everything I had heard from an acquaintance who packed up her life in NYC to move to Tulum made me want to visit this jungle shrouded town with its beautiful beaches and off the beaten path vibe.
We spent the majority of our time in Tulum taking it as easy as possible at our hotel Papaya Playa Project, and joking about how it’s the perfect place for a baecation. (All of us were single at the time). In fact, the one day, all we did was lay on the beach in our swim suits, drinking champagne and Ciroc (not mixed together… Eek!) talking to random strangers and occasionally taking a dip in the perfectly blue water when it got too hot.
Visit the Gran Cenote
Besides lazying about, we did actually get up to some activities like snorkelling at the Gran Cenote – a natural crystal clear freshwater swimming hole filled with beautiful fish and turtles. Held in high esteem by the Mayans, the word ‘cenote’ means ‘sacred well’ because these pools were often the only sources of water during dry seasons and the Mayan people believed that they were spiritual channels to the gods.
Given that this is essentially a tourist ‘must-see’, there is obviously a cover charge to get in and they don’t accept cards or American dollars. Don’t forget to bring swimwear (duh) and a towel and I want to say wear sunscreen, but at the Gran Cenote they make you take a cold shower in your bathing suit before you can get in the water. I imagine it is because the water is incredibly clean as it is filtered by the limestone and there are living animals in the water. You can rent out snorkelling equipment, towels and a locker to keep your belongings safe, and maybe have something to eat beforehand, because that little cafe on site is not very well stocked.
Eat at Gitano
Before we left for Tulum, I had a list of bars and restaurants to try out and only managed to make it to one of the spots almost every website I looked on recommended.
Surrounded by lush greenery and foliage , Gitano makes you feel like you are dining in the middle of a jungle. This laid back, but vibey restaurant and bar with its twinkling lights is every bit as pretty in real life as it is in pictures.
Hot and hungry from a long day of swimming at the Grand Cenote and exploring some of Tulum’s beach road, we literally sat at our table and ordered everything the waiter recommended. Between the four of us we managed to wipe clean the whole roasted fish with tomatillo salsa and cilantro, the slow-roasted pork belly with sweet and sour pineapple and crispy cabbage, grilled rib-eye, salsa verde and roasted garlic, the smoked sweet potato with cinnamon, cacao and cream and the fire roasted cauliflower red mole.
Everything about Gitano is really just great. Except the mosquitoes. When I say that the mozzies are bad, I mean it. Not only was my entire body covered with uncomfortable bites, but we ended up leaving the restaurant because those dang mosquitoes wouldn’t let up.
Image via gitano.com
- Try to have pesos on hand it will just make your life easier.
- If you are staying at a hotel, I recommend just asking them to arrange a shuttle or transfer, as I read on many travel blogs about being overcharged by cab drivers etc outside the airport.
- Rent a bicycle and bike around Tulum.
- Don’t beat yourself up if all you do is lie on the beach and get sunburnt…
- Wear sunscreen