Tulum – Heaven or Hell?
Tulum is a place; which through the filters of Instagram and social media; shines! It shines bright and colourful with beautiful pictures of golden sands and turquoise seas. The truth; as often the case; is far from this. Its over-priced; pretentious; full of ‘influencers and Instagram whores and I have no real desire to return. I appreciate (at the time of writing) I have almost 20k followers but (and I hope) they follow my love for Earth and all its natural beauty.
Tulum lies 2 hours south of Cancun in the State of Quintana Roo (the easternmost state of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula). Formerly a small fishing village; its growth has been explosive and in ten years it has transferred to THE place to visit in Mexico.
In reality it is a bit SHIT. Like a pretty girl (with expensive tastes) with the personality of a stone. Tulum is a town which has outgrown its infrastructure. You take her out for an expensive dinner; she looks good on your arm on Facebook but you get her back to your room and she lies there like a dead fish. And that’s before you try and even talk to her.
As an example; the whole of the beach road has no electricity so nighttime brings the consisting brrrr of diesel generators and the delivery of fuel trucks down its single; pothole ridden connection road.
5* hotels charging $1000s per night surrounded by open sewage; constant construction (with little progress) and seaweed. I read an interesting article written at the start of the year which lamented the death of Tulum through the perceived Instagram lifestyle. What I found very interesting was the seaweed. The Tulum beaches had remained pristine until 2015 until the seaweed came and now it arrives in great volumes littering the famous South Beach. It is shovelled; it is carted away by the wheelbarrow load but still it comes. The locals say that Mother Nature is fighting back from the exploitation of its natural beauty. In reality the increase use of pesticides from Central and South America creates vast algal blooms which brings the weeds to Tulum’s door steps.
It’s not all bad though. We did have fun and behind the Beach road; follow you dream signs and $20 cocktails there is pretty of cool things to explore. 10 days before the trip Sam also hurt herself at work so I guess Tulum is a place for some R&R; to lie in the sun and watch the world go by. (Not for me; I literally frazzled…..)
We also loved the second hotel we stayed at Eco-Manglex Hotel.
Situated 150m from the end of the Tulum beach road (which means you do have to drive past 1000 pot holes and bumps to get there) we spent 2 of our 5 nights at the hotel. In truth we both wished we had stayed there for 5 nights because it was lovely; the silver lining you might say.
We stayed in a simple log hut on stilts over the mangrove. The room was simple with a 4-poster bed (with netting to save my skin from the mozzies) with an affixed bathroom. Power was only on 6pm to 9am but it was very comfortable.
The best part of the hotel was it backed on to a secluded Cenote (see below). This was a relief from the volumes of people and offered some much -needed peach and tranquility. The hotel had kayaks which we could use to explore the cenote (the largest of all we visited) which was about 300m in length and 100m in width at its widest.
The breakfast was simple and delicious (Papaya fruit and Mexican Eggs / Cheese Quesadillas) and the chill atmosphere was exactly what we needed.
Cenotes (Pronounced Sea-Note-Ay)
Before we picked Mexico to visit I had literally never heard of the term Cenote’s. These natural formations are essentially limestone caves that (for the most part) had their roof cave in to create a natural hollow of fresh / filtered water often with fantastic colours. I bloody love Cenotes (Lets visit them all)
We visited two further Cenote’s in Tulum bar the one at the hotel
The first is as unpretentious as it gets. Cenote Calavera of Skull Cenote / Temple of Doom is literally in someone’s back garden. You pay you $100MXN (about $6USD) to a man sat with his cat an a breezeblock shed and head down his garden path. The Cenote has 3 entrances; two small (the eyes) and one large (the mouth). It has been put on the map by Instagram (surprised?) but not to the same level as others in the area.
The water is cool but not cold and it’s a simple 4m jump into the greeny-black water. For those with some form of upper-body strength there is also a simple rope seat to replicate the Instagram pose.
Gran Cenote is a tourist destination and as we arrived a literally coach full of people landed. We quickly paid our money ($180MXN – a little on the high side) ; ran to the Cenote to get some picture before the hoards arrived.
The waters are a beautiful blue and it is not often you can say you swam with turtles in the bat cave but that is exactly what we did. However it was busy and after getting some photos we departed (this was on our final day as we headed out to Coba).
The original occupants of Tulum. I kind of wish the old Mayan occupants were still around so we could sacrifice an ‘influencer or two’ to the Gods.
The ruins (75MXN each) are pretty nifty but my god are they busy. We got there at 8am as the doors opened and we had around 100 people with us. Over a large site that isn’t a lot. So I managed to get some photos without people in the shot. The ruins also lead down to a lovely beach but that early the tide is in so the beach is literally just Seaweed.
As we let and headed back to our hotel I reckon we walked past 500+ people who were swarming towards the ruins. Each in their appointed Tour Guide Group. That would have been horrrrrrible.