how to do the mayan riviera - tulum
About 15 minutes west of Coba, is Tulum. Tulum has a casual, beach-bum sort of vibe, and is home to a large number of small, independently-owned 'eco hotels' situated closely together along a stretch of Tulum's white sand beach. By eco hotel, they mean: no AC, solar- or wind-generated electricity from dusk to dawn only, and simple but comfortable accommodations. Almost all of the hotels along the strip offer some type of massage service, yoga classes, Mexican astrology reading, or energy work. There was even a sexual liberation conference going on at one of the hotels close to ours. When we entered the hotel zone, one of the first things we saw were two girls (obviously not Mexican), hitchhiking for a ride down the road. "Nice," I thought. "I have arrived in Mexican Hippieland".
We had chosen to stay at Sueños Tulum, a 12-room hotel near the south end of the hotel zone in Tulum. Each villa at Sueños is themed after an element of nature: Sol (Sun), Tierra (Earth), Lluvia (Rain), Selva (Jungle), or Luna (Moon). We were in the Selva building, which was a nice treat since the room was decorated with my two favorite colors - yellow and green.
They really took the décor to the next level here. Though I felt sorry for those poor villagers at the bottom of the bowl and all the uh...stuff they have to put up with.
You could literally throw a rock and hit the ocean from the deck outside our room.
When we arrived, we were greeted with our complimentary welcome drink... best margarita I've ever had.
The beach in Playa del Carmen was great, but Tulum was even better. The sand was softer, and the beach itself was wider, and certainly more picturesque. Plus the lounging beds for Sueños guests were so relaxing.
While Sueños has an on-site restaurant, we found their menu to be a bit pricey, so we headed to downtown Tulum for souvenir shopping and dinner. Most of the shops are feeling the pinch of the slim tourist crowds, so even though a lot of the shops offered the same wares, we tried to spread the love around a bit. My favorite store was a little arts boutique called La Joyas de Adelita. Vicente, the owner, sells a variety of high-quality handmade jewelry made of natural stones, and there's a good variety of original artwork - paintings, photography, etc. - from other local artists for sale as well. I got a really nice necklace for my Mom and a small print of a painting by Alejandra Mendoza for myself. The caption translates as, "For the trips you haven't made (yet)".
On our second day in Tulum (and the day before we were to return home) we resolved to pull ourselves out of bump-on-a-log mode and at least make a trip to the Tulum ruins. While there was no swinging from vines, The Mayan ruins of Tulum definitely looked like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, with its ancient, crumbling stone structures set on a cliff overlooking the electric blue waters of the Caribbean. A beautiful sight, and since it was so hot that even the iguanas were scrambling for shade, we joined the rest of the small crowd frolicking in the waves after we finished our tour. I suppose I could have rappelled my way down to the beach, but I didn't wanna show off, so I just took the stairs.
After the ruins, we spent a couple of margaritas worth of time back at Sueños, before heading off for our sunset massages at the nearby Maya Tulum hotel. They have about 10 masseuses on staff, each of whom has a different set of ninja-massage techniques they specialize in like Reiki, Yoga Thai, and Mayan Sobada or Yoot Keene - a kneading, abdominal massage. It was a perfect wind-down for the day.
The night before, we realized that the lack of AC in our room required us to sleep with the sliding door open to let some air in. On our final night, I decided to kick the au natural sleeping up a notch and took to the hammock outside for the night. With hardly any surrounding ambient light, the stars seemed close enough to touch, and I drifted off to sleep with the strong ocean breeze rocking me like a baby in a swing.
I think either my mother or grandmother or both used to say that if you leave something behind somewhere, it means you really wanted to stay there. While packing for our departure, I discovered that I'd left a pair of flip-flops at La Selva Mariposa. Before we pulled out of Sueños, I had to send the beau dashing back in to retrieve my cell phone that I'd left charging in the reception office. About halfway to Playa del Carmen, I realized that I still had our Sueños room key hanging around my neck, and in the airport duty-free shop, I almost lost my passport when I set it down for a moment while browsing the aisles. It seemed like the schizophrenia had reared its ugly head again. Part of me was all set to return home, while part of me obviously wished I never had to leave.