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DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

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England
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DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

My husband and I are visiting in April and have been, frankly, astonished by the cost of excursions through organised tours.

We are used to being DIY travellers, using public transport etc. so were thinking about making our own day trips to save a few (hundred) dollars and allow us to see things at our own pace. (This is aided by the fact that my husband doesn't like water (!!) and has no interest in adventure activities such as ziplining, meaning that I would be the only one taking part in many of the activities).

I drew up a plan for a day trip to Tulum (we both want to see the ruins) and Akumal (I want to go snorkling with the turtles, my husband is happy to sit in the shade!) - please critique!

Get to PDC early (before 9am). Take the ADO bus to Tulum @ 9am. Arrive 10am; explore Tulum ruins for approx 2 hours

Either taxi or collectivo from Tulum ruins to Akumal; lunch here (Turtle Bay Café?)

After lunch, I'll snorkel, husband will relax on the beach. Looks like Akumal Dive Shop rent snorkels etc. or offer 1hr snorkel tours.

Then either grab a cab back to PDC or walk back to the highway and catch the Collectivo back to PDC.

Explore PDC - cab back to SMB

Questions:

1. Do we need to reserve the ADO bus in advance?

2. Are there (clean) bathrooms anywhere near the ADO bus terminal? How about Tulum ruins? Akumal?

3. The ADO website suggests the bus stops at the Tulum Ruins (zona arquelogica) - how do we request a stop? What should we look for when approaching the ruins to request this stop?

4. Where would we catch the collectivo from at the ruins?

5. How do we request a stop at Akumal when on the collectivo? What should we look for when approaching Akumal to request the stop?

6. Any other recommendations for a lunch spot at Akumal?

7. Any other recommendations for somewhere to rent snorkelling gear or a quick (1hr) snorkelling tour of the bay?

8. Currency - pesos for a collectivo (pay when we get out?); pesos for taxi (pay when we get out?), what about Tulum entrance fee, dive shop, restaurants?

9. Where does the collectivo return to in PDC?

10. We are staying at SMB - we had planned to get a cab in and out of PDC, but wondered if it is possible to walk from (or perhaps to?) the highway to SMB so we could use the collectivo?

And finally - I am much more "well travelled" than my husband, but have never travelled to Mexico. My husband is somewhat apprehensive about using the collectivo and bus - what reassurance can you offer him?!

Many thanks for help and advice!

San Antonio, Texas
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1. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

Sounds like you have a good plan going. Although we have never used the ADO, I read ALOT here on Tripadvisor that it is a safe, reliable and inexpensive way to travel. We have always used a taxi or hired a driver. The one thing that I would suggest is that you get to Tulum MUCH earlier than 10am. Most of the tour busses will already be there and it will be crowded. I would plan to arrive at Tulum by 8am. That is what we did when we visited and it was really great. It gets pretty hot too, and Tulum offers little to no shade. We have always gone in the summer months...June, July or Aug.

Personally, my favorite nearby ruins are Coba. Wow!....those are awesome and they are in a jungle setting and really something to see. You could actually do both ruins in the same day, while still allowing time to snorkel with the turtles. We did this actually..and we also had 4 other stops in our day...it was a full day and so amazing! We went to Yal-Ku lagoon (water, so your hubby wouldn't be interested), we ziplined, (again, prob no interest for him), Coba, snorkeled in "Dos Ojos" cenote...(amazing..but its water, so scratch that for him too I guess)..

I list all that so you know it can be done.

Yes the bus station has bathrooms and so does Tulum.

I'm not exactly sure about the snorkel equipment rental, but I do know they are easily available in the Tulum area. When we went, our hired tour guide had it for us, so we didn't have to rent it, but I know on the beach in Tulum near the turtles you can find places...I've read about there here on TA.

You will need to pay for the collective with pesos, and from what I understand, it's when you get on the van. Also, from what I read, you tell them where you want to stop.

I've no where near answered all your questions, but I hope you all do feel safe traveling around down there. It is beautiful and full of adventure and life!

We have traveled there for the past 10 or so years, every summer, and still have not seen or experienced it all.

Happy holiday!!

Edited: 26 January 2014, 18:59
Vancouver
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for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Puerto Morelos
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2. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

Check out theAkumal forum -top question.

lots or snorkel info plus my famous golf cart snorkel tour. there is also a diy tulum ruins tour under the Ruins TQ

England
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3. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

Thanks for the help thus far.

The reason for the 9am bus was that this is the first ADO bus that stops at the ruins - but there are earlier buses into Tulum, so we could always get a cab to the ruins from there.

Southern California
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4. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

I'd eat at Lol-Ha or La Buena Vida, Turtle Bay is good but not directly beachfront.

bemidji minnesota
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5. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

I don't know the distance from SMB out to highway 307. We have stayed in that area (Mayan Palace) about 2-3 miles north of SMB and our walk out to the highway was 3/4 mile. We often took the colectivo (or Playa Express or Mayab bus) in to Playa del Carmen for about 20-25 pesos. (You can use US dollars.) Then transfer to either another colectivo or the ADO bus. 35-40 pesos to Tulum for the colectivo. Slightly more for the ADO. We have taken both to Tulum and have boarded the ADO at the 5th and Juarez location. You can mention to the driver as you board. "Las Ruinas?" Or "The Ruins", just as an affirmation of where you are going. I do this whether boarding the colectivo or the ADO. I don't count on them always remembering, so I am pretty vigilant with watching. Pay attention as you go through the Akumal area. Notice where the walkway goes over the road for your return trip. Shortly after that you will pass the ABR (Akumal Beach Resort). So, when you are coming back from Tulum to Akumal as soon as you pass the ABR, you can say to the driver "Akumal Bay" or "La Playa". He will drop you off where the walkway comes over the road. You won't need to cross it as you are already on the correct side of the road. Just follow the road in bearing right as you go through the arches, it is pretty clear where you need to go.

Traveling by colectivo can get you where you want to go early. They start running along the highway around 5 or 5:30am. I'm not positive, but I think the ruins open at 9. Maybe they open earlier different times of the year? You will still want the extra time as it takes time to walk in to the ruins. Even if you take the tram in, there is a little walking to get to that point. Entry fee was 56 or 59 pesos last time I went. Approx. $5.00US.

Tram was 20 pesos. There is a "sketchy" restroom in the little shopping area as you walk in to the ruins (before you get to the tram) but a much nicer one when you get in to the place you actually buy your entry tickets (after you have either ridden the tram in or walked the 1/2 mile or so).

Edited: 27 January 2014, 10:11
Boston
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6. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

I went to Tulum in September, arrived at 11am, and it was incredibly hot. I was so excited to see the ruins, but by the time we walked in to see them, I was miserable. Left my husband to finish looking around, and walked back to the plaza to find shade. I carried lots of water, too.

I am not sure how hot it will be in April, but, as other posters have said, be there as early as you can. My trip was a waste, I really didn't see the ruins.

I am watching this thread with great interest, as we plan on a DIY snorkeling trip to Akumal on our upcoming April trip. One thing I have read here is that turtle "rush hour" the bes time to see turtles, is roughly the same time as rush hour at home. So it sounds like early am and late afternoon are the best times to see turtles.

Not sure of your trip dates, but April 20 is Easter, and I am told that the week before, up to Easter, is a super busy time, Mexican vacation week, and the week after is less busy, but still busy. Mexican families on holiday flock to the beaches. So if you are coming during these dates, you can factor the business into your your touring plans. We are coming the week after Easter, that is when my teens have school vacation. so we ate p,anning on using a whip, if necessary, to get them out of bed on the days we leave the resort.

Take a look at LolHa, it sound like wonderful snorkeling, but it may not make sense for your husband to pay admission, and maybe rent a shady cabana, while you snorkel. At Akumal, it sounds like he can sit on the beach for free, although if he wants a chair he likely would need to rent one or buy food/drink.

Tons of great specific info here, under the reviews of the attractions, top questions and the forums. Check out the map thread re-posted in the last few days, wiki and google give you a virtual tour of tne area. The destination experts provide a wealth of information. Happy travels!

Boston
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7. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

The thread that I was referring to is actually posted in the Akuml forum, and it is called, appropriately "Maps". It was last updated in the past few days, so should be pretty easy to locate.

St Paul, MN
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8. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

You have done you homework Kath, you are going to have a wonderful adventure. Here are some maps that may be of some use for Tulum and Akumal. You will have two choices on those maps so click on the printable map for a wider view. I personally would prefer La Buena Vida for lunch, but it's another 1/2 mile further north on Half Moon Bay. Either the Akumal Dive Shop or Dive Center can rent you snorkeling equipment and a locker if need be. Since you are saving so much money I would recommend a beach chair for your husband at Lol Ha. The turtles are straight out about 200 yards. You can see them or many other other underwater sea life while swimming out to the turtle feeding grounds. It's only about 12 ft of water, but make sure you get a vest so you can hover over the turtles.

www.sac-be.com/maps_travel.shtml

Another idea would be to have dinner at La Buena Vida and then take a taxi back to your resort. You will be pretty tired.

Edited: 27 January 2014, 15:49
Vancouver
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9. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

here is a DIY thread on the Tulum Ruins

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g150812-i23-k41544…

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10. Re: DIY Trip Tulum and Akumal from SMB - LOTS of Qs!

Thank you for posting this thread, I am planning a similar trip for my family in April and have some questions. We are going to be in playa the week of Easter and also the week after. we are reserving the first week to do all sort of dyi trips, Tulum, Akumal, Coba , some cenotes, etc. we have 2 small children 1 and 7 and I was wondering if it would be suitable to do 2 activities in one day, Also will I be able to take a taxi with 2 children and 3 adults (my mother is coming with us for the first week)?, Is there age restrictions for snorkeling in Akumal? do the dive shops have life jackets for babies?

thanks in advance, and sorry for hijacking your very informative thread