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Back from Tulum- trip report

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Brooklyn, New York
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Back from Tulum- trip report

Just got back from a week in Tulum and got a lot of info from these boards so I figured I'd return the favor by sharing our experiences. We are a couple in our early 30's from NYC who are well traveled and somewhat adventurous who went looking for some relaxation and some history without breaking the bank. Here's how it went:

We left Newark on 12/23 in the evening and arrived in Cancun late at night so we just grabbed our car from Blueway and went to the Airport Courtyard Marriott for the night. We were really concerned about the car rental after reading stories here, but fortunately had no trouble. We got up the next morning and drove to Tulum, stopping at Puerto Morelos for breakfast and Akumal to snorkel in Yalku Lagoon, which was fun. Next three nights we stayed in town at Secret Garden which we liked a lot. We always seem to like the hotels we choose which I think is a combination of our un-picky-ness and diligent research. We stayed in town because we wanted to use the first few days to explore the area. We spent xmas day doing Sian Kaan tour with Mexico Kan. It was pretty good (the snorkeling was excellent), but overall wouldn't do it again given cost ($128pp) and two hour bumpy ride each way. We saw a few dolphins and one sea turtle, which wasn't that exciting for us as we were lucky enough to be in Hawaii for whale season this year and saw tons more.

The next day we went to Chichen Itza. Hearing horror stories about crowds, we left Tulum a little after 6am and got to Chichen as it was opening at 8. SO glad we did it this way because there were thousands of people pouring in when we left at 11. It was amazing, but would not have been worth it for us unless going early. We then stopped at Ek Balam, which we loved, before heading back to Tulum.

Next morning we went to Coba before moving down to our cabana on the beach at Playa Mambo. Did Tulum ruins and Grand Cenote the next morning and the spent rest of afternoon and rest of the trip on the amazing beach. Playa Mambo was one of our favorite hotels we have ever stayed in- great cabanas, nice people, the best beach, and our best meal of the trip ($20USD for several beers, grilled veggies, rice, and three grilled lobsters each!). The price was reasonable at $120/night given the cost of other places and that it was super high season.

A few other notes

- pay attention to the part of the beach you stay. I thought our area was the nicest and it seems clear that the area further south down the road has the better beaches, but also some of the hotels don't clean their area.

- eat at El Camello, a seafood restaurant at the far end of town, a few blocks past subway. If you go for lunch with someone else, an order of guacamole, two beers, and a medium mixed ceviche (absolutely enormous!!) will set you back about $11USD and will leave you very happy. If you go for dinner, add a grilled fish plate or seafood stew full of huge shrimp, fish, octopus, etc. yum

- we tried to eat at local places most of the time and were glad we did. Being from NYC, we didn't want to spend a lot on a scene-y Italian or Thai meal that we could get home for the same cost. We went to some nicer places for drinks only and found a lot of style and not much substance, except for La Zebra where the drinks were really good and worth the extra $$$.

- we saw 4 ruins and enjoyed them all as they all had their own personality- Chichen for it's size and history, Coba for being in the jungle and being able to ride bikes to the sites, Tulum for the setting on the coast (though it was by far the least impressive) and Ek Balam for being to 'coolest'. It really is important to go to Tulum and Chichen before the tour buses arrive. Ek Balam seems off the radar and Coba is so spread out that it doesn't feel too crowded. If you're not really there for the ruins and don't want to make the trip to Chichen, try Coba.

- I hate topes.

- there were a lot of police officers, with big guns at check points, pulling people over, etc though appeared to be leaving tourists alone. Not sure if it was a coincidence or intentional.

- if you're going at this time of the year it can get quite cold at night. We did not bring enough warm clothes and had to get extra blankets.

- I love margaritas.

- I ate over 30 tacos in a week and can not look at another. Our favorites were at the al pastor place the southern end of town (7 pesos each) and fish tacos at Local Locale, across the street from Playa Mambo, though we had a bad experience there when we returned.

Overall, we had a great trip and found Tulum to be a good fit for our 'travel personalities' with the mix of ruins, cenotes, beaches, and laid back atmosphere.

Safe travels!

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1. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

Nice review..glad you FUN !!!

Tulum, Mexico
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2. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

I enjoyed your review. Agree about El Camello. The place doesn't look like much but the food sure is good.

I laughed when I read "I hate topes." I so agree with you. BUT, I'll bet I hate them more than you. We lived for 3.5 years right next to the first tope west of Tulum in Macario Gomez. I can't tell you how loud that is when trucks come by and when unsuspecting drivers hit it hard! I may hate them, but I've learned to respect them.

Thanks for your candid and insightful review. Come back again. There's still more to see.

Big D
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for Tulum, Dallas
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3. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

Wonderful report!! Hope you don't mind if I link to it for inquiries....full of great info!!!

New Jersey
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4. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

What a great little trip report, and I'm betting you're really glad you planned the trip perfectly to avoid the delays we suffered trying to come back to EWR on the 26th (then the 27th, then the 28th, then the 29th...)!

Will you be posting pics of Secret Garden and your room at Playa Mambo on the reviews section? Please?

Thanks again!

Los Angeles...
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5. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

Thank you for posting the terrific trip report! It was so helpful to read about your trip!

We are planning to visit Ek Balam and I am glad that you rated it so highly! Did you stop in Valladolid when visiting Ek Balam? We are thinking of spending a few days there and I wondered what your opinion of it was, if you had a chance to visit it on your Chichen Itza/ Ek Balam adventure.

I have thought that we would eat at more local restaurants and taco stands in town since I have found the beach restaurants to be a little too fancy and more European then what I am looking for when I am in Tulum. It is great to learn that you had the same plan and that it was successful. I would love to find out what your favorite tacos of the 30 that you tried!

If you returned to Tulum, would you stay in town again in addition to the beach? What would be your lodging selections after seeing the properties?

Thank you for the great trip report!!

Best wishes,


Atlanta, Georgia
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6. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

Thanks for the report. We are heading to Tulum for the first time in a few weeks, I'm trying to find some yummy places to eat and the grilled lobster meal sounds perfect!

Cozumel, Mexico
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for Cozumel, Merida
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7. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

Just a tip many arent aware of if you visit Valladolid, its the best place in the area to shop for silver and gold in the area. Its where all my Mexican friends go for all their jewelry shopping. Many shops from small to large. Also a great place for sandals--- you will find many little shops where they are made by hand.

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

I like the way you broke up your trip a bit. A short drive down 307 to Muyil ruins would have added another notch on your ruins buckle. Although they are not much, esp. compared to what you saw, it's still an interesting area to hike.

Thanks for the report!

Edited: 13 June 2011, 17:27
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9. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

That was fun-Thank you-will you do it again??? I always go back to Tulum and find myself not enjoying other places in the world when I visit-sitting in Bora Bora I was thinking of Tulum-LOL but true.

Great review.

10. Re: Back from Tulum- trip report

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