Tulum was the only real plan we had so far on this big journey of ours. We had booked Casa Toloc back in Canada as we wanted our first destination to be booked for us in Mexico, hassle free. We reserved eight days based on the flawless reviews and were not disappointed! We were warned that the good price was due to the property being under major construction, but we figured we would be out all day when the work was being done anyway, so what the heck! Jeronimo and Humberto were amazing right from the start. Humberto offered to pick us up from the bus station since I mentioned our bags were heavy (my bags weigh 60 lbs, no lie…) and it was a ten minute walk – so sweet! He dropped us off at our apartment and it was like coming home! A nice big comfy king size bed with five pillows, air conditioning, and all the amenities one needs in a bachelor apartment, including two cute cruiser bikes with baskets! Since we paid to have our own apartment, we wanted to make good use of the kitchen and cook all our own meals to try save on money a bit as Tulum is quite touristy, and the main best food hubs aren’t that cheap. I am shocked, but we actually didn’t eat out once time in Tulum! Which is a bit of a shame, as I feel I don’t get to know a place unless I eat there, but we just loved the kitchen and loved cooking up our own version of Mexican food.
It was four in the afternoon when we settled in the first day, but we decided to take the bikes out and find the beach path to scope it out, so we cruised about 20 minutes along a beautiful path to get to the beach area. We biked around and found a few different beach areas, but always ended up going to the same spot to the left when the road splits. It was dark before we made it back home, which was a little sketchy without a bike headlamp, but we managed!
Unfortunately Tulum didn’t have the best weather for us. The forecast looked threatening with rain and thunderstorms everyday in the forecast, but we figured that’s what it always says since there are always those afternoon storms in the tropics. However the forecast proved true – it was cloudy and rained much of the time we were there. We still did our best to get out, but it really put a damper on our Tulum experience since all we wanted here was to hang out at the beach for a week! We did put on about 20km on our bikes nearly every single day, so we did get a bunch of great exercise! So great in fact, that the first couple of days were quite painful to sit on the bike, ouch!
We would venture daily on our bikes to the beach, spend a little time, and when the rain came and drove us away, head back home, endure the construction noise until 6pm and then cook up a storm of delicious tacos for dinner, then read or watch a show/movie together. After doing long distance for three years, it was nice to slip into a bit of a normal routine with my love once again and play house. One day we had to stay in due to too much sun and another day due to torrential rains all day long, but other than that we made sure to get to the beach daily, even though most of our beach days were cloudy and ended in rain, but we mad the best of it.
We did have one truly magical day on the beach. We had spent a couple of hours and were ready to head back in so we packed up and began the nice walk back along the beach to the entrance. I noticed up ahead a crowding of people and wondered what was going on, when I then noticed little dark things quickly scurrying about all over the sand. In a moments recognition I realized they were baby turtles – OH MY GOD BABY TURTLES! I grabbed Travis’s hand as I screamed the aforementioned and ran right into the thick of it. A hundred beautiful, precious, tiny baby turtles were making their escape out to sea! And we just so happened to chance upon this remarkable event! I would follow one on his journey until he made it to the water, then run back and follow another, elated, both to be seeing this and for the little ones to make it to sea. How many times had I watched this on Planet Earth or some other nature show and dreamt of seeing such a thing? And here it was before my very eyes! I recall always seeing birds flock like mad to the turtle hatchings and pick off so many of them before they even made it to the ocean, so I was quite tickled that all of the people were around hovering over the little babes so the birds couldn’t get to them. It was one of those magical moments of your life, one of those magical travel moments, where you didn’t realize something was on your bucket list, but you just got to check it off anyway. We left after the last one made it to sea and biked back to our apartment in a daze of utter awe. It was without a doubt the highlight of Tulum.
The next day was cloudy and a bit rainy so we decided we would head to the ruins, as hopefully the weather would mean they weren’t too busy. They were still a bit busy, but I’m sure not as bad as if the weather was more agreeable. In fact, I quite liked it as it kept it a bit cooler, and thus more bearable to walk around. The ruins were fascinating and as we made it to the area where they had set some stairs so you could access the beach and view the ruins from below, the sky decided to become threatening and spit a little rain. We went down to the beach and just as we did it began to pour ferociously. We looked at each other knowingly, stashed our bag in the cliff wall to keep it dry and threw our clothes off (swim suits under of course, you always wear your swim suit under your clothes un Tulum, because you just never know when you’ll end up at the ocean, which you likely will, daily) and ran into the ocean while everyone else ran out and for cover under the stairs. There was no lightning so we were safe and enjoyed the feeling of the rain pounding down on us with the warm ocean all around us. Is there really any better way to wait out a torrential downpour? Surely not.
We took one fairly nice sunny day to head out on our bikes and explore some of the nearby cenotes – underground rivers. The cenotes that most people visit are the above ground connections between these underground water bodies. Calaveras Cenote was on the way to Grand Cenote, so we stopped there first. We paid the entrance fee of 100 pesos and basically walked through a man’s backyard to reach the cenote. There was a lone Frenchman there and he left shortly after we arrived, so we had the cenote to ourselves! It was Travis’s first experience with one, and my first in 14 years, so it was exciting, even more so for him as he didn’t even know what to expect! A slippery ladder lead down into the water 12 feet below and there were two holes to the right that you could jump through the cave to land in the water! I climbed down to scope out where Travis would land if he jumped through a hole and gave him the okay. He landed far back in the cenote where it was dark, where the rock roof above us was full of bats trying to sleep the day away, their high pitched squeaks echoing off the water around us. The water was full of tiny little fish that would nibble at your skin as soon as you stopped moving, so we made sure to keep swimming around! We took turns jumping and screaming (okay that was just me) through the holes as we fell into the dark water below, and swam with the little fishes in the sunlit pool. We ventured deeper into the cave to spy on the cluster of bats hanging upside down from the roof of the cave and then swam swiftly away as soon as one of them took flight and terrified us.
We lingered, enjoying the quiet secusion, but not too long, as not we were excited to get to the larger cenote. We biked ten more minutes and arrived at the Grand Cenote. This one was unfortunately full of people, and much more expensive at 180 pesos per person. But once we got in, and away from the other people, it was worth every penny! The cenote was large with a set of wooden stairs leading down in the middle and a deck space where you could store your things in a locker for a fee, or just on the deck, and then slip into the water on any side. We got in, put the snorkels on and squealed with delight. The water was perfectly clear, little fish swam about and best of all – turtles! Little medium fresh water turtles everywhere! We swam around the main area and ventured into the dark areas where no one else was. The water here was very deep, but you could still see right to the bottom. I noticed in the deep, a distance away, that there were scuba divers, I could see them by their spotlights, coming into our cenote from an adjoining one, a part of the underwater river system! We swam to the very far edge of the cenote, where the roof hung dangerously low, so you had to be careful you didn’t crack your head. Huge stalactites crawled down from the roof and pierced the azure water, penetrating far below the surface. We watched the divers come slowly towards us, far below along the bottom. At first it was quite scary going in the cenote so far back, as it gets quite dark, no one else is anywhere near you, and it’s deep.
But I couldn’t pull myself away. I loved having the area to myself, and when you turned around and looked back under water, the sight was spectacular; the way the sunlight poured down into the water turning it aquamarine, almost giving it the appearance of glowing fluorescence; the way the shadows of the massive stalactites loomed like lurking monsters in the back.
When we had our fill of our little paradise in the far corner, we ventured out to explore more and found that there was a tunnel connecting the centote to another one, on the far side. The natural tunnel was about 20 metres long, the water about 10 feet deep (though you’d swear it only looked four feet deep). They had run a rope through it so if you needed a rest you could hold on to it. We began to swim through it and it darkened so you could just barely see the outlines of the fish swimming around you. It was eerie and beautiful and wonderful all at the same time. And then we emerged in another cave at another little oasis. The natural light poured through the open roof above, illuminating the water that was in a doughnut shape around a centre stair deck again, but much smaller. You could see the walls of the cave plummet below the water on every side, falling into blackness. But otherwise the clear sandy bottomed circle was no more than 10 feet deep or so. We swam around it, enjoying the less crowded area, and as I snorkelled about I came across two turtles! I slowly followed them around until they made their way back to the tunnel, and so we followed them back. There is something so wondrous about watching sealife under water and following close behind as an observer! Sadly we forgot the gopro, but we were sure to get a couple of shots of Chewie and Alice among the turtles before we left and biked back into town. The Grand Cenote was definitely a highlight of Tulum (I see a theme here with turtles…. )!
We visited one more cenote the next day, Cristal centote which we were also supposed to be able to access Escondido cenote from, but it was closed when we got there, unfortunately. It was a cooler, cloudy day, always under threat of a downpour, but always evading it and merely teasing with a sprinkle. But rather than stay in with the construction noise, we risked the weather to check out more of these magical caves, and luckily these two were within biking distance of the town.
Cristal cenote is a bit of a misnomer… There’s not much crystal about the water, it was rather murky. This one was basically a large pond as it was entirely above ground and open unlike the others. It was still pretty full of people, but there just wasn’t much to see here of interest. I don’t think I saw a single fish, and other than tree roots growing down the steeps sides of the underwater walls, the water was empty. We took our time hanging out in the cool water, but eventually got cold and headed back to Tulum, this little adventure being a bit of a flop. There were of course many other cenotes around to visit but they required a car or bus, and being on a budget, we couldn’t see all of the cenotes, sadly.
While the weather in Tulum wasn’t ideal, and while we didn’t really spend any time in the town itself, it was still an idyllic eight days. We got to play house, swim in cenotes, and watch baby turtles hatch. It felt like a little vacation for us, a good way to start off a year and a half long adventure around the globe together!