Tulum has become a trending vacation spot for bloggers and travelers alike in recent years. It’s not hard to understand why. With beautiful beaches, delicious tacos and a vibrantly rich cultural history, the Yucatan Peninsula has proven itself to be one of the hottest destinations on the planet right now (no pun intended).
While many tend to stick to the all-inclusive resorts and Eco-chic boutiques, I am here to tell you that there are some wonderful reasons to vacate the lounge chairs for an early morning excursion to the famed Tulum Ruins. A mere 30 minute drive from Playa del Carmen (or one hour from Cancun), puts you right in the heart of the quaint little city of Tulum. This stunning, ancient-walled city used to be home to around 6,000 Mayans between the 13th and 15th century. Some say the energy here is still palpable.
Upon arriving, there are several yaxche (or ceiba) trees lining the pathway. These magnificent trees are thought to be the axis mundi – a symbolic connection between the realms of heaven, earth and the underworld, not only in Mayan philosophy, but others as well.
Although we haven’t typically used tour companies in the past, we were really looking forward to having YucaTreks
be our guides for the day and show us around. It was more like having a fun (and really informational) friend take us out on an adventure. We gained so much insight into the Mayan culture and traditions.
We arrived just as the sun began to spill over the Mayan Riviera Coast, the weather slightly cool as the dew evaporated and the wildlife awakened. We were greeted at the entrance by an adorable creature I’d never seen before, a white nosed coati-mundi. It resembled something like a mix between a raccoon and a lemur and was digging away in the dirt for a delectable breakfast of worms and insects. Unfortunately he was a little too quick to snap a good photo of him, but something tells me he hams it up for the early birds, like us, on most days.
Aside from the temperate weather, another perk of arriving early is avoiding the masses of tourists that are sure to arrive in the hours to come. It almost felt like we had the grounds to ourselves as our guide led us from site to site, garnishing Richie and I with interesting historic tidbits along the way.
What a breathtaking view the Mayans chose as home base. The lush palms and greenery against the turquoise blue waters were a magnificent sight to see. The Mayans were incredibly intellectual and excelled in creative problem solving, which you’ll come to find is evident in many ways. For example, the main “building”, El Castillo, was used as a lighthouse. At dusk, if the captain could see light through both of the tiny windows, they could be assured they were on the correct route to shore (and would avoid the sharp coral reef barrier). They were also highly in tune with the cyclical nature of life and death, illustrating their ideals in ancient carved stones across many of their structures.
Looking out onto the sparkling Caribbean Sea from the ruins, you’ll notice a long, white “shelf” where the waves break, not too far from the shore. This divide in the surf is part of the Great Maya Reef, second in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and stretching in length to over 600 miles. Directly in front of the El Castillo “lighthouse” is the only area of surf that does not clash against the coral reef, thanks to some brave (and mighty-lunged) Mayan swimmers who chiseled away the reef using flint rocks to provide an easier route back to land for their boats.
Although iguana has been used in some traditional dishes, don’t expect to find it too easily on the menu. You will, however, spot them sunbathing across the grounds quite a bit. This fellow here is gloating in all his glory after fending off the unwanted presence of another iguana in his territory.
Tulum Ruins Tips:
- Arrive early! They open at 8am so get there beforehand and have your ticket ready (if you’re with a tour, choose the earliest tour time)
- If possible, try avoiding peak days and seasons (Jan-April). Opt for “off-days” like Monday-Wednesday, chances are you’ll encounter less tourists and have better photo ops.
- If you are prone to mosquito bites, bring a bottle of repellent with you.
- It heats up quickly in the morning so wear sunblock and bring a hat/sunglasses.
- There are no restrooms at the ruins once you’re inside so take care of your business ahead of time.
- The entry ticket cost is very reasonable, $5 USD and kids under 13 are free. *It is recommended to have cash and exact change for the ticket counter, but if you’re with a tour, you need not worry! Tours will have your tickets in advance.
- The parking lot is about a 1km walk to the entrance of the site, but is quite easy and enjoyable.
- An hour or two is plenty of time to wander around the ruins.
- The Tulum ruins are beautiful, but it was a much more interesting experience to have a guide with us to teach us the history, culture, plant uses and animal life in the area.
- Bring a swimsuit and take a dip in the ocean below the ruins afterwards!
“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.” – Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan
After the ruins…
After walking around the ruins all morning, we worked up quite an appetite. Luckily, our new friends, Eder and Cesar, were two steps ahead of us and had the perfect spot for lunch in mind. It wasn’t long before we were pulling into our own private little slice of heaven on the beach, right on the edge of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Nature Reserve.
If you haven’t spent an afternoon lounging in the surf or sand in Tulum yet, you’re missing out. While our lovely hosts prepared us a picnic style lunch, I took the opportunity to soak up some salt, sun and even a cerveza.
You can’t help but want to dig your toes in…
Or climb a coconut tree. When’s the last time you’ve seen a more perfect backdrop for a Corona commercial?
Perhaps you’d prefer to take a swim in the water…I promise it’s warm!
Or just sit back and relax with a cold beverage.
Either way…You can’t go wrong.
*Thank you to our partners on this excursion, YucaTreks tour company. And as always, all opinions expressed are my own. 🙂
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Photography by Richie Chance
Thank you to CLD StyleHouse
Swimsuit bottoms by Indah Swimwear
Hat by Giovannio Hats
Bikini top by Victoria’s Secret