Friday, March 14, 2014

One day in Tulum. Would love to return!

In front of the cliff-side ruins at Tulum. January 2014

After Playa del Carmen, I scheduled something different for myself. Everything I'd read said Tulum was an eco-resort town built around the ruins that overlook a water-side cliff, and it was the perfect place to unwind and get away from it all. But since the hotel rates were much higher than in either Playa or Akumel, (another town that friends had recommended to me), I only planned one night there for myself. I ended up loving it so much that, although I don't usually do this, I desperately want to return for another vacation there.
The grounds of Suenos Tulum

After exhaustive searching on various travel websites, I chose Suenos Tulum for my one night stay, because the online photos were beautiful, it was right on the beach, and it received consistently good reviews. I took the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen down to Tulum, and then a taxi from the bus stop to my hotel. The bus and taxi together were only $7! Crazy cheap! (And I just have to mention that the taxis I experienced in the whole Riviera Maya area were so wonderful. Friendly drivers, clean taxis, low rates! It was such a departure from the taxi hell that is Chicago, where the drivers are usually rude or creepy and the taxis are dirty/decrepit/smelly).
Giant doors to the entrance of Suenos Tulum

Reception at Suenos

Yoga classes are held some mornings at the hotel.

The reception/lobby is filled with art, crafts and hippie/boho chic decor.

When I arrived in Tulum, the part of town I saw looked very basic and parts of it seemed a little run-down/deserted. I got lost at one point, looking for a restaurant that had closed. I was a bit nervous, (though nothing happened), but I was able to find a taxi back to my hotel pretty easily. The road along the beach, where the nicer hotels and restaurants are, was like a path through the jungle, and very cool. My hotel sat right on that main road, and had giant wooden doors enclosing the property. When I arrived, I was immediately greeted at the door, taken to reception to check in, and the (really hot!) young son of the owners took my bags up to my second floor room.

I fell in love with the hotel immediately. The property is a group of casitas on the sand, with jungle foliage all around. It is decorated in a bohemian/hippie/artsy style that I just love. Everywhere you looked, there were little vignettes of cool collected objects and nature mosaics. It was clearly decorated as a labor of love: very unique, personal and not your run-of-the-mill resort.
Arrangement of driftwood and stones on the beach.

Art and crafts filled the grounds and common areas of the hotel.

My room was so nice. Two comfy beds, fitted with mosquito nets, a ceiling fan, storage cubbies, huge sliding door onto a balcony, a perfect view of the sea, and a pretty bathroom decorated with handpainted fixtures. It is an eco-resort, so there are no outlet plugs in the room, and the electricity for the lights only comes on for a few hours at night. That being said, because it was January, I slept comfortably, even with no A/C, which is really saying something, because I like to be cool at night.
My bathroom featured Mexican tile work, and hand-painted sink and toilet. (But no electric lights or outlets - I didn't mind!)

One of two pretty, simple, comfy beds in my room.

My balcony (2nd floor - perfect view, plus privacy).

I ate lunch at the open air restaurant on site, walked/lazed along the beach for a few hours, then headed out to dinner. It was a very chill vibe, with friendly, but not overly talkative staff, and beauty everywhere. It was heaven.
Open-air restaurant

Dinner and a drink were at a roadside restaurant a few blocks away, called Casa Banana. The cocktail was delicious, and so was the food. The tall, dark, and sexy waiter laughed appreciatively at my attempt to order my meal in Spanish.

The road along the beach and through the jungle.

Mojitos and tacos at Casa Banana.

Casa Banana restaurant in Tulum - before the evening rush.
I lingered over my drink, then walked back to my hotel, stopping at Mexicarte to pick up a few handmade Mexican crafts as souvenirs. It's awesome shopping in a country with a favorable exchange rate!

At dusk, I decided to take a blanket down to the beach and gaze up at the stars on one of the loungers that the hotel set up for sunbathing. They are hard to describe: a hammock sort of thing, that looks a little like a trampoline. A whole family could lounge about on one. I had it all to myself and it was dreamy. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect moment. The stars were so bright and the waves crashing were mesmerizing.

Although the room was dimly lit (which made reading in bed nearly impossible), I did not have any trouble getting to sleep. Midway through the night, a rainstorm kicked up, but everything stayed dry, despite being open to the elements. The ceiling fan stopped during this time, so it was slightly warm then, but then came back on a while later. It probably wouldn't have been comfortable if it was during a hotter time of year.
A combination hammock/trampoline/catamaran. Very comfortable for sunning or star-gazing!

The next day, I had a delicious fresh breakfast, (included in the room rate), at the restaurant under the palapa. I thought about taking part in the yoga class, which is offered a few times a week for $10, but it was at 9:30 and I wanted to get on my way to the ruins. So I checked out, stashing my things in the reception area, and took at taxi to the ruins. They are vast and really cool. I didn't splurge for the guided tour, but there was plenty of informational signage, so I just walked around. Lots of people walked down the many stairs to the sea below for a quick dip beneath the cliff, but I didn't because I didn't want to have to walk all the way up again afterward! It was a perfect, sunny day - not too hot.

One of the tour guides claimed this was the "women's hospital" where midwives helped with babies being born.

The beach below the ruins; many steps below.

After the ruins, it was time to retrieve my luggage and head out to my stay at an all-inclusive resort in Akumal, back up the coast. I was really sad to leave, and bummed that I didn't get to explore Tulum more, do more shopping and site-seeing, or visit a cenote. I will definitely be back, and can't recommend it enough. See you next winter, Tulum!