Tulum Day Trip

Ruins Backdrop
The expansive complex of Tulum

With the intent of doing a half day trip to Tulum, we made sure to wake up much earlier this morning, but late enough to still catch our free breakfast at the Indigo Beach Club when it opened at 8am.  Breakfast here is not your typical European continental breakfast, as we first ordered our entrees (quesadillas) and then helped ourselves to the buffet as we waited for our orders.  Though the buffet table had much more than this, I “only” helped myself to a croissant topped with dulce de leche, and fresh fruit.  There was a whole other course to eat after all!

We passed on doing a package tour primarily because we missed our window of opportunity to book it the previous day, but also because it was much cheaper and flexible to do it on our own.  And let’s be real, it’s so much more fun embarking on our own self-made adventures!  It was rather easy to get out there though.  Playa has these colectivos, basically shared vans that seat around 12-13 but could jam in far more with standing room, very similar to Thailand’s sangthaews where one could jump on or off at designated locations along the highway.  We picked ours up at the corner of Calle 2 & Avenida 20, a short walk from our condo, and left almost immediately.  An hour and $3.50 later, we arrived at our stop at the Tulum ruins, and it was a short 10 minute walk from the stop off the highway to the entrance.

Quesadillas for breakfast…why not!
Packed like sardines in the back of the colectivo
Warriors in costume
Count ’em, there are actually not 1 but 2 costumed warriors here…well, one is kind of an owl waiting to pounce on some tourist prey

We spent roughly an hour wandering amongst the ruins, which were spread out across beautifully manicured lawns and inhabited by a particularly populous civilization of iguanas.  The only drawback with the DIY tour was that we didn’t have a guide around to explain everything, and the short descriptions at each ruin didn’t do much to give the full history or interpretation of each building.  The little I did gather was that these temples were dedicated to the goddess Venus, and much of the sub-gods appeared to be tied to agriculture (again, going off of memory, interpretation, and loosely translated descriptions).  Apparently many of the buildings, or at least the castle, were painted in bright colors which was hard to imagine given the pure stone facades that we saw there.  Tulum was home to the only Mayan ruins to be built along the coast, signifying it as an important trade port but also helping me convince the girls to go on this trip as there were many beautiful beaches there.

Entrance to the ruins
Great Palace
Great Palace (I believe)
El Castillo
El Castillo, the Castle flanked by a temple on each side
The Mayans may have inhabited Tulum 600 years ago, but it’s an iguana’s world now
Sea View
Lovely sea view from the ruins
Protected Beach Area
A protected area of the beach within the ruins grounds, where sea turtles nested
More Ruins
More ruins
El Castillo
El Castillo, Tulum’s castle built on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Caribbean
Liuba captures the temple
Liuba, ever the cheese, capturing the temple in her hand

After an hour wandering in the stifling heat around the ruins, we decided it was time to visit the beaches.  Due to its location far from the resorts of Playa del Carmen, Tulum’s beaches were far less populated, and much more peaceful.  The water was clear, warm, and super inviting; the sand was white and super-fine, just like sugar.  There were only 2 restaurants along the beach, so we set up shop on some beach chairs, ordered margaritas, Modelos, and steak fajitas, and relaxed on the beach all afternoon.

Finally, it was time to head back. Going back the same way we came was easy and straightforward, and we were back on Avenida 5 in Playa, doing some last minute gift shopping. I loaded up on tequila (since I didn’t take a single shot while there, so Doug and I look forward to “experiencing” Mexico back at home), various hot sauces, and cheap but real Mexican vanilla. We regrouped and refreshed back at the condo, but not before taking advantage of the pool and hot tub one last time.

Beach view
View of the beach with the ruins in the distance
Steak Fajitas
Steak fajitas served direct to my beach chair…this is the life!

By 9, we were ready and eager to eat again.  Being our last real meal together, we wanted to pick a nice but authentic place to get dinner.  Lucky for us, our gamble at Las Carboncitas paid off.  Beata and I came across this place yesterday as it looked pretty nice, but was located on a street off of Avenida 5, which felt a little less touristy.  They got us in the door with a free round of drinks, so I enjoyed a margarita and Thanh’s pina colada.  The chips and salsa were really good here – there was a really spicy chipotle salsa which I had plenty of, but we as a group pretty much 86’ed their entire supply of pico de gallo – we must’ve had them bring 5 more bowls of this for us!  My entree, the Regio, was lauded by our waiter as a great pick, and boy did it deliver.  It was a combination of everything great about Mexico: grilled skirt steak (arrachera), pork (al pastor), guacamole, beans, and fresh tortillas.  Despite being in a state of food coma, Liuba and I managed to make a side trip to Aldo’s, a chain of gelato stands, for key lime gelato.  One can always make room for dessert 🙂

The “Regio” platter at Las Carboncitas: arrachera steak, pork al pastor, guacamole, beans, fresh tortillas. Easily my favorite meal of the trip.
Thanh Tacos
Don’t be fooled by her size. Thanh managed to wipe out all 5 of her tacos al pastor, thus sending her home in a near-comatose state.
Margarita Show
Balancing act by our waiter en route to delivering margaritas
Avenida 5 at night
Avenida 5 at night…I don’t want to leave this place!

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