Results 1-10of 51 Reviews
October 24, 2008
From journal Playa Del Carmen for a Mexico Beginner
March 14, 2004
We first went to Tulum -- a Mayan city on the Caribbean coast, about 45 minutes outside of Playa del Carmen. To get there you drive down some narrow rural roads through real-life, very poor Mayan villages. Tulum itself is a small collection of buildings, but very well attended, likely because of its ideal location. There is a small beach you can swim at, and you can stay in Tulum overnight at one of the beach cabanas. You can easily see the entire place in half a day, however. Tulum has some interesting examples of Mayan architecture -- and how they incorporated the calendar in to their buildings. I won't go into all of the buildings, but I highly recommend a guidebook -- we used Yucatan and Mayan Mexico by Nick Rider. This was an excellent resource, and we found the guides did not know much more than was in the book. The guides were available in English, Spanish, Italian and sometimes German. There are guides at the entry if you want to hire one. Look for the six-fingered handprints on the Great Palace and spend some time at the Castillo.
About 40 minutes further south and central is Coba. This is a more 'rustic' Mayan ruin -- most of the buildings have not yet been uncovered. Coba is in the middle of a jungle, too, so it can get quite humid. The visit is well worth it however. This is much less populated than Tulum or C. Itza. And it is HUGE. You can rent a bike when you get in the entrance. Look for the stellae -- carved panels that tell stories. Some are in terrible disrepair. We found several still buried in the dirt. Children may really love Coba because it has a real Indiana Jones feel to it. The distance from ruin to ruin is several miles, so bring good shoes and lots of water. Seriously consider getting a bike, too. Again our guidebook was excellent. Make sure you bring one, because there are no maps or books for sale at the site. There are several well uncovered sites too see too -- a ball court, the "iglesia", and the aforementioned stellae. Look for the Xaibe or "crossroads" building where many Mayan roads (sac-bae) came together for trading purposes.
From journal R&R in Quintana Roo, Mexico
Salt Lake City, Utah
May 19, 2001
Once on the bus for the ride back we had a chance to eat our lovely box lunch. Because
there are regulations about bringing food into countries from the outside, our box lunch,
packed on the ship, did not include anything that could be identified as a vegetable. As
you might imagine, this limits the type of lunch we had. A couple of pretty dry
sandwiches, a brownie, a cookie, and a granola bar. A nutritious meal all around. Thank
god for the tour guides, who provided Cerveza Sol for me. They had two Caguamas (the
family-sized version of Mexican beer (think 40 oz of malt liquor) ) to pour, and that
improved my spirits.
As we left the bus in Playa del Carmen we tipped our tour guide and our driver. As we
were walking back to the pier, a older man saw us parading and stopped and asked
"where are all the women?" Laughter all around, if you can picture it. We took a bumpy
ferry to the Wind, where we dropped off our stuff and went into Cozumel. We walked
up and down the Malecon, which is really just a main street in Cozumel, looking at
shops. Several of the shops had large rainbow signs "We welcome our RSVP
customers." I did wonder how unusual it must have seemed for a small city like Cozumel
to be suddenly taken over by 1,700 gay men.
From journal RSVP Cruise on the NCL Wind
Cary, North Carolina
May 30, 2002
From journal Bienvenidos a Cancun
Brooklyn, New York
January 9, 2001
Tulum is smaller and less commercial. The site is, truthfully, stunning, mostly because of the turquoise ocean laying below. Guides may have been available; we didn’t have one, so I didn't learn much about the site as, like Chichen Itza, there is very little signage or literature available. Wander around until you get hot, then walk down to the beach and have a swim in the sheltered beach area. Tulum has some nice, unspoiled flora and fauna; we encountered a couple of peaceful iguanas wandering around, and there are lovely bougainvillea everywhere.
You can do the site in a couple of hours. Go early and pack a picnic lunch. The beach is perfect, with soft white sand and lots of shade. If a tour has stopped there, however, it will be a little crowded.
We encountered yet another craft stand near the entrance with more of the ubiquitous blankets, hammocks and trinkets. Mario pointed out a weathered man by an ice cream cooler propping up a handpainted sign that read "cool coconuts." He spoke briefly to the little man, who whipped out a lethal machete. He whacked off the tops of two huge green coconuts so that a tiny hole was exposed on the top of each. Then he stuck a straw into each and held them out to us with an eager smile.
Freezing cold and creamy, the coconut milk was absolutely delicious and perfect after a long afternoon of sun and surf. After we drank a little, the man winked and said something in rapid Spanish to Mario that I didn’t catch. Mario nodded happily, and soon a fifth of gin was brandished from the cooler and Mario's coconut was refilled. As if that wasn’t enough, when we emptied our coconuts, the man whacked them into big pieces and sprinkled chili pepper all over the white meat. Delicious!
We caught the next bus north and hopped off at Playa Del Carmen. Playa is really charming, especially if you've had your fill of Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Buses run back up to Cancun well into the night, but check first for times. Combining Tulum and Playa into one day trip would be ideal and easy to handle, especially if you had a family along. Playa has clean wide public beaches and a bustling little main street. See my entry on Playa in this journal.
From journal Travelling Solo in Cancun
December 28, 2008
From journal Viva Cancun - Traveling with Friends
by wanderer 2005
June 5, 2008
From journal Margaritas in Mexico!
July 25, 2006
A local bus stops at Tulum several times a day. Check with your hotel for its schedule and remember that public transportation often stops or slows down during siesta.
From journal Day Trip to Tulum
May 11, 2005
When we got to Playa, we walked a short distance to the bus station. The cashier spoke English, and we easily bought tickets on the next second-class bus. The bus had comfortable seats and A/C, with lots of gringos going to see the ruins, as well as locals going about their business. I sat next to a Mexican mother and her beautiful baby boy. She was kissing him, and he was squealing in delight. It was just one of those moments that made me glad that we took a chance in going on our own.
One important lesson about riding Mexican busses is that the driver calls out the stops ahead, but will stop only when a passenger responds. I didn't know that and couldn't hear the driver anyway, which caused a problem. I assumed with the number of gringos on the bus that he'd automatically pull over at the ruins. Nope. He went sailing right past. I ran up front, but the driver told me, "I said ruinas. You'll have to catch a bus or taxi from town." So we got off in the dusty, little ramshackle town. We readily found a taxi who charged us all of $2 to take us back. Not a trip spoiler, just a little aggravating.
There are aggressive vendors at the entrance trying to sell guided tours, but we declined. There is a trolley to take visitors to the gate for a nominal charge. We decided to walk the 3/4 miles, which was not too difficult, the heat notwithstanding. The entrance fee was 38 pesos; they also charge 30 pesos to use video cameras. If you need cold water, you can buy bottles in the book store at the entrance booth.
The ruins are spectacular and in an incredible location. There are placards in English at various buildings, so it is possible to learn a lot without a guide. We also eavesdropped on numerous English-language tour groups. I was more interested in the physical beauty of the site than in learning the history (maybe because it was so hot!) I took some fantastic photos, but it’s hard to go wrong when you have an intense blue sky, turquoise ocean, and majestic stone buildings all in the same place!
After a few hours, we headed back to wait for the bus in a decent shelter with an overhead fan. We made it back to Playa for the ferry to Cozumel, and then easily hopped a cab to the ship pier with enough time to shop there before we boarded. It was a wonderful excursion that certainly cost a lot less than doing a tour through the ship!
From journal Enchanting Cruise to the Western Caribbean
December 23, 2004
A guide actually would have been a good investment because there were no maps or guides given out. You gave your money and followed the crowd through the narrow entryway into the historic area. The whole excavation covered several acres, and some of the buildings are remarkably well-preserved. As we walked along the grounds, we sometimes did a little eavesdropping by standing next to a group who had a guide. The stories told by the guides gave the listeners a better understanding of the way people lived in the times when the structures were built.
The ruins are mostly on a high ground overlooking the ocean, but at one spot is a gentle sandy slope right into the sea. There were, however, no changing room facilities or washrooms. There was also no place to purchase water or drinks or food close enough to the beach to be useful. Nevertheless, there were numerous visitors enjoying the beautiful turquoise waters.
My husband wandered around for a while, taking pictures of the buildings at various angles, enjoying the spectacular views of the coastline, and observing all the other visitors. It is obviously a popular destination for cruise ships visiting the area and seems to be combined with a visit to Xelha. It would not likely be very interesting for children, nor a great place to bring those who have difficulty walking long distances under the hot sun.
From journal Pre-Christmas Break on the Mayan Riviera