A week in Tulum.

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We had the great fortune of visiting Tulum, Mexico over winter break, after reading reviews and seeing photos online. We chose this town for a myriad of reasons - the white-sand beaches, the hiking and adventuring opportunities, the food, and the privacy in its small homes and hotels.

Tulum is a tiny town. It’s originally a fishing village, but has exploded in growth from tourists all over the world (namely for the beaches, experiences, and wildlife adventures that exist around every corner). But what the photos don’t show is something extremely important: there’s something very historic about Tulum, and it almost felt as if we were encroaching on this beautiful landscape that is slowly becoming the next Cancun. But, relentlessly, Tulum continues to develop - it’s become a one-stop shop for real estate investors, start-ups, beach clubs, and boutique hotels that are pushing out original inhabitants of the town to the fringes.

Needless to say, the adventure was intriguing. We learned so much about the town in the times we spent there, were able to explore, eat, and adventure our way around, and left with a myriad of memories to hang on to as we continue to travel the world.


experiences

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We stayed in a massive VRBO in downtown Tulum for the first few nights. Unfortunately, due to lack of hot water and no Wifi, we had to leave the area; we moved to a small hotel right on the coast. This came with its pros and cons - though we now had a coastal view, we had to forego this incredible breakfast place, Azafran (have you ever been serenaded over eggs?), and amazing burrito and juice vendors on the streets of downtown Tulum.

Our hotel was located on a cliff atop the beach; a few steps outside of our room, this was our view. A few steps down some rocks, and we were in the sand.

Our hotel was located on a cliff atop the beach; a few steps outside of our room, this was our view. A few steps down some rocks, and we were in the sand.

Exploring our hotel.

Exploring our hotel.

Yusef being himself: adorable, and attempting to expedite the inevitable photo.

Yusef being himself: adorable, and attempting to expedite the inevitable photo.

Right outside our room.

Right outside our room.


Adventures

The best adventure we went on was exploring a cenote (cave). We found an Airbnb Experience that promised to guide us through one of the oldest and longest underwater caves in Tulum - and of course, we jumped on the opportunity. Our guide, Juan, drove us to the cenote, gave us wetsuits, lifejackets, and snorkeling gear, and we jumped right in. I didn’t take my camera for the very warranted fear that I’d drop it in the water - this is where an underwater camera cage would’ve come in handy, big time.

Now, I’m not too great of a swimmer (at all), and I happen to have quite a fear of depth. The fact that I was able to swim for three hours in a cave that was hundreds of meters deep - and absolutely love it - was incredible.

We went to different beaches on the coastline every afternoon. There was something about standing in the midst of the waves, the salty air and hot sun glaring down on us. Throughout the week, there were threats of thunderstorms almost every afternoon; though it only rained once, the waves were choppy, and safety concerns aside, the water was glorious.

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Beautiful view of ruins from cliffs above the beach.

Beautiful view of ruins from cliffs above the beach.

The “before” photo in my long-running saga with sunburn.

The “before” photo in my long-running saga with sunburn.

Swimming in water so clear and warm was wonderful, and though this was my first time swimming publicly in years, all my apprehensions dissipated when we got to the beach. From a quick glance at the coastline in Tulum, you’ll learn that anything goes. I wore a long-sleeved bathing suit, with these high-waisted surfing tights that were perfect for the water. I wrapped a black scarf around my waist when I was out of the water.

For my hijab, I wore a swim turban and knotted a black jersey scarf on top. And it worked out perfectly.


EATS

Some common rules with any kind of international travel: never order water at a restaurant (drink only bottled), and go hard on the culture.

Growing up in Texas, I thought I knew what good burritos and tacos were. My life (and, now, expectations for Mexican food) were changed dramatically during this trip.

Avocado toast is, allegedly, a global phenomenon. We had breakfast at Sin Yolanda almost every day.

Avocado toast is, allegedly, a global phenomenon. We had breakfast at Sin Yolanda almost every day.

Afternoon coffee(s) at Prieto Tulum.

Afternoon coffee(s) at Prieto Tulum.

Ziggy Beach was a great dinner spot; it’s right on the water, and it wasn’t terribly uncommon for people to race out into the waves as they waited for their food.

Ziggy Beach was a great dinner spot; it’s right on the water, and it wasn’t terribly uncommon for people to race out into the waves as they waited for their food.

Prieto Tulum - coffeeshop and small bakery.

Prieto Tulum - coffeeshop and small bakery.

Mornings in the jungle, via Azafran.

Mornings in the jungle, via Azafran.

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Tulum was an exceptional experience. There’s adventure every step of the way, and Yusef and I made a promise to return in 10 years (or, earlier, if life finds us there) to see how it has changed, how we have changed, and to continue to explore.