Nick and I were pretty sure that at least some of our adult children would visit us if we spent the winter in Tulum. We were right! Three of our five kids came to Tulum on vacation, and it was fabulous. We also had a visit from a friend of mine from work and her husband who were in Cancun on vacation. Thanks to these visits, we were able to experience Tulum like vacationers instead of expats.
Allison and James
Our daughter Allison and her boyfriend James came first. The weather was not perfect for their week in Mexico. But 78 degrees and partly cloudy in Tulum was significantly nicer than the upstate New York Arctic blast they left behind. We managed to get in some beach time, despite the less than perfect weather. But I’d say my favorite part of their visit was our road trip to the Mayan ruins in Coba.
Coba is about a 45 minute drive from Tulum. The archaeological site is large and the best way to see the ruins is to rent a bike. We hired a guide to give us a 45 minute overview of the history and layout of the ruins before climbing on our bikes to explore.
Unlike some of the other Mayan ruins, Coba has been restored, not recreated. Also, you can get up close and personal to the ruins instead of admiring them from behind a rope. The centerpiece of the ruins is Nohuch Mul. At 137 feet, Nohuch Mul is the tallest temple pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula. Be warned, the 120 stairs to the top are steep and slippery. The climb actually feels quite unsafe, but it’s worth the effort.
After seeing the ruins, we decided to visit one of the nearby cenotes. The day was overcast and cool when we arrived at Cenote Choo Ha. We changed into our swimming suits and rinsed off in the chilly shower. I don’t think any of us were excited about swimming as we headed down into the cave to the underground Cenote. When we entered the water, the warmth of the cenote surprised us all! As a bonus, we had the place all to ourselves for the first 20 minutes. When we were done, we headed back to the car and stopped at a restaurant near Coba Lake for beer and tacos before heading home.
Lindsey, Chris, Candace and Cassie
Our next visitors were our daughter Lindsey, her fiance Chris and two of Lindsey’s friends from college, Candace and Cassie. This group totally embraced the bicycle culture of Tulum. We rented a bunch of bikes for their stay. Candace was not comfortable riding a regular bike, so we put her on Bella’s tricycle, and she did great. The six of us biked all over Tulum, including trips to the Grand Cenote and the Tulum Ruins.
The Tulum Ruins are almost a required stop if you are vacationing here. They’re close to town and easy to get to. In fact, you can see the ruins from the south end of the public beach. You can also hire a boat ride to view them from the sea. But in order to really appreciate them, you need to visit.
If you drive to the ruins, you’ll be met with a “shopping mall” atmosphere of souvenir shops and food vendors. If it’s your first time to the ruins, it definitely worth hiring a guide. While you’re waiting for the tram, be sure to watch the Pole Flying demonstration. Four men launch themselves off the top of a tall pole with a rope tied around their ankles. The rope is wound around the top of the pole, and as the men swirl around the pole, they get closer and closer to the ground. It’s fun to watch, but be prepared to tip the performers. We biked right past this circus like atmosphere and headed straight for the ticket booth.
This archaeological site is small, but the ruins are lovely. They’re perched on a cliff with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. Iguanas laze about in the grass and on the rocks of the ruins. When you’ve seen the ruins, be sure to head down the staircase and spend a few minutes on the beach. It’s not someplace I’d want to spend all day, due to the crowds of people there. But it’s lovely to take a swim and admire the ruins from the ocean.
After the ruins, the six of us climbed back on our bikes and took the back road to the south end of public beach area in Tulum. We grabbed a table at Pancho Villa’s beach club and enjoyed plenty of snacks and beers, occasionally cooling off with a dip in the blue Caribbean water.
Nick and I had never been to the Gran Cenote, even though it is pretty easy to get to on a bike or by taxi. I guess I was being a bit of a cenote snob. I mean, how could it be nice if it was so easy to get to? I’m so glad that we went with Lindsey and her crew, because this cenote was beautiful. The grounds are very well maintained with places to relax and hang out. The cenote itself is below ground level, but mostly open on top. There are lush tropical plants surrounding the rim, colorful butterflies flitting about, fresh water turtles swimming around and even a few bats in a cave-like passage. Yes, it was a bit expensive at about $10 each and also a bit too crowded, but we all enjoyed the Gran Cenote.
Once they figured out the lay of the land, this fun-loving gang was off exploring on their own and enjoying the nightlife. We even got to enjoy the Superbowl with them at Matteo’s, our favorite sports bar!
Jackie and Liz
Just a few days after Lindsey and her friends left, our daughter Jackie arrived with her friend Liz. Nick and I showed them how to get around Tulum, and shared some of our favorite places with them. Of course we visited the Tulum Ruins, the beach club at Pancho Villa and the Gran Cenote.
Jackie had done some research before arriving and decided to treat us all to a day-pass at Dreams Resort in Tulum, a big all-inclusive resort just outside of town. We took a cab to the resort on Valentine’s Day and were all checked in by 10 AM. The partial day option entitled us to food and beverages, plus use of the resort facilities until 5 PM for $55 person.
We started out with breakfast, and then settled into lounge chairs at one of the two large pools. Our waiter, Benito was attentive and fun as he kept us hydrated and fed throughout the day. Nick and I have never been to a big resort, and we enjoyed being pampered all day long. At lunch, the smell of a good old-fashioned American cookout got our attention. I enjoyed a cheeseburger and Nick got a delicious, grilled genuine Italian sausage. He’s still talking about how yummy that sausage was and says it was worth the price of admission just for lunch. By 5 o’clock we were ready to head home.
Jackie and Liz invited us to to on a day-trip with them the Xcaret, an adventure/nature park near Playa del Carmen. We decided not to go, but took them into Tulum for a hearty breakfast and sent them off in a Collectivo. A Collectivo is a 12-15 passenger van used by locals to get from town to town. It’s convenient and cheap! When they shared the pictures of their day with us, I regretted that Nick and I missed it.
Vince and Joanne
Joanne and I worked together for many years, but didn’t see each other socially. When I saw that she and her husband Vince were going to be in Cancun, we invited them to come see us in Tulum. We are so glad that they did!
We took them to a few of the usual places, but the highlight of the visit was dinner at El Mariachi Loco. We’d been here before for cocktails, but this was the first time we ate at El Mariachi Loco. We ordered an inexpensive communal dinner for four and sat back to enjoy the music. The excellent mariachi band gave the place a party atmosphere, as the audience joined in on the choruses of familiar songs. When the food arrived, we were happy to find it was delicious!
While we loved having some of our adult children visit, it was really nice hanging out with people our own age and with a similar passion for traveling in retirement.
We’re so glad that we got to share this beautiful place with friends and family! I think they appreciated the off-resort authenticity of their Tulum experiences. We enjoyed spending time with them and seeing Tulum through their eyes. If Nick and I come back to Tulum for another extended stay, I think the odds are good that we’ll see them all again. That might be the best reason of all to return.
Lynne, Nick and Bella