15 Dec 18
The Scottish Sun
ARRIVING at night on the Mayan Riviera, the only clue to my stunning view is the sound of waves crashing against the shore.
Over breakfast we are rewarded with the perfect panorama — clean, white Mexican sands lapped by the frothy waves of the Caribbean sea, framed by rocky coves.
Tulum was once the site of a 13th-Century fortified port trading in turquoise and jade and the only Mayan city built on the coast
While it would be easy to simply stretch out on those pale sands and sizzle in the sun for a week — pausing only to sip a tequila or two — Tulum can deliver so much more.
It is a lively town but not on the scale of some of Mexico’s wilder spots such as Cancun, which is known for the hedonistic American Spring Break parties.
While Tulum is full of tequila bars and live music for the evenings, it retains a sleepy beach-town feeling, and its nightlife centres more around drinking cocktails and taking in the views.
There’s so much more to Mexico than just those dreaded tequila hangovers.
Cool off inside the underground cenote pool, unique to the region
To shake off the jet lag, we headed to Caleta Tankah, a beautiful, long stretch of beach for the day, wading into the open cenote.
Cenotes are underground swimming pools, unique to the region. There are more than 6,000 of them alone on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, some open and some below ground. They are like having a private pool in your back garden at home.
The Mayan ruins are a must-see and perfect for history buffs. Tulum was once the site of a 13th-Century fortified port trading in turquoise and jade and the only Mayan city built on the coast.
A limestone wall encloses the citadel on three sides. It is up to seven metres thick and up to five metres tall — and its five doors reveal the remains of a vibrant Mayan city.
Chill out at a luxurious boutique hotel Maria del Mar
Our guide from Blue Caribe tours brought the rolling hills and black and grey stone outcroppings to life, describing the city at its zenith.
It is definitely worth paying a little extra for a tour guide if you can, and try to get to the ruins as early on in the day as possible before the heat sets in.
If the sun does start to scorch, there is another picture-perfect beach right by the ruins in which to cool off after exploring the ancient remains.
Tulum’s beaches are fringed by miles of jungle — and what better way to explore than by zipping from tree to tree?
Tulum boats picturesque white sandy beaches
Our trip to Tulum Jungla Maya with Alltournative was the perfect way to explore, combining a chance to zip-wire across miles of lush jungle. You even get to fly into one of the sparkling cenotes before snorkelling through them.
This is a jungle experience so make sure to pack your mosquito spray. Kids will also love the expertise of the guides who work at Aventuras Mayas, a diving and snorkelling experience where they can learn about the sea life on the Mexican Riviera.
We felt like pros as we donned flippers and goggles and dipped in and out of the water. Sadly, we did not see any turtles, but if you are lucky, you might glimpse one.
It would not be Mexico without getting fired up on shots in the evening. I recommend visiting Rauxa, a dinner show with free-flowing booze and some very risqué acts.
Take the plunge on the zipwire and take in the scenery at the same time
Telling the story of a woman who loses her mind through song and dance, it is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, and one you will want to put your glad rags on for.
Rosa Negra in Tulum is another great choice for the, combining Mexican food with Argentinian, Peruvian and Brazilian cuisine. We made sure we tried local salmon ceviche, several shots of tequila and a baked Alaska for pudding.
We spent the final three days of the trip on the paradise island of Holbox.
Much more remote than the more tourist-friendly Tulum (there’s a coach and ferry to get there) it has its individual charm. There are no cars on the tiny island — instead you are transported in golf buggies.
Blue Caribe tours brought the rolling hills and black and grey stone outcroppings to life
We spent two blissful days on the chilled beach here, paddling through shallow waters and eating fish caught by local fishermen. There is not much else to do, and that was what we needed after such an adventure-packed week.
Whether you want to do everything or nothing, Mexico offers it all. Preferably with a shot of tequila on the side.
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Tulum has a fantastic range of hotels for everyone from honeymooners to families with lively kids.
Here’s my tips for some of the best to visit:
I’ve never seen anything like the beach I’m greeted by at the Maria del Mar. It is a private paradise of craggy rocks, white sand and palm trees.
The 4* boutique hotel is stylish with huge rooms, local toiletries and strictly no kids allowed – perfect for couples who want to do yoga on the balcony or head to the hotel’s Mina restaurant for delicious breakfast burritos.
By day, the large pool is an oasis to cool off in, right next to the private beach.
Stay room-only from £120pppn (breakfast £14 extra) in October 2019. See mariadelmartulum.com.
Beautiful stretch of beach where you can catch fish
Families will want to stay at the 4H PavoReal Beach Resort, where the large rooms are painted in bright colours. There are several large pools complemented by a fantastic stretch of beach that is home to herons, who swoop in to catch fish.
The hotel is all-inclusive with a wide range of entertainment and activities on offer, including kids’ club and fitness classes.
Stay all-inclusive from £101pppn in October 2019. For details see pavorealtulum.com.
FOR BACK TO NATURE
Explore the nature of Tulum through glamping and bike rides
Akumal Natura Glamping lets you to get back to nature – but with all the creature comforts.
The tents have surprisingly comfy beds and posh bathrooms. There are also free bikes to ride into the town or beach, ten minutes away.While there is no swimming pool there is a cenote – a natural sinkhole – for cooling off in. There’s also a nature reserve with rescued monkeys and crocodiles. Pack a strong bug spray and be prepared for spiders – I saw three tarantulas.
There’s a basic on-site kitchen, which offers home-cooked breakfasts, but you’ll need to head to town for dinner. Stay from £40pppn with breakfast included in October 2019. See akumalnatura.com.
FOR ISLAND ESCAPE
Enjoy the turquoise oceans via a ferry ride
A short ferry ride from Tulum is the tropical island of Holbox and the Hotel Las Nubes, which is Spanish for “the clouds”.
This 4H boutique hotel is right on the beach and overlooks turquoise, bath-warm waters, populated by flamingos. Here you can wade out for what seems like miles and the water never covers your knees.
Our room was huge, with organic products, a waterfall shower and hammocks on the balcony – the ultimate chill-out spot.
It is a short ride in a golf buggy to the nearby lively town.
Stay from £112pppn in October with breakfast included. See lasnubesdeholbox.com.
[boxout headline=”Go: Mexico”]GETTING THERE: Virgin Atlantic flies direct to Cancun and also via Miami. Return fares from £525pp. See virginatlantic.com
OUT & ABOUT: For day trips from your hotel, see alltournative.com; aventurasmayas.com; caletatankah.com.
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