If you are planning a visit to Costa Maya/Mahahual, and find the long drive to Mahahual, after the long flight to Cancun, a bit much, perhaps a stop along the way for a
fun, relaxing evening is the easy answer. Just a bit over an hour south of Cancun, is Tulum, a great place to call it a day. Now, it is no longer the place I found some 30 years
ago, when it was the “tiny town at the end of the road”, so to speak. Today, it is more like “the biggest, little town, in Mexico”, with great hotels, shops, clubs and restaurants,
all the while, maintaining much of that old rustic charm so many of us fell in love with many years ago. For us in Mahahual, Tulum has become the gateway to the southern
part of the state of Quintana Roo and a different kind of Mexican tourism that we share. Small, sustainable and progressive sort of tourism, the type of tourism the Costa Maya
was built to provide, really begins in Tulum. As the town’s businesses grew, they have maintained a healthy balance between the economics of tourism and the local culture,
and managed to do so in a harmonious way with the natural setting. I like Tulum!!
To me, Tulum is like two very different Mexican experiences. Their beach, is a long stretch of beautiful white sand and blue water. Unlike the area around Mahahual,where the
reefs are still very close to shore and the wave action is always knocked down, the Tulum water is deeper and a bit rougher. The beach area around the ruins, and the area a
few kilometers south, are very built up, but with small boutique businesses, mainly hotels and restaurants. As you continue south, the hotels and restaurants get more sparse
and eventually end at the entrance of the Sian Kaan Biosphere. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the Tulum beach is to taxi to the south beach area and then just begin the long stroll back to the north, stopping along the way often for swims, cold drinks, food or even a massage at one of the many little hotel/restaurant operations you’ll pass. When I’m tired of walking, I just go to the road and catch the next taxi back to my hotel. From rustic cabanas to luxury hotels, the Tulum beach has it all and is a great place to spend some time.
Since I live in Mahahual, where the most beautiful beaches in all of Mexico are, even beaches as nice as Tulum’s, are no big deal for me. However the Tulum pueblo, that is another thing all together! The pueblo, or the old downtown, is the part of town that highway 307 runs through on it’s southerly track to Mahahual, and is a great place tobreak up the trip and spend an evening. An easy walk to anywhere, the downtown is still small, with little hotels along the main drag, as well as several blocks to the east and west. As the town has grown, small investor owners from all over Mexico and the world, have filled the side street areas with new, and very nice accommodations. Most are just a few rooms and all are unique, with fabulous gardens, swimming pools or even their own little specialty restaurants. Everything is just a couple minute cab ride to the beach too!
If you are wanting to do some real shopping, a stop in Tulum is not a bad place to do it. The entire main drag along highway 307 is lined with small shops and stores. All the
usual Mexican stuff and better selection than you find in Mahahual. Because Tulum is not just a tourist town, there are also small grocery stores, drug stores and hardware stores. Even clothing and leather goods shops, as well as street vendors with everything from handmade leather belts, to knock-off designer sunglasses. If you love hardware stores like I do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find several along the way, so go in and check them out. I bet you’ll buy something!
And get ready for some great food too. The nicer, more gourmet type food is mainly out at the beach locations, and most are worth the short drive to get to them from the pueblo. The downtown main drag though, and the next couple of side streets, are lined with lots of really great food as well, and much of it is more modest fare and prices to match. Modest in ways other than taste. Trust me, there is some really great food in Tulum pueblo! Like the hotel owners, the restaurant owners are also an international mix, with food from all over Mexico and the world to be found everywhere. There are even small clubs, with all sort of evening music and dance entertainment. Coffee houses, bakeries and desert bars are also easy to find, so get ready to enjoy a full evening.
If you have never been to Tulum, perhaps you should check it out as part of you trip to Mahahual and the Costa Maya area. If you have come this far to see the more non-
commercial Costa Maya/Mahahual area, why not take an evening and enjoy the gateway to the south, Tulum. Perhaps you’ll see me there … in the pueblo! Cheers!!