After Cancun it was nice to be back on the road and onward to less touristy areas. We drove southbound past Playa Del Carmen and continued to Tulum. We found a wonderful hostel that was recommended to us by our pal Eddie in Puerto Escondido and settled right in. First we grabbed a few tacos at a local eatery nearby and then headed over to the hostel to check in. We got there just in time as the hostel was nearly booked up that night and we got the last two beds available. Unfortunately, the only remaining beds were in separate rooms, but I decided to snatch them up as I saw a few other travelers stagger into the lobby. They were directed to another hostel in town while I booked the remaining two beds. I felt bad, they were tired and ready to find a place to rest, but so were we! The hostel was called The Weary Traveler and we had a blast there.
The Weary Traveler had a unique system of handling purchases at the bar or front desk that we hadn’t experienced prior. Everything went through a computer and a receipt was printed out which was then presented to the bar or front desk. Everything was logged onto an account made for you when you check in and by using your little room key fob on a small reader next to their computers. You could check your account balance, order breakfast, make purchases at the bar, add more days to your visit, or check out. It was a really cool system, but just seemed a bit weird. One other cool thing the hostel had was a “cook it yourself” set up. They provided free breakfast with a variety of choices; eggs, french toast, pancakes, toast, or cereal. If you chose eggs, french toast, or pancakes, you took your ingredients to a large open skillet and got to cook your own breakfast! It was really neat and I ended up having egg-in-a-hole a few times while we visited. They also offered dinner for a price and you cooked that as well; chicken, hamburger, steak, or fish, and they provided everything for veggies or salad. We ended up getting our own groceries at a local store and made most of our meals ourselves to save a bit of money, but their dinners looked fantastic. Also, our two best friends we met in Puerto Escondido were in Tulum as well, Tash and Jordan! It was awesome to hang out with them for the week before we parted ways once more.
The Weary Traveller also offered a lot of tours and free bus services to the beach. One of the first things we did there was visit the Coba Ruins. The hostel offered tours, but we decided to drive ourselves and save some money. The Coba Ruins were located deep in the Yucatan jungle and had a sort of Indiana Jones feel. We arrived at the ruins and were getting ready to enter the site when we ran into an older gentleman who recommended we rent bicycles inside to get from one site to another. We were really glad we took his advice. Not only was it totally awesome to ride bikes in the jungle while it rained on us, but the distances between sites were pretty far and having the bikes made everything much more fun and accessible.
We came upon some very decrepit looking, but very majestic pyramids at this site. The tallest pyramid was available to climb and had an amazing view of the entire jungle surrounding the site. We put our kick stands up on the bikes and climbed to the top of the pyramid to take in the view. We were up there for a while and just as we started our way down it started to rain. Perfect timing to get some pictures before heading off to see the other parts of the ruins as we rode our bikes through the rain. So far as we have been traveling through warmer and more humid climates I have welcomed every chance of rain to get a refreshingly cool shower during the mid day heat.
The next day we decided to do some scuba diving in the cenotes located around Tulum. We are not cave certified, but with our Advanced Open Water certification we are able to do dives in cenotes and caves that have sunlit areas. We hadn’t done any diving since we dove in Australia in 2010 and thought about doing a refresher dive before going back into it, but decided not to. It was just as well since the moment we got back into the water with all of our gear, everything came right back to us in an instant. Our buoyancy was great and we did well on our air too. We signed up for two dives that day and had another friendly guy named Alexander, who was staying at the same hostel, join us.
Our first dive was at a location called “The Pit” and was our deepest dive that day. The Pit was cool because the entrance was sunken into the ground by about 25-30 feet. There was a wood stairway leading down to the water where we could jump in, or you could stand at the top where the hole began and take a leap of faith. All of us decided to get into the water with all of our gear the easy way down on the wooden platform, but we all took a leap off the top of the rocks into the water below with our wet suits on before we went diving. That was so much fun!
No underwater camera this time, but while we were diving we got to see a white sulfur cloud under the water that was easy to disappear into. There was also a lone creepy looking tree with these giant seeds hanging from it. The water was so still it felt like you were floating or flying through the air with the clouds below you and the creepy tree in the middle. Then the cavern opened up into the darker corners of the cave where the sun could barely reach. We swam around some stalactite and stalagmite formations after playing with the cloud for a bit and then came back up to the surface. The entire dive felt very eerie to me at first and I found myself getting a bit dizzy at times if I wasn’t paying attention to what was below or above me. Apparently cave diving can do that.
The next dive was a lot more fun and less creepy. It was called Dos Ojos and we entered at a horizontal cave opening instead of just a giant hole in the ground. This cave had safety lines running through to follow and would bring you around and under stalactite/stalagmite formations and then back up to some openings where you could surface and see more open cave formations before descending back into the water and navigating back toward the entrance. We surfaced in an area called “The Bat Cave” and saw the roof of the cave area littered with tiny insect bats and birds. The diving here was great and we were glad to be back underwater again. We can’t wait to get to Belize to do some more diving!
The following day we decided to go out to the city of Akumal and do some snorkeling with the sea turtles. Alexander joined us and we drove up north a bit and found the cove where we could snorkel. There were lots of people out there snorkeling, but there seemed to be plenty of turtles to go around. We spent a good couple hours there before heading back. The beach was gorgeous with palm trees for shade, white sands, and the clouds were stretched thinly in the sky just enough to alleviate the intense heat from the sun.
Our next journey out of Tulum was to the Tulum Ruins. These ruins were set up right along the Carribean’s pristine turquoise and blue waters and although the entire ruin site was fairly small, it was extraordinarily beautiful. The iguanas strutted around like they owned the place and they even allowed swimming on the beach where you could look up at the rocky shore and see ancient Mayan ruins towering over you.
The interior of the ruins wasn’t littered with souvenir peddlers, but the entrance was another story. There were bars, restaurants, souveniers, even people in full costume waiting to get a picture with you. It was fun and someone could probably spend an entire day there swimming, eating, and enjoying the ruins. We mostly just went for the ruins, but on the way out, we had to get a few fun photos with some of the people in costumes. And there was even a cute soft little monkey to hold! I think Steve made a new friend there.
We stayed in Tulum for a total of about 6 days during our final week in Mexico before finally meeting Steve’s Mom, Jody, in Hopkins Belize. Our first stop before Central America is the last major city near the border of Belize, Chetumal. We stayed at the hilariously named “Ucum” Hotel, where we didn’t blow a huge load to stay there, but we definitely left satisfied. Then it was onward to Belize!