An Escape to the Mayan Jungle and Coast

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to sit down and write a new blog post, but since I’ve just returned from a vacation and have some free time, I figured it would be a good time to resurrect this blog!

My sister Helen and I took a trip to Tulum, Mexico last week. This is the first time in recent years that we’ve both been to Mexico (Helen visited Zacatecas when she was a toddler, and I tagged along on a road trip to Tijuana over ten years ago), so it was exciting to be able to experience a tiny piece of Mexico for the first time together.

Earlier this year I had set a personal goal to travel more, so it felt good to end the year with one last trip abroad. We spent about four nights and four days in Tulum, and this is what we did:

Day One:

We spent the majority of our first day of vacation traveling to our destination. Helen and I departed early in the day to the airport, had a layover in Dallas, and arrived to Cancun around 6:30 PM local time. We had arranged a shuttle service from the airport ahead of time, and it took no more than 20 minutes to find the shuttle company, check-in and depart from the airport. It took approximately an hour and 20 minutes to reach our hotel in Tulum from the airport in Cancun.

The hotel we stayed in is called Aluna Hotel, which opened recently over the summer this year. The hotel is located just 20 minutes away from the main Tulum hotel area. I liked this hotel because it was fairly small in comparison to some of the larger resorts we had passed on our way to Tulum. I enjoy being able to go out into the busy tourist areas and then return to a quiet oasis to recharge for the next day. The rooms at Aluna Hotel are beautiful and comfortable, and you can request not to have your sheets changed everyday, which I think is a huge plus if you want to make the effort to be more sustainable.

Our beautiful room at Alune Hotel.

Our shower included a built-in clothes drying line, which was such a huge plus for someone like me who air dries a large majority of my clothes. It’s very useful if you need or plan to pack lightly, and want to wash and dry clothes. It’s also handy for letting your bathing suit dry in between uses. Our room included a private balcony that overlooked the gorgeous pool, and it seemed like the majority of the hotel’s rooms had the same lovely view. My favorite feature was the smart TV that we could watch Netflix on! It was nice to wind down at the end of the day with a couple of episodes of Brooklyn 99.

Poolside at Aluna Hotel

After checking into our hotel and receiving our bags we headed downstairs for dinner and drinks at the hotel restaurant. I’m glad we had several chances to eat at the restaurant downstairs because there were so many delicious food options!

Day 2:

We got off to a relaxing start on our first full day in Tulum. We headed back down to the hotel restaurant to grab some breakfast and then ready ourselves for a day of leisure. Our original plan was to spend some time in the hotel pool and then head to the beach. However, it was an overcast day and sunlight wasn’t hitting and warming the water in the pool, and it wasn’t a heated pool, so much as we wanted to, we couldn’t go into the water past our knees. It was much too cold for us!

Freezing my butt off!
Photo Cred: Helen Veyna

Since our hotel offered bike rentals, Helen and I rented bikes to head down to our hotel’s partner beach clubs so we could lounge in a warmer environment! We had a couple of drinks on the beach before it started raining and feeling a bit too cool for these SoCal natives. The beach was really beautiful and very busy! There was an abundance of stray dogs wandering around, children selling wares and people trying to sell you boat rides or snorkeling lessons. My favorite part was how warm the ocean water was!

For dinner, we headed to Casa Jaguar which was a short taxi ride from our hotel. As a precaution we noted down our taxi driver’s phone number so that we wouldn’t get stranded but we were in a busy commercial area so getting a ride back was not an issue.

The smoke keeps mosquitos at bay

Casa Jaguar was definitely a splurge meal in comparison to all of our other dinners in Tulum, but it is worth every penny. The food and cocktails are all really delicious and unique.

Casa Jaguar, octopus for dinner.
Photo Cred: Helen Veyna

Day 3:

By our third day we were ready to wake up early and visit a nearby cenote. Prior to arriving to Tulum, Helen and I looked into booking a tour to take us to a couple cenotes, but ultimately we decided it was way more cost-efficient to take a taxi to a cenote nearby. The taxi one-way was $150 MXN, and the entrance to the cenote was $80 MXN which was much more affordable and less time-consuming than a $100+ USD tour.

Cenote Cristal felt very private because there weren’t any crowds in sight. At most, there were maybe 5 people in the cenote at all times. This provided ample room to swim freely around and take a billion shots to get a good picture for the ‘gram.

Cenote Cristal has a diving platform, but I was a big scaredy cat and couldn’t muster up the courage to jump!

Photo Cred: Helen Veyna

We went back into town for tacos and paletas (popsicles) at La Chiapaneca and Flor de Michoacán. Afterwards, we took the opportunity to walk back to the hotel and checked out the town center along the way. The weather changed a lot from sunny and warm to rainy and warm. When we got back to our hotel we were soaking wet! I slipped into a robe and relaxed for the rest of the night!

Day 4:

Our fourth and last full day was also an early day. Helen and I planned to explore the Tulum ruins, head down for lunch at the beach, and then visit another cenote.

We managed to make it to the Tulum Ruins, which we explored sans a guide. Although you can find plenty of information about the ruins online, if you are able to, definitely splurge for a guide so that they can provide more insight about the significance and history about the buildings and layout of this fortress city.

I think my favorite part of walking around was interacting with the curious coati and coming across several iguanas.

Spot the iguana!

The ruins are also a short walk or bike ride to the beach, so we headed over back to Playa Pescadores to have lunch. Unfortunately we had a bit of an emergency to deal with back home, so we canceled our plans and headed back to our hotel for the rest of the day.

Day 5:

Our last day was by far the most relaxing day. After waking up and packing our bags in preparation for check out, we headed out to Raw Love located in Hotel Ahau which is located next to the beach.

Raw Love has a really laid back set-up that makes it ideal for having a quiet start to your morning, provided you show up early. I also appreciate their light and healthy (entirely vegan) breakfast options. Although I usually have protein-heavy breakfasts, I don’t like very heavy meals before traveling so this place was perfect for our last day. We spent the remainder of the day walking by the beach and lounging in front of the pool while we waited for our shuttle to pick us up and take us to the airport.

Raw Love, Hotel Ahau

In stark contrast to my earlier trips this year, this trip was very loosely planned. In some ways it meant that I could really settle down and have a relaxing do-nothing vacation, and other times it could be a little stressful to not have a solid plan and back-up plan like I usually do. I think taking this trip and seeing how relaxing it could be to do one major activity per day makes me more open to taking a couple of loosely planned trip in the future!

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