Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tulum & Playa Del Carmen


As I write I am enjoying a much needed coffee in Cozumel while Alex is on a diving trip. Since my last post we have been to Tulum and Playa Del Carmen - about an hour away from each other on the Riviera Maya. 

The beach in Tulum is spectacular. The sand is like white dust, and the ocean the perfect refreshing temperature. We stayed at Tubo Tulum which is a new hostel half way between the beach and town, where each room is created from a concrete pipe - a bed across the middle, and storage underneath. Below is a picture of me outside our pipe! We stayed at Tubo for 4 nights, and admittedly by the end of it things were getting a little stressful with only one of us being able to stand up at a time in the pipe, and losing access to half of my belongings under the bed - but Tulum is an expensive place to stay and this hostel served us perfectly. 

Cycling is a key mode of transport in Tulum as the beach and town are about 3 to 4km apart. Along a stretch of about 9km of Tulum beach lies the Zona Hotelera - beach resorts & cabanas. The restaurants and bars in this area are pretty expensive, so the majority of hostel accommodation is in town. Cycle paths are everywhere and the taxi drivers are great at giving you a lot of room, the added bonus is the breeze that cycling provides. 

Tulum beach

Beach bar where we drank a lunchtime Pina Colada 

The Tulum ruins - the community that lived here had it SO much better than those poor Mayans sweltering up at Chichen Itza

Beautiful beach at the Tulum ruins

Swimming at the Dos Ojos cenote

The wider Tulum area is home to a lot of Cenotes (underground sinkhole), and after some research we decided to head to Dos Ojos which has about 5 cenotes within the park where you can snorkel without a guide. The water is fresh, and as it's shaded by its own cave - it's pretty chilly! But the water is super clear, and if you're lucky the diving groups far below will shine their torches on the deep, far areas of the cenote so that you can see deep within them. Whilst on a stroll to one of the further cenotes Alex just managed to dodge a small snake that slithered across the road - definitely the first snake I have ever seen in the wild and ensured the rest of the walk 

We caught a Collectivo van to Dos Ojos - these are air conditioned vans (in the Mayan Riviera area anyway!) and are basically like public transport. You wave them down in designated spots and we went to Dos Ojos (13Km) for only 20 pesos - approx. $1.80 NZD each. Such a brilliant travel option for budget travellers like ourselves!

We also tried to swim with the turtles in Akumal while we were in Tulum, but alas the weather was so bad that the life guards had banned snorkelling and swimmers were only allowed in to their waists. To us hardy New Zealander's the choppy water looked more than fine for turtle watching so Alex stuffed his mask down his boardshorts and swum out for a look... unfortunately the visibility was so bad he could barely see his hands in front of him. I have spent a good portion of my recent snorkelling excursions looking for turtles and Akumal literally means 'Place of the Turtles' in the Mayan language - so I was bitterly disappointed. We're hoping to stop in again en route to Belize so fingers crossed we stumble across a calm day!

We headed to Playa Del Carmen after Tulum and checked into The Yak - such an amazing hostel with the friendliest staff EVER! Playa Del Carmen is not too dissimilar to Kuta, Bali - on a much smaller scale. It's a party town and it did not disappoint. We had a quiet-ish first night drinking at the hostel then heading out to the clubbing street where things were just getting started at 2am. A bar on the waterfront had a live salsa band and the dance floor was absolutely packed with locals dancing like absolute salsa professionals - we attempted for a tiny while to practice a few of the steps we learnt in our beginners class but we were shocking and I think a refresher class is definitely in order. 

Alice, Kate, Lucy & Harriet joined us for our second night in Playa and after a lot of drinks at The Yak we headed out to one of the designated bars where it is LADIES NIGHT - every night. A pink wristband was all we needed for free drinks all evening. The salsa bar from the previous night was hosting a Hip Hop night and we ended up there until 5am before a quick dip in the ocean and a box full of delicious pizza for the walk home.

I can also recommend that you do not get a pedicure in Playa Del Carmen. Mine involved a two hour long process whereby slips of the polish were followed by nail polish remover on a paint brush to remove it - and there were a lot of mistakes! By the end of it my feet were pink due to this technique dissolving a lot of excess nail polish into my feet and it was even a nice place! Lesson learnt.

5th Avenue - Playa Del Carmen

We're off to Isla Mujeres tomorrow and meeting Alice, Kate, Lucy & Harriet again at the famous Poc Na Hostel which is right on the beach. Isla Mujeres means Island of Women in Spanish - very fitting. Hopefully Alex finds a male friend or two to keep him company..


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