Mexico is one of my favorite destinations. It's easy to get there, relatively cheap, and for the most part, English with un pocito espnanol is enough to get you by. Specifically, I like the Mexican Riviera, the section of the northern Yucatan Peninsula that faces the Caribbean. We've stayed a number of places along this area, but our last stay was at Grand Palladium Colonial.
Perhaps I'll write about the resort in a future post (after enjoying some margaritas, which I've been known to do once or twice a week), but for this post, we're talking about Tulum, the site of a Mayan city right on the coast. Even if you don't know anything about Tulum, you'll recognize its most famous site, the Pyramid El Castillo, the incredible temple right on a cliff overlooking the water.
Getting to Tulum is very easy. The resorts all offer tours where you board a bus and take you comfort. If you are looking to save a little money, or possibly be a touch more adventurous, collectivos (small buses) run up and down Highway 307 are a cheap way to get you there. You'll get up close with the locals as these are an important means of transportation along the coast. Though the drivers I've had don't speak English and I don't speak much Spanish, we both know numbers, and it only costs a few dollars (or pesos) to make the trip.
The collectivos drop you off at the end of the road leading to the ruins of Tulum. (There is also a town named Tulum, so it's not just ruins.) This is also the corner where you will pick up your shuttle back to your resort of choice. There are typically plenty of collectivos waiting for customers, so no problem getting one.
The first thing you will see is an enormous outdoor mall. If you need to buy cheap (or expensive) souvenirs, this is the spot for you. Or beer - they've got plenty of that, too. And restrooms, if you can navigate the maze of shops to find them, which isn't as easy as it sounds. If you need to go, do it here - on the day we went, the bathrooms at the ticket office to the ruins were closed. And yes, that is a skeletal version of Captain Jack Sparrow.
We weren't interested in shopping, so we continued down the road to the entrance to the ruins. It wasn't a difficult walk, but takes about fifteen minutes to get to the entrance. You will be joined by many, many other tourists making the same walk. I don't remember if the credit card machine wasn't working or they didn't take cards, but we needed cash. Luckily, we were OK, but be sure to have some handy.
Once you get inside, you are free to wander. You will not have the ruins to yourself - this is a popular site. Certain chokepoints got a little crowded, but most of the time, there was room to navigate without bumping into people. You will also spend a lot of time in the sun because there isn't much shade. Take that into account as to when you make the trip.
Tulum isn't a large site, but there are plenty of interesting buildings. And if you are looking for iguanas, you have come to the right places.
While all the ruins are quite interesting (I'm a history buff and can explore this type of site for hours), Tulum also has an amazing beach accessible by stairs. It is a beautiful spot for a swim and playing in the waves.
There is also a short, narrow opening on the edge of the water where you can wander through, too.