So starting my trip in Tulum may have been a mistake as it is the kind of place you just don't want to leave. I stayed in The Weary Traveller hostel which was awesome; really social place with a good bar, free salsa lessons and a free bus to the beach every day so I was all set. I got to hang out with a friend from Ibiza (Jamie Gittens) who has moved there, which was great and met a lot of other ex pats who came for a few weeks and still haven't left up to seven years later, so I believe they were a bad influence on me
The main draw in Tulim has to be it's stunning beach- gorgeous white sand, and in certain places the perfect sized waves for jumping, and calm water in others just right for floating aimlessly. A lot of people get very involved in the many activities available there such as kite surfing, taking a short boat ride to the nearby small reef to snorkel, or beach football or volleyball. I'll be honest I did none of the above and loved it. The height of my activity was swinging on the bar swings (great invention) at my favourite beach bar; Adelita, which has amazing food (especially guacamole which I am now 100% addicted to.) And I almost forgot- learning to play the ukulele! Jan, a great German guy I hung out with a lot in Tulem decided to teach me. Now I haven`t quite mastered it, but it was the perfect pass time whilst drinking Coronas on the beach.
In Tulum you can even make going to the beach a cultural activity as it has some Mayan ruins right on the cliffs overlooking the beach. The ruins themselves as quite small, not particularly impressive and mainly roped off so you can't get too close, however their positioning makes them seem even more impressive and the view is spectacular, so I would say well worth checking out on a trip to the beach.
Now I didn't just bum on the beach the whole time I was there I also did some proper tourist activities, including visiting some of the fantastic cenotes (amazing water filled caves, full of stalactites & stalagmites) in the area. The Grand Cenote was a good starting point, with 2 small swimming areas separated by a small turtle area and larger caves for diving. For this trip I couldn't have been in better company; I met another Irish girl called Laura who was just as rusty at snorkeling as me. We must have been quite a sight clinging at the edge of the cenote for about 15 minutes trying to grips with getting our masks fitting right and breathing underwater without freaking out, but we eventually mastered it and went exploring. Luckily we were still feeling a little chicken s*** and not up to exploring the 'entrance to the bigger cave' some girls had told us about, however they had not mentioned that this was only for divers so the air pockets we'd have been searching for would never have come- phew! Another day Jamie took me to the much bigger 'Pet Cemetry' centote, don't be put off by the name it was huge and all the stalactites & stalagmites were lit up beautifully, creating a really calm and almost magical atmosphere- and not a dead animal in sight!
Laura & I also made it to the heavily restored Mayan city of Chitzen Itza; now one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, which also meant there were big crowds and LOTS of souvenir stalls throughout the site. For me it`s not my favorite Mayan site (and Macchu Picchu & Angkor Wat still kick the ass of all the Mayan sites I've seen) but It was pretty impressive seeing how much it has been restored and we managed to form a group of independent travelers to get a guide who really did bring it all to life. He explained how the buildings were constructed to carry sound across large areas and turn clapping noises into the sound of the sacred quetzal bird (which NASA are still investigating). We saw the ball court where they played a game with a ridiculously heavy leather ball hitting it with hips, knees etc and try to get in through some high, vertical stone hoops and the lucky captain of the winning team got to be the monthly human sacrifice. The Mayans also devised an incredibly intricate calendar system way before any other civilization and understood the sun & the starts to such a degree that they built their main temple to play with the light so that on the two days of summer & winter equinox the light and shadows create the slithering body of a snake body to meet the stone snake's head at the base of the temple- amazing achievements!
Another great day trip was to the nearby beach of Acumal. Danica (Germany) Nadiya (Guatemala) Jan (Germany) and I all took a collectivo (type of local minibus) to the beach there. Jan was meeting some local friends of friends who promptly took him to the nearest bar, whilst the girls and I got our snorkeling gear on and hit the water. The beach itself is quite small and completely packed, but for good reason. A certain type of sea grass grows here which turtles love, so you only have to swim about 10 feet from the shore and you could be swimming with turtles! I saw two huge turtles and three smaller ones on my little exploration, and they are so relaxed I could just swim alongside them for about five minutes taking in every detail- incredible! There was also some reef quite a bit further out from shore which I didn't venture to but the girls did and saw manta rays as their reward. We went to rescue Jan from the bar only to be roped into the activities (rum drinking) too. The local guys were great craic and so were their friends working in the bar, who kept topping up all our glasses with rum so we had no idea how much we had drunk by the end of the day, but obviously quite a lot as we eventually made it back to the hostel at 11.30 in our snorkeling gear- a long day at the beach! We had made plans to go to one of the local guy's ranch the next day which had its own private cenote (clearly he was not short of a bob or two) but given hangovers all round the following morning that never actually materialized.
Nightlife played quite a big part in my time in Tulum. Given that it was low season, there was not a huge number of bars to choose from but it also meant that by doing a quick lap of the three or four options you could quickly see which was 'the' bar for that evening. Cuarandero was usually a front runner as they often had live music, usually Salsa or Cumbia. It was quite a small bar which meant that, the party often spilled out onto the streets and had a great atmosphere. The next stop was Mint a really nice bar, with a terrace, pool table and dance floor, so it could flit between being a chilled night playing pool, or if the crowd was right, a massive party until the last person wanted to go home. I had quite a few good nights there! Another bar/club is Infinito which is more of a local hangout, playing anything from Salsa, hip hop, pop to reggaeton- in no particular order. When you ended up here you generally knew three things. 1) You were drunk 2) You really should have gone home a while ago 3) You probably weren`t going home for a while yet!
I also made it to a few of the salsa nights Jamie promoted in the town in both Mezzanine and La Zebra hotels. The night in Mezzanine was more of a salsa show with dancers etc, but Sunday nights at La Zebra were great fun. The setting was great with a live band and a dance floor right on the beach front. There seemed to be a local salsa mafia - a group of couples and single men who were excellent dancers, but there were also quite a few tourists who like me had no idea what they were doing. So the local men of course were all too happy to show them the ropes!
Overall Tulum for me was a great place- the right balance of partying and relaxing and I could definitely see why some people just never left, so I decided I better get on the road before I joined the statistics!