Take Me To Tulum!

*This week my friends are sharing their wonderful trip to Tulum, Mexico! Kendra and Lauren went to Tulum this past February, and they are very generously sharing it with The Constant Wayfarer. 
Anyone want to go to Tulum? 

I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Tulum over the years. I was itching for a tropical vacation but was hesitant at first. I wanted a tropical island adventure, not just Mexico. But, more people convinced me, so I started researching blogs and websites and decided this was the place to go. I found a friend and lured her into taking the trip with me by flooding her phone with picture texts of sandy beaches, clear water and forecast for February (mid 80’s, sunny).

It was perfect. Tulum is on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, right on the Caribbean Sea. Cancun International Airport is the closest airport, and then it’s about an hour and a half to two hour straight shot drive down to Tulum. We rented a car and it was surprisingly simple to get around in it (tips on the rental process to come.)

Honestly, we were a bit confused on how we would be staying on the water as we passed dozens of grand looking resorts and had yet to see the ocean. I started to feel uneasy that we made a poor housing choice (spoiler alert: WE DID NOT!). Overall, I am so happy we didn’t stay at a resort. We ended up bumping into a couple on their honeymoon as we headed home, and it sounds like our trip was far better! (and cheaper)

Once in the town of Tulum, we took a left off the main road and that’s where the magic is. Lush greenery, tons of pretty, brightly colored shops and cafes, people in swimsuits on bikes…then out of nowhere, the ocean. We freaked out when we got our first glimpse of the perfectly turquoise water. We were not prepared for the beauty of it.

Lauren and I will take turns sharing about places we ate, stayed, mistakes we made and things we discovered that made this trip nearly perfect. We both fell in love with this place and are already talking about going back.

Some tips and tricks-

ATM’s and currency
For some reason I went in expecting that the ATM’s would have an English language and USD conversion option. Like, I could pick $50 and it would give me the peso conversion. I have no idea why I thought that. Maybe I read some bad info or something. But that is very much not the case. All of the ATM’s are in Spanish but I promise it’s really easy to figure out. We didn’t order money ahead of time because we honestly had no idea how much we would need, and I didn’t feel comfortable walking around with wads of cash. Here is the basic, not precise conversion: 1,000 pesos is about $50. There you go. We quickly learned that and then everything was ok.

If you are using an ATM and it’s in English, you are getting US dollars. And if any places there take US dollars, they are ripping you off in the exchange rate. I made that mistake. But thankfully there were a few cash exchange places (one really close to Mateos and Zamas) that give a fair exchange, just in case you make the same mistake.

Rental Cars and Parking
The main road we were on is a long one. It’s a stretch of road over four miles, which doesn’t seem terribly long, but when you have to drive super slow and there are speed bumps every few feet…it’s long.

Half of the places we enjoyed (some shops, Mateos, Zamas) were on one end of the road and the other half (Canopia, the Cabanas, Hartwood, the juice stand) were on the other. Many people were on bikes, lots of people walking, and taxis everywhere. They parked outside of all the restaurants at night to take people back to their hotels.

We were so happy we got a car. It allowed us to grocery shop when needed, travel to the condo we rented from the 2nd half of the trip, but the downside is there is very little parking. If there is any street parking, it’s usually being taken up by taxis. We found a few spots, but it was really stressful at times.

Some places, such as Mateos, offer parking for non-customers for 100 pesos. We took advantage of that one day while shopping. There is another lot next to Hartwood which does the same. That one was a fantastic find! There are several other places with parking lots, so just keep an eye out. Or, if you don’t want to bother with a rental car, taxis and bikes are available.

When it came to the rental car, we had a rental booked when we arrived. But once we got out of customs, we did not see a window for the company we had used. Someone working there told us that company didn’t have anything onsite. So we cancelled it, booked another one through Hertz, which became quite a long process. Once we got outside to the Hertz shuttle, we realized our original rental car company had a shuttle outside. That hadn’t been really communicated, which is a bummer. It would’ve been much cheaper. So if you book a rental car, contact the company to find out what the procedure is. We had a great rate with that one and wished we had known.

Don’t get GPS through the rental car places. We just contacted our phone carries to their international data plan. That ended up being cheaper. We were able to use our phone GPS, and didn’t get lost at all.

*Have you ever been to Tulum? Would love to hear if you enjoyed it and any tips you learned along the way?


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