We took hundreds of photographs during our time in Tulum, Mexico, and only a small portion appear here on our blog. We try to choose the best or the most dynamic (or at least the ones that best represent who we are as a couple and as travelers), but if you are interested in seeing our larger collection of awesome Tulum photos, please visit our Flickr Set.
This is a story of a table on the beach, a table at Zamas.
There was a bottle of wine between us…
… and a candle.
And we looked out on to the beach, an ebb and a flow.
This is a story of four feet in the sand, little toes making little divots, leaving little tracks.
And we sat and we laughed and we ate…
… and we watched the sun go down on our last night in Tulum.
We’ll start with the moral of the story: everybody looks dumb in snorkeling gear. Even Clive Owen would look like a bug-eyed trout stuck in the sand with a mask, a snorkel and some fins on. There’s just nothing for it.
Once off the beach and away from the Spring Breakers of Cancun, the Yucatan Peninsula becomes famous for its cenotes, sinks holes—some just off the side of the road in the jungle and out of view—that give way to miles of dramatic caves connecting one of the largest underwater river systems in the world.
The water is clear and cold, and when sediment isn’t stirred up by snorkelers, you can dive down and feel like you’re peering into the very depths of the earth, into her dark, clear soul.
Stalactites and stalagmites litter the pools, and light filters through the underground forests and the jungles of waterlilies of the Grand Cenote, casting a turquoise hue through the ripples and soot and sand.
Slowly lowering yourself into the clear depths, you can see why the Maya thought these waters were sacred and cleansing.
Through shadows, and a rock seems to move and shake and shift through the waters and suddenly transforms into a SCUBA diver emerging from the depths.
If you’re staying in Tulum, either the beach or the pueblo, it’s an easy bike ride to several cenotes, including Gran Cenote, located about 3 km down the road to Coba heading northwest. If you can find a road or mountain bike, instead of a beach cruiser, and are a regular biker, it would even be possible to bike all the way to Coba, 44 km away, though the wind coming back to Tulum would be a significant obstacle. We met a couple of guys, staying at Papaya Playa—next door to our own Cabanas Copal—who were going to attempt it.
But remember, you WILL look stupid in your snorkel gear.
The restaurant has no walls. Palms trees and candles open up to a sand floor, an open-air bar, a series of handmade wooden tables topped with tamales and margaritas. Lights were low, to conserve electricity, casting a crimson glow on faces and through glasses of rum. There is laughter and chatter in dozens of languages in hundreds of voices that all said the same thing: we are alive. We are here. We are happy.
The aromas of spices and meat and hops are distilled by salt water and the smell of tropics. When a breeze picks up, it flutters light white curtains in make-believe windows and curls strands of hair around damp necks, providing welcome respite from the Caribbean heat.
The sand floor eases into an open beach, hammocks strung across palm trees and rustic chaise lounges sinking into the sand. A man in white linen reclines on a couch, stretched along side a dark woman in a luxuriously tight yellow dress. They share a bottle of wine, balancing glasses between thumbs and forefingers, sharing the secrets of a look and a touch.
Beyond the reach of the restaurant smells and sounds, the ocean laps at the feet of dancers, dipping and twirling to the sounds of a salsa band propped just above the sand. Staccato trumpets and slow, sultry bongos. Voices low and passionate, songs of love and lust and nights spent dancing in the Caribbean night. The moon is almost full, an undulating reflection from each wave that slipped ashore. Small toes leave small divots in the sand as revelers revive old romances and begin new ones amidst the din of the sea and the pulse of the Latin rhythms.
After a dinner of fresh, handmade pasta and mojitos at Posada Margherita, arguably one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to (and not just because it sits on the beach and is decorated in a distinctly southern-Italian-countryside fashion), we headed to La Zebra for their weekly Sunday night of salsa dancing on the beach as the moon rose to begin its journey across the sky.
Not really interested in archeology? Don’t SCUBA dive? Bored of sitting on the beach sipping drinks and tanning? Don’t speak Spanish?
No problemo! Come to Extreme Control, a kiteboarding school run by a bunch of Italians who don’t speak any Spanish, either! Lot’s of fun, AND people flock to the beach just to take your picture as you slip through the waves, crashing against the reef and sailing through the air.
It’s dramatic and sexy, and it can be all yours in Tulum!
“Are you two newlyweds?” We were asked time and time again.
At what point did we STOP being newlywed? Frolicking in the sun and sand and sea air. Splashing around like teenagers in love, childish and no-holds-barred. It doesn’t feel possible that it’s been almost a year or that somehow somewhere we may not be “newly married” anymore…
Bikinis and bare skin, exposed in the sun, weeding out feelings of responsibility and normal.
In a place where nothing is the same as what we have always known, it’s easy to remember who we are.
It drives home the point that “newlywed” is simply a state of mind. A state of mind that, while we sip our beers and tan our skins and revel in Mexico, we have mastered.
After a morning in the heat and humidity of the Tulum ruins, we escaped the afternoon with cocktails and spicy-but-not-hot (though I asked) Thai food at Mezzanine, a chic hotel that specializes in lounge music, margaritas and fancy dress.
As the third most-visited Mayan site in the Yucatan, Tulum is constantly teeming with languages from all over the world.
It sits on a bluff at the edge of the sea, precariously balanced on the precipice of history. Arguably the most luxuriously-located Mayan city, Tulum served as the port for nearby, and significantly less-commercialized, Coba, about 50 km inland.
An easy bike ride from either the beach strip or Tulum Pueblo, the ruins are also a short day-trip away for revelers in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, who flock in large tour groups and chatter endlessly.
When the rain comes, the tour buses shuffle off, and we find some quiet among the ancients.
Unlike Chichen Itza, which is awash in hieroglyphics, the only place displaying the art of the Mayan writing system in the Temple of the Frescoes in the central courtyard.
We might be Germans and Mexicans and American and Japanese and Aussies, but we all look the same when staring into the abyss of history and through the lens of ancient ruins…
The description said “concrete floor,” but we never figured out who they were kidding. Our lovely little cabana #8 was right on the beach, and to call the floor anything but sand was quite the exaggeration. In fact, everything was sand. The floor, the bed linens, the bed, our clothes, our hair. It was everywhere and everything. Without real walls, it was impossible to keep it out. But we didn’t mind. We came to Tulum for the sand, and if that meant living it in… well, we were OK with that.
Arguably over-priced, Cabanas Copal has one of the best locations along the Tulum Beach strip – fairly private, very quiet, with moderately-priced Coronas for us beach-bum types. But the place is tired, exhausted even, with rusty plumbing, wiry beds, and no electricity.
But for those of us with an adventurous sense of romance, the candlelight was unbeatable, the sound of the sea through the non-existent walls soothing, the constant breeze through the palm-frond roof cooling, and the creak of the old pipes atmospheric.
Showers are unnecessary when you live on the ocean, anyway.
If you aren’t in a hurry and looking for some peace and quiet, check out the awesome specials from Cabanas Copal and it’s sisters Zahra and Azulik; the reduced prices make it completely worth it!
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