My first time exploring alone was a great one. Although my hostel was pretty antisocial, most people already arriving with other people, I loved my time in Tulum. The hostel provided free bikes, so I spent my days riding in and out of the centre, to the beach and cenotes.
Tulum is an interesting place; on the Carribean coast about 40 minutes from Playa de Carmen, a very popular spring break party spot. It’s both very very touristy, but also maintains some local charm. It was crazy to see the Main Street, covered in shops that don’t even attempt to advertise in Spanish. However, a couple of streets back away from the coast the streetscape changes dramatically, with houses looking much more decrepid. I hope that in the future the influx of money from the tourist industry will support the local economy more than just a few locals.
Tulum is famous for its ruins, which are situated right on the cliff face looking down into the ocean. In Maya, Tulum means “wall” – aptly named, as the walls of the site follow the natural lines of the cliff. I loved seeing iguanas sunbathing admidst the thousands of loud tourists walking through the ruins in the vicious heat of the day.
My favourite day in Tulum was the visit to my first cenote. Cenotes (limestone sinkholes) are famous in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo region, a natural formation where rock falls away to expose fresh water channels below. They believe that the 6000 odd in the area are all connected underground by a series of rivers. In Tulum, I cycled to a cenote owned by a hotel. Paying for a day entry, I had access to this small, very shallow but absolutely stunning cenote, and the hotel’s private beach. I was able to spent a good couple of hours alone at the cenote, before a few other tourists arrived. It reminded me of some ways of the Sounds – the lush flora surrounding beautiful clear water.