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A blue-green splash against pristine white sands lulls me deeper into a daydream far below an ancient Mayan lighthouse. Rousing myself, I have a sip from a coconut freshly cut from a nearby tree. In Mayan, Tulum is called Zama, or the “city of the dawn,” and I have arrived early to the beach to mark off one more spectacular sunrise.

South of Cancun and one hour from Playa Del Carmen, Tulum offers a slower pace, astounding natural beauty and ecologically responsible venues, not to mention friendly locals who greet visitors with a warm Buenos dias. The two-hour travel time from Cancun airport is well worth it. When imagining three perfect days in Tulum, just imagine Dorothy, opening her eyes in Oz, transitioning from black and white to a Technicolor paradise.

Also: Three perfectly relaxing days in Cancun

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day 1
Stay at the ecologically responsible Kore Tulum Spa and Resort set high on a black, rocky bluff. Arrival means being welcomed with a refreshing, cucumber-infused face cloth and koi lazing about in ponds strewn about the hotel entranceway. Before setting out, have a quick lunch at its restaurant where the T-bone steak is pounded thin and cooked to perfection—a reminder of how delicious beef can be. After a mojito or two, swim in the infinity pool overlooking the small sand beach and take in the majestic ocean views. Later, grab a well-rusted, funky, old bicycle provided by the hotel and peddle 10 minutes away to its beach club. Yes, that’s right, Kore is housed on a bluff over a beach not fitted for swimming, but no matter, the cliff views are worth the bicycle or van ride to the their beautiful beachclub.

At Paradise Beach, order the fresh fish tacos with a cold cerveza. Afterward, bicycle to the Tulum ruins—an ancient reminder of a rich Mayan city that traded goods across the vast Yucatan peninsula. The stunning pyramid nearest the beach is thought to have served in part as a lighthouse, guiding boats safely in and out of the cove. For dinner, head to Ziggy’s Beach Tulum, a restaurant that affords spectacular ocean views and, if it’s still early, shop the charming boutiques lining the main road.

day 2
After a delicious hotel breakfast of guacamole, huevos rancheros and a fruit smoothie chosen from a long list of fresh fruit and vegetables indigenous to the area, arrange a day trip with Community Tours Sian Ka’an to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO WorldHeritage Site since 1987. After being guided, via boat, into the interior, snap up the chance to float with the tide down an ancient Mayan waterway traveled some 1,000 years ago and marvel at white herons flying overhead, tropical fish feeding among red mangroves and bougainvillea blooming all around. Ask for a tour that includes viewing a manatee family in their natural habitat. These gentle marine animals live in a protected area without any natural predators and the guides are very careful stay far enough away to not disturb them.

Next, enjoy a succulent lunch of freshly caught grouper in achiote sauce back at the Community Tours outdoor restaurant prepared by the local Mayan people. Wrap up this perfect day back at Kore with a Temazcal ceremony in a traditional sweat lodge overlooking the ocean. Upon entering the lodge, the shaman will introduce red-hot stones to a shallow hole in the earth. Singing, he’ll pour water on the stones and ask visitors to share their intentions. The ritual can last twohours, though the shaman does suggest guests call out porta! porta! should they need a break from the intense heat.

day 3
Sign up for the Cobá Maya Encounter with Alltournative Tours and climb the tallest Mayan temple in the Yucatan, Nohoch Mul. The view across the jungle treetops is astounding and well worth the heady trip back down (rope is available to go down the steps of the middle of the temple). Listen as an expert Mayan guide explains how Cobá came to be an immense trading city, and marvel at the 10,000 structures that have yet to be fully unearthed and excavated.

If there is time, head to the Xel-Ha protected lagoon and snorkel with an abundance of marine life including schools of snapper, sergeant majors, angelfish, and if  very lucky, a stingray or two. Remember to bringchemical-free sunscreen to protect the reef. Added plus: it keeps the water clear for better viewing. Also, the entrance fee includes all-inclusive food and drinks. Try the Mexican buffet, which is loaded with delicious items such as fish Veracruz, rajas con crema (charred poblano peppers in a cream sauce), fresh guacamole and succulent stewed chicken.

Wrap up three perfect days in Tulum with a fabulous sunset—available anywhere you set down your corona.

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Tagged: Mexico, Uncategorized

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Christine M. Gordon

Christine M. Gordon

Christine covers travel, food, indigenous languages and cultures and wildlife conservation.

2 thoughts on “3 perfect days in Tulum”

  1. Tulum is probably the best spot in yucatan to hit the top diving cenotes. Merida has access to good cenotes, but i dont recall if they were divable. From merida you’ll still spend more time on a bus than actually looking around cechen itza, not a great trip but an essential sight to see. Meridas a beautiful authentic city that isn’t based on tourism, but it’s a huge city, whereas tulum is a small strip of a town devoted to tourism to its beach.

  2. Please use Maya, the proper word, NOT Mayan. Learning more about the people and the culture will let you know why Maya is the proper name for the people, language and culture.

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