A visit to Tulum is often high on the ‘must-see’ list for travellers to the Yucatan Peninsula. This seems to be mostly to visit the unusual coastal ruins or one of the many white sand beaches that are dotted down the coastline facing the turquoise blue Caribbean sea.
Tulum town itself is a few kilometres from the sea and sits along the main highway, making it feel more like a transport hub than anything else. However it is the go-to place for cheap, authentic Mexican food and local life.
Despite staying in the town we found ourselves heading out to the beach most days. In our overeager-ness to get in the sea we managed to immerse my iPhone in salt water meaning that our only camera for the rest of the trip was the go-pro. Sadly this means our photos of the town and beach were lost. We did however, remember to take the go-pro to the ruins – phew!
The ruins at Tulum (meaning ‘wall’) are built directly on the coast as both a trading port, mainly for turquoise and jade, for nearby settlements at Coba as well as being important in terms of defense. It is the only coastal Mayan settlement and it’s stunning location is what draws the crowds. Architecturally and archeological is is arguably less important that many other less visited Mayan ruins. Many Gods were worshipped in Tulum but the most prominent and important being the ‘descending’ or ‘diving’ God.
We got there early, when the complex opened, to avoid the inevitable crowds. In the early morning light and enjoying the ocean breeze the visit was very memorable.
After a few nights in Tulum we headed a little further north, about 15 minutes up the Mayan Riviera towards Akumal. We stayed at a hotel right on the beach a few minutes south of Akumal where turtles come each year to lay their eggs and where we saw many turtle egg nests between our hotel and the sea.
Although the snorkelling was good from our beach – bordering the Mesoamerican reef, the second largest reef in the world – our real reason for visited the Akumal area was to snorkel with huge wild green sea turtles, which are up to 1.5 meters in length. In fact the name ‘Akumal’ actually means ‘place of the turtles’ in the Mayan language (meaning that the turtles have been visiting here for a very long time!) The turtles feed here, the females lay their eggs here every year and if a turtles is hatched here then they will come back and visit again and again.
We got to the beach at about 7.30am – before the tour groups – meaning that we saw many turtles feeding together just a few meters out fro the shore. Beautiful!
After leaving the Akumal area it was time to head back to Cancun for one more night and for one very special excursion before finally heading home to the UK.