Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mayans & Margaritas - Tulum and Akumal

Monday, May 5, 2014

After a pretty rough first day in Mexico, we woke up on Cinco de Mayo feeling a little bit better and more well-rested. My back was still sore, and I still had a pretty terrible sunburn, but we decided to make the best of it and start adventuring a bit.

For sustenance for that adventure, we had breakfast at Ah, Cacao, a yummy chocolate shop right off Quinta Avenida. We split a croissant and brownie, and Roger grabbed a cappuccino while I tried their Chocolate Mexicano, a slightly spicy hot chocolate. Though it was warm that morning, it was still nice to try a different type of hot chocolate. (I love trying hot chocolate around the world.)

After breakfast, we were on our way! We headed south to Calle 2 Norte to find a collectivo. Suzanne recommended this was an easy and affordable way to get around, and she was correct. This website helped me figure out taking them a lot, so if you're on your way to Playa, definitely check it out. They go up and down along the coast between Playa and Tulum, and they're much more affordable than an organized tour or renting a car. I highly recommend them! Our Spanish isn't very good, so we ended up going to the end of the line in Tulum, instead of getting off at the ruins, but otherwise, it was a very easy and convenient ride, that cost about $10 total for both of us. (The cab we took from the end of the line back to the ruins, it's worth nothing, was about 1/10th of the time and cost the same. So really - collectivos are your friends. Use them.)

The ruins themselves were lovely. We wandered around them without a tour. I'm sure that would have helped us learn more about the post-Classic Mayan civilization that built them, but it was still great to wander and learn a bit on our own. They're the only ruins in Mexico to be built right on the beach, and the views from the cliffside are just gorgeous.

We also saw the first of many iguanas that we would see throughout Mexico. They're so majestic!

The views were just gorgeous, and the weather couldn't have been nicer. Breezy, but still warm.

We didn't swim in the very crowded ocean below the ruins, but we did peek at them for a bit.

After an hour or so at the ruins, we took another collectivo north to Akumal, a beachfront spot that many friends had recommended. On our way out of Tulum, we were jealous of these backpackers, with their awesome homemade tacos and their clearly awesome lifestyle:

In Akumal, we stopped at the Akumal Dive Shop, where we rented snorkel gear. Roger had never been snorkeling before, so I was really excited to show him how fun it can be. He's not a big fan of being out on the water, so he was a little skeptical at first, but I think he really came around! The dive shop had great prices, and lockers, which made me feel a lot better about bringing my camera, which I really didn't want to leave out on the beach. We went right off the beach, and about 10 minutes after getting into the water, we saw our first sea turtle, just a few feet below us. It only had three fins, but seemed to be doing just fine as it munched on some sea grass. We saw three more turtles after that, and some incredible fish on the reef. It was great to be able to just head out for an hour or so, and be able to return the stuff when we got tired. I think Roger would agree it was a successful experience!

One nice thing about snorkeling is that it seems to have clicked my back into place again, because after that, the pain was a lot better and I was able to start really enjoying myself again. After that, we stopped at one of the best meals we had the whole trip: El Comal de Akumal. I don't have any pictures, but the tacos we ordered were just perfect. I bet their quesadillas are wonderful, too! There weren't tons of options on the menu, because what they do make, they make really well!

We stopped at La Buena Vida for a drink (Akumal beer for Roger and a pina colada for me), and enjoyed the view from the bar before heading back to Playa.

Back in Playa, we signed up for a tour of Chichén Itzá for the next day and then stopped at Carboncito's, which had been rated the best happy hour in town. It turns out they discontinued their happy hour, but the food and drinks were still pretty affordable and I'm so glad we stopped in. We ordered enormous margaritas, which were delivered on the waiter's head, as you can see below, and their Cinco Salsas, a sampling of different salsas and chips. They were all really interesting, especially the pumpkin salsa, which I'd never tried before. I liked the dish so much that I ended up buying a similar one to take home for when we have our own fiestas!

We wandered around Quinta Avenida a bit more, taking in the sights. We also stopped at a bank to take out a bit more cash. There are ATMs on every corner (literally), but none of them seemed to work, or the ones that did only dispensed American dollars. Luckily, the walk to the bank at sunset was beautiful.

For dinner, we stopped at Los Aguachiles for fish tacos. The seafood was delicious and very fresh, but we were starting to get a little exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel that evening.

It's also worth noting that while we were actually in Mexico for Cinco de Mayo, it turns out that that's not such a big deal there. I was pretty worried that it would be insane and look a little like midtown at St. Patrick's Day, but it turned out to be low-key and not any different than any other night there. There are clubs and partying in Playa, of course, but nothing seemed too outrageous at any point while we were there.

Up next: we venture inland for some more Mayan ruins!


  1. I second your recommendation of collectivos, I've just been to Costa Rica and used one there that was a converted cattle truck, it was an excellent adventure:-)

    1. They are such a lifesaver! Costa Rica must have been amazing!