After letting five of my vacation days go to waste last year I said, “Never again!” I keep dreaming of a Eurotrip, but instead opted for Mexico, continuing the trend of visiting the closer-and-cheaper Caribbean I’ve developed over the past few years. That is to say, I began my trip with a quick diving trip in Cozumel and even quicker stop in Tulum before carrying on to Mexico City (which I don’t believe technically falls under the ‘Caribbean’ umbrella).
I was to learn Cozumel is the largest inhabited island in Mexico (with the actual largest being the unpopulated Tiburón Island off the coast of Baja California), and it was a fairly easy jaunt from the Cancun airport: an hour-ish bus ride to Playa del Carmen, then a half-hour-ish ferry to Cozumel. There are various ferry providers; I opted for the first one I spotted off the bus platform: Ultramar. I bought an open round trip ticket for a little over $20 (400 pesos, if I remember correctly).
I spent the better part of two days on the island and really enjoyed it. My hotel gave me pool and breakfast access at the nearby Casa Mexicana (a better hotel– though the Suites Bahia suited me just fine!), which was the perfect midpoint to the dive shop I’d looked up in advance: Dive Paradise. I had two lovely dives the morning after my arrival, then found a beach on the ‘other side of the island’ (as indicated on the sign post of the one road that gets you there) to pass the afternoon. The next morning I strolled and took photos, winding up in the municipal cemetery (as I am wont to do). Noteworthy meals of fish tacos and shrimp fajitas at the Thirsty Cougar and La Mission, respectively. And some top notch conch ceviche from a nondescript hole-in-the-wall.
I’d intentionally left one of the three nights in the Yucatan portion of my trip unbooked, figuring I’d rely upon some local advice to determine whether to spend one more night in Cozumel, travel to Cancun (whence I’d fly to Mexico City) early and check out the scene there, or head 45 minutes in the other direction to Tulum for a quick almost-exactly 24 hours before having to return for my flight. My sources convinced me that was ample time to at least get a taste of Tulum.
The bus ride was smooth (I traveled the various legs of this trip on the ADO buses referenced in basically every Mexico forum and found them perfectly safe, comfortable, and affordable. The airport buses had wifi and outlets, though the Playa-Tulum bus did not.) and your getting-hangry author was pleased to find a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options around the town. I popped in and had a delicious vegan mole tamale and some juice at Suculenta, then found my hostel around the corner.
Relying almost exclusively on this blog post about biking around Tulum, I plotted out how to spend my brief time in the area after renting a bike at the hostel (<$5 a day). And then I instantly missed the turn to the cenotes I planned to see first, so revised the plan on the fly to check out the ruins and beaches that afternoon, and cenotes the following morning. I sprang for the guided tour of the ruins, since it still came to <$10, I figured it would be a more meaningful way to see them, and– perhaps most importantly– I got to skip the long line in the scorching sun. The ruins were old; photogenic; housed many an iguana.
(Tulum saga continued below but I figure you’re probably really here for pics…)
Then I shot off for the beaches but thought I should grab a few beers at a gas station on the way, as you do. Except my bike wouldn’t unlock when I came out. I’d thankfully neglected to lock up at the [farther away] ruins, because my hostel had given me the wrong key to my lock when I rented my bike. So I had an old fashioned gas station parking lot beer, as you do, while waiting for a hostel employee to bring me the correct key, then made it to one of the free beaches in time to do a sunset time lapse. We’d been informed during the ruin tour that the beaches were unfortunately being overtaken by washed up Sargasso seaweed, and this was certainly true at this beach. It took up lots of precious beach space at high tide, and smelled somewhat like a zoo. I told myself I’d find a better beach the next day if I had time, and had a delicious tuna taco and pulpo torta at La Chula.
Thumping club music kept this grandma awake and cranky for much of the night, with the upside that I was awake in time for sunrise and spent the quiet early morning hours wandering and taking photos of the abundant street art. After a delicious pancake at the hostel, it was back on the bike to tour the cenotes. The aforementioned blog had stressed how important it was to go early, before the crowds if possible, and I was super fortunate in my timing at both Cenote Calavera and Cenote Car Wash– I was the only one at both when I arrived, and I had Car Wash to myself the whole time. They were very different: Calavera a big ol’ hole in the ground with clear blue water in a subterranean cave; Car Wash a big open (equally clear) pool where allegedly they used to actually wash cars. A German lady who showed up at Calaveras as I was getting ready to leave thought she did a bad job photographing but actually captured the makings of a sweet gif, and I rented a snorkel and got to spy on a family of turtles having lunch in some underwater tree roots at Car Wash. Good day at the cenotes.
Then I made good on my plans to visit a better beach and had an amazing burrito at Burrito Amor, and wound up biking around 10 miles that morning! Then caught the bus to Cancun and it was off to CDMX.