We arrived in Tulum as night was falling. Jarelle and I, balling hard on virtual crypto mega profits, had decided to book one of those overpriced eco resorts right in the protected Tulum beach reserve. Tulum was “discovered” by hippies in the 80’s, who slept in cheap beach huts with minimal to no amenities. In the history and context of exploration, “discovered” would mean when white people first arrived there, but in the context of the Riviera Maya, it almost pertains to real discovery. Without this influx of Western visitors, perhaps the Mexican government wouldn’t have invested millions to turn this remote stretch of coastal plantations into a tourist cash cow.
Beach huts at Manhattan prices
When we arrived in front of the resort, off a jungle road, Jarelle couldn’t believe it: “We booked this? Fuck it, it’s just one Ether crypto token.” and off he went getting his photo taken next to the resort sign to show all his friends and family how successful he was. We talked to the receptionist, a young Argentine man, who half-joked that these luxury resorts’ clientele was primarily rich New York and LA socialites (That’s certainly the vibe that Tulum gives off on Instagram). We checked into our relatively “cheap” $160/night circular beach hut, which simply consisted of two beds. The romantic candles tried hard to make up for this lack of amenities, but I couldn’t help wishing I had been a wealthy Wall Street banker.
The outside shared shower, constructed of wooden rods, only had a curtain as a door, leading straight to the beach. I got naked and showered under the cold water, strongly hoping no one would walk in and witness my white ass.
After this reset, we drove the 15-min back into Tulum town, where we met up with our Coba friend Ramón, who was renting an AirBnB for the night. We ate at a delicious Italian restaurant (because you know, when in Mexico…), and went on a bar crawl. The town bars are concentrated on two perpendicular streets, so it was easy to go from one to another (there are more premium beach nightclubs, outside of town, but we didn’t go). These are small lively free bars, full of locals and backpackers. The best one is easily Batey Mojito bar: they serve all kinds of different Mojitos, with a Beetle car converted into a sugar cane juice pressing machine.
There’s a huge patio where a live band was playing great Rock, Soul and Ska, albeit at a very loud level. Unsurprisingly, the space was filled with New York doctors and drunk Australian girls.
The night was fun, if uneventful. Well, that was until we got back to our car… As Jarelle, Ramón and I were talking next to our car, making plans for the following day, policemen approached us and asked us what we were doing. “Talking about our plans for tomorrow.” – “Uh uh” said the cop, eyeing us from head to toe. After 2 min, they left us. Ramón and I kept on talking, while Jarelle urgently pressed us to get in the car and go. After laughing him off for a minute, he started shouting at us in frenzied panic “Let’s go, let’s go! We are being watched!”
So Ramón went back to his AirBnB and Jarelle and I got in the car and started driving. Sure enough, on the road back to our resort, cops caught up with us and pulled us over.
Keep in mind, I had been warned beforehand that Mexican cops love to stop tourists in the Tulum-Playa del Carmen area and fine them for nothing. It certainly felt -like Jarelle predicted- that they had been targeting us from the beginning. I was sure we would be asked to pay up (there are multiple Tripadvisor thread on this problem: 1, 2, 3), but I talked to them in Spanish and answered all their questions, while they eyed me up for 5 min. Miraculously, they let us go. And kids, that’s why you should pay attention in Spanish class 😛. This is pretty much how Jarelle and I felt afterwards:
A few hours later, I woke up to shoot some gorgeous sunrise photos, then went back to bed.
Around noon, we woke up and left our overpriced resort to go to the nearby beach. As we were walking, we heard someone shout “BROOGRAPHY!” Of course, it was Ramón, just randomly sitting there. We decided to put his firefighter body to the test and headed to the pull-up bar for a beach workout. He held his own quite well, but you can clearly see he’s getting old: 😝
After giving our muscular bodies their required amount of sweat, we walked further on to one of those perfect “right place at the right time” beach restaurant, the Pocna, where we had a godly burger that went straight in my Top 3 worldwide. It couldn’t get more “perfect Mexican beach holiday” than this.
In the afternoon, we continued on to the Tulum ruins. Jarelle had an open wound on his toe, so he decided to stay in the car to clean it up and catch up with us later. So Ramón and I went to the ruins. Sure enough, Jarelle never came.
The Mayan Ruins of Tulum
The Tulum ruins used to be a pre-Columbian village sitting atop short cliffs overlooking the sea. It was a seaport for the inland Coba, and the only Mayan city built on a coast. The city was surrounded by fortification, whose purpose is still unclear today: protection from invaders or a means for social segregation? No one knows. A mural inside the Temple of the Frescoes seem to depict a horse, which would indicate Mayans were still occupying Tulum after the arrival of the Spaniards (Tulum was mentioned by a conquistador in 1518).
When we went there, the site was very crowded, as could be expected. Iguanas mingled with socks-and-sandals-wearing tourists amidst the gentle rolling green hills.
After witnessing the well-preserved stone structures, we made our way down to the beach (secluded from the outside), which was very crowded.
Later, Jarelle caught us up on what he’d been doing: after walking into the site for 5 min, he decided he had seen enough Mayan ruins for a lifetime, and headed back to the car. Lame…
As the end of the afternoon was nearing, all three of us checked into our sprawling AirBnB apartment atop a dive shop, smack in the middle of town. We had the whole place to ourselves, which included 2 floors and balcony.
That night, we did the same thing as the night prior, going to the same restaurant and the same bars, though our interest was already starting to wane. At the end of the night, we made a beeline for our apartments, avoiding all the Mexican policía lying in ambush in the mean streets of boho chic Tulum.
At 4AM, Ramon and I drove to the beach we had been at earlier to watch a once-in-a-decade meteor shower. I was totally ignorant about this phenomenon but Ramón, being the Puerto Rican geek that he is, explained it all to me. We lied down on the beach looking at the meteors shooting all across the dark sky like Buzz Lightyear at the end of Toy Story. Now, I can’t stop seeing Orion’s Belt everywhere. This is all your fault Ramón!
The following day, we bought some sunglasses (I got some aviators which made my whole world look so much better – like going from 480p to 4K on your TV) and had lunch at a restaurant off the street, with a live salsa band next to us. Sabroso!
Then, satiated, we left Tulum, with the conviction that we’d be back one day.