Tulum: Surrounded by turquoise

We had no desire to visit Cancun on this trip, yet this is where we found ourselves the day we left Isla Holbox.

Fear not, the extent of our time there was spent merely in the bus station, where we found ourselves deposited and seeking a service headed south to the town of Tulum.

We’d booked our hostel in advance as it touted a few things that sounded like decent deals to us. As well as being listed with a very good price, it also included free breakfast, free use of bicycles and was apparently the closest hostel to the Tulum ruins.


We looked up the map that was posted on Hostelworld, and it looked only a short walk from the main street and bus terminal, so it was to this location we began to walk after being deposited in the town.

By this time it was probably late morning, so the day was already warm and after quite a walk to where the map directed and there was no sign of the hostel, we began to worry.

Turns out the map online is incorrect, and when a couple of kilometres outside of Tulum (back when we were still on the bus), Sarah had cried “I think I saw a sign for it” well, it turns out she did indeed see a sign for it!

First impressions of Lobo Inn were a little uninspiring, but perhaps we were both hot, hungry and a little grumpy after the 3 or more kilometres we’d ended up walking to find the place.

And it really was in the perfect location for us to make an early assault on the Tulum ruins the following day (which we proceeded to do after indulging in the free breakfast).

We were a little surprised upon our approach to the ruins to see a young guy leaving, after all, it was only 40 minutes after the gates had opened… we were a little late after indulging in the hostels breakfast!

The ruins of Tulum. Where Mayan culture meets beach lifestyle

The ruins of Tulum. Where Mayan culture meets beach lifestyle

This place was something different.

Certainly not the most impressive ruins, it will however remain one of the most memorable simply for its spectacular setting.

Situated on the edge of jagged cliff tops broken by the occasional stretch of white, sandy beach, this place, even under a fairly clouded sky, was stunning.

Skies not matching the colour of the sea

Skies not matching the colour of the sea

We did quickly come to understand however, why the gentleman we’d spied earlier had left so quickly. The site is also incredibly small, so it is not difficult, especially if you hit the ground running, to do this place in an incredibly short time (possibly why it also a popular day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen).

Postcard views

Postcard views

We’d met a really nice Australian couple at our hostel (Chris and Rikki), and it was after discussions with them, that we’d decided that our second jaunt for the day would be a cycle out to the Gran Cenote.

Whilst we didn’t technically ride out there together, we did happen to catch up with them after finally getting there (it was apparently only 3km out of Tulum, but felt further).

After such exertion in the heat, we definitely felt like we deserved a dip!

Looking down on the inviting Gran Cenote

Looking down on the inviting Gran Cenote

I’d made the poor decision to attempt to break using my feet at some point during the ride, meaning I arrived with a slightly bloodied toe and a loose flap of skin.

A nice place to cool and rinse of a blood stained toe...

A nice place to cool and rinse of a blood stained toe…

We’d brought our snorkels in anticipation of the clear waters, however after the crowd free experience of X’Canche Cenote, this was a whole new kettle of fish.

There were people aplenty, although it wasn’t crazy, and it was also interesting to note the high volume of divers embarking on cave excursions from here. Not something that was even an option for us at present!

Ready to hit the refreshing, cool waters

The dark caves beyond are the domain of the divers…

It was actually a bit of a struggle to kick properly with my injured toe, but Sarah, the water baby that she is, had little difficulty.

An unexpected surprise at this swimming hole was the local population of turtles, who even had their own protected area within the sinkhole!

A good chuckle was had at the efforts of one small (rather randy) male turtle, in his loving pursuit of a much larger female…

A moss covered turtle

A moss covered turtle

The pedal back to town didn’t feel nearly as long, and keeping with the water theme, we took a pit stop once we reached the outskirts to partake of some fish tacos that came highly recommended by fellow travellers (they were decent tacos it must be said).

We finished the day with a quick evening ride to the beach, however the colour of the sky shifted quickly to grey, so we made a valiant attempt to beat the rains into town to retrieve our laundry, before beating a retreat back to the hostel.

During the course of this same evening we concocted a plan with Rikki and Chris (the Australian couple) to grab a colectivo out to the Dos Ojos Cenote the following morning.

Either our timing was really good, or they run incredibly frequently (possibly both), but we weren’t waiting more than a few minutes before a colectivo had pulled over and we were on our way.

Dos Ojos (Two Eyes), so named for its two cenotes that resemble two eye sockets, required a little more effort than simply jumping on board a colectivo however.

15-20 minutes after jumping on board what was a pretty modern (even air conditioned) colectivo, we were let off on the side of the highway where the read to Dos Ojos could be found.

From here began the 3 or more kilometre hike along a dry and dusty dirt road to our goal.

Not surprisingly, by the time the four of us had finished this hike, we were well and truly ready for a swim.

It was also fortunate that we didn’t miss the ticket booth back near the highway, as that too would have been a long and frustrating trip all the way back!

With no idea if one would be better than the other, we chose a path that lead to the first cenote.

The incredible waters of Dos Ojos

The incredible waters of Dos Ojos

Like the Gran Cenote the previous day, the water colour and clarity of this place was sublime, the only detraction was the super cold temperature (although at first, after our sweaty walk, it was divine).

There certainly didn’t appear to be as many swimmers and snorkelers here, however there were probably just as many divers.

This place didn’t have the turtles like we’d spied the previous day, however it did still have a few fish swimming about in its refreshing waters.

Sarah mixing it up with some divers

Sarah mixing it up with some divers

We got chatting to one of the divers who’d just emerged from the waters (who happened to be a New Zealander who lives in Sydney) who said that although the cenote diving was pretty cool at first, by the second dive it was a bit mundane, as other than cool rock formations from time to time there is really little to see.

Reading about the other cenotes in the area, one known as Casa Cenote therefore sounded like a better dive (not that we were qualified to dive it), as it is a cenote that you enter through freshwater, and can emerge out in the salty ocean!

After a paddle here, we wandered over to check out the second eye.

Gazing upon the second eye…

Gazing upon the second eye…

This place felt even bigger than the first eye, with a horseshoe shape that allowed one to swim from one side to the other.

The water did feel even cooler however, as very little sun hits it at all, which meant it was only a short dip for Sarah (although being in the water was at times the only respite from rampaging mosquitoes)!

Underwater signage advising snorkelers and indeed divers that if you proceed further down certain tunnels “You will die” were stark reminders of the serious nature and risks inherent to cave diving, but for us paddling near the surface, the place was pretty cool.

We certainly could see even from this point, how long and deep some of the tunnels were…

Eventually we departed, with a mind to visit some of the private cenotes we’d seen signed along the inbound journey.

As we gazed up the first road, with not a turn or sign in sight, we decided to opt out of the first option, and then even the second as the overgrown road didn’t show much promise.

Back to the highway it was to wait for a colectivo back to Tulum.

That evening saw us head to the beach for a bit of a chill with Rikki and Chris, hoping to catch some of the setting sun’s rays.

It was nice and balmy, with plenty of locals enjoying the fine weather with a late afternoon dip, whilst several others tried to sell us but trips out to the reef (which we politely declined).

Eventually, we left our Australian friends just as the twilight was setting in as we didn’t wish to ride the tree lined road (which took us right past the Tulum ruins) when it got pitch black.

This was still a beautiful time, as although it first we thought our eyes were deceiving us, we quickly realised that small lights we could see flickering amongst the trees were in fact fireflies!

It was incredibly cool to see, although all of my attempts to photograph and film them failed miserably.

I did manage to get some footage of one back at the hostel after what appeared to be a crash landing…

The following morning, whilst Rikki and Chris possibly did the sensible thing and took a taxi into town, Sarah and I once again walked the 3 kilometres to the bus station, missing by minutes a departing bus for Chetumal.

Fear not, 30 minutes later we were on board the next bus, headed for the southern border town.



* Entrance into the Dos Ojos cenote was $150.00 pesos per person, whilst the colectivo from our hostel (on the edge of Tulum) cost us $20.00 pesos per person.

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