Tulum, Mexico - September 2011

We have been very fortunate in our travels.  In almost 250K miles of flying we have never had a flight cancelled or rescheduled due to weather and with the exception of some minor delays, most of our trips have been problem free.  This time was different...

Hurricane Irene was headed for NYC at exactly the same time as our flight.  No problem! We had plenty of notice so we mapped out the alternate flights and waited for the airline to allow us to change our heavily restricted tickets without penalty.  Hurricane Irene planned to hit NYC on Sunday so we figured that an early Saturday morning flight would provide a significant buffer.

What we couldn't foresee is that all public transportation in NYC and NJ would be suspended on Saturday around noon and airlines decided to cancel most of their Saturday schedule, including our flight.  We learned of this late on Friday night when it was already too late to get on an alternate flight.  We tried calling the airline but we couldn't get through, so Keith headed to the airport to see if he could confirm something for Saturday morning.  If we didn't get out it would mean that we couldn't fly out until Tuesday at the earliest. That would result in a significant loss of vacation time and several days of non-refundable hotel reservations. 

After a few hours of waiting on multiple lines at Newark Airport Keith got us on the standby list for a flight to Cancun the next morning.  We had no confidence in the standby process and we spent the next few hours researching all flights out of Newark with availability so we would be fully prepared when we arrived at the airport the next morning. 

We arrived at the airport at 5:00 am and quickly headed to the check-in counter with our list of flights in hand and hoped that our research would pay off.  The travel gods looked upon us favorably and we got three confirmed seats on the Mexico City flight (which was our first choice).  Not only did they allow that, but they booked us on a non-partner Mexicana flight so we didn't have to incur any additional cost.  The only negative was that our 3 1/2 direct flight would now take us more than 8 hours, but it was worth it.

We really enjoyed our stay at Dreams Resort Puerto Morelos last summer so we booked a few days at the beginning of our trip.  Later in the week we planed to travel to Tulum. As you can see Elliot was super excited that we were out of the Hurricane path.

The days were simple.  Get some chairs by the pool, go for breakfast and spend the day swimming and playing.  The days went fast and before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner.  Certainly a fun time but we were itching to get out and explore.  Only problem was that we were pretty isolated without any easy way to get out of the resort.

After a few days we transferred to Tulum where we planed to explore the ruins and get a taste of "real" Mexico.  Our hotel was five minutes from the center of Tulum and once we got there we (with the help of our friend Google) came up with a plan for a full day "escape-from-the-all-inclusive-resort."  

To follow the same "escape" all you need is a rental car and a sense of adventure. Your "escape" goes from North to South along Mexico highway 307 and takes a full day.  Start in Puerto Aventuras and finish in Tulum but you could easily reverse it to suit your needs.

Avoid the hotel breakfast and head straight for Taqueria El Arbolito for some breakfast tacos.   They are located on the on-ramp to highway 307 South from (in) Puerto Aventuras.

Enjoy a few fried fish tacos or if you need more of a "kick" (unfortunately no Starbucks here)  order a couple of tacos de chile relleno which is a stuffed chile pepper.   There are many other choices for tacos and an equal amount of sauces and toppings.  (Just in case you start in Tulum there is a Taqueria El Arbolito there and this "mini chain" has 6 locations along  Highway 307).

Proceed south along Highway 307 until you get to Akumal (approximately 15 minutes).  This is a small town along the ocean that has not been over developed and it's a great destination for snorkeling.  There are two main sites,  one is a lagoon which is shallow, tranquil and full of fish called Yal-Ku.  The other is Akumal Bay which is known to have a colony of sea turtles that nest in the area.   As you exit the highway drive east toward the ocean.  At the entrance to the town you will go through an archway.   If you want the turtles make a right turn after the arch and drive to the bay.  We headed left (North) to Yal-Ku which is a couple of miles down the road.

After paying admission (about $10 each) park, grab your gear and walk about 50 feet to the lagoon.  Don't worry if you don't have gear.  You can rent it at the admission desk.  There are also showers, bathrooms and a changing area.

Entry to the water is easy.   There is no current or waves and it is super warm. We even saw a few fish that we had never seen in over 10 years of diving in Cozumel.

For kids or rookie snorkelers this area is ideal because it is so calm and rich in sea life.  You could easily spend a few hours there just exploring the lagoon.  There is a lot to see!

We didn't want to overload Elliot with snorkeling at the other part of Akumal but you can be sure we will be back there next trip.  It was lunch time and the people working at Yal-ku showed us a map of another part of Akumal where we could find a place for lunch. This part of town has a few restaurants but we selected no-name, painted over Cerveza-Sol tent on the left side.

The house (really tent) specialty is pork cutlet torta with fried egg and cheese. Alternatively, you can get some simple pork cutlet tacos.  The two guys working there were super nice.  

After a satisfying lunch, continue south on Highway 307 until you see the Dos Ojos sign on your right side.  It is impossible to miss.  The total cost for the 3 of us (Elliot was free) was $80 (USD not Pesos) which included admission to the Cenote, snorkel gear, wetsuits, flashlights and the guide.  (if you know of a less expensive guided option please post a comment).


Our guide Eddie took us through the caverns.  When you do come here please be aware that the water is cold, so you may want a wetsuit.  There are also a lot of mosquitoes so apply an extra thick layer of insect repellent as soon as you get out of your car.

Dos Ojos has two cenote entrances that are very close to each other.  After a tour of some caverns with huge stalagmites and stalactites,  Eddie took us to the second cenote where we spent some time just jumping off of the stairs and goofing around in the clear, cool water.

After snorkeling in Dos Ojos you still have enough time to get to Tulum to see the ruins.  The area closes at 5:00pm, so as long as you get there around 3:00pm you will have more than enough time to see everything.   The property is much more compact than Chichen Itza or some of the other sites.  Guides are available, but not necessary.

One of the things that makes Tulum different from other ruins was that it was already built on the highest point overlooking the sea.  Most visitors descend the stairs (not original) to swim in the ocean. There are no changing areas or bathrooms here so make sure to wear your bathing suit and bring a towel.

Finish your day in the town of Tulum along  Highway 307.  There are super markets, hotels, shops and restaurants along the street but to complete your adventure we suggest Antojitos La Chiapaneca for Tacos al Pastor.    We have to credit Christina Thomas at the Yoga Adventures blog  for helping us find this place. You can read her post for more detailed info.

Tacos al Pastor are typically served with corn tortillas, a slice of pineapple and some diced onions which you can add your self at the fixins bar.

After you finish your first round you may still be hungry so feel free to order more like we did.  Above are salbutes which are little puffy tortillas, with the meat from the al pastor, beans and some vegetables.  Behind them are "Gringas" which are flour tortillas,  al pastor meat and melted cheese.  Everything was delicious! A wonderful ending to a perfect day of adventure in the Yucatan.

But wait, there's a little more.  Although our one day adventure was over, we still had the car for a few hours, so the next morning so we drove around a little to see what was going on in Tulum.  Frequently our best food finds in Mexico are during the early morning or late evening.  With a crowd around and cars double parked we had to investigate.  Taqueria Honorio specializes in pork tacos and tortas.  In the Yucatan cochinita pibil is a speciality.  It is a pork shoulder, marinated and braised in achiote paste, orange juice and lime.  We had to stop and try it out and it did not disappoint.

Of course sitting back on the beach with a cold drink and watching the waves roll in is a great vacation, but if you need a little more adventure, give our plan a try.  Let us know how it goes.

Hasta Pronto Mexico!!!


Katrina Woznicki said...

I know I'm posting late, but I love Tulum. Hope you guys are having a wonderful time in Istanbul. And enjoy Ephesus!!

Airport Limo In NYC said...

Your view is very good about traveling. Thanks for the tips..

Anonymous said...

HI, thanks for sharing.
I just stumbled upon your blog, in search of information about Tulum.
The only time I can get off work is in September, and I've been dreaming of going there.
When were you guys in Tulum?
Would Tulum still be ok in September albeit the hurricane season?
Thanks !

Keith, Corinne and Elliot said...


September is a great time to visit Tulum and we were there last year at that time. Everyone is back at work or school and the entire Yucatan is quiet which means great deals on hotels and flights. There is always a remote chance of a big storm but weather is always unpredictable and not worth worrying about. It was ironic that the hurricane that affected our trip last year was up in NYC, not Mexico. Go... Enjoy.... Let us know how your trip went.

isaacoomber said...

Awesome photo’s and awesome location.Its looks so amazing!It really great and amazing to travel the whole world.