Hola Mexico! Tulum and Holbox

TULUM

I’ve been dreaming of visiting Tulum for ages, so we decided to kick off our Central American adventure by booking a flight from Thailand to Cancun, Mexico. We were determined to catch the last bit of the pleasant season in Quintana Roo before the scorching heat and humidity set in (around May).

Instead of dealing with the crowds and commercialism of Cancun, we made our way straight to Tulum from the airport (2.5 hours on the ADO bus for $14 USD). I was excited to explore Tulum’s unique landscape and ancient Mayan ruins that are scattered throughout the area. If you’ve got Instagram, I’m sure you’ve come across some of the breathtaking photos of the cenotes and lagoons in this coastal region of Mexico.

Tulum is divided into two parts: La playa (the beach) and El pueblo (the town) where the locals reside. We chose to stay in Tulum town, which was a 20-minute bike ride or a quick taxi ride from the beach. The town had a great selection of cozy coffee shops, artisanal bakeries, fruterias, bars, and delicious food options that were often much more affordable than at the beach. Overall it was a fun and friendly experience!

Tulum’s beach strip is lined with luxurious resorts, high-end restaurants, beach clubs, and bohemian boutiques. However, accessing the beach can be difficult as many of these resorts have strict rules. We found that locals would take a left turn instead of right, towards the resorts, and enter Playa Maya in the national park for free.

Unfortunately, during our visit, the famous white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters of Tulum were covered in seaweed washed ashore. We were only able to enjoy the beach once, through a restaurant called Taqueria La Eufemia. To reach this spot, you’ll need to bike 45 minutes or pay for a taxi. Our second attempt at the beach through Playa Maya was unsuccessful as the winds and waves were too strong to sit or go on a snorkeling tour.

It’s worth noting that Tulum’s popularity has caused a tourist boom and many beaches now come with a price tag. The charm of a small Mexican town is hard to come by as you’ll find trendy restaurants everywhere, catering to all dietary needs at higher prices than the rest of Mexico. Additionally, we noticed a lot of new construction for luxury condos in Tulum town, which is pushing locals out and gentrification has begun like anywhere else in the world, instead of preserving the authentic local life.

Since we were not able to swim in the ocean, we went to a cenote every day to cool down in the crystal clear underground rivers and lagoons.

I enjoyed these beautiful cenotes and lagoons we had a chance to visit while in Tulum:

  • Gran Cenote: close to town, you can reach by bicycle
  • Cenote Clavera: even closer on the same road!
  • Laguna de Kaan Lum: It’s a bit outside, go by taxi or collectivo
  • Punta Allen at Reserva de la bisophera Sian Ka’an: Be ready to spend a day surrounded by amazing nature! The boat tour we took when we arrived in the village offered access to the spectacular wildlife of the region including dolphins (though we didn’t see any), turtles, stingrays and various tropical fish and birds. Make sure you rent a 4×4 or book a complete tour in Tulum to endure a challenging unpaved beach road for 2.5-3 hrs. Our poor Nissan Micra rental was not the right fit for this trip but we did it! We shared the tour with another couple we met there and paid $75 usd for 2 ppl.
  • Coba Ruins: accessible by car, you can rent a bicycle inside to go around. There’s no cenote here but it sure did satisfy my Mayan ruin curiosity.

Restaurants:

  • El Rincon Chapaneco – local and budget-friendly food
  • Farm to Table 
  • Co.ConAmor – healthy food with slow service in a big garden
  • Burrito Amor 
  • Roraima Burgers – yummy vegetarian and vegan burgers
  • El Camello Jr – amazing local seafood (sometimes exceptions are ok ;))
  • Sabor de Mar
  • Batey Mojito Bar 

For fellow Nomads:

If you’re hoping to work out of Tulum, keep in mind that the internet is very weak in this area. Even the Telcel simcards we bought were getting a very weak signal so be ready.

Yes

No

Weather ☀️

✔️

Hurricane season: June-September

Good Internet 💻

✔️

Safety 🔫

✔️

Clean Water/Air 😷

✔️

Fresh Food/Produce 🥦

✔️

Lots of little produce shops and 2 big supermarkets are easily accessible.

Cheap 💰

✔️

In nature 🌴

✔️

✔️

You need to go out of town to be in nature.

Conscious community 🧘

✔️

Eco-friendly 🚲

✔️

Vegetarian restaurants, plastic ban, sustainable resorts

HOLBOX

Holbox is a small island in the north of the Yucatan peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. It’s pronounced Hole-bosh, which means “black hole” in the Mayan language. I had heard about it from the folks I’d met along the road as well as some blogs I had read. It was a laid-back hippy spot and this once a fishing island was also rumored to be the next Tulum. I really hoped to catch it before it got super crowded and spoilt but unfortunately, we were too late.

We took ADO bus from Tulum to Chiquila (for $18 usd one-way) from where we hopped on a 20 min ferry ($10 usd) to get to this tiny paradise.

5sqMS%B+Sn+lHhjoXmsoww_thumb_41cbWell when I hear hippy, I automatically think about being in nature without my shoes and money 🙂 But apparently, that’s not the case in this part of Mexico. Holbox is laid back because there isn’t much to do other than spending your time lounging on the pristine beaches. However, in terms of prices, the cheapest private accommodation we found with AC was $60/night and one lower option was camping.  There are also Airbnb options on the island and if you’re new to this site, you can get a Free Airbnb Credit for your first stay. This helps towards our next stay too 🙂

There’s a growing expat community so English is somewhat understood.  An Italian girl we met in a restaurant told us the prices had almost doubled if not tripled in the last couple of years, hence they were going to be forced to leave soon.

The town of Isla Holbox is very small and easily walkable. Instead of pavement, you’ll find dirt roads and the only cars around are golf carts, which also serve as taxis. We arrived there after a half-day of rain so there were lots of puddles to jump over and when things got dry, it got very VERY dusty.

holboxThe heat in Holbox is no joke and there’s no natural shade on the beach! If you don’t want to have a sunstroke in the scorching sun, be ready to pay a beach club for a sunbed under their umbrella.

We rented hammocks on our first day in the shade and by asking on Facebook groups, we heard Punta Coco on the western tip of the island offered natural shade under the trees. The walk on the beach from the central part of the island to Punta Coco was a delight. For 2 days, we didn’t want to leave our breezy chilling spot with our feet almost touching the shallow turquoise waters.

I highly recommend you to walk on the beach (early in the morning and during sunset)  vs biking if you’d like to catch the beautiful sights of starfish, pelicans, and other tropical fish and birds. While watching the birds in awe on another corner of the island, we were told that we had missed the whales that were visible from the center but that’s the story of my life. I haven’t had the honor of meeting any whales or sharks while I’ve gotten so close to them on many occasions. Hopefully next time!

As for food, you’ll find so much seafood, lobster pizza, gelato shops, cocktail bars, fancy beach clubs,  and world cuisine. But you would find us rarely at any of those in Mexico as we like to blend in with the locals. So we’ve tried some taco places and restaurants serving typical Mexican dishes.

For fellow Nomads:

Yes

No

Weather ☀️

✔️

Hurricane season: June-September

Good Internet 💻

✔️

Safety 🔫

✔️

Clean Water/Air 😷

✔️

Water is clean but the air is very dusty

Fresh Food/Produce 🥦

✔️

Cheap 💰

✔️

In nature 🌴

✔️

✔️

Conscious community 🧘

✔️

Eco-friendly 🚲

✔️

Vegetarian restaurants, plastic ban

I hope this little guide to Tulum and Holbox inspires and helps you to make the right choices while in Mexico. 

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