Tulum: Mexico Beyond Cancun

As Oliver and I board our flight to Cancun, I feel like I somehow stepped into a time machine back to college. There are men wearing neon tank-tops talking about how much beer they plan to drink once we land to others who brag that they have already started drinking. The women–instead of being horrified–join in the conversation.

“I’m going to slam margaritas once we get to our resort,” one woman exclaims.

This is why I haven’t traveled to Mexico, I thought as I grab Oliver’s hand and lead him to our seats.

The flight is surprisingly quiet, but the beer-drinking-banter picks up as we begin our descent. Safe to say, I was relieved when all the ‘Cancun-ers’ lined up for shuttles to their respected resorts as we made our way to the bus headed out of town.

We travel to Playa Del Carmen in a coach bus, filled with tourists, then onto to Tulum in a local passenger van. As we drive further away from the Mexico filled with inclusive resorts and all-you-can-drink-margaritas, I feel more at ease. We are dropped off just outside the bus station in Tulum. This once sleepy town, known for its hippie vibe, has found itself on all the trendy must-see lists. It’s busier now. The downtown is no longer a village, but instead a growing town lined with restaurants and shops. Still, even as cars with loud music whiz by, it feels laid-back.

I look at the directions to our Airbnb and then to Oliver, his eyes wide in curiosity. For him, this is his first view of the world outside of the US.

We make our way across the busy street, find the pharmacy, and turn left. The directions are easy to follow, and we are greeted at our Airbnb by our German host. She explains that she came to Tulum on vacation 20 years ago and never left. She has transformed her large yard into a private jungle oasis in the middle of downtown Tulum. Following a rock path, she leads us to our home for the next several days: a thatched-roof bungalow with screened windows and a mosquito net that hangs over our bed.

Oliver and I get settled and decide that we’ll eat at a restaurant we passed on our walk to the Airbnb. The restaurant has a large patio with plastic tables and chairs and colorful tablecloths, but I think that Oliver is more enticed by the large Fanta sign and the employee who greeted us with a friendly hola as we walked by earlier.

Oliver’s eyes light up when our server hands him his Fanta in a large glass bottle, but his excitement quickly fades when he finds that his cheese quesadilla is not like the ones I make at home. Unfortunately for Oliver, we found authentic Mexico.

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2 thoughts on “Tulum: Mexico Beyond Cancun”

  • I always imagine that one day I’ll go somewhere on vacation and end up staying forever. It looks like it was nice for you to head away from the crowds in Cancun. Hope you both had a great time. 🙂

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