Our visit to the Riviera Maya wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Mayan ruins in the region. With so many options, so little time and so many kilograms worth of children to carry up the pyramids we chose to visit just one site: Tulum.
Tulum is located about an hour from the Cancun airport, so about two hours from the touristy areas in Cancun and 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen. The best way to get there is definitely by car. Although there are bus services and some hotel shuttles if you have kiddos, flexibility is key and having your own rental car is definitely worth it. So on our last day in the Riviera, we slathered the boys in sunscreen, hopped on our rental car and traveled for about 10 minutes until Evan had to go potty, I wanted to buy a drink and we needed to change Joshua’s diaper.
Finally on our way, we enjoyed the smooth roads, beautiful scenery and were excited to drive by the Cenote Dos Ojos where we dove just a few days before. As soon as we got to Tulum we realized it was a popular day to visit, the parking lot was packed with tour buses and many many cars. We were able to get a good parking spot in the shade and thus began our trek into the past.
When you first arrive at the site there are dozens of souvenir shops and vendors, I would suggest you leave the shopping until the end since you will most likely enjoy the shaded shops after the visit. A few meters in, you find a booth that sells tickets for a train that takes you right to the entrance. The hubby and I looked at each other, looked at the sunny path, looked at the heavy munchkins and without hesitation agreed to buy the tickets for the little train. I don’t recall exactly how much the ticket was but I do remember Josh and my dad (senior citizen =P) didn’t have to pay for their tickets.
Before we even got a chance to get on the train, the boys were drawn by a friendly reptile who was there doing business. You see, his caretaker was charging about $10 USD for us to take pics with them. I was a bit hesitant to pay that much for a picture I was taking myself but after I saw the boys getting so giddy I gave in and allowed the boys to pet their new friend.
Finally, we hopped on the train and went on our way.
There was a long line at the ticket booth but we were happy to see clean bathrooms right by the booth. While everyone took a potty break I headed to pay for the tickets. I had my dad’s senior card and didn’t have to pay for a ticket for him. Tickets were about 50 pesos. Permits to use a video-camera were an additional 100 pesos but cameras are just fine.
As we trekked into the site the boys were excited to see so many “caves”. My little monkeys were ready to run all over the place. I was just hoping they wouldn’t take their hats off since the Rivieran Maya sun was doing what it does best, scorch anything on its path providing either a gorgeous tan or in my case a not-so-attractive-and-very-painful sunburn.
Although very knowledgeable tour guides are available for excellent prices, we opted not to hire one. We really didn’t know how the visit was going to go and whether the boys would bear the visit for a minute or an hour. My faithful iPhone proved to be a mighty tool which satisfied the hubby’s cravings for historical accuracy and veritable information.
As the heat kept turning up and our skins started getting browner by the minute, we were very tempted to jump in the pristine turquoise waters just below the site. If I had been my old self even 5 years ago, I would have just gone for it, but the thought of sandy, cranky boys in a rental car was not very appealing. Besides, this was just the first stop on our trip that day and I really didn’t want to exhaust our little ones just a few hours into our day trip.
Tulum is a gorgeous archeological site and I would dare recommend this one over Chichen-Itza and Coba if you are only able to visit one place in the Riviera Maya. Tulum is much smaller than the other sites and this makes it an easy trip, on the other hand, the sea breeze makes this place a little bit cooler than the other places and finally if you are really craving to jump in the gorgeous Caribbean waters, Tulum has plenty of public beaches very close to this site and you can just stop and jump in or find a nice beach club to lounge in all day.
Our visit to Tulum was tons of fun. After about 2 hours on site we were ready for some
margaritas apple juice and we started exploring the area even more. Once again I was so grateful to God for allowing us to enjoy such a fun visit with the kiddos and my parents.
- Although they take cards at the ticket booth, I would really recommend you bring some cash to pay for the tickers and in case you want to buy some snacks or souvenirs.
- Take the train up to the site. It’s not a long walk, at all, but hey, it’s a train, and the kids will love it. For the price, it’s worth it.
- There are some restaurants on site but there are even better seafood restaurants not far from here. If you are really famished, go for it, a scoop of Hagen-daz might be just what you need or if you are anything like me you might decide to opt for the delectable thirst-quenching properties of coconut water sipped right out of the shell and then enjoy the delicious coconut flesh with lots of lime and chilli powder.
- If your kids are older, they might enjoy the stories shared by a tour guide. They will appreciate to know where exactly soccer games were played and how the soccer balls were made out of hair and other hmmm interesting things.
- Tulum is HOT HOT HOT! Bring hats, sunscreen, sunshades, whatever you need to make sure you and your kids don’t end up looking like a shrimp in a coctel de camaron. Hydrate like crazy, the sea breeze can be tricky. You might not feel hot but by the end of the tour you might be really dehydrated.
- If your kiddos don’t mind a bit of sand on their skin, by all means jump in the gorgeous water by the site. The water is warm, the sand is like powder sugar and the waves are very calm. There are some outdoor showers by the ticket booth so if you come prepared with towels and a change of clothes it might just work out.
- If you are lucky you might be able to see a performance by the voladores de papantla. The “flyers” climb up a pole and slowly make their way down tied by their feet. Quite a sight!
- It’s ok to shop here. You know you want that Mexican sombrero but try to bargain as much as you can. You are one of thousands of tourists and you will be surprised to see what a smile and a little bit of stubbornness will get you. Be sure to know how much you will be willing to spend and go from there!