Tulum from Cozumel: Six Reasons to Take an Eight Hour Tour

I admit, I was very skeptical about visiting Tulum as a cruise ship excursion.  I’d read many bad reviews and blog posts about it—like this one.  But I’ve always wanted to go there, and I didn’t see myself visiting Mexico on my own any time soon (at least I didn’t before I took this trip…)  And even picky, obsessive compulsive, group-tour-hating me had a very enjoyable day.

There are a number of reasons why this is a site best visited on your own, such as time constraints and the annoyance factor of always traveling with a large group.  I hope to return to Tulum—the ruins and the awesome little beach town—some day soon.  But there are also a number of reasons why this is a great shore excursion.  Here’s six for you right now…

From the ferry dock in Playa del Carmen


You get to leave Cozumel and travel to the mainland.  Cozumel seems difficult to visit.  The port didn’t look all that interesting, and from what I understand it is a cab ride to anything worth touring.  If I ever return, I’m sure I’ll explore the island of Cozumel, but this excursion gave me a chance to see the mainland, which I loved.

Tacky tourist crap and bright buildings in Playa


You get to (briefly) see Playa del Carmen.  This is the resort town I was looking for.  White sandy beaches with little huts and palm trees and volleyball courts as far as the eye can see.  Little shops selling crap, funky restaurants, and non-pushy sales people.  I’d visit Playa del Carmen on my own.  I’m glad I got to see it, if only when passing through from the ferry to the bus. I will be back some day (soon) to spend more time there.

The ferry ride from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen is awesome.  It is better than any amusement park ride I’ve ever been on.  They said the crossing was rough.  That was an understatement.  It was like riding Disney’s Tower of Terror for 45 straight minutes.  If you don’t think this sounds like fun, trust me, it is.  Just take Bonine before you go and you’ll be fine.

-Speaking of the ferry…there is free wifi on board the ferry!  I did the math, and this makes the entire excursion extremely economical.  You see, 90 minutes of wifi would cost approximately $73 on the ship.  I think the excursion itself was only $100.  So for $26 more, I got ferry transport, bus transport, a guided tour, admission to the ruins, lunch, and an hour on a beautiful beach.  And I got to check my email and get my Facebook fix.  I cannot tell you how happy I was for that 90 minutes of wifi! As a bonus, it made the rough seas almost unnoticeable. Aside from the times when my seat dropped faster than I did!

My first glimpse of the ruins at Tulum


The ruins are beautiful.  I can’t express this enough.  I actually gasped as we entered the grounds.  Palm trees, Mayan ruins, and turquoise blue surf pounding against a cliff.  Sure, we were only there for a little over an hour, but that’s one hour more than I’d ever been there before.  And in that hour, I think I took over a hundred photos.  There were iguanas and flowering trees and a beach…it was lovely.  I’ll stop wasting words on this one and let the photos speak for themselves.

In the town of Tulum


-If you choose the ‘with beach break’ option, you get to see the town of Tulum.  This is the beach town I was looking for.  About five minutes past the historical site itself, we turned left off the main road at Hostel Chalupa (where I’d never stay) and drove another ten minutes or so before we found ourselves in a cluster of eco resorts and vacation hut villages.  They all looked very primitive—including the one we visited for our lunch and beach time—but I could so see myself spending several days at one, swinging on a hammock, sipping something frozen with tequila in it (though admittedly, I’d likely get very sick from the ice, but whatever…I guess I could just drink warm tequila with lime.  Yes, I could definitely do that!)  I tried taking photos out of the window of the bus—and actually contemplated spending my beach time walking down the street with my camera snapping away, but didn’t want to wander to far and miss the bus back.  Because that would have been really bad.  But I will return here on my own some day.  Sooner rather than later.  I’d actually like to start learning Spanish, that’s how much I want to go back.

I hope my six reasons have convinced you.  Honestly, if I could love an excursion like this, anyone could.  And don’t worry—if you’re an avid shopper, there’s still plenty of shopping to be done.  Just use your ‘on your own’ time at the ruins to browse the stalls of crap for sale (I chose to use it to take photos, but that’s a personal preference thing) and everywhere you go, there will be crap for sale.  It will all be the same crap, and you will be able to buy as much as you want.  Hell, even I bought something—my requisite silver pendant.  I get one from every place I visit—or, rather, every trip I take.  I chose to devote this trip’s pendant to—you guessed it—a silver charm of the Mayan calendar.  Cheesy?  Of course.  But an inexpensive and wearable memory of one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

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