A couple of weeks ago I checked out the new children’s program at the all-inclusive Grand Palladium Resort in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. This was my first trip to Mexico (I’m not counting an afternoon in Tijuana years ago with a friend from San Diego), and while I was excited to visit the resort, I may have been more eager to check out the nearby archaeological wonders, like Tulum.
While it’s nice to go snorkeling and splash in the waves all day, I place high value on warm weather destinations that also offer opportunities for learning and exploration, and the Riviera Maya is just such a place. Tulum, the ancient Mayan walled city, was 20 minutes from the resort. Coba, another ancient Mayan civilization, was about an hour away.
Due to the proximity to the hotel, our group opted to spend an afternoon in Tulum. While I was initially turned off by the number of trinket shops adjacent to the parking area, a short open-air train ride (well, it was more like a hay ride tractor dressed up like a train) took us to the gates of Tulum and I realized this was going to be well-worth the price of admission.
You can certainly explore Tulum on your own, but I highly recommend a tour guide. It was very inexpensive – less than $10 per person, I believe – and you’ll take away so much more from the experience than you would walking the ruins on your own. There is minimal signage and not much in the way of a brochure for self-guided tours, so if you want to learn anything about Tulum, hire a guide. You can hire a guide on-the-spot in the same area as the tourist shops.
While the ruins themselves are amazing, you may be even more awed by the beach down below. The ancient city of Tulum is protected from intruders by three walls and is set up on a cliff, so the cliffs and ocean serve to protect the city on the fourth side. Anyone can swim in the turquoise waters, so bring your swimsuit and a towel. Plan to arrive at the steps down to the beach at least 30 minutes before closing time.
One quick word to the wise, at closing time, take the bus back to the parking lot. My friend, Dave of Adventures by Daddy, and I opted to walk and thought we knew where we were going, but not so much. Fortunately, there were many taxis and eventually we hopped in one because we were very much going in the wrong direction. Oh well, a $10 lesson learned.