When I decided to visit Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico I was filled with anxiety and never felt so nervous. I was so stressed packing my suitcase. I kept thinking “I’ll be on my own in Mexico”, “Will I find solitude and enjoyment just being on my own?” My thoughts stayed with me all the way to the airport.
I’ve done this before, but why do I feel like this? It’s okay, it really is. I silently sent out my prayers as I stepped foot on the airplane.
SFO -> Mexico City -> Cancun -> 2 hr bus ride to Tulum
Total travel time 13.5 hours
My airplane didn’t arrive into Cancun until 4 am. I walked out still sleepy-eyed and realized the ADO bus stations were closed till 9 am. The only transportation available were taxis. Looking around anxiously, I met a woman who offered me a somewhat ridiculously expensive deal for $123 round way shuttles to and from Tulum, well waiting 5 hours at the airport was definitely a deal breaker. Paying for $123 round way wasn’t such a bad idea.
Bus vs. Taxi
It took about an hour and 30 minutes to get to my hostel. My Taxi driver got lost because when we arrived at my hostel it was barely 6 am and the streets were dark and infested with small shacks and lots of trash. My hostel didn’t even have a sign, fortunately, my survival mode memory of what the hostel looked like was spot on. From the trip advisor pictures, I recognized the large Mayan door with bamboo leaves on it. That’s when I knew I have finally arrived. I jumped out in excitement and when I opened the door, it was (almost) everything that I imagined.
The Real Mexico
The pebble stone walkways and Mayan-looking huts with 8-10 beds inside. Each room gave it a distinctive Mayan feel, the showers were shaped like a tiny hut that you have to bend in a fetal position so you don’t hit the ceiling, Yup, that’s how tiny the showers are. I was in Mexico.
I checked into my bed around 6 am and slept in for two hours. I woke up and realized a tight-knit Mexican family owns this hostel. The mom cooked breakfast for us every morning, her daughter is in charge of registration, her husband does all of the light housekeeping duties, and her sister is an assistant manager. This family was good hearted with strong family values.
What to do
Day 1: Rented a bike for $70 pesos and rode to the Tulum Ruins which took about 40 minutes. Tip: make sure to bring a bathing suit because it gives you access to the archipelago zona beach, this beach is well known for its crystal clear waters. Make sure to visit Coqui Coqui, one of the prettiest beaches in Tulum.
Day 2: Explore Centro Tulum and visited all of the nearby shops. Ate pesto spaghetti and had amazing street tacos. Rode my bike to Coco Tulum to enjoy the beach bars and had a nice cocktail.
Day 3: Visited the Cenotes Labnaha a small eco park outside of Centro Tulum. The cenote is a cave filled with fresh water and tiny fishes swimming beneath it. You can explore all of the ancient rock formations in the cenote too.
Day 4: Got 24-hour food poisoning and was in bed all day.
Day 5: Recovered from my food poisoning and rented a bike to go to Tulum beach, I walked by the huts and ordered a coconut and had a mango detox smoothie.
My experience in Mexico was not as bad as I imaged other than my 24-hour food poisoning and being eaten alive by mosquitos. This little pristine town is a magical place and the place to be if you’re doing a solo trip. You will meet many solo travelers in their mid 20’s to early 30’s. I will not forget the humble family I stayed with and the pristine beaches with waters that are the clearest blue I’ve seen in ages.
What to pack
- mosquito repellent
- tank tops
- long dresses
- flip flops
- walking shoes
- waterproof camera