The setting of Tulum is perfect. It is something out of a James Bond movie. The dramatic Mayan ruins of Tulum stand on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean sea.
To visitors, Tulum can mean several things. First, it’s one of the most picturesque of all the ancient Maya sites, poised on fifteen-metre-high cliffs above the impossibly turquoise Caribbean. Tulum also refers to a stretch of broad, white beach that’s the finest in the Riviera Maya, dotted with lodging options that range from bare-bones to ultra-swank; many of them, as well as many ultra-casual beach bars, still show their backpacker-friendly roots in style, if no longer in price. Finally, it’s a booming town (often called Tulum Pueblo to distinguish it from the beach) that has evolved from roadside waystation to real population centre, where visitors can arrange tours into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, among other things.
Tulum was an important port and trading center for the Yucatan’s east coast Maya. Within the walls of the city lies a series of platforms and buildings, including ruined palaces and elevated temples. The most impressive structure is “El Castillo”. The temple of the Frescos is also interesting. It has murals that are similar to the designs of the Paris Codex, one of the few surviving Mayan books.
Go early to Tulum, no later than 9:00 a.m. to avoid the bus loads from Cancun. This area has heavy tourist traffic. Large market, bargaining is expected. The pueblo has Money exchanges at good rates.
The little town of Tulum is slowly developing to offer various services (like an Internet Cafe for example) phone service, and more. There are several very good local restaurants and a few on the beach in the various properties in the hotel area on the beach that are absolutely wonderful and still very cost effective.
Although Tulum’s beach is an obvious draw, you may want to stay in town if you arrive late in the day, have a limited amount of time (and money) or prefer hot water round-the-clock. Hotels in the zona hotelera along the beach road do not connect to the electric grid, relying instead on varying combinations of solar panels, windmills and diesel generators; most have power for only about six hours in the evening. Depending on your point of view, the candle-lit ambience is rustic charm or expensive primitivism, and the thatched palapa roofs on most places can be a liability in the rain. Basic sand- or cement-floor cabañas made this area famous with hippie backpackers, but they’re in short supply now (and are plagued with reports of theft), as ritzier places, with prices to match, have sprung up. There are now very few mid-range beds on the beach, and, as in Playa del Carmen, most hotels also charge high-season rates in the European holiday period of July and August.