51. Tulum, Mexico - White Sand Beaches

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June 10, 2007

When Adrienne and I day-tripped to Tulum in 2006 (we were staying 20 minutes north at the Gran Bahia de Principe) we couldn't understand why there was so much hype about the place.

It seemed a bit desolate and run-down. In retrospect, it probably hadn't had a chance yet to recover yet from Hurricane Wilma, a category four storm that had rocked the Yucatan Peninsula for a couple of days in October 2005.

This time around, however, with our van, we were able to explore the area more thoroughly. And we are now converts.

Add sparsely populated, whiter-than-white sand beaches, to bluer-than-blue, clear ocean waters, and combine with dozens and dozens of cabanas, hotels and guest houses, and the result is that Tulum a devastatingly romantic, dream destination.

Accommodations are, however, a bit more expensive than in other low-key Mexican destinations. We spent the first two nights at Hotel Cabañas Diamante K, which occupies a sandy little cove and has a hip restaurant.

But it came at a cost that strains a roadtrip budget: $35 a night for a very rustic thatch-roof hut that is "electricity-free" - many cabanas in Tulum are - and that relies on a shared bathroom.

For our third night, we drove a few kilometers down Boca Paila road to the Don Cafeto Restaurant, where we camped (with permission) in the parking lot, about 50 meters back from the beach. While not as glamorous as a cabana, it definitely came at a better a price-point. And the wind sweeping up from the ocean and the ability to re-fresh ourselves in the water allowed us to escape a little from the oppressive heat.

It is only about a two-minute drive from Don Cafeto to the Tulum ruins. And while the ruins themselves are not that impressive - at least in comparison to Palenque and Chichen Itza - this historic Mayan site is really all about location, location, location. The ancient buildings and walls sit perched on a cliff above one of Mexico's most breathtaking strips of coastline.

And the beautiful landscaped grounds compared favourably to those at the nearby all-inclusive resorts we had driven by on the way to Tulum.

Tulum was second stop on the trip (Guanajuato was the first) where we weren’t sure we were ready to leave when we did.

Key Facts & Figures:

-Hotel Cabañas Diamante K: $35/night
-Camping, Don Cafeto Restaurant parking lot: $10/night
-Tulum Ruins: $4.50/person