After a little bit of research, I had made up my mind. There are a few options for getting to Tulum from the Cancun airport: take a $100+ private shuttle, rent a car, ride the bus or, if your adventurous, hop on one of the local collectivos.
A rental car seemed like the obvious choice.
The shuttle was too steep to split between just two people. The bus required a transfer in Playa del Carmen. And the colectivos, or shared minivans used by locals to travel between towns, felt like a gamble (how would I even find them, let alone communicate my destination?).
Renting a car would cost less than a private shuttle + taxis (to get around Tulum), and it would give us the freedom to go where we wanted, when we wanted. So in spite of the warnings about la mordida and speeding tickets on Trip Advisor (which were constantly rebutted by regulars stating they rented a car every year), I decided we would rent a car. You can rent a car pretty much anywhere in the world as a tourist. One thing that I have learnt from my travels is that the problem with this is that the price can fluctuate a lot between different companies in the same country. The best way to avoid this is by using a car rental aggregator to find and compare prices for you.
Then Summer got sick. She wouldn’t be able to join me in Tulum until day 3.
This was just the first of many hiccups in this trip: I forgot to call my banks until I was on the way to the airport, got flagged by TSA for bug spray, forgot to exchange cash for pesos in the US (a blessing in disguise due to exchange rates), forgot a book, accidentally sat in the wrong seat on the plane much to one flight attendant’s dismay and forgot my SD card (which is why I only have phone photos to share from my first 3 days). But those are all just funny details now.
So anyways, after a short flight, I arrived in Cancun all by myself. I certainly didn’t want to rent and navigate a car to Tulum on my own.
At the last minute I decided to take the bus to Tulum instead of driving. I went through passport control, past baggage claim and through customs. Directly outside was an ATM, a currency exchange machine and a long counter of rental cars. Considering National was the only one with a long line, I’d guess it’s the most popular.
I grabbed $1500 pesos (paying 30 pesos in fees) then walked past the rental cars, shuttle services, tourist info and taxi stands until I got outside. The warm weather was better than I could have hoped for. Not too humid but definitely warm. And tropical palms everywhere. In spite of her Super Shuttle uniform, I asked one lady where to find the ADO bus. She pointed to my right, and after walking a short distance I caught sight of my big red and white bus.
1:25 PM: For 162 pesos I bought my ticket to Playa del Carmen and we were off! To the next terminal that is. We picked up another load of travelers and then really hit the road.
When you drive out of the airport you dump right onto the 307, with signs pointing you towards Puerto Morelos, playa del Carmen and Tulum. There are gas stations (and pick ups selling coconut water and ice cream) right on the side of the road as you leave the airport complex.
The speed limits are posted on the side of this two lane highway – which is surprisingly modern and well-kept. Sure, it got a bit more rugged as we moved away from the airport, but the roads were still good and let’s be honest, I saw a Home Depot (across from a thatched roof home) as we entered Playa del Carmen and a drive-thru Starbucks on the way out. The Yucatan is well connected to the modern world.
In PDC we pulled into a little bus station immediately followed by the Mayab bus – the one that goes the rest of the way to Tulum. Afraid it would leave quickly (I read Mexican buses, surprisingly, run on time) I ran to the ticket counter, leaving my bag behind in my first bus, to buy a ticket for 38 pesos. I sprinted back to the buses, grabbed my bag and rushed onto my next bus. Guess what. It didn’t leave for at least another five minutes.
2:45 PM: The Mayab bus (second class as opposed to the first class ADO bus) was a bit older but generally the same. The only perk of my first bus was that it had an outlet for charging my chronically dying phone.
4:00 PM: Arrived at the Tulum bus station starving but I jumped right in a cab. It cost me 110 pesos to get to my hotel, Yoga Shala, and it was a pretty far drive. Town was more spread out than I thought and nothing special at first glance. But as we drove away from town the prettiest picture of palm trees and turquoise water surrounded the road. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place so pretty.
Two buses, 310 pesos and 2.5 hours later, I made it! I settled into my room at Yoga Shala, where the reception was closed for the day. A short gentleman walked me over to my room and made me promise to visit the reception to check in the next morning.
My room was simple, two beds with bug nets and a bathroom attached. I dropped my bags, changed into my bikini and walked across the street for a smoothie at Raw Love, which cost me 99 pesos with tax.
The most exciting feature of Tulum so far is the sight of a lizard running across the property on its back legs like something straight out of Jurassic Park. After sipping down my smoothie and taking in the surroundings I decided to walk along the beach.
When the sun finally started dipping towards the horizon I sat down at a little table at Taqueria la Eufemia for dinner.
I ordered a mushroom and garlic taco (my favorite), a veggie taco, guacamole and a sol beer. Each taco came with two tortillas and piled high with veggies so I split them into four tacos and piled with guac and the other toppings (salsa, jalapeño cream, onions, cilantro) from the salsa bar inside. Tacos were 20 pesos each, cerveza was 35 pesos, guacamole was 80 pesos (and way too big for my to finish with everything else).
I sat until the mariachi music switched over to a DJ and then walked home under the twinkling stars with nothing but the sound of the waves crashing in the dark.