That Time in Tulum: Day 1, Breakdowns and Beach Bums

Traveling around Mexico wasn’t something you needed to beg me to do. Any time I could step away for a few days into a new and exciting place, I made it happen. It was always a special treat though when we knew of a friend visiting in another region. Such was the case with Tulum. A wedding brought a friend and our friend brought us.

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The morning of departure from Mexico City was a bit rough to say the least. We walked our puppin over to the dog sitter, then slid into a sidewalk cafe for a quick breakfast before heading to the airport. Knowing our travel weakness is flying, I gave us plenty of time to get to the airport…maybe too much time as it turns out.  We got to the airport with so much time to waste that inevitably, the only reasonable thing to do was go to the bar. Sitting at the bar, enjoying some brew, eventually ordering a couple of small eats. This was our downfall. As luck would have it, our server was painfully slow.

Having 30 minutes before boarding, I started asking for our check, please, and left the hubby in charge of paying up while I ran to the bathroom…an event in itself with the long line and the cleaning lady personally escorting all of the older woman to the front of the line. After a 15 minute bathroom wait, I eventually headed back to the bar to find that we still didn’t have our check. Several times over, I requested our check, explaining we needed to get to our plane.  We eventually got it, then stubbornly, I waited for the equivalent of $25 in change, because I sure wasn’t paying more than the bill for shotty service.  I eventually tracked down another server to help me get the change with 5 minutes to spare to get to our plane.  In the end, it wasn’t worth it.

Of course, our tickets had never been printed with the boarding gate assigned, so I ran up to the kiosk to learn which gate had been assigned, only to find out it was on the completely other end of the terminal. Picture the “Home Alone” scene through Mexico City’s airport. I was winded…didn’t know if I’d make it…and I definitely didn’t. As we reached the gate, we were informed our plane had just taken off. Cue Tiffany melting down as usual in a foreign airport.

Breakdown complete, we reviewed the options. Go home, or go big. Of course, we chose the latter. A change fee to our existing tickets was quite costly and so we booked new one-way tickets to Cancun, ran to the next terminal, and were on our way.

In Cancun, we chose to rent a car. Usually, we bus, because it’s cheap and adventurous, but on this occasion, we wanted to drive the coast and be able to explore the area while in the Yucatan. Europcar offered us a rental for $125 for 6 days, which seemed like a fair deal for transportation independence.

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We made it into Tulum by early evening, stopped at a local supermarket to grab some brews, and headed towards our AirBNB. As it would happen, our rental was one of the last lodging spots on Tulum Beach before reaching the Si’an Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. This turned out to be a real treat as it was a bit of a hidden retreat, tucked away from the hipstrip of the beach. We had to walk, but it was peaceful…and the property boasted its own mangrove cenote (a natural swimming hole formed by a limestone sinkhole).

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Following the boho style of Tulum, Bungalow Mariposa is furnished simply with light linens, dreamcatchers, driftwood and other local materials. It’s a small cabaña with two-bedrooms, a bathroom, and screened in porch. This bungalow is one of several cabañas in a small communal property, only a few steps away from the cenote. Conscientious in its design, the property was solar-powered, which led us to some real off-grid experiences later in our trip when the rain blocked the sun leaving us powerless.  No hot water there, but that wasn’t a big deal and was in many ways welcomed after the hot sweaty days in Tulum.

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Book Bungalow Mariposa on AirBNB

Later in the evening, we joined our friend and her amigos at the beach-front resort they had booked out for a lovely evening of star-gazing and beach-combing. It was there that I first enjoyed the lush warm aroma of copal, an amber resin often used ceremonially by people of pre-Columbian cultures. At night in Tulum, the amber was frequently burned in the early evening as it is also an effective natural mosquito repellent.

IMG_4476Luv Tulum resort was another gem on the beach. I mean…really, any place in Tulum Beach is going to be enchanting. It’s just that I had envisioned some sort of secret Mexican beach paradise (I would later find that in Puerto Escondido).
Tulum Beach was more of an expat exclusive. In a certain way, there is a seemingly prescribed formula to follow to make a Tulum business successful. Modern airy spaces, dreamcatchers, yoga, and smoothies…and you’re part of the Tulum club. Though I’m sure the vibe expats flocking to Tulum original sought was a conscientious-style of living…now it’s so trendy that it feels opposite–somewhat soulless in its kitschy boho-chic prerogative.  Still, there are some worthwhile spots to visit and the beach is truly breath-taking with its banded colors of turquoise and white breaking against the indigo sky.

Luv Tulum is one of those great spots.  It kept to the minimal, rustic Tulum Beach style, but nothing was kitschy.  The arrangement of the very small and intimate resort was thoughtful. With 12 rooms and bungalows, the space was perfect to enjoy time as a small group. In the center of the compound was an inviting open-air communal space with a bar, picnic tables, and just enough lighting for late night conversations. By morning, the spot transformed into a bright space to meet friends for breakfast, reflect over the previous night’s joys, and plan that day’s adventures. The few staff there were like family to the guests, providing an even more personable experience. If you’re going to do Tulum Beach, this is how to do it.

After a long night of pleasures with our friends, old and new, we stayed as guests, soaking our tired limbs into the fluff of blankets. Under the draping canopy of netting, my spirit took the form of an ancient royal.IMG_4472