While beach-bumming on the white sands of an all-inclusive resort is heaven itself, there’s a whole lot more of Mexico to discover. If you’re staying anywhere between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, we have two recommendations for you that are perfect for the entire family – and you can do both in the same day! Excursions to the historic site of Tulum and the natural ecological park of Xel-Ha can be booked right from your resort with comfortable and reliable transportation provided. You just have to sit back, enjoy the ride, look forward to creating more memories (and snap insanely gorgeous photographs).
One of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans, Tulum is situated on the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula along 12 metre cliffs overlooking breathtaking views of the sparkling Caribbean. The peak of this civilization existed between the 13th and 15th centuries, lasting almost another century after the Spaniards first began occupying the land. With their invasion, the Spanish brought diseases that nearly wiped out the community and forced those who could to flee. Though Mayan books were burned as part of the colonization, man could not erase evidence of the ingenuity of this culture.
There is enough to spark the imagination as there is to marvel at, whether you are a history buff or a school-aged child wondering what the kids did to entertain themselves on the grassy, rolling hills. Maybe they chased the lizards whose descendants are now peek-a-booing through the windows of the buildings?
Once you are done your guided tour of the ruins, head over to the edge of the bluff. You may have left the beach behind at the resort, but we promise you, you will not be disappointed by what you traded it in for. The ultimate picture of paraiso (paradise) with long stretches of white, powdery sand, a bluer-than-blue sea with the sun casting millions of diamonds upon the gentle waves.
From the top of the bluff, the castillo (castle) across the way greets you in the same manner it greeted Juan Diaz one of the first Europeans who set eyes on Tulum. In fact, this point of entry was the trading port for goods like turquoise and jade. Who traded here? How were negotiations made? What kinds of relationships existed among the different civilizations that met on this land? The mystery runs deep at this junction where natural and man-made wonders co-exist.
SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN YOU VISIT TULUM
Bring water bottles! Depending on your tour, you will likely be provided with one at the entrance to the ruins site, but do bring additional bottles in a day pack. Although there is a refreshing breeze when you are closer to the edge of the cliff, walking around under the direct sun among the buildings makes for a sweaty, sweltering experience.
There are also conveniently located ice cream and coffee shops just outside the archaeological site that you literally have to walk past to get to the parking lot so if water isn’t going to cut it, you have options.
Along that same vein, wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
The currency they use onsite is Mexican pesos. There is a bank machine where you can convert your USD.
If you are going to bring in video recording devices (other than your cell phone) or drones, you will be charged an additional tax.
Take many, many photographs! When you are home from your vacation, you’ll wonder if you dreamed about the palm fronds splayed against a turquoise sky. Your photographs will be your proof.
Xel-Ha is the perfect place to cool down after a hot trek through the ruins; a natural aquarium with jungle paths surrounding it, palm trees shading a lovely beach and a playground in the sand make this the ideal way to spend the rest of your day off the resort.
The Mayan named this area ‘where the water is born’ and the legend lives on about how the gods created this revered place from their love of beauty and how it is still protected by the iguanas, pelicans, and parrotfish. Visitors to this area are also protected by these creatures of the land, air and sea – and can salute them throughout the park where they live in large numbers.
FOR THE WATER-LOVER
Snorkel with the tropical fish in the crystal-clear waters.
Zip-line across the Xel-ha river and land with a splash and a laugh into the water.
Take a deep breath and plunge 5 metres off the Cliff of Courage.
Discover the magic of the caves.
Float down the river in an inner tube.
FOR THE LAND-LOVER
Check out a piece of a Mayan wall.
Walk the jungle paths. Or bike them!
Visit Chacah’s garden.
Let your kids play on the playground right on the sand while you kick your feet up with a drink.
SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN YOU VISIT XEL-HA
If your sunscreen contains harmful chemicals, you can exchange it for a friendlier sunscreen at entrance. This keeps the fish and other marine animals happy!
They also have safer bug sprays available (highly recommended to wear bug spray especially along the jungle paths).
All the restaurants and bars are all-inclusive so eat, drink and be merry in roughly 8 different venues (depending on the season).
Lockers, towels and snorkel equipment are also included in admission price.
There are many optional activities for land and sea lovers at additional cost.
See more of Mexico in just one day by booking a tour of Tulum and Xel-Ha that your family will not forget! At the end of your day of touring you can head back to the resort, order room service and anticipate another glorious day.
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