Tulum, Mexico: Traveling During A Pandemic To A Boho Chic Paradise.

It has been a dream of mine to take a vacation in Tulum, Mexico for some time.  I have spent time in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, but had only visited Tulum for the day on past trips.  I loved it so much that after spending time there on a couple of day trips, I dedicated months researching condos for sale, coming very close to purchasing one.  If you look in my “About Me” section of this blog, one of my goals was to retire in Tulum.  Quite a statement after only taking a couple of day trips there.  I guess it’s safe to say I fell in love on my day trip visits, so you can imagine my excitement to plan a two week trip!

Tulum is located about a two hour drive south of Cancun, and close to the border of Belize.  It has a very boho chic vibe with crystal clear Caribbean waters, and white powder sand beaches.  It’s paradise!

Mexico has always held a very special place in my heart.  I got married in Zihuatanejo, renewed my vows in Puerto Vallarta, celebrated my husband’s 40th in Cabo San Lucas, and have spent time in a total of eight different locations in Mexico.

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After several cancelled and postponed trips since the pandemic hit, I was thrilled to hear that Tulum had opened up for tourism.  Yes, I was nervous to travel.  Yes, I was very nervous to fly.  And yes, I was nervous to be out of my own country while the positive cases around the world were present.  That being said, I was also VERY itchy to take a trip!  After months of shelter in place (aka quarantine), I had made a choice that (for me) it was time to get back to enjoying life.  It was time to start living with the virus, and not hiding from it.  Certainly not questioning the seriousness of this issue.  I find it to be very serious!  However, fear had been controlling my mind set, and physical actions for months.  I don’t feel that the fear completely left me until I arrived at my hotel in Tulum.  I was overtaken by the peaceful paradise on the beautiful beach.

Accomodations

I chose to stay at the Diamante K.  And let me tell you, this is not your average hotel!  It fits right in with the vibe of Tulum, and delivers very boho chic accommodations.  It is a beachfront hotel located in a National Park, and is just 2.5 kilometres from the ruins.  It offers cabana style rooms with thatch roofs, beach club, restaurant, bar, and spa.  We enjoyed a very relaxing oceanfront couples massage that was much needed after a long flight.  Upon arriving, my husband and I were checked in to the most beautiful suite!  Our room looked directly at the ocean.  We were so close to the ocean that I could throw a rock into the water from our room.  Of course my first order of business was to get a fresh squeezed spicy margarita.  As I was ordering “fresh squeezed”, the bartender giggled and said that I didn’t need to order it that way as all the drinks were fresh squeezed.  Ahhhh….jackpot!  The food was amazing too.  I ate breakfast there almost every day, and switched between the huevos divorciados (divorced eggs) and huevos rancheros.  So good!  Lunch and dinner were just as delicious.  I had my fair share of fresh fish, ceviche, and guacamole.  The food and drinks were superb, and very reasonable.

Back to our room…we had a bathroom that was completely outdoors.  Outdoor showers in the jungle make me happy!  I never sleep well on my first few nights of being somewhere new.  So, I enjoyed the most picturesque sunrises right from my room, or I would take a few steps outside and sit oceanfront to watch the show.  I’m not a morning person at home, so this was really refreshing to enjoy this time of day.  The birds seem to come alive at sunrise, and are peacefully loud.  It’s really nothing less than paradise.  One huge bonus about this hotel is that there are no TV’s on the property.  This couldn’t have come at a better time in my life.  Just what the doctor ordered to take a mental break from the chaotic news going on at home in the USA.

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My beautiful suite at the Diamante K.
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Beach Club at Diamante K.
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We should have had our names engraved in these exact seats!  Aside from eating and drinking here, we finished off almost every evening with a night cap while staring at the moon.
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Grounds of Diamante K.
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My outdoor bathroom at the Diamante K.  Outdoor showers make me happy!  🙂

Transportation

The Diamante K is pretty close to the Hotel Zone, and downtown Tulum, however it is not walkable.  We tried our hand at the cute beach bikes, but it was just too hot to get around this way for our liking.  We then rented a little jeep that looked like a toddler toy, and broke down twice.  Lastly we tried a motor bike/scooter.  There are not many people that I would trust to ride on a scooter with, but my husband happens to be one I do.  We rented from Tours R Us, who gave us a great deal.  They had the best selection of vehicles that we had seen in our entire two week stay.  They are located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, and offer much more than scooters.  I highly recommend!

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Thank you Tours R US!
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Tours R Us for all your transportation needs.  Located in the heart of the Hotel Zone.

Hotel Zone/Downtown Tulum

A boho chic vibe is my favorite kind of vibe, which is why I probably love it so much here.  Tulum is sort of a Miami-meets-jungle kind of place.  There are amazing restaurants, beach clubs, and bars.

Favorite Restaurants:  It is so hard to share my favorite restaurant.  I literally did not have one bad meal in my entire two weeks.  If f I have to choose, it would be Hartwood.  We ate at so many great places but this was my favorite meal.  I had tuna tostadas, a whole fish, and passion fruit spicy margaritas.  Very cool ambiance and thumping chill music. If you are looking for a more casual meal, my favorite cheap eat in the Hotel Zone is the outdoor food truck bar named Tulumunchies.  It has several food trucks that offer tacos, burgers, pizza, and poke bowls.  We opted to eat here several times throughout the trip.

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Tulumunchies surrounded by food trucks for the cheap eat win!

Favorite Bar:  Hands down Clan-Destino!  This is a very casual bar with a DJ, and a cenote in the middle.  It tripped me out when we walked in to find people swimming in the little cenote at night.  Very fun place!

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Clan-Destino.  My favorite bar with a cenote in the middle.

Favorite Beach Club:  Papaya Playa Project.  This place is absolutely awesome!  We came here for the day, and reserved a bed on the beach.  The club has a DJ with sand as a dance floor, pool, and awesome restaurant and bar.  It wasn’t the cheapest stop, but it was one of our favorite days spent in Tulum.

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Papaya Playa Project.  My favorite beach club!

Downtown Tulum:  On nights where we felt like changing it up a bit, and spending a little less money, we would head to downtown Tulum.  My favorite dinner here was at Burrito Amor.  The burritos come wrapped in banana leaves, and they pride themselves on clean ingredients.  Delish!  This area is also where we scored all of our souvenirs to bring home.

Activities & Tours 

After days of unwinding and getting to know Tulum, we were ready to do some exploring.  I took a friend’s suggestion, and booked a tour to the Sian Ka’an Bioreserve.  This tour was booked by our hotel, through a company called Mayikal Experiences, and boy did we luck out!  We had the most knowledgeable guide, who not only was a great deal, but was also a blast to spend the day with.  He made sure we saw dolphins, huge turtles, and 1,000 pound bird nests.  He led us snorkeling to swim with sting rays, huge schools of fish, and lobsters.  The water was some of the most beautiful water I have ever seen in my life.  I’m sure I have written this in past posts, but this time I mean it.  Haha.  It was truly crystal clear!  My hubby did back flips off the back of the boat as we enjoyed our day frolicking.  We finished it off with an ocean front fresh lobster lunch.  Absolutely perfect day!  I can not recommend this tour, and the tour company enough!  Because of Covid, Sian Ka’an would not allow tours with people who were not from the same family, so we got private!  Such a great day!

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Perfect day at Sian Ka’an.
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Can’t take a vacay without getting in the backflips.

My second choice for exploring Tulum would be to visit the cenotes.  There are over 6,000 cenotes in the area available for endless exploring.  We had planned to do the cenotes at the end of our trip.  Don’t ask me how two weeks came and went so quickly, but all of a sudden the end of the trip had shown it’s face (to our disappointment).  We ended up not wanting to trade one of our very last days of relaxation for the cenotes because we had visited them on our last trip.  So we skipped it this time.  If you are new to this area, exploring the centoes are a must!

Photo Ops

Tulum has some very famous photo ops.  My favorite was Daniel Popper’s towering wooden sculpture Ven A La Luz, which stands at the entrance to the Ahau Hotel .  Be prepared to wait in line to get this photo.  Also, don’t visit in the middle of the day because the sun is right above you, and the lighting is much too bright.  Go in the morning or evening.  A trip to Casa Malca is sure to give you some great pics as well!  This was Pablo Escobar’s mansion that was turned into an artsy hotel.  Very beautiful property!  I was so bummed to see that Azulik was closed.  I was hoping to explore that beautiful property as well, and enjoy a sunset dinner above the trees in one of their dining nests.  Next time!

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Ven A La Luz
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Casa Malca.  Pablo Escobar’s mansion in a previous life.

 

What It Was Like In Tulum During The Pandemic

I felt very safe in Tulum with the Pandemic going on.  Besides the fact that being surrounded by paradise made me forget about it completely, Tulum did take lots of precautions to keep the virus at bay.  All hotels, restaurants, and bars were limited to a 30% occupancy.  We were required to temperature check, and wash/sanitize hands before entering most places.  All of the staff we encountered in the Hotel Zone wore a mask, however tourists were not required unless entering a store-like establishment.  We were required to wear a mask entering places of business in downtown Tulum.  Most of the tours surrounding Tulum were open, some cenotes were open, however the ruins were closed.  Because our hotel was located in a National Park (which was also closed), the only people that could come near our hotel were guests that were staying there or people who had made reservations to enjoy the facilities.

As we all know, we are living in a world that is changing by the day.  What I experienced could be different by the time you read this.  The best bet is to contact the hotel you are considering prior to travel to ask how the current Covid situation is in Tulum.

Tips

Here are the items I did not use on my trip:  1)  High heels.  Although I saw many gals very glammed up at the higher end places, I opted to stay in sandal flats.  I did a lot of walking, with a lot of time spent at the beach, so heels just didn’t work for this trip.  I was either barefoot or in sandals the entire time.  2)  Curling iron.  Save the weight in your bag and leave it at home.    It’s absolutely pointless with the humidity and heat.  3) Workout bands and shoes.  OOPS!  I was having too much fun to workout, although yoga classes are huge in the area.  3)  Really dressy clothes.  I couldn’t get out of my bathing suit and cover ups.  LOL!  For the guys…my husband also didn’t wear anything dressy.  He lived in shorts, tank tops, and flip flops.

Make sure to bring cash with you everywhere!  Many businesses only accept cash.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I came to find out that although I have LOVED all of my travels in Mexico, Tulum takes the cake as my favorite.  It is definitely a place that I will visit again and again.  That’s saying a lot because I don’t usually like to repeat destinations.

One thing this trip deeply reminded me of was that I travel to have balance in my life.  It’s important to feed your soul with what makes you happy, and for me that is traveling.  I need to escape reality sometimes!  With the pandemic, I was neglected balance in my life.  I had been glued to the scary news every day.  I was also getting way too emotionally involved in the chaos going on in the USA.  This trip gave me back my balance.  With no TV’s available, I was forced to listen to crashing waves in lieu of the news.  And guess what???  As I’m sitting here writing this blog from back home, I have yet to turn on the news this entire week.  I think I’m avoiding it at this point, as I’m still riding the mental high from this trip.  Tulum gave me back my balance when I needed it most, and reminded me to enjoy my life no matter what is going on around me.

PS…YouTube video is on the way!

 

 

Havasupai and Grand Canyon: The Trip Everyone Reads About, But Few Experience.

The Grand Canyon was always something I had heard about growing up.  One of the Seven Natural Wonders Of The World?   OK, you have my attention! This beautiful place at the bottom of the Grand Canyon kept popping up on my Facebook feed.  It was an Indian Reservation that you hike down to, and camp right on the water with the most gorgeous waterfalls you have ever seen.  It looked like a cartoon almost.  Ok, so again it had my attention.  It was called the Havasupai Indian Reservation.  I called the reservation line and got no luck.  After researching, I found that it is one of the most desired places in the USA to see.  Wanderlust at its best!  I did more research and found that if I ever wanted to secure a reservation in the peak season, it was going to take a ton of tenacity.  Once the phone lines opened up, I gave it my all for 4 days.  A busy signal for 4 days straight can make you go kinda nuts.  Everyone told me to give up.  “I’m not giving 4 days of my life to something with nothing to show for it” said Me.  I actually kept trekking for 7 more days, calling 8 hours per day, every day.  I clocked over 4,100 calls getting a busy signal (yes, I tracked it).  You ever felt like a stalker?  I stalked the hell out of that phone number….and guess what??  After 11 days someone answered.

“Hello?”

“OMG.  Hello, I have been calling for 11 days (tear) and would like to make a reservation”

“Sorry, we are full and all booked up for the summer months.”

I won’t go into the embarrassing things I said to secure this reservation but the point is that I got it.  Never take no for an answer!  When it’s important to you, make it happen…..write that down.

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Here I am starting this 39 mile journey.  GET OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!  I don’t need to sip a cocktail on the beach for every vacation.  I love a new challenge.

To get to the bottom is about 11 miles down.  You need to carry everything in.  Your tent, your sleeping bag, your food, your wine (which is not allowed and I never break the rules), clothes, etc, etc, etc…you get the point.  I was going into the Canyon for four days.  I consider myself to be in great shape however I found this hike to be much more pleasant by throwing my 65 pound pack on a horse which met me down at the campground.  I think it’s awesome how hard core people are to carry those huge packs on their backs for miles and miles.  But quite honestly, it was 90 degrees out and I had much more fun climbing rocks and taking selfies while being pretty much weightless.  To each their own!

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Only water, snacks, camera, and lipgloss on my back for the trek down.

Once, I reached the Havasupai Reservation it was completely surreal.  This village at the bottom of the Canyon was a little city.  School, post office, church, store….everything you need.  It’s considered America’s most remote Indian Reservation.  My camp was another 2 miles past the Reservation where there aren’t many Indians, and the grounds along the creek are filled with campers feeling like they won the lotto.  I picked up my pack from the stables and set up camp right on the water.

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Not a bad place to call home.

I spent the next two days hiking to the most majestic waterfalls I have ever seen.  Sounds so cheesy but it’s true.  The water is the most beautiful color of turquoise.  Every day I had to filter my water right out of the creek, and make my dehydrated meals, which were surprisingly delicious.  I also indulged in the yummiest Frybread.  It is an Indian specialty, and there was a little stand selling this at the campground.  Mmm mmm good!

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I had to cross this bridge with my 65 pound pack to set up camp.  Also, every time I needed to use the restroom…even in the pitch black.  Luckily, I never fell in!

The most beautiful falls of all were Havasu Falls.  Photos of these falls is what really ignited my desire to get here.  It was just as beautiful as the photos!  No filter needed.

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Havasu Falls.

There are other beautiful falls and hikes to see while you are down there.  I did Mooney Falls on Day 2, and also hiked further into the Canyon.  I wish I had more time to see everything.  One more day would have been perfect.  If I am lucky enough to visit again, I will plan on five days total down there.

If you want your pack on a horse on the way out, you need to wake up while it’s still dark to pack up, and have your pack to the stables at 6am.  This, in my opinion, was much more important than having a horse carry your pack on the way down.  The way out is 13 miles straight up from the campgrounds…no thank you to that 65 pound pack!  So many people we met at camp were actually thinking they would take the helicopter out because they had no idea how they would be able to hike out.  People wait in that helicopter line all day long in hopes to get flown out, and the line is so long that some people have to wait until the next day to try again.

I dropped my pack at the stables and power walked my way out passing all these people who looked like they might die from heat exhaustion.  It was so freaking hot!  September in the Canyon is no joke.  And these people carrying those huge packs…so core!

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About to start the switchbacks.  38 miles in.

Reaching the top of the Canyon was one of the most exhilarating feelings I have ever felt. I hiked 39 miles on this journey.  Another trip that tweaked me a little as a person.  I grow just a little bit from every adventure.

Hotel I stayed at before hike: Grand Canyon Caverns Inn.  This place is in Peach Springs on Route 66.  It is as close as you can get for lodging prior to starting the hike to Havasupai.  Bonus, it has the largest dry cavern in the United States.  Going down into the cavern on a tour was interesting…and scary.  You can actually rent the space and sleep down there.  It is super cool!!

Havasupai Tribe:  People of the Blue Green Water.

Route:  I flew into Las Vegas, rented a car, checked out Hoover Dam, and cruised Route 66 to Peach Springs.  After hiking Havasupai, I drove an hour towards Las Vegas and stayed in Kingman.  I soaked in the hot tub, ate an entire medium pizza to myself, and watched movies before catching a flight out in the morning.  Las Vegas to Oakland.

Recommend this trip to:  EVERYONE!!  Well, I take that back.  No young kids.  You have to be in good shape to hike this trip.  But if you’re not in the best shape, you can just take the helicopter.  You can also scrap all the do it yourself work and headache of securing your own reservation and join a tour.  I opted to do this on my own because I like the freedom to hike at my own pace, and wanted my camp to be my own little space.  I don’t mean to sound antisocial because I love meeting new people, especially when I camp.  But I love my own area too.  To each their own!  The tours hike down together, camp together, and eat together.  It’s all inclusive so they cook you gourmet meals which is pretty cool.  The price ticket is much higher for a tour but some prefer being in a group in adventurous situations, and from the reviews it is also a great way to go. Either way, find a way to make it here sometime in your life.  It will change you…I promise.

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