Where Cancun is a mass of commercialism, mostly packed with tourists, day drinking, nightly debauchery, and sensory overload, Tulum (at least the parts we saw) was all beauty, authenticity and calm.
Aside from ancient ruins, gorgeous beaches and jungles, there are also thousands of cenotes (sinkholes created by collapsed limestone over ground water) that form a large and fascinating underground cave system in Tulum and Mayan Riviera. We had chosen two that sounded amazing but would also suit our level of experience.
After a gear fitting and quick debriefing, Julio drove us north through the jungle to arrive at our first stop, which initially was difficult to tell was a destination at all.
What only looked like a small clearing from the road turned out to be a gorgeous shimmering pond of clear turquoise, framed by lush greenery: and the 'gateway' to Casa Cenote.
The entrance was actually underwater, so we slipped our gear on while sitting at the pond's rocky edges, then dove below gorgeous root forests to get to the start of the passages.
The inner sanctum of Casa Cenote was nothing short of transcendent. The way rays / panels of light shone down through the crystal clear water, through natural chambers and passages between towering limestone walls, with nothing but the sound of our breath and fins rhythmically fluttering, brought a sense of indescribable spiritual calm and peacefulness. I felt like we were in an hallowed place, an underwater cathedral.
Click below to watch a video of our dive, captured with GoPro Hero Silver 4:
If you're wondering why the colors change dramatically midway through the video: it's because Casa Cenote is part fresh water and part salt water: where the two meet is the halocline. Experiencing it in person is nothing short of breathtaking. It was one of the most life changing dives I'd done so far - and I was grateful to have been able to experience this one as our first cenote dive - Casa CEnote was going to be extremely hard to top!
Our second cenote was the better known Dos Ojos - the visitor center is also located there.
From the parking area, all visitors must haul their own gear (~50-60 pounds? for us including tanks) down flights of stairs to reach the dark lip of the cavernous entrance to the cenote.
We pulled our gear on, then scampered down a few underwater steps to the passage entrance.
Yellow rope threaded throughout the system helps guide tourists to stick to the known, safest route. After completing this dive I would recommend other rookies work to master buoyancy before attempting it - otherwise, like me, you will struggle trying to stay in the middle of the passage and not get poked by the rock formations above or below. When trying to control my buoyancy, I kept ping-ponging up and down wildly. It was by sheer luck (and the watchful eye of our guide) that I think I got through that dive without incident or injury.
Another note about Dos Ojos: since it is a more frequented site, they've got more set up to support common tourist needs, like a camera with flash near the end of the dive like at an amusement park - and you can buy a print of the photo at the info center after; there are t-shirts and other souvenirs for sale at the center - but it is cash only so be sure to prepare accordingly (no ATMs there), USD is accepted as well as pesos.
Here is the seafood ceviche.
The only Mayan city built along the coast, and one of the few with a wall ("tulum" translates literally to "wall" and was designed to be a seaport), gorgeous architecture dating back to the 13th century overlooks sheer limestone bluffs and the impossibly blue Caribbean.
We originally intended to check out Hartwood, a World's 50 Best Restaurant, but as they do not accept reservations and were already full for the night, we skipped down the road to Casa Jaguar. The kitchen was al fresco, with rustic touches like a wood burning oven and reclaimed wood everything.
Tulum was an amazing day trip down from Cancun, but since we all loved the diving, food and whole laid back, small town vibe of Tulum - next time we visit we will definitely look to find a place to stay there.
It would be very difficult to pick a favorite day out of our incredible Cancun/Tulum trip - special thanks to @jennybawel for all the hard work researching and booking the dives and handling transpo logistics! - but if I had to choose, Day 3 might be it.
Looking for more activity ideas for Cancun / Tulum / the Yucatan? Check out how we maximized our trip in my recaps of Day 1, Day 2, Day 4 and Day 5. For more photos from this trip, please visit my Instagram @onemorebiteblog
Ontime Car Rental
Blvd. Kukulcan, Km 11.5 Loc. 101-B
Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77500
Ph: +52 998 883 0160
La Calypso Dive Center
Tulum Quintana Roo Mexico
Ph: +52 (1) 984 106 80 02Website: lacalypsodivecenter.com
+52 (1) 984 100 73 85
+52 (1) 984 100 73 85
Tulum 77780, Mexico
Cenotes: Dos Ojos
17km north of Tulum
El Camello Jr
Carretera Chetumal-Cancun Locales 1 y 2 Lte 3 Mza 40, Centro, 77600 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Ph: +52 984 871 2036
Mayan Ruins Tulum
Carretera Tulum Bocapaila km 7.5, Tulum, Quintana Roo
Westin Resort & Spa Cancun
Boulevard Kukulcan KM 20, Cancun, Quintana Roo 77500, Mexico
Ph: +52 (998) 848-7400Website: starwoodhotels.com
Day 3 costs breakdown:
- Car Rental: $40 USD per day = $10 per person per day including mandatory liability insurance
- Gas: 200 pesos per day = 50 pesos per person per day (~$3 USD)
- Cenotes Dives: $130pp includes dive gear rental, entrance fees, transportation from dive center to dive spots, guide and water
- Dive tips: $20 per person
- Lunch at El Camello Jr ~400 pesos total, 100 pesos per person (~$5 USD)
- Tulum ruins: admission: 40 pesos per person (~$2 USD)
- Casa Jaguar
- Dinner: 350 pesos entree + 150 pesos cocktail (~$27 USD)
- Parking: 50 pesos (~$3 USD)
- Hotel: 8,500 Starwood points
- Total: ~$200 USD per person
(Check out how we maximized our trip in my recaps for Day 1, Day 2, Day 4 and Day 5. To see more photos from this trip, visit my Instagram @onemorebiteblog)