When I booked my most recent trip to Mexico people either scoffed that it was “a long way to go for a week”, or they protested that I’d “only just been on holiday”.
To those that scoffed, I reminded them that with my trip last year to India, I’d travelled further in seven days. And I’d also managed week-long jaunts in Puerto Rico and Cuba in 2016 too, so long haul travel is possible in a week.
And to those that protested about yet another holiday so soon after my week in Cyprus, I said “so what?”. After having to quit my job and unexpectedly move back to Reading, my whole world was turned upside down, so I felt like I needed a little me time, as well as time to complete my 30 countries before 30 challenge.
And so, just six days after booking the trip, I jumped on a plane at London Gatwick and flew nearly 5,000 miles in 10-and-a-half hours to the Mexican coastal town of Playa Del Carmen. Yes, it was a long way to go in a week, but it was totally worth it, especially when I got to spend a few days on the beach at Tulum…
I think it’s safe to say that until I visited Tulum, I’d never really ever visited paradise. Because the beaches at Tulum are the epitome of paradise. The wide, pearly-white sandy beaches and warm azure-green sea have definitely helped to put the Riviera Maya on the world tourism map.
Located about 75 miles south of the big resort of Cancun, the once sleepy beach outpost has become a fashionable, yet low-key, escape for families, couples and solo travellers like myself. A few days on the beach here and I had not only an amazing tan, but also total peace of mind. I felt restored, rejuvenated and completely relaxed.
As you can see from the pictures, the beach was pretty empty when I arrived at about 11am. You’d think with sand this white and sea this clear, they’d be hoards of people lounging around on the shore, splashing in the ocean and picnicking in the shade of the few palm trees that edged the beach. But this place is an undiscovered gem, a literal paradise.
Why was it so quiet? I guess it could partially be because it was a Tuesday morning in May; locals could all be hard at work or busy in school. Or it could be down to the fact that the beach is quite far away from the main resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. To get to here I took a one-and-a-half hour ride on a Collectivo bus to the centre of Tulum, then walked about 45 minutes to get to the beach…
All that travelling was worth it though, look:
A short wander up the beach, towards the Tulum ruins, I came across the most gorgeous beach bar, Pancho Villa.
I assume it was named after Francisco “Pancho” Villa, the Mexican Revolutionary, but there was nothing rebellious about this place. The bar was quiet and the vibe was chilled, the sun loungers were comfy and the owner, Omar, became my new best friend for the day.
I mentioned before that the beach was quiet; well, if it hadn’t been for the low hum of the chill-out soundtrack being played through the surround system at the back, this beach bar looked and felt like it had been abandoned, a ghost town. I guess those beach goers further up were saving their pennies by parking up their towels on the sand, as it was 250 pesos (about £10) for the privilege of the sun lounger at Pancho Villa for the day.
But never mind that, life’s for living and money is for spending.
So once seated and suntan lotion applied, super friendly Omar popped over for a chat. I fancied an ice cold, refreshing Michelada – a drink I’d sampled in a Mexican bar once in Barcelona, and had started drinking here in Mexico. But I was faced with a dilemma: the menu had Chelada and Michelada listed, what was the difference? Which one should I choose?
Omar explained that a Michelada is made with beer, fresh lime juice and assorted hot sauces, spices and peppers, served in a chilled, spice-rimmed glass. While the Chelada is a slightly tamer version, minus the hot sauces, spices and peppers, and the glass is salt-rimmed. Anyone who knows me will testify how much I like a Bloody Mary with extra Tabasco, so it was the spicier Michelada that I plumped for, served with a Modelo beer.
Once he’d brought it over, Omar added that it’s “good when you drink a lot of alcohol”. I assumed he meant it was a good remedy for a hangover, and said we have a saying in the UK, “hair of the dog”. I don’t think he quite understood that, but he smiled, nodded and wandered off.
I was left in peace, with just my own thoughts and a Suduko book to occupy my mind, while looking out to this…
At about 5.30pm, knowing how long it had taken to get to Tulum, I figured I better start making my way back. I paid my tab with Omar, and begrudgingly put my shorts and t-shirt back on.
Even at that time in the evening, it was still about 27c and people were still out enjoying the sun, sand and sea.
It was about quarter to eight in the evening by the time I made it back to the hotel in Playa del Carmen. A long, tiring day with lots of travel, but totally worth the trek. So the next day my friend Emma decided she wanted to see Tulum for herself, so off we went for another day in beach heaven.
The epitome of paradise, I kinda wish I could have just hung up a hammock and stayed there overnight, or forever…