Mexico – Readers Travel Tips – Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews

BRUNO’S BAR AND GRILL, PUERTO MORELOS MEXICO………James Smith

The minute I walked into this place, I realized that it was friendly one. The kind of little bar that I was welcome at, and conversely that I would continue to return to if I could. The place was Bruno’s a sleepy little bar in the sleepy little town of Puerto Morelos Mexico.

My first experience with Bruno’s was unwinding on their back patio one afternoon. A few of us had just done a day long eco tour into the surrounding jungle. We’d asked our guide for a good place to grab a celebratory beer and of course to join us. He recommended Bruno’s across the street and said he’d join us momentarily.

Puerto Morelos is one of those tiny little towns you seem to find all over the Caribbean. That is if you bother to look for them. Passed over by the major tourist resorts it’s the kind of place to relax if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s also a good place to lose yourself in, or to start over again if you want to.

Bruno’s is typical of the type of bar that you find in places like this. Nothing fancy, but comfortable. Run by expats more than likely as is the case here it becomes a gathering spot. Towns like this have a small expat population, retirees and small business owners. More often that not they need a place to gather now and then and reminisce. they may come from different places, and have come for different reasons, but they have something in common.

Its a place for locals too. Working men who want a quiet drink and a quick meal after a long days work. A place where you can organize a party or BBQ to celebrate some event or another. All of these combine at Bruno’s and make it a place worth grabbing a beer.

It’s simple one main room with a large bar, and front and back patios. The former for sitting and watching the world go buy. the later for a little peace and quiet refection. Sitting back there is not unlike sitting in your own backyard on a summer afternoon. there’s even a BBQ for those parties I mentioned.

The first thing I noticed on entering is the North wall. Simple yellow painted bricks but covered in graffiti. Comments and compliments from past patrons are written here. The tradition was started by the original owner, an expat from Boston, hence the bar’s name. The present owners keep it up.

I’ve seen this before in a lot of other places around the world. I’ve even left my mark on several. The difference here is that not anyone who darkens the door is allowed to scrawl their John Hancock on the wall. It’s an exclusive club, and membership is restricted to those on their second visit to Puerto Morelos and Bruno’s.

Later stretched out on a chair on the back patio, cold beer in one hand and fine cigar in the other I’ve reached contentment. I’ll come back to Bruno’s several times during my week in Puerto Morelos. I’ll even pop in for a quick visit on my last night before the flight that will take me home. Just a quick one for the road.

As I leave for the last time though I begin to wonder how long before I’ll be back. Sure I want to add my name to those who’ve come before. to be honest though, that’s not the only reason I’ll be back.

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FAT TUESDAYS, COZUMEL MEXICO………James Smith

I have to confess. I actually went to Fat Tuesdays on a Friday. I’m sorry but on the Tuesday of that week I was in the middle of a Mayan jungle, and not relaxing at a beach front bar. Come to think of it a cold beer would have gone down perfectly right about then.

Fat Tuesdays is a small open air little place in San Miguel de Cozumel the main, and only town on the island of Cozumel. It is located on the north west corner of the main town square, nestled in amongst a few up scale tourist shops and other eating and drinking establishments. If you’re coming by ferry from the mainland, then it is only a few steps from the dock, an important consideration for the return trip I assure you.

The location makes it ideal for that great Mexican vacation past time, people watching. From here you can grab a seat at the bar, or one of the brightly painted plastic tables, relax and watch the antics of your fellow travelers while taking a break from the hustle and bustle. Anyone who has been to Cozumel can attest that hustle and bustle is what the day is about here. On an average day the place is flooded with cruise ship passengers moving in large mobs from one upscale jewelry or other type of duty-free store to another in search of the perfect vacation bargain. They are joined by the hundreds of visitors from the nearby resorts and hotels and those who’ve popped over from the mainland for the day for a change of pace.

We happened on this place late in the afternoon. The day had been spent with a little sightseeing, and hunting for those little things that for some reason we hadn’t been able to find back in Playa del Carmen. After a late lunch we were on our way back to the mainland, but had an hour to kill until the next ferry. A bar near to the docks for a quiet drink and a chance to get out of the sun seemed like the perfect idea. I don’t know if it was the convenience to the dock or the bright neon seats that drew us in, but after five minutes it became one of my favourite places to hoist a pint.

It’s a simple place, the menu appears to be geared to homesick Americans off the cruise ships or resorts, fries burgers etc. they even have Budweiser. The music blaring from the bar is all pop, a mix of what sounds like AM hits from the last two decades. Considering the clientele includes a fair number of boomers probably trying to relive their lost youth, this is appropriate.

Unlike a lot of other local places, this one doesn’t have the all day happy hour two for one beer deal. However with Corona and other local beers going for a reasonable, by resort town standards, $2.00 US and even Bud for $3.00 US, this isn’t a big issue, besides you have to cross the street eventually to get back on the ferry. They are also generous amounts of free popcorn and nachos if you get the munchies.

The house specialty is the Daiquiri, and there are several flavours and sizes to choose from. The basic one is served in a souvenir plastic cup about the size of an extra large coffee cup. It costs $5.00 US. Next up is the "tube" served in a large plastic beaker, which you get to keep too, this costs $8.00 US. This one is the source of the bar’s motto "attitube adjustment. Feeling really thirsty, or in need of some severe, adjustment then go for the "yard " at $9.00 US. While not quite an actual yard in length, it is close. The souvenir plastic container resembles one of those yard glasses made famous in English pubs and/or frat parties. Not quite sure what flavour, then ask for a free sample. Small thimble sized glasses are available to help you decide what’s your poison.

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THE SECOND OLDEST TOURIST IN QUINTANA ROOS, GOYO MOGAN………James Smith

Goyo Morgan the second oldest tourist in Quintana Roos, that’s exactly how he introduces himself. The minute you meet this intriguing and rather flamboyant character, you’re advised of this, and then asked what brings you to his colourful Palapa office. Once you meet him, I guarantee you won’t soon forget him.

Puerto Morelos is a sleepy little town located mid way between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, blink and you’ll miss it. Like such places all over the world, it has attracted its share of expatriates. Some are fleeing the hustle and bustle of the "modern world," others are just looking for a quiet place to spend their sunset years as they’re so quaintly called. Chief among the diverse expat community in Puerto Morelos is Goyo, fisherman, jungle guide, naturalist, entrepreneur, and all around colourful character.

Donald Gregory "Goyo" Morgan left his native Washington State in the Pacific North West twenty-five odd years ago and ended up in Mexico. He’s rather coy about what caused him to leave, and drew him here. He’s also a little coy about his actual age too. Although these are the only two things, he’s coy about. For whatever reason he found himself in the Yucatan Peninsula, just as it was undergoing monumental changes.

The area was still fairly undeveloped then. Quintana Roos only became a full-fledged state in 1974. The infrastructure was quite primitive along the Caribbean coast, with few good roads, schools and all the other trappings of civilization. Tourism changed all this. Cancun was designated by the Mexican Government as the country’s new tourist Mecca. It quickly grew bringing vacationers from all over the world to enjoy its beaches and sunny clime.

Things began to spread down the coast and the sleepy little town of Playa del Carmen became the latest hot spot of the "Mayan Riviera" as resorts multiplied almost as fast as the tourists. Across the water on the island of Cozumal new resorts and hotels also began to appear drawing visitors in by plane and cruise ships in their hundreds. One of the major draws were the numerous nearby Mayan Ruins, which made this location so different from all the other sun spots on the globe.

Like many others Goyo threw himself into the new industries. Over the years he was in turn a sport fisherman, scuba diver instructor, restaurant owner, among other various pursuits. Eventually he settled in Puerto Morelos and found perhaps what he had been searching for all his life.

Goyo developed a deep love for and understanding of the Mayan People. It is a feeling that is reciprocated at all levels. He began to search for ways to help them to profit and better from the new found prosperity without exploiting or compromising their way of life.

Puerto Morelos serves as both a home and a base for the myriad business ventures Goyo has established. First and foremost are his famous custom jungle adventures. Day eco trips into the surrounding jungle. These include a chance to swim in clear natural wells and lunch with a Mayan family. Longer trips include the opportunity to visit a small Mayan ruin deep in the jungle without the accompanying crowds of tourists one gets at the larger more well known sites. Each trip also includes some fascinating information on the different flora and fauna of the region, including the medical properties of some plants. Mayan lore and legend are also included in the narrative.

Goyo also custom builds larger and longer trips for those who wish. Included in this are healing retreats with holistic medicines to deal with stress and the other ailments of the modern world. He has also acted as an expert guide and local resource for journalists, academics, students, and others exploring the region.

These excursions are only part of his projects. Others include a line of natural health and medicinal products for sale in local stores or via his web site. Future plans call for an expansion of this Line. Other projects include a cottage industry to reintroduction of the production of chicle, the natural ingredient in chewing gum which was once the largest industry in the region.

The purpose of all these projects is not merely to make a living, although he does support himself through his ventures. Goyo is equally concerned in seeing the Mayans improve their economic standards without giving up any of their culture and independence. Tourism has been an economic boom to the region there is no doubt of that. For the mainly Mayan population this has meant jobs. Working either in the resorts in some manner, and/or in the construction boom that has engulfed the area.

Goyo hopes to help them find an alternative to this. By working with them to develop small cottage industries, many based on their traditional way of life, he hopes to help preserve those traditions rather than sacrifice them to progress. So far he has been successful on a limited basis, and this is all the encouragement he needs to continue.

Goyo Morgan’s personal motto is "leap and the net will appear." It’s an appropriate saying for someone with his boundless beliefs, energy, and enthusiasm. Another phrase also aptly describes him, "sometimes you just have to stop talking about it, get off the bar stool, and actually do something." The title second oldest tourist in Quintana Roos does not describe him at all. A tourist is someone who comes and looks around and then goes home again. Whatever Goyo Morgan is, it’s definitely not a tourist.

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GOYO’S JUNGLE ADVENTURE TOURS………James Smith

The snake’s skin stretches from the man’s outstretched arm all the way to the ground, more than five feet in length. Long and deadly he points out. One bite and that’s it, you’re dead. He then quickly points out he’s been in the jungle hundred of times and never been bitten. In fact thousands of people move through it all the time, without any danger, the odds of anything happening are just too remote.

There’s always a first time, a young tourist from Vancouver points out anxiously, and the rest of the group laughs nervously. The guide smiles full of confidence. You get the feeling no reptile would dare interfere with one of his jungle tours, a little more confident we head off into the bush.

For those looking for a change from the non stop partying, shopping, or lazing on the beach that are the hallmarks of a vacation in Cancun and/or Playa del Carmen, then this is the place to be. The sleepy little fishing village of Puerto Morelos, home of Goyo’s Custom Jungle Adventures. The sole owner operator, chief jungle guide, and all around romantic adventurer is Goyo Morgan, an American from the North West, who has spent almost half his remarkable life in Mexico, mainly in this area.

Goyo offers two basic adventures, a half day trip and a full day one. The first is the Cenote Jungle Adventure. You depart Puerto Morelos in the morning and spend about four hours in the nearby bush. While there, Goyo will give an introduction to some of the various flora and fauna that abound in the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll be shown which plants can be dangerous and a little about the medicinal qualities of some of the others.

A visit to a small Mayan village once the centre of the chicle industry is also included. Years before tourism became the main source of revenue here, chicle was harvested and shipped out to make chewing gum enjoyed the world over. Now only a few families remain and make a living amidst the overgrown workers huts and the remnants of the narrow gauge railway to the coast. A visit to a small working Mayan farm follows with an explanation of local farming techniques and crops.

For most, the highlight of the excursion is a visit to a Cenote, deep in the jungle. This is a natural well fee by the numerous underground rivers that cris cross the peninsula. A refreshing swim in the cool clear waters and a chance to explore the caves that line the Cenote’s wall is most welcome at this point in the trip.

After the swim you return to the Mayan farm for a traditional, simple, and excellent lunch prepared by Delphina and her family, a friend of Goyo’s .Chicken and black beans with home made piping hot tortillas really hit the spot right about now. Trust me you’ll have worked up an appetite. Small hand embroidered, crafts made by Delphina are available here for those looking for a souvenir of their adventure.

The whole trip lasts about four hours and you’ll be back in Puerto Morelos early enough in the afternoon to explore this quaint little village or head back to the beach or markets.

For those with more time to spare, or feeling more adventurous there is the all day Deep Jungle Adventure This is about six hours and includes everything included in the shorter tour plus a few extras. You will trek a little farther into the jungle to a small un excavated Mayan ruins.

Here you’ll be able to climb to the top of a pyramid and look out over the jungle. Goyo will share with you his vast knowledge of the Mayan people and their culture. You’ll also pick up a few tips on jungle survival, not that you’ll need them, at least this time out, and a few pointers on how to use a machete. The swim and lunch are also included and well earned.

The cost for the first trip is 400 Pesos ($40.00 US) and the second longer one is 800 Pesos ($80.00) from Puerto Morelos. It may be possible to arrange for a pick up for a group directly from Cancun or Playa del Carmen for an additional charge. Reservations are required at least one day in advance depending on the season.

This is a good value for a half day adventure that may well be the highlight of your vacation. The lunch and listening to Goyo’s interesting take on life are worth the price alone. Good walking shoes, a swim suit, and of course your camera are essential. The Deep Jungle Adventure is restricted to adults only in good physical condition only and long pants are required.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Goyos Info Centre, Ave. Rojo Gomez Puerto Morelos, Q. Roo.

Tel: 0198-106-179 Fax: 0198-10178

e-mail: goyosjungle@excite.com
www.goyosjungle.com

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PUERTO MORELOS MEXICO………James Smith

Midway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is the tiny fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Travelers heading along highway 307, which connects these two party centres, might almost miss the turn off that heads to this quaint little oasis in the land of mega resorts, and that’s just the way the residents here seem to like it.

That’s not to imply that tourists or strangers in general are not welcome here. In fact it is just the opposite. However if you’re looking for that all night disco party and/or the challenge of the all-inclusive bar, then you’re better off heading on down 307 to either Playa or Cancun. An evening’s entertainment here in Puerto Morelos is a little more sedate, more laid back than in either of its not two distant neighbours.

It is a still a simple little town in many ways. The centre is the traditional tree lined plaza or square with the obligatory statute of Benito Juarez. Most of the stores and other business are on the streets that surround this square on three sides as is the simple but beautiful little church. The fourth side is the beach where fishing boats still bob at anchor in the evening after a long days work. Standing guard over them and the whole waterfront is the "new" light house, and unbelievably a small "fort" garrisoned by a hand full of Mexican soldiers right on the main street.

Just how sedate and laid back this place is can be found in their reaction to a plan to build a massive resort just to the south of the town in a mangrove swamp. Rather than welcome the project and the possible economic spin offs, they fought the developers off. Now there are no jet skis and noisy vacationers there, just the peace and tranquillity of the original swamp. A few years a storm tilted the original lighthouse on its side. The town did allow the Government to build a replacement, but balked at having the original torn down. It still stands or leans on the beach as a sort of town symbol.

Until a few years ago the only reason someone even came to Puerto Morelos aside from the residents, was to catch the car ferry to Cozumel. You can still catch the ferry here if you’re driving but be prepared for a wait. You’re better off leaving your car and taking the passenger ferry from Playa del Carmen. You won’t really need a car on Cozumel anyway. The ancient car ferry isn’t the first vessel to ply the waters between Cozumel and the mainland. The ancient Mayans used the island to conduct ceremonies on the island to honour Ix Chel the Goddess of childbirth and medicine. While they would set sail in their canoes farther south on the coast, the prevailing current ensured that they’d usually land where Puerto Morelos now stands on their return trip.

The town now boasts all the amenities that the tourist needs, while still maintaining that feeling of being in the real Mexico, not the manufactured tourist world. This makes it an ideal spot to use as a base while exploring the region including the Mayan ruins at Tulum, Cobe and Chichen Itza. If your interests are offshore, either fishing or diving, don’t worry there are facilities and people to assist you here too. There are a couple of travel agencies and tourist information booths in town, mostly around the main square who can help you with any of this.

Alternatively you can go talk to Goyo Morgan an American expatriate who has lived in Mexico for more than twenty-five years, mostly in the region. He runs special tours into the surrounding jungle and is an excellent source of local information and recommendations. Visit his Palapa office on Avenue Javier Rojo Gomez. Trust me you won’t be able to miss it.

There are four Casas de Cambios (money exchanges) and the rates are actually better than in Play del Carmen. There is also an ATM near the supermarket on the north side of the main square. Opposite this is the taxi stand. It’s easy to spot just look for the group of men in the park standing or sitting around gossiping and passing the time of day.

Need a special souvenir of your visit? Again there is no shortage of places to check out around the town. Of special mention is Arte Maya on the south east corner of the plaza. Here reproductions of Maya jewelry and other artifacts are made on the site. The stuff made here is in high demand in the better boutiques in Cancun. Naturally the prices are more favourable here than there.

There are no large resorts in the town, although a couple of medium to small beach front ones can be found a few miles to the north. There is no shortage of accommodation in town, usually of the smaller bed and breakfast variety. There is also no shortage of good and inexpensive places to eat around town. Again check Goyo, he’ll give you a list of his recommended favourites. Several also serve as bars where one can enjoy a pleasurable if sedate evening’s entertainment.

Puerto Morelos is the kind of place where you can sit back and let life pass by you for a little while at least. If that’s not a vacation then I don’t know what is,

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THE CHICELEROS………James Smith

Chiclets, chewing gum, it’s not something we put a lot of thought into. Like most consumer items, it’s just there at the store counter when we need it. Like a lot of other products nowadays it is made from artificial ingredients, but that was not always the case.

At one time the main component in chewing gum was chicle, a natural by product of the chicle plant or tree. One of the main sources of this tree was on the Caribbean side of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the territory of Quintana Roos. During the 1920’s and 1930’s there was a literal "chicle boom" in this region as American and other large companies literally invaded this region to harvest chicle to meet an ever growing consumer demand for chewing gum.

Quintana Roos at the time was a very different place then it is today. Now it is Mexico’s "Mayan Riviera" one of the premier resort destinations in the world. All the amenities and infrastructure for thousands of sun seekers are present. Modern highways, airports and expansive resorts line the coast inter spaced with the picturesque little coastal towns and villages.

In 1920 Quintana Roos was literally the untamed frontier. It wasn’t even a state but only a territory of Mexico. Spanish was a second language for the mainly Mayan population who resided here. Schools and other Government institutions were few and far between, and the Mayans were for the most part an agrarian society. A peace treaty between the Mayans and the Mexican Government was not signed until 1935, theoretically ending Mayan resistance to the invaders which had commenced with the arrival of the Spanish to the region in the 1500’s.

Into this wild and untamed region came the foreign companies seeking chicle. Work camps and villages complete with small houses, and stores were established to house the workers who would harvest the crop. Small narrow gauge railways were laid down to move the chicle from the interior to towns on the coast where it could be shipped to overseas factories.

Men were needed to harvest the chicle, and it was hard work in not the best of conditions. Isolated camps with few luxuries, long days of backbreaking labour, and to many a very inhospitable land and climate, meant that it was not the best career option open. This meant that the workers or "chicleros" as they became known were an interesting sort to say the least.

As can be expected, some of them were Mayans, who had traditionally harvested chicle for their own needs. Motivated by economic reasons and a change from farming in the traditional sense, they joined the "chicleros." In addition some Mayan women were also brought in to help run the camps as cooks and cleaners.

The main source of chicleros though was basically the unemployed and dregs from other parts of Mexico. Some who were running from the law, their pasts, something, and needed to lose themselves in the wilds of the Yucatan. Men looking for adventure and perhaps riches and just those, who needed a job, any job. Like the gold rushes of earlier times, they flocked to Quintana Roos and the chicle camps.

With such a grouping and the isolation and boredom of the camps there was of course problems. Drinking gambling fighting and the occasional killing were not uncommon. Added to this the cultural clashes between the Mayans and those from elsewhere.

Eventually the chicle boom ended. Advances in cheaper synthetic ingredients were one factor. Another was that between 1934 and 1940 the Mexican Government nationalized the majority of foreign owned business. The chicleros left to seek work elsewhere. The camps and railways were abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle. It would be almost four decades before a new industry brought prosperity to the region, tourism.

It is still possible to get a glimpse of what the life of a chiclero was like. Just off Highway 307 between Cancun Playa del Carmen and just south of Puerto Morelos is the Jardin Botanico, the botanical gardens. Here among the 150 acres of assorted plants local to the region, is a small recreation of a chiclero camp.

To the immediate west of Puerto Morelos can be found the overgrown remains of the narrow gauge railway used to bring the crop to the coast. Farther inland is one of the chiclero villages. Most of the small buildings lay abandoned and overgrown. However, several Mayan families have moved in and settled, or actually resettled as it is their land, here. Both of these can be seen on the Goyo’s custom Jungle Adventure Tours available from Puerto Morelos (www.goyosjungle.com).

Recently there have been plans made by some local entrepreneurs to reestablish the chicle industry in the area on a small scale. Setting up a cottage industry to provide a natural alternative to synthetic gum is viable business. Perhaps someday in the future the chicleros will once again be active in the jungles of Quintana Roos.

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TULUM, MAYAN RUINS ON THE MEXICAN RIVIERA………James Smith

There is a brief moment when the group of tourists wanders out of the viewfinder. For a few seconds the ancient Castillo looks as it must have to the Mayans, impressive and imposing on the cliff overlooking the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The image is fleeting as another group of tourists following their guide wanders into view and the spell is broken. I quickly press the shutter before it is.

This is Tulum the ancient Mayan Ruins in the Mexican state of Quintano Roo. Located on a cliff overlooking the sea about a two-hour drive south from Cancun, Tulum is not the largest of the Mayan archaeological sites in the region nor perhaps even the most important. However, it’s location overlooking the Caribbean makes’ it perhaps the most impressive, and the most visited site.

Tulum it is believed was first occupied around 1200 AD. Construction and improvements continued until well after the Spanish first arrived in the area in 1518. A fresco in one of the buildings plainly shows a Mayan God standing beside a horse. Horses are not native to the region and were imported by the Spanish. The site appears to have been part of a series of watch towers and/or fortifications along the coast to protect the Mayans. The word Tulum in fact means wall in Mayan.

The original inhabitants did not submit meekly to the Spanish newcomers. In fact the local Indians continued to rebel against the Mexican Government until early in the twentieth century. Throughout the nineteenth century a protracted guerrilla war was conducted in Quintano Roo by a Mayan tribe the Chan Santa Cruz to try and keep the area independent. Their main centre was the town of Tulum. The Chan Santa Cruz eventually surrendered and signed a peace treaty with the Mexican Government in 1935.

The present site is an open rectangular field 380 metres in length by 165 wide. Walls three to five metres in height, and for the most part still intact, surround three sides, pierced by five gates. The fourth side is protected by the cliff face and the sea. The main entrance is through the eastern gate, and the others are closed with chains. Inside sixty odd buildings, temples, alters and other structures are scattered about. The remains of several roads connecting the gates can also be seen.

The most impressive structure is El Castillo. It is located almost directly in the centre of the site. It is a large limestone pyramid that overlooks the cliff face, and is surrounded by a couple of smaller temples and a courtyard. It immediately draws visitors to it like a magnet. While you are not allowed to climb the main staircase, you can get close enough to examine the elaborate workmanship.

The Castillo is not the only structure worth seeing. Immediately to the east of it, is the Gran Palacio, or rather the remains of it with its massive columns still proudly reaching skyward. Near this is the Temple of the Frescos, which contains the majority of these preserved intricate works of art. Several other smaller structures both large and small are also found in this immediate area.

Far to the south near the perimeter wall is the solitary Temple of the Sea. The view northward from here of the coast with El Castillo framing it is spectacular. The view from the Temple of the Wind God, perhaps the most visited structure after the Castillo is also breathtaking. Looking southward, one can see the small beach nestled between the cliffs and the Castillo looming above it. Don’t miss the three miniature replicas of temples at the base of this structure.

Also worth the climb are two structures on the northern wall. At the eastern corner is a small building referred to as the watch tower. It doesn’t appear to have been used as a defensive building, but for some ceremonial purposes. There is a small altar inside worth a closer look. The small slit window provides a great panoramic view of the whole site and is a good vantage point for pictures. Midway along the wall is one of the gates or entrances, partially overgrown. There is a chain across the gate to prevent entrance, but it is possible to look through, the narrow passage and get an impression of how the original inhabitants came and went.

At the North East corner is a large temple on a hill. Don’t miss exploring the cavern underneath, where a Cenote, a natural pool can be found. The name of this particular Cenote is the well of sacrifice. That gives you an idea of what the altar in the temple above might have been used for. If you’re careful, you can move to the cliff edge here for a spectacular look at the surf pounding on the rocks far below.

There is a small inlet between the hills on which El Castillo and the Temple of the Wind God are perched on. Here there is a small but inviting beach. The sand is whiter than any found at the resorts farther north, and the water clearer and more refreshing. It is the perfect place to take a break and a quick dip after touring the ruins.

The grounds here are not overgrown like those at the ruins of nearby Coba, so shorts are ok. Good walking shows are essential though, especially if you plan on climbing those buildings that allow it. The sun is quite bright, so a hat, sun screen and water are also essential. A bathing suit and a towel for a quick dip in the sea after are also a good idea. Naturally bring plenty of film.

Tulum is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.. Admission to the site at the time of writing is 30 Pesos ($3.00 US), with a further 30 Peso charge for video cameras. The site is located about a ten minute walk along a path from the visitor centre which is just off Highway 307. There is a small shuttle that runs between the site and visitor centre for those who don’t feel like walking.

There are several multi lingual guides available at the entrance for those not part of an organized tour group. A guided tour of the site usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour. A guide is not really necessary though as all the major buildings have signage in English, Spanish and Mayan. Good guidebooks are also available in the visitor centre.

The visitor centre contains a couple of money exchanges (the rates are much worse than in either Cancun or Playa del Carmen.), Washrooms and several restaurants and snack bars. There are also several souvenir and gift shops, selling replicas of Mayan Art, colourful blankets and hammocks and a variety of other items. A quick tip, there are several similar places on the side of Highway 307 on the way south to Tulum. The prices at these road side stands are much better than at the visitor centre. Several Mayans in traditional costumes can be found about the visitor centre and will pose for pictures with tourists for a small tip.

The best time to visit Tulum is early in the morning before the tourist buses from Cancun arrive. It is still cool and one can appreciate the grounds without the crowds. It is also the best chance to get pictures of the ruins without anyone in them. If you can’t make it first thing in the morning, then wait until later in the day, when the crowds have departed.

Alternately there is a gap around noon when the groups from Cancun have either departed or headed to the beach, and the groups from the cruise ships from Cozumel have yet to arrive. After visiting the site, if you have time, a quick trip to the present day village of Tulum is also recommended. Here you will find several small restaurants perfect for a late lunch or early supper before heading home.

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