wife, Meg, and I flew from Houston to Cancun via Sun
Country, arriving around 3:00. This was the first time
we had ever flown this particular airline, but we couldn't
pass up the $150 RT fare. Normally, we fly down via
Continental. No problems, and customs went very quickly
as usual. We picked up a Volkswagen bug at Thrifty,
and started our drive down to Tulum.
As per information received from various sources, we
decided to go to an ATM in Playa del Carmen to get our
pesos. We stopped at the Banamex bank, and after figuring
out their ATM system, we were able to get the N$1000
pesos we wanted at that time. The charge from my bank
will be $2.00US for utilizing someone else's ATM machine,
plus whatever the current exchange rate was at that
time, which was about 8.4 pesos per dollar.
After passing the Tulum ruins, but before we reached
the pueblo, we turned left on the Tulum-Coba road, and
drove a couple of kilometers, where we then headed south
for our first night at Zamas cabanas. One out-of-place
sign at the crossroad was for the "Internet Cafe". Here
we are, basically in the jungle, miles from Playa del
Carmen, and we see that they have directions to the
"Internet Cafe" in the Tulum pueblo. Pretty amazing...
Our main reason for this trip was to get video footage
for my wife's new company, and the Tulum area is the
first location that will be offered. The web address
is listed at the bottom. So we decided to stay at a
few different locations to get as much footage as possible.
As we have three kids, ages 6 to 14, we could only be
away for a short period.
As was stated above, our first night was spent at Zamas,
which is located on the Boca Paila road that leads south
from the Tulum ruins. It is between the Piedras Escondida
and Osho resorts.
According to the information we had on Zamas it was
supposed to have a very good beach. Well..., that wasn't
really the case. The beach was VERY rocky, and full
of a lot of seaweed. Now, that doesn't mean that it
wasn't a nice place to be--it's just that it didn't
have a good beach. The Zamas cabanas were pretty rustic,
but clean; and the bathroom even had running hot water,
though the pressure was low. The restaurant, Que Fresco,
was okay, and we ate dinner and breakfast there the
next morning. The cost was $65.00US per night. Not too
bad, but it really would have helped to have a good
beach (which is a major prerequisite for Meg.)
next day, Monday, after eating breakfast, we checked
out, and got some more video footage of the general
vicinity. We then drove down to the Las Ranitas resort,
which means 'little frogs'. This is located about 9k
south on the Boca Paila road. Note that this is much
further down than either Ana y Jose or Cabanas Tulum,
which in the past have generally been at the end of
Las Ranitas was originally the vacation home of a French
family, but it has grown up to be a full-fledged resort.
We spoke with Manuel, who was very helpful in our filming
by letting us into the different types of rooms they
had there. The resort has very nice landscaping, a pretty
good beach (which was nearly deserted), very nice rooms
(no matter what the size or style), and a decent restaurant.
This place opened in December, 1997. It is a joint venture
between the French family and Ana y Jose's. Since Ana
y Jose's was booked solid the whole time we were there,
we ended up staying at Las Ranitas for two nights. We
ate dinner there on Monday and Tuesday nights.
There are two gentlemen who seem to run both Las Ranitas
and Ana y Jose, one of whom is Paul, and the other whose
name I can't remember at this time. There were French
and Spanish (I don't know if this was Mexican Spanish
or Spain Spanish) visitors besides ourselves--i.e.,
we were the only norteamericanos.
Our room was $120US per night. This is not your standard
Tulum-road cabana resort. I predict that within the
next 3-5 years this place will be to Tulum what Shangri-La
is to the Playa del Carmen area. Recommended.
We spent the afternoon at the beach, which at the time
was pretty windy; but it was warm so it all evened out.
drove up to Ana y Jose's and ate breakfast at their
restaurant. We both had very good meals, and Meg really
liked the sand floor of the restaurant. The last time
we had eaten at a sand-floor restaurant was when we
were in Xcalak back in '93 and ate at Adolfo's. We then
filmed the inside of some rooms at Ana y Jose's and
outside at the resort next door--Cabanas Tulum. Both
places seemed to be fairly decent. I believe standard
room prices were $50 - $60US.
After filming at Ana y Jose's and Cabanas Tulum, we
drove up the dirt road to Don Armando's Cabanas. The
turn-off doesn't say that's where you are, but the next
one up is El Mirador, and that is the last resort before
the ruins. We drove up the sand path to the restaurant
and parked there. There were a number of taxis waiting
there for the visitors who did not want to hitch-hike
back to their cabanas or where they were staying.
Once you walk past the restaurant, it opens out to a
very large beach area. The cabanas at Don Armando's
are each named after some location there on the coast,
such as "Isla Mujeres" or "Playa del Carmen". I guess
that is easier to read than just a small identifying
number. It takes a few minutes to walk past the cabanas
because of all of the sand dunes that surround the area.
We did not film the inside of these cabanas, but did
get plenty of photos and video of the outside, and associated
The beach was wide open, and there seemed to be more
people here than at any of the other beaches that we
had visited to this point. South of the beach at Don
Armando's were a number of RV's. Most of the people
there seemed to be in their 20's, and then up. There
were no children present while we were there, which
was different from all of the other beaches we had visited.
There were about half a dozen or so who had decided
to take full advantage of the clothing-optional aspect
of this particular area. Meg and I ended up setting
down our beach towels closer to the north end of the
beach near El Mirador. You could see the Tulum ruins
from our spot on the beach.
The military helicopter (an old Huey) flew by 3 or 4
times during the 2 hours which we were present. In fact,
it seemed to fly the whole Punta Bete - Tulum corridor
4 or 5 times every day. Neither Meg nor I remembered
it being that way when we were there in July, 97.
We left around 2:30 in the afternoon to go back to Las
Ranitas (you'd be amazed at how long it takes to drive
7 or 8 kilometers along that road) because we had run
out of Hi8 video and 35mm film.
After getting everything we needed, we drove back up
the road, and this time turned right up the path which
leads to El Mirador, which is the last cabana resort
before you reach the ruins. We parked our car there,
next to the restaurant, and then walked the 1/2 kilometer
past the road-block to the ruins. We purchased our admission
ticket, and our permission slip to use the video camera.
Each admission was N$14, and it cost N$30 to bring in
the video camera.
Both Meg and I really enjoyed our visit at the ruins.
We had read that it was best to get there either very
early in the morning, or around 4:00 in the afternoon
to avoid the tourist buses from Cancun. We actually
arrived at about 4:15, and it was starting to clear
out pretty well around that time.
We decided that we will bring a picnic basket this summer
when we bring the kids, and eat at the little beach
between a couple of the ruins. It was very pretty there,
very informative, and was worth the time and effort.
That evening we ate dinner at Las Ranitas, and the food
was better than the night before. The flan was very
decided to get up and check out early, because we were
going to visit the ruins at Coba, and then head up to
Playa del Carmen for our last day. We wanted to beat
the crowds but ran behind a little from our original
plan. We decided to eat breakfast again at Ana y Jose's,
and enjoyed that meal once again.
We picked up a Mayan woman in traditional clothing and
her daughter or granddaughter, who had waved us down
for a ride. We don't know a lot of Spanish, but found
out that their names were Soledad and Isabella, and
that they were wanting a ride to the Tulum pueblo, which
was about 7 or 8 kilometers away. After we dropped them
off, we started up the Coba road. From Tulum, it is
47 kilometers. I had meant to get gasoline, but forgot,
and hoped that I wouldn't run out on the way back to
Tulum. We didn't, of course. I've just never gotten
used to the kilometer-miles ratio difference.
We arrived in Coba before all the buses and decided
not to hire a guide for the Coba site since we were
really in a hurry to get up to Playa. Once you purchase
your ticket, it is about a 2 kilometer walk up to the
big ruins. Well, guess what--they had archaeological
digs going on in a number of places, and they don't
let you climb to the top like you have been able to
in the recent past. Bummer. Oh, well, it was still interesting.
On the walk back along the path, we were met by a little
Mayan girl of about 3 or 4 years old, who was begging
for pesos. Except for her skin and hair color, she looked
just like the little kid in that one Mad Max movie with
Mel Gibson. Her older sister was in the woods somewhere
but we couldn't see her. Meg had our keys on a chain
around her neck. They fascinated the little girl and
she forgot what she was there for. She just wanted to
see the keys. I could kick myself for not having taken
a picture of that incident.
We both needed to use the bathroom before we left and
they had men's and women's banos behind the admission
building. It cost a peso for each of us to use, but
it was worth it.
On the road back to Tulum, we counted no less than 11
tour buses headed towards Coba. Good timing. We figure
that if you get to Coba by 9:30 or 10:00am, you'll do
We filled up at the Pemex just north of the Tulum-Coba
road and 307, and headed up to Playa del Carmen. They
were working on the roads a lot around Playacar, and
so it made for some slow going since there weren't any
remaining shoulders. We arrived at Shangri-La right
at about 1:00pm.
Since we couldn't check-in for another hour or so, we
went ahead and got our towels from registration and
headed toward the beach, which seemed to be nearly deserted
of sunbathers. As happens sometimes, the clouds filled
up the sky so there was not much sun to be gotten at
that time. We checked into our room and filmed it and
the surrounding area. By the time we had had our afternoon
snack of things in our Tupperware container brought
from home (remind me some time to tell you a related
story about bringing food to the Quintana-Roo coast
without proper storage containers), the sun had come
out full force, so it was back to the beach.
After a couple of hours, we walked down to Playa along
the beach. They were building a very large resort hotel
at the punta just north of the Blue Parrot Inn when
we were there in July. Well, that resort is now finished,
and it actually looks very nice. However, the beach
on which it sits it full of rocks. I guess they figure
that people will go use the beaches elsewhere. The area
just to the north of that punta was very dirty, and
there was a lot of broken glass in the sand. It was
not like this back in July. Oh, well, so much for progress.
After spending a little bit of time window-shopping,
and a Cristal Grape-fruit soda (I'm hooked on those
things), we walked back to Shangri-La, our home away
from home. Dinner that evening was very good, and it
was nice that a few of the staff remembered us from
our visit back in the summer.
The clientele was very different this time. We were
the only Americans that we saw when we were there in
July, as it was mostly French, German and Italian. This
time, there were a lot of well-off Americans, mostly
aged 50+, and there were a lot of 20-ish single Germans.
Obviously, there were others that fit into other categories,
but this was our main impression.
breakfast at the restaurant, we got in some more sun
time at the beach. Today, the beach was pretty full.
Meg went to the management office, and was able to get
into some other rooms for filming. I was also able to
get film of the new north section of Shangri-La.
We checked out at 12:30, and headed back up to the airport.
About 10 kilometers before we got there, I found that
I had turista. Fortunately, I had gone to the doctor
before we left, and he prescribed for me some new anti-biotic
for turista that does not make you sun-sensitive. I
popped one as soon as we got to the airport after we
turned in the car, which turned out to have some scratches
on it that wasn't there before we rented it. That cost
me N$500 pesos, which AMEX should cover since it was
on my personal card. I'll let everyone know how that
Our Sun Country flight left early, and we had an uneventful
flight back to Houston. We were going to stay with friends
that night (we live in Louisville, KY), but our daughter,
Olivia, was in a spelling bee on Friday, and Meg wanted
to attend the contest in case she won. Meg got a ticket
on Continental back that night. Good thing to, since
Olivia won the whole thing for her district!
All in all, a very good trip--always too short, as usual.
We'll be back with the kids in June or July to get film
of the family and kid oriented places along the Mayan