We started the day at a bright and early 5:30, got dressed, packed a backpack of gear and headed to the lobby to be picked up by a taxi for our tour for the day. This tour was on the mainland by a company called ‘Xtreme tours’ which meant that we needed to take a taxi to the ferry, a ferry to the mainland, and a van picked us up from the terminal to drive us to the facility. Thankfully the hotel organized all of our transportation to and from the mainland for just a bit more than it would have cost on its own.
Everything went very smoothly that morning, but there was very little opportunity to get breakfast, which was not included in the package. I had a banana with my vitamins but was very hungry by lunchtime. The service by the tour employees was phenomenal from start to finish. We did the tour option which included snorkeling in the sinkhole or ‘cenote’, ATVing on a trail around the area, and visiting Tulum, a Mayan monument that is in terrific shape.
While our tour had three activities there was no ‘set’ order for the three. Personally, I think it would have been best to have Tulum first, ATVing second, and swimming last. However, our group did these activities in exactly the opposite order. For swimming in the cenote which is an underground river, I recommend bringing a swimsuit separate to your outfit (there is a changing area), a towel, and, if you have it, a mask and snorkel for yourself, if not they will be provided they just may not fit as well. The tour has you wear an inflatable life jacket regardless of your swimming skills which makes it easier to float on the surface but they are prison orange which made them undesirable. We snorkeled for about 30 minutes. Another important note is that the water is cold, the tour guide said it was 23 degrees Celsius which is 73 degrees Fahrenheit but I find that questionable. The water sucks the heat out of you and so by the end I was shivering quite a bit. Of note: you may not wear sunscreen or bug spray when swimming in the cenote, it damages the pH of the water which needs to be maintained for continued development of the geological wonders such as the stalactites. I would recommend not wearing these in the ocean either as they can damage the delicate reefs. We dried off and had an opportunity to change back into street clothes before going ATVing. I would suggest putting your hair in a low ponytail or braid because you will be wearing a helmet, and if you go in December as we did I strongly recommend pants, both for the breeze, and because the ATVs blow hot air on your calves the entire ride. While it is not specifically unpleasant I think it might have hurt were it just my skin protecting me. For riding the ATVs we wore hair covers and helmets and all of the ATVs were fully automatic. They provided insurance for $15 per single-person ATV which covered any damage that might occur, I would recommend it because it makes the ride more stress-free and enjoyable and the price is very reasonable. One person attempted to drift their ATV, a no-no, and flipped it that was in our group. Because they had insurance it was no big deal and they only had a couple of scratches. The ride was about fifty minutes and had both easy and moderate track, the fastest I got up to was about 30km/hr. They do have a mechanism in place that prevents you from going any faster than that.
Following this, we had a delicious lunch of fire-roasted chicken, Mexican rice, beans, guacamole, and a variety of other options. All of the food was quite good, though not quite as impressive as some of the local food in the restaurants we went to. We then packed up and got into the vans to go to Tulum. The tour guides provided us with our tickets and two bracelets that would allow us to move about the park freely and ride the trolley to and from the shopping center at the entrance and the archaeological site. We spent a total of two hours at Tulum, one hour was spent with a tour guide at the site and one hour was free for us to do as we pleased. There is plenty to do at Tulum so you will have no problem filling your time. While the Xtreme tours employees were phenomenal from start to finish the tour guide at the Tulum archaeological site was subpar. He would only stay with us for 45 minutes and rushed through a scripted schpiel about the site. While it was informative it was not engaging or enjoyable, I’ve had more fun listening to a geologist talking about rocks. We spent our free time walking around the site and taking photos, there were dozens of iguanas all of which were on the inside of the roped off area and many of which had found sunning spots on the ruins. Just past the main temple to the East is the Caribbean Sea which is beach accessible and a popular swimming spot. In the shopping area to the East next to the entrance, there are lots of photo opportunities, when we were there several Mexican men were performing a traditional water and fertility ritual in which the men climb a pole, wrap ropes around it and themselves and then spin upside down from the top back to the bottom. There were also several people dressed in makeup and costume to look like Mayan drawings and several statues and walls that would make beautiful backgrounds. Keep in mind that if you are taking photos of a person it is polite to tip one to two dollars which are 20-40 pesos. There were also chocolates, a tequila vault, and several places to buy souvenirs, some more unique than others.
On our way back from the tour we stopped at the Los Rancheros Muelle in Playa Del Carmen on our way to the ferry because we had about 50 minutes before departure and we were all quite hungry. The food was delicious and the presentation was very impressive. All of our cocktails were massive and the waiter brought one of them balanced on his head. He then poured us each a shot of expensive tequila for our tequila sunrises and poured it in, he offered us each a double but we declined knowing that we would be getting on a ferry in a few short minutes. We ordered several appetizers including guacamole, quesadillas, and calamari, all of which were delicious. Our waiter also made our guacamole in front of us, which was wonderful. The staff were conscientious of the fact that we were burning time before the ferry and got our food to us quickly and got our bill paid prior to us finishing so that we could leave when we needed to.
The sea was choppy on the way back and though the ferries are catamarans I did feel somewhat motion sick. I would recommend to anyone that easily gets motion sick taking a Dramamine prior to boarding. We went back to the room and immediately collapsed into our beds.
Overall, today was a spectacular addition to our trip.