December 23, 2004

Going to Cancun? Take time for Tulum

I got an email recently from Beth, who was getting ready for a Caribbean cruise. Embarking in New Orleans, she'd sail south and visit Cancun, Cozumel, Belize and Roatan, Honduras. A perfect blend of sun-soaked partying and cultural exploration. In Cancun, the cruisers would be offered an excursion to Tulum, an archaeological jewel of the Yucatan peninsula. If you're in Cancun, hop a bus, rent a car, hire a driver, and make the 130-kilometer trip to this Mayan ruin that sits on a bluff high above the sea.

The tentacles of development now reach far beyond Cancun's beaches and boundaries, but the Yucatan's Mayan ruins still offer an enriching experience somewhat removed from the touristic madness. (Go early. You'll have the sites to yourself while everyone else is sleeping off their hangovers.)

We were on the road in our rented VW by seven and were clambering around silent Tulum when it opened. The early start gave us time to visit majestic Chichen Itza the same day. By the time Chichen Itza began to fill with sunburnt tourists, we were headed back to Cancun for happy hour. We stopped at La Posada del Capitan Lafitte, not far from Tulum, and vowed that we'd stay at this low-rise, low-key paradise if we ever returned to the Riviera Maya.

If you visit Cancun, take time to visit the rich history just down the road. Tulum is easily accessible, and you'll congratulate yourself for adding some culture to your Caribbean holiday. Plus, your liver will likely need a rest, anyway. How many umbrella drinks can one person drink in a day? (Never mind. Don't answer that...)

(A special thanks to Beth for purchasing a copy of Ribbons of Highway for the West Bridgewater, Massachusetts public library. I hope townspeople enjoy the journey.)