TULUM, Mexico — The all-inclusive Cancun resorts are not known for topless women on the beach or Argentinians with scraggly beards playing Gypsy music. That’s the norm in Tulum, however, a Mexican seaside spot south of Cancun that attracts a mix of bohemians, well-pocketed New Age types and sun-seekers to its turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.
Despite its proximity to Cancun and its fellow party neighbor Playa del Carmen, Tulum is not for the same spring-break crowd.
“The college kids go to Cancun. The professors and teacher assistants come to Tulum,” said Richard Contreras, whose family has managed properties in Tulum for nearly a decade.
That doesn’t mean Tulum is cheap. We couldn’t find a room on the beach for less than $150 a night that came with a bathroom. Meals nearby cost just as much as they do in my hometown of Seattle.
“Tulum is luxury, but the luxury here is nature and the beach,” said Mimi Contreras, Richard’s sister.
Our trip was a five-day sun-seeking dash in the first week of January, during the area’s high season, which stretches from winter through spring break.
Tulum, located on Mexico’s lush green Yucatan Peninsula, was an ideal destination. The weather was perfect. The bright sunshine was rarely obscured by fast traveling clouds.
December and January are among the driest months on the Yucatan Peninsula and offer hot weather, but no debilitating heat. The dayside highs in our trip were in the mid-80s. The night skies were full of stars.
Tulum is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Cancun and the highway connecting both is well-paved. We flew into Cancun, rented a car ($25 a day plus insurance from Hertz) and made the drive late at night. It went smoothly and we hit no traffic, but watch out for speed bumps scattered around the area and pedestrians crossing the highway in some spots.