Has you know Tulum is famous for its Beaches, Ruins and Cenotes, but there is more than meets the eye. In this region is possible and easy to go off the beaten track, and avoid crowded, noisy, and expensive places.One of those place is just 8km south of Tulum, a lake called Laguna Kaan Luum.Unfortunately is not the easiest place to reach if you don’t have your own tranpost, but it’s possible. You need to catch a colectivo from Tulum in direction to Felipe Carrillo but not many collectivo’s head south so you need to be patient an wait.The colectivo will go past the main entrance and you can walk from there 500 meters through the jungle to a little shack where you by the ticket/bracelet (50$Mexican pesos).
As we always do, we went early in the morning and the place was practically empty. The area is totally undeveloped, with just a thatched hut, and a wooden jetty leading into the water.
There is no beach or grassy area to lay on so plan on putting your stuff on the dock and jumping in, because can be a bit muddy around.
There is one dock that jets out in to the lagoon’s beautiful greeny turquoise coloured water where you can see small fishes swimming around.
The other wooden walkway leads to a palapa building. That’s the only place with a good the seat down, relax and have a picnic, If you plan to stay longer you need to bring your own food and drinks.
In the center of the lake there is a darker area, that is a deep cenote, off limits for swimmers. The cenote is 85 meters (262ft) deep. You can tell the color contrast between the center of the lagoon and the sides. If you are a scuba diver you are allowed to go in the cenote area, and it’s 150 pesos. The lake itself is surrounded on all sides by jungle and mangroves, and the water is fairly clear with a slight green turquoise color.
We spent a few hours, jumping, swimming and having fun in the water, that is knee to shoulder depth.
Around 12:00 the place started to receive more people, and for what some locals told us this is a very popular place during weekends. So if you prefer a more relaxed and quiet atmosphere try to visit the lake during the week.
It’s harder to get a colectivo back toward Tulum, but you have always the option of hitch-hiking.
Xcacel is a stunning turtle sanctuary and also home to an amazing cenote with nothing else nearby just nature.
From Tulum we caught the collectivo that goes in direction to Playa Del Carmen and left in Xcacel (30$ Mexican pesos). To enter and visit the park they ask only for a donation.
The park is amazingly beautiful and very clean, and if you go early in the morning is tranquil and very peaceful, away from Playa del Carmen or Tulum’s noise.
We went first to the cenote (X’cacelito), that is the most popular part of the park while was still empty, and was so so good, we spent hours in the water amazed with it’s beauty.
The Cenote is connected to the beach by a well kept sand road surrounded by jungle.
Later on we went for a walk through the path in the jungle parallel to the beach till the end of the park and walked back thought the beach.
The north end doesn’t have sand just rocks, and it’s always calmer and good for snorkeling.
We didn’t spend much time on the beach, because there’s little shade, if you can take an umbrella with you 🙂 The sand is white and the water has different shades of blue, but since 2014 Mexico is facing problems with excessive seaweed (sargassum) washing ashore. For these reason the beach doesn’t have the ‘idilic Caribbean look’.
The park was full of signs alerting for turtle nests, from April to October, the turtles make their journey to nest along the Xcacel beach, please respect the signs.
Because the turtles lay their eggs down in this beach nobody is allowed to build resorts, hotels, palapas, restaurants or something like that in this place.
While time passes more people arrives and some tour vans, but it’s still a very quiet place by local standards.
Later in the day we decided to go to the cenote again, but there was a big queue to go in. So try to go as early as possible and straight away to the cenote.
Bring your own beverages and food, be mindful of others, and pick up your trash in the end 🙂 they have some great shaded picnic area next to the beach, enroute to the Cenote.
We returned to Tulum by colectivo. The park closes at 5pm.
If you’re backpacking or traveling on a budget it’s probable that you’ll stay in town 3 miles from the beach… What is absolutely fine, first there’s cheaper accommodation in town, lots of shops, restaurantes, bars, supermarkets, markets, banks, pharmacies, etc. so not that bad at all, plus renting a bike is easy and cheap 🙂
Lots of places in town rent bicycles and it’s a great way to move around. Going to the beach it’s quite easy, from town you go always straight through a cycling path, till you reach a roundabout, where the police station is located. If you head right (north) you have the public beaches plus the ruins at the end.
Bare in mind that most visitors remain on the beaches located right in front of the Tulum Ruins, so move further south and you will find some pristine beaches.
At least from my experience this side has the nicest stretch of beach in all of Tulum, because they are bigger, the water was cristal clean and the sand white, in position of the few public beaches that you can find in between the hotels in the south stretch that are tiny, difficult to find and unlucky were full of seaweed.
If you head left (south) you have 10 miles of private beaches called ‘zona hoteleira‘ (hotel zone) there are a few public beaches in between the private ones, but they are super small. To be true this area is hotel after hotel after hotel, what is actually a bit overwhelming. The beaches are ok but unfortunately there was heaps of seaweed that had just washed in a couple of days ago.
You also have the option of ‘using’ the beach of one of the hotels, some charge a fee in order to access the beach or is mandatory to have drink or a meal at their restaurant. If you are looking for some extra-confort this ones are definitely the best option, because you can use the sun beds and umbrellas.
Tulum itself is nothing special, but it’s brilliantly well located, and there is plenty to see and do around.
Tulum has great places to eat and sleep. But is quite touristic and the main streets are packed with restaurants, souvenir shops, bars and cafes. Still nothing like Cancun at all, but is still a holiday destination. Plus is easily reachable from Cancun for day trippers, which keeps the place busy and the prices up.
My first recommendation is to rent a bike, so you can visit the closest sights yourself. Renting a bicycle costs around 80MX$ ($4.50). If you’re backpacking, chances are you’re staying in a hostel in town 3 miles from the hotels near the beach. Tulum is flat, and cycling is a great way to move around.
We cycle to the Tulum Ruins (70MX$), and they truly are something special, mostly because of it’s location right next to gorgeous turquoise-blue waters. The combination of the coast line, palm trees and ruins is just amazing. So is not much for the ruins itself, that are quite modest scale and not as beautifully designed as others but it’s location.
The two entrances to the ‘city’ (ruins) are small tunnels cut into the wall. The three major structures of interest here are El Castillo, The Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God.
We strolled through the ruins without a guide, but we had a guidebook to take us through the history. We went early in the morning to avoid the tours.
The two surrounded tiny beaches are amazing but just as scenery … personally a tiny crowded beach is not my cup of tea. While I don’t recommend going to the beach I do highly recommend comfortable shoes, water, hat and plenty of sun cream because there’sno shades.
To complete the day we cycled back from the ruins and visited a couple of public beaches, they were all amazing but no shadows.