Let me take you on a mini tour of my next destination over this holiday break! But before we dive in, I should mention that this is a surprise for my kids, so if you see them: mum’s the word.
It’s been a chilly winter in Chicago and we aren’t even halfway done. So when my husband, Joe, exclaimed that he needed an escape to somewhere warm, I sprang into action to book a family trip. Some place balmy, preferably on the beach (the ocean is my happy place), and somewhere full of adventure and history, which our kids find fascinating.
The perfect location? Tulum, Mexico.
Tulum is the exact combination of all of these elements. This relaxed, coastal town is surrounded by lush jungle, dotted with Mayan ruins and dazzling Cenotes. And, after a full day of exploration, we can all enjoy a swim in the crystal blue ocean.
Here are our travel plans:
The beauty of Tulum (other than the beaches and jungles) is in the fact that the hotels along the coast are small, eco-friendly lodging options that contrast the enormous resorts of other coastal Mexican destinations. La Zebra is one of these, a boutique hotel with only 29 rooms available and a long private beach for the hotel guests. I also love the fact that they offer private plunge pools, allowing us a space to come back and relax as a family after a long day out.
La Zebra is close to downtown Tulum, where we plan to go to experience the laid back nature of the town and friendliness of the people first hand. I have also read that the shopping is great, ranging from the usual touristy gifts to beautiful hand crafted goods (which we all know I love). All this, plus locally owned restaurants with food made from fresh ingredients, will have downtown Tulum calling our names day after day.
Read more about this incredible hotel here: www.lazebratulum.com
When we get tired of idly lounging on the beach, there are plenty of places to explore around Tulum. The highlights of our trip are going to be transporting ourselves through time while visiting some Mayan ruins, plunging into the pure waters of some hidden Cenotes, and petting a few wild monkeys.
The day I think my kids will most love is when we take a tour of the ruins of Coba. If you know my son, Sam, then you know he is a travel and history buff, so he definitely will be in ancient history heaven. Coba was a remote city, inhabited by the Mayans from 100 AD up until the Conquista in 1550 AD.
Ellie, with her boundless energy, will be so excited to climb Ixmoja,the 120-stair pyramid in the center of the city, and see the jungle below her. Have you ever seen the Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto? If you have, then you know what I will be envisioning on top of the Mayan pyramid. Ugh.
If we don’t get our fill of ruins from Coba, our hotel is close enough to bike ride to a Mayan castle that has been walled off from civilization for centuries. The prize of biking there and hiking the ruins? A small, quiet shoreline, perfect for a post-exploration swim (see the first photo for proof).
Everything I’ve read about Tulum says that no visit is complete without a trip to the famous Cenotes. Imagine walking through a hidden cave until you suddenly reach and underground sink hole, filled with crystal clear water. Now add to this image: pockets of sunlight streaming in from breaks in the trees above and underwater rock formations, perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling.
There is no shortage of these natural wonders around Tulum, even a few close enough to our hotel to bike to! Plus, after a hot day full of exploring, the idea of taking a dip in the cool shade of the Cenotes sounds idealistic.
On one of our final days, we will visit Punta Laguna. This wildlife, reserve housed on enormous government protected land, is home to over 600 spider monkeys and a community of Mayan families. These families own and operate the reserve’s tourism, and this helps to sustain their village. The harmony is supposed to be incredible.
While the monkeys are the main attraction, other animals such as pumas, deer, coati, and crocodiles live there as well (I am more excited about the monkeys than the crocodiles). We plan to hire a local guide to help us explore and provide the best opportunities for wildlife viewing. And after we have had our share of monkeys (although I don’t know if that is possible) we can zipline over the property and off into the sunset…