There’s more to Mexico than just Cancun, and there’s more to the Riviera Maya than Playa del Carmen. At the other end of Quintana Roo lies the hidden gem of Tulum. This destination is home to the third-most-visited archaeological site in Mexico. Tulum’s Mayan ruins, coupled with the destination’s beaches and a plethora of cenotes (underwater caves), make it one of the most aesthetically pleasing spots in Mexico.
Poolside at Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa.
With news of ongoing refurbishments and a new airport, which is expected to open there between 2009 and 2010, Tulum could be your biggest Mexico sell within a year or two.
“This used to be hippy land, a place for backpackers to hang out and they would stay at some hut,” says Terry McCabe of Altour Travel, a member of Signature Travel Network. “But I think it’s getting on everyone’s radar now.”
Because the Riviera Maya Tourism Board doesn’t break down statistics by specific destinations in the region, only general numbers on the Riviera Maya as a whole are available. But needless to say, Tulum has seen a chunk of the increase.
“Tulum, like the rest of the Riviera Maya, has been growing over the past five years from small hostels to magnificent five-star resorts located along the coastal area,” says Javier Aranda Pedrero, director of the Riviera Maya Tourism Board. “Like Playa del Carmen a few years ago, many Europeans, Argentinians and young dreamers moved to Tulum to open intimate gourmet restaurants, boutiques and other small businesses.
“Every day you can find extraordinary places similar to those on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Just minutes from the town of Tulum, you have some of the most extraordinary archaeological sites of the ancient Maya civilization, as well as the largest protected area of Sian Ka’an and the largest inlet and natural aquarium of our country, Xel-Ha, which make this area unique.”
Dos Palmas features a Mayan Ceremonial Night, wherein the community offers visitors an experience in the heart of the Riviera Maya jungle as they take part in ancient Mayan rituals at the temazcal (sweat lodge). This is great for your eco-friendly clients. It maintains a commitment to ecotourism and ensures that guests experience the traditions and customs of ancient tribes in their natural environment while supporting the communities and preserving their existence for generations to come.
Mayan Archaeological Sites and Ruins
Experience Mayan culture at the sites and ruins of Tulum. The well-preserved walls, temples, foundations and other structures were built by the Mayans out of rock, circa 1200 to 1500 A.D., and are set on a cliff right next to the beach.
Xel-Ha theme park has the most spectacular natural aquarium of the world for your clients to experience a real aquatic adventure.
There, they can enjoy adventure activities; natural, ecological attractions; and water activities like diving or snorkeling in creeks, lagoons, natural wells and ancient caves fed by subterranean rivers, which flow to the beautiful Mexican Caribbean Sea of the Riviera Maya. In fact, we have been told that this is one of the greatest spots to snorkel in the entire world.
Of course, the Riviera Maya is known for its aforementioned cenotes and the lush tropical landscape, both of which can also be explored in Tulum.[PAGE-BREAK]
Where to Stay
Perhaps Tulum’s most popular resort is the 431-room Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa. The best room here is the Presidential Suite, an oceanfront room with a private Jacuzzi. It includes champagne upon arrival, a king-size bed, living and dining area, private concierge service and other exclusive amenities and services. Agents can call Reservations Manager Gabriela Santiago at 011-52-984-871-3333 or e-mail [email protected].
A guest room at Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa.
El Dorado Seaside Suites by Karisma is another popular choice. This 280-room resort is an adults-only property and faces the Mexican Caribbean. Book clients into one of three Premium Suites, each of which comes with a king-size bed and rests on the oceanfront with a private pool. Agents can call Reservations Manager Veronica Quintanilla at 011-52-998-872-8035 or e-mail [email protected].
Eurostars Blue Tulum Resort & Spa is an all-inclusive, five-star property. This resort is within walking distance of the ancient Mayan Pyramids of Tulum. It has 96 suites. Tell clients to choose one of the Deluxe Oceanfront Suites (all of which provide service by butlers trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers). Agents should contact Oscar Valdovino, reservations manager, at 011-52-984-871-1000, ext. 6305 or e-mail [email protected].
A suite at the El Dorado Seaside Suites.
Ana y Jose Charming Hotel & Spa is a 23-room resort amid a Mayan jungle and is thus surrounded by some great landscape. Tell clients to choose the two-floor Villa Coba, which features its own private swimming pool. Agents can call Oscar Zermeno, reservations manager, at 011-52-998-880-6022 or e-mail [email protected].
Azulik by Ecotulum Resorts & Spas is made up of 15 Beachfront Villas that all come with a large private deck. The best pick is the Honeymoon Villa, which offers excellent views. It is perched on the end of a cliff with a stairway to the beach. Agents can call Santiago Harrison, reservations manager, at 011-52-888-898-9922 or e-mail [email protected].
A room at Azulik by Ecotulum matches crisp whites with dark woods.
Operators and Packages
Continental Airlines Vacations, a major U.S. operator to Mexico, is offering a wide range of discounts and special offers on 2008 packages to Tulum.
Offers include 25 percent discounts at Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa. Make sure to book by July 14 for travel between August 16 and December 19. Agents should e-mail Bruce Wood, general manager, at [email protected] for more information.
Apple Vacations offers complete vacation packages to Tulum, as well as air-only or land-only vacations with a variety of meal options. Travel agents can earn from 8 percent to 15 percent commission on land-only or complete packages. The latter packages are mostly out of Chicago. Departures are also available from Detroit, St. Louis, Dallas and Denver. Pricing and durations may vary.
One package example is four nights in a junior suite at Gran Bahia Principe Coba (which is technically in Akumal, about 25 minutes away from Tulum). This package starts at $879.99 and includes roundtrip air, transfers to and from the resort, all meals, drinks and non-motorized water sports.
Another package includes four nights at Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa, starting at $999.99 and includes roundtrip air, transfers to and from the resort, all meals, drinks and non-motorized water sports.
A land-only rate for four nights to Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa is $549, and $400 to Gran Bahia Principe Coba. Add a Xel-Ha tour excursion to any Apple Vacations package for $132 per adult. This includes professional guides, a deluxe air-conditioned coach, entrance fees, lunch, snacks, beverages, snorkeling gear, towels, lockers and taxes. Clients can take a tour of the ancient walled city built by the Mayans.
At Xel-Ha, clients enjoy natural pools and waterways in an organic aquarium where they can snorkel in calm waters or float in gentle currents. Travel agents can earn commission on pre-bookable tours. Agents can call 800-517-2000 or contact Laura McNulty, Apple Vacations’ specialist, at 847-631-2616.
“The one thing agents need to warn clients about is that there is a two-hour schlep to Tulum from Cancun (International Airport),” says Altour Travel’s Terry McCabe. All major carriers fly into Cancun International Airport, and a new airport being built in Tulum is tentatively scheduled to open in late 2009 or 2010.”
“There is a lot of great sightseeing here,” adds McCabe, “from the Mayan ruins to bird-watching tours. And that’s what makes this place so great. You’re not just married to the beach in Tulum. For people who want to do other things besides baking in the sun, Tulum is the place. Recommend this destination to younger clients, to couples and to the more adventurous traveler.”