Ahh Tulum, when you think of Tulum you probably imagine beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters, super accessible Mayan Ruins and …
the perfect Instagram opportunity?
Oh, come on we all know you’re thinking it. Recently Tulum has been put on the map by it’s countless IG worthy photo places. From Pablo Escobar’s mansion, smoothie bowl cafes, perfect beach bar swings, and cenotes, this town has it all. Many Americans and Canadians have moved here, set up shop and are prepared to ride out the incoming tourist boom.
You’ll have to excuse the jaded tone of this article but as I had been traveling Quintana Roo in search of a budget-friendly authentic Mexican experience and almost only been exposed to the overcharged, overcrowded touristy side of Mexico I’m singing a different tune.
This also is not to say Tulum should be skipped, because whether your coming for the gram, to relax or on a budget, there still is a thriving cultural heart inside this famous town that’s waiting to be discovered.
Tulum, The Instagram Side:
I visited a few of the Instagramy (that’s not a word? Fuck it, it is now) highlights of Tulum including:
I also did the cliche things like:
Rent fixie bikes (for the aesthetic and the price)
Instagrammers “Tulum must do list” things I missed
(on purpose? You’ll never know.):
Follow that dream sign
Beach location Matcha mama
(believe it or not I actually only went to the Tulum beach once, I spent most of the time in Tulum town, and I preferred it there, but shh don’t tell)
As I was checking out these places I couldn’t help but wonder how this affects the locals, do they enjoy hoards of selfie stick toting tourists? Do they enjoy walking by restaurants that they can’t afford (restaurants I could barely afford)?
One aspect that managed to escape me (as my friend Luisa Fernanda pointed out to me) was if Tulum was handling all the waste generated by this tourist boom properly, most of their fresh water comes from underground, and if they aren’t taking care of it properly it can easily be contaminated. Tulum is beautiful and fragile and we need to make sure to take care of it when visiting.
Check out Luisa’s blog: https://amaixico.com/
and her Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/amaixico
I noticed quite a number of the businesses are owned by non-Mexican people, and I wondered how this contributes to the economy, is it hindering or helping?
Are locals being pushed further and further out of Tulum town and is it becoming inaccessible to them?
All of these unanswered questions left me feeling very conflicted and sad about Tulum
I had this deep desire to find a more authentic experience here amongst the hoards of influencers and expats
Tulum, The The Authentic Side:
Scattered through my visit to Tulum I was also able to discover some local hot spots and experience such things as:
What looks like a pop-up taco restaurant that closes very early in the afternoon. I saw many locals and foreigners enjoying a delicious meal here.
A random dance number happening in the town square
A 12+ person improv orchestra playing at a local Mojito bar
A local zero waste store!
Biking down the side of a Mexican highway
Petting many street puppers!
Wandering the back streets of Tulum Town
Fresh and delicious seafood
A lesser-known cenote with some sick jump spots
The Tulum Ruins
So my conclusion? The truth about Tulum is that there are more Instagrammers and expats than locals (not factual), Everywhere you turn there’s a photo opportunity, businesses will add a tip to your bill just because your foreign (this is illegal) and things are a bit expensive.
But amongst the picture perfect locations, there is an authentic side to Tulum that is worth exploring, you just have to work for it a little bit.
Stay tuned for next week’s article that goes more in depth about my awesome authentic Tulum experience.