Lay of the Land
“Mexico is the front door to South America - and the back door to the states...”~Tennessee Williams
Tulum is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, one of the three that make up the region known as the Yucatán. Although lately Cancún has been pressing hard for inclusion in the more upscale Riviera Maya, officially the Yucatán begins 22 miles south of the Cancún airport and extends 82 miles down the coast to southern Tulum. Carretera 307 runs parallel to the sea, with exits for the resorts from the left lane, if you’re heading south. About halfway between Cancún and Tulum—a drive that takes one-and-a-half hours in total—is Playa del Carmen, as close to party central as you get along the Riviera Maya, with tons of restaurants, bars and touristy shops.
About 15 minutes south of Playa, the scenery changes noticeably: there’s still construction but much less than to the north, and the jungle seems to get denser as you head toward Akumal and Tulum. Akumal, a scuba and snorkel center whose name means “place of the turtles,” doesn’t have hotels like the other spots; instead, visitors rent houses and villas on the beach.
If Akumal is the serene beauty, then Tulum is its sexy sister. Marked by a series of small palapa-style hotels occupying the beachfront that stretches to southern Punta Allen, the former hippie town still has a seriously laid-back vibe along with some newish additions. All Indagare-recommended hotels are located along Tulum Beach; some of the area’s best restaurants are located in Tulum Town, about a 10-minute drive from Tulum Beach. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere is located about 10 miles south of Tulum.