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  • The Anonymous Hungry Hippopotamus

Tulum-inous Day Two

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

*Tulum (Sea Turtles, Jungle Gym, Mi Amor, Tulum Ruins, Arca)

I woke up to this beautiful sunrise, the moment I stepped out of my hotel room.

I walked downstairs to Piedra Escondida's restaurant, Molcajete. The hotel offered a free, daily breakfast which I assumed would consist of cereal, muffins, runny scrambled eggs, soggy oatmeal and juice from concentrate. I guess I have grown accustomed to the free, continental breakfasts served at most American hotels.

Instead, Molcajete served up this amazing meal with an equally amazing view...

Jugo de piña

Fresh squeezed pineapple juice

Chilaquiles de pollo con queso y salsa verde

Chilaquiles with chicken, cheese and green salsa

Yup, that was all complimentary.

When I have visited a relatively untouched place, I find that there is little to no barrier between me and the surrounding, colorful, musical, and welcoming wildlife. Unlike when I am at home in the city, and whether or not I seek it out, nature finds me.

On that note, I would like to share that sea turtles fascinate me. Though endangered, six of the seven remaining species can be found in the warm waters near Mexico. Female turtles return to the same beach where they were hatched, to lay their eggs during nesting season which is between May and October, in Tulum.

A few such sea turtles returned to the private beach at Piedra Escondida to lay their eggs approximately 50-60 days before my arrival. I was lucky enough to see them hatch on the beach in front of my hotel room during my short stay in Tulum.

I have been fortunate enough to encounter some sea turtles on the beach in Hawaii and swim with a few in Cains, Australia at the Great Barrier Reef. I have never before seen newly hatched sea turtles however. This was such an unexpected and marvelous surprise.

After the sea turtle hatching, I headed out to discover more of Tulum. Along the way, I came across these famous, Tulum landmarks.

For better or worse, Instagram has made this street sign on Tulum Beach Road very popular, drawing visitors from all over the world.

The wooden-fanned entrance to the Mia Beach Restaurant is beautiful. When I visited, it was strewn with marigolds in celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

The colorful and decorative sign at the entrance to BT Live Tulum hotel is also quite captivating.

Hidden far from the main road, I found the Tulum Jungle Gym. For $30, guests can use the gym for the day. This gym is incredibly unique and looks like something that belongs in an episode of the Flintstones cartoon.

Situated directly on the beach, you can work out in the sand, hear the sound of the waves crash, and take in the ocean breeze.

Almost all of the equipment is made of wood, stone, bamboo and rope, and custom designed and built by local carpenters and stone masons.

Voted as one of the "Best Gyms in the World" by Men's Health, this place is worth a stop if you are in Tulum and in the mood for a work out.

What is better than some rest and replenishment after a workout? Having both, plus the view from Mi Amor restaurant.

Jungle Fever Smoothie

Pineapple, avocado, spirulina, mint, basil, vanilla and agave.

From there it was off to the main attraction for the day, the Tulum Archaeological Site, to see the Tulum Ruins.

Before reaching the entrance, I saw artists perform the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) in the square. These men ascended a 100-foot pole and then launched themselves from it with ropes tied around their waists and legs, to descend to the ground, upside down. Watching this was exhilarating and a bit anxiety provoking for me.

Another ten-minute walk away, was the entrance to the Tulum ruins.

The Tulum ruins are built on a cliff facing the rising sun and include a city square and temples, all surrounded by a stone wall measuring 16 feet high and 18 feet deep. This is the only Mayan settlement built on the beaches of the Caribbean.

The ancient Mayans believed that the waters surrounding Tulum were the entrance to the underworld. Various Mayan deities are represented among the ruins, but the "descending god" who is depicted head-down within his temple, and on many of the ruin’s doorways, is most prominent.

The ascent to the ruins is through the verdant jungle filled with beautiful plants, trees and wildlife. If you pay close attention, you are sure to see several iguana sunbathing on rocks or camouflaged among the trees and coatis scurrying across your path.

The Maya built the temples and pyramids at the Tulum ruins to demonstrate their power and prowess in the fields of art, astrology, and mathematics. These skills were evident when I saw the causeways and structures that remain standing today.

El Castillo, ("the castle" in English) is the preeminent structure of the Tulum settlement. This ancient structure served as a lighthouse for the Mayans. At the top, visible from the Caribbean Sea, are two small windows that helped sailors navigate back to land after dark.

The view of the sea from the ruins is undoubtedly spectacular.

Equally, if not more spectacular however, is the view of the ruins from the sea. In this picture, you can see the two small windows of El Castillo which I referenced earlier. I highly recommend taking a boat from Playa Santa Fe to capture the ruins from the vantage point of the Caribbean Sea. It gave me a real sense of the grandeur of the ruins and what sailors must have experienced when approaching the walled city.

After viewing the ruins, the boat took us all out to an excellent snorkeling point. We jumped off the boat and into the warm, Caribbean waters to be greeted by colorful fish, many stingrays and a sea turtle who got so close, we nearly shook hands.

*I did not touch, or try to touch, the turtle or any of the other wildlife, as this is strictly prohibited for their safety.

Exhausted from a full afternoon of walking and swimming in the Tulum heat, I was relieved to see the colorful, umbrella canopy that signaled the entrance to the parking lot.

After a long day of exploration, a shower and some down time at the hotel, it was lovely to sit down to a superb dinner at Arca. Executive Chef and co-owner, Jose Luis Hinostroza was raised in a Mexican household in Southern California. Prior to opening Arca, he worked in some of the best, fine dining establishments across the world including the United States, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands. His mastery of cooking shined through in every dish I tasted.

Candles illuminated my way to the table in the entirely outdoor dining room.

Arca features an open air kitchen with a wood-burning fire pit where dishes are cooked to perfection. The smells from meats roasting over the open fire are mouthwatering.

This place has cuisine and ambiance perfected.

House Pulque Sourdough Bread from the Wood Fire Oven, Local Amish Butter, Mayan Salt from Celestún

Seared Prawns in Chili Butter, Plantain Vinaigrette, Green Grosella and Chili Manzano Salsa with Plantain Chips

The kind waiter told me that the best way to eat this dish was to take one bite of the succulent prawn and crispy plantain chip together, and follow that closely with a spoonful of sauce. Wow!

Coconut Oil Pan-Fried Fish Filet, Jicama Salad with Serrano Peppers, Rajas, Coconut Sauce, and Chive Vinaigrette

The sauce is poured table side so that the fish skin remains crispy.

That wonderful meal brought a close to an amazing second day in Tulum. I'll be back soon with highlights from day three.

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