What to do in Quintana Roo, (Mexico)

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Beach area south of Tulum in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Tulum is a treasure trove of fascinating and fun activities for the adventurous traveler. From bike riding to snorkeling, scuba diving, exploring Mayan ruins and kiteboarding, it is a haven for outdoor recreation. And the sun! Such amazing sunshine and very friendly locals, too. We enjoyed the area immensely as there is never a shortage of things to do from sports and shopping to dining and tasting trendy new cocktails! Imagine hot peppers at the bottom of your mezcal margarita! And, it is a short hour and a half drive from the Cancun airport. This will be a completely different experience than your usual visit to Zona Hotelera (hotel zone) right near the Cancun Airport.

The amazing white sand beaches along the Caribbean are ultra-fine and soothing on the feet. With miles of beach to cover, you can spend the entire day walking along the water, or even better, playing in it! There are literally hundreds of restaurants and bars to dip into along the way for lunch, cocktails or dinner. You can also find a few spots that serve microbrews – one of our favorite beverages! You will find that the bars are very friendly places to hole up when the skies turn stormy and the occasional downpour “rains” havoc on your plans! Hakuna Matata!

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Kiteboarders take advantage of the wind and surf in Tulum

Our trip of five days began with a drive from Cancun to Tulum and dinner at El Asadero, a great little restaurant in downtown Tulum. After dinner, we finally found our rental house, a two cabana set-up with a pool in between and a bridge connecting the two units — all beautifully landscaped for privacy. It was so fun crossing the bridge each morning!

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Nico and Mark’s Bungalow “Casa Los Amigos” in the city of Tulum

We found this rental to be just perfect for us. Each unit has a kitchenette and a shared barbecue. The setting is lush and private and Nico and Mark provided enough bikes for all four of us! The only downfall was the noisy neighborhood, very close houses with lots of late night music, followed by babies, roosters, and brand new puppies! Still, a gem in the newly developing area of Tulum!

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Snorkeling the Dos Ojos Cenote just north of Tulum

The cenotes provide great exploration and underwater entertainment. Our guide told us there are more than 3,000 cenotes dotting the landscape on the Yucatan Peninsula, forming an underground labyrinth and some reaching all the way to the Caribbean Sea. The name cenote means “sacred well” as these were revered by the Mayans as sources of fresh water and places to bury their treasure as well as the dead. But, not to worry, we never saw a single body floating up as we snorkeled through these swimming caverns formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock. There are stalactites and stalagmites a-plenty, and you only need protect your head as you return from your dip below to take in the caves and swim under arches and through tunnels. If you are lucky, your guide will take you into the amazing bat cave, where hundreds of bats line the ceiling of the cave. Not a single bat buzzed us, thank goodness!

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Mateo’s Mexican Grill on the Beach Road in Tulum

There are so many great restaurants in Tulum and one of our favorites is Mateo’s Mexican Grill right on the beach road. It offers up Mexican fare and amazing cocktails. Other restaurants we enjoyed were: El Asadero, a great Mexican-style steak house, and for Italian, Restaurante Il Bocconcino, both in town. And for espresso drinks and a great breakfast, try Burrito Amor, right along Hwy. 307.

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A lone pelican on the bridge that spans the Caribbean and the Lagoon through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

On the road from Tulum to Punta Allen, you drive right down an isthmus that divides the Caribbean Sea from the mangrove-filled lagoons. The view is magical as you look from left to right and back to see these amazing and sparkling bodies of water all contained within the Sian Ka’an preserve

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The Road through the biosphere is literally like a tunnel of vegetation

As you drive south through Tulum you’ll eventually enter the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, where the roadway is a mere tunnel carved through the jungle. All of the sudden, the jungle opens up and you roll onto a bridge, with the sparkling aqua Caribbean Sea on your left, and the wetlands and mangroves to the right. This is the quintessential time for a convertible! Sian Ka’an means “origin of the sky” in the native Mayan language and the reserve is home to some 300 species of birds. It’s a great place to go “flats fishing” or boating in and out of the mangroves. We saw several iguanas crossing the road or sunbathing along our journey. Beware, the mosquitoes can be fierce here, so be sure to lather up with plenty of bug spray!   

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