Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Tulum in Cozumel, Mexico

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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On Day 3 of the cruise, Mal and I woke up bright and early for an excursion to explore the the Mayan Ruins of Tulum in Cozumel, Mexico. We booked the excursion through Carnival, but a separate company in Cozumel ran the tour.

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Once we got off the ship in Cozumel, we boarded a ferry to Playa del Carmen, which was a rocky 40-minute ride away. (A lot of people got sea sick!) The cruise ship couldn’t dock closer to the mainland because the world’s second largest coral reef runs along the shore.

Once we were on the mainland, we boarded a bus to Tulum. During the ride, our tour guide provided us with a ton of information about Mexican and Mayan culture. (FYI: The Mayans are not a “lost civilization.” They are alive and well and thriving today!)

When we arrived at Tulum, we walked about a half mile from the parking lot to the site of ruins, which was absolutely breathtaking.

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Tulum, which literally means “walled,” was built on 50-foot-high cliffs overlooking the ocean.

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(The stain on the front of my tank top is sweat. It was HOT!)

Our tour guide, Juan, was the man. He was Mexican and Mayan, so he was super passionate about the history of the ruins and the information that he shared with us. His role as a tour guide was more than just a job for him, and his excitement about Mexican and Mayan history and culture definitely rubbed off on us.

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This guy was just chilling near the ruins:

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The temple (below) is the largest of the buildings at Tulum and archeologists believe that human sacrifices were done there.

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Juan told us that this temple was designed so that the sun shines perfectly through it on the summer and winter solstices. See the small window on the left– the speck of light to left of the main stairs? On the summer and winter solstice, the sun rises over the ocean and perfectly lines up with it. Juan had photos to show us of it. So cool, right?

Juan also cleared up a huge misconception about the Maya calendar. Have you ever seen the image below?

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Probably in those doomsday television shows about 2012, right? Well, that’s actually the Aztec calendar, not the Maya calendar. Check out the Maya calendar below:

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It’s a 365-day calendar, which is divided into 18 months of 20 days each and one month which is only 5 days long. The outer ring is Mayan pictures, which represent each of the 19 months. Interesting, right? (FYI: Juan doesn’t think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012. The Mayans believe the calendar simply resets and the world will experience a new time of “enlightenment.”)

After exploring the ruins, Mal and I stopped to grab lunch in the shopping area at Tulum. There were a number of food options, including a Subway, but we took a recommendation from Juan. I don’t remember the exact name of the restaurant, but it had a snowman (random?) on the sign.

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Mal and I both ordered chicken tacos and Coronas for lunch. The salsa that we put on the tacos was SO hot! Our mouths were on fire, but they sure were delicious!

From start to finish, this excursion lasted a solid 8 hours. It was a long day of travel, but it was well worth it and easily one of the highlights of my vacation.

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66 Comments

  1. Hey! I’m glad you had a blast on your trip. I just wanted to point out that the picture you have up is of the Aztec sun calendar, not the Incan nor the Mayan. Just a note!

  2. Awesome! Thanks for sharing this, Tina. My girlfriends and I are considering a trip to Mexico and are trying to decide whether we should stay in the Playa del Carmen area or more towards the west coast near Puerto Vallarta. A big plus for going towards Playa (even though I’ve been to Cancun) would be to go back and see these ruins! It looks like it is worth the trip. 🙂

  3. Jealous of that amazing experience! I was always fascinated by old Incan ruins and the ability to go see all of those amazing Mexican sights would be awesome! I’m a little bummed now that we opted for a catamaran tour when I was in Cozumel with Carnival.

  4. I was just there at the beginning of March!! So nice to see pictures to take me back 🙂 🙂 My family just went without a tour guide but I think it would have been nice to have one to have someone tell us the entire history instead of just reading all the signs. Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. We’ll be doing the San Gervasio ruins on Cozumel when we go on our cruise – 4 weeks to go! I have a necklace of the Aztec calendar from our trip to Puerto Vallarta last year, it’s so funny how many people think it’s a Mayan calendar! Common misunderstanding! We plan to do a separate trip to Tulum and stay at the Dreams or Secrets down there so we can have more time to explore and see the ruins rather than just the one port day. Great photos! You’re making me so excited for my trip!

  6. I haven’t been to Tulum but I’ve been to other ancient sites in Mexico. The pictures are stunning! I’m so fascinated by many ancient cultures (Egyptian, Greek, Mayan, Aztec, etc). I’m glad you posted the difference between the Mayan and Aztec calendars, it was news to me! Glad you had a good time! It’s always great when you have an engaging and informative tour guide.

  7. My parents went on that cruise in January. They did the same excursion. Now I’m having wicked jealousy pangs because of listening to you and them talk about it!

  8. thanks for posting about your cruise! i’m doing this exact same itinerary in January so its nuice to read your reviews about what to do.

    I would also be interested (you can email me privately if you want) in how much cash you brought with you on the trip and what you ended up spending with tips, lunches on excursions and tipping. I’m trying to gauge how much cash we should bring with us and its hard!!!

  9. I loved the ruins we saw when we did a similar cruise in 2010. We left from Playa Maya and saw the ruins at Kohunlich.

    Can I say (and I hope this isn’t weird) your abs look amazing in those pictures you posted yesterday! Makes me want to try CrossFit, because I’ve always had what I consider “skinny-fat” abs!

  10. Whew! Thanks for the reassurance, Juan! Glad the world isn’t over on Dec 21, but I am looking forward the the enlightenment!!!

    Looks like a great time. I hope to visit the ruins one day. 🙂

  11. We went to the Riviera Maya on our honeymoon and visited Tulum while we were there, so I have many of those same pictures. Wasn’t that beach just beautiful?

  12. When we booked our cruise, I said that the only thing that I HAD to see was the ruins at Tulum. What an amazing sight! We also had some food at Mr. Frosty’s. The salsa they gave us was “ei-ei-ei, ei-ei-ei” and DANG that stuff was H-O-T! But it was authentic Mexican food!

  13. Looks like a wonderful time! I think I might have to start planning a vacation!

    I love your shoes in the picture, what style of new balance (I think that I see an N on them) are they??

  14. Wow – I had no idea that the often-pictured calendar is actually an Aztec one. Thanks for sharing! It’s so interesting how the Aztec calendar came to be widely thought of as the Mayan. Hmm.

    Also, I always get the boob sweat going on. It’s like the most popular place for sweat to pool. Lucky us!

  15. This looks like a beautiful and educational vacation! I am so jealous; I have always wanted to take a trip down to visit the Mayan ruins. Gorgeous!

  16. LOVE Tulum! My boyfriend and I traveled to Playa Del Carmen last year and chose Tulum for one of our day excursions. Many of your pictures above look exactly like the ones I took on our vacation! Love it there 🙂

  17. Hi Tina! I read your blog everyday with coffee, I don’t comment as often as I should though… Anyhow, I am anxious to hear more about your vacation. I am always in the hunt for my “Next Great Vacation” – This one looks great so far!

  18. Hurray! I’ve been waiting for this post. I’ve never been on a cruise but I assumed that with your stop in Cozumel, you might head over to Tulum. Playa del Carmen is like my home away from home and I’m missing it big time right now. Seeing pictures of Tulum (my favorite beach ever) makes me smile. 🙂

  19. I loved those ruins. I picked up a cool chess set there so we could be reminded of the trip. At least you could go down to the beach and cool off a little. I agree it is VERY hot there!

  20. Looks like yall had a great time!! My parents and I went on a cruise with friends back in 2002 to Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. We didn’t get to do that excursion, we went scuba diving in Cozumel and snorkling at Xel-Ha which was amazing. I would love to experience it again and tour the ruins as well!

  21. That is awesome! I want to see those ruins too. We didn’t get a chance too (we honeymooned in cancun and playa del carmen–loved it there!–but never got a chance to get there. Looks like a beauty!)

  22. This looks amazing! Did Mal seriously hike the ruins in flip-flops? I look forward to the day when I am healthy and strong, and enjoy things like this because my body will allow it. Cheers!

    1. @Amy @Health Hungry: There was some walking at Tulum, but I wouldn’t call it hiking… I wore flip-flops when I went on this excursion with my family in 2001.

      It was a rocky boat ride between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen when we did it too, in early February. My sister was pretty green and they were handing out bags in case people got sick!

  23. That beach is gorgeous! I would love to go explore those ruins. When my husband and I were living in Guatemala we went to Tikal, those ruins are amazing with soaring pryamids and right in the jungle. Guatemala has large Mayan population and many communities still pracitice alot of their rituals and wear their traditional dress on a daily basis. We have a huge coffee table book about the Aztec and Mayan cultures with lots of beautiful pics. I forget who wrote it, but if you want to get more info about the cultures I would reccomend it. Looks like a great trip!

  24. I’ve been to Tulum and it’s gorgeous! But your title is misleading–the Tulum ruins are in Tulum, Mexico, on the mainland Yucatan peninsula–not Cozumel, which is an island.

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