Tulum is a small, beachfront town on the Maya Riveria situated next to some spectacular Mayan ruins and miles of perfect beach.
If you don't mind spending $100-150 a night on accomodations you will have your pick of resorts and luxury bungalows.
But if you are on a budget like me, you have to either stay in town, that is to say not on the beach, at one of the hostels or guestshouses. Or you can cruise the beach front strip looking for deals on camping and cheap bungalows. Tucked between the expensive villas there are budget accomodations that can get you a bed and a great view for as little as $15.
How to get there
Coming off hwy 307 into Tulum hang a left at the second stop light. Head towards Boca Paila and Punta Allen before you hit the main town. At the end of the road turn right at the intersection. You will pass a guard station and a little speed bump.
Right off the bat you have Papaya Playa, probably the best beachfont hostel in Tulum. If you want a bare bones beachside bungalow that will make you feel like Robinson Crusoe, this is it. 4kn from town and about 5km from the ruins, Papaya Playa is ideally located.
But some of the best deals are near the end of the road, near the entrance to the Sa'an Kian Wildlife Reservation. Camping is allowed in the reservation and the small fee is paid to the rangers office at the park entrance.
On the right, in front of Hotel Esmeralda K, Yoga Shala is peaceful and unasuming. Many rooms and bungalows go for $100 a night in the beachside community of Tulum and that is why Yoga Shala is a steal at around $30 a night.
The vibe is rustic and intimate. Yoga Shala is set amid the thick undergroth and coconut trees and the accomodations are no frills but with an austere afterglow that makes yoga at 7:30am sound appealing.
Yoga classes are held 4 times a day making this an amazing budget yoga retreat.
Classes are $5, held in a mosquito netted studio. Bikes and breakfast are also $5. Yoga Shala is a chill Posada with 10 rooms varying in size and splendor. The staff was very welcoming, the atmospere was relaxing and the beach is right across the street.
Guests also had use of the Esmeralda K beachfront so swinging in a hammock under the moon is defintaly on the agenda.
Just a little further down the road camping can be found for $7-10 at a primitive cluster of bungalows that centers around a cenote. The name escpaes me but it was one of the last establishments on the right before the Sian Ka'an park entrance. The camp ground and the bungalows are rustic and peaceful. If you want to throw in some food on a communal meal, they are cooked often.
If you didn't bring a tent, like me, ask to rent one and they can usually find a spot for you. Or pitch your own in a bare patch of earth. Simple, stilted bungalows are $20 a night. Or you could just fall asleep in a hammock next to a camp fire.
Finally there is the Sian Ka'an where with a tent, a sturdy car (preferrably a 4 x4) and supplies you can camp to your hearts content. Mind you, this is a bio reserve and by its very nature it is wild. There are little or no trails and the road can get quiet menacing. Make sure you check the coditions with the rangers if you plan on driving through and bring plenty of food and water.
Sian Ka'an is approximately 1.3 million acres, and spans 120 kilometers from north to south.
Guides can be arranged for wildlife watching, fishing and kayaking.
But Sian Ka'an can be your little slice of paradise, where for just a few dollars a day you are likely to not see anyone else surrounded by beach and jungle.