Why on earth would anyone want to leave the beauty and sights of Tulum, Mexico?? In my last post about this area “Scenes from Tulum” I mentioned my friends who came with us, were not really into the beach. Except at night, the cool sand between our toes felt soothing after a day of walking in sweaty flip-flops and navigating broken chains on bikes.
Given our beach challenge, we had to get creative on activities. Thank goodness we had a rental car – it allowed us to do some exploring in and around Tulum.
People are nervous to drive in Mexico – worried they are going to be taken out by a drug cartel or get into an accident and land in a Mexican jail – I get it. It doesn’t bother me so much, but I do religiously follow the speed limits. If you decide to be brave and rent a car, be sure you have liability insurance on your credit card. If not, you’ll have to spend some dough on insurance the rental agency provides, as it is a country requirement. It’s not cheap and will easily double or triple the price of the car rental. One thing to watch out for on the roads, are the strategically placed speed bumps. I swear they are camouflaged by dirt and seemingly appear out of no-where. As my mom used to say, “they’ll jar your liver loose” and severely damage your rental car if you hit one driving more than 10 mph.
Our first road trip was spent in Punta Allen – a ~1.5 hour ride South of Tulum at the end of the Sian Ka’an biosphere, a world UNESCO site. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (“a place where heaven begins”), is a vast area of mangrove swamp, lagoon, beaches and jungle with all kinds of cool critters, including jaguars. Can you imagine seeing a jaguar in Mexico? I’d die.
Punta Allen is little fishing village with just north of 450 people and is located at the very end of the road – a stone’s throw away from Belize and Guatemala. I have always wanted to explore this area, but was concerned about the road conditions – like getting a flat tire in the middle of no-where in Mexico (my mind does go straight to a drug cartel incident). At one point in years past, rental car agencies pretty much said, “You break down in Punta Allen, you are on your own.” I didn’t catch any flack from Avis, so my assumption is that this has changed. Keep in mind, there is very little development in the Biosphere so if you break down, it’s potentially a long way to find help. Make sure you have enough gas in the car!!
The dirt road was totally fine – they smoothed out all of the ruts and bumps you used to read about. It’s actually better then the roads in Tulum. We heard you needed to check in at the Biosphere entrance (not validated), but we didn’t and just blew past the guard – OOPS. Not sure if that was a bad move, but we never experienced any Federale action.
It was a gorgeous day and the scenery was pretty insane – the only part that wasn’t so marvelous – we pulled over several times to enjoy a secluded beach only to find a bunch of trash washed up on shore. It made me sick to my stomach. Plastic everywhere – I couldn’t help but wish we had a trash bag to pick it all up. Not sure why I was so surprised by this? It’s a common sight in most developing countries.
Even with this unfortunate experience, if you’re feeling adventurous, this is nice way to spend an afternoon. When you finally arrive, don’t expect shopping or fancy anything. Do expect simple cafes (I use this term loosely) where you can enjoy some tasty FRESH fish tacos and cold cervezas. You can also hire a boat to catch and release bone-fish, snorkel, spot dolphin, or just enjoy the solitude. There are a few places to stay down there if that floats your boat – one option is a rustic campsite where many of the images below were taken. The other was a really nice place similar to the Encantada I described in my last Tulum post.
I can nearly guarantee you will see very few people and if you see more than 5 cars on the road, I’d be surprised. It’s also kind of cool to feel as though you are at the end of the earth! Get there before it blows up!
Enjoy our visit to Punta Allen!
“On the beach, you can live in happiness.”