Need a Break from Tulum? Take a Day Trip to Punta Allen!

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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.”
-Dennis Wilson.

58 comments

    1. I was definitly hesitant in the past – mostly because of the warnings from rental car agencies and the like. But, it was pretty benign – nothing too crazy about it. Just have to be sure you have a decent car that won’t break down or, run out of gas. That would suck. Not too many other cars driving down the road!! Hope you have something fun planned for the weekend :-).

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    1. It is sooo Ok driving there. You just have to be cautious – last thing you want to do is get into an accident. I can say the freeway from Cancun to Tulum is a straight shot and people generally drive in their lanes. You just have to mind the speed limit, etc. and maybe not drive at 2:00 am drunk. lol Also make sure you rent a car from a good company.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ditto, I’ve bean travelling. I’d be worried about drug cartels the whole time, and I’ve never seen a single episode of Narcos. Just a vivid imagination and an inherent need to always have something to worry/obsess about, I guess. Not a recipe for a relaxing vacation.

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  1. Am roaring at your car rental experience (double to triple fees for insurance) and those crazy speed bumps as we experienced similar challenges on the beginning of our recent 27 day overland excursion in the country. Love that the tagline for the Sian Kaโ€™an Biosphere is ‘the place where heaven begins’ โ€ฆand your pictures confirm it. Bummer to hear about the trash.

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  2. Ahhh…this post really has me missing the beach. I meant to say on the Tulum post that I swore I never stay through an entire Virginia winter again either!! Luckily, we’ve had a very mild one this year so it’s been fine to stay. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I’m telling you, it has made all the difference in enduring the season. Though, truth be told, we have had some really sweet days in Colorado – so nice, we have been able to get out and golf!! Sounds like you have had some great days too ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Wow! Gorgeous photos! I think I might be intimidated by renting a car in Mexico. Once, we were with some Mexican friends driving in Mexico and were stopped by machine gun-toting police. It was scary!

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  4. I’m up for driving myself in most countries, so I’d probably attempt this as you did. (I STILL think you were nuts to drive in Guerrero, though!) I love the feeling that you were driving to the end of the world; that sense of isolation is so intriguing to me. And the scenery was so worth it – wow!

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    1. Yeah, we probably were. Especially after I read an article about them finding 50 (?) headless corpses in an abandoned silver mine – weeks before we were in Taxco. lol It was still a great experience :-). It’s so rare to find solitude in our world – it’s a nice change of pace!!

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  5. It’s a gorgeous area. It has been almost 15 years since we visited. Have you been to Belize? We loved it there too. I could use another break from the Vancouver rain. The trash is upsetting, there and in so many places I’ve visited.

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    1. Yes! It is! I donโ€™t know how to be part of the solution quite frankly. I suppose it starts with booking with responsible people. Or not going at all. Itโ€™s a struggle – I am now at the place in life where I think about our environment every day. This is good and bad!!

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      1. I think we can start with ourselves. I usually avoid single use plastic, carry own bottle and cutlery and napkins. Small yet helpful change. I can totally understand your concern about environment. I too think about it every
        time!

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        1. Yes! So many little things. I donโ€™t accept plastic bags of any kind, literally washing my hair 2 x a week, bamboo travel Utensils, but I am a big consumer….so, trying to work on that. Resell or donate all that stuff. I do fly for work every week and I struggle with the concept. But I need to work just a handful of years before I move on to a different lifestyle. Hmmm, maybe this is a thread I need to pull for a future passion…

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