Tulum: Beach Chic Doesn’t Come Cheap – Mexico

It’s sad to say, but a Mexican vacation really doesn’t go for Mexican prices anymore. It used to be that you could fly down, get a week’s worth of meals and a hotel for less then it costs to spend a weekend almost anywhere in the States.

Times have channged – still…
More specifically, just six years ago, the typical cabana in Tulum averaged $40.00 per night. But times have changed. On my most recent trip this April, the going rate for the same cabana was about $160.00. Those prices rival budget accommodations in America, with one caveat: in Tulum, you often don’t get electricity, room service, continental breakfasts or any other amenities you expect from chains catering to over-pampered Americans.

What you do get in trade, however, are beaches known for long sandy stretches that beg to be strolled, blue ocean that is warm and inviting, and cuisine that’s as simple as it is fresh. Another benefit that shouldn’t be undervalued is the ability to completely “check out” while on vacation there. No laptops. No cell phones. No BlackBerries. I was totally off the grid my entire stay in Tulum.

Mostly, this was self-imposed, but the limited availability of electricity in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, makes it easy not to be plugged-in. In fact, at Posada del Sol, the place my fiancé and I stayed, there was not an outlet to be found in our room. I didn’t mind. If you’re desperate, you can wire up, but you really have to want to find a Wifi hub, or even a place where cell service will hold through an entire conversation.

This makes the pace in Tulum slow and relaxing. Of course, rest and recuperation come with an admission price today. I first realized this when I went to buy sunscreen and sunglasses – essentials I thought would be simpler to purchase on location. They were easy to find, but they demanded a premium; a bottle of SPF 30 set me back $19.00. One shop was charging $28.00 for a pair of sunglasses that were no better than the knock-offs selling for $8.00 in Chinatown. After some hunting, I found a pair for $17.00, which I reluctantly forked over. The lesson: double-check to make sure you don’t forget the basics.

Scanning the dinner menu at the Maya Tulum our first night, we were again reminded that these prices were not on par with the salaries and wages of the general populace of this third-world nation. When I was in college, I had a meal in Mexico that consisted of two entrees and four beers. It cost less than $12.00 – with tip! Today, however, one main course alone soars close to the $20.00 range.

While you will be expected to shell out for food, it’s good to know that entertainment is cheap. Take Zamas, for instance. The restaurant owned by the resort is steps from the beach, and features live music every night. On Friday and Sunday evenings, wedding groups descend in force, and they come ready to party.

Mezzanine on Friday nights is aother popular choice. Live music changes over to a DJ in the later hours to concoct a club vibe that attracts a large crowd in the mood to dance. Best of all, there’s no cover charge, though drinks can be expensive, up to $8.00 per cocktail.

Despite the sticker shock I initially experienced, my vacation in Tulum was sublime. It’s a great, laid-back and friendly destination for anyone who loves the sun and beach served with some Mayan culture (and a margarita) on the side.

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