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Tulum - Tours and Restaurants

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Dec 2nd, 2012, 01:17 PM
  #1
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Tulum - Tours and Restaurants

Will be in Tulum for the December holidays with a group of 13 people (3 families w/ 7 kids, ages 17-24). We're staying at one of the eco hotels on the beach and would like to pre-reserve 1 or 2 tours and 2 dinners.

For dinner, we're thinking of Hartwood and Altamar.

For the tours, I'm wary of overscheduling because everyone wants downtime on the beach, and some of the kids will want to kite surf. For our big group activity, we're debating between Coba/cenotes and Sian Kaan biosphere. (I visited Coba back in the day when it was pure jungle and loved it...but have also heard Sian Kaan was a must-do).

Would appreciate opinions and also recommendations for tour outfitters.
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Dec 2nd, 2012, 03:44 PM
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I have recently been checking out tour operators for Sian-Kaan. It seems all of them (except one, which I'll discuss below) require taking a several hr. very long, slow, torturing jeep ride down a long pothole-filled road. A poster on this board, KVR, used one of those operators, and once I read her report I was determined I would not want to do that terrible drive.

There is one tour operator, Sian-Kaan Community Tours whch leaves from closer to Tulum than the other tours, and does not require the terrible ride down that road. They get good reviews on tripadvisor and other sites. When we do go, this is the tour operator we will use.

I will add though, that my experience so far is that they are not very well organized regarding setting up their tours by email. I have had trouble getting responses to emails from them, and I have read a few reviews about them not showing up for tours bked on email. I now think we will wait til we get down there and call them locally to set up the tour, or try to set it up on email and then reconfirm it by phone once we get down there.

http://www.siankaantours.org/en
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Dec 2nd, 2012, 04:06 PM
  #3
kja
 
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My information is out-of-date, but I was pleased with the tour I took of the Sian Ka'an biosphere with Cesiak in 2008:

http://www.cesiak.org/
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Dec 2nd, 2012, 07:41 PM
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Thanks for your prompt responses! I posted about the tours on TA as well and haven't received any answers.

emd3, Thanks for the heads up. Some of our group will not be okay with the potholes. I will investigate the alternative routes.

kja, Did you think it was worthwhile to spend a day at the biosphere? Did you encounter the above-mentioned bad road? Did you also go to Coba?
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Dec 2nd, 2012, 08:45 PM
  #5
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The tour I took with Cesiak was its "bird-watching" tour. It started mid-afternoon, with pick-up at my hotel at 1:45. We visited an open-air cenote (where we could and did swim), took short guided walks (2?) through different types of mangrove forests with knowledgeable guides who pointed out things of interest, and stopped at the Sian Ka'an center headquarters to prepare for the main part of the tour. The bird-watching part was almost all from a boat that visited various local habitats. We returned to the center just as the sunset, ate a meal there, and were then taken back to our hotels.

I must admit that I'd never gone on a bird-watching tour before. Some of the others on my tour were serious birders, which was both interesting and oddly disconcerting - perhaps more so for them than for me! I found it a pleasant way to spend several hours - I saw lots of different birds, learned a bit about them, and enjoyed being out on the water. The dinner was nothing to write home about, but it was satisfactory - chicken, if I recall correctly, with various vegetables and salad from a self-serve buffet.

At the time I was there, the only road to the hotels along the southern beach in Tulum was under repair. It was in very bad condition; any vehicle that had to go down that road had to do so slowly, and one had to expect some bouncing around. The Cesiak vans (going and coming) did no worse or better than any other vehicle I road in during my brief time in the area. I have no idea if that is the road mentioned in the previous posts, but I doubt it - even a very cautious vehicle could have made it along that particular stretch of road in less than 1/2 hour.

I could easily be wrong, but I think there is only one road from Tulum into the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, so if that's the road that is a problem, any tour group you would join would have to deal with it.

I did not go to Coba, although I think I would have enjoyed it. The itinerary for my 3-week trip to the area covered 10 or 11 Mayan sites, including Calakmul (which is deep in the jungle), so although it was difficult for me to skip Coba, it wasn't the same kind of decision that you are facing. From everything I've read, it sounds quite interesting and like a very good choice for families and active travelers (e.g., those who like biking).

Hope that helps!
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Dec 2nd, 2012, 09:02 PM
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Check out 2010 blog - loads of photos and ideas for things to do from 2 trips; there's an archive so you can pick the posts that interest you).
http://2010latinamericaadventures.blogspot.com/

You could consider one of these outfitters - get good marks on Trip Advisor; we rented a car for parts of both vacations and did our own thing so I can't recommend them personally:
http://www.alltournative.com
http://www.edventuretours.com.mx/

Have a great trip, whatever you decide!
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Dec 3rd, 2012, 12:13 PM
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KVR
 
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We did the Biosphere in December 2010. Here is the excert from my trip report:

"Sian Ka’an Biosphere - This was really a great tour. There were 12 people. It’s a pretty long drive past Tulum. We then turned onto this bumpy dirt road that seemed like we we got caught up in a time loop and it would never end. Could not believe how long it was. 1 ½ hours to get to the water. Once we got to the water, we took a small motor boat and they took us to see turtles, dolphins, starfish and several variety of birds. Then went to a little Island for a rest and ordered dinner. Got back in the boat and they took us to a reef for snorkeling. Excellent snorkeling. Nice healthy reef and tons of fish. Got some great pictures. Afterward, we went to an area with very clear water about waist high for just swimming. Then back to the little Island for dinner. DH had the “war fish”. It was pretty good and I had the chicken fried chicken. Not very good. After dinner we got back on the boat and headed home. The long dirt road still felt like it would never end. It was a very long day and the drive felt
like it was never ending, but it was a very good tour."

The road to get to the water was very long and bumpy, but I wouldn't say "torturing" or "pot hole filled". I would say that it was definatly worth it. I would book it again in a heartbeat even with that road.

Webshots has reformatted their site and has deleted all my pictures. I'm in the process of re-adding them to Shutterfly but it will take several weeks.

We used http://www.playadelcarmentours.com/sian-kaan-tour.htm to book our tour.

For Coba, the other Ruins and cenotes I would recommend

http://www.playa.info/tours-anna-james-general.html

We did the Tulum and Beyond with the cenotes tour with Mitch and loved it. When we ever get back to Playa will definatly book with them for the Coba tour.
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Dec 3rd, 2012, 12:19 PM
  #8
RAC
 
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We used Sian Kaan Community Tours and HIGHLY recommend them.

Great guides, great birding on both water and land.

We arranged our tours after we arrived in Tulum by email, and had little problem (I believe there was one phone call as well).

We had our own car, so we were able to drive to their offices/birding sites near Muyil.
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Dec 3rd, 2012, 01:28 PM
  #9
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Thanks so much, everyone. This info is super comprehensive and helpful (and I still haven't received a response to my query on TA.)

Most of the group are not bumpy road or birding types, so we're opting for the Coba/cenote option. (I've been to Coba before when it was very jungly, but the others have not.) I've emailed some of the tour companies recommended here and will report back.

Forgot to mention that we're only going for 5 days and mostly looking to relax. We usually rent villas in the PV area and I always arrange one boating or cultural outing, but we spend most of our time hanging out on the beach. If people feel compelled to also go to Sian Kaan once we get there, I'm sure we can arrange it. Will report back.
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Dec 18th, 2012, 07:11 PM
  #10
KVR
 
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If anyone is interested, I finally got all my Ya-Kul, Akumel Beach Hotel and the Sian Ka'an Biosphere pictures and snorkel pictures up-loaded.

http://kvrlvnphotogallery.shutterfly.com/pictures/2050
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Dec 19th, 2012, 11:33 AM
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Thanks KVR, great pictures.
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Dec 19th, 2012, 12:19 PM
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My husband and young adult daughter are in the area now stayin gin our condo in PDC, and tonight they are going to HEchizo for dinner in Tulum, gourmet food at the beach. Check it out, they have a private area for large groups at no charge, you can see pic on website of a large group. This place is getting great buzz- see the link below for a food blogger (who gives food tours in Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca, I have seen her on TV on Veria Channel)who just went to eat at Hechizo and said it is best food and experience dining she has had in a long while

Hechizo:
http://hechizotulum.com/

Food blogger and food tour lady's review:

http://www.themijachronicles.com/201...+Chronicles%29
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Dec 19th, 2012, 06:53 PM
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Is anyone interested in a review from my husband and daughter of their meal tonight at Hechizo?
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Dec 19th, 2012, 11:26 PM
  #14
kja
 
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Here's my review of Hechizo from a visit in April 2008 and posted on this board in Dec 2008:

Tulum – Hechizo: Simply outstanding!

My “foodie’s choice” restaurant for this trip was Hechizo, and it was simply outstanding! It had it all: food, wine, setting, and service! Approaching the restaurant along the exterior walkway (with its curving lantern-lit walk and koi pond) through the simple entry hall (with its large wall aquarium) and into the spacious, high-ceilinged dining room, every step seemed to contribute to a sense of calm and relaxation. The few tables are widely spaced in a semi-circular dining room, lined on the inner side with windows and glass doors that let in the sound of the sea and on the outer side with high white walls, the aforementioned aquarium, and a window into the kitchen where you can watch Stefan and his staff at work. As other reviews of this gem of a restaurant note, there is no written menu: Instead, Stefan personally describes the options and patiently answers any questions. And be forewarned: There might not be many options, but every one sounded delicious! Each of my dishes (which included a tuna entrée that I believe is one of Stefan’s specialties) was made of absolutely fresh ingredients selected to balance and complement each other in taste and texture, and each was beautifully presented. Even the bread and butter were a cut above normal. My mouth truly waters every time I even think of this restaurant! And I believe that Hechizo has a better selection of wines than many restaurants in the Yucatan; certainly, the bottle of white wine that I had was better than anything else I tasted during my trip. Last, but not least, the serving staff were discreet, professional, personable, and attentive. My experience at Hechizo was simply outstanding on all fronts. As others have noted, Hechizo accepts only cash and is quite some distance from the nearest ATM, so do come prepared! And definitely reserve ahead.


I would definitely be interested in a more current review -- is it still as special as it was when I visited? Even after many years and many 5* meals, I still have lovely memories of Hechizo. I hope it (i.e., Stefan and his wife) found a way to keep it the special place they envisioned!
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Dec 20th, 2012, 09:11 AM
  #15
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KVR, thanks SO much for posting your wonderful photos - a nature and culinary extravaganza!

I am in shock about how much PDC has changed since we were last there in '02 (and since I first visited as a backpacker in the seventies, but that's another story). The other families in our group have never been to the Yucatan, and I think the Coba/cenote/Mayan village tour is better than Sian Kaan for first-time visitors.

For various reasons, I ended up booking the tour through our hotel. But I had another recommendation from a friend who was there in March and said her SK tour with www.mexicokantours.com was "incredible and once in a lifetime." We might use them if we decide to do a second tour and will report back (as soon as I finish my TR about India - dragging on for 3 months!)

Re: restaurants. Will check out Hechizo, although it seems very gringoized. We have made a reservation at Altamar (#1 on TA - crowd pleaser) and another at Hartwood (new foodie hot spot, probably gringoish as well, but someone in our group knows the chef). Posada Margherita and Casa Banana have also been recommended..anyone know about those?
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Dec 25th, 2012, 05:00 PM
  #16
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Just wanted to wish you all Felíz Navidad from paradise. We're at
Luv Tulum, rustic chic on the beach, and we just L-U-V it. Will report back with restaurant and tour info.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 11:27 AM
  #17
 
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Great info on Tulum, we're going to Akumal for a week the 9th of Jan.13, wondering if we should rent a car or not? We're staying in a condo and hoping not to have to drive in Akumal but definitely want to do to Tulum. We were there for an afternoon 2 years ago and didn't explore much except part of the beach.
Any suggestions?
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Dec 27th, 2012, 12:30 PM
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You canjust walk out form K+Akuml to the main hwy 307 and catch a colective to Tulum and another one back. Google colective and hwy 307 and you will see. If you want to explore further, get a car for a day or two.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 12:31 PM
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FROM AKUMAL. (sorry abt the sticky keyboard)
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Dec 27th, 2012, 07:44 PM
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We usually rent a car (and did when we were in Akumal), but this time we've been using drivers and taxis - much more relaxing.
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