Stress from preparing tax returns, moving house for the fifth time in twelve months, and way too many medical visits to Houston took its toll on us. For relief, Laura and I took a short trip to Mexico’s Caribbean coast, hoping sun, sand, and surf would soak the tension away.
We drove south on the road from Cancún, passing all the big resorts springing up along the highway, avoiding the rampant growth at Playa del Carmen. We reached the last real town on the Quintana Roo coast, Tulum. There, where the coast highway turns inland, we took a seaward fork through the jungle, hugging the shore, to within a couple of kilometers from where the pavement gives out. The red arrow marks our destination.
The main draw for visitors to Tulum—mainly day trippers from Cancún and Playa del Carmen—is a small Mayan ruin perched on a bluff overlooking the sea. It’s choked with tour buses and the crowds they brought. We didn’t go there. We were looking instead for solitude and relaxation, and that’s what we found.
The beach this far south is remarkably uncrowded. Imagine—undeveloped Caribbean coast! We walked for hours, encountering but a handful of other beach goers. No mega resorts spoil views or blare music. What lodgings are here tend to be modest. This small palapa house exemplifies the best of the road south of Tulum.
Nature is our architect. In Cancún, a bent palm tree might be removed as unsightly, perhaps replaced by a perfect tree torn out of the jungle. Here, we are permitted to marvel at the tenacity of growing things.
Crews of janitors remove unsightly driftwood that washes onto the beach at Akumal. South of Tulum, it’s left in place, allowing us to admire the texture of a mollusk-encrusted log.
We sometimes found nature’s artistry incorporated into human art; here, a pair of palm tree roots that had grown together. Someone had cut away the trunks and inverted them. They resemble prehistoric dolphins.
Farther on, we found a post decorated with some of the sea fans that regularly wash onto the beach. Years ago, I saw impromptu artwork incorporating objects from nature when as a young man I prowled the Mendocino Coast in Northern California. The Tulum coastline brings back the playful feeling of that time.
Some visitors prefer active pastimes. A kiteboarding school satisfies their needs.
Absent from the menu of offered activities: party boats, parasailers, jet skis, banana boat rides. There are no noisy motors to interfere with the sound of breaking surf. At one time, it was necessary to reserve certain portions of the beach for topless sunbathing—pretty much frowned on in conservative Mexico.
No longer. We’re in clothing-optional country today. We could walk to a place where we were not in front of someone’s palapa hotel, shuck our swimsuits, and splash in the surf unencumbered by confining fabric.
This place is like Eden: plenty of jungle, sand, and water, It’s easy to find a mile or so for your own exclusive use. A warm place, a nurturing place, where with gentle breezes playing on our skins, we leave behind the cares of everyday life.