Tulum, Mexico, is today like Cancun was fifty years ago. Although it still retains somewhat of an outpost feeling, Tulum is finally beginning to show signs of modernization. It's an excellent place to lie in a hammock between palm trees on the beach, yet offers the visitor plenty of opportunity to have exciting adventures in the beautiful natural surroundings.
Explore Pre-Columbian Mayan civilization in the ruined city of Coba. Located 44 kilometers northeast of Tulum, Coba is believed to have once been populated by 50,000 people. If your time is limited and you cannot make the longer drive to the ruins at Chichen Itza, Coba is a formidable alternative. Sights include the Nohoch Mul pyramid, the Crossroads Temple, the Coba Group Pyramid, the Ballcourt and numerous large stelae, hand carved stone used for funerals and commemorative ceremonies. There is an admission fee and you should bring drinking water and a sun hat.
Located just over 60 kilometers northeast of Tulum is the town of Punta Laguna. Punta Laguna is a small Mayan village that sits amidst the jungle in a 5,000 hectare, government-protected nature preserve known in the modern Mayan language as the Otoch Ma'ax Yetel Kooh, or House of the Monkey and Puma. This area is the natural habitat of spider and howler monkeys, coatis--a sort of possum-nosed raccoon, a variety of birds and pumas. Local residents conduct guided tours of the area at very reasonable prices. Visitors to Punta Laguna should not expect modern amenities or the party atmosphere of nearby Cancun. Electricity is a newcomer here, but the inspiring scenery and wildlife more than make up for it. Most guides speak Mayan and Spanish, though a few speak English. They have received training from the researchers who observe the monkey populations.
Cenotes are flooded, very extensive cave systems that run underneath much of the Yucatan peninsula. An interesting alternative to the standard tourist draws, cenotes make for an excellent place to take a swim, snorkel or even scuba dive after a picnic lunch. Sometimes just a small, swampy looking hole in the ground and other times an impressive cave mouth with stalactites, cenotes often resemble something that the creature from the black lagoon might slither out of. One of these caves, Dos Ojos, is found north of Tulum and is still under exploration. Over 60 kilometers of tunnels are known to exist and water temperature idles at a cool 77 degrees year-round.