An Alternative Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico

An Alternative Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico
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Even Goths can enjoy a Mexican beach vacation, now and again.

My friend Yukiro and I were excited to indulge in a week of lounging, at Karisma's ocean-front resort. However, we didn't want to miss out on the mysterious Mayan pyramids and art, in nearby Tulum.


Our trip ended up being a perfect blend of hedonism and exploration. We took full advantage of the gourmet food and wellness at our Riviera Maya resort. Then, we went on day trips with local insiders Loco Gringo, who showed us alternative spots such as graveyards and Day of the Dead skeletons.

If you aren't the typical tourist, then this Tulum travel guide is for you.


Stay: Karisma Hotels and Resorts

At El Dorado Royale, our suite as steps away from a private beach and waterfront. We found hidden gems such as a Ganesha statue and giant chess set, and had access to the two adjoining resorts, El Dorado Casitas Royale by Karisma and Generations Riviera Maya. Everything was included in our stay, so we could pop into any restaurant or bar, and take part in activities like a tequila tasting.


Relax: Spa and Wellness

I felt like I was made of jelly, after an 80-minute full body massage at Karisma's spa. My friend and I took part in daily Pilates classes with exercise balls, and yoga on the pier. At the "Health Bar," we must have had at least three fresh green smoothies a day.


Eat: Gourmet Restaurants

I confess that I was skeptical about all-inclusive restaurants, but Karisma's dining offerings far exceeded my expectations. Between the three resorts, we had over a dozen restaurants to choose from, including Mexican, Caribbean, Italian and Japanese. The "dinner theater" at Fuentes was the most unique experience: we watched a guest chef prepare Yucatan courses, as if we were watching a Food Network TV show live.


Explore: Mayan Pyramids

I'm fascinated with the pre-Columbian civilizations, and our Loco Gringo guide took us on the perfect, personalized tour of Tulum.

We got picked up from Karisma in a private van, and skipped the line for Chichen Itza, the legendary Mayan pyramid. Our guide riveted us with stories of human sacrifices, cranial deformations and other bloody rituals.


At their suggestion, we visited the lesser-known ruins of Ek Balam, which translates to "the black jaguar". Loco Gringo also took us to cenotes, or natural wells that were considered sacred to the Mayans.


Learn: Mexican Folk Art

I told my Loco Gringo concierge that I loved Day of the Dead, so she arranged for a private tour at Casa de los Venados, Valladolid's folk art museum. We stepped into a bright hacienda filled with over 3000 fascinating works of art.

To my delight, there was an extensive collection of devil masks, sugar skulls, and "La Catrina" elegant skeletons. One of the rooms was dedicated to Frida Kahlo, and entirely decorated with items that represented her.


Stroll: Valladolid Cemetery

Loco Gringo took us far off the beaten path -- and brought us to a graveyard, in the old city of Valladolid! Despite being a home for the dead, the plots were bursting with life: tombstones painted in bright colors, surrounded by offerings of flowers and sugar skulls.

Our Spanish-speaking guide introduced us to the graveskeeper, and he entertained us with tales from the crypt. He claimed that a vampire was buried in the big grey mausoleum, and that he once felt a ghost tugging on his arm...


Sing: The Red Lotus Karaoke

We became friends with our guide, and she took us on a night out in Playa del Carmen. Many of the bars cater to tourists, but Le Lotus Rouge is an eccentric local gem.

The Red Lotus is run by a French artist, who filled every inch of the space with flamboyant and slightly creepy decor. Each room has a different theme, from tribal to disco. The karaoke nights are infamous; wired up on margaritas, Yukiro and I belted out Mr. Roboto on stage, and brought down the house!


After a late night, we were glad to spend the day recovering at El Dorado Maroma, the boutique branch of the resort with over-water huts. It was a perfect blend of relaxation and action, in our atypical trip to Tulum.

See more of La Carmina's Mexico travel tips on her blog. She's also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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