Tulum & The Need for Luxury

After negotiating our way out of Belize and entering Mexico via water taxi from San Pedro to Chetemal, we quickly made our way to the bus station and purchased tickets to Tulum. The Ado buses in Mexico are nice, air-conditioned and super comfy. It took 3 1/2 hours from Chetemal to reach Tulum. We had heard that Tulum is beautiful and to get there and experience it before it gets built up. So, we did. To our surprise, it’s already built up. I’m not sure why it gets a reputation for being a sleepy backpacker town because the entire beach road is filled with hotels, inns and cabins. The nice thing is that there are no large hotel chains, just small quaint hotels. It seems everyone already knows about this gem and has laid stake in it. It’s still beautiful, but it’s not backpacker cheap, especially if you want to stay on the beach. And since the beach is its greatest draw, that is where we wanted to stay. Our taxi driver dropped us off at Hotel Parayso.

Still Negotiating

Mr. King went to ask about a room as I waited by the taxi with our luggage and was quoted $90 US per night. Whoa! After a little negotiating, he got it down to $80 and came back to me. I laughed and pointed to the sign that said $70/night and sent Mr. King back to the reception desk. They settled on $60. We moved our bags to the interior of the hotel and went to pay. Mr. King had a $100 US bill, but the hotel manager only had a $50 for change. I told her that would be fine and, after all, $50 a night is fair. She agreed. I love negotiating! After all our negotiations in Belize, I had primed my skills.

Waiting at Hotel Parayso in Tulum, Mexico

Waiting at Hotel Parayso in Tulum, Mexico

The room was okay. It was huge, had three beds in it, but bare to the bones and a step below ‘hostel quality’. It was a disappointment, but we did want to be on the beach and every other place that accepted children was over $100/night, which we didn’t want to spend. As it was, it turned out to be a great location for us and we loved stepping outside our door right onto the beautiful Tulum beaches. Most hotels on the beach road don’t have electricity during the day, but this one had its own wind generator, so we had electricity and free wifi and broadband internet connection. Most hotels on the beach also have salt water showers, as did this one. It was nice to have a shower, but we just didn’t feel clean after showering in salt water.

The Tulum beach road is long and there are several restaurants, but most are high tourist priced. We highly recommend Jaguar’s, they had unbelievable pizzas, curry and spring rolls. Each meal averaged over $50 US for 2 adults and 2 kids. Meals in town were cheaper, but to get there was a $13 taxi ride round trip.

Tulum is beautiful. It just might be the most perfect beach. White and pink sands that are so soft and don’t get hot, crystal clear waters, waves that are fun to play in and miles and miles of it. It was awesome.

Perfect sand in Tulum, Mexico

Perfect sand in Tulum, Mexico

We didn’t see any ruins or swim in the cenotes, we just wanted to relax. We have a few intense weeks coming up in the states of selling the rest of our stuff and visiting with friends, that we were preparing with much needed downtime. After 3 nights of below average accommodations, expensive restaurants and no longer being able to put up with the unclean feeling, I got on the internet and scored us a great deal to an all–inclusive just up the road at Playa del Carmen. (Typically, this resort is over $380 per night for 2 people, but I found a special for $129/night for all of us. A steal for all that is included!)

Wanting luxury

We can put up with a lot and we certainly don’t need the luxury, but there are times we want it. We love staying at hostels for the financial savings, but more so for the rich experience of meeting so many different people. We can eat at hole in the wall places that serve incredible, authentic and cheap food. But we also like to be pampered with fluffy white towels, bathrobes, and cute animals made out of towels on our bed.

Our flexibility and willingness to accept whatever situation is our strength and a reason we can appreciate other cultures without judging them. Knowing when we’ve had enough is also very important. When we lived in Costa Rica, there were times we needed to escape the frustrations of daily expat living, so we’d go to an all-inclusive resort to relax, recoup and indulge. Interestingly enough, we’ve been to 7 of the 9 all-inclusives in Costa Rica. Proof enough that traveling and expat living has its frustrations.

But so does everyday life everywhere. I’m sure there are things that annoy you from time to time and that doesn’t mean you’re going to give up on living where you do, it’s just a part of life. You work through it, grow from it and move on.

Indulging, er, Over-indulging

Our stay at the Occidental Grand Xcaret was wonderful. We indulged in the food waaaaayyy too much. Who could blame us? A choice of 7 mini-desserts means that my sugar tooth will try all seven and then go back for seconds on the ones I liked. I was so full that my ribs hurt from my expanded stomach. Then I vowed not to overeat again, but I did on the next meal! I have a problem, I knew it and didn’t do anything about it.

Desserts for all of my taste buds!

Desserts for all of my taste buds!

Mr. King’s new mantra of not having any alcoholic beverages didn’t last but a few minutes, especially since there was a huge bottle of good, dark rum on the night table in our room when we arrived. When everything is included, our natural tendency is to indulge. It’s sick and gross and wonderfully awesome since we don’t do it that often.

There were 6 huge mega-pools, a really cool carved out beach area with fish that swam around us, a kids club, ecological jungle paths, scarlet macaws everywhere…there was so much fun stuff to do, we were so glad to have made the switch, especially since it was costing us less than staying and eating in Tulum. This place was so huge they had to give us a map and it looked like an amusement park.

Map of Occidental Xcaret

Map of Occidental Xcaret

The hotel rooms were spacious and clean. There were slippers and a fluffy bathrobe waiting for me and a high pressure freshwater shower. The cost of our stay was worth the shower alone.

Do we feel guilty for indulging?


We live our everyday lives with impressive moderation that a splurge like this is welcome.

Now it’s our last morning here, we fly out this afternoon to Denver. Starting early morning, Mr. King is clearing out the rest of our stuff from my sister’s basement so that I can sell it on Craiglist and garage sales and we will become 100% un-anchored, digital nomads.

The anxiety is unbelievable.

P.S. We did not pay a fee to enter or exit Mexico.

Photos from Mexico

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12 Responses to “Tulum & The Need for Luxury”

  1. Emily May 24, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Great post! I am glad to know that we are not the only ones who overdo dessert buffets. It’s a definite problem — glad we don’t encounter them very often!

  2. Living Outside of the Box May 24, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    You got into Mexico without paying for a tourist visa?! Are you serious?! Wow!

    Glad you liked XCaret…we thought it was a jewel! Being cheap and nomadic-like is awesome in its own way, but the nice places sure do have their benefits, too!!

  3. Anny May 24, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    Oh my, you made me laugh out loud with the dessert part of this post.. your ribs hurting an all. Miss you!! I am glad you didnt have to pay fees in or out of Mexico, hopefully you will come back soon and maybe ill see you guys again!
    Miss you!

  4. Jennifer Pearce May 24, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Your blog posts are so much fun, as are you. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂 Sounds like a beautiful beach and a lovely resort. It’s fun to hear about your adventures in bargaining too, as usual. Brandon and I are excited to see what you can do at the market here in Bali. I think you are at the pro status by now.

  5. Brandon Pearce May 25, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    No more Alcohol for Mr. King?! That doesn’t sound like him. What prompted that?

    You certainly are an expert negotiator. I’m looking forward to learning a thing or two from you when you come to Bali.

    As for luxury, I’m exactly the same way. I can be happy in a little shack or a grand mansion. But sometimes a little pampering is very welcome, especially when it’s reasonably priced.

    • S King May 25, 2012 at 8:59 am #

      Mr. King thought he’d try to be as healthy as his wife…but we both failed on this trip!
      We are looking forward to lots of pampering in Bali, especially massages. We used to get twice monthly massages in Costa Rica because they were so inexpensive and we’ll be continuing that in Bali.

  6. Lisa Wood May 25, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    oh my I am so jealous – I am showing my kids all of the meals, and the map, and reading the blog post about your magical stay…..our boys would be in heaven 🙂
    those desserts look so magical!


  7. Cindy Fuhrer May 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Oh Mrs King, you are a woman after my our heart – sweet tooth, twice daily massages and love for obtaining a fair price (read: bargain lol). Think we’ll get on like a house on fire.

    We arranging a few days in Ubud after our friends leave bali. Maybe that would work better for a catch-up. Keep in touch.

    Take Care,

  8. Camella K May 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    So great that you got to experience two different places and levels of luxury!

    How on earth did you get such an awesome deal on the Occidental Resort? Your photos of it are so beautiful!

    • S King May 27, 2012 at 8:22 am #

      It’s my need to always get a great deal (I think it comes from my Polish heritage) and my expertise with Google.
      It was a beautiful resort…we didn’t miss being on a beach since my children prefer jumping and swimming in pools. And there were so many animals to find everywhere, turtles, macaws, monkeys, fish. It was a perfect place for kids.

  9. EmilySue June 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    Hi S. King, I actually was told about your blog by a mutual friend Julie Scheer. My husband and I leave for our round the world travels on July 2! I love reading your posts because we are actually starting in Mexico and heading down to spend time in Central America first!!! Can’t wait to see how Bali is…it’s definitely on our list as well.

  10. Travel with Bender (Erin) October 15, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    I think Ill add this to my places to go… just for the resort haha

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