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WALK, SWIM, DIVE
Exploring on foot is always the best way to get to know a place, and the beach hamlets of coastal Yucatan are no exception. But while Playa del Carmen’s Quinta Avenida and, to a lesser degree, Tulum’s main drag are thronged with visitors and shops, the sands of Isla Mujeres are quiet in the early hours—perfect for a morning jog—and a stroll among the fishing boats of Puerto Juarez in the late afternoon affords a whole new look at Cancún. For swimmers, Tulum’s beach tends to get the most wave action (see kiteboarding, below), making a Caribbean dip a bit more of a workout.
Tulum’s picturesque ancient Mayan ruins, of course, are a must in this area too, and combine a lot of walking and swimming, if you wish, as the archaeological site abuts the stunning coastline, offering visitors a staircase down the cliffside to the shimmering sea below (pictured at top). (Don’t expect to climb steep, crumbly pyramids here, though—you’ll have to go to the Coba ruins, about 30 miles northwest of Tulum, for that.) Skip the tram from the ticketing area to the ruins for more exercise, and don’t forget sunscreen and water. Mornings are the best time to visit independently, as it’s less crowded and less scorching-hot.
Swimmers, snorkelers, and divers, don’t overlook the gorgeous crystal-clear, fresh-water cenotes, natural pits filled with groundwater, in this region, too. Near Tulum, both Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote (pictured) are good bets for both cave divers and families, as each have shallow entry points, but there are countless other options. If we’d had more time, we would have pulled over at every random “cenote” signboard to explore!
Tulum beach boasts just the right winds for kiteboarding, as might be garnered from the sight of the colorful sails gliding high above the sea along the coast. In the “south beach” area near Rosa del Viento, Extreme Control is a kiteboarding school (from $60/$72 for group/private one-hour class) that can teach total beginners the tricks of the trade as well as help intermediate boarders brush up on skills and techniques. The outfitter also offers stand-up paddleboard lessons, rentals, and tours on Tulum’s coast and in area cenotes, as well as various PADI scuba-diving courses (including cave diving).
Practicing yoga is a popular activity in the New Age-y pockets of the Yucatán coast. Upstairs in the breezy palapa of the Na Balam Resort Hotel, the Vastu School of Yoga (map) on the island’s north end is a good bet, offering four adult classes every day, plus kids’ classes twice a week. Teacher trainings are offered, too. On Tulum’s mind-expanding coastline, try Yoga Shala (Boca Paila Km. 7.5, map), offering two to three classes a day for $15 a pop.
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