LIVING / Between Tulum and Valladolid

Between Tulum and Valladolid

Between Tulum and Valladolid

12 January 2006 Destinations, Mayan Riviera, Valladolid Living, LIVING 38

If you're leaving from Valladolid and heading for the coast, or looking for the fastest way to Tulum from Merida (or vice versa), you will find yourself on the road of which we speak. The first time we drove this road four years ago, it was two narrow pot-holed lanes between kilometers and kilometers of jungle on both sides... and not much else.

Things have changed a bit.

Starting in Tulum, the road leaves from the corner where the San Francisco Assis grocery store is located. The signs point to Coba and Valladolid. At this end, they are starting to widen the road, so there is a nice wide road to start, some construction, and then it narrows for the rest of the way. The narrow road is not for the first-time driver in Mexico, perhaps, but if you are used to driving here, you should have no problems. The pot holes are mostly gone, but it is still narrow for most of the way, and cars do drive fast.

But don't let that stop you, because there is much to discover on this road. One of the first things you will see is a cenote, (whose name escapes us at the moment), where swimming and scuba diving are available. Tour buses seem to stop here, so it must be good... and one day, we'll find the time to go there and let you know all about it. (Feel free to comment if you've been there!)

Fairly soon after leaving Tulum, you will pass three small pueblos. In each pueblo are artisans who create handmade wooden furniture, replicas of Mayan ancient relics, figurative wooden sculptures, planters made from logs, masks and stone carvings. There are also fresh juice stands with everything from cocos frios (cold coconuts that they poke a whole in so you can drink the coconut water) to mandarina (tangerine) or naranja (orange) or whatever is in season. Don't hesitate to stop at these little villages and sample their wares. The people are friendly and some of the crafts are quite exquisite.

For instance, in the middle village there is an older gentleman who has spent his life making exacting replicas of ancient Mayan sculptures. He has an extensive art book collection from which he creates his sculptures. He and his son sculpt from plaster, stone and clay and his creations are not cheap, but they are exquisite. And from what he says, his work is collected by people from around the world. I know of at least one of his works that resides on a shelf in a modern 33-floor high rise apartment in Las Vegas!

Continuing on the road towards the north, you will come to a glorieta (roundabout) where you can turn off to go to the Mayan ruin of Coba to the left. If you continue north (straight ahead or todo derecho, as they say here in Yucatan), you will come to the libre (free) road that parallels the carretera (toll road) from Cancun to Merida. Turn left here to go towards Valladolid.

On our last trip this way, we weren't interested in going into the town of Valladolid. The town is well worth the trip, but we didn't have time. Instead, we stopped at a restaurant called Restaurante Hacienda Ticuch. This restaurant has been built to look like an old hacienda, though it is new construction. The main building houses the kitchen, an indoor dining area and a gift shop. If the weather is nice, we suggest sitting outside under the palapa-covered tables. While you are waiting for your meal, take a stroll towards the back of the property along a well-maintained path where you will see a dozen or so peacocks strutting their stuff. At the end of the path is a capilla (chapel) dedicated to El Cristo de Las Ampules (the Christ of the Blisters). Its a lovely spot and a peaceful place to stop in the middle of this long drive.

The food was delicious too! Some of the best sopa de lima (lime soup) that any of us have ever tasted. We had fresh fish, arrachera and delicious homemade tortillas. The food was fresh and well prepared and we would go back again.

Just past the restaurant, turn right to follow the signs to Merida. At the next stop, follow the sign to Merida if you want to continue on the libre road, or go towards Tizimin if you want to get on the carretera here. If you neglected to eat at Hacienda Tucich, then stop at the halfway point on the carretera, and eat at one of the little restaurants. The tacos and tamales have always been delicious here. We prefer the restaurant with the big shiny capuccino machine. A cappucino for the road makes the rest of the drive back to Merida that much easier.


  • RN 9 years ago

    Helli everyone! I first visited Tulum in 2010 when my 12 year old son and I flew out there from Chicago. I rented a car about 10 min from the airport and drive to PDC and then to our final destination, Tulum for a week. We drove through Valladolid into Chichen Itza in about 2 hrs tops. The roads were very decent. If you decide to drive to Chichen Itza, consider staying the night at Valladolid. There's a cenote nearby and the town itself has a nice charm. We had dinner at Maria de la Luz Hotel/Restaurant...the food was delicious and the service was good. The tulum ruins are small site and don't require much more than couple hours depending how long you'd like to enjoy the beach by the ruins. A visit to Islas Mujeres is a must if you're in PDC.
    I'm planning another visit to Tulum in Dec. and I can't wait! I will be staying at the same location, Posada Lamar, the perfect place to disconnect and enjoy the beautiful beach! Good luck and enjoy. You will not regret visiting Tulum.

  • Francis 10 years ago

    The best place to stay is Grand Mayab, this hotel and also Bungalows are located just at 15 minutes from chichen Itza.

  • Try Valladolid for a weekend get away 11 years ago

    [...] moved to Merida, lo these many years ago now, we traveled to Valladolid on the way to somewhere. On the way to Tulum, or on the way back from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. We would stop by and have a delicious lunch [...]

  • Need a break from the long winter..why not go to Tulum? | Farflungistan 12 years ago

    [...] A must try: Cocos Frios or cold coconuts sold at stands along highway.  Just look for signs along the way from Tulum to Coba. [...]

  • Working Gringos 12 years ago

    Laura, at the bus station you can find either ADO buses or local (cheaper) buses that stop along the way. You could probably also eventually find an even cheaper bus, but we wouldn't recommend it for your first trip.

  • Laura 12 years ago

    Good morning! In a few months I will go in Cancun!!! I would like to visit Chichen Itza. Is there a bus from Cancun that is not ADO? I found a bus which leaves at 8 o' clock and returns to Cancun at about 4 o'clock. Are there collectivos to Chichen Itza?

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    Our suggestion would be to yes, rent a car. Then drive that car to Valladolid instead of Merida (look under our Destinations topic for an article on Valladolid). It is a lovely colonial city that is an hour from Cancun instead of three hours. If you want to spend the night (and we would suggest it), try Casa Hamaca (www.casahamaca) or Casa Quetzal (, both lovely small hotels where you will be well and personally cared for.

    Spend one or two nights in Valladolid, enjoying the sights around there, and then drive down to Tulum for the last three nights. Your drive from Tulum back to Cancun will be easily accomplished in the morning in time for your 1:30 flight. You will have seen a touch of colonial Yucatan, and will have a few glorious days on the beach of Tulum, enjoying the Caribbean.

    That's our idea of the perfect way to spend those days!! Enjoy!!

  • S. 13 years ago

    Hello. Thanks for this site. I'm a single woman (mid-40's) planning to arrive in Cancun on Thursday, April 1st. I have until Tuesday the 6th at 1:30 to enjoy the Yucatan. I'm trying to decide whether to rent a car, whether to venture out to Merida or to just concentrate on a stretch of quieter time in Tulum. Suggestions? How is it for a woman driving alone in the area in terms of safety? I'd appreciate your thoughts!

  • Harald Jezek 14 years ago

    Hi Sonia...the shortest and fastest way would be on the road that goes past Coba. You even could stop there for some sightseeing of the ruins there. Coba is different than Chitzen Itza or Tulum in the sense that there is more jungle surrounding it and it's not so much frequented by tourists since it is a little bit off the track. Outside of the archaeological area, there is a small lake and a restaurant (I forgot the name) with pretty decent local food.

    Depending how fast you drive you can make it in about 1 hour from Valladolid. It's a country road with potholes on certain stretches, but usually not too bad. The last time I took the road they were improving the stretch between Coba and Tulum (about 30 miles) so that should be pretty ok by now. There are also a few cenotes (easy to find through the signs on the road) between Coba and Tulum (not counting the more known cenotes between Cancun and Tulum)

  • sonia 14 years ago

    I want to go from Valladolid to Tulum, how long does it take? which "carretera" or route is the shortest? how much time? i like the jungle and my husband wants to explore a cenotes. there is anything that we should do? any place to stop? thanks for your repplies and help leaivng on saturday

  • CasiYucateco 14 years ago

    Possible yes, desirable or relaxing, no. ;-)

    Working Gringos & Harold are right. And six hours will be gone before you know it. Choosing one would be best. And if you must see Valladolid, head there first. Short distances can take longer than you think. Small or side roads can bring unexpected surprises and delays (horse carts, potholes, anything). Cancun (turnpike entrance) could have a traffic jamb or something else could come up. Why stress out needlessly?

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