Tulum stopped being a media darling, and maybe that’s a good thing

If travelers back off for a time, new regulations will give the fragile resort time to reset

Tulum's bad headlines could be for the better, a travel writer concludes. Photo: Getty
Tulum’s bad headlines could be for the better, a travel writer concludes. Photo: Getty

If adverse publicity leads to a brief drop in tourism, Tulum businesses will have room to breathe and new pro-environment policies will a chance to have an impact.

That’s the upshot of an essay by a British travel writer who recently spent a month on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

It feels like a war against Tulum, says Liz Dodd, writing for the (UK) Independent.

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Tulum made its name as a hippy hangout in the 1990s, but eventually went mainstream and became over crowded. Add to that the sargassum blight and reddening waters which Dodd dismisses as not so bad “for a Brit used to the pebble beaches of Brighton and Essex.”

“I thought that’s just what the sea looked like,” Dodd says she told “an incredulous American tourist when they wondered how I could bear a holiday in such intolerable conditions.”

Recent headlines like “Who killed Tulum?” and “Tiny Tulum goes from beach paradise to eco-nightmare,” are all over Facebook and Twitter.

Unregulated tourism is to blame, although the end of last year Tulum became Mexico’s first sustainable tourism zone, clearing the way for the local authority to impose stricter building regulations and to prioritize money for green initiatives. The state recently blocked the construction of a 520-room resort in northern Tulum and, earlier in the year, five similar resorts were halted. “The tide is turning, and it is turning against reckless development,” writes Dodd, who declares all is not lost in Tulum.

The writer recalls how a month-long stay off season, which runs late August until Christmas, “was paradise.”

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“The beach road, a bumpy track that runs between the sea and the jungle, from Tulum town to the beach strip, was almost silent; you could walk into the hottest restaurants on a whim; hotels that usually charged $10-20 a day for a spot on the beach let me lounge all day for the price of a coffee or bowl of nachos. My twice daily yoga classes were often one-on-one, held in an open walled shala set back in the jungle 20 paces from my bedroom. Including breakfast, this set me back £40 a night,” Dodd recalls.

Mindset is key.

“Of course Tulum’s soul will evade you if you’re only in it for Instagram, or if a clump of seaweed can ruin your holiday,” Dodd says.

See Dodd’s full story, and some touring and dining recommendations, at the Independent.

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