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Between Tulum and Valladolid

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.


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38 Responses to “Between Tulum and Valladolid”

  1. Dos Ojos Cenotes? Or Hidden World? There are some amazing dives to be done there- and you can do a couple cavern dives with a guide with only an open water certification. For more extensive diving- make sure you are cave certified.

  2. I think the name of the cenote just outside of Tulum is the Grand Cenote. My wife and I spent a wonderul afternoon snorkling there in late July. It was the hottest day of our stay in the area, in the low 90′s. The water temperature was around 75 degrees, enough to initially take your breadth away but quickly so comfortable that we stayed in the water for several hours. And what water it was, crystal clear with small, multi-colored fish that swam just beyond your reach. The opening for the cenote was about a 30 yards long oval, with a wooden deck 20 steps below ground level, running the length of one side of the oval. On one end there was a 20 foot wide, ten foot high tunnel to a small sandy shallows and beach, and the other end was an open area with a small 2 foot high opening into a vast vault 20 feet high above water that was easily 20 or 30 feet deep. It is an experience not to be missed.

  3. You provide some awesome information and insight. What is the distance and the drive time from Tulum to Valladolid? I assume that the correlation is different than in the US. Is there any reason for non-working gringos to fear eating and drinking in the pueblitos?

  4. We honestly have no idea how many kilometers it is from Tulum to Valladolid… but it takes about an hour and a half. The road is in fairly good condition, but is only two opposing lanes in some places. It is being widened as we speak, but feel pretty dangerous in certain areas… just dangerous in the sense that passing a barreling semi-truck going the other way on a narrow highway feels dangerous.

  5. Oh, and about the eating and drinking. Well, we figure we acculturated by now so we eat and drink with impunity. Our son who visited from the States became painfully ill after eating at a very nice established restaurant in Cozumel, not even a roadside cafe. So quien sabe? It seems to be the luck of the draw and whether or not Mercury is in retrograde.

  6. Good information. We are planning to take this road going to Tulum after staying in Chichen Itza.
    I am really interested in handcrafts made by the man in the middle pueblo. Can you remember the name of the pueblo or of the shop of this man?

  7. OK, we finally found the little scrap of paper on which this man’s name is written. But it’s practically illegible. It says K.22, which we think means 22 kilometers from Tulum, and if memory serves, the pueblo is called San Francisco. So if you were leaving Tulum, set your kilometer dial to “0″ and stop when you get to 22. His name is Alfredo (but we can’t read the last name) and he wrote a phone number: 01-984-879-7300. He does not speak English, but he is an educated and traveled gentleman. If you get to K.22 and see a Mayan hut on the right side (as you are heading towards Valladolid) with some big stone sculptures in front, then you are in the right place. Let us know if you find it!

  8. Hi there. Thanks for all your information. I have two questions. 1) Do you know of anyone making ceramic/clay cookware for ovens? 2) Is it possible and/or advisable to travel around exploring and then, when you want to crash in that location for the night is it easy to find a vacancy within any given Yucatan village or city location during the first week of December? My husband and I like to explore, while keeping a loose itinerary. Thanks for your information.

  9. Hola Nancy,

    The village of Ticul is the only place in Yucatan we know that has a tradition of pottery making, but this is mostly terra cotta planters cured in wood-fired kilns, not suitable for cooking. Most high-quality ceramica comes from the states of Puebla, Michoacan and Jalisco. You can find these wares in Yucatan, mostly in stores where tourists shop, located in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Merida.

    We’ve traveled around Mexico with a “loose itinerary” and never had any problem finding lodging, as long as we planned to arrive at a large city or well-known tourist destination by nightfall. Fact is, most small Mexican pueblos do not have formal lodging facilities. On the Yucatan Peninsula, you will always find a room somewhere on the Caribbean coast and in Merida. There are a few hotels and hostels in the smaller colonial cities, like Valladolid and Campeche. And there is lodging scattered along the Gulf Coast, in places like Celestun, Progreso, Telchac Puerto and Isla Holbox.

  10. Thanks so much for the information! Have you found that lodging places charge more or less than what is advertised when you just drop by? In other words, would the price bump up because of supply and demand or by us appearing desperate with no other place to go?

    This is our first time to the Yucatan Peninsula and I’d love to see Merida and the western coast, but a weeks time is not enough to give all the areas the justice they deserve. For this trip, we plan to visit Tulum, Coba, Valladolid, Dzitnup, Ek Balam, Chichen-Itza (not necessarily in that order).

    One last question, from everything I have researched and read, it appears that night driving is not recommended. However, let us say that we are at Chichen-Itza to see the light show after a day of touring and dinner, would driving to a hotel in Ek Balam or Valladolid afterwards be ill advised?

    Thanks, again for your quick response and for all of your information!

  11. Oye Nancy, there are some very nice places to stay in Tulum, Valladolid, Ek Balam and Chichen Itza, but we wouldn’t expect to get a bargain between November and April, which is peak tourist season (although Working Gringa says, “it never hurts to ask!”).

    The autopista between Chichen Itza and Valladolid and Ek Balam is an easy drive and we have frequently done it at night, but after a full day of touring and dinner, why knock yourself out? We’d stay at Hacienda Chichen and walk back to our rooms after the Luz y Sonido. If you haven’t already, you may want to read our article on Driving in Yucatan.

  12. Thanks, again. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a bargain, although I would certainly be glad for it. I was more concerned about being overcharged if there were no other choices available in that local. We may inquire into the Hacienda Chichen, although it is more than we want to spend. It looks like a lovely place.

    Thanks, also, for the “Driving in Yucatan” page. I’ve been really apprehensive about renting a vehicle with everything I have read prior. My first thoughts were to go strictly by bus and colectivos, but I wasn’t sure how I would go from place to place while playing it loose with our itinerary. I also wasn’t sure about the abundance and frequencies of the buses and colectivos within the interior Yucatan. Are colectivos as prevalent in interior Yucatan as they are within Riviera Maya?

    Thanks, again. You have a great website!

  13. Nancy,

    We’ve never heard of anyone being overcharged for lack of availability, although anything can happen. Prices are posted and walk-ins pay the posted price. You may hear of others paying less, but this is usually because they are part of a tour group.

    One night at Hacienda Chichen is worth the splurge, especially if it keeps a couple tired drivers off the autopista. ;)

    There are buses, colectivos and even taxis between Chichen Itza (Piste) and Valladolid, and between Valladolid and Tulum. Almost every colonial town is connected in this way. You may have to wait awhile for the bus you need however, since their schedules are designed for the locals, not for tourists.

  14. Great article. My wife and I drove from Valladolid to Tulum during our honeymoon back in 1981. The road was very primitive then. Much of it packed dirt if I remember. We saw numerous large snakes crossing the road and a large buzzard smashed into the window of our rental car! We discovered Coba too. Quite an exciting trip.We’ve done it a few more times since then and there is always something different to discover.

  15. Hola! February 26, 2007.
    I have spent literally months researching and reveling in Yucatacan culture and locations on the internet. I am so excited – my husband told me I could pick anywhere in the world to go for my birthday. I am planning the adventure of a lifetime and chose the Yucatan! I am writing because your website shares invaluable information – no one on the web has everything – but to have someone willing to really “spell it out” is thrilling. I hope you still check your email from this site – thank you for your generosity in answer travelers’ questions. Here’s mine:
    We have reservations on Cozumel for several days. Then we want to rent a car in Playa del Carmen and somehow end up on Holbox Island. We realize we’ll have to leave the rental car at Chiquila (costly but must pay for 3 rental car days and leave it parked there – but can’t figure out what else to do with the rental car). Then we will return from Holbox by ferry, get the car and drive to Ek Balam where we have reservations at Genesis Eco Lodge and will stay two days (2 nights). During that time we’d like to see cenotes, villages and Valladolid. But we also want to see Chichen-Itza and Tulum. I can’t find a map that shows that loop and/or tells the number of kilometers or miles between each. I am trying to calculate the hours we’ll be on the road and where we’ll be when it gets dark – so basically how long it will take to do everything we’ve planned! Got any suggestions? The only thing for sure are our reservation dates on Cozumel, Isla Holbox and Ek Balam. The route is flexible. Thank you for reading this long-winded question! Cordially, Ellen

  16. Hola, Ellen….

    It sounds like a great itinerary…you’ve got a lot planned. Like you, we can’t think of anything else to do with your rental car on Holbox. We’re not sure we would spend three whole days there, although the lobster and shrimp ceviche might tempt us to. One day to go out on a boat and see the whalesharks, another day to walk around the island doing nothing and we would probably move on. There is so much else to see!

    The best time to see Tulum would be when you get to Playa del Carmen. It’s just forty minutes south of there. Then you can head up the coast highway to Holbox. It takes about two or three hours to get from Playa del Carmen to Holbox, depending on whether or not you get lost and if you stop anywhere. At least, we would leave ourselves that much time. Once you’re settled in Ek Balam, you can drive west to Chichen Itza on the 180 Autopista in about an hour. Or drive south across the Autopista to Valladolid in about 25 minutes. While you are in that part of the world, be sure to visit Uayma too. You’ll be glad you did.

    Being in the Yucatan is all about NOT being in a hurry, so try not to pack your days with too much to do. The best thing about being here is letting the road take you wherever it’s going. Leave room in your itinerary for serendipity and magic.

    Other than that, just relax and have a wonderful trip! You’re in for a treat!!

  17. The two of us are interested in getting off the beaten path (avoiding large hotel resorts and other trendy development) and snorkeling, kayaking. We travel by bus. Any travel info on Xcalak? We understand the bus from there to Merida (to catch our plane back to the States) is a long 12 hour ride. Any info on Yucatan plane travel?

    We are thinking Bahias de Punta Soliman may be an alternative as it is easier to get to.

    Thank you for any insider tips on Xcalak, plane travel within Yucatan, or Bahias de PUncta Soliman.

    Marian

  18. Any suggestions on places to stop, ceynotes or other interesting places to stop between Merida and Xcalak?

  19. There are two cenotes on the way out of Tulum on the road to Coba. I visited both of them one day on my bike. The one mentioned in an earlier comment is Grand Cenote, and it’s quite large and impressive and beautiful. However, there were 30-40 people there on the February day when I visited it. It’s quite an organized tourist stop. Still, I loved it. But the other cenote was a really magical experience for me, maybe partly because I just came upon it while riding my bike back to Tulum. It’s on the same side of the road, but a little closer to Tulum. There’s a little store with a shrine to the Virgin Mary outside of it, and some kind of a building under construction, and a kind of hand-scrawled sign that just said “Cenote”. When I pulled up on my bike, a guy came from somewhere and said that it cost 50 pesos. He then accompanied me down the jungle path to the cenote. It was very quiet back there, just lots of bird sounds. The cenote had just a small round opening in the rock. At first it was just me and this guy; a little later a couple of other people came, including this European girl who shouted “Uno, dos, tres!” and jumped in. Photo: http://tinyurl.com/5zrccu . I’m not a diver, but the water was delicious as in all of the cenotes. I cannot WAIT to get back to Tulum…

  20. [...] 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 [...]

  21. Working Gringos: Just love your site & articles. We are headed to Yucatan for 2 wks Jan 09, with our 5year old twins. Our itinerary: Arrive Cancun in AM (on the red eye from West Coast) & drive to Valladolid, 2 nights; Merida 3-4 nights, Izamal/Hac Chalante 3 nights, and to Tulum for 4-5 nights. Beach for the kids at the end (their reward for all the sites in between). We are torn actually b/w Holbox & Tulum……realizing Tulum far more touristy. But friends have a “cabana” hotel there. Worry that Holbox too limited as far as activity for the grown ups. Any comments, especially for us with our two 5 year olds? Many thanks for all the great info and generosity in sharing it. -Ellen

  22. If it were us, we’d go for Tulum. It really isn’t that touristy and it has the best beaches on the planet (okay, we haven’t seen them all yet, but the ones in Tulum are damn near perfect). Holbox is harder to get to, and from the twins point of view (sand, water, sun, mom & dad), what’s the difference? I predict you will be happier and more peaceful going straight to Tulum and relaxing there.
    And you have friends with a hotel there?
    You’re gonna’ love it…

  23. Hi. Many thanks for such a detailed, inspiring site! Please tell a pair of Tulum first timers: are ten nights too many in Tulum? We wanted to crash on a gorgeous beach and forget the beeping and buzzing and ringing and honking of Los Angeles, but as we contemplate this trip, we’re becoming more inspired to trek around. I’m thinking that we cannot see all that you’ve piqued my interest to see if we are anchored in Tulum for the entire stay. I have so much more research to do; the deposit for the hotel hasn’t been wired yet; and we will have a car. Thanksthanks for lending your expertise!

  24. My cruise is docking in Calica. We have 6 hours to sight see. I was thinking about renting a car and going to Tullum, then take the little road to valladolid and then the toll road back to cancun and then to the port in calica…do you think there is time for all this in 6 hours and enjoy the sights???

  25. It could be done. Probably would allow about an hour or so each in Tulum and Valladolid, with a little time here or there to eat or relax on a beach or soak it in. Too bad more than 6 hours are not allowed. That’s not very long. Enjoy!

  26. We have been thinking about it… it COULD be done, but don’t forget the time it takes to rent the car! That could take up to an hour right there, unless they have them waiting for you at the dock. We would head straight to Valladolid if you really want to see both. That way you’ll be closer to the dock in Tulum if you find yourself having to cut it short. Valladolid is not that close.
    Our vote would be to choose one place and enjoy it more thoroughly…even though we are loathe to disagree with CasiYucateco on anything!

  27. Jennifer,
    as WGs say, it CAN be done. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it. I suggest enjoy Tulum. You could rent a car and discover some places around Tulum. perhaps visiting a cenote (there are some nice ones all over the stretch from Cancun to Tulum).
    You also coud go for a few hours to XEL HA. In this case you could take a cab and don’t even need to rent a car. You also could go to Playa del Carmen or the opposit direction to Majahual. 6 hours isn’ really a lot of time.

  28. 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?

  29. 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

  30. 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)

  31. 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!

  32. 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 (www.casa-quetzal.com/), 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!!

  33. 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?

  34. 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.

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

  36. [...] 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 [...]

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

  38. 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.

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