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Not Civilized…Yet!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 21, 2007

El Paraiso Beach in Tulum, MexicoWhat is the point of living in paradise if you don’t take time to enjoy it? That’s what we asked ourselves this morning. And by way of answering ourselves, we jumped in the van and took off for our favorite beach, El Paraiso in Tulum.

It’s about a fifty minute drive from our house to the beaches in Tulum. Highway 307 which runs from Cancun to Chetumal (and passes through Playa Del Carmen and Tulum along the way) is being turned into a modern multi-lane highway. It has already been completed from Cancun to Akumal (just south of Playa Del Carmen). The rest of the way to Tulum is two wide lanes, one in each direction. The road is smooth all the way to Tulum, but the drivers in Mexico…well… let’s just say that things like speed limits, traffic signs and passing/no passing lanes are mere suggestions to local drivers. And if there exists more than a foot of space where a driver wants to drive, he will go for it!!

However we have learned in Mexico to drive like we live, without any hurry. If people want to pass, speed, or take up the whole road, we let them. The beach will still be there whenever we arrive. So we got to our destination, slowly but without a scratch.

El Paraiso beach is about three quarters of a mile south of the Tulum ruins. It is a beautiful stretch of Caribbean Sea and sand. Recently the small set of cabanas and beach bar were purchased by a large company who planned on building luxury condos and a new modern beach club. The name of the bar was changed but not much else happened. The beach closed down in anticipation of “improvements” (and we use the term loosely) but nothing happened. It appears that inter-partner disputes have put the development on hold, and the old beach bar has re-opened. How long this little beach will be denied the “civilizing” effect of condominium construction we can’t say. But for the time being we intend to enjoy it. View from a lounge chair...El Paraiso Beach, Tulum, Mexico

The El Paraiso sits on white sand and is shaded by plenty of towering palm trees whose branches move in the sea breezes. The bar is a tiny palm thatch covered affair. There is a very decent kitchen which turns out better than usual beach food. We settled in on a couple of chairs and ordered Caesar salads with grilled shrimp and Havana Club Cuban Rum on the rocks. While we waited for our food and drinks we took a dip in the water. It was crystal clear and warm to the touch. We floated on our backs in the turquoise water with a clear sky above us until our lunch arrived.

While we were eating, we ran into another Playa local, Claudia, who is studying to be an EMT (emergency medical technician). Her requirement of the day was to be on the beach with Cruz Roja (Red Cross) in case anyone needed any help. As it turned out, they didn’t, and she ended up spending the day watching the beautiful scenery like us. Of course Claudia told us that wasn’t a typical day but rather was a nice change of pace for her. Claudia (known on the internet as Claudia de Playa) is a long term resident who, when she’s not studying to be an EMT, does publicity in the travel industry, in particular for Frommers and Can-Do Maps. She also offers translation services for local medical facilities. Part of the reason for her EMT training, she explained, was to learn the medical terminology needed for helping to translate in emergency situations. Claudia is one of those special types of people that Playa seems to draw.

Kiteboarder at El Paraiso Beach,Tulum, Mexico
As we finished lunch we watched several guys and one girl practicing kite boarding, which involves riding a board while being pulled across the surface of the waves by a parachute style kite. Occasionally the boarder is expected to leap above the waves and perform acrobatic spins and flips. We decided this was definitely a spectator sport as far as we were concerned. We found out the First Annual Tulum Extreme Sports Festival was starting the next day with volleyball matches, reggae bands and of course a kite boarding competition.

After lunch it was time to read (Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag for Cheri and a classic Travis McGee novel for Tony, Darker than Amber by John D. MacDonald) then a little nap, another swim and then time to head home.

Life south of the border is far from perfect. There is hard work and there can be difficult days…but sometimes when the sun, the sea and the ocean breezes fit together perfectly it can make for a very special moment in time. Today was one of those moments for us.

“It’s like a dream we live down here.” – Jerry Jeff Walker, “Cowboy Boots and Bathing Suits.”

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