Tulum is a Mexican town on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula. We spent 4 days in this gorgeous area known for its beaches, well-preserved ancient Mayan ruins, and CENOTES!
There are over 3,000 unique cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. A cenote is a freshwater filled Mexican sinkhole. The word Cenote is of Mayan decent originally called dzonot or ts’onot, meaning well.
The cenotes played a crucial role in the development of the Mayan civilization as the main freshwater source inland. The cenotes are mostly found in the crater area that formed from the meteorite impact (the same meteorite responsible for the dinosaur extinction in this area).
The cenotes are great for swimming, diving, snorkeling and spotting wildlife! The extensive underground river systems, make this area of Mexico the best place to experience cave diving, snorkeling or other water activities!
Important Know Before You Go
Keep in mind that most cenotes are swim at your own risk. If you are not a strong swimmer, it is recommended that you rent a life vest if available.
Mexican dive laws don’t necessarily align with other countries laws. Some cenote dives can be dangerous for inexperienced divers- dive your experience level, and if you feel you can’t dive, opt for snorkeling or swimming instead, like I did!
Do not wear sunscreen or insect repellant in the cenotes; the chemicals are damaging to aquatic life.
Bring cash to cover the entrance fees
Most cenotes are remotely located and can be difficult to get to. When you arrive, some may have limited or no concessions for food/drink so plan accordingly
Instagram Worthy Caleta Tankah
Caleta Tankah or the “secret cenote” was magical. The colors of the cenote are absolutely breathtaking. Maybe I’m a bit biased this being my first cenote encounter and all… but Caleta Tankah was my favorite cenote we visited.
Of the 6 travelers in our group four of them were certified while myself and one other were not. While the divers explored the cenotes below the 500 meters below the surface, I snorkeled around the surface! There wasn’t a ton of fish to see, but the rock formations above and below the surface were incredible.
Kayak at Casa Cenote
As with most cenotes, Casa Cenote offered scuba diving and snorkeling. But what the others didn’t have, this cenote did! This time as the diving crew submerged below the water, I kayaked! It was great, because the water is crystal clear and following them was easy.
Scuba Dive in Cenotes!
Family Friendly Grand Cenote
Located a short drive from Tulum this popular cenote will amaze you. Contrary to it’s name, the Gran cenote is actually several cenotes connected by wooden walkways. The water is crystal clear and colorful! To keep it that way, they require everyone to rinse off in an outdoor shower before entering the cenote. This is a great family spot, as there are lots of green space and picnic areas.
Zip Line at Xunaan-Ha Cenote
For $100 pesos you can zipline yourself into this adventurous cenote until your hearts content. Xunaan-Ha cenote is located down a long bumpy dirt road in the small town of Chemuyil, just a short drive from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen. This cenote is not as crowded as the more popular surrounding cenotes such as the Gran.
High Dive at Car wash
The last and final dive the travel crew did was in the car wash cenote. We asked where the name came from… and it is exactly as it sounds. Due to its close proximity to the roadway- this cenote used to be used to wash the locals cars!
What cenotes did you explore on your Yucatan adventure?!
Visiting every National Park in America has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. Each National Park provides a great opportunity to learn the history and culture of the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) works to preserve important historic sites around the country for the enjoyment of future generations to come. To help preserve our beautiful historic parks, remember to practice the ‘Leave No Trace Principles’. Help ensure the protection and preservation of the precious lands and environment within these parks entrusted to us as visitors.
Here are 19 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2019!
Quintana Roo is a Mexican state within the Yucatán Peninsula. My friends and I visited the beautiful area in September. We spent the week exploring local towns such as Play Del Carmen, Tulum, & Cancun. Discovered crystal clear cenotes, 13th-century Mayan archaeological sites, and National Parks.
My recommendation for if you’re traveling during the off season is to wait until you’re at the airport to book your rental car. The rental companies at the airport will have more competitive pricing opportunities then you will find online and will negotiate with you. Have them explain the two different insurance options to you before you agree to rent with them.
What To Do: Head to the north side of the hotel zone and spend the day beach hopping down to the Caribbean side. There are 11 public beaches within the hotel zone, each beach is unique and offers visitors warm turquoise colored water along white sand.
Where To Eat: Quieres un, café? Brunch at one of the delicious local restaurants. We started our day with coffee and food after an early arrival before heading into the hotel zone. We ate at an adorable coffee shop (no longer open; updated 2020) which had a huge menu of pasteles, and traditional Mexican dishes ranging from sweet crepes to savory huevos rancheros. We had a tough time choosing, so we ordered both (plus a chilaquiles verdes con pollo).
Where To Stay: Our last night in Mexico we had breathtaking Caribbean sea view. We stayed right in the center of the Hotel Zone to be close to the beach but not too far from the airport for our early flight the next day.
Climate Change in Mexico
Notice the “red tide” or mounds of decaying algae in my Cancun beach photos…Scientists have warned that the algae are a grave new threat to the Caribbean, not just Cancun. In the open ocean the algae support birds and other sea life. But when washed ashore, as they start to decay they become an environmental nightmare. The decaying algae, emit hydrogen sulfide fumes that kills fish, coral and sea grass.
It also causes headaches and nausea in people- especially those that must clean it each morning before the tourists arrive. When not cleared, the algae becomes piled high blocking endangered sea turtles from reaching the shore to lay their eggs.
Day Trip to Akumal
Akumal is a small Caribbean community known for its sea turtles! Spend a day swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumal. The town is just a short drive from Playa del Carmen or Tulum making for an easy day trip. You can see the sea turtles on your own or take a guided tour. We decided to try our luck and explore on our own. Vendors will try and tell you that you MUST join a tour/wear a life vest to see the turtles- this is not true. There are roped off buoyed areas protecting major turtle feeding areas; if you stay inside the designated swim areas you can explore on your own as we did.
My recommendation would be to arrive at the beach early, the visibility in the water goes down as people swim throughout the day and stir up the sand. I would recommend not going through a guided tour and arrive to the beaches early for your best chances to see some turtles.
Make sure each person has their own mask/snorkel if you choose to search for turtles on your own. Our group had two snorkels/masks for 6 people to share, and only a few of us were able to spot some turtles. There are plenty of vendors along the town center that sell masks and snorkels for your convenience.
Along the Caribbean coast, the town of Tulum offers seaside Mayan ruins to explore, sandy beaches for relaxing and undersea caves for diving. September is the birth month of my favorite travel partner Logan. He earned his PADI Diving Certification a couple months before his birthday so that he could dive the cenotes in Mexico.
Just a few weeks before our trip to Mexico, Logan had completed his PADI dive certification! Dos Ojos was unanimously the favorite dive of the group. Noted as “The World’s BestCavern Dives” the name Dos Ojos translates to “two eyes”. Which refers to two nearby cenotes connected by a massive underwater cave system shared between the two.
The two caverns start and end in the same area. Each dive routes are unique, giving divers different areas of the cave to explore. The first dive is 500 meters (1,600 feet) alongThe Barbie Line and leads divers along the opening of the second eye with plenty of daylight to see the stalactites. The dive along The Batcave Line is a much darker route. With little to no daylight entering the cave system. Divers will ascend up the cave to an open air pocket filled with bats flying everywhere!
Best Ocean View:Mezzanine; Authentic Thai and casual beach menu includes a legendary Happy Hour if you’re looking for a boozey brunch on the beach, $$$$
Best Tacos: Las Antorcha Food Truck; location varies, $
Instagram Worthy: Kin Toh; Mayan-Mexican cuisine in a tree house venue offering guests an experience they’re sure to remember. Enter the restaurant and you will be surrounded with sounds, smells, and decor. Engaging each of your senses. Make reservations in advance, $$$$$
The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two.
Locals of the Lower Peninsula will often say I’m going “up north” for the weekend. Which could be anywhere north of their local county. Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend and I took our fur babies camping up north to Michigan’s UP to welcome the beginning of the summer season. “Up North” for the weekend took us 6 hours north of Detroit straight up I-75 to the central region of The UP.
The summer months (Late May- August) are best for tent camping in The UP. Temperatures range from mid 70’s to low 90’s, depending on how close to the waters you go. Lake Superior touches the northern part of the region, while Lake Michigan/Huron (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you’re on) border the southern region.
Where To Camp
Indian Lake State Campground
We left right after work Friday to make the most of our three-day holiday weekend. Arriving to our campsite at night per usual (we’re getting SO GOOD at setting up camp in the dark). We camped at Indian Lake State campground for the weekend, it was centrally located for all the activities we had planned. Michigan has some INCREDIBLE state campgrounds, I would recommend booking early, as most fill up quickly during the summer. Our camp site for the weekend was right on the lake! Check out my packing guide for what gear I use. *Note* If the state parks are all full, there are private owned campgrounds in the area as well as cabin rentals.
Kitch-iti-kipi known as “The Big Spring” is another gem in The UP’s crown. The 40 ft. deep spring pumps over 10,000 gallons of water a minute! Be sure to ride the self-operated observation raft across the spring, it offers a unique perspective, providing striking views to the bottom.
Big Spring is located inside Palms Book State Park, beautiful all year round… Big Spring doesn’t freeze! Visiting in the winter to see the crystal clear blue waters surrounded by a winter wonderland would be an epic adventure. (Mental note made)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of breath taking lakeshore along Lake Superior. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails winding through dense forest that will take you to waterfalls, pristine beaches and other secluded beauty.
Take A Hike
Deciding which hike to do will be tough, there are so many things to explore! I would recommend doing a couple hikes inside this bubble of national protected land to best see the beauty the UP has to offer. Michigan is so incredible! As we hiked along lakeshore north country trail the trail suddenly went from dirt to boardwalk as we crossed over some swamp lands. As we continued further, I looked around… we were completely surrounded 360 degrees by bright yellow flowers.
Relax at Chapel Beach
Explore the beach area and hike to the waterfall nearby!
Take A Dip
At the end of the hike there was the opportunity to cool off in a bath of crystal clear ABSOLUTELY FREEZING Lake Superior water. I wouldn’t recommend swimming for too long, while the surface temperature of Lake Superior varies seasonally, the temperature below (660 ft; 200 m) is 39 °F (4 °C) I dipped my toes in and decided that was enough for me! 😊
For more on what to do in Michigan’s U.P check out my post on the Eastern Region!
Iceland is full of sharp contrasts. This is a country with fire and ice co-existing. Where the winters are long and dark, but the summer’s midnight sun makes up for it, making the day’s feel much longer in summer.
Iceland has been a dream of mine for about 5 years now. The first time I saw pictures my jaw dropped. Who knew the country with “ice” in the name was so stunning with such a diverse landscape? Not me. Iceland immediately jumped to the top of my list. I started researching how much a trip to Iceland would cost me… and my jaw dropped again. There was nooo way I could afford that! Or was there? *Puts on thinking cap*
Here’s my 8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road!
How to Get to Iceland
Fly into Reykjavik International Airport (KEF). Flights are typically one of the largest expenses when traveling. I fly on budget airlines frequently, especially if it’s going to end up saving me a couple hundred dollars a flight. We flew direct into Iceland on the budget airline WOW. *WOW IS NO LONGER IN BUSINESS*
How to Get Around Iceland
Once we arrived in Reykjavik, we took the Airport Direct bus into the city (we found that to be the cheapest way into the city without a rental car). The bus had WIFI, and put public transportation buses in the US to shame. We were dropped off within walking distance to our AirBnB and the city’s attractions. Reykjavik is extremely walkable, so I’d recommend exploring on foot!
A rental car is necessary if you plan to explore Iceland’s ring road or outside the city of Reykjavik. You can pick up your rental right at the airport or take the bus into the city and get your car when you’re ready to leave the city.
Perhaps the most iconic building in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is a beautiful Lutheran church standing at 244 ft high. The height of the church makes it the largest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country!
Reykjavik Sun Voyager Sculpture
The Sun Voyager is a sculpture created by Jón Gunnar. The Sun Voyager sits along the coastline of the city and has a cool history. In 1986 Gunnar’s design for Sun Voyager won best outdoor sculpture in a competition funded by the city. The competition purpose was to create a sculpture that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city.
Where to Get Food in Iceland
Snacking on the traditional Icelandic food was… interesting. Logan tried things where I drew the line, such as fermented shark and dried pounded fish. The rye bread ice-cream however, I could eat in gallons.
Icelandic hot dogs are not like ordinary hot dogs, because they’re made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. We ordered ours the traditional Icelandic way. A hot dog on a warm, steamed bun topped with TWO kinds of onions- raw white, and crispy fried onions, finished off with ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. It was delicious, and much preferred by locals over the fermented shark.
SO MUCH COFFEE. Iceland knows coffee, every cup I had was exceptionally delicious. Which is GREAT, because it’s cold and rainy almost all the time, and coffee is a requirement for me to become a functioning human in the mornings.
Everything about Iceland is expensive. Including the food. We easily spent around $25-50 per person a meal while in the city. Before we drove to our first cabin we went grocery shopping at the local Bonus.
Spend 3 Days in Golden Circle
We headed east towards Thingvellir National Park where our next AirBnB was. The road trip had officially begun! Make sure to check the road conditions (here) during your trip, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, in one hour we saw sunny clear warm weather turn to hail and wind blown frost.
GUYS. If you haven’t yet used AirBnB to travel, you’re missing out on some amazing deals. AirBnB and Skyscanner are my two KEY TOOLS I use when planning and budgeting for my trips. What are the two largest expenses for travel? Accommodation, and flights. So where do you want to maximize your savings and cut costs? Accommodation, and flights. But seriously… check these out.
We spent two nights in this stunning cabin. Like most cabin’s in Iceland, this one came with a hot tub and was in great proximity to all the major attractions we wanted to see in The Golden Circle!
Golden Circle Activities
Chase breathtaking Icelandic waterfalls like the ones below
Enjoy breathtaking views as you drive the Golden Circle
Explore Thingvellir National Park, where tectonic plates meets
Witness the wonders of the Strokkur geyser, it erupts every 5 minutes!
Spend 2 Days in Southern Iceland
Head south from the Golden Circle to continue your journey along Iceland’s Ring Road. The two hour drive will take you to Vik, where we took a tour with Arctic Adventures.
Katla Ice Cave Tour
Our tour guide was awesome, enthusiastic and a slightly crazy driver. Our group drove through scenic landscapes to the volcano Katla in a tour van. Once there we were provided safety gear such as helmets, and crampons. These are required to be worn during the ice cave tour, trust me – you’ll want them. After the tour we still had plenty of time to explore until it got dark out.
There were a couple attempts to go behind the waterfall…
After the successful attempt at getting soaked- we went inside a local restaurant next to the waterfall parking lot to warm up with some delicious lamb stew.
Thanks to that summer midnight sun! The picture above was taken around 11:00 p.m. Remember that in May, the day’s in Iceland are long, and the sun never fully sets at night, at midnight you’ll still see the sun on the horizon.
This meant a couple things, 1. We weren’t going to be seeing the northern lights (huge bummer, huge) 2. Sleeping at “night” became a challenge. Without black out shades/curtains and no sleeping mask, it was difficult to fall asleep and confusing when you woke up (I never knew what time it was). We talked to a couple locals about it and they laughed, and said we’re used to it, it’s all they knew! I would recommend bringing a sleeping mask if you’re visiting in the spring/summer months.
The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.
Laufskálavarða, is a lava mound that was named after the farm. In memory of those that were lost, it is surrounded by stone cairns. Travelers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good luck on their journey. The tradition continues to this day, leave a stone when you drive by!
Secret Glacier Lagoon
As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the “secret” glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to… it wasn’t. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found “the secret lagoon” the local’s told us about.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
We were greeted immediately by the reindeer grazing in a clearing when we pulled in to park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water. We were shocked that despite the freezing water of the lagoon, it was full of wild life.
We watched the sea lions play in the lagoon while we sat and listened to the sounds of the ice moving in the water. After we’d had our fill of adorable animal friends we headed out of the lagoon and across the street.
The ice from the glacier lagoon washes ashore the black sand beach. Scattered across the beach were giant chunks of ice, giving the beach the famous name “Diamond Beach”.
When we could no longer handle the cold beach in our wet clothes, we headed back to our cabin for the night, where more amazing scenery awaited.
Our next cabin had a sheep farm in the back yard, and it was spring. That means BABIES. And in my opinion, there are few things cuter in this world then baby animals. I sat on my bed while I watched them play outside my window. With the window open, I could hear them BAAAing at each other and feel the crisp salty air blowing in off of the sea. (BLISS)
Spend Two Days in North Iceland
We got up early and took advantage of the complimentary breakfast the cottage offered. It was a 5.5-hour drive north to get to the city of Akureyri, Iceland’s second most populous city. We spent 2 nights in the northern part of Iceland, chasing waterfalls and exploring the Lake Myvatn areas.
Krafla Vita Crater
Last Day: Blue Lagoon
It was another long drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik. We had an appointment at the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon we were trying to make. The national speed limit of Iceland is 90 km/h on paved rural roads… which is REALLY slow when you’re driving around the entire country. Which is probably why we got pulled over in the middle of nowhere and received a speeding ticket. Trust me guys, you DO NOT want to get pulled over for speeding in Iceland- like everything else, the tickets are outrageously expensive.
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There are over 10,000 waterfalls beautifully cascading around Iceland. Here are 9 Wonderful Waterfalls of Iceland around the ring road that you won’t want to miss!Read more Iceland Waterfall Bucket list
Visiting every National Park in the United States has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. The National Park Service (NPS) works to protect and preserve these important eco systems around the country everyday, as a visitor we must do the same. To help preserve our extraordinary National Parks, it is VERY … Read more 20 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2020