This "well-managed" stretch of Yucatan shoreline is littered with Maya ruins and bounded by the world's second-largest coral reef. Though it still provides a better view into the region's history and local culture than nearby Cancún and Playa del Carmen, the "mass-produced resorts" and "alien-to-the-environment-and-local-lifestyle approach" to tourism in those two places have unfortunately begun to creep southwards towards Tulum.
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"The combination of Maya ruins, dazzling beaches, vibrant reefs, and the jungle archaeological sites has few comparisons. Rampant beach development, if unheeded, will destroy what attracts the niche tourists to this area."
"The alternative-tourism center of Mexico's Caribbean coast. The beach is beautiful, the reef is close by, and there are no high-rise hotels or mega-resorts as in Cancún or the Riviera Maya. The Maya ruins of Tulum are the northern boundary of this region. Hotel eco-complexes range from basic thatched roofs to fancy air-conditioned rooms. “
"Tourists I met were interested in Maya history and nature (the giant Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve), some of which is managed by the Maya locals themselves."
"Mass tourism is going to eat this place alive. The transition that a village makes when a cruise ship comes is staggering. The ruins of Tulum are breathtaking, but only if you manage to get there before the next ship docks. When the hordes descend, even the iguanas run for cover."
"The hodgepodge of poorly planned development near Tulum is spreading south, likely to get worse with the new international airport opening."
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.