Chapter 33 Free nights for you in our house in Tulum?

February 18, 2019

Moving to Mexico:

Chapter 33:  Free nights for you in our house in Tulum?

We will be living where many people vacation. 

“Yeah but Tulum is a tourist trap.”  A reader commented recently.

Is it a trap?  Or just a popular destination?  To me, Disneyland is a tourist trap.  You pay $25.00 to park, another $120.00 per adult to stand in line all day, and if you need a bottle of water due to the heat, they are $2.50 each, or $10.00 every time the Johnson Family is parched.  Hungry?  You’re looking at a spending almost $100.00 to sit in a noisy, crowded restaurant.  That is a tourist trap.

I get the point, though.  There are huge mega-resort hotels all along the Riviera Maya.  However, there are none of those in central Tulum.  It still retains a lot of its “small town” hip vibe that it is so famous for having, where BNB’s and small, privately-owned restaurants are the norm.

Personally, I would not want to live in downtown Tulum.  It’s just too busy for me.  I like living on Bahia Principe where (for the time being) I don’t have many neighbors.  There are a few houses on my street, but for the most part our area of the resort is still mostly unimproved lots covered in trees and plants. 

Apparently, a lot of European people think Tulum is quite a bargain.  They fly up to fourteen hours to spend their vacation there, again something I would never do.  If it takes fourteen hours to get there, I won’t be seeing it anytime soon.  Sorry, Australia…probably not in this lifetime.

We have some British friends who stay at Bahia Principe often. 

“It’s a beautiful place, and great VFM.”  She explained. 

VFM:  Value For Money.  Another English friend of mine uses the same term often.  People from the U.K. are smart with their money.  They have to be.  We gripe about gasoline prices here hovering just below $3.00/gallon.  There it’s currently almost $6.00/gallon.  Yikes.

Our British friends take full advantage of the all-inclusive food and drink, read a library of books by the pool and enjoy the evening entertainment and fine dining.  They get maximum value for their money.  They do the tourist thing for sure.  It can be done differently.

Back in the 1990’s, Betty and began to travel to different Caribbean nations, especially the Bahamas.  We would check into our nice hotel, have a beer and jump on a jitney to immediately go to Arawak Cay, known locally as “The Fish Fry.”

We first found this place on accident, pulling over from the main beach road to see what appeared to be a very local scene.  There were about twenty colorful, clapboard shacks with barstools, each with a unique name like “Goldie’s”, “Mr. Pool’s” and “Briland Big 10”.  It was odd to me that each shack sold the same thing:  local beer for $2.00 and conch salads for $5.00.  Some would sell conch fritters (a side dish similar to a hushpuppy infused with a little conch meat) but for the most part the fare was identical, beer and conch salads, and the prices were all exactly the same.

“How do all of these places stay in business selling the exact same things?”  I asked a fish fry patron seated next to me.

“Dey all got a diff’ent personality.”  He replied.  “It just be a poy’senal preference, mon.”

He was right.  We visited several of the shacks over the years, but found one that was our favorite, “Henry’s”.  I can’t even tell you why it was our favorite.  It wasn’t nicer than the other shacks.  As a matter of fact, it was one of the shabbier places.  I think that was why we liked it.  It felt very “local.”  Back then, we never followed the beaten path.  We avoided touristy places and sought the local flavor.  Looking back, I know why we did this.  We were already planning on living there so we wanted to see what that would be like.

When we first began to visit the Fish Fry, it was not uncommon for a conch salesman to look like this.  The place was rough:  dirt road, no bathrooms, very little light at night.  Later, it was completely upgraded.  See video below.  *I actually liked it the way it was before, but the bathrooms were a welcome addition.

The updated Fish Fry:

This video shows you what the modern Fish Fry looks like, shows a conch salad being prepared and some local guys having fun.  The shacks are now colorful buildings and the prices have gone up, but the locals are just as I remember them:  loud, fun and beautiful.

I bring this up because, just like the Bahamas, Tulum has its “touristy side”.  It also has a very “local” feeling that reminds me a bit of my childhood home in Santa Cruz, California.  There are a lot of natural-living type stores right next to the “3 T-shirts for $10.00” stores with nine million different key chains and trinket junk all direct from China.  Health, yoga and clean living are all big business in Tulum, but so is binge-drinking and partying into the sunrise.  Tulum is a bit of a paradox. 

It is similar to many small beach towns that grow up too quickly.  It suffers its own ambition.  Prices go up, traffic and crime increase, and the population keeps growing until it reaches a levelling point.   Some may call it a “bursting” point.  If the end of the day is 11:59 PM, I feel like Tulum is at around two or three PM, having outgrown its small-town status, it is heading towards the late afternoon before evening where it will rest until the next big changes occur.  The place is growing.

Fortunately for us, we don’t really go downtown too often.  Our property is actually 24 kilometers north of the center of town, so while we are in the incorporated city of Tulum, we are really closer to Chacalal, Cheymuyil and Akumal.  *The red arrow below points to a tiny, green square which is Bahia Principe.  That’s where we will live.

We shop in the small village stores in Cheymuyil and Akumal for some things (like fresh chicken and tortillas) but for major shopping we head to Tulum or Playa del Carmen. 

We are 42 kilometers south of Playa del Carmen, where we go to do our big box shopping at Sam’s Club, Wal Mart, etc.  Playa is fun, but it’s a zoo.  It’s a maddening grid of traffic-choked small streets and bustling commerce.  If you like action, nightlife, retail therapy a vibrant street culture all on a beautiful beach, Playa is for you.

This article is about a year old, but it shows the pace of growth in the state of Quintana Roo and the cities of Tulum and Playa del Carmen:

Tulum is one of the top tourist destinations in Mexico and the abundance of successful resorts and construction proves that Tulum is not only popular, as stated above, it is growing.  I am glad that we began building in 2015 as our home has already appreciated substantially.  I just wish I would have invested there back in 2003 when we bought in Belize and 2006 when we invested in the Bahamas.  Hindsight, always 20/20.

My problem was that the only contacts I had in the Caribbean were initially in Belize.  Some friends moved there and invited us to come and take a look.  They really encouraged us to move there like they had.

“We know that you are looking into the Bahamas, but you really need to see Ambergris Caye.”  They said.  We flew down and stayed with them, met their real estate agent and builder and before we left (without doing any research on the island, the contractor or the nation of Belize) we had purchased a condo…another one of our genius moves.

After the first time I visited the Bahamas back in 1992, I became completely enamored with island life.  I obsessed about returning and the thought of living there was a dream.  We visited for years before pulling the trigger and moving there in 2006.  The experience was a good one and I am glad we had it, but overall it was a huge financial mistake.  We jumped in with our hearts and left our minds somewhere in the distance.  Lesson learned.  I had to try.  Nothing was ever gained or won by letting others live while I just watched, so I gave it a shot.

Since then, I have visited several places in the Caribbean, including the Bahamas, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, the Dominican Republic, the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.  I am sure there are many others I would love, but after a while, you realize that while all of the islands are different, they all have one thing in common:  they are limited.

Most of the Caribbean is composed of islands.  Island life is limited partially because the islands are so small and remote.  It does not take long to realize that working in any of these places is not going to be easy.  The old, local established money has a stronghold that will not let go, the foreign investors keep the place running and the locals mostly work for the tourism and banking industries.  As an expat, if you can get a job, it probably won’t pay much.

The remote quality that makes these places so attractive translates to additional costs of living that most people can only tolerate over the short term of a vacation.  Long term living there is VERY expensive.  For example:  back in 2006 in the Bahamas, a case of local beer (Kalik) was $48.00 USD.  I live in one of the most cost-inflated areas in the nation and thirteen years later I can go to Rite-Aid today and get a case of American beer (Bud Light) for $14.00.

I use the beer comparison a lot because it’s the only alcohol I drink (besides a little champagne now and then) and it is a good barometer of how expensive a place can be.  In Tulum, I can go to the store and get a case of local beer for less than what I would pay here, about $10.00 USD.  *Many consumable items in Tulum are about 30-40% cheaper than they are near me here in the SF Bay Area.  Name brand clothing and electronics cost a lot more, so always bring those with you.

We wound up traveling, investing and even living in these places only to find out that the place we love the most was our neighbor, Mexico.  I only WISH I would have realized that Mexico has a Caribbean/Gulf side.  I knew that fact only from maps.  I had never experienced it.  I had only visited the Pacific cities of Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta and Ensenada.  They were nice but did not grab me the way the Mayan Riviera has.

*Correction: I had seen Cancun on an industry junket once, but we really didn’t do much besides attend meetings and party like rock stars at the local clubs.  Cancun is fun, but at 53 years old…I’m done with those places.  These days I want some tranquility, beauty and nature in my surroundings.  Tulum has all of those things and it does not cost much to see them all.

Here are some prices of other things in Tulum:

If only someone would have brought me to the Mayan Riviera sooner, I could have saved a lot of time and money.  Tulum is not the cheapest part of Mexico for sure, but it is a decent balance of cost versus amenities, infrastructure in harmony with nature and history juxtaposed next to contemporary life.

This property is listed for sale.  It’s a fine example of modern life right next to the jungle.

If interested, email me at  I actually know the agent and may be able to get you a discount.

Nice place!  And it’s walking distance to one of my favorite breakfast restaurants,   

Don Cafeto’s in downtown Tulum.

A lot of readers have inquired about staying in our home to get a feel for the area before considering moving there.  Some want to use our place as a launching pad to look around at properties.  Others simply want to take a trip and relax for a while.  I have decided that one way I can help along your journey is to offer our home to you with some free nights included.  Our gift to you is to help you take that first step towards determining if Mexico is as right for you as it is for us.

My goal is to show you what it took me thirty years to find on my own.  I had little to no guidance on my journey, so my goal is to help you along yours.  If you are interested in visiting the Mayan Riviera, to see if it will be your new home, an investment or just a visit, I have an idea.  My property manager is going to kill me, but here goes…

From now until the end of March 2019, I offer the following CONTEST.  J

Here is the prize:

Stay in one of our units on Bahia Principe, Tulum, Mexico for a minimum of three nights and get a fourth night free.

Here are some details:

Length of Stay            Nights Free

3 to 6                           1

7 to 10                         2

10 to 14                       3

How to enter the contest:

  1. Email me at: with your requested itinerary.
  2. Receive a discount code from me directly.
  3. Once your itinerary is approved you must:
    1. Subscribe to website.
    1. Subscribe to and like my YouTube channel at
    1. Pay for your stay via our Airbnb links.
    1. Your stay must take place before the end of May 2019.
  4. Pack, fly and begin enjoying your trip!

Pretty easy to win this “contest”, don’t you think?

I look at it this way:  I would rather some of my readers (who already know a little about our story) enjoy our home than just random strangers from the Internet.  I would really love to hear your feedback about the house, the area and your impression of the place we will soon call home.  And I truly hope that you get some salt water in your veins, some tequila in your belly and fall in love with the area just like we have.

A contest you can’t lose. 

Good luck.  J

You may be wondering how I discovered Tulum.  I discovered it (and Bahia Principe) while meeting with an international group of expat businessmen all affiliated with  I have been affiliated with Escape Artist for years.  Their motto is “Live, Work, Travel, Invest & Retire Abroad” and their site is loaded with information on nations across the globe.  They publish a lot of my articles and I have been following their website faithfully since 1994. 

I have learned a lot about expat life from Escape Artist.  It was while pouring over their articles that I decided to make the move to the Bahamas.  I used a lot of their information and spoke with their local experts in Belize.  And now, I can credit my finding Bahia Principe and the Mayan Riviera to Escape Artist.  Had I not attended that meeting, I may not have found the place.  I certainly would not have had such an incredible introduction.  On my first visit, I got to see more of the area than most visitors do in a lifetime.  We had a local driver who took us everywhere, from local dive to four-star beach restaurant.  We visited the pyramids at Coba, the streets of Puerto Aventuras, and the nightlife of Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen.  I was given a thorough introduction and that helped me make my decision.

I would like to help you make your decision about Mexico, or any nation.  If you are ready to say USAdios like we are, I suggest you go to the experts and learn more. 

Escape Artist is having a conference in Phoenix, Arizona on March 16th and 17th of this year.  Below is a link for you to get more information and to sign up.  Use the promo code COLLINS100 for special pricing.

I attended their most recent conference in Dallas, Texas back in December of 2018.  *Chapter 24 so take a look at that article if you haven’t already.  I learned a LOT.  I usually think that when I attend a conference, if I take away just one thing that helps me, it was a success.  The Escape Artist conferences are different.  You will learn so many useful things about expat life and some that you can even use if you stay in the USA.  These guys know their stuff.

I am happy in the knowledge that this is my last winter in California.  We have been experiencing more rain lately than we have in decades, so everything is damp and soggy.

I swear, if I hear that California has a drought anytime in the next ten years, I’m going to just laugh.  For one, I won’t be here.  And for two, our government does little to nothing to catch all of this rain and store it.  It just flows into the sea and then we wonder why we have a water shortage. 

According to this government site, 74% of the state is either in a drought or in an “abnormally dry area.”  Jeez.

We have the same amount of water on this planet now as we always have:  A LOT.  Just like when they say that “Opportunities are not lost, they just go to the next person.”  The ocean laughs, its giant mouth opens, and it drinks every drop of fresh water we allow to escape.  It’s all a con.  The utilities and government could do so much more to catch and conserve, but they are too busy arguing so when we have a shortage, they raise water rates and impose fines if we use too much.  Just one more reason to say goodbye to California and adios to the USA.

One last thing:  some aspiring bloggers asked me what equipment I use for photos and videos.  From time to time, I will share items that pass my simple requirements:

  1. Must be quality.          I don’t buy junk.
  2. Must be affordable.     I am not rich.
  3. Must be durable.         I am hard on gear.

Here are a couple of my favorite items:

BOYA BY-MM1 Universal Cardiod Shotgun Microphone Mini Mic for IOS iPhone 8 8 plus 7 7 plus 6 6s Mac iPad Tablet Canon Nikon DSLR Camera Camcorder


If you are not using some sort of buffering device for wind, echo and room noise, your videos may sound so noisy and amateurish that people won’t want to listen.  This portable mike works very well, is lightweight, durable and under $40.00.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for SmartPhones Up to 6″ Like iPhone 7plus/6plus, Samsung Galaxy S8/S7/S6, and Gopro , 12hrs Run-Time, Wireless Control Vertical Shooting Panorama Mod


A three-axis gimbal is necessary for smooth video shots with a smart phone or GoPro.  At $85.00, this is the best gimbal for the money.  It has multiple functions, including face-tracking, time-lapse, panorama and others.  You can sit it on your desk, hold it in your hand or mount it on a tripod or selfie-stick for walking dialogue shots.  It also serves as a back-up power source for your phone, camera or other portable electronics.

*I only recommend items that I personally use and trust. 

8 thoughts on “Chapter 33 Free nights for you in our house in Tulum?”

  1. Great post Tom! I remember the old Fish Fry well. We loved it too. Our standing joke was “you better Go now cuz there ain’t one there”! We debated buying in the Bahamas years ago & glad we didn’t bite the bullet. It doesn’t have the allure anymore. Might take one more trip someday to see how Baha Mar (or whatever it was called) turned out. Wouldn’t stay long since I imagine it is the ultimate tourist trap!! We’ve been coming to Mexico for at least a dozen years….Riviera Maya, Playa Mujeres, Isla Mujeres & the ultimate concrete jungle – Cancun. Obviously Cancun hasn’t been an option for a while. Good luck to all in the Contest. May you be extremely lucky! Email coming your way Tom.

    1. Hi Julie! An old pal just arrived there for a job yesterday. He was having cocktails at Compass Point, one of our old favorite haunts. As much as I reminisced and missed it for a moment, I then thought, “Better you than me!” I don’t have much of a desire to go back but I am sure we will sometime after we leave California. We have decades of memories that will pop up while there so that would be fun. The contest is really just a giveaway, free nights for my readers, so come on down and see the place sometime! All the best, Tom.

      1. We will surely take you up on the offer. After our trip in April/May we will take a travel break for a few months. Only time WI has decent weather! Maybe in Fall or better yet Winter! Another thing we have in common – I grew up in CA as a military brat. San Diego to be exact but visited the Bay Area often. Most of the family still out there but I hate even the obligatory visit. I believe they all are contemplating leaving the state too! Regards!

  2. You know that I am looking forward to my next trip down to the Riviera Maya. Definitely staying at your place. Awesome!

  3. Great post and thanks again for all the information. I cant wait to hear what the ‘typical’ day is for both of you when you settle in down there. Looking forward to getting back down there as soon as possible myself. Please keep these posts coming – they help fill in a lot of the missing pieces and the points to consider in migrating to a new country. Thank you.

    1. Hey Todd! Thanks again for the comment and for reading my articles. We are heading back down on Thursday for ten days. I will be gathering a ton of information, photos and videos to share when I get back. That will have to hold me until after we sell the house and move to…Nevada. Our son was accepted to eight schools and he chose UNR where he will study news and sports broadcasting. He will be in Reno, but I think we may rent a place in Vegas for a year or so, just to store our things and to gain state residency to save some money on tuition in years 2-4 (first year we have to pay non-res fees.) Let me know when you guys are ready to come back down again.

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