Tulum, Mexico, Cabanas Copal – Part 5
SHOPPING: 300 meters to the left of the entrance to Cabanas Copal is a little pueblo of shops, a small grocery store, and some restaurants. Also, if you go back to the intersection of the beach road to Highway 307 and then go left at the 307, a few hundred feet down the road you’ll get to the main shopping area. Here you’ll find dozens of souvenir shops and eateries. I can’t call them restaurants, because they’re just ‘holes in the wall’ technically, but the food is cheap and not too shabby. Negotiate all your purchases in the souvenir shops, and remember that everything sold as boar’s tusk is in reality made of cow bone, and everything labeled as whale ivory is also cow bone. We did find a seller in the pueblo who had some cool stuff he’d carved himself, and was actually carving them on the spot, so check his stuff out if you get the chance. I bought a Maori-style fishing hook made of bone, and it came with the original bone it was carved out of, all for $35. Kind of pricey, but he threw in a few dollars’ worth of other jewelry so I felt pretty good about the buy.
Even shark’s teeth necklaces are mostly carved cow bone. Don’t be taken in. If the seller says $300 pesos, counter with “Too much.. I can only pay you $100 pesos or whatever”, and then meet somewhere between $100 and $200 pesos. Trust me, you’ll feel stupid if you don’t. It’s expected, and so they grossly over-price everything. I overheard a guy in a Tulum pueblo market ask the price for a shirt and he was told $300 pesos. As he was digging in his wallet for the money, another tourist came by and asked the price for exactly the same shirt and then haggled on the price, and he walked away with it for $120 pesos. The same EXACT shirt! Negotiate, negotiate. If you don’t, you’re not doing anyone, including yourself, any favors.
I DON’T recommend shopping at the souvenir shops at the entrance to Tulum ruins. They’re a major rip off compared to other shops around town, and they don’t negotiate so well because they know there’s 50,000 people going to Tulum ruins that day, going right past their shops, and they’re all potential suckers. Sadly most shoppers are just that- suckers. My wife saw an embroidered purse and was told $400 pesos (that’s $40!!). I was only able to negotiate down to $350 pesos before walking away. Later the same day we saw the same exact purse in town and I successfully negotiated it down to $180 pesos ($18).
In Tulum Pueblo (on Hwy 307), there are dozens and dozens of shops for souvenir hunters. Keep in mind though that 99% of the stuff you buy in any of these resorts will be fake, crudely-made items. Don’t expect authenticity. If anyone tells you you’re buying something authentic Maya, you’re not. If someone tells you they’re selling you whale ivory, they’re not.
If you want someone authentic with some real authentic art that’s handmade from local woods, painted with colors made from fruit and tree sap, stop at the colorful vendor you see on the way to the Coba ruins just north of Tulum. You can’t miss the colorful jaguar masks he makes himself and his family paints at night. They’re beautiful and worth every penny you’ll haggle him down to. Of course the artist knows the rules, so he overprices the masks, but politely and without insulting his hard work, haggle him down to about half of his initial price and he’ll be happy. He’ll even take you inside the hut, introduce you to his family and show you how they paint the masks. I purchased two, one for us and one for a friend we made while in Tulum.
Also, beware of drug dealers in some of the shops. We walked into a shop with three bored looking characters at the entrance, and one of them followed us inside telling us about having the best price in town, nobody could beat his prices, etc. and soon I realized he wasn’t talking about his tourist-trap merchandise, but about the recreational drugs he was holding in his hand and trying to peddle on me.
Also in the pueblo, be aware of the electrical post in the middle of a driving lane! If you think I’m joking, I’m not. Yes, on a one-way driving alley along the road in front of the shops there is a full-size electrical post in the middle of the road. How drunk the city employees were when they put it there is a matter of debate, but I vote for “Way above the legal limit”.
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