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Here's why you should skip Cancun and go straight to this small beach town for your next vacation instead

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Tulum  Mexico 9645

If you've spent one too many vacations fighting the crowds at the beach in Cancun, it's definitely time to visit Tulum, Mexico, instead. An hour-and-a-half drive from Cancun International Airport, Tulum has become a destination thanks to its crystal-clear waters, white-sand beaches, and relaxed yet vibrant hippie culture.

The small, magical town has been gaining in popularity in recent years as celebrities and fashion moguls have declared it one of their favorite vacation spots — but the swarms of tourists still haven't yet descended on this slice of paradise. 

I visited Tulum with my family in July, and the best word I can use to describe the atmosphere is dreamlike. Tropical jungle foliage combined with picturesque beaches, historic Mayan culture, and fantastic food moved this town to the top of my vacation destinations list. Ahead, take a look at my favorite part of the summer.

SEE ALSO: How the 'Rich Kids of Instagram' spent their summer vacations

We rented a home in the Sian Ka'an Reserve for the week. At 1.3 million acres, it's the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. The house had its own private beach access, and it ran partially off solar and wind power.



Driving to the house in Sian Ka'an included a bumpy 20-minute drive from Tulum's tourist strip, which runs along the coast on Quintana Roo 15.



Sian Ka'an is home to thousands of animals and a wide range of flora. 379 species of birds have been identified in the reserve, in addition to 115 species of mammals and 318 species of butterflies.



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