The Ahau Tulum Statue: What is This Thing?

If you’ve done any research about Tulum then you’ve probably seen this sculpture by now: The Ahau Tulum Statue. So what exactly is it? Made famous by Instagram influencers and tourists flocking to Tulum, this statue is located at the Ahau Tulum Resort and the Raw Love Beach restaurant.

It’s so popular it costs 60 pesos to see and take pictures with the iconic statue. You’ll often see people lining up for hours waiting for their turn to take pics with the beloved statue.

Properly known as the Ven a la Luz (Come into the Light) sculpture, it was made by South African artist and sculptor Daniel Popper. Since then it’s become one of the most iconic landmarks in Tulum, and maybe even Mexico. We’ll take an in-depth look at the Tulum Statue for all of you interested.

Ahau Tulum statue
The Tulum Statue at night

What is the Ahau Tulum Statue?

The Ven a la Luz statue first came into being around 2018 during the Art With Me Festival in Tulum, created by Daniel Popper. The festival takes place at the Ahau resort every year, and the statue used to be the entrance to the festival.

The Tulum Statue is made from wood, rope, various plants, and steel. It is said to be a sculpture of a woman with closed eyes, ripping open her chest – welcoming the light, or allowing people to come inside. It also goes by the names “Tulum Wooden Sculpture,” the “Mother Earth Statue,” and the “Raw Love Sculpture” as it’s next to the Raw Love restaurant.

The wooden shell of the Tulum Statue has to be “re-skinned” every year, according to Ahau. This is because of the constant weathering of the statue and damages, the artist himself comes down from California to make repairs.

Where to find the Ahau Tulum Statue?

While the statue used to be on the main Tulum beach road at the entrance to Ahau, it has now moved inside due to too many people lining up on the road to see the statue, causing traffic issues.

You now have to enter the “Tulum Sculpture Park” right next to Ahau, where you’ll pay 60 pesos to wait your turn to take photos and admire the magnificent Tulum Statue. The cost is for maintenance and upkeep of the park and statue, and also to bring in more art from artists around the world to the park.

The statue was relocated in August 2021 after Hurricane Grace hit the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, causing damage to the sculpture. Daniel Popper himself fixed damages on the sculpture, where it was eventually moved to the Sculpture Park in October.

The Sculpture Park is open every day from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and features other works of art besides the Tulum Statue, although this is the centerpiece. You can find the park and the statue here. The lineup to see the sculpture can still be very long, so it’s best to go early in the morning or later in the evening, just before close.

You can also see other iterations and imitations of the Tulum Statue in other places in the Yucatan Peninsula as well as other spots around the world. One such place is the After Bali Rooftop in Playa Del Carmen, an after-hours club that plays electronic music in front of a large glowing replica of the Tulum Statue.

An iteration of the Tulum statue at After Bali.

Who is Daniel Popper?

Daniel Popper is a renowned South African artist who is known for his wide array of art and sculptures. He has created other statues in Tulum such as the Asana statue which was the original entrance to the Art With Me Festival in 2019.

Asana statue, also used for the Art With Me festival. Via Ahau Instagram

His work has also been featured at Burning Man and has a few permanent sculptures around the world. These include:

  • The Tree of Wisdom in Mvezo, South Africa
  • Thrive in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Transmission at the Mojave Moon Ranch in Joshua Tree Park, California
  • Modem Swamp in Mjesto Primišlje, Croatia

At the Morton Arboretum in Chicago features one of his biggest displays to date: the Human+Nature sculpture. It’s basically 5 separate large sculptures spread throughout the massive 1,700 acres park. The sculptures will be on display until spring 2023.

One of the sculptures at the Morton Arboretum in Chicago

Each sculpture has a story behind it, but I like to leave the questions about each piece a little bit open… I want people to come here and ask questions of themselves about their relationship with nature.

Daniel Popper

About the Ahau Tulum Hotel

The Ahau Hotel can be found in the Tulum Hotel Zone and is situated in an area commonly referred to as Mid-Beach, given its central position on Tulum Beach Road. Most locations in Tulum do not use conventional addresses but rather depend on notable landmarks for navigation.

To locate Ahau Tulum using landmarks, it is nestled between the Casa Jaguar Tulum restaurant and the Macario Tulum restaurant. You’ll see the Tulum Sculpture Park right next to Ahau where you can easily find the famous Tulum statue.

Ahaucan be aptly characterized as eco-chic. This upper-middle-range property boasts 26 rooms and has welcomed notable guests like Richard Branson. The hotel artfully combines handcrafted art and bohemian decor with rustic architecture, utilizing 100 percent locally sourced materials.

Rooms feature outdoor spaces, with most offering stunning ocean views. However, the entry-level Bali Huts are essentially simple huts with beds and no air conditioning.

Guests can enjoy daily yoga classes, bike rentals, windsurfing lessons, and two on-site restaurants. Pets are also allowed to wander freely.

Complimentary Wi-Fi and parking enhance the hotel’s value, though year-round mosquitoes and limited cell reception can be drawbacks. In terms of pricing, the Ahau Hotel is competitive with nearby options.

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