Tulum: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Tulum Pueblo

 

Tulum has the perfect ratio of jungle-to-sea. You can be entirely surrounded by luscious palms and still hear the sound of waves crashing against rocks.  The sea is a mesmerising palette of turquoises and, better yet, it’s the perfect temperature to dive into.  This idyllic landscape is one of the reasons why Tulum sees over two million visitors each year.

Tulum has firmly secured itself on the neo-bohemian hotlist alongside Bali, Goa, Ibiza and parts of Thailand.  Each year, the idyllic beach town sees over two million visitors.  It’s become a trademark for eco-chic hotels where modern design is immersed with its stunning natural surroundings; the hotels and restaurants tucked into the jungle as though they’d blossomed off its branches.   Naturally, this experience comes at a premium.  It’s one of the most expensive resorts in Mexico. But, if you’re looking for understated opulence and an opportunity to adventure, Tulum could very well be the destination for you.

On this chic, yet decidedly laid-back destination, it’s clientele live in beachwear and Chloé espadrilles.  There’s plenty to indulge in ranging from Cacao ceremonies to Michelin-standard menus.  It’s worth doing some preparation so you don’t miss out and, with that in mind, I’ve curated a shortlist of highlights below.

 

Activities

 

If you love yoga with a beautiful backdrop, you can practise your Vrksasana with beach and/or jungle views.  SanaráAhau, Amansala and Yaan Wellness Studios host some of the best classes for a varied range of abilities.  If you prefer something a little more intimate, most of the hotels also offer private classes.

Here are some of the other activities available:

 

  • Kitesurfing and Paddleboarding–  for those who like activities with adrenaline, Mexican Caribbean Kitesurf offer lessons and tours for all levels.

 

  • Scuba Dive – Tulum is a beautiful place to learn to dive. Adventure Tour Centre offer some great packages as well as day trips.  As well as the coastline, there are some incredible cenotes where you can dive.

 

  • Mayan Clay Spa –If you’re looking to relax and detox this is the perfect place to be. You can indulge in their natural cenote waters, clay pools and have sauna therapy.

 

  • Yäan Spa –This is Tulum’s most famous spa and there are loads of incredible treatments available. In addition, they offer yoga and meditation classes, reiki healing and moon temazcal ceremonies

 

Day Trips

 

Tulum is surrounded by breath-taking landscapes and natural wonder; Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve, with its beautiful mangroves, to natural cenotes and the ancient ruins of Coba, Valladoid and Chichen Itza.  If you’re keen to explore, I highly recommend hiring a car.  Alamo Car Rental are highly recommended by the local hotels.

 

  • Chichen Itza – is one of the seven wonders of the world and one to check off the bucket-list. It’s just under a two hour drive from Tulum.  Be warned, it’s not for those whose patience is easily tested as it’s packed full of relentlessly pushy vendors.

 

  • Tulum Ruins – is not the most impressive, but it’s close to town and will give you an insight into Mayan history.

 

  • Coba – has a climb up it’s largest structure with amazing views across the jungle. Chichen Itza, is amazing, but it’s also packed full of pushy vendors, so go on a day you have patience. It is also a longer journey than the others.

 

  • Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha – are neighbouring cenotes you’ll find on the way to Choo-Ha has incredible stalagmites lining its ceiling and Multum-Hahas an array of diving boards of varying heights for those looking for an added kick.

 

  • Azul – is a 26 metre deep cenote with crystal clear water. It’s one of the best for snorkelling

 

  • Dos Ojos and Sac Actun – are only a 30 minute drive and great for snorkelling or diving.

 

Dining in Tulum

 

There are plenty of delicious dining options in Boca Paila, some with Michelin-starred chefs behind the menus and others with local charm. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s worth trying all of the below.  Remember to bring pesos in cash, many of them don’t accept card and the ATMs can have an unfavourable exchange rate.

 

  • Kitchen Table – everything about this restaurant was magical. The chef’s operate their kitchen in the centre of the restaurant and it’s spectacular to watch. The food was easily some of the best we had.

 

  • Mur Mur –This intimate restaurant serves a beautifully crafted, seasonal menu right where all the actions happening. Their menu is contemporary Mexican with a unique flair.  If you’re waiting for a table, you can sip on cocktails whilst sitting on their swings at the bar.

 

  • Hartwood – This is one of the most popular restaurants in Tulum. The food, atmosphere and service here are second to none.  You need to book a month in advance to guarantee a table but it’s worth the wait.

 

  • Posada Margherita – Combining fresh Italian recipes and fine wines with the magnificent landscape of the Caribbean Sea. The fresh pasta and focaccia are worth writing home about.

 

  • Arca – This jungle restaurant is situated at the heart of Boca Paila. It’s regarded as one of the best in the area with its regional cuisine and beautiful atmosphere.

 

  • Rosa Negra – This has one of the most extensive menus and a fantastic wine list. There is always a great atmosphere here.  It’s one of the more pricier options, but you won’t be left disappointed

 

  • La Eufemia – This was recommended to us by the locals. If you want delicious tacos at $20 pesos a pop in a relaxed environment, this is the place to be.

 

Drinking in Tulum

 

There’s no better way to finish off the day than with a cold one and some local mezcal.  Tulum is not targeted at the party-seekers but, if you’re looking to salsa off some steam, these are some of the places to go:

 

  • Cotázar Bar – Described as, “a proper cocktail oasis in the heart of Tulum Beach”, this small but vibey bar has mastered cocktail-making.

 

  • Gitano – This is a great place if you’re looking for a dance after. They do delicious grills and very quaffable cocktails.  Wednesday is the night for a party.

 

  • Casa Jaguar – Modern Mexican cuisine with a great atmosphere. Famous for their late-night “locals only” parties on a Thursday.

 

  • Papaya Playa Project – This is the perfect place for groups or people looking for a holiday with a faster pace. Papaya Playa Project is known for it’s Saturday night soirées.

 

  • La Zebra – If you’re looking for salsa dancing and live music, this is your place. Make sure you check their events calendar to see what’s going on.

 

  • Mateos Mexican Grill – Come here to watch the sunset from their private roofdeck, if nothing else.

 

Inside the Pueblo

 

Whilst most of the action happens on Boca Paila, it’s well worth heading into the Pueblo, where nearly all the locals live, and checking out the bars and restaurants on offer there. Being further away from the beach makes it less touristy, meaning it’s cheaper and has more of a local feel to it. You can pick up some delicious street food for around 90 pesos per taco and drinks are about half price compared to the strip.

 

  • Burrito Amor –  If you think you know a good Burrito, think again.  If you’re looking for authentic Mexican flavour, this is a game-changer.

 

  • Asadero – is a delicious Argentinian steakhouse buzzing with energy. There’s options to sit in or outdoors and they have a tasty selection of dips.

 

  • Batey – is a brilliant tequila joint with a street-side charm and live music nearly every night.

 

  • Antojitos la Chiapaneca – is for those looking for a late-night taco after all that tequila? I highly recommend the spit-roast, marinated pork. It’ll put your usual late-night food to shame.

 

  • Ki​ ​Bok​ ​Coffee​ ​House -​ is a favourite of the locals. They have the best coffee in town and serve up home-made plates and fresh pastries.

 

Accommodation in Tulum

 

Tulum has an abundance of eco-chic accommodation and, in our experience, the hospitality is pretty spectacular.  I’ll be going in more detail about my hotel experiences during my trip but here’s a shortlist of my top recommendations.

 

 

  • Mezzanine– Located on the north side of the beach, this luxury hotel is intimate, accommodating and leaves no luxury spared.On arrival, you’re asked to select your favourite fragrance so they can give you the perfect bathing accompaniments and a special aromatherapy turn down service.

 

  • Be Tulum – This is one of Tulum’s most sought after destinations. Aside from it’s twenty luxury rooms, there are four high-end restaurants and two pools onsite.  If you don’t stay here, it’s worth coming just for their ceviche!

 

  • Casa Malca – This stylish hotel sits close to the national park. It’s a converted mansion with a colourful history and a remarkable collection of art displayed throughout.  It also boasts a beach and a swimming pool.  The clientele consisted mainly of couples and trendy young families.

 

  • El Pez – This is a sanctuary on a secluded part of the beach.There are only a handful of guest houses each decorated in whites and turquoises.  It’s the place to be if you love fresh seafood in relaxed, understated surroundings.

 

  • The Nest – This boutique hotel is tucked away on the quieter side of the beach. The hotel is incredibly intimate with an enchanting low-key vibe.  The perfect place to unwind.

 

  • Tata – This adults-only hotel is right at the heart of Boca Paila. The rooms are beautifully designed – contemporary with natural elements incorporated.  The beach area is small but does feature a pair of swings and there are plenty of flamboyant floats to borrow.

 

If you are travelling to Mexico, I highly recommend venturing to some of the other areas.  You’ll get more bang for your buck and still have beautiful accommodation and wonderful food.  We particularly loved our experience in Holbox, which I’ll be writing about shortly. It is still touristy, but the locals have done an incredible job of keeping it authentic and community-driven.

 

The best time to travel is December to April as this is their Dry season. May to September is a little wetter and more humid. It’s Whale Shark season and there are some great tours where you can have a day out, visit nearby islands and even jump in and have a little with the Whale Sharks.

 

As always, I’d love to hear whether you’ve been and your experiences. If you’re interested in my holiday prep routine click here.

El Pez at Dusk

El Pez

Breakfast at El Pez

Inside Choo-Ha

El Pez’s tranquil beach

The Nest’s Chicken Tacos

The Nest

Margarita hour at Mezzanine’s pool bar

Relaxing on one of Mezzanine’s Hammocks

Arriving at Posada Magherita’s Beach

The open-air kitchen at Kitchen Table

Beach lunch at Casa Malca

 

Casa Malca’s Beach

Shrimp Tacos at Malca

Our suite at Casa Malca

There’s no shortage of style at Casa Malca. Wearing Pretty Little Thing.

Walking to our Seaview room at Tata

Having sun-downers at Hotel Tata

Dusk at Tata

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