Ohhh Tulum! Have you ever been somewhere and just immediately connected with a place? Ever felt like this is a place you were meant to be? Well, Tulum turned out to be THAT place for me and honestly I'm trying to stay focused while I'm sitting here, on my computer, writing this post and not fall into the temptation of opening another tab to search for flights.
About 90 minutes south of Cancun, along the Yucatan Peninsula, lies the little town of Tulum. Home to some of the most beautiful beaches, natural cenotes, fantastic Mexican cuisine, and Mayan Ruins. This place is touristy, although not to the commercialized standard of Cancun or resort heavy Playa Del Carmen, and invites you to switch off your phone (internet signal was spotty at best), sink your toes into the sand and connect with its tropical and bohemian lifestyle. It's perfect for anyone who enjoys yoga over beach parties and matcha over margaritas (even though there are PLENTY of great spots to get those!!)
I've curated a detailed travel diary on the places I stayed, where to find the tastiest and most authentic Mexican food, and what places to explore. (Disclaimer: This isn't an expert guide on Tulum, as I only spent a short time there, but much more a collection of some of my favorite spots that I highly recommend and would re-visit myself)
There are two options to take into consideration when looking for a place to stay in Tulum, in town and along Beach Road.
They're separated by a 5 - 20 minute (depending on where you're staying) drive that is reached using a single road leading in and out. We decided to stay on the beach since we really wanted to have a private, relaxing ocean-front experience in comparison to staying on a public beach (although those beaches are gorgeous as well). The hotels there range from open-air huts with thatched roofs to luxurious cabins. But even the most expensive hotels such as Azulik (read below) still have the most laid back non-pretentious atmosphere which is really what I love about this town.
After carefully researching many places to stay we settled on an oceanfront room at Hotel Calaluna which was the best decision we could've made. We went to sleep with the sound of the waves and woke up with bright orange and warm light flooding into our room at sunrise.
Hotel Calaluna is an eco hotel, meaning there is no A/C, only ceiling fans, there are no TV's and there are no plugs for high power electric devices such as a razor or hairdryer. Let me tell you when I found out about the hairdryer part I was FREAKING out as my hair is pretty high maintenance but I ended up making a bigger deal of it than it was. All and all, this is Tulum and if there's any place to rock your beach hair then it's here!
Luckily we were able to book a room with a balcony that included an upper rooftop terrace. It was the perfect place to watch the sunrise or swing in the hammock. Breakfast was also included which was a nice touch and pretty tasty, fresh coffee, egg dishes, and pancakes were daily options.
I would highly recommend this place to anyone who is looking for that oceanfront hotel experience yet doesn't want to break the bank, the hotel wasn't big on amenities but we didn't come here for those.
Azulik Hotel & Maya Spa
We were surprised to find this hotel directly next to ours and went to check it out one night as it is one of the most famous and high end hotels in Tulum with rooms starting at $500/night. As we weren't guests we were unfortunately not allowed into the hotel so we ended up taking a look at their in-house restaurant Kin Toh and WOW that was quite an experience. Think Tarzan and Jane wearing Chanel in an upscale tree-house paradise. There are hammocks to lay in, tables overlooking the jungle, and some areas only accessible by a hanging wooden bridge. It was pretty incredible to experience it at sunset, however we decided to save our pesos and grab some tacos in town, next time I'll splurge!
TO EAT & DRINK
One of the things I was most excited about was the food (duhh) and I was not disappointed. Not only was it incredibly fresh and delicious but the prices for quality food were a joke compared to expensive Miami.
I had guacamole practically every meal (I'm serious), the most delicious tacos, enchiladas, and chile relleno I've ever had. See below for some of my favorite spots for some great Mexican grub.
We ate here right after checking into our hotel as it was recommended to us by the hotel staff. A few steps up the road, this little restaurant overlooking the ocean was a great way to start our vacation. Amazing food for a very good price (most restaurants with a view can get a little pricey.) Since this was by far the best guacamole I had during our stay we actually went back on the last day. Mezcal cocktails were excellent and Victoria beer was oh so refreshing.
I had seen a lot of bloggers post about this little acai and vegan food spot on Instagram so being the acai fanatic that I am I had to make a stop here. Located a few steps away from the ocean surrounded by yoga studios, little stores that sell holistic medicine, and handmade fashion the vibe here is so tropical and relaxing you'll want to spend a little extra time here to chill out in one of the hammocks. It's located in Ahua Tulum which is seriously gorgeous and might be the best looking hotel in Tulum.
We actually just stumbled into this place by chance. Located on Beach Road it was under construction when we arrived so we didn't think much of it.
What makes Bejuco so special are its bohemian style teepees that are scattered across the beach, some filled with prayer shrines, others with little tables meant to enjoy a dining experience or enjoy a round of cocktails. The place which is not only a restaurant but also a hotel is incredibly photogenic and romantic. It had actually just opened a few days before we got there and was the perfect place to spend our last night. Bejuco also features one of the highest lookout locations in Tulum beach where you could easily enjoy a sunrise or sunset.
It is a pricey property, however the food was absolutely outstanding and we were well taken care of.
Antijotos La Chiapaneca
One of the most popular spots in downtown Tulum to get your late night taco-fix and a well-loved local spot that's always crowded. All I'm gonna say is 50 CENT TACOS! If you want to experience authentic Mexican food without the frills of most of the restaurants on the beach make sure you put this place on your list. You won't be disappointed! (Dinner only, closed on Tuesday)
Taqueria El Carboncito
Another very inexpensive local spot is Taqueria El Carboncito. This place might not the most inviting with it's plastic chairs by the side of the road, but the food was delicious! Arguably the best al pastor tacos and the vegetarian dish was yummy. Everything is very fresh and you can easily have an entire meal for $3. (Dinner only)
Typically we would eat lunch on the beach and drive into town for dinner because the best spots are only open at night, but one day we decided to switch it up. Tacoqueto is one of the only local restaurants in town open during lunchtime.
The atmosphere is very cozy and traditional, the walls adorned with local art and flower garlands hanging from the ceiling. This spot felt the most authentic as per the open kitchen which was just a bunch of mexican women cooking whatever they had available to them, there was no menu. A helpful tip when dining out is if there is soup available, order it! One of their more popular dishes, Chiles Rellenos (poblano chiles stuffed with local cheese, lightly battered and fried) served with rice and beans, were by far the best I've ever had, comfort food at its best. I highly recommend to go there just for that dish. Thank me later.
Ziggy Beach Club
Ziggy's is an oceanfront restaurant and beach club located on Beach Road that offers a wide variety of Mexican/American fusion cuisine as well as great cocktails. It is touristy and directly on the beach, hence a bit pricey, however it's a perfect spot if you are looking to spend a day by the water and receive full food and drink service like at a hotel. To use the sun beds and cabanas they require a consumption of 30 USD per person which if you were staying there all day really isn't bad.
And last but not least THE spot for gelato in Tulum town. It's located just a few steps away from Antijotos la Chiapaneca so you should definitely pay this place a visit after grabbing some dinner there. Now I've had a lot of gelato in my life and have to say this place is on the same level as some gelato I've had in Italy. (Fun fact: Campanella Cremerie won 2nd place at the 2016 World Gelato Tour!) We came here 3 nights in a row if that's any indication of how good it was!
Tulum offers plenty of things to do besides laying on the beach and eating tacos all day. There are loads of activities such as visiting the cenotes, Mayan ruins, going on a snorkeling tour, kayaking and much more. As we unfortunately only had 4 short days in paradise we weren't able to do half of these things, but that just gives me more reason to return soon!
The absolute icon of Tulum and the entire Yucatan peninsula is the 13th century Mayan archeological site in Tulum National Park. What makes it so special are not only the scattered well-preserved ruins but it also boasts its own private beach, Paradise Beach. The walk through the site reaches its peak when you get to the main ruins on the cliffs. The view from there is nothing short of breathtaking. The crystal clear water and natural beaches will invite you to make your way down to the beach for a swim so be sure to take a towel and suit. Be sure to also take sneakers, I walked around the site in flip flops and sorely regretted it! If you are coming with your car there are 2 ways to enter: the main entrance from the highway in Tulum town or from Beach Road. We took the main one and quickly realized we not only had to pay for parking and walk 30 minutes to the site, but loads of people were trying to sell us day passes for tours we really weren't interested in. The easiest and fastest way to the Ruins is to drive to the most Northern part of Beach Road until you get to the gate to the National Park. If you're early, you'll be able to find a spot and after a quick 10-minute walk you'll be at the ticket counter. (Tickets are about 8USD per adult, they only except pesos)
I hope you enjoyed this list! If you visited any of these places or have any tips for my next time in Tulum let me know in the comments below!