Tulum is without a doubt the nicest place I have visited yet. Everything from the beaches and jungle to the guacamole and tequila was spectacular. Every day of my stay I questioned why I didn’t live here, and become a local “Talluminati”? It is a small paradise where life feels perfect and you can’t possibly imagine ever feeling unhappy. The locals all but confirmed this, with almost everyone we encountered share they’re friendly, zen vibes. It was the perfect location for our last trip of 2017 to relax and detox after a year in New York. Having come from Cuba, a great adventure and culture experience (see my Cuba blog HERE), we wanted somewhere that we could relax and not feel the pressure to run around everyday sightseeing. Tulum was perfect. The best honeymoon five girls could ask for!
How to get there:
Cancun is the closest airport to Tulum, about one hour and thirty minutes drive away. When you land, you have three options, rent a car, take a taxi or take the ADO bus. The bus is about $15 a person but takes considerably longer. A taxi will take less time but is considerably more expensive, approximately $100 to be specific! Because there was enough of us to fill a cab we opted for the more expensive option (we were feeling sorry for ourselves after slumming it in Cuba all week haha). When you come out into arrivals at the airport there are lots of taxi drivers ready to take you but you need to be ready to bargain a decent price. They will more often than not try to charge you a pretty penny, and yes, they expect a tip at the end too.
Where to stay:
Our trip to Tulum lasted longer than most, at ten days. (But honestly, I could have done 30!) To keep things interesting we moved hotels every three nights. This might seem excessive, but really we just couldn’t decide on one place to stay so narrowed it down to three! Two hotels found on Airbnb, three nights in each, and two nights in an eco-hotel on the beach. The hotels along the beach are pretty pricey, but there are many fabulous resorts and smaller hotels a five-minute drive away in and around the Tulum jungle area and by the town. All three hotels offered free bikes which we took advantage of several times as taxis are expensive and it was too far to walk to a lot of places.
The three hotels we stayed in were:
What to see:
There are multiple cenotes up and down Tulum and towards Cancun. We went to Dos Ojos which was a 15-minute cycle from Tulum town. It is one of the largest and most famous cenotes in Mexico. The cave system is known to be at least 61 km and 118 m deep. Dos Ojos, meaning “two eyes” is named after the two sections of this cenote, one with blue waters perfect for snorkelling and the other dark one for diving. I would 100% recommend spending the extra money on a snorkel and goggles to see the other world under the water!
The area between Cancun and Tulum have some of the most impressive Mayan ruins. Aside from the smaller ones by the beach in Tulum, there is also the more popular Coba and the Chichen Itza ruins. The Coba ruins are a 30-minute car ride outside of Tulum are in the middle of the jungle. You can climb the main pyramid for an amazing view at the top. Chichen Itza is best known as one of the Seven Wonders of the world, and apparently worth the 2.5-3 hour journey. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to them but again, it’s just another excuse to return!
Pablo Escobar Mansion
The infamous drug baron Pablo Escobar’s former mansion has been transformed into a luxury hotel filled with contemporary art from the new owner’s personal collection.
Where to eat & drink:
We had a long long list of restaurants and food we wanted to try while in Tulum. We got through the majority of them but still left enough for a good excuse to return (as if we needed any more excuses!). Most of the restaurants are in the hotels themselves, many on the beach or with lovely views. Even those off the beach had incredible decor, in fact, I don’t think there was a single eatery along the beach that we didn’t want to try! In the Tulum town itself, there are many authentic Mexican restaurants to choose from also, many considerably cheaper than those by the beach. Reservations are often required or at least recommended. A lot of the ingredients in most restaurants are local, meaning super fresh making the food incredible! Not to mention the cocktails with freshly pressed juice. I didn’t like margaritas until I tasted Mexican’s finest tequila and mezcal.
Some musts include:
Hartwood– On every “best restaurant” list, Hartwood started as an off-grid restaurant with a solar-powered fridge and a wood-burning oven under the stars. It is now an international gourmet destination with queues from all day until closing. A simple chalkboard menu, Hartwood is renowned for its unique creations with Yucatán produce as well as fish and meat dishes. They even have their own cookbook!
BeTulum– Outstanding atmosphere, food and decor! BeTulum is one of the most expensive hotels in the area and it’s easy to see why!
Cenzontle– Cute little restaurant with delicious food and drinks.
Taqueria Honorio– A local Mexican, and as authentic as it gets! Very cheap but the tacos are the best you’ll ever taste! This one’s in the town.
DelCielo- One of our favourite brunch spots in the town. You cant go wrong with anything on the menu!
Gitano– The food is supposed to be amazing but it was the cocktail bar that won us over. Handmade syrups, freshly pressed juices and amazing mixologists. Signature cocktails, crafted with their own new brand of mezcal, include Jungle Fever (mezcal, chilli, lime, cilantro) and Gypsy Disco (mezcal, rum, basil grenadine). Head to Gitano to dance the night away gypsy style under the outdoor disco ball.
Ahau Restaurant & Beach Grill– Our favourite beach spot, the staff were so nice and the cocktails were UNBELIEVABLE! This was our favourite place to pan out and relax. Raw Love is here too so we would often have our breakfast there and lunch in Ahau. We became best friends with Marco the manager 🙂
Raw Love: Holy moly is place is heaven on earth! The yummiest, healthiest food. My favourite thing to do while in Tulum was sneak off to Raw Love for an Acai bowl and nap of the hammocks.
Language: Spanish, but English is wildly spoken.
Currency: Mexican pesco.1 Mexican Peso equals 0.043 Euro, making it really hard to work out how much you are spending!
Drink the tap water: No!
Best time of year?: The three-month stretch from October to December is the best time to visit when hurricane season is over and the weather is warm but not oppressively hot.
Is it safe?
There is a lot of talk at the moment about how dangerous Mexico is. Tulum seems to be one of the only areas that is still safe to go. It’s very much a tourist (like honeymoon type tourist) location and we didn’t wader outside the area. We felt safe, however, we did hear stories about police corruption and we were wary about any contact with them. We saw many police checkpoints on the road to the beach and apparently, they are known to stop cars with tourists over and ask for bribes. It’s definitely something to keep in mind if you go here but for the most part, we felt perfectly safe and found the Mexican people to be friendly.
Is it expensive?
In short, yes but like everything, you can do Tulum on different budgets. We met people who were staying in a hostel which they loved, and then there were couples staying in the luxurious beach resorts. We were lucky because there were five of us splitting costs and Airbnb is a great way to save money on accommodation, but the two days we spent on the beach were lovely and I would recommend this if possible. The majority of the restaurants and bars we had on our bucket list (notably the most expensive ones) where all along the beach in the different hotels, and so getting taxis back and forward can add up quick if your not a fan of cycling. The Tulum town is cheaper and has some nice places to eat too so you can definitely some money here. The ATM’s have smaller transaction fees and items like suncream and other essentials are also cheaper in these shops.
What does ECO mean?
All around Tulum you will see signs and hear about “being ECO”. Eco-resorts are quite popular in Tulum, all of which are stunning. Design wise, they blend high-end with the surrounding beach & jungle for a “glam rustic” vibe. They often have weak to no wifi, limited electricity and limited hot water all in for the sake of the environment. Bathrooms everywhere will have signs asking you to not flush toilet paper. Yep, you’re expected to wipe and then deposit in the bin! You’ll also notice at the beach there are little to no boats in the water or planes flying overhead. They have done an amazing job at preserving the beautiful land and beaches!
Tulum is a haven for hippies and luxury beach lovers, in search of a sandy paradise and serenity. Yes, it’s now uber-trendy but still somehow manages to maintain its Mexican roots and Caribbean charms. It is one of the few places in the world that I would like to return to again, and again.