Tulum: a curated guide.
Where to stay, eat & play.
Tulum — the internet has been buzzing about this boutique travel destination a couple of hours south of Cancun for some time now. You may have seen it pop up in your favourite blogger’s social media lately (*wink-wink*, *nudge-nudge*). But even as it becomes more popular, it still hasn’t lost its hippie charm. This stretch of the Mexican Riviera is lined with the most beautiful small-scale hotels, restaurants & shops — all integrated into the surrounding jungle and with only one road in or out. I recently visited and now I’m here to tell you – you NEED to go. Plan a visit using my “top 3” guide below and you’ll have an experience of a lifetime. Trust me — I wouldn’t lead you astray!
Casa de las Olas (FAV) — The last property on the Tulum beach strip before entering the Sian Ka’an UNESCO site (which you must visit, more about this below) and consequently, the most secluded. Jimmy (the owner) will make you feel like family. Lulu (the chef) will cook you the most delicious and authentic breakfasts that you’ll eat at a communal table under a canopy of palm trees with the other guests — all whilst discussing your love of Tulum and your plans for the day (*sigh*). Complimentary bikes, curated activities & the very best food recommendations are what you can expect. It’ll feel like your second home and you’ll leave wanting to plan your next visit ASAP. Need I say more? Book via their website.
Be Tulum — If boho-modern villas surrounded by lush jungle are your thing (who doesn’t like this?!) this place is for you. Beautifully designed and if we’re keeping it real, the prices/night to match. You’ll have multiple amazing restaurants right on the property and a beach club with a pool that is hard to beat. Sister-hotel Nomade is next door, providing a more low-key hippie vibe, with a slightly lower price tag. Visit them here.
Nest — The newer kid on the block making big splashes. Take a look at the trip advisor reviews or Instagram photos and you’ll see why. Beautiful rustic-minimal decor that is every boutique traveler’s dream. It’s well located on the strip if you are looking to be close to the action (but not too close). The food and drinks are delicious and the staff is wonderful. Also, last but not least, it is the most affordable of the properties I’ve listed (depending on which room you choose). Visit them here.
For online hotel booking, I like to use tablethotels.com for finding boutique properties and booking.com for finding the best deals (this is where I usually end up making the final booking from too if I can). For more affordable accomodations, check out Airbnb (use my link and get a $50 credit if you’ve never used it).
Your best bet (for more affordable options) is to stay in Tulum Pueblo (town of Tulum, a few kilometers inland). Here you’ll find less expensive hotels, hostels and Airbnb options. During the day, you can still spend time on the beach, as many hotels do allow non-guests to grab a spot on their beach in exchange for buying a few drinks or ordering some food. Beach clubs with good vibes to check out: Ahau, Nomade & Papaya Playa.
Cetli — An authentic Mexican restaurant in town. Everything is homemade and delicious — mole is their specialty and it takes 3 days to prepare. Some of the best food you’ll have all trip, for less than many other places (especially those on the beach strip). Only open for dinner so make reservations ahead of time.
Hartwood —You’ve probably heard or read about this one already, and yes it’s as good as they say. Every item on the menu is delicious and the atmosphere makes for a great evening. You’ll want to try everything, so be prepared to have someone roll you out of there. Tip: reservations are impossible to make, so showing up at 5:30pm to wait for an early seating is your best bet. If you don’t get in, go to Arca a little further up the street, it is just as good and even a little less expensive.
La Popular — For best sea-side ambiance, go here (photo in gallery below). Lush beats on the beach and super fresh seafood is what you can expect. Their drinks are to die for and the coffee & chocolate based drinks are really good too. It’s open all day and is on the hotel Nomade property, right next to Be Tulum. Between the two hotels, there are 5 other great restaurants you can check out.
Mangrove floating is a must.
Lazy afternoons ice cream shop & smoothie bar hopping.
Boho-chic vibes & fresh seafood at Nomade.. #yesplease.
Sian Ka’an — You can float among the mangroves, see the native animal species, snorkle the reef and watch an epic sunset. Half-day tours can be arranged (click here or here for Tulum bike tours). Talk to your hotel first though, they may have deals set up with local guides.
Biking — Grab a bike from your hotel (or from a bike rental kiosk) and spend an afternoon biking the strip. Meander between mezcal bars, ice cream shops, smoothie/juice bars and local boutiques selling handcrafted clothes, beauty products, jewelry and homewares.
Yoga — Tulum is a yogi’s paradise. Hotels offer yoga on the property, many overlooking the water (at Casa de las Olas it’s complimentary, at least for now). If your hotel doesn’t offer yoga visit any of the following to get your zen on: Sanara, Yoga Shala, Yaan Wellness (a beautiful spa that you may want to visit for other services).
Rent a car for the duration of your stay to go out and explore nearby ruins, cenotes & cities. It also makes getting into town (or to the beach if you’re staying in town) a lot easier, and overall more cost effective. Want to save a bit of money on food/drinks (hotels are not all-inclusive)? Stop at the local grocery store on the way to the beach strip (on the left side of the road, you can’t miss it).
If you want more insider information about Tulum, sign up for email updates below! I’ve written a detailed article being published in a digital magazine next month that I’d love to share with you when it comes out. Things you can expect to read about: more yummy restaurants, shops to visit and fun activities/sights — plus a few extra super-useful tips & info about visiting Mexico/Tulum. If what you just read didn’t make you want to book your trip to Tulum, you’ll be making plans after reading the full article!