I visited Tulum nearly 3 years ago for a quiet girl’s trip, and we could not have had a more relaxing and sun-soaked few days. I’m sure that this has become an even more popular destinations as the years have passed on, and rightfully so. The beach was beautiful, the vibe was laid-back and serene, and the food and people watching were spot-on. Read on for my travel guide to Tulum, Mexico.
General Notes – The main area of Tulum is the beachfront strip. The areas immediately around your hotel will be walkable, but the strip is quite long, so cabs will be necessary for traveling from one end to the other and to go into town. You can bike too, but there are no sidewalks and the road can be a bit treacherous. Note that there are no streetlights, so bring flashlights for every member of your party. Bug spray is also a must, as well as taking pesos out at the beginning of the trip. I recommend taking a good amount out at the airport, as the majority of the ATMs on the Tulum strip were out of order when we were there.
Where to Stay
Hotel Nueva Vida de Ramiro – This eco lodge in the heart of Tulum boasts cozy bungalows right on the beach so you can wake up to surf and sunrise. This is especially lovely when you have your daily breakfast of tropical fruit and warm bread straight from the oven (with fresh guava jam) delivered right to your front porch, or to a lounge by the water. Note that this is an eco lodge, so it is simplicity at its best. Their grid does not support hair dryers and the like, but there’s 24-hour electricity from solar panels. Wifi is spotty, but who needs it when you’re off the map for some R&R?
Where To Eat
Hartwood – This spot has gotten a lot of hype, but it is truly delicious. We sampled some incredible ceviche and grilled fish, as well as pretty hearty ribs. You need to go and wait in line by 4pm in order to put your name in for that evening, so just set a reminder in your phone to pop over from the beach and get in line.
La Zebra – Right next door to Nueva Vida, this outdoor hotel restaurant (which is normally a no-no for me) boasted our favorite fish tacos of the entire trip. We went back for lunch twice, and succeeded in eating our body weight in guacamole as well (doesn’t count on vacation, right?).
Casa Jaguar – This little restaurant feels like a gem buried in the jungle, and is perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail. The set-up features an open kitchen and wood-burning oven, so order a mezcal cocktail and post up to watch the show unfold.
Gitano – You know that you’re on the cusp of a scene-y spot when there is a neon light beckoning you at the entrance. If you’re jonesing for a night out while in Tulum, look no further than Gitano. Go for some after dinner drinks and dance the night away underneath the glittering disco ball.
El Camello Jr – I highly recommend checking out the town center of Tulum (see more details below), and dining at the muy autentico El Camello Jr. We had lunch here and were blown away by the simple yet delicious flavors in their ceviche and tacos. Also, their hot sauce collection is pretty off the charts for you spice mongers out there.
What To Do
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve – If you do one activity while in Tulum, make it a visit to this absolutely incredible eco preserve. It is a UNESCO site and boasts over 1 million acres of preserved land and water. Book a tour in advance (maximum of 6 people per tour), and a guide will spend the day taking you through the manatee-filled lagoons and mangrove waterways by boat. We ate handmade tamales for lunch, floated down the crystal clear waterways among the trees, and explored the Mayan Ruins at Xlapak, which are also on the reserve
Gran Cenote – Wake up with the sun and be the first ones at Gran Cenote, and you will have this gorgeous natural sinkhole all to yourselves. You can rent snorkel equipment on the premises, and spend a morning (an hour or two is all you need) swimming with the fish and turtles and exploring the caves at this stunning site.
Town of Tulum – do not miss out on strolling through the town of Tulum, which is a short cab ride from the main beachfront drag. We wandered through the little shops and picked up embroidered cover-ups and striped serapes, and stopped at El Camello Jr for a taco and ceviche lunch. Don’t skip out on Flor de Michoacan, which serves fresh popsicles and juices, for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Mayan Ruins – Note that this is not something that I would recommend as a must-see on your trip. You’ll see photos all over Instagram of the picture-perfect shot of the ruins, but there’s actually not much to see or do there, and the small beach below the ruins is quite crowded. You’re better off staying on the main stretch of Tulum beach near your hotel.
This article was originally published on the Six Degrees Society blog.