Earlier this year Jeremy and I met some friends in Tulum, Mexico for a little post-holiday, pre-quarantine (we didn’t know about the quarantine yet, obvs) vacation. Here is what we did:
We stayed at Amansala Eco Resort. To be honest, I don’t know how eco this resort truly was (they definitely run on gas generators), but we had a really great experience here. We were looking for a chill/quiet resort, right on the beach. This was not a “party resort.” They often host yoga/exercise/wellness retreats for groups. While, it wasn’t super fancy, it was really lovely and had everything that we needed. If you’re looking for a relaxing/calm Tulum experience, I highly recommend Amansala. It seemed like most of the HUGE toursity all-inclusive resorts (like Dreams), are on the drive from Cancun to Tulum. Along highway 307 between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. That was not the type of resort we were looking for. In general, when you’re hotel hunting, make sure to note if the hotel is on the beach side of the road —most of them are, but you definitely want to double check.
*we had a 1-year old with us, so this resort is absolutely baby friendly too.
There are LOTS of things to do in Tulum: snorkeling, scuba, surfing, kite surfing, sailing, boating, hiking, Cenotes, ancient ruins, shopping, drinking, clubbing, etc etc. You can pretty much have any kind of vacation experience you want. You can also do Tulum on the cheap — there are plenty of hostels and budget hotels in town (note that downtown Tulum is about a 15 min drive from the beach). You don’t *have to* rent a car. Tulum is very walkable/bikeable, and there are cabs aplenty. However, Tulum is a 2 hour drive from the Cancun airport, and a cab ride to Tulum will run you around $120 USD. So if you’re ballin’ on a budget, renting a car might actually be cheaper than cabbing to/from/around Tulum. Yes, there is a closer airport (Tulum airport) but flights were far more expensive. We also found that renting a car made it easier to leave the main beach strip and go exploring.
Cenotes: We visited Cenote Dos Ojos. I recommend getting there right when they open, and go to the second cenote first — it’s bigger and less crowded. I also recommend renting snorkels. The water is so clear and gorgeous, it’s definitely worth the $4 rental fee. FYI, even if you arrive early, the cenotes will be crowded and busy.
Dinner: I recommend getting reservations for dinner spots that you want to go to, or you can arrive right when they open (usually 6pm) and you should be able to snag a table for the first seating.
- Hartwood: New York owners, cool vibe, food was fabulous, but not mind-blowing. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays I believe, so plan accordingly.
- Kitchen Table: Arguably better than Hartwood and half the price. KT is also locally owned I believe.
- Arca: Our second favorite meal. Tapas/small plate style. If you can’t get a reservation, walk in and ask to be seated in the back bar area. It’s the same menu as the restaurant, and more of a loungier vibe.
- The Real Coconut: we never made it here, but it was one of the top spots on my list.
- Gitano: absolutely stunning ambiance — great for dinner, or come here after for drinks and dancing.
Resorts: Even if you’re not staying at these resorts, you can still visit the restaurants/beach clubs. Be prepared to spend a minimum at the bar/restaurant if you want to chill at the beach clubs.
- Kai Tulum (a resort at the end of the beach, within the national park preserve): Really cute resort with a pretty fab restaurant — great for breakfast or lunch. No covered/shaded beach cabanas here, but it looks like you can rent boats and snorkels nearby.
- Ziggy’s Beach Club: go early and get a beach cabana. There is a food/drink minimum, but it’s worth it because the food is great.
- Raw Love: enter this restaurant through a huge wood sculpture of a woman. It’s definitely an Instagram photo opp.
Touristy Experiences: The beach strip of Tulum is practically designed for Instagram. Everything is really stunning and lush and well designed. However, there are a few spots in particular that are really visually impactful.
- Azulik Tulum / Kin Toh (Treehouse restaurant): There is a $30 per person minimum to even enter this experience, but it looks really cool! I heard the service is bad and the food isn’t great, but the experience/views look kinda worth it in my opinion! We skipped this one, but it’s on my list for next time. Tip: get there 15-20 mins before they open because people will be lined up!
- Sfer Ik: an immersive gallery experience. The gallery itself if a work of art. Free to enter, although there may be a short line outside. No professional photography (smart phone photos only), and you have to remove your shoes before entering.
- Right next door is Tseen Ja: we never went inside this one, but it looked like it has similar “nest” experiences as Azulik (same owner I believe). I also recommend arriving 15 minutes before they open.
- Casa Pueblo Boca Paila: This hotel is soooo darling, make sure to snap a pic outside with the checkerboard pool!
Safety: We never felt unsafe in the slightest. Granted, we are all pretty experienced travelers, and New Yorkers :o). As with any new place, you’ll want to remain aware and relatively cautious — but we found everyone to be extremely hospitable and kind.
Currency: You’ll want to exchange your USD to Pesos. While many restaurants/shops take credit cards, plenty of small/local businesses are cash (pesos) only.
Bring plenty of bug spray and sunscreen! Have you been to Tulum? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!