February 20, 2020
Is it just me, or is Tulum, Mexico quickly becoming one of the most popular travel destinations? If you’ve already been then I’m sure that you can understand why. It’s an absolute vibe like no other and a complete Instagram paradise!
My boyfriend CJ actually recommended Tulum as our summer vacation destination, and left the planning to me! We traveled to Tulum earlier this year (June 2019), and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Since Tulum is growing to be such a popular tourist vacation getaway, I thought that it would be helpful to share a mini guide of Tulum based on my own travel experience. I hope that you find the tips, information, and recommendations helpful!
HOW TO GET THERE
Tulum doesn’t have an airport, so you’ll have to fly into Cancun Airport or Cozumel. I think the most practical way to get to Tulum is via Cancun. From Cancun, you can either catch public transportation (bus or taxi) or rent a car. Cancun Airport is just under a 2-hour drive to Tulum. CJ and I rented a car, which I highly recommend, as public transportation in Tulum can get really pricey (taxis in particular). With a car, you can travel at your own pace, and of course, it’s super convenient.
As you may already know, Spanish is the primary language in Tulum. We did however encountered many people who spoke English as well and had little to no issues when communicating with locals or those who worked in the tourism industry.
Pesos is the main currency in Tulum, however many places would also accept US dollars. I also recommend having cash at all times.
WHERE TO STAY
There are so many aesthetically pleasing hotels in Tulum! However, none of them come close to Azulik, where we stayed for our first two nights. Azulik is an adult eco-resort, and in my opinion, the perfect place for a romantic getaway. Azulik is by far the best resort I’ve ever stayed, and here’s why: Azulik’s jungle tree-house concept, is like no other, and truly a nature lover’s paradise! What’s even more unique about Azulik is that it creates an atmosphere for rest and relaxation. Since it’s designed to encourage you to reconnect and get in tune with yourself and your surroundings, the resort does not have any television, air conditioning, Wi-Fi or electric light. However, while you experience all that Azulik has to offer, suddenly you don’t miss any of that.
We stayed in the Sea Villa (room 34), which was stunning in every way! We had our own private pool and a breathtaking view of the ocean. I enjoyed going to sleep and waking up to the calm sounds of the waves crashing against the shore.
Azulik also has many other facilities available for guests of the resort, such as restaurants, a private beach, a spa/wellness center, a unique upscale fashion boutique, and a museum. Our favorite restaurant was Kin Toh, which is located inside the resort. The food was great, and we were pleased that there were a few vegans and vegetarian options on the menu. Also, the drinks were delicious (especially the Watermelon Martini)! The vibe at Kin Toh is what I’d call upbeat, boho-chic!
While at Azulik we spent most of our time there enjoying our beautiful room and relaxing on the beach. We also got a chance to explore the museum, Sfer Ik (IK Lab Gallery), which showcased some really beautiful art. CJ even participated in the free yoga classes offered each morning!
Our stay at Azulik was nothing short of amazing, and we owe that to Fernando, who was such a wonderful host. He certainly made our time at Azulik absolutely, unforgettable!
In addition to Azulik, we also stayed at a charming Airbnb in Tulum—Acacia. Acacia is a three villa property owned by a husband and wife, located not too far from Tulum Town. The host/owner Catherine and her husband, Enrique were so kind and accommodating and were available whenever you needed them. CJ and I stayed in the Jungle Cabin, which was clean, stylish and relaxing. The cabin also had a kitchen, which made it easy to enjoy our delicious leftover tacos after a long night out on the town! There was access to fresh water, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi. Also, if you don’t rent a car there are bicycles available for use. Acacia was perfect for us, and we would definitely recommend it to anyone seeking affordable accommodation in Tulum!
WHAT TO DO
You certainly can’t fly all the way to Tulum without seeing some of the most historical Mayan ruins. We visited the Coba and Tulum Ruins during our stay.
The Coba Ruins are located a little ways from Tulum Beach and Tulum Town–another reason why renting a car is so convenient. The siting of these particular ruins is quite spread out, and therefore requires a good bit of walking. Since we had been indulging in way too many tacos (we’ll talk about that soon), we initially opted out on the “bicycle taxis” and decided to walk to each of the ruins. Might I add that this was this a bad idea! We didn’t realize how much walking was required, and eventually gave in and hired a “taxi”, which wasn’t too poorly priced. Finally, we were able to lay eyes on the beautiful historical landmarks that Coba had to offer.
The second ruin we visited, the Tulum Ruins, was extremely close to Tulum Beach. Thankfully, these ruins were a bit easier to navigate by foot, however, we went mid-afternoon, so it was extremely hot. The ruins were beautiful, as they are on the coast and near the ocean. I would however strongly recommend visiting the ruins earlier in the day, to beat the nearly unbearable heat and the overflowing crowds of people.
Of the two ruins listed above, I think I enjoyed the Coba Ruins the most, despite the long-distance walks. Another option is the most famous ruins in Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza. We didn’t visit Chichen Itza this time, as we had already visited back in June 2017. These ruins are just about a 3-hour drive (one way) from Tulum, so if you do plan to visit (which I do strongly recommend), commit to a full day-trip. Chichen Itza is definitely the one you want to see, however, all are astonishing and certainly worth the visit. After all, it’s always good to throw in some good ole’ history in your travels–it makes you appreciate the country so much more!
Go to the beach
The beach is a must. Experience the Tulum beaches, even at least once while visiting! I recommend going to a beach associated with a hotel/resort if they grant outsiders to access. Although the beaches are beautiful there is, in fact, a seaweed problem. Unfortunately, there is an overabundance of seaweed on the shores of Tulum, which may deter many from bathing in the water. We personally didn’t go swimming due to the seaweed, however, we enjoyed our time at the beach nonetheless!
Swim in a Cenote
If swimming really is your thing, in addition to the beach, you should also experience swimming in a cenote. Cenotes are natural sinkholes created after the ceiling of a cave has collapsed. The Yucatan Peninsula is made up of thousands of cenotes and they are a great alternative to the typical beach experience. We didn’t get a chance to visit one, however, a few recommended cenotes are Gran Cenote Tulum, Calavera, Cenote Yaxbacaltun, Dos Ojos Cenote, Ik Kil Cenote, Cenote Yucatan, and Suytun Cenote.
Explore Tulum Beach
Tulum Beach strip is full of so many shops, restaurants/ places to eat and resorts/hotels. Most resorts/hotels would allow non-guests to walk around, especially if you’re eating at the restaurant, or drinking at the bar. In the shops along the way, you will find stylish, boho-chic clothing, jewelry, shoes, accessories, and of course souvenirs.
Speaking of exploring hotels, Casa Malca is surely one of them. Casa Malca is known as Pablo Escobar’s former mansion, which has now been renovated into a unique, contemporary boutique hotel. The hotel would allow you access if you mention that you would like to have a drink at the bar or view the art, so we did both! I have read that if you would like to gain access to the hotel and you’re not a hotel guest, then you must spend a minimum of $50 USD per person. We did buy a few drinks at the bar, but I’m certain that we did not spend $50 per person. Nevertheless, if we’re going to be honest, my main reasons for visiting Casa Malca was to “see how Pablo was livin’”, admire the art of Lio Malca, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kaws, and to most importantly get a photo op in the grand foyer!
Also, be sure to also check out the rooftop for a gorgeous view of the beach and property. Casa Malca is definitely what they would call one of the “most Instagrammable spots in Tulum”.
Rent a bicycle
The absolute best way to explore and enjoy the Tulum Beach strip is by renting a bicycle! Tulum is very eco-friendly and almost everyone gets around on a bicycle. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend walking along Tulum Beach, as the road is narrow, with constant traffic. There are also no sidewalks– so getting around on a bicycle was pretty helpful. We rented our bicycles from Hotel Ahau Tulum (most hotels offer bike rentals), which was between $10 and $20 per person if my memory serves me correctly. These cute aqua bicycles were so fun to ride, and a great prop for my Tulum Beach photos!
¡Ir a Bailar! La Zebra is a beach hotel, located along Tulum beach that offers free salsa lessons every Sunday evening (6:30 pm- 7:30 pm), followed by a live band (7:30 pm-10:45 pm). This was a great way to end our Tulum vacation!
WHERE TO EAT
Charly’s Vegan Tacos
The name says it all–vegan tacos! We were ecstatic to find this amazing vegan food spot, which offered Mexican cuisine. My personal favorite was the Chicharron Verde. As a matter of fact, it was so nice, we had to have it twice!
Nomade Tulum is another one of Tulum’s amazing hotels, located along Tulum Beach. I was so impressed with this “unique paradise”, as around every corner there was something beautiful. I would strongly encourage you to visit Nomade, not only for its beauty but also for the food! Nomade’s Macondo restaurant offers various plant-based dining options (vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian). The Moroccan style décor, seating, and vibe filled us with nostalgia, as we had visited Marrakech not too long before our Tulum travels. While there, we enjoyed the vegetable sushi, Hamburguesa Vegetariana, and Ensalada de Couscous.
*Please note that this Nomade is a cash-free hotel (including restaurants and bars), which means that only credit card and debit cards are accepted.
Matcha Mama (Tulum Beach)
If you’re wandering along Tulum Beach, you’re likely to stumble upon Matcha Mama. Matcha Mama is an organic vegan juice and smoothie bar, and quite popular might I add. Matcha Mama is a great place to start your day, with various breakfast options. They offer everything from raw juices, smoothies, coffee, tea, açai Bowls, nice cream, kombuchas, and of course matcha! Before you leave, don’t forget to take a photo of their famous Matcha Mama swings!
*Matcha Mama has two locations; one on Tulum Beach, and the other in downtown Tulum. We visited the Tulum Beach location.
Coco Tulum is another hotel/resort, that grants non-guests access to their beach club. We ate at the Coco Tulum Beach Bar, which is one more famous “Intagrammable” location to add to your list. It’s known for its white-washed aesthetic, beach swings, and perfect vacation photo backdrop. While enjoying the Coco beach views and vibes, we ate lunch and threw back a few margaritas.
Raw Love Cafe
Vegans! Rejoice! Raw Love is a raw, vegan cafe, located on the grounds of Ahau Tulum. We intentionally stopped here for breakfast and were definitely impressed by the array of raw vegan food options on the menu. If you haven’t’ noticed, restaurants in Tulum offer so many vegans and vegetarian food varieties, which makes me love this city even more! Raw Love is not only an option for vegans but anyone who loves good food!
* Please note that Raw Love is a cash-only restaurant.
Roraima Burgers is your classic burger spot, serving both meat and vegan/vegetarian burger options. We actually visited twice, because the burgers were so good and so inexpensive. We tried both Vegan and Vegetarian burgers, and to be honest, they were probably the best vegan burgers that I’ve had in a very long time!
The Pitted Date
The Pitted Date is yet another vegan restaurant (bakery and cafe). They’re a little hard to find, as they are located in the middle of new residential development. Since the menu was exclusively vegan, we decided to pig out! We had the Breakfast Burrito, Mushroom Omelette, Hot Cakes and the “Jack of All Trades” Burger. We give each dish 5 stars!
In all, Tulum was a great choice! I enjoyed the laid back, tropical, bohemian feels, and the relaxing vibe of the town. Without a doubt, there are so many things to do and see while in Tulum, which in my opinion, is important when planning an island getaway. Certainly, I would recommend this up and coming vacation hot-spot to anyone who is interested in visiting!