As Emilio’s big 30th birthday approached, we prepared ourselves for a week in paradise, aka Tulum. Located on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico, this place is what white sand and crystal blue water dreams are made of.
Emilio and I are pretty low key travelers. We tend to stay away from crowds and try and sneak in those must-see attractions when crowds are low or for short periods of time. We’re more of blend in with the locals, get to know the city/culture and try and be present to soak in the surroundings type of people. This trip was no different. For the most part, we chilled on the beach, enjoyed mezcal cocktails + fish tacos and took in the beach town as much as possible.
LAY OF THE LAND
Tulum is divided into two parts – Tulum beach and Tulum town. It takes about 20 mins to get to the beach from the center of town. We rented a car when we flew into Cancun and drove down to Tulum, which took about 1 hour 30. You could also take a taxi or airport shuttle but we wanted the convenience of the car to get around.
HOW TO GET AROUND
+ Taxis: Although we never took any since having the car I read that there are plenty of taxis to take. They are around 100 pesos to get you around on the beach strip and 150 pesos to town. As always, make sure you negotiate the rate before hopping in.
+ Bikes: An easy way to get around if you are staying on the beach and so fun to ride around. You can rent one from the hotel you’re staying at – they’re 100 to 150 pesos for the day.
+ Car: After I did a ton of research before our trip, we decided on getting a car. Many people mentioned this was the best idea and those that didn’t have a car, wish they did. I think if you’re planning on doing day trips and visiting the town, a car is best. If you plan on only staying on the beach strip, then you do not need one.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels on the beach in Tulum come with a price. Everything is incredibly chic and beautiful, but in peak season you’re looking to pay around $600 to $1,000+ a night for a place. Here are a few luxury, boutique hotels that are beautiful, on the beach and incredibly chic.
Be Tulum | Casa Malca | Nest | Nomade | Hotel Esencia | Sanara Tulum
If you want a more affordable option, you can also choose to stay in town and make the commute to the beach strip. Some options for hotels in town are:
The Strabon | Una Vida | Central Park & Resort |Aluna | Hotel Tiki Tiki
HOW WE SPENT OUR DAYS IN TULUM
+ The beach: This is an obvious one so I’ll mention it first. You can rent day beds at some of the most beautiful hotels on the beach. There’s a food + drink spend of around $80/person for the day, so you don’t necessarily have to stay there to enjoy the beach and cabanas. I recommend going to Casa Malca and Be Tulum. Get their early in the AM to make sure spots are available.
+ Tulum Ruins: One of the most popular things to do is to see the historic Mayan Ruins. Make sure to leave early to beat the crowds. There’s an entrance fee of a few bucks, so plan on having cash. Emilio and I got into a bind a few times not having cash on us and we had to make so many stops before we found a working ATM.
+ Tulum Beach Strip: There’s a ton of really cute shops on the strip that sell jewelry, swimwear, hats and some of the most beautiful home decor. They are pricey though, so just keep that in mind. Regardless, it’s always fun to browse through and get inspiration and pick up something small to remind you of your trip.
+ Cenotes: What are Cenotes? They are natural sinkholes with beautiful, clear blue water! You can swim and go snorkeling – If you want to go snorkeling, I highly recommend you bring your own gear or purchase your own there. Although you can rent gear, I’m just not that person and rather spend the money on purchasing my own if you know what I mean… We purchased our own when we got there and had the best time snorkeling and swimming with the fish. Get your own gear, it’s worth it! We went to the Grand Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos – 2 pretty epic cenotes. There are so many cenotes to choose from and all so beautiful! Emilio and I narrowed our list down, but some others that are definitely worth the trip are Cenote Calavera and Cenote Suytun – these look insanely cool and so stunning.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
+ Nu: This was hands down our favorite spot. If you’re looking for an eco-chic, modern Mexican restaurant, this is the place for you. It’s not cheap, but the food is incredible and vibes are on point. The duck with the mole sauce – wow, I can’t even describe! Insane.
+ Gitano: Such a cute spot! There’s also one in NYC so you know it has to be good. It gets packed, so call in and make a booking or make one through OpenTable, which we ended up using a bunch. Everything is good and the place is just super cute and so fun. You’ll have a blast.
+ ARCA: A good dinner spot, but if I had to choose I would do Nu instead for sure. They are small bites to share here – we had the bone marrow, octopus and bunch of other small dishes. All were good, but the Yelp reviews are crazy and we didn’t get that sense exactly. The setup is beautiful though and the mamey squash dessert was pretty epic and something we had never tried before!
+ Matcha Mama: We did acai bowls here for breakfast. It’s one of those very instagrammable locations and really cute with swings in the front. I have to say they were pretty bomb and so beautifully put together in little coconut bowls.
+ Raw Love: Also perfect for breakfast. This is a vegan spot that does all kinds of foods, but if you want a good smoothie or acai bowl this is a great place.
+ Food Trucks (Sailor Love, Blue Fish Market, Crazy Tacos): These are a few food trucks that are stationed on the Tulum Beach strip and so good! We loved the fish and shrimp tacos at Sailor Love and went back twice for them. It’s a cool, laid back vibe and fun to hang, have a beer + tacos. There’s seating, fairy lights and music – all so cute.
Since we spent the majority of our day at the beach, we had drinks + food beachside from the hotel. Other spots that were on our list to go, but we didn’t make it to were:
+ Mur Mur, Kitchen Table, Hartwood, Wild
WHAT TO PACK
There’s nothing worse than spending hours packing and heading out to the airport with the feeling of possibly forgetting something. With each new place you visit, there will always be something different that you may have wished to pack. After spending a week in Tulum, I’ve made a list of the essentials:
+ Sunscreen! I mean this should go without saying! You should be wearing your sunscreen on a daily basis regardless, but if you are traveling to a beach town in Mexico, you will most definitely want to have this on hand. Located right next to the equator, the sun just hits different. The rays can be oh so powerful and let’s be real! You went to Mexico to get a gorgeous bronzed glow, not to leave looking like a lobster.
+ Swimsuit: Obvious thing to pack. Whether or not you choose to actually go for a swim, is up to you. But regardless, you can’t go to Mexico and not lounge around in your swimsuit like it’s the only item of clothing you brought with you.
+ Hat: Even with all of the sunscreen in the world, you’ll want to protect your face and eyes from the sun as much as you possibly can. Throw on a hat and all of your problems are solved.
+ Bug spray: Okay! Now, for an item I didn’t necessarily think to bring. But trust me, you’ll want this. The beauty of the tropics comes the pain of pesky bugs.
+ Cash: A lot of places only take cash. Also, when traveling, it can be more convenient and easier to pay in cash than dealing with transaction fees/fraud.
+ Wet Wipes: When you’re running back and forth between the beach and wherever else you’re going, you’ll want to have something to easily clean your hands off.
+ Snorkel for Cenotes: The cenotes in Tulum are so magical and unreal! You’ll definitely want to enjoy them as much as you can while snorkeling through its crystal-clear waters.
+ Portable phone charger: When vacationing, chances are you’ll be on the go. A portable charger is always a must for travel. That way it’ll be one less thing to worry about on your worry-free vacation.