Tulum | A Tropical, Bohemian Paradise

Guide to Tulum ruins, petal and pup dress

Beach | Jungle | Paradise

If you haven’t already noticed, Tulum has recently started to emerge from its unknown whereabouts on the map, to the ultimate vacation destination seen all over social media. How would I describe it? Here are a few things I’ve heard/said myself:

  • It’s like Venice Beach meets Mexico
  • Ever seen the Flinstones? Picture the Flinstones and welcome to Tulum
  • It’s like the Hawaii beaches meets Adventure Land at Disneyland meets LA’s coolest restaurant

So now that you’re sold on going there, because who wouldn’t be after those descriptions? I’ll dive right into everything you need to know. Starting with how long you should stay. You might be thinking that it’s still kind of small and rural so you may get bored if you stay more than 3 nights. And you would be wrong. I recommend 5 days minimum to do everything worth doing and to eat at all. the. amazing. restaurants.

If you want to play a fun game while reading this post, you cant take a drink every time I say the word “vibe”. Because what better way is there to describe Tulum? It’s a vibe.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Tulum is located about 1.5 hours south of the Cancun airport. You will want to fly into Cancun and schedule a shuttle to take you from there to Tulum. We used Cancun Discounts, and they were cheaper than any of the services the hotels quoted us on. You can also rent a car, which brings me to my point.

HOW DO I GET AROUND?

You always have the option to rent a car if you’re not planning on doing any organized tours, and need a way to explore outside of the hotel zone. However, most of the things you’ll want to see and do are all on one long maybe 8-10 mile strip? If you don’t want to walk, you can rent a bike or vespa, and if it’s still too far to bike, you can taxi, although taxis are very expensive. A lot of the nicer hotels have bikes that are free for hotel guests to use. Walking is great because you can get a close look at all the restaurants, shops, and food stands, but you are also able to walk places on the beach!

WHERE DO I STAY?

I have not even began to scratch the surface of all the fantastic hotels there are to stay at. One of the many appealing features of Tulum is most of the hotels are small, boutique hotels with only a dozen or so rooms. This means there are so many unique options to choose from! Here are the ones I recommend based on personal experience or word of mouth.

  • La Valise Tulum – This is where we stayed for the majority of our honeymoon, and it was a DREAM. It has less than 10 rooms so the whole hotel feels very private. You are going to pay over $500 for the “cheapest” jungle room, but it is SO worth it. The ocean rooms are $800-$1,000 a night and are absolutely INSANE. Our jungle room had a palapa roof and outdoor shower. I love this place because of the daybeds on the beach and throughout the hotel, the small pools, the beautiful common area, and that it is literally on the sand. The concierge here are super attentive and your stay comes with free breakfast at the hotel, a cocktail at one of their restaurants every night, and free bike rental.
  • Encantada – This is the sister hotel to La Valise and is very similar. The rooms are stunning and this Encantada also has a quiet beach with day beds.
  • Azulik – This hotel has to capture the ultimate Tulum experience. You are in a literal tree house. People come to visit this hotel to visit the restaurant with its bird nests, and walk through the tunnels to the yoga studio. I personally didn’t want to stay here because when I say tree house, I mean an actual tree house. Like no AC or electricity in the rooms. But, you stay for the experience and the very private beach.
  • Coco Tulum – Coco is a less expensive option but still a great experience. You’ve probably seen pictures of the all white rooms, beach bar, and swings on the beach

DONDE ESTA LA FIESTA?

  • Taboo – Amazing beach club. You can reserve your spot on Open Table, as with a lot of the other restaurants in Tulum. You’ll pay a cover for a nice spot or daybed but it’s worth it.
  • Papaya Playa Project – this place turns into a beach party on Saturday nights! Think jungle beach dance party vibes and need I say more? Go later around 10:30-11pm at night
  • Coco Tulum – if you’re not staying there, this is a fun beach bar during the day! It’s also the spot for the very instagrammable swings on the beach.
  • La Zebra – another beach bar/club with great craft cocktails.

WHERE DO I EAT?

For every amazing hotel in Tulum, there are 5 great restaurants. This is one of the reasons why I believe you’ll need to stay longer than you think you do. It’s impossible to try them all! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but ones that I can personally recommend. Most restaurants you can book on Open Table and if not, you will email them directly. Make reservations. Some open up for reservations 1 to 2 months in advance.

  • Itzik – Dinner. The restaurant belonging to La Valise hotel that serves Mediterranean/Israeli food. We came back again just for the meat hummus. It was insane. Also the best chicken shawarma I’ve ever had. Outdoor restaurant feels like a real life rain forest cafe.
  • Funky Geisha or Rosa Negra : Dinner. We only made it to Funky Geisha (Asian fusion food), but they are owned by the same group (also own Taboo), and have heard great things about all their restaurants. This restaurant is Vegas vibes. A DJ with loud music, brought us sparklers for our honeymoon, and they stay open allll night. A girl was standing up at her table dancing, and we thought the waiter was telling her to sit down, but he was just bringing her a chair to dance on. It’s definitely a scene so if you want the full experience, go later after 9pm.
  • Bak by Harry’s : Dinner. Steak house with all the Tulum vibes. Amazing bread.
  • Posada Margherita: Lunch. Delicious Italian food with great cocktails ON THE SAND. This place has amazing food, cute rustic decor, and wooden menus so they don’t blow away! We stopped here on our way back from the Tulum Ruins and it was the perfect relaxing lunch after a long bike ride.
  • Gitano: Dinner or post dinner. Definitely more late night vibes. The food isn’t the best but this place is vibezzz. It is a restaurant in the jungle, with a neon sign, and disco balls. It turns up on the weekends for late night with a DJ and everything so I would recommend for a late night drink or snack and party in the jungle.
  • Raw Love – Breakfast. Yummy bowls acai bowls and healthy bites. Located at Ahau Hotel which you will for sure notice because it has the Daniel Popper installation of the lady made out of wood and rope which is a Tulum landmark.
  • Hartwood – Dinner. Probably one of the most popular restaurants in Tulum. You have to email a month in advance for a reservation. No menu, just daily items based on what’s available from nearby vendors and the catches of the day. Cash only.
  • Kin’Toh at Azulik – Dinner. Drinks. This is the restaurant in Azulik, which is also practically a treehouse. The food isn’t anything to write home about, but you pay to sit in a bird’s nest overlooking a canopy of rainforest trees or to lounge in one of the nets/hammocks and take an Instagram photo. They also have a wine cellar that you can ask about.
  • Matcha Mama – Coffee, Matcha, & Acai. Also very Instagrammable spot because that’s what people care about these days.

WHAT IS THERE TO DO?

Well, when you’re not lounging at your hotel beach, partying at a day club, eating at one of the must-try restaurants, or taking a siesta, there are some other activities that you will have to squeeze in.

  • Tulum Ruins – A cab ride or a long bike ride away. It only costs 80 pesos to get in, and you must have cash and exact change. These are the only ruins in Mexico that are perched on an ocean cliff. Must see.
  • Tulum Jungle Gym – Also located at the Ahau Hotel (look for the lady!). This is what someone meant when they said, think the Flinstones. This is an actual gym you can work out in, but nearly all the equipment is made of wood, stone, bamboo, and rope.
  • Casa Malca – the hotel/restaurant that is said to be one of Pablo Escobar’s mansions. Here is where you see the interesting artwork and hanging furniture. I personally didn’t think it was worth the visit because the hotel is very exclusive to hotel guests. You have to pay a cover to eat at the bar or restaurant, and there is a $100 minimum spend per person. This doesn’t even give you access to some of the cool photo-op spots throughout the hotel as they are reserved for hotel guest access only. However, you may still want to check it out.
  • Cenotes – If you get your butt off the beach for anything, you have to do a Cenote tour. There are actually hundreds of Cenotes throughout the region so there are several different types of tours you can do. The big ones are Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos. We didn’t see those, but opted to pay a little more for a private tour of 3 small cenotes. This was incredible because we were the only 2 people (along with our tour guide) who were swimming in the cenote. Because there are so many cenotes and they are located in the rainforest with no service, I say paying for a tour is a must. We used Xaman-Ha Connections.
    • Other cenotes are the Tamcach-ha cenote, Laguna de Kaan luum (mud bath), Cenote Taak Bi Ha, Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman (has a swing)

ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?

  • Download WhatsApp if you don’t already have it. This is how the hotels and tour companies will communicate with you.
  • Bring lots of cash/pesos. Most of the restaurants are either cash only or they charge a high percentage for credit cards.
  • Tulum is a quiet beach town during the day that turns up at night. If you make a 7:30 dinner reservation, you will literally be the only one in the restaurant. Most people take a siesta in the afternoon after being at the beach all day and have a late dinner. If you want the full vibe of these restaurants, eat at 8:30 or later.

WHAT I WORE:

Outfit Details: MY FAV Black Bikini BottomsRevolve; Men’s Green PantsVuori; Gold Sandals – Seychelles; Orange One Piece – Topshop (old); Green DressPetal and Pup; Espadrille SandalsASOS (old); SunglassesTarget

Do you have any other Tulum suggestions? Anything else you’re dying to know? Please leave me a comment below; I’d love to meet you!

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