hi friends! as you may have noticed, a few weeks ago, E and I spent a week in Mexico! we stayed in Tulum, a small, eco-friendly, trendy beach town about an hour and a half south from Cancun. I received a ton of great recommendations and we went to a lot of places, so wanted to share my version of a Tulum travel guide with you!
WHAT TO DO:
We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb (pictured) closer to town that we loved! It had a private pool surrounded by a photo worthy pink wall and tons of plants, swings on the roof, and an impeccable interior. The bed was so comfortable, there was a clawfoot tub (!!) and our host had everything we needed – beach blankets, snorkel gear, a blender (v beneficial for making our own smoothies!), etc. The Airbnb was about a 10-15 minute drive to the beach and 3-5 minute drive into town (where there’s also lots of shopping, restaurants, etc. – more on that below). We really loved it! Here’s the link.
If you do want to be a little closer to the beach, I’ve heard good things about these hotels: Mezzanine, Coco, Be Tulum, and Azulik (pictured below – even if you don’t stay at Azulik, go walk around the property or have a drink there! It’s amazing).
WHAT TO DO:
BEACH! – every day, we would pack our beach bags and find a new beach area to hang out at. you can just walk through hotels to get to the beach, but can’t use their facilities unless you’re staying there. I heard good options are: Playa Pescadores, Ziggy Beach, Papaya Playa, Coco. we also liked Playa Maya, which was a little further down the road past Mezzaine Hotel. The water was super clear and beautiful!
mayan clay massage – this is a must! Getting a massage always feel necessary to maximize relaxation on vaca. I heard amazing things about Mayan clay massages in Tulum both at the Mayan Clay Spa and the Maya Tulum Resort. Basically, your entire body gets covered in Mayan clay, sets for awhile, then you get a traditional amazing massage. Our Airbnb host actually arranges for us to get private massages in the Airbnb, which was luxurious and super amazing. We did this on our last night in Tulum and it was a perfect way to end the trip.
swim in cenotes – cenotes are underground, natural sinkholes formed by water coming through the limestone rocks (read more about them here). basically, they are like swimming ponds that you can swim, snorkel and dive in – some even allow you to zip-line or kayak. we visited two very different ones: Gran Cenote (first three photos below), which is about 5 minutes north of downtown Tulum. you walk down steps to get to the water and are swimming in a cave, pretty much. there are turtles and clear water and it’s super cool). The second we went to was Casa Cenote (last photo below), which is 10-15 minutes north of Tulum, it’s off of a back road and the cenote extends back into the jungle! the water is deep and super clear – tons of people dive here, especially). other cenotes recommended to us were: Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Escondido, Cenote Azul, Cenote Carwash, Cenote Zazil Ha (last two are super close to Gran Cenote).
snorkeling – you can do this in the ocean in several good spots and in lots of cenotes too! we also drove to Akumal (about 20 minutes north of Tulum) to swim with turtles – super cool experience. We just rented masks from a little shop near the beach and jumped in the water – no need for tours or anything. The water is super calm and the beach is super charming and less rustic/earthy than Tulum beaches, in my opinion.
Tulum Ruins – I’m not typically a fan of touristy things, but checking out the Mayan Ruins in Tulum is definitely something I recommend doing! we walked the entire thing in about 45 minutes (while enjoying fresh fruit popcicles – my fave). it’s beautiful to see the ruins right alongside the water, and you have access to the beach to swim/snorkel from there too.
shopping – the main strip by the beach has tons of super cute shops. I highly recommend just wandering into the shops — I don’t even remember the names! A few recommended to me were Shalom and Le Troupe.
walk or bike around – I would recommend taking time to just wander down the main strip. Most hotels (and Airbnbs) have bikes available, so that makes it super easy! There’s so much to take in – both on the main strip and within the different hotel resorts. The landscape in Tulum is truly amazing – from the beach and crystal clear ocean to the wild and rustic jungle. Since it gets so hot, make sure to apply a lot of sunscreen and stop along the way to get a fresh juice or paleta (popsicle)!
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK:
If we had a chance to visit a spot, the name is in BOLD. If not, it’s a highly recommended spot from our local host or good friends.
Tacos Honorio – in town, traditional Mexican breakfast
The Real Tabano – jungle side, yummy breakfast and delicious, fresh smoothies (literally the fruit was cut and blended right in front of us)
The Real Coconut – beach side, healthy breakfast spot inside Sanará hotel
Tunich – simple and tasty breakfast spot. They have super inexpensive cabanas as well, so that’s another affordable lodging option too!
Azafran – in town, fresh juices!
Raw Love – beach side, healthy breakfast (acai bowls!) inside Ahau Hotel)
Hartwood – arguably the most coveted spot to get a table for dinner in tulum. everything is cooked on the wood burning oven and open grill. sadly, we weren’t able to get in the night we tried but apparently they now (recent thing!) take reservations – you just need to email them a few times. 😏
Mezzaine – beach side, up the road from the “main” area. Great happy hour (2 for 1 margs and beautiful view)
El Manglar – in town and was actually two blocks from our airbnb but sadly closed the day we wanted to try it! it’s the best pizza in tulum.
Mateos – jungle side, sports bar-esque bar and restaurant. we were given the fish taco recommendation from a friend and they didn’t disappoint! 🙏🏻
Restaurare – jungle side, amazing fresh vegan food.
El Camello – in town…this is where all the locals (including founder/chef of the v popular hartwood) eat to get best seafood! super simple, fresh, inexpensive.
Taqueria La Eufemia – beach side, didn’t get a chance to go but supposed to have very cheap food and fun vibe for drinks and hanging out.
Posada Margherita – beach side, and seriously my new favorite place in the world. it’s italian food, which sounds weird for mexico/the beach, but trust me – YOU GOTTA GO! they make incredible handmade pasta and all meals come with this incredible tapas board with pickled veggies, cheese and super tasty focaccia bread. the decor is also beautiful – see first two photos below for proof!
Gitano – jungle side, super trendy mezcal bar and restaurant with plants and greenery EVERYWHERE, twinkly lights and hanging disco balls. the food and drinks were super yummy and the vibe was 🔥.
Casa Jaguar – beach side and inside Ahau Hotel
Batey Mojito Bar – in town, SUPER incredible mojitos, which are not my typical drink of choice! they are made with freshly crushed sugar cane juice out of a VW beetle. the vibe is super fun too.
La Zebra – beach side, apparently “the best salsa party in town” and they have free salsa on sundays from 6-7pm and live music most nights.
TIPS AND MORE THINGS TO KNOW:
grocery & last minute items – e went to the Chedruai (kind of like a Mexican Walmart) literally more times than we wanted to, but they have everything – sunscreen, food (incl. large fresh produce section) + wine/beer, beach supplies, everything. It’s located on the road from downtown Tulum on the way to the beach.
SUNSCREEN! lots of it. you’ll go through it quickly.
packing recommendations – unless you are fashion blogger (and LOTS of them go!), don’t bring heels or even wedges. I wore flip flop sandals exclusively the entire time. Most roads aren’t paved, so you’ll be walking on dirt or sand. I packed some denim shorts, but didn’t even wear them because they felt too sticky. I opted for flowy dresses and swimsuit cover-ups instead. I would also recommend chapstick with SPF (my lips got so burnt – v sad and painful) and bug spray, especially if you’re eating dinner at a restaurant on the “jungle side” (like Gitano).
carry pesos, as most places don’t accept credit cards and when they do, the exchange rate isn’t typically best in your favor vs. paying with pesos. don’t forget to tip – at restaurants, gas stations, the baggers at the grocery store (that was the big surprise to me – they don’t typically make any money EXCEPT tips), bellman at hotels, etc. I recently heard an idea that a couple brings 100 one dollar bills on trips to Mexico to tip everyone…really easy way to not forget to tip.
rent a car – I would highly recommend this! it cost $75 to rent a car for 5 days and it was fairly easy to pick up from the Cancun airport after we landed. having the car was necessary since we weren’t staying on the main strip, but even so, I would recommend a car to have easy access to get to different beaches, cenotes, in town, etc. it’s super affordable and the convenience was very appreciated.
more photos from our trip below – thank you for reading! if you have any questions or are planning to visit, please feel free to reach out to me! 💙