Tulum is a dreamy land of turquoise water, fresh food, and beautiful people. The sights and smells will relax even the most stressed traveler and surely have her returning back to the paradise that is Tulum. If you need to disconnect, Tulum is the place for you. Explore by foot, by bicycle or local taxi - all you need to pack is a couple of swimsuits, a dress that flows in the warm Caribbean air, and a pair of sandals to walk the sandy roads of the beach town.
I spent a week exploring this Bohemian inspired, Mexican beach town, and am happy to share some of my travel notes with you.
We traveled from Houston to Cancun International with Southwest Airlines. Cancun is less than 2 hours by air and there are pretty incredible deals to be found if you look often and book when Southwest is having a sale. Personally, my husband and I enjoy traveling from a “locals” perspective, so we took the bus to Playa del Carmen and then caught a connection to Tulum Centro. Roundtrip bus fare was $30 USD vs the $300 cost for a private shuttle. The bus was air conditioned and very comfortable. We changed out dollars for pesos before we left the US and I highly recommend doing so just for a better exchange rate.
We stayed at the Kore Tulum, one of the few all-inclusive resorts in Tulum. We chose the Kore based on the aesthetics (hello infinity pool) and the price, as we booked for 65% off the normal rate. The Kore has immaculate grounds, nestled on cliffs overlooking the turquoise sea. We knew we would be leaving the hotel everyday to explore on our own and it was a great home base for our trip. The Kore has a wonderful staff and their attention to detail is amazing. We loved the sun beds by the ocean and the breeze blowing through the canopies was dreamy. We know for sure we will want to stay in one of the more rustic (eco-chic) hotels on our next visit. I have my eyes on the Hotel Azulik.
The best way to get around Tulum is by bike. The Kore had them available for free, so we rode almost every day. We biked to Tulum Centro (downtown), the Tulum Ruins, and all along the beach road. We took taxis at night and walked a lot during the day just exploring the shops and taking photos.
Batey: Located in Tulum Centro, this small bar has live music every night and the best Mojito menu on the planet. Snag a seat on the patio and you can watch the fresh sugar cane juice being made in a makeshift Volkswagen press.
Posada Margherita: Hands down the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten. The aesthetics of this restaurant are incredible. Candles and succulents light the winding path from the road to the bar. Rustic and weathered furniture, a la Joanna & Chipper Gaines, covers the sand and is Instagram worthy while you wait for your table. The cocktail list that left me wondering about every delicate ingredient and the pasta is made fresh when ordered. Make sure you eat the pickled cauliflower that they bring out with homemade flatbread. It is a delight to the senses. Get there early or expect a 2+ hour wait.
Mateos: We went to Tulum during Bowl Season and it was non-negotiable that my hubs find a place to watch American Football. Mateos is laid back with a treehouse meets NYC bar feel. You can drink straight from a freshly peeled coconut or sample one of the many Agave Tequilas they offer. Need a nap? Not a problem. Mateos has an entire level of swinging hammocks in the treehouse. Try the fish tacos or the fajitas.
KI’Bok: Ride a bike, take a run or grab a cab, and head back to Tulum Centro for a flat white or cappuccino at KI’Bok Coffee Bar. Free wifi and a simple breakfast menu (Mexican omelet) will get you ready for a day of exploring the beauty in Tulum.
See and Do
Cenotes: This is my favorite thing we did in Tulum. There are lots of Centoes around Tulum and the Mayan Rivera. They range from super touristy to deserted - so do some research before you go and decide which experience is better for you. (Either way, go earlier in the day for the magic sunlight). Imagine a hole in the middle of the jungle with crystal clear cool water, caves with turtles and fish swimming all around you and lillypads covering the surface. You swim through caves while bats flying high in the crevices above you. When you peek under water with your snorkel, (a must!) you find that the water is incredibly deep. It is a mermaid meets the jungle fantasy come true. Tip: take bug spray, sunscreen, a snorkel (you can rent if it is a bigger centote), and pesos for entry. Even better if you have a go pro or underwater camera to capture it all.
Gitano: Music, dancing, food, drinks, and fashion. You will find it all at the jungle paradise Giano, complete with a disco ball swinging from the palm trees above you. At minimum, you should got to Gitano for drinks. I recommend the “Jungle Fever” cocktail, infused with mezcal, chili, lime, and cilantro. Tip: There is a hidden back bar with less of a crowd and the bartender is a true artist.
Tulum Ruins: I wanted a photo from above the ruins since these are the only ruins by the sea. We biked there from our hotel, which was worth it for the views alone. It is hot and crowded at the ruins and it is definitely touristy. If you are into ancient architecture and history you will love it. Avoid the guided tours so you can go at your own pace.
Tulum Beach: Take a late afternoon just to stroll around the beach town. I spent three hours one day just walking in and out of shops, looking at beautiful clothes, smelling homemade perfumes, and trying on jewelry. Mostly, I enjoyed taking photographs of every colorful nook along the way. There are fresh juice stands all up and down the road to refresh your mind and body from the tropical rays. Souvenirs abound for the hat lover in your life.
We spent New Years in Tulum and I can say it was one of the best ever. We danced the night away under the stars and the jungle disco ball at Gitano. Speaking of stars, that is one thing you don’t want to miss. In Tulum, where the stars meet the ocean is a true feast for the eyes. And the soul.
Sharon Clark is a visual creative and a lover of fashion, travel, art, food, and family. Sharon’s work is influenced by her idealized view of the iconic French woman, beach culture, & the desire to live in a home covered with plants. Traveling to new places is what inspires and creatively drives her attention to detail and aesthetics. Follow Sharon @thisnovellife on Instagram.
Images and feature written by guest contributor, Sharon Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org.