Welcome to my first travel recap!
I’m excited to start branching out and sharing all my globetrotting experiences with you. The travel bug has been a part of me since a young age, as I moved around the world every few years during my childhood. While I had to put my wanderlust on hold for the majority of the last few years (hello college and round-the-clock post-grad jobs), travel is one of life’s experiences that I plan to take full advantage of as often as possible.
So pack it up, pack it in, and let me begin! Come away with me, and see the world through my eyes, one stamp at a time️.
The first stop on our journey is…Tulum, Mexico! Tulum has become a major travel destination, so let me be your guide to this desirable resort location south of Cancun.
I’ll begin by sharing that there is no direct flight to Tulum. Instead, you’ll need to fly into Cancun and take ground transportation an hour and a half south to Tulum. We opted for a private car from USA Transfers to drive us, but there are also shared ride services available. I enjoyed our car ride because our driver was a delight and shared insider knowledge with us, all the while offering us refreshing beverages to sip on. Off to a good start if you ask me! (I’ll link to the service below).
During my trip, I had the opportunity to stay at two hotels: Maria Del Mar and Ahau Hotel. I must admit, it was a bit challenging to pack everything up and switch hotels mid-trip, but it was totally worth it. Maria Del Mar and Ahau were complete opposites of one another, so it was fun to try out both.
Maria Del Mar — One of the best stays I’ve experienced while traveling! We arrived rather late and wanted a room with electricity so that we could settle in comfortably before starting our adventures early in the morning. (Note: Not all hotels in Tulum have electricity!) MDM is a smaller hotel (complete with its own private beach!), so the staff was expecting us when we arrived. Upon checking in the restaurant, Mina had already prepped meals for us! The rooms are spacious, and beach bags and towels are provided for guests. Waking up and heading to the sun deck for the sunrise was beyond breathtaking. MDM also has morning yoga you can partake in, and the lattes at their restaurant are some the best I’ve ever tasted! (Read: Even if you don’t stay at MDM, pop in for an iced latte. You can thank me later). And as if all of this wasn’t enough, the staff serenaded me on the morning of my birthday! By the time we checked out, we were on friendly terms with the staff, particularly Carlos, Ezekiel and Diana, which only made the stay that much more memorable for us.
Ahau Hotel — Now onto our second hotel, which was a more authentic Tulum experience, with locally inspired architecture and rooms either directly on the beach or looking out to the water. If waking up to sunlight streaming through the windows and stepping out the door to feel the sand between your toes on the beach sounds like your kind of paradise, then I highly recommend the Ahau Hotel. It’s a larger property, so the personal home away from home feeling isn’t as prevalent — but there are certainly a whole lot of other pros to this hotel. Our stay included complimentary continental breakfast each day with a beverage (including fresh coconut water), muffins and croissants. There are no phones in the rooms, so you can message the concierge via WhatsApp with your selection when you’re ready for your breakfast. Pretty nifty, right? Ahau also has yoga classes in the morning for those interested.
Azulik — While we did not stay here, Azulik is one of the more popular accommodations in Tulum. It is a top choice amongst bloggers and was recommended to me, so I had to check it out myself! We took a tour of the premises, which features a private beach for guests to enjoy and a beautiful spa facility which is open to all. While I was definitely impressed, I was still more than satisfied with our hotel picks. That’s not to say I won’t book a room there on my next visit, though ;). For those enticed by what you have seen, heard or read about Azulik, beware that this hotel has no electricity or AC — So you will be left to get ready in candlelight or with the flashlights of your phone.
I didn’t expect much from the food, especially being a picky eater, but I was pleasantly surprised by the food in Tulum. In fact, my mouth is salivating just thinking about all of the the delicious spreads we enjoyed. Protip: Make a list of all the places you would like to eat and schedule those into your day. Not all restaurants in Tulum are open every day, and some of them are only open for one meal a day.
Mina — This is the restaurant in the Maria Del Mar hotel, where we had breakfast the first morning. Like I mentioned already, the iced lattes are amazing!
Papaya Playa Project — Went for a bite here before heading to the beach. On the bill was an order of guacamole and ceviche (this won’t be a surprise the more you read and once you go there yourself), and of course drinks.
Mateos Grill — I highly recommend the fish tacos, they were the best I have ever tasted! They also have a rooftop that looks like an adult treehouse where you can watch the sunset over the jungle.
Gitano — This time we went back for dinner and to commence the birthday celebrations. The ceviche is delicious, as are the tacos.
Zamas — A cliffside restaurant overlooking the ocean with indoor and outdoor seating. We chose to sit on the verandah overlooking the water. While this wasn’t my favorite meal of the trip, it made for a beautiful backdrop.
Casa Jaguar –– We enjoyed an extended candlelit dinner here in the jungle along with yet another birthday serenade.
Posada Margherita — By far one of the best meals we had! Tiered tables are located on the beach, and the restaurant serves up some delicious Italian cuisine. They provide complimentary antipasto of different kinds of bread along with cauliflower and cheese. Our favorite dish was the lobster pasta, it’s a must-have. Mmm! Be patient during your meal as the service can be on the slower side.
La Zebra Hotel — This was another favorite of the trip. You are able to order drinks from the restaurant or from the Mulberry Project pop-up they have on the beach in front of you. We opted to get a pitcher of margaritas from Mulberry Project. The Ceviche La Zebra was scrumptious, but most memorable is the tacos.
Casa Banana — We walked the strip and peeped in to several restaurants on our list, but ended up here for our last dinner. They are rather busy, so there may be a slight wait — but it is worth it! The ambiance was lively which only amplified the experience. If you find yourself here, the steak and meat platter will not disappoint.
Ahau Restaurant & Beach Grill — For our last breakfast in Tulum, we dined at the hotel’s restaurant hours after receiving our complimentary breakfast during sunrise. The smoothies are fresh and delectable.
Be Tulum — This was a hotel I wanted to see during our stay, so we enjoyed our final meal here. The decor, table settings and furniture was like that of Restoration Hardware meets Anthropologie — so I spent the first 10 minutes just snapping away! While my main course wasn’t as noteworthy for me, the dessert definitely was! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, ask for the crème brûlée.
Hartwood — While we didn’t have the opportunity to dine here (not for a lack of trying), I’m adding it to my list because anyone traveling to Tulum should attempt to eat here. We lined up with other hopeful diners to get a reservation; at 3:30pm each day, the hostess will announce if they have any openings and go down the line first-come-first serve to fill up the remaining timeslots. We lost precious time during this process, but lucky for you, we learned that you can actually email in advance prior to traveling. You’re welcome.
I am a sucker for picking up goodies from trips, as they serve as memorabilia for me. I had heard about the shopping in Tulum, but I didn’t quite believe it until I arrived and walked in and out of almost every single store. Even when I wasn’t looking to shop, there were locals selling goods on the beach. I wasn’t complaining about that, because I picked up some cute necklaces and a crochet crop top without even leaving my beach chair. (I later saw those same necklaces at the airport for more than double what I paid for them — so don’t discard those sellers on the beach! It directly supports their livelihood and they offer a better price).
Aside from the waterfront purchases, here’s a round-up of a few of my favorite shops. I suggest walking the strip before buying the first thing you see, because there are a lot of options!
Maria Del Mar — The hotel is surrounded by mom- and pop- like shops and well-curated boutiques. There is some rather cute jewelry in those stores, if you’re a jewelry girl. I ended up getting a chic straw bag from the hotel’s mini shop.
Caravana Tulum — While this boutique is a bit pricey, it is worth seeing the way they’ve branded their store. Can’t make it there? You can also find them online at Revolve.
Caló and the shops around Gitano — Can’t make it there? They have free international shipping and returns, win!
Boutique Mexico — Cute bags if you’re on the lookout for one!
Miguelina — Adorable shop just opposite of Posada Margarita. There are several shops on that side of the street too.
Mr. Blackbird Tulum — Unique handcrafted jewelry and accessories.
AMARA — Amazing bathing suits!
Lol Tulum Boutique — A small boutique inside of Posada Margarita, next to the restaurant.
Ruinas Mayas de Tulum — You can take a cab to the site and purchase tickets at their kiosks. There are guided tours available, but we decided to walk around on our own. If you’re a fan of fresh coconut water, be sure to pick one up to hydrate yourself!
Gran Cenotes Tulum — Again, a cab can take you to the many cenotes, but we went to the Gran Cenotes. You can buy your tickets there before entering the grounds. You will be asked to rinse off before getting into the water. Beware, the water is cold! No need to stress where to keep your belongings because they have lockers there. You will be able to rent snorkeling gear, towels and locks there too. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me because you get to swim amongst the fish and turtles, all below a bat filled cave! (I freaked out at first when I learned about the bats, so disclosing that here for you all!) Pro-tip: Go early in the morning to beat the crowds.
R&R on the beach — The key to a perfect vacation is a balance between exploring and relaxing. Take advantage of the beaches of your own hotel, or rent chairs at other hotels as they all have their own appeal, like Papaya Playa Project. The water is cold at first, but it’s amazing once you’re in!
I’ve also included some other activities we didn’t get around to during our stay; if you’re looking for a more upbeat time while in Tulum, the party scene is worth checking out!
Day Parties/ Nightlife
Gitano — We went to Gitano on Friday night after we landed, changed and and freshened up. They play deep house dance music, which you can enjoy from the bar or from the fairy light and disco ball lit dance floor, all while sipping on their signature Mezcal beverages.
Papaya Playa Project — We went on a Saturday night after dinner where we rang in my birthday at midnight. If you are looking for a more low key place to just chill, I would not recommend this spot. While it’s a large space, it does gets rather packed. But the live DJ spinning deep house music is great!
Coco Tulum — They host a beach party during the day with a DJ and occasionally a theme. This picturesque hotel had my blogger side reeling because every corner was Instagrammable, particularly the set of white swings. You can thank me later!
Mulberry Project — The NYC hotspot, currently popping up Le Zebra. (It is now closed though, sorry everyone!).
Other Tips & Recommendations
Money — While most places accept credit cards, they will charge a higher rate for using one. It’s better to carry cash if you are looking to save pennies here and there. ATMs have high exchange fees, and your bank may charge you ATM fees too — so check the rates at your local airport or exchange counters scattered around Tulum.
Modes of transportation — There are bikes you can rent to cycle from spot to spot. You’ll see a number of visitors biking around, even at night. There are cabs constantly around, but be sure to have change on hand for cabs if you are going up and down the strip. Cabs will also drive you to the airport, but it’s better to book a shuttle or private car, like USA Transfers.
Electricity — Since you are in a jungle, not all places are equipped with electricity. Chances are, you’ll be dressing and dining by candlelight! There is something refreshing about it, but good to keep in mind to plan your days accordingly.
Phone service — Again, you are in a jungle so don’t fret when your phone service isn’t strong or existent. A lot of hotels, restaurants and stores do not have phones at all. Utilize the wifi in your hotel to look up where you’re going before you depart in case your phone service isn’t working when you most need it.
Other Hotel Accommodations
There are a plethora of places to stay in Tulum, but here are a few more to add to your search. If you’re looking for all-inclusive stays, several hotels offer such deals. Calling all yogis, there are a few retreats I met people on too.
Papaya Playa Project
The Beach Tulum Hotel
Alaya Hotel and Retreats Tulum
Maya Tulum Resort Hotel
Villa La Semilla
This is just to name a few additional places we saw or had recommended to us. I cannot say for myself how each of these will be, but I hope to update you when I return to Tulum.
Raw Love — In Ahau, and serves food from an RV.
Kin | Toh — Located in Azulik.
Casa Violeta — Try the delicious ceviche de pulpo and a cold cerveza or two.
Restaurare — This was recommended by several people during our stay in Tulum. We popped in but didn’t end up eating there because we wanted a more lively scene for our last night. Located in the jungle, this open space serves locally sourced vegan cuisine.
Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar — This was recommended by the staff at Maria Del Mar for drinks and a local vibe. They are best known for their mojito. Note that they are located in town and not on the strip.
Zulum’s Roof Deck Bar — Toast the sunset and sip cocktails as fairy lights illuminate the night.
Xplor Park — Land activities for all.
Cenotes — While we only went to one, there are several you can choose from.
Xcaret Park — Underwater adventures for even kids to enjoy!
Aura Beach Club — A relaxed spot to hang if your hotel doesn’t come with beach access.
Mayan Clay Spa — This heavenly experience involves getting horizontal in the jungle while being slathered in warm, restorative Mayan mud.
Dos Santos — A spot in town for a late night party. We were told locals frequent this venue.
There you have it. That’s my ultimate guide to Tulum!
Sound off in the comments if you have any questions or your own recommendations for Tulum to share! Don’t forget to check out what I wore in Tulum too!