Travel Guide: Tulum

With everything going on in the news these days, it's hard not to daydream about a permanent vacation. Since that isn't a realistic option, a week long trip to Mexico provided a much needed break. Arriving in Cancun, we rented a car and drove down to Tulum making Prana Boutique Hotel our home base. The hotel is located on the outskirts of the main drag in town and about a 15 minute bike ride to the main beach road. Everything about the stay was perfect - from the service and minimalist ambiance to the amazing food and pool-side bar. While most of the trip was based in Tulum, having a rental car allowed us to venture off for day trips to explore historic Yucatan towns and Mayan sites.

I really can't say enough good things about this trip, the amazing people we met, the delicious food, and fascinating history. If you're planning a trip there soon, we've compiled a list of some of the places we visited and loved:

What to Do

  • Beach Clubs - there is an amazing public beach in town and some secluded beaches north and south of Tulum. Most beachfronts, however, are accessible via hotels. Some are stricter than others, but most places allow you to hang out on their sun beds so long as purchase drinks and/or food while you're there. 
    • Papaya Playa Project - fun, young vibe with DJs most days/nights
    • Nomade - trendy & upscale on a beautiful property, perfect for lounging and treating yourself to some spa treatments
    • Posada Margherita - relaxed vibe on a smaller beachfront, amazing juices, fresh pasta, and focaccia   
  • Akumal Diving Center - diving and snorkeling options so you can swim with the sea turtles!
  • Cenotes (sinkholes in caves) - they're literally everywhere (thousands across Yucatan) so you can't miss them and are perfect for cliff diving and swimming in gorgeous blue water.
  • Mayan Ruins - these were much more spectacular than described or than what we had read about. It's en route to the beach so take some time to check it out! 
  • Maya Tulum - book a yoga class in advance. Tulum is known for it's earthy, hippie vibe so you'll see a lot of this. 

Where to Eat

  • Taqueria Honorio - breakfast / early lunch destination (closes at 1:30 pm) frequented by locals in the main town so you know it's delicious and authentic. Order the cochinita pibil on handmade tortillas, a local delicacy. 
  • Hartwood - go early to avoid waiting in a ridiculous line (5 pm). Upscale, trendy restaurant with a rotating menu - no electricity  so everything is cooked on a grill and the food is prepared by hand. 
  • Casa Banana - open air restaurant in the jungle by the beach. They're known for their giant outdoor grill perfect for meat lovers. 
  • El Camello - another authentic, local taqueria in town. Perfect for late night eats. It's cheap, fast, and so very good. No English so brush up on your Spanish. 
  • Los Aguachiles - awesome seafood restaurant at the very end of the main drag in town, but easy to get to by bike or cab ride.  

Where to Drink

  • Batey - a mojito bar with live music. The night we went there was an Amy Winehouse cover band and it was amazing. They process their own sugar from the cane at a stall outside the bar. 
  • Pasito Tun Tun - this bar just opened a few months before we arrived so there weren't a lot of reviews online. We went anyway and it was very cool. Beautiful, intimate garden out back with lounge seating. We liked it so much we went twice - one night featured an amazing DJ and the other, a live Jazz performance. 
  • Gitano - creative cocktails along the beach. Most places along the beach will be pricier than the main town, but it's a fun scene and gorgeous bar (has a disco ball!). 
  • Zamas - same as Gitano. This beautiful hotel has amazing views perfect for gazing while sipping a delicious drink. 

Pro Tips:

  1. Most venues don't accept credit card so be prepared to have pesos on hand (plenty of banks in town, though you may need to try a few before finding one that has any cash).
  2. Don't be stingy with tipping - the exchange rate makes everything so affordable as it is. 
  3. Carry bug spray. 
  4. Renting a car from a business outside the airport proved to be a good idea. We rented from a local rental company, Avant Rentals, which offered the best pricing (including the mandatory insurance in their quote which others may not do) and the best service by far (confirmed by the many Trip Advisor reviews). 
  5. Biking around town is fun, but can be somewhat chaotic on the main strip and definitely not fun driving down the narrow, winding beach road so beware of that!   

Have you been to Tulum? Share your recommendations in the comments below!