Tulum is a small town in Mexico about an hour and a half away from Cancun. I originally visited it for a day trip three years ago while vacationing in Playa Del Carmen on an excursion to see the Mayan Ruins. It was underdeveloped then but still had a whimsical feel to it. Since then, it’s changed quite a bit with hotel and restaurant additions so instead of visiting my go-to Playa Del Carmen, I decided to take on Tulum for a few days.
My boyfriend and I booked our flights just two weeks before Memorial Day because we wanted to take advantage of the day-off from work. We had a 7 a.m. flight that got us to Cancun by 9:30. A two-hour flight was especially efficient to allow us to get a full day in. We decided to rent a car, as opposed to attempting to take a shuttle from the airport. We used National rental car and ended up getting a small Nissan for about $35 a day. This is when blogger life kicked in… I had to make a detour in Cancun because I needed Wifi to post Weekend Deals before it got too late. Desperate, I know. We found a really nice restaurant off the water where I was able to do so.
We drove an hour and a half to Tulum and got there right before our check-in time. Even though I had cell phone service, my GPS didn’t direct me to our Airbnb accurately. If you do decide to rent a car and drive yourself, contact your host prior to your trip for specific directions. We checked in, got settled then got changed to check out the property as well as the beach. Los Amigos is a nice apartment-like rental property with a gorgeous pool deck on the roof. We went towards the beach (a 15 minute drive) for a few hours and had happy hour drinks at a bar before catching the sunset. In order to get to the beach, you will likely have to go through a hotel and they generally charge day passes unless you’re eating or staying at the hotel.
After getting suggestions from our host, we had dinner at Mateo’s, which is a popular three story open-face restaurant. It’s one of the few places that stays open past midnight off of the beach and the food was delicious. Papaya Playa is the biggest Saturday Night beach party in Tulum. It was about $30 for entry for two people. They played techno music the entire time we were there which was a bit disappointing and I didn’t stay long enough to see if it would change. Heels are fine, unless you plan to dance in the sand. If when the party ends at 2 a.m. you’re still not ready to go, head over to KiKi in the city. It gets good late at night.
The following morning I was on the hunt for coffee, of course. We found a cute coffee spot off of the beach road called Tunich that was cozy, but delicious. I had an egg white breakfast burrito with two almond milk lattes and I was in heaven. The owner actually works the restaurant and stopped to chat with us, which made the experience more enjoyable. On the way to the beach we picked up a group of hitchhikers (risky I know) who were so nice! We all stopped to have a beer and round of shots together. Coco Beach Club is known to have a fun crowd on Sundays and it was true. They have tables, beds, and a patio with swings and a dance floor. We drank, ate, took naps and swam all day before heading back to the house.
We originally had plans to go to an Italian restaurant called Pasada Margherita for dinner since a friend had suggested it but they were closing right as we arrived and insisted that we try Cenzotle, also called The Secret Garden. It was such a cute vibe and really made you feel like you were eating in a secret garden, plus they offer you organic bug spray. We tried duck tacos, spare ribs and a flavorful whitefish. We wrapped up dinner around 11:30 and headed to La Zebra for salsa night. What we thought was perfect timing was the end of the night for them. There are no power lines off of the beach so everything is ran off of generators, causing them to close early. Once things are closed, it’s pitch black so make sure you begin your nights early unless you want to party in the city. We drove past several little bars you could walk into that were playing music on our way back home.
Our last day was without a doubt our most fun because we’d finally got the hang of the town. We had breakfast at Tunich again before visiting the Mayan Ruins. The last time I’d visited I was with a tour guide that led us around the park. This time we winged it and ended up accidentally entering through the exit. Why they would put the exit before the entrance makes no sense to me but I ended up getting into a small altercation with a disrespectful guard who assumed we intentionally had snuck in. It escalated QUICKLY and I know my boyfriend’s first thought was that he was gonna go to Mexican jail LOLLL. It ruined my mood instantly but I wanted him to still get to experience it, so I sucked it up. Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen because the sun will be blazing. There’s an incredible view of the beach once you reach the top and you can also stay for a swim.
Once we left we went back to Pasada Margherita to lay out on their beach beds and enjoy some drinks and ended up staying around for lunch. This was one of the pricier meals we had in Tulum, but it was still amazing. There wasn’t a plate on the menu cheaper than $27. I just recently started eating seafood a year or so ago so the fish was a bit too fresh for me but the flavors were light and perfect for a hot beach day. There are happy hours all along the beach zone from 4 until 7 so you can pull in anywhere and have a drink. We stopped at Mateo’s after leaving the beach to catch the sunset since it’s known to have the best view. We were so pleasantly surprised when we arrived to find a DJ playing reggae and I almost cried tears of joy. I had heard no Spanish music the entire time I was in Mexico which was disappointing, but I happily settled for music I would’ve heard here in Houston. I ordered drink after drink and danced ’til it was dark out. I don’t think I sat down at all.
There are food trucks all along the street in Tulum and while they’re delicious, my stomach regretted that decision the entire next day. We had to drive back into Cancun to for our flight but stopped at a restaurant in the Maria Del Mar Hotel before breakfast before leaving. If you do decide to stay in an Airbnb, there are still so many gorgeous hotels that you can enjoy the beach at. The closer we got to leaving the more we wished we had another day to enjoy the things we’d found.
If you’re planning on visiting, make sure you have cash on you at all times. Many places only accept American dollars or Mexican pesos. We were leaving the hotel with about $100 in American money a day and still had to use the ATM quite a few times at a $8 fee. The places that did accept debit and credit cards took all American Visas, Mastercards and Amex’s. If you decide not to rent a car, which I highly suggest, avoid taxis as much as you can. They charge tourist outrageous amounts to go from place to place and because they have no meter, you can’t tell them that their amount is wrong.
Tulum is definitely the “Austin” or hippie town of Mexico and felt much less authentic to me than the other parts I’ve visited, which isn’t a bad thing depending on what you’re wanting. It’s beautiful and has a certain simple majestic charm to it that’s hard to match. There are an overwhelming amount of restaurants in Tulum so deciding where to eat can be tricky. Bikes and scooters can be rented from several different places and I suggest them if you’re going to be staying in one area. A beach party we missed but heard great things about is at La Eufemia. It’s known for it’s cool crowd and cheap food and drinks. We didn’t get the chance to check out any lagoons (Laguna Kaan Luum) or cenotes (Cenote Naharon, Cristal & Escondido, Dos Ojos, El Pit, Ik Kil and Gran Cenote), which are what make Tulum so unique so we’ll definitely be back.
Things I Packed and Didn’t Wear: