Taking time to visit this bohemian-esque destination in Mexico is more than worth it. I didn’t truly understand its charm until I stepped out onto the cobblestoned paths in downtown Tulum. With a mixture of locals and tourists casually strolling the streets, I immediately felt right at home. And also a little thankful to be far away from my all-inclusive resort, which was gorgeous, for sure, but something about being out and about exploring the markets and cafes in Tulum was invigorating.
But let me back up just a bit. My resort was in Riviera Maya about 30 minutes north of Tulum, so while I wanted to visit this area, I wasn’t sure how to get there safely. I had never taken a taxi in Mexico and was concerned if there would be a language barrier and/or if it would be easy to grab a cab back to the resort. (Where’s Uber when you need it?) The concierge at the resort assured me it wouldn’t be a problem, and it wasn’t – at all. In fact, our driver ended up staying with us all day in Tulum, which was really, really sweet. So if this makes you feel a little better (and it did for me), negotiate a price with your taxi driver and try to book him for the day. If you don’t want to mess with it, taxis are easy to find, so catching one for a ride home to Tulum shouldn’t be a problem.
For our Tulum adventure, we wanted to spend a day touring around, with time still at the end of the day for us to have a cocktail by the pool at our resort. Honestly, depending on how many sites you want to hit, you can totally immerse yourself into the laid-back, eco-chic vibe of Tulum for a half day.
Our first stop was downtown Tulum. We arrived late morning, and the bustle of the area was already in full swing. Downtown Tulum is approximately a half-mile on both sides of the road. Cobblestone paths line the delicious, eclectic mix of hotels, boutiques and cafes. We weaved in and out of a few of the boutiques, all filled with items made in Mexico. One of our favorite stops was into this crazy cool shop with goods from floor to ceiling – authentic Mexican blankets, straw hats, dresses, and hand painted crafts. The selection here was explosive and frankly, a bit overwhelming, yet it was thrilling to poke around in all the goodies.
Heads up: be prepared to barter. And barter some more. A hat that was originally priced at $120 I got for $70 (I still wish we could have scored for a lower price, but the guy was good.)
We popped into a few other chic Tulum boutiques…
…made a stop at the bank (tip: make sure you have enough cash for purchases, taxi fares, tips – we ran out quickly), and meandered our way to grab a couple of beers and rest our feet. Shopping can be exhausting. But of course, you know that.
La Malquerida on the corner of Tulum Ave and Centauro mixes that authentic vibe of the Yucatan with creative cuisine that’s very affordable.
The menu is varied–it includes delectable pizza and fresh seafood along with those traditional, yummy things we love like guac and chips. And on this day, the ice-cold beer was at Happy Hour prices. We paid about a dollar for our beer.
Note: consider renting a bike when you’re ready to head out from the downtown Tulum area.
We had our taxi driver, so he carted us around, but bicycles are a main mode of transport in this hood. And biking to the ruins, the beach or the Tulum hotel zone is about 15 minutes. But don’t expect fancy road bikes or hybrids with thick tires. They are the cutest beater bikes you’ve ever seen, equipped with wire baskets for toting your beach wares, snacks and mementos/tchotchkes.
Next up for us was lunch at Que Fresco at the highly-recommended Hotel Zamas. Its laid-back, barefoot stylin’ charm immediately won us over.
It had a sandy floor and was tucked away on a sugar-white beach that had a little bit of a rocky surface along the edge. The feel was decidedly rustic-chic and uber bohemian.
Suffice to say, we were happy to kick off our flip flops and order a drink. The beach views and the sand under our toes made this al fresco lunch that consisted of a mound of chicken nachos with guacamole and cervesas muy bueno.
Just outside of Zamas is where Soho meets Tulum. It was like we were transported to a secret cosmopolitan village of hut-like boutiques with expensive gauzy sundresses, accessories, home decor and locally made goods, along with boutique hotels, beach clubs, cool restaurants, hip bars–all tucked behind lush foliage that’s deceptively unassuming. Here’s why: you’ll fall in love with everything you see in Tulum, so be sure to bring plenty of cashola or plastic.
Word of caution: while you’re wandering in and out of all these dens of awesome, make sure you watch your surroundings because there is constant traffic and people zipping by on bikes. It’s not scary, just busy, as it’s the main road that leads to Tulum’s hotel zone.
One thing about Tulum that was unlike any other beachy destination we’d visited: the people, the gente. It was an unusual blend of tourists who either took extended vacations, or lived in the area part time. They exuded a certain ease, as if they were part of the everyday goings-on, the scenery of Tulum. It was cool and extra relaxing because the whole vibe made us feel very at welcome – at home. At home in the beachy jungle!
For us, our travels ended here in the charming world of Tulum. We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had a pool, cocktails and our favorite bar tender Eduardo to get back to. On our next trip to Tulum, (and we will be back), we are going to ride our bikes over to the famous ruins and follow it with a picnic at Tulum’s slice of beachy paradise, Playa Paraiso.
If you want a beach vacay that’s remote, yet still has modern amenities, then Tulum is where you want to be. Just call 1-800-915-3162 and one of our Beachologists can set up an all-inclusive vacation package to Tulum that you’ll never forget. If you want to check out all our vacation packages to the Caribbean and Mexico on your own, go here. Don’t wait. Life is short. Time to beach.