Stay Eat See…
It is finally here, my Tulum recommendations! If any of you are heading that way in the future or had thoughts about it, I hope this post helps you. Hopefully I didn’t forget anything, but I very well may have, so if you guys have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments below.
Stay: Hotel & Hostel El Punto
While visiting Tulum, I came to realize the importance of giving our money to businesses and the people who actually live in or near Tulum, which mean’t in the end, we felt pretty great about staying where we did, Hotel & Hostel El Punto rather than a resort. I felt we got a more authentic experience of Tulum because of the location of our hotel and the people working there – we were able to meet locals, get plenty of exercise and get anywhere we wanted by using their free bike rental service, grocery shop (I get v excited about trying foreign snacks!), walk to the “downtown” strip for food and shopping, get a healthy complimentary breakfast every morning, and check out the other hotels and businesses nearby. I will say however, this place isn’t a five star hotel. It’s clean, it’s vibe is very tropical Mexican and the service is impeccable, but our room was pretty much a bed (two actually) and washroom. We were fine with that, but if you are looking for something fancy, this may not be your place.
Other recommendations: Teetotum Hotel – we didn’t stay here, but we had breakfast and coffee there since it was close to where we were staying. It’s trendy looking while still feeling very Mexican, and the staff is super sweet and we enjoyed our food.
I personally am a huge fan of Mexican food, so obviously eating in Tulum was heaven for me. I can’t speak to the other types of cuisine offered (wood oven pizza is a huge thing there), but every single meal we ate was great, without question. One of the things I loved most about restaurants in Tulum is everything is outside. Everywhere has coverage from the outdoors, but all restaurants are like sitting on a patio, and I loved that. I will list below the places we ate at, so I would give my seal of approval to all these places, but don’t hesitate to check out places that catch your eye, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
El Vegetariano: Vegetarian twist on traditional Mexican dishes. This place was delicious and so cute! Try the hibiscus enchilada and drink from a coconut (I didn’t, cause I don’t much like coconut, but Kristen did).
El Capitan: This place was right next to our hotel and looked pretty inviting. The staff was one of my favourite parts of this place – so nice and funny! We had both dinner and breakfast here and it was great. Breakfast felt a bit heavy, but I think because it’s so humid and hot in Tulum, eating a light breakfast in the morning feels better. *btw, there are two of these restaurants, we only went to the one located on Ave. Coba Sur
Antojitos La Chiapaneca: I think the tacos here work out to be about 50 cents or something. There are far more locals who frequent this place than tourists from what I could tell and the staff barely speak english, but if you want a real Mexican feel and cheap delicious food, this is your place. Avoid the lettuce on the veggie tacos, I forgot about not eating freshly washed veggies in Mexico and I got a case of diah butt the next day. Nothing horrible, but certainly an unhappy tummy.
Mateo’s: Very close to the beach and super fun inside. The staff were kind and the food was great. We went here after a long day outside, so to be honest I’m having a hard time recalling what I ate, but I liked it, I know that.
Panna e Cioccolato: Ice cream! Delicious ice cream! We went back here several times. There are two locations, very close to eachother downtown…I’m not sure why, but they are the same thing, incase you get confused. The first time I got lemon meringue, which was delicious, but the next two times I got pistacchio and ahhhh, so freaking good.
Swim: Public beaches, Resorts and Cenotes
We went to the beach everyday while in Tulum. You kind of have to. It’s so hot it felt like a necessity. We mostly swam at the public beach, but we also hit up a resort on recommendation and checked out a Cenote (essentially a lake).
Parque Nacionale Tulum: There are a few public beaches located in Tulum’s National Park. Bike there and you’ll certainly find a beautiful one. It’s best to get to the public beach in the morning – early afternoon so you can find a shaded spot.
Ahau Tulum: We were recommended to check out this resort. The beach is beautiful (but it is everywhere), the staff was nice, very accommodating and they have plenty of beach beds to lounge on. We got in for free, but it is my understanding that you are expected to buy at least a drink. We went back a second time and had lunch there as well, but if you are vegetarian, there are not many options.
Cenotes: There are plenty of signs for Cenotes in Tulum – it’s a huge tourist attraction, so they aren’t hard to find. We never got out to see the Grand Cenote (kind of silly of us, but oh well) but I have heard it is amazing, both from the internet and people we met on our trip. I am actually quite terrified of lakes, so when we did end up going to a Cenote we found while biking, I wouldn’t even swim in it. It looked nice though. Very clear water, no real reason to be afraid, I’m just a wimp. But if you aren’t afraid of fish or lakes, then check out a Cenote, and probably the Grand Cenote…maybe even do a dive there. We heard the dive is pretty intense and a bit scary, but absolutely thrilling.
See: Tulum Mayan Ruins
Visiting the Ruins was one of my favourite days. I specifically read not to go to the Ruins during mid-day, and we did just that. Oops. It’s very hot mid-day in Tulum and there is hardly any coverage at the Ruins…we found some, but it was hard to come by. So if you are going to visit, go in the morning, since they close by 5pm. All that aside, the Ruins are astounding. Thinking about how long these Ruins have been standing here as the world evolves and changes, it feels very humbling. After seeing the Ruins, we were pleasantly surprised by the most stunning beach that just drops of the coast where the Ruins stand. Had we done a little research before heading there we would have known there was a beach, but instead finding it felt like the world giving us the wonderful gift of the ocean when we were feeling overwhelmingly hot.
Explore: Bike & Walk
Renting bikes really helped us get from A to B, but it also allowed us to see many things along the way. I just wanted to see Tulum and on bikes we were able to stop on a moments notice and take in whatever we found. We may have biked 10k in the wrong direction the first day, but we got to see a ton of things along the way and find a great place to eat. Rent a bike! They have them everywhere. You won’t regret it!
We also did a lot of exploring on foot. Seeing the neighbourhoods in Tulum was one of my favourite things. Some parts can be shocking, however. Tulum is not the poorest cities in Mexico, but it is very different from where I come from (and maybe where you come from), and some people and families do live in considerable poverty. I think it’s important to not ignore that part of it all. It’s easy to sit in a resort in a tropical country and forget that there are humans living outside of it with very little. Go see those parts, and if not, at least give some money to the local businesses. It’s hard for them to thrive when their city becomes a resort destination.
-Take the ADO bus to get from the Cancun airport to Tulum. It takes just under 2hrs, but it’s the cheapest method, it’s air conditioned and they play a show or movie during the ride (we got to watch Toy Story 3 in Spanish!).
-Drink tons of water (from a bottle). If you are going to be as active as we were, make sure to always have water with you. The heat is real here and you sweat almost instantly upon stepping outside.
-You will need bug spray at night. The mosquitos will get you while you are trying to enjoy a meal or going for a walk.
-Research tipping in Mexico and Tulum. There are many people with very underpaying jobs (such as grocery baggers) that tipping really helps. When it comes to restaurant tipping, it is very similar to North America.
-Bring breathable fabrics to wear. One of the things I regretted was not bringing enough linen and cotton clothing. The things I was excited to wear I just couldn’t because they felt very uncomfortable on my body in the heat.
-Sunscreen! The sun doesn’t joke around here, so be aware of that. Kristen doesn’t burn easily, and she did in Mexico. We bought children’s SPF 50 and applied it several times a day. We went through 2 bottles by the end of the week.