Beauty In All Things

Insider Travel Guide | Tulum, Mexico

It’s been two weeks since our last visit to Tulum, and as most of you have noticed, WE LOVE MEXICO! Tulum, especially, is one of our favorite destinations.

Tulum

“Nestled between the white sand outlining, the pristine beaches of the Caribbean Sea and the lush tropical jungle lies a charming town in complete harmony with nature. Here lie the ruins of one of the most beautiful cities of the Mayan culture: Tulum.” -Be Tulum Hotel.

There is something that is simply magical about this eco-friendly, jungle meets beach town place. We’ve received so many questions about our favorite spots to visit when traveling to Tulum- from where to stay, to the best restaurants and nightlife, to how to experience the wellness side of Tulum. We’ve rounded up our Insider Travel Guide to all things Tulum and can’t wait to hear what you think!

Kim Van Woesik and Lauren Finizio in Tulum

Best Time to Visit

Tulum is the perfect destination year-round with Tropical sunny temps ranging well within the 70s and 80s. New Year’s and the two weeks following are super busy due to the festivals and parties in the area. We’ve been in May, September, and January and each of the trips was incredible in their own way.

 

Traveling to Tulum

Arriving By

Air: If you’re traveling from NYC, Tulum only is a non-stop flight and car ride away. For the NYers, we love that there are a ton of direct flight options to Cancun (about 3.5 hrs). See below for the car service we always use and trust to take us to Tulum!

Car/Taxi: Tulum is a solid 1.5-2 hour drive from Cancun Airport. We use a company called Cancun Airport Transportation for private, affordable, and reliable transportation to and from the airport. Email them with 1-2 weeks lead time, and you’re good to go! Note this is often significantly less expensive than the hotel transfers.

Getting Around Tulum

Taxis: Tulum has ONE main road leading through the town. During high season (winter for most of us) the traffic is REAL. There are always taxis that can take you to and from the local spots in Tulum. Bring cash (pesos) just to be safe.

Private Drivers: If you have a big group or are traveling from anywhere outside of the Tulum Town Center, we recommend securing private transportation for your trips. We used a company run by Memo and you can reach him at +51 1 984 807 5921 and he will provide a quote for your itinerary.

Bikes: Our favorite way to get around Tulum is borrowing a bike from the hotel we’re staying at. (If you’re staying outside of Tulum or in a villa that doesn’t provide bikes, we recommend popping into the nearest hotel to ask if you can rent the bikes for the day.) Because Tulum runs off of one narrow road, biking is often the quickest and most fun way to get around.

 

Best Places to Stay in Tulum

Private Villas

We have a good friend who lives in Mexico and runs a company called Maya Luxe. They specialize in luxury villas with ON THE GROUND support in Mexico. This is key, and some of the larger companies do not provide this luxury. Most villas have a private staff including chef, housekeeper, and property manager. Below are a few Villas, including one in which we’ve personally stayed. Reach out to the Maya Luxe team for your specific villa needs!

Villa La Semilla: We’ve stayed here, and LOVED it! This 5 bedroom villa is located between the lush mangrove jungle and the secluded beach of Soliman Bay, the villa has a private beach with spectacular views of the bay. The living area is an open concept with a spacious kitchen, dining + living space and a private garden with infinity pool. It sleeps 15-16, which is perfect for a bachelorette or group trip. Full disclosure, this villa is about a 20-minute drive (around 40 minutes during high season with traffic), but the house was insanely beautiful!

Villa La Semilla

Aldea Canzul Estate: This incredible villa is a combination of three side-by-side villas – Casa Chakté, Casa Chukum, and Casa Chechén. Casa Chakté has three bedrooms, a modern and large living room and dining area, fully equipped kitchen, private terrace and a beautiful roof-top with stunning views of the ocean and the jungle sunsets. Casa Chechén features two separate bedrooms, and Casa Chukum, the main house has 4 bedrooms plus a Mezzanine room. The villa also features an outdoor bar and a private patio and cozy private pool.

Playaakun: This 5 bedroom villa is a private oasis for your group. Sleeping up to 12, this villa has a private beach, private pool, chef, housekeeper, and media room. There is also a rooftop terrace, perfect for late night stargazing!

Zorba Beach Villa 5: This 5 bedroom villa is located directly in Tulum Town Center (major!). It has a private beachfront and seaside pool, with room for up to 12 guests.

 

Hotels

Nomade Tulum: We’ve stayed at Nomade Tulum and we are OBSESSED with this hotel. From the rooms (splurge for the beachfront or upstairs room if possible) to the tents that you can rent to sleep, the windchime garden, yoga shala, and incredible food + drinks, Nomade truly does have it all. We love vibing with the music, lounging on the beach tee-pees, and sipping on the locally sourced mezcal margaritas (we like Tulum made Ojo Tigre mezcal).

Nomade Tulum

Be Tulum: Be Tulum is the sister hotel to Nomade and one of the originals in Tulum. Known as the “barefoot luxury” hotel, though pricey, the food, service, and overall experience is incredible. It is a bit quieter and perfect for a romantic getaway.

Be Tulum

Azulik– No electricity, but beautifully built within the jungle with insane views. You’ve probably seen this one all over Instagram. Highly recommend to stop by for the day or to check out the spa!

Azulik Tulum

Habitas: Habitas Tulum is another amazing hotel option. With both ocean front rooms (with private rain showers), and safari style tent-like rooms nestled in the Jungle, this is another favorite. Habitas has a private restaurant and beachfront bar, as well as a seafront infinity pool.

Habitas Tulum

 

Insider Things to Do in Tulum

Sightseeing

Cenotes:

There are a ton of group and private tours in Tulum, but our recommendation is to ask your hotel concierge and they can usually set something more private up for you the day of! Below are a few recommendations to check out while in Tulum. 

  • Cenote Dos Ojos: One of the deepest known cave passage in Mexico. This cenote is home to many bats and perfect for those looking for a more adventurous cave diving experience.
  • Gran Cenote: Located closest to Tulum, and with the option to snorkel or dive this is one of the more popular cenotes to visit.
  • Cenote Escondido: The perfect option if you are looking for the full package in your cenote trip. You can lay out in the sun, jump into the cool water, and snorkel.
  • Cenote Jardín de Edén: Another super popular option. This cenote is recommended to visit during the week when the crowds are lighter.  There is a communal area, room to layout, and you may even see a turtle or two!
  • Ik Kil: One of the most picturesque cenotes near Tulum, this is likely the one you have seen on your Instagram feed. As you can imagine, it can be super crowded so plan to arrive early!
Tulum Ruins:

A must-see for history buffs in Tulum!

  • Mayan Ruins: Located on the beach, this breathtaking spot in Tulum dates back to the 13th century and is a must see for picturesque views.
  • Chichén Itzá: One of the Seven Wonders of the World, this is a site not to be missed.  Note this is located about 2 hours from Tulum. Visit in the early morning or before closing to avoid crowds and direct sunlight. 
  • Cobá: Known most by the iconic stairs, you may have seen this ancient city in photos. Located 45 minutes from Tulum. 
  • Muyi + Xel-Há: Located only 15-20 minutes from Tulum, these are great close options if you are looking for something a bit closer to home. 
  • Sian Ka’an Biosphere ReserveThis is a must see for ruins, wildlife, and a true natural ecosystem. This is a preserved landmark in Tulum and gives you all the feels of truly being one with nature. 
Boat Day:

While in Mexico, we LOVE to do a boat day. There are many companies that offer private yacht or catamaran tours. Our favorite is Riveria Elite. They are super reliable, always have a fun staff on board, and work to ensure your trip is a memorable one. The team will allow you to customize your boat day, which we love. From food to length of time, to type of alcohol, rest assured you will be fully taken care of when working with Rivera Elite. 

Boat Day Tulum

Shopping

Tulum has some of the most unique boho beach chic shopping, we’ve seen. From leather goods to custom jewelry, dreamcatchers, and one of a kind swimwear and coverups, stop by these shops while in Tulum or simply wander the streets and you’ll be sure to find something unique and one-of-a-kind.

Caravana: Full of handmade knits, and unique leather goods like feathered headdresses, belts, and bags.

Mixik: The perfect place for authentic Mexican goods. Think Tulum inspired decor, souvenirs, and gifts.

Wanderlust Tulum: Owned by an Italian turned Tulum native, Wanderlust is inspired by global travel and boasts unique one-of-a-kind dresses, caftans, and relaxed clothing. You can also shop online, here and check out the sister stores La Tiendita and In the Middle (not yet open).

Mr. Blackbird: Shop unique upscale clothing, jewelry, and accessories, at this OG Tulum shop!

 

Best Spas + Wellness in Tulum

Maya Spa at the Azulik hotel: We did the Ancient Traditional Treatment which was incredible. When booking your treatment/massages you must request your treatment to be set on the sky-deck. The views are sure to bring you immediate peace.

Yaan Wellness: From healing warm and cold pools to a sauna, steam room, and marble Hamam, Yaan Wellness offers a variety of traditional indigenous treatments, energy healing/deep muscle relaxation techniques, and herbal/flower baths. We’re confident you’ll find the perfect experience for what your mind and body need.

Caoba Spa at the Jashita Tulum hotel: About 20 minutes outside of the main town of Tulum, but one of the best Swedish massages we’ve ever had! (If you stay at Villa La Semilla, it’s only about a 3-5 min walk!)

Workout: The beaches of Tulum offer the perfect scenery for a long run or for your own beach boot camp. There are a ton of yoga classes offered at hotels and spas along the strip, or you can hire an instructor to come to your villa for a private class! We highly recommend checking out Yaan Wellness for various styles of Hatha and Vinyasa Flow classes.

Yoga

 

Best Restaurants in Tulum

Best Dinner Resturants

Arca: Known as one of the top restaurants in Tulum, Arca is a blend of a chic atmosphere with an eclectic menu full of bold flavors, perfect for sharing. We tried dishes here that we’ve never had before and can honestly say, everything was incredible. Stand out dishes are the Roasted Bone Marrow (our first time having bone marrow, it was so delish!) and the Grilled Octopus.

Arca Tulum

Arca Bar Tulum

Casa Jaguar: We love absolutely everything on this menu, but the one dish we always go back for is the Pez Rostizado- Catch of the day (it was Red Snapper both times we went) that’s glazed in smoked butter, served with lettuce and a pickled vegetable mix and coriander aioli. THE BEST FISH WE’VE EVER HAD!

Casa Jaguar

Rosa Negra: The perfect blend of delicious food, great vibes, and a dance party (on tables) that won’t disappoint. The shrimp tacos and empanadas are a must try along with their signature Gin & Tonic with liquid Nitrogen- such a fun cocktail!

Rosa Negra Tulum

Taboo: This restaurant had just opened when we went at the beginning of January and is owned by the same owner of Rosa Negra. The most gorgeous set-up, think 1 Hotel meets Tulum vibes. Taboo is sure to be the new hot spot of Tulum!

Best Lunch Spots

La Popular at Nomade Hotel: A fish-market inspired beach restaurant, lunch at La Popular will forever be one of our best days in Tulum. It is exactly what you hope for when traveling to Tulum. This place is the perfect carefree beach ambiance, delicious food, and incredible music. Nomade’s website describes the experience perfectly. “As you savor the mouthwatering tastes and irresistible urge to lick your fingers, with your feet on the sand and enjoying the fresh ocean breeze, celebrate with us the abundances of life on the beach”. A few of our favorites include the spicy margaritas, ceviches, fish tacos, and lobster are unreal!

Real Coconut: Located at the Sanará Hotel, the Real Coconut is a great oceanfront lunch spot with menus that are gluten, grain, dairy, and refined sugar-free. Founder and menu creator Daniella Hunter has her own line of healthy eats and snacks the are also Gluten and Gluten free. We loved stopping by here for a green juice in the morning and ceviche for lunch!

Matcha Mama: Not necessarily lunch, but delish acai bowls. Stop by for the most delicious Matcha and also most Instagrammable pics of this cute Matcha stand in the middle of your walk in the Jungle.

Matcha Mama

 

Best Bars, Cocktails, and Nightlife in Tulum

In general, when you’re in Tulum we recommend asking around about parties/events being held while you’re in town. Below are a couple of spots that we’ve visited during our time in Tulum and absolutely loved!

Best Daytime + Beach Bars

Casa Malca: Home of the late Pablo Escobar, Casa Malca is a must see. Stop by during the day for lunch or drinks, and to see the opulence that Pablo Escobar brought to the once quiet beach town of Tulum.

Mulberry Project at Le Zebra Hotel: A NYC favorite, the Mulberry Project, has a pop-up on the beach at Le Zebra Hotel where guests select their liquor of choice along with market-fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices available that day. First, describe your ideal cocktail- refreshing, sweet, spicy, tropical, bitter, dry, smoky, or herbal. Then, leave the rest up to the drink masters to create your perfect beach cocktail!

CoCo Tulum Beach Club:  Another great beach bar option in Tulum. The picture-perfect white backdrop of hammocks and beach chairs along the turquoise water makes for the most beautiful setting. Grab a cocktail at the beach bar, and dance to the music with the wind in your hair and toes in the sand.

Best Nightlife

Gitano: Think beach restaurant meets mezcal bar meets jungle nightlife. Gitano (NYers you may remember this name from their recent NYC pop-up!) is a staple in Tulum nightlife. From their outdoor patio to indoor/outdoor Jungle/Tropical Cabaret Room, Gitano never disappoints.

Gitano Tulum

Ahau: Not only a fabulous hotel to stay at, but Ahau also threw one of the best beach parties that we went to while in Tulum. The set-up is perfect.  A large deck area, standing room on the beach, and table/bottle service on the surrounding perimeters. The DJ, lights, fire torches, and stary Tulum night sky made for one of the most epic nights of our trip!

Papaya Playa Project: Papaya Playa Project houses a plethora of intercultural events such as the Opera, film festivals, and world-renowned DJs and musical artists. We love the unique set-up of the amphitheater on the beach,

“…where guests can come together to perform, present or communicate in their chosen fashion with music, readings, inspiring lectures and more.” – Papaya Playa Project

Papaya Playa Project Light Show

Papaya Playa Project

BD Travel Tips in Tulum

  • Bring plenty of cash. We recommend exchanging to pesos prior to travel or before leaving the airport for the best exchange rates.
  • Pack sunscreen and bug repellent!
  • Ladies, wedges and flats only! You could get away with a chunky heel, but you’ll find most are in flats even for nightlife.
  • If traveling to Tulum in January, we definitely recommend packing a light sweater or jacket as the nights can get a bit chilly on the beach.
  • Humidity in Tulum is inevitable, we love the Oribe Impermeable Anti-humidity Spray to keep your hair looking fab!

 

Have you ever traveled to Tulum? Share your favorite spots below and we’ll update our list as we hear from you!

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