I am back from Tulum in Mexico after one week of tropical paradise vacation! As promised on Instagram, I have compiled all my travel tips for Tulum, Mexico, here for you. I hope these will be helpful for anyone who is planning a trip to Tulum. Otherwise they might help you to decide to visit this beautiful place in Mexico. Tulum is packed with fantastic places to stay, eat, drink, enjoy. However I will only share here the places I actually visited, tested, and that I can recommend. So let me not prolong it too much. Here we roll!
Prana Boutique Hotel: Tulum has many hotels of course. The majority is located on the beachfront, a few ones are in the pueblo itself. Now since I was staying in one hotel I can only recommend that one of course. I was staying at the Prana Boutique Hotel in Tulum village. I opted for this hotel because it sounded very tempting: Prana is an eco-friendly hotel with only seven rooms. Thus it is a quiet, relaxed, and intimate hotel run by two cool guys with friendly staff. The hotel features a lush garden and pool, a lovely small restaurant and pool bar, a boho lounge area including a little souvenir and crystals shop. The rooms are dispersed in various buildings made in the traditional style of the region. There are even two spacious tents for glamping if you prefer that.
The hotel offers free bikes if you want to drive down to the beach. Otherwise there is free parking for your rented car. Cool bars and restaurants as well as the main shopping street of Tulum are just around the corner. There is also a huge supermarket just 5 walking minutes away. I recommend you enjoy a good breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant ‘Nido’ (try the yummy granola with fruits and yoghurt), relax at the pool with a good book or swing in one of the hammocks in the garden. Also for dinner you can opt for the restaurant and try their freshly cooked meals such as an octopus burger or a delicious tropical scallop ceviche. Oh, don’t forget to sip a Bloody Maya cocktail at the pool bar. With good Mezcal of course!
Places to eat & drink:
In the village:
Del Cielo Tropical Bar: One of my favorites in the pueblo! This tropical bar could be in LA, San Francisco, Paris, or London. It has a strong hipster vibe and serves us some delicious fresh treats. My go-to for breakfasts! Try the tropical porridge and their smoothies! Oh and the coffee is excellent. I even brought back a bag of local coffee beans. Another important fact: Free wifi! Yay!
Tulum Art Club: This fantastic gallery slash café in the village is another cool option for breakfast. Art is exposed everywhere, you can buy everything, and you can enjoy Tulum’s best Coconut Chia pudding with tropical fruits for breakfast! Do not miss the yummy coco coffee, too! Ok, ok, I am a bit coco-nuts!
Teetotum Hotel & Restaurant: This hotel & restaurant in Tulum village is another must-visit. It has a fun and colourful retro vibe. Expect tiles, 60s style cushions, vibrant colours. The courtyard is lined with potted plants and the restaurant serves a delicious breakfast. Get the huge green smoothie to kick off your day! Wowzers!
Estancia Jujena: This is actually an Argentinian asado in Tulum village but if you go for breakfast it is a charming little courtyard with a shabby-chic attire and hearty egg dishes, fresh fruits, and fine coffee.
On the beachfront/jungle side:
Safari: This open-air restaurant is located on the ‘jungle side’ of the beach road and can easily be detected. The bar strikes a tropical wallpaper background and the restaurant features an open fireplace and the kitchen is in a parked trailer. Can it get any cooler? Yes, add light garlands across the palm trees and great food – voilà!
Hartwood: Now Hartwood is somewhat of an institution in Tulum. It is supposedly the hardest table to get in town and trust me: you better reserve a table! There are two options: You either queue at noon to catch a table for dinner or you book well in advance via email. I booked a table one month in advance and enjoyed amazing food: a Yucatán ceviche with tropical fruits as a starter, grilled octopus as a main dish, accompanied by a yellow lentil salad with pickled cactus. Excellent and friendly service is included!
Gitano: Yet another hot spot on the jungle side of the beach road! Gitano is particularly popular on Friday nights with live music and a fantastic boho-glam atmosphere. Excellent cocktails are served up while you wait to be seated (some say they have the best Mezcal cocktails in town). All trees are illuminated with light garlands, lanterns, and dozens of candles are burning everywhere. Magic! Their ceviche is a dream: Served in a young coconut half with fresh fish in lime juice with coconut, sprouts, cilantro, zucchini. Take me back, please! On weekends you must have a reservation!
Posada Margherita: This place is a real gem! I did not know that it was an Italian restaurant (and hotel) when I entered there. I was attracted to it by the armada of potted plants at the entrance and a dream-like pathway leading into a lush courtyard lined by coconut palms. I stepped in and found myself in a dreamy set worth a movie: Potted plants everywhere, little huts, benches, vintage pottery. A cute little candle boutique welcomes you before you enter the open air restaurant with magnificent views of the Caribbean. Homemade pasta, enormous smoothies, and a breeze will make you want to stay forever. After lunch I just went down to their private beach and spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing and swimming in the Caribbean. There will be a full blog post about this place soon!
Mur Mur: Here another place where I had a good and delicious dinner under a canopy of swaying palm fronds and light garlands. I enjoyed delicious roasted beets with goat cheese and nuts, a tender grilled octopus, and a fried banana with sour cream and cocoa nibs. All accompanied by well chilled Mexican white wine. Thumbs up!
El Tabano! This restaurant is a perfect option for a great plate of Mexican food. It can get busy on weekends, but during the week it is actually fine and rather easy to get a table. I had excellent fish tacos there!
Canopia: This cute little restaurant serves great and healthy breakfast in the morning and Thai food for dinner. I went there for breakfast and had great coffee, an intense green smoothie and a chia bowl. Great to start the breakfast: a green coffee beans tea to activate your metabolism. Oh and an evergreen for breakfasts in Tulum: A plate with tropical fruits!
Beaches & Beach Clubs:
Playa Paraiso Beach Club: This was my favorite beach and beach club! Imagine huge beach beds with swaying linen curtains, a canopy of coconut palms, white powdery sand, and food and drinks served on your sunbed. Yes, this beach deserves the name! Additionally they have good sanitary facilities – not unimportant on a beach! The sunbeds are for rent but the prices are ok – the big sunbeds as descirbed before are 250 pesos (around 12 Euros) for two.
Zamas Beach Club: Here the beach is not perfect (lots of seaweed) but the bar is perfect and directly on the beach. You can watch pelicans dive bombing for fish while you are sipping on a cocktail!
Mivida Beach Club: A relaxed beach club located on a sandy bay with rocks on one side. You can unwind here while being served drinks and food on your sunbed. Plus if you are staying at the Prana hotel you get a discount here.
Beach at the Tulum Ruins: When you visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum, don’t forget to pack your swimwear and a towel. Because you want to go down to this wonderful beach and swim! This beach is free of sunbeds, bars, restaurants. Just sand and the Caribbean. And a few other tourists haha. But it is worth it! Especially if it is a hot day and you got all sweaty while walking around the ruins.
Origami Ice Cream: I read somewhere that you should not eat ice cream in Mexico. You know germs and stuff. Well, whatever you want, but when I passed at Origami on the beachfront I could not resist! I had a fantastic scoop of luxurious chocolate ice cream. So good and no, I did not get sick afterwards! Go for it!
Artehelado: If you want good ice cream in the village itself, then go to Artehelado. It is off the main road but you will find it easily. The ice bar is located in a colourful cargo container, Acapulco chairs are dotted around it and most of the times there is a tiny little market next to it selling local goods and handcrafts. Nice after beach stop-over before heading to the hotel!
Things to do around Tulum:
Tulum Mayan Ruins: This is a must! The Mayan ruins of Tulum are located 3 km away from the village and can be reached by car or bike. As with most sites in Mexico you will be welcomed by various sales people trying to sell you all kinds of daily tours and cruises. My tip is just to go for it by yourself. Before reaching the ruins you have to walk through a tacky touristy shopping are but then after a few hundred meters you will reach the ancient walls of Tulum. The fascinating fact is that the Tulum ruins are the only Maya ruins located directly at the coast. So the sight is pretty majestic. You get the classical snapshot of beach, Caribbean, and Maya ruins. Plus afterwards you get to swim on the beach (see above). Don’t forget to equip yourself with sunlotion, sunglasses, water, a towel and your swimwear.
Grand Cenote: The cenotes are a highlight of the Yucatán peninsula. These are natural sinkholes that expose groundwater. Imagine crystal clear water in submerged pools that are partly below the surface. The Grand Cenote is wonderful. It is very close to Tulum village and offers a great natural pool on two sides. Some say it is pricey compared to other cenotes (entrance fee is 180 pesos per person), but I think it is worth it. They have great sanitary facilities, showers to prepare yourself before going into the cenote (only biodegradable sunscreen is accepted or none at all), and they have lockers and snorkeling equipment to rent. Swimming in the Grand Cenote was a marvellous experience. The water is so clean and fresh. You swim next to little fish and turtles. I was lucky as it was really not busy when I arrived there (I went there around 11 am). Count 1.5 hours or max. 2 hours to stay there and enjoy it. Oh and if you have a smartphone that goes under water – take it with you!!! So much fun!
Chichen Itza: Mexico’s most popular archaelogical site is Chichen Itza. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is worth a visit despite all the shortcomings of mass tourism sites. Don’t be surprised when you arrive to a packed parking lot, lots of tourists everywhere, queuing for entrance tickets, and a multitude of souvenir sellers scattered all around the site. It is the usual shenanigans. Plus bear in mind that – unlike in previous years – you can not climb the pyramids at Chichen Itza anymore. Still it is a fantastic site with breathtaking buildings and pretty unknown culture to us Europeans.
Valladolid: If you visit Chichen Itza, plan a stop-over at the close by town of Valladolid. This quiet little Yucatécan city has not the touristy glitz and glam of coastal resorts but exposes an authentic Mexican lifestyle. Colourful houses line the streets, colonial churches and palaces dot the town, and the people live their normal daily life here. Stroll around the city center around the main church to get a notion of a Mexian provincial town.
For lunch, head to the Hotel El Mesón del Marqués. This colonial building features a green courtyard with a spring and tables all around it. Sit down and have a great lunch. Order the homemade guacamole – it will be prepared right before your eyes by a waiter! As a main try one of the local dishes from Valladolid. I had a Pollo Pibil – it is spiced chicken cooked in a banana leaf with black beans and rice. Delicious!
Other practical tips:
A rented car comes in handy in Mexico! It is really safe to drive around Yucatán and you are so much more flexible with your own car. Tulum village is about 3.5 km from the beach so if you are based in the village (like I was) you either have to take a cab or a bike (available at the hotel) to go to the beach. It is nice to do it but in the evenings I would not recommend to take the bike to the fancy clubs and restaurants at the beachfront. The street is poorly illuminated and partly completely dark. Plus with a car you can get around the peninsula easily and visit various cenotes, Mayan temples and other cities.
Make sure you have enough cash with you! Most restaurants and bars in Tulum are cash only. Just a few of those that I visited accepted credit cards. You can withdraw money in Tulum village at the main square (there is a HSBC bank), but there are also many ATMs along the beachfront (however some of them are only for US dollars).
Get some good sunscreen with you (even for a little walk in the pueblo – I got a burnt neck on my first stroll!) and bring a mosquito spray. Most restaurants and bars are outdoors and they burn special woods to keep mosquitoes away. Still bring some – also for a relaxed sleep.
Shopping! Tulum’s main street is packed with little shops selling Mexican souvenirs, handcrafts, all kind of tchotchkes. I saved the last day to do some shopping and bought two Mexican blankets (Saltillo), a little Tree of Life (Arbol de la Vida), Mexican pottery, and a full array of spicy sauces. Oh and local coffee from Del Cielo (see above). For more upscale shopping (including fashion) head to the beachfront – but you’ll spend also more there!
Finally I have no more to say apart from: Tulum is fabulous! I loved every day there, I enjoyed it to the max. It is still very authentic (especially the pueblo) and the beachfront has a special boho-glam vibe. It is far away from noisy mass tourism and drunk youngsters. Go and see it for yourself as long as it is as beautiful! I hope my travel tips for Tulum will help you. Happy (virtual) travels!
Photography/iPhone photography by Igor Josifovic