A Guide to Tulum

We were looking for a last minute sunshine break for May, which is always tricky as it’s in-between seasons. Europe – too cold. Asia – monsoons. USA – reliable weather-wise but not really offering white sandy “wanderlust” / “gypset” / “[insert alternative blogger paradise analogy]” locations.

It was to be a “babymoon” – a novel concept that I cynically assume was invented by the luxury travel industry so that the mandatory and aggressive price hikes applied as soon as you say the word “honeymoon” can now apply to a whole new range of holidays. So having made some initial enquiries without uttering the B-word, we arrived at a surprisingly short list of options for our proposed wishlist of (i) hot sun; (ii) nice beach; and (iii) coconuts on tap in mid-May. We settled on Mexico, and specifically Tulum – the new trendy jetsetter village (it is barely a town) about 2 hours south of Cancun.

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The appeal was that it promised no large all-inclusive / family-friendly / cookie-cutter resorts that we fear we will be destined to frequent forevermore once “with child”. It is in essence one strip of beach, with a range of smaller boutique hotels that range from backpacker-basic (i.e. a hammock and/or a wigwam of sorts) to the Mexican version of luxury: more hammocks but complimentary to a proper bed and outdoor jacuzzi. All options are positioned off one road, so you’re either on the beach-side or on the other side of the world.

We decided on Be Tulum, which is right at the far end of the strip and promised four poster beds and an assortment of beanbags on the beach, more modern suites and the obligatory outdoor pool/hammock situation. On arrival, after our 2 hour drive from Cancun airport, it was immediately clear that Be Tulum (well – all of Tulum) is basically based around a boho yoga-loving dream. You are greeted by beautiful hippie receptionists, covered in an assortment of beads/braids/tattoos/feathers/you get the picture. The winding path to our room was peppered with dreamcatchers hanging from the trees, and other signs reminding us to “breathe”.

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Now, I am definitely not your stereotypical yoga-loving, vegan, meditating, harem pant-wearing hippie dippie earth mother-to-be. I like red meat, skinny jeans and technology. I do own a flower crown, but more because it keeps my unruly curls in place in humid climates. I gladly wore it for most of this trip for said purpose, and was happy to also attempt to blend in with those who genuinely greet each other with “Namaste”.

As we neared the end of the path we could see the beach-side restaurant, with fairy lights, chandeliers hanging from the palm trees and a very shabby chic bar where another yogi was standing with a machete preparing endless fresh coconuts or fresh fruit smoothies. Behind the machete-swinging yogi was the whitest beach I’d ever seen, complete with actual turquoise water and a handful of Panama-hat wearing vacationers in a variety of semi-comatose states draped over the beds/beanbags with a Sol beer + lime, or coconut in hand. Satisfied that the tick-box requirements had been met, we gladly accepted our basket of nachos and dips (the first of many) and descended onto our Robinson Crusoe beach.

The rest of the trip involved trying to move as little as possible from our large four-poster-beach-bed, and generally eating our weight in nachos. Recommendations based on what else we did below….

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Where is Tulum:

Tulum is on the “Yucatan Peninsula” on the east coast (Caribbean side) of Mexico and is a hub of Mayan history – it’s as renowned for its ancient ruins as it is for its beach. The stretch of Tulum beach itself with all the boutique hotels and restaurants is about 4km, and most people hire a pushbike to go up and down (I didn’t – babymoon called for taxis!)

How to get there:

It is 130km from Cancun so it’s about a 2 hour drive. You can get a shuttle, taxi or hire a car. The hotel organised a transfer for us and it was very similar price to a taxi so we went with that.

What to pack:

Beach-bum attire – basically take lots of beach cover ups and don’t bother with shoes that aren’t a form of flip flops. I went shoe-less and make-up-less for the majority of the trip which was the aim! It was definitely boho-chic. Everyone had a beard, or braids in their beards

Where to stay:

We loved Be Tulum and would recommend it. Other options we looked at were Coqui Coqui (also more on the luxury side, popular with socialites) and Papaya Playa as a more rustic budget option.

Where/what to eat:

The food was far better than my expectations of endless black bean burritos and fajitas. Everything is fresh and there’s an emphasis on grilled fish/seafood – think varieties of ceviche and flame-grilled prawns with rice which has diced mango and pumpkin seeds mixed through it. We ate at Be Tulum for breakfast and lunch most days as the food was seriously great, and I could enjoy my 4 coconuts a day or mix it up with a freshly pressed green juice (turns out I can be semi-boho).

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For dinner, we liked Posada Margherita (great for fish and easy Italian – cash only) and Casa Banana (Argentinian grill) – both on the strip and a 5 minute cab ride.

We heard a lot about Hartwood – a very hyped up restaurant opened by American chefs who won’t take bookings. It is only open from Wednesdays to Sundays, and there are up to 4 sittings per night. Our hotel suggested that we would need to go at around midday and queue for 2 hours to put our names down for that evening, rather than risk turning up when the doors open at 6pm and seeing if there was space. Alternatively, we were told we could pay a taxi driver to stand in the queue for us in the midday sun – how much? Only $40 or $50. We politely declined, even if the reviews of aubergine glazed with Mayan honey were seriously tempting. This was, after all, supposed to be a stress-free vacation, and not one where we have to fight the scrum at a restaurant door.

We opted instead for El Tabano; a Mexican fusion spot with loads of local delights.

What to do:

If, like us, you basically wanted to collapse on a beach and not move, then it’s a great place to do that. If you’re feeling somewhat more energetic or aren’t ones to sit around watching the yogis do their sun salutations and offer you a friendship bracelet on the beach, then there are heaps of Mayan ruins and “Cenotes” (caves / lagoons / beautiful natural sinkholes) to explore.

Overall, if you go with the expectation that the service (from room service to waiter service in the restaurants) will be handled with the same “sloooooow your roll” easy breezy approach, Tulum was fantastic. It provided exactly what we were after, even at an awkward time of year. Namaste.

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