Sunday, May 4, 2014

TULUM: Travel Guide



I'm a little late getting this post up, but if you follow me on Instagram... you may have seen that real life has just been a little bit busy as of late. We've been traveling-- up the coast to Sea Ranch & across the country for the wedding of our dear friends. Then, I got sick. And basically stared at the wall from my bed for 4 days straight. Excuses aside, I'm pretty sure that if I say "I'll do something on the blog on this day," I actually mean "about a week or so after that." This post is just really long and I kept starting it... and then closing my laptop. However, as promised... here is my TULUM TRAVEL GUIDE!


One of many unique murals along the jungle road. 
Sunset view from Mezzanine. 

I know I mentioned it time & time again in my previous posts, but Tulum is truly magical. It's romantic and artistic. Pelicans soar along the coast, iguanas sunbathe in the sand, kite surfers dot the horizon and cool art abounds along the road. It is one of the most gorgeous places you can imagine. The jungle backs right up to the beach and the Caribbean water is sparkly, turquoise, and the perfect temperature to lure you in each afternoon. Tulum is still rustic & most hotels are eco-friendly-- so if you're looking for a luxurious, all-inclusive resort like you'll find in Cancun or Cabo, well, this might not be the place for you. However, if you're looking to head off the beaten path, recenter and relax, and laugh for hours over good food and even better margaritas- then it's time to start packing.

HOTELS:

Since we hadn't been before, our 10 day trip was spread out over 3 different hotels. This allowed us to really get to know the entire area and have a better idea of where to go next time!

Mezzanine: In a word, Mezzanine is DREAMY. This place = sigh. It was the most luxurious of the three hotels, and I may be biased because it IS where we got engaged- but we'll stay at Mezzanine each & every time we return to Tulum. The employees are kind & personable, and the food is some of the best Thai food I've ever had. We stayed in a Sea View room, which was quiet and comfortable. It had a safe [which, unbeknownst to me, hid an engagement ring for a day or two], a very comfortable bed, a loft, and the nicest bathroom I'd see in Tulum. It shares a deck with the other 3 rooms, and has private seating for watching the sunrise. Each morning, coffee is delivered to your doorstep with a nice handwritten note from the staff.

The property has really beautiful landscaping. There are sun beds where you can work on your tan, shaded hammocks for reading, and plenty of boho-inspired seating for sipping cocktails in the shade. If you don't stay here, you must visit for happy hour [2 for 1 margs!] and dinner. We ordered the Crab Won Tons every time we dined here, and I really loved the Khao Pad Basil.  I basically hate that I can't eat here every week. I can't wait for our next visit!

Tim on the sunbeds at Mezzanine. 

Mezzanine from the beach. 

TulumBay: TulumBay was our second hotel. There is no restaurant attached, but it feels like it's right in the heart of "town" so you can easily walk to many other restaurants along the road. Because of this, it's a little bit noisier. We stayed in a Balcony Terrace Room, which felt like a treehouse. You had to climb up a winding wooden staircase to get to the room. It was much more rustic and had a very traditional Mexican interior. Our room had a private deck with a view of the ocean. We also had a safe to store our belongings. They have a private beach which is only shared with 2 other hotels [keeping in mind that each hotel only has about 10 rooms], and it also has a gorgeous private terrace with amazing views. This hotel has an adorable cat named Maria who snoozes on adirondack chairs. I just loved her. TulumBay was by far the cheapest hotel we stayed at, so if you're on a tight budget- this is a good bet. However, I'll be honest- I don't know if we'll personally stay here again. We discovered a lot of other really neat places which are worth the few extra dollars.

Walking down to TulumBay's private beach.  
An adorable bikini shop right next door to TulumBay.

Om Tulum: We ended the trip at Om Tulum. We LOVED staying here!! There is a great bar & restaurant attached with gorgeous views. It's got a great balcony, so you feel like you're eating on the beach and you're only a few steps away from your room. The food is good, and the margaritas are strong. The staff is made up of some of the nicest people we've ever met. It's nestled alongside other hotels, and you can walk for miles on the beach in either direction. Our hotel room didn't offer any sea views, but it had air conditioning--- a total luxury as we were starting to get a little sick of the humidity. We actually weren't sure about this place when we booked it-- but couldn't have been happier with our stay. [On a more personal note- we told them we'd just gotten engaged, and housekeeping went above and beyond to help us celebrate. Picture flower petals in a heart on the bed, and adorable towel creatures... like a bride and groom swan. My heart exploded!]

DINING:

Mezzanine: As I mentioned, this is some of the best Thai food I've ever had. It's a must! Thai food seems weird to order on the beach in Mexico, I know, but it's a welcomed break from tacos & guac everyday.

Dining at Mezzanine. 

Posada Margherita: The best pasta I've ever had in the history of time.

El Tabano: This is located along the jungle road, and we would have passed right by it... but I got multiple Instagram comments urging us to go. We are so glad we did! We had fish tacos & sangria. I actually HATE fish, but I DREAM of these tacos. Delicious!


Mateo's: A good staple for drinks and an afternoon snack. The food is nothing to write home about but the atmosphere brings you back. Plus, they have wifi which is handy when you're trying to email your BFF to tell her you're getting married! ;) I suggest ordering a Coco Loco... which is a coconut filled with rum. Be prepared for an afternoon nap on the beach.

Zamas: The food wasn't great, but the atmosphere was perfect. REALLY great live music. We'd go back for that alone!

Puro Corozón: REALLY great mojitos!!

Papaya Playa Project: LOVED the menu. A ton of unique flavors & unexpected ingredients. The property is really beautiful- we'd love to stay here next time and at the very least, will definitely go back during the day to enjoy the beach club. TIP: Don't order PPP from the cocktail menu. It's a fruit/veggie slushy and I definitely just wanted a cocktail.

La Zebra: Delicious breakfast options!

The view from the patio at La Zebra. 

Om Tulum: They have really good pizza [though it's not quite what you'd expect, a little thinner and a unique dough], yummy fajitas, and strong margaritas.

Coqui Coqui: SIGH. Sorry bloggers. This is hard for me to do. EVERYONE kept telling me that we HAD to go here. We heard it was just the most magical place and such an incredible experience and that we MUST go. We walked up from the beach and the property was stunning. I was really excited, it was exactly what I imagined and everything was so beautiful. We ordered two margaritas... & were greeted with some of the worst service I've ever experienced. I was really bummed out. The waiter basically implied we shouldn't be there. Honestly, I hate to draw judgment based on one individual. But, I probably wouldn't go back. I will say that their perfumery IS magical-- everything smells intoxicating. And I've heard the hotel rooms are lovely, and the spa treatments are divine. Who knows, maybe next time would be different?

We had Casa Jaguar, Hartwood, & Casa Banana on our list-- I've heard nothing but raving reviews! We will definitely make it next time.

ACTIVITIES:

Cenotes: A cenote is a very popular attraction in this area. It's basically an underwater cave in the heart of the jungle that has filled with freshwater due to erosion. You can swim and dive and explore. Okay, it's a little scary. There are tiny fish that nip at the dead skin on your feet. And it's a little dark. BUT, I was brave and jumped in- and it was SO beautiful. A perfect excursion if you love adventure! I recommend taking a guided tour OR at the very least, renting snorkel gear so you can see the rock formations under the crystal clear water.

Ruinas: The Mayan Ruins of Tulum are located right on the beach. They are very beautiful and it's interesting to learn about the history. But. We went at around 9:30 AM and it was JAM PACKED with tourists. It was the opposite of relaxing and we were pretty stressed out. Tim had watched documentaries and was so ready to dive into the history, but wasn't really able to take any of it in. Next time, we'll try to head to Chichen Itza which is inland- and hopefully not as crowded? Also, I've seen a few Instagram pics where people can see the ruins from a boat tour. Definitely something to look into?

Tulum Ruins. 




Walking: Seriously. Just walk along the beach for miles. And miles.

One of the many jungle shops. If you're hoping to get a straw hat, bring it with you. Not a ton of cute options once you arrive!

TRANSPORTATION:

Bus: You can take a bus from Cancun for about $30, then take a taxi to your hotel. You can walk almost everywhere!!
Rental Car: We rented a car at the airport- we might not again. It was handy while we got to know the area, and when we headed to the cenotes or down the coast, but it would be nice to not have to worry about it all week. Plus, they really got us [price wise] with insurance add-ons.
Scooters: Our friend Willie rented a scooter. We were so jealous! Next trip, we will probably take the bus from the airport & then rent two scooters to zip around town.

PACKING GUIDE:

Swimsuits + cover ups. As far as fashion goes though, I stopped caring like... right away. Don't try to pack 3 pairs of jean shorts, 10 dresses, or any jewelry. Tulum is VERY casual.
Sandals- one pair should suffice. I [foolishly] packed a few pairs and only wanted to wear my flip flops the whole time.
Sweater/Chambray. It can get cool in the evenings!
Mascara & lip balm. It's the ONLY makeup I wore the entire time.
Bug spray. The mosquitos are killer.
Sunscreen. It's expensive in Tulum. However, if you do run out-- head to a pharmacy [NOT a beach side shop or grocery store]. You'll get the best deal!
Anti-Itch cream. For your bug bites, or if you're like me... heat rash. :(
Reading material.
Flashlights. You can walk along the beach to dinner each night, but it's handy to see where you're stepping!
Pesos! You get the best deal when you pay with pesos. I hate international transaction fees.


WHEW. I think that's it! I have to give a special thanks to Cathleya, who sent us a VERY comprehensive guide & a ton of Tulum tips before we left. Plus, her mom just so happens to be the executive chef at Mezzanine. She visits a lot and was generous enough to give us all of her insider info. :)



TulumBay. 

If you're planning a Tulum trip of your own and have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. However, I think it's obvious that we really, truly loved it. :)

12 comments:

  1. This place looks SO magical, I am adding it to my "must visit" list for sure :) thanks for sharing Kelli!!!

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  2. awesome write up! I am headed to tulum soon and very excited about it!!

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  4. Hi Kelli! My husband and I are thinking about going to Mexico around the same time of year but we'll be staying a little north of Tulum in Puerto Morelos. Would you recommend this time of year? (weather wise - crowded etc) any other tips or suggestions for first timers? Thanks! Lindsay

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    1. Hi Lindsay!! I absolutely would recommend it. Cancun might be a little crowded (as would the adventure packages like you'd find at Xel Ha) due to Spring Breakers, but we only encountered one "party group" our entire stay! Everything seemed busy but not overwhelming at all. Weather was wonderful -- we had one or 2 thunderstorms in the evenings but that made it all the more fun to enjoy margaritas beachside. :) Excited for you! I'd love to go back.

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  5. Hi Kelli!
    I am headed to Tulum with a group of 6 girls to celebrate our 30th birthdays, any suggestions on where to stay?

    thank you!

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    1. Hi Sara! JEALOUS! That sounds like a fun time. I think for a large group of gals, La Zebra or Papaya Playa Project would be wonderfully accommodating. AND, they have great bars right on the beach. ;)

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  6. Hi Kelli, any tips for a day trip next month.. Planning on leaving the all-inclusive and heading south of tulum for a slice of heaven. Travelling with wife and 11 & 8 year old kid, we like to stay active. We are looking for a peaceful beach and good solid for lunch and ir dinner. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

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    1. Hi Carlos! I have a few suggestions. First, I'd definitely look into making a stop at the cenotes on your way to Tulum. Dos Ojos was where we went and we enjoyed it. Your kids will love jumping off the dock into the crystal clear water! The paths leading to the cenotes are fun to explore as well. In Tulum, the options are endless. We enjoyed the food at Mezzanine (it's Thai) and the view from the patio is just beautiful. But, on a busy day the beach can be a little more hectic. If you want a spot to camp out at all day, down the beach further you'll find La Zebra which has good food and a quiet stretch of beach. The nice thing is you can walk and walk along the water and stumble into amazing restaurants, none of which really disappointed us. My final restaurant recommendation is El Tabano. It is on the jungle side and they are open for lunch, but close in the late afternoon so be careful not to miss out! Enjoy your time there. I'm jealous!

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  7. Hi Kelli, any tips for a day trip next month.. Planning on leaving the all-inclusive and heading south of tulum for a slice of heaven. Travelling with wife and 11 & 8 year old kid, we like to stay active. We are looking for a peaceful beach and good solid for lunch and ir dinner. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

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  8. I just passed this into a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that.

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Thank you for reading! xoKelli