A recent trip to the bohemian coastal town of Tulum served as the ultimate girls getaway. Nestled along the white sandy shores of the Caribbean in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, this hip mecca ranked high on my travel list. With Tulum’s reputation for an abundance of street tacos, mezcal, and yoga, I booked my trip without a second thought. A recent influx of upscale boutique shops and craft cocktail bars to the town has done little to deter from its rustic, laid-back charm.
Five days was the perfect amount of time for relaxing alongside the jade-green waters of Tulum’s beautiful beaches, embarking on a quest to find the best street tacos in town, and trekking out to the nearby cenotes and Mayan ruins. Utterly devoid of the typical megaresorts found throughout other coastal cities of Mexico, Tulum felt quite similar to the sleepy backpackers’ haven of Lonely Beach in Koh Chang, Thailand. Below are my highlights for where to eat, play, and stay in the free-spirited enclave of Tulum.
Where to Stay
The El Pez boutique hotel is an idyllic collection of beachside bungalows situated in a secluded cove along the main strip of beaches. The complimentary breakfast is simply fantastic, with fresh fruit plates, pan-seared panela cheese, and chillaquiles served with fire-roasted salsa, as just a few of the delicious daily offerings. A major perk of a stay at El Pez are the complimentary cocktail tickets provided to all four of their sister, boutique hotels scattered throughout town. Served with high-quality mezcal, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, and herb-infused simple syrups, the free drink tickets are as good as gold.
Where to Eat
Tulum has become a hotbed for culinary creatives, complete with a Brooklyn chef, Venice Beach mixologist, and most recently, Chef René Redzepi of world-renowned Noma, breezing into town with a pop-up restaurant. Kitchen Table was the most upscale place we ate in town. It is an open-air outdoor kitchen serving fresh, local catch and produce cooked over a wooden grill. The atmosphere is divine on a balmy evening. The waitstaff are gracious, friendly locals worth befriending for local recommendations!
Posada Margherita is something of a travel blogger’s dream. Perched upon a bluff overlooking the Caribbean sea, the white-washed, distressed wood beach shack is an unexpected showcase of inventive, yet comforting Italian food. To balance out the abundance of fresh-baked focaccia bread and handmade pastas, Posada Margherita has an excellent fresh-pressed juice menu. Their elixirs are potent enough to erase any memory of an excess indulgence in mezcal from the evening prior.
The undisputed winner for best street tacos in Tulum was Antojitos La Chiapaneca. This local haunt is tucked away along a busy block of downtown Tulum. Their juicy al pastor tacos are an unbelievable forty cents a pop and are served hot off a skewer rotating over an open fire.
There are plenty of activities in and around Tulum to keep busy. One of the best ways to explore the area is to rent a bike for the day and head over to the Tulum Ruins. A short 3 miles north of town, the site is home to 13th-century Mayan ruins, situated atop a 50-foot cliff which overlooks the stunning turquoise sea. Get there early to beat the crowds and the heat!
Renting a car for a day is another ideal way to explore sites a bit farther from the town center. Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is revered for its cenotes. These mineral-rich, fresh water caves are teeming with colorful fish and porous limestone rocks, with water so clear you can see straight to the bottom. Snorkeling through the breathtaking underwater caverns of Cenote Dos Ojos is a remarkable experience!
Also, not to be missed while you have a car for the day, are the Coba Ruins. Coba is an ancient Mayan city, located within the jungle and flanked by two lagoons. At the height of its civilization, the historic city housed more than 50,000 residents, with the largest network of stone roads in the ancient Mayan world. The 140 foot climb to the top of the Ixmoja pyramid is not for the faint of heart, with slippery steep stone steps all the way up. However, the eagle-eye view of the jungle-covered city is well worth the climb.