Have you not heard? Tulum is the place to be. Roughly a two-hour drive south of Cancún, it’s a beautiful and laid back paradise free of all the tourist trappings found in it’s well-known neighbor to the north. I recently vacationed there for nine days and had an absolute blast. If you’re considering going, I highly recommend it. Here’s the HSS Tulum Travel Guide – a few of my favorite things to see, do, and drink!
Getting There and Getting Around
Shuttle, Taxi, Bicycle. Unless you’re planning to do some sightseeing outside of the general Tulum area, there’s no need to rent a car. Unless you really want to look like a tourist – then make sure to get the Jeep. A roundtrip ticket for two people with SuperShuttle from Cancún to Tulum was $178 USD. Once you’re at you’re hotel, taxis along the main Tulum Beach road generally run about 100-150 pesos one-way. Nothing is really that far, however, and getting around by bicycle was my preferred method.
Eats & Drinks
| MEZCAL FTW | Just one of the amazing cocktails on the menu at Gitano.
If you follow on Instagram, it may have seemed as though I ate and drank my way through my entire vacation in Tulum. That is partially not true. There was time spent sleeping, swimming and sightseeing. But, yes, a lot of time was spent sampling ceviche and drinking cocktails. In total, we ate at 10 establishments, but here are five favorites.
1. Gitano. In someplace where it would be possible to call everywhere my favorite place, Gitano was truly my favorite. Hands down. The food was incredible and the cocktails – all mezcal-based – were out of this world. Oh, and the setting: absolutely dreamlike. Tables under a canopy of palm trees, low benches to lounge on and a disco ball in the jungle if you care to stay late and party. If you go, make sure to ask for Fernando and tell him I sent you.
2. Mezzanine. This was a lunch stop on the way back from the Mayan ruins. It’s on a deck overlooking the beach, had fantastic ceviche and the most perfect margarita I had during the entire trip.
| ABOVE | Amazing food an craft cocktails in under a canopy of palm trees in the jungle at ARCA | BELOW | Shrimp and mashed bananas with coconut at Papaya Playa
3. ARCA. Though I was bummed when we were unable to get a seat at Hartwood (talk about a scene!), that feeling passed quickly when we sat down at ARCA. A recommendation from my friend Fernando of Gitano, the food – all locally sourced – was exquisite. Ditto for the setting. Tulum has a very inventive and burgeoning craft cocktail scene. The drinks at ARCA were top-notch.
4. Posada Margherita. An authentic Italian restaurant in Tulum? You bet. I know what you’re thinking: why on earth go to an Italian restaurant when you’re in Mexican food heaven? All I can say is, try it because you will not regret it.
5. Único. We found Único on a whim but it turned out to be a very memorable meal. Brian Sernatinger formerly of Gramercy Tavern and Craft is the head chef, so you know it’s legit. The space is very slick and modern and is part of the Mi Amor hotel. I look forward to returning.
| JUNGLE MONOCHROME | Relaxing after lunch on the beach at Coqui Coqui.
Mayan Ruins. A must-see. It’s hard to comprehend that these were built so long ago. It’s a true marvel though it was so hot, we didn’t walk the entire grounds. Around the backside of the largest structure, you get a great view off the cliffs to Tulum beach.
Gran Cenote. This cenote came highly recommended along with Dos Ojos. Swim with turtles, fish and through caves of the bluest water you’ll ever see. I highly recommend going early to beat the crowds, which descend en masse about one and a half to two hours after they open.
Kaan Luum Lagoon. There are plenty of cenotes and lagoons around, but Laguna Kaan Luum stuck out because of an ad in magazine at the hotel. Walk through the jungle on a wooden deck to a dock pier that juts out into turquoise and emerald water. Completely unreal. Be the first ones there if you want to get a great photo.
Know Before You Go
Seaweed Invasion. Tulum is currently experiencing a bit of a seaweed problem. The usually crystal clear water doesn’t appear so clear from the beach to about 50 meters out, and the white sand beaches are outlined by dark green (and extremely smelly at times) seaweed. It’s a natural phenomenon caused by changing sea currents and, we were told, is affecting the Gulf Coast from Mexico all the way down to Costa Rica. The locals are doing their best to manage the issue, but in this Man v. Nature scenario, Mother Nature is clearly winning. It’s not a complete downer and shouldn’t deter you from visiting, but you’re not going to get that perfect Instagram shot of immaculate white sand and turquoise water.
Leaping Lizards. I used to live in Tucson, Arizona, and even living in the desert, I never got used to those little lizards that run around like crazy. However, in Tulum those lizards are often large iguanas. Once you get over the fact that they’re not aggressive and will run away if you even make the slightest gesture towards them, they’re not so bad.
AC Not Always Available. There are not many hotels with AC. Once you get past Papaya Playa after turning right onto the beach road, electricity is not allowed. Businesses run on generators south of Papaya Playa. If you have trouble sleeping in the heat and humidity and even a cool and gentle ocean breeze won’t put you to sleep, make sure that you look closely at whether or not your hotel has AC.
Thanks for reading.
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