A Tulum Holiday: Travel Edition
We spent a blissful 6 nights in Tulum, Mexico.
It was my second time back. My first time here was around two years ago, and it's just as beautiful as I remember. It is a really popular destination right now, and once you're there it's easily evident why. Sandy beaches lined with palm trees, braided hammocks, dream catchers, and a laidback bohemian vibe that makes you feel like you have all the time in the world to relax and enjoy. Leading up to our trip, I had felt nervous because my weather app was showing thunderstorms every day, but once we got there the weather was perfectly sunny with the storms passing at night while we slept. Actually, at many points it felt too hot for our Torontonian beings.
date night: Arrive early or reserve in advance
We made two dinner reservations during our time here. The first was at Kitchen Table and the second at Arca. Both were recommended by our hotel and lets you dine right underneath the trees in the jungle. Definitely reserve in advance because you probably won’t get a seat as a walk-in. Arca served some of the best soft-shell crab I’ve ever had.
I’ve still yet to dine at Hartwood, which is supposed to be amazing but needs an even earlier reservation (which I did not have the forethought to make).
take a day trip to valladolid
Valladolid is about a 1.5-hour drive from Tulum. An old colonial-style city, it certainly has a different vibe from Tulum’s glittery beachfront resorts. A bit more off the beaten track, we hired a day taxi service to take us. Walk through Calzada de los Frailes to explore an array of pastel coloured buildings and boutiques, and try out some local Yucatan flavours. The infamous Chichen Itza is also close by (which we didn’t visit this time), and a multitude of Cenotes. In fact, there’s one right in the middle of the city once the midday heat becomes a bit too much!
Be sure to also pop into the Coqui Coqui for the simple reason that the space is breathtaking.
getting around tulum
We stayed in the Aldea Zama district, in between the town and the beachfront. My last time here, a few friends and I stayed in the town. Next time, I'm hoping to experience beachside living!
To get around, we rented bikes from the hotel and we ended up pretty much biking everywhere. Bikes were our main mode of transportation both times I've visited Tulum. Tulum is the perfect place to bike because there's a bike path that leads right down to the beach area, and once you're on the beach you just follow a fairly wide road down to your destination. You’ll see lots of other people biking the same route, tourists and locals alike. From the town, it's about a 30 minute bike to the beach area and from Aldea Zama, about 15 minutes. Do keep in mind however, that many restaurants and beach clubs are further down the beach road, so factor in another 15 to 20 minutes bike further down. Let's just say with the heat, I always ended up being a sweaty mess by the time we reached our destination!
relax at the beach clubs
Tulum's beachfront is covered with resorts offering their beach clubs. In fact, there's only a few public access entrances to the beach, the biggest one on the south side of the beach road. To the north, if you're not staying somewhere with beach access, it means you're usually paying for a chair with food and drinks at a beach club. The good thing is, once you commit to the club's minimum spend, you're welcome to lounge around there all day if you want, or if you're like us, lounge for a few hours and then wander down along the beach.
We tried out a few beach clubs during our time there but we ended up going back twice to Villa Las Estrella. It felt more quiet and relaxed without being exorbitant on pricing, plus most of their chairs had umbrellas. A big plus in the scorching Mexican sun. There were a few places we tried stopping at, but were disappointed to find that their shaded cabanas were reserved for hotel patrons only.
Although there are tons of amazing food along the beach, head into for the most authentic experience. La Barracuda serves the most delicious grilled seafood platter for less than half of what you might find at the beach.
visit a cenote, or several
We only went to Gran Cenote on our trip this time, but I had the opportunity to visit a few more last time including Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Sac Actun. The latter of which included a private guided tour all the way inside the Cenote, a wonderfully cool if not slightly terrifying experience being so deep inside a dark, watery cave. However, I would totally recommend it to someone who hasn’t done it before as it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
As for Gran Cenote, we went right when it opened and it was a nice and quiet experience. For land lovers like myself, they offer life jackets rentals so that you can still enjoy floating about. If you’re interested in going, I’d say plan to go within an hour of opening because it gets busy quickly. It is the most popular Cenote in Tulum, after all.