Few coastlines brandish as much natural beauty as the Riviera Maya in Mexico. Translucent turquoise waters lap gently onto soft white sands for the entire 75 miles stretch of Caribbean waterfront. Hotel and resort options abound, but skip the behemoth all-inclusives along Highway 307 and head south to Tulum.
Brimming with character and local charm, you won’t find a single Marriott in Tulum. Boutique hotels range from luxury, eco-conscious accommodations to affordable beach bungalows. No matter where you stay, the entire town exudes a relaxed bohemian vibe with an emphasis on ecological sustainability. Basically, it’s a little crunchy, and we dig it.
What to do in Tulum:
Bike around Tulum Playa: Most of the boutiques are snuggled along Tulum Playa, a stretch of road parallel to the beach dotted with open-air restaurants, hotels, shops and wellness centers. Seemingly insulated from the outside world, you can bike up and down this stretch or snag a taxi to explore the area.
Explore the Mayan Ruins in Tulum: Captivating on so many levels, the Tulum ruins stand out for their dramatic location perched atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean waters below. This fortressed town served as one of the last holdouts for the Mayan civilization, surviving another 70 years after the Spanish conquest in the 1500s. Marvel at the grand Castillo, the most prominent of the structures, and explore the Temple of the Frescoes, where the Mayans tracked the movement of the sun. Afterwards, climb down the cliff steps to take in the grand view from the beach below.
Swim in the fresh water Cenotes: The porous limestone rock formations throughout the Yucatan absorb rainwater like a sponge. Over thousands of years, underground fresh water caves have developed throughout the area – called Cenotes. Completely unique to this part of the world, there are hundreds of these secret crystalline springs below ground, many of which are linked by underground rivers and streams. Swimming in the Cenotes is an insanely cool experience that cannot be missed. San Actun, just past the larger Dos Ojos Cenote, stands out as one of our favorites for its crystal clear waters and lack of crowds.
Chichén Itzá: For the most impressive and significant Mayan ruins, trek the hour and half inland to Mexico’s famed Chichén Itzá. Designated as a World Heritage Site, these ruins serve as the grand example of Mayan civilization. Without even the use of a wheel, the Mayans were able to engineer and construct some wildly advanced cities. Their scientific and architectural achievements, best displayed at Chichén Itzá, will leave you and everyone else with a raw sense of wonderment.
Sea Turtles: Early September in Tulum means two things: (1) off-season and (2) sea turtles! During the summer along Riviera Maya coastline, hundreds of big mama sea turtles heave their way on shore to lay eggs. Generally, come early September, the eggs are ready to hatch. Night-time can mean hundreds of baby sea turtles scurrying to find their way to the ocean.
Wellness: Eco-friendly Tulum attracts many visitors looking for relaxation, healing and renewal. Many of the boutique hotels have some quality spa wellness experiences. The Yäan Wellness Energy and Healing Spa offers some of the best treatment facilities in Tulum. Their massage therapists hail from all over of the world and the hydro-therapy experience rejuvenates you to the core.
What to eat in Tulum:
Posada Margarita: Italian food doesn’t necessarily jump top of mind when in Mexico, but Posada Margarita serves the most exquisite pizza around. Fresh ingredients and a beachfront view contribute to one of the best dining destinations in all of Tulum. And besides, a jalapeño margarita pairs pretty darn well with a nice slice of pie.
Hartwood: The praise surrounding this restaurant is almost like – enough already! But visitors and foodies flock there for good reason – the food and experience are equally brilliant. A couple from Brooklyn ventured down to Tulum five years ago to open their dream restaurant. Reflecting on the values of the area, Hartwood focuses on local ingredients, fresh seafood catch, and sustainability through solar-power and waste composting. From local fishermen to neighborhood markets, the ingredients and flavors of the Yucatan are beautifully reflected in each dish.
Where to Stay in Tulum:
Hotel Esencia: Removed from the main stretch of Playa Tulum hotels, Esencia has established itself as one of the top luxury boutique hotels in the area. The property was originally built for an Italian heiress and is situated on one of the most picturesque beaches in all of the Riviera Maya. Rugged beauty and welcomed seclusion make this boutique pretty unforgettable.
BeTulum: Embraced for its cool beach scene and world-class spa, BeTulum is one of the most beloved boutique hotels situated along Tulum’s main stretch. Settle into a poolside lounger or beachfront cabana and never get up. While you could have your drinks brought to you, the charming blue beach bar, made of weathered would and palm leaves, beckons you to check out its mezcal selection. Set inland among the tropical foliage, BeTulum’s spacious guest rooms offer private pools and outdoor showers. Perhaps most notable to hotel is the the famous Yäan Wellness Energy & Healing Spa, which attracts travelers from far corners of the globe.
Jashita Tulum: The adored Jashita Hotel on Soliman Bay combines barefoot luxury with a relaxed rugged vibe. Small and eco-friendly, this boutique sits nestled on a beautiful secluded beach. Protect by a reef at the mouth of the bay, the waters here are calm and crystal clear with a faint turquoise hue. Jashita offers charm, raw beauty and seclusion, making it the ultimate beach escape.
Tulum marches to it’s own beat, shunning the mega hotels and fostering the growth of eco-conscious boutique establishments. Rustic and charming, you’ll fall in love with the spirit of the town as much as the world-class white sand beaches.
Photo Cred: Sanara Tulum, PRBlonde, Lakesfr.tk, Expatior, Hotel Mestizo, BeTulum, Hartwood via Ralph Lauren Magazine, Olive Oil and Lemons blog, Here and There without a Care blog
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