Tulum, Mexico has become one of the most trendy places to visit in the last couple of years. If you’ve browsed any travel account on Instagram or Pinterest, you’ve unknowingly seen pictures of the beautiful beaches, jungle canopy, and underwater caves known as cenotes. I know I’d seen enough pictures to peak my interest so when a friend asked about taking a trip to the beachfront Mexican town in February, I jumped at the opportunity.
Getting to and from Tulum
One thing that makes Tulum a great option is the proximity to Cancun since it has a major international airport. You’ll need to arrange some sort of taxi service since it’s about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Cancun. We used First Choice VIP and they met us right at our terminals with a big sign and plenty of drinks to keep us happy during the drive. My flight got in a little earlier than my friend and while we were waiting, the driver offered to take me to the store to buy snacks. I felt very confident in our choice of driver after that. 🙂
Where to stay in Tulum
If you can afford it, you definitely want to stay in Tulum Beach. That’s where all of the action is and the best restaurants are. If you’re looking at a map, Tulum town doesn’t look that far away but there’s only one road in and out of the main area so traffic can get backed up easily. Plus, you’ll save money by not taking taxis back and forth. We stayed a couple nights at the Azucar and then splurged for a few nights and stayed at the Kanan right next door. Hands down, my favorite part of where we stayed in Tulum was the location. We could walk to everything or rent bikes from the hotel and easily access anything in the main part of town. Not to mention, I felt so safe the entire time I was there because it’s such a popular area. A few mornings, I woke up earlier than my friend and could walk to get coffee or to the shops while she was sleeping.
My other favorite part about each location was how close we were to the water. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed anywhere that close to the ocean! Be mindful if you book the Azucar that a few of the rooms are actually cabins that don’t have AC or the best lighting after the sun goes down. It never got too hot in our room and it was amazing to have the windows open and fall asleep to the sound of the waves!
The Kanan hotel is one of those places you have to see to believe. It looks like a tree house and everything is perfectly curated to make you feel like you’re in the jungle! Not to mention, there are so many spots for Instagram pictures. I was so entertained most days just watching people stop along the beach at the hotel to take pictures.
Where to eat in Tulum
One thing I was not prepared for was how expensive Tulum would be and one of the biggest costs was eating out. I’ve only been to all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and those don’t exist in Tulum, so you’re kind of limited on where you can eat once you’re actually in the main part of the town. Despite how pricey everything was, the food was amazing! It’s a very health-conscious area, so everything was very fresh and delicious.
INSIDER’S TIP: Most places only take cash or prefer cash. We weren’t expecting this so make sure to have plenty of cash, preferably pesos.
These were my favorite places to eat Tulum:
- Hartwood: This was recommended by several people and it was totally worth the hype! The atmosphere is amazing and it was completely packed so definitely make a reservation if you can. We got lucky and found two spots at the bar, which was full service and so much fun. Definitely one of the best meals I’ve had on vacation!
- Rosa Negra: Be sure to make a reservation here, as well. Probably the later, the better… especially on a weekend. 🙂 This has everything you could want for a dinner while on vacation in Mexico–beautiful setting, large menu, fresh seafood and steaks, flaming drinks, and good music.
- Tulum Munchies: We went here for more of a chill (and less expensive) meal on Sunday night during our trip. They have several food trucks set up and a bar in the middle of a big outdoor picnic area. It’s a little more relaxed than some of the other places but still fun and delicious!
- Casa Malca: We didn’t end up eating here but we got a cocktail at the bar just so we could see the inside of this place. If you’re not familiar with Casa Malca, it’s Pablo Escobar’s old mansion turned into a hotel. If I went back to Tulum, I’d definitely want to stay here for at least one night but going there even for one drink is worth it just to see the property and all of the art installations.
- Raw Love: We went here on the first and the last day of our trip for breakfast because we loved it so much. It’s all plant based and vegan and absolutely delicious. They have smoothie bowls, avocado toast and anything else your healthy heart desires.
- Gitano: We didn’t eat here but we did stop in after dinner on Friday night for a drink and had the best time. It feels like you’re in the jungle! Again, great music and a beautiful setting, what more could you want?
- I Scream Bar: This place is so fun and great for food and drinks that aren’t quite as expensive as the other places. We hung out here in the evenings and they even have a happy hour deal where drinks are two-for-one.
- Clan-Destino: After several failed attempts to go to the cenotes, which I’ll talk about a little later, we ended up at this spot right in the main part of Tulum that is a restaurant with a cenote inside! The cenote water looked a little sketch but I made myself get in and the water was actually amazing and so refreshing! The food was super affordable and we agreed that it was the best ceviche we had the entire trip. I think this place was the best hidden gem of Tulum.
What to do in Tulum
Besides the beaches, there’s a lot to do in and around Tulum. To be honest, we didn’t do a lot of them. LOL
If you’ve read any of my previous travel posts, you know I love to do my research before I go somewhere new and I found Tripping with my BFF’s blog post and Left to Write blog super helpful when planning my trip to Tulum. Both of these blogs have great recommendations on things to do, including swimming with whale sharkes, mezcal tastings, and sightseeing Mayan ruins. The area is mainly known for cenotes, which are underground caves that have fresh water you can swim in. We scheduled a tour to go snorkeling in them but we may or may not have spent too much time at Gitano the night before and didn’t make it. 🙂
A couple days later, we tried to bike to the Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera. On a map, it said it was about a 30 minute bike ride but in reality, we biked for about an hour and still weren’t there. When we ran out of sidewalk and would have had to bike along the highway for another couple miles, we decided to turn around. We did get a lot of use out of the bikes we rented. We were able to cover a little more ground and that ended up being one of my favorite things we did.
Getting a covid test in Tulum
The current requirement for all international travelers entering the United States is proof of a negative covid test within three days of your return flight or proof of recovery from covid within 90 days. We were able to arrange a covid test straight through our hotel. They sent a nurse to our hotel room, we took the tests, and got the results back the next morning. It was a little stressful waiting for the results but we both tested negative and had no issues at the airport.
Here’s a map of Tulum with the places we stayed, the restaurants we went to, and a list of all recommendations.
Tulum was absolutely beautiful and unlike anywhere else I’ve been. It’s very different from other parts of Mexico and reminded me most of my trip to Bali because of the the tropical setting and the fact that EVERYTHING was designed to take pictures for Instagram. I’d definitely recommend it if you have the chance to go! It was a great experience and hopefully I’ll make it to a bigger cenote if I ever make it back. 🙂