My guide to Tulum, Mexico

My appetite is a driving force when choosing a new destination to visit and Mexico had been on the top of my list for quite some time for this very reason. As I’m living in the Northern hemisphere this year, there wasn’t any excuse and I took the quick 3 and a half hour trip from New York City on the last weekend of Summer to soak up the sun with my friend Bethany who flew in and met me in Cancun. 

Tulum filled every expectation and more and whilst we only spent four days here, the long sunny days and being instantly whisked into relaxation mode has us leaving like we’d just spent two weeks on the beach. 

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Getting there and around: 

We flew into Cancun airport, hired a car and took the easy 2 hour drive down the highway into Tulum beach. Be careful of speed bumps called ‘topes’ and the always changing speed limit.

If you don't fancy driving, you can easily arrange a hotel transfer and then use bikes to cycle around Tulum beach or hail down one of the many taxis that drive up and down the beach road. 

 

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Where to eat:

Hartwood

I picked up the Hartwood recipe book about a year ago now and was drawn to it’s fresh recipes and stunning photography. Getting the opportunity to eat here was such a treat and an absolute must. It’s the name at the top of everyone’s list so get there when they open at 6pm to put your name down if you don’t have a reservation. We dined on grilled octopus, plantains, sticky honey glazed sweet potato, grapefruit margaritas, flourless chocolate cake and cheese flavoured ice-cream. 

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Chamicos

This beach front restaurant is about 15 minutes drive away from Tulum beach but is located quite close to the Grand Cenote and Dos Ojos so if you’re visiting them, this is a perfect lunch spot. With hammocks to laze in and a reef to swim in after you eat, this is the definition of a long lunch. The food is cheap and quick but incredible none the less. I recommend getting the whole fried fish and the ceviche. 

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Taqueria La Eufemia

We went back to La Eufemia multiple times for it’s laid back vibe, fresh watermelon juice and fresh fish tacos. Located on the beach front, this is the spot for a chill afternoon of music, tequila and cheap eats. 

 

Nomade

We visited Nomade Hotel for a coffee and lazed in their Moroccan inspired lounge area filled with cushions and lanterns. A nice chilled out afternoon spot if you’re like us and are looking for a caffeine fix. 

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Where to stay:

Casa de las Olas

www.casadelasolas.com

We absolutely our stay at Casa de las Olas where everyone instantly felt like family. The property was designed 40 year ago and is the only 100% sustainable hotel in Mexico. It’s incredible design adapts to all the elements that surround it, utilising the ocean breeze for constant air flow and making use of the local cenotes and rain water, the design and set up of this relaxed hotel is impressive to say the least. The hotels uses all organic, biodegradable soaps and cleaning products made by hand in the town. 

Casa de las Olas is located at the end of the beach road, right next to the entrance to 40 million acre Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. The beach is only steps away from the rooms where you might be lucky enough to spot the hatchings of baby sea turtles who nest on this quiet end of the beach. 

Breakfast and lunch is such a treat with resident chef Lulu whipping up dishes made with the freshest of ingredients which are all locally sourced from family farms, making each dish vibrant with flavour and colour.  With fresh yoghurt and granola, hot coffee, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and a special daily dish like avocado on toast or sopes, waking up here each morning and dining with other guests at the communal table under the canopy of palms was a dreamy way to start the day.

What I loved most about Casa de las Olas is their dedication to sustainability and creating an eco-friendly place that doesn’t damage the earth in any way. Their transparency and honesty is so admirable and I can’t wait to return. 

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Casa Malca

www.casamalca.com

We spent two nights at Casa Malca, a newly opened 40-room art hotel which has a quirky, eclectic and vibrant collection of artwork spread throughout. The property itself, which once belonged to Pablo Escobar has three swimming pools, one which sits in an underground cave as well as a large restaurant where breakfast, lunch and dinner is available. 

The rooms at Casa Malca are light filled with floor to ceiling windows and each feature different contemporary artworks making each space original and different from the next. 

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Where to explore:

Mayan Ruins

At the very top of the beach road, you’ll find the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Tulum which are definitely worth exploring. It costs 70 pesos to enter and you’ll want to make sure you go early in the morning to avoid crowds and the blazing sun as there’s not much shade to duck from it. This 13th-century, walled Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park overlooks the seaand is incredibly well preserved. Bring your swimming togs if you want to take a dip in the crystal clear ocean below. 

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Cenotes

The many cenotes in the region are what make Tulum so magical and the Yucatan area is known to have some of the world’s most widespread range of underwater sinkholes and cenote caves.

The cenotes are inhabited by fish, turtles, and bats and before entering you’ll be asked to shower off so that you don’t have any lotions or creams on but watch out for mosquitos as it’s a breeding ground for them.

We visited the Grand Cenote and can recommend arriving early to avoid hoards of tourists. It cost $10 USD to enter and both lockers & snorkel gear were available to rent for an extra cost. 

Another popular cenote near Tulum is Dos Ojos which is known for it’s deep diving. The cave system of the cenote is known to be at least 61km long and 118m deep. We were also recommended ‘Pet Cemetery’ Cenote which is located close by and has 28 sinkholes to explore. Your entry fee includes snorkelling gear and a guide who will lead you through the dark caves that feature jaw dropping rock formations covered in stalactites and stalagmites. 

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Tips:

Make sure to bring bug spray, sunscreen and a good hat as the sun is strong.

Most places accept US dollars but be aware that you’re not going to be paying the best exchange rate. I’d recommend bringing Mexican Peso’s with you to avoid having to use an ATM. 

Bring light clothes as it can get very humid and sticky.

 

A note about sea turtles:

  • Turtle nesting season is from May to October in Tulum and if you’re lucky enough, witnessing this is one of the most amazing experiences. Hatchling usually take place at night when sea turtles are not as visible to prey like birds, crabs, racoons, dogs and fish and use the light of the moon to guide them safely to the ocean.

  • If you do see baby sea turtles hatching on the beach, it’s really important that you don’t pick them up on their way to the sea or shine a light on them to take a photograph. Only one in 1000 sea turtles make it to adult hood and have such a small chance of survival that shining a light or startling them can reduce this even more.

  • If you encounter a turtle, remain quiet, still, and at a distance. Otherwise, the frightened turtle may return to the ocean without nesting.

  • Don’t leave any rubbish around and if you see any, pick it up. Turtles often confuse plastics with food and If they eat it, they will die when this trash blocks their intestines.

  • If you’re walking on the beach at night, be careful about where you’re walking and only use a red LED light to guide the way.

  • Be careful where you walk on the beach. Turtle nests are sometimes marked with sticks by volunteers but be careful not to stand in one or play ball games close by as it can destroy the nests.

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