My birthday was on Saturday, so to celebrate the big 2-3, Seth and I spent a long weekend in Tulum, Mexico.
First thing you’re thinking is “Where is Tulum?” Tulum is 2 hours south of Cancun along the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Think Cancun, minus big resorts, spring breakers, and chain restaurants. It’s literally the coolest place I have ever been so far in my travels. Tulum is the latest buzz in LA and NY as a place where the rich and famous can escape, and its really trendy… You see “Take me to Tulum” on tons of T shirts nowadays, like for Spiritual Gangster and the like. Models, Actors, Hippies, and the wealthy all seek out Tulum because its really private and its also a huge destination for Yogis. Its literally a place to unplug from society and bike to get tacos in your swimsuit with your hair in a bun and wearing no makeup the entire time. Plus, there are boutique Eco-hotels and countless hole in the wall style restaurants that serve better food and ambiance than most places in LA.
If you’re thinking of exploring Tulum… DO IT. This was not the Mexican spring break I grew up going to every year. Its a quiet getaway with no nightlife and total relaxation…in the jungle… where you stay in beach front Eco-friendly cabanas… you can ride bikes/ scooters to different beaches and shops…and you can wear no bra because its so humid and your clothes are probably loose fitting resort style clothing anyway. I MEAN how does this not make you get on Expedia right now and buy tickets?!
Maybe you’re hesitating about the idea of an “Eco-hotel”, or getting 2 hours south of Cancun safely, or wondering if its even worth the expense.
1. Eco-hotels range from extremity. If you want to glamp on the beach and use a hole as a toilet, that is an option. Is that what we did? NO. I’m not ashamed of needing a few amenities like a working toilet and wifi and air conditioning. You can also find more resort-style larger hotels for a larger price. The peak time to visit Tulum is December-February. We went for my birthday weekend at the end of April and the prices were significantly cheaper than during peak time. Mind you, we chose to stay in a boutique Eco-hotel called Piedra Escondida for $220/night. Its high for what we usually pay, but we decided for the occasion and getting to see this hyped up place, it was worth it! We liked this hotel because it was a sustainable hotel that still met our needs… AND we slept in a full on cabana!! After much research we found that its pretty hard to find a place with any A/C that we could afford, and this one had it from 9pm-9am! Yes it was sticky and humid during the day…but we weren’t exactly planning on being in our hotel room during daylight anyway! Also with Tulum, it is the norm that while doing your business you must place the toilet paper you used in a trash bin. Not that scary. At least we had a real toilet…some places didn’t. And most places have WiFi! Is it top speed state of the art? No. But I had enough connection to use email and Instagram so….what else does one need?
2. Getting to Tulum We decided to rent a car. it was $10/day BEFORE the required liability insurance the make you get that you don’t know about when you book online. So for about $37 US per day, we had emergency A/C, total freedom to explore wherever we wanted, and didn’t have to sit in a stuffy shuttle for 4 hours. There are definitely options for transport, if you don’t feel comfortable driving, shuttle services can take you to and from the airport for $150-200 US each way. No thank you. We had a fine time driving and felt completely safe. The road to Tulum is honestly nicer than most in LA… so we didn’t feel threatened.
3. Is it worth it? Yes. 1000%. We made it the most worthwhile by taking a redeye Thursday night so that the traveling didn’t eat up a prime beach day. We shared most meals so that we cut down on expensive bills at dinner with our multiple drinks.. it could add up! We also rented a moped for $480 pesos/ day… $27 US. That was the best money we spent. Everyone was biking around in 90 degrees PLUS 100% humidity. Not gonna lie, they looked miserable as we whizzed by on our scooter at 20mph and were smiling the entire time. The scooter allowed airflow while also getting to see all of Tulum right on front of us! Not in a smelly taxi, not on a slow bike. Tulum is a nice stretch and can’t be covered by foot. Do the scooter. Its a hoot.
While in Tulum it was very windy. Honestly we didn’t mind because it was moving the humid air and keeping the mosquitoes at bay (even though I still came home with bites). It was so warm that even with full clouds we were in the ocean…which probably explains the sunburns we endured on our last full day. OUCH. FYI people…salt water strips your “Waterproof” sunscreen off in minutes. And drinking too many Mojitos and forgetting to apply more sunblock doesn’t help either.
We explored Chichen Itza on my birthday since it was a little cloudy. Its 2 hours from Tulum west, we took our rental car and drove through little Mexican towns safely and feeling very blessed for where we came from. Chichen Itza is one of the 7 wonders of the World; Mayan ruins and pyramids from the largest Mayan city that thrived from 600-1200 AD. It was truly amazing to see.
By day, we were exploring what Tulum and Quintana Roo had to offer. White sand beaches, super warm ocean water. culture, and most of all THE FOOD. Lots of restaurants had the whole trendy farm to table menu…the kind where there are 10 things to choose from ranging from duck liver mousse to whole fish in mole sauce. Not our thing, although those places were packed so I’m sure its delicious. We had delicious Mexican most meals, but also had some amazing Italian and even Poke Nachos…SO good.
All in all, I will definitely be heading back to Tulum again. It shattered our expectations for relaxation as well as adventure, without all of the touristy flaws of major resort towns like Cancun or Cabo. I highly recommend our hotel Piedra Escondida, as well as all of Tulum. Though I wouldn’t bring kids here….its not jam packed full of activities for them to enjoy. Its a great getaway for friends and significant others and we came back feeling so refreshed and already miss living simply in the heat among the waves.