09 January 2014

tulum tips

Last March in the dead cold of winter Rich and I packed light and headed to Tulum Mexico for a few days, lured by breathtaking turquoise blue waters, Mayan ruins and and a hot, sunny weather forecast. What I discovered was that the beauty of Tulum was not limited to its natural wonder but to the feeling of blissful relaxation it imparted on me. Waking up with the sun and falling asleep just after dark rested my stressed out mind, spending days on a quiet beach with the smell of a salty breeze and the brilliant sun soothed my jangled New York senses.
You don't really need a guide to Tulum, it would be crazy to tell you what to do there because its the kind of place where you don't really make plans. But there are some useful tips I would recommend to anyone thinking of visiting this heavenly seaside town.

Getting from Cancun to Tulum:
Once you land in Cancun you may feel a little lost after going through Mexican customs and multiple security checkpoints. Tulum lies about and hour and a half south of Cancun and there are a few options you can choose to get there: car rental, bus or taxi.
We chose to take a bus which went to Playa del Carmen where we then transferred to a 'second class' bus to Tulum. Once in Playa del Carmen we were confused and there was very little information offered but once we were on the bus it made quite a few stops to get to the town of Tulum. Once there, we had to catch a cab to our hotel. It was an exhausting trip. Its cheap, maybe $20, but from our door in NY to our hotel took roughly 13 hours.
My recommendation is to take a taxi. We took one to the airport for our very early flight home and it only cost about $75 and wth a tip about $90 altogether which we split. Worth every penny. You will probably take cabs into the town or to some of the sights while you're there and can talk to the drivers about your return trip to the airport and make arrangements for price and pick up time. Luckily there is also a fleet of taxis outside of the airport when you arrive to make the trip easier.

Typically I alert my bank about my trip in advance and take out money from an HSBC ATM when I arrive at my destination. There was an HSBC in the center of town (I only say HSBC because its a trusted international bank with offices in NY should anything go awry after the trip I'd be able to handle it in a NY branch.) Tulum was a cash town so get cash and don't expect to use your credit cards very often or even at all.

When choosing a hotel pay very close attention to the amenities offered. If having a bathroom in your hotel room and twenty-four hour electricity are important to you then you should make sure they offer that before booking. Rich and I stayed at Los Lirios de Tulum because he was not keen on the idea of a shared bathroom with other hotel guests and thought that 24 hour electricity would be useful.
We had our own balcony facing the ocean with a hammock and chairs, a big room with a couch facing glass doors looking out at the ocean and a huge bathroom. Some of my best memories are of waking up to the sunrise and the sound of waves and palm fronds rustling in the wind. Air conditioning and 24 hour electricity were offered but with the ocean breezes and the fact that its normal to be asleep by about 8 or 9 every night we didn't need either.
If you aren't picky about those things there are plenty of lovely hotels up and down the beach that offer partial electricity and other varying levels of amenities from shared bathrooms to cable tv's. One of the nicest things about our hotel that we liked was that our stay included breakfast so we didn't have to go too far early in the morning for fresh fruit and omelets.

To eat:
Amansala: The most perfect fish tacos and mango margaritas with a view of the ocean. When you walk up it looks like the Swiss Family Robinson tree-house with huge glass windows and wooden staircases.
Hartwood: A slightly upscale dinner restaurant with a delicious locally sourced menu and founded by Brooklyn transplants, its a pretty popular spot so get there right when it opens at 6 to get a seat! There's an outdoor kitchen in the back with an enormous wood stove, we had a great time watching as the dinners were prepared.

Casa Jaguar: One of the few late night spots with a bohemian vibe set beneath the jungle and an amazing drink menu.
La Luna: Delicious food and Moroccan decor, my favorite part was that the bar had swings so sit on while you have a drink. Next time I go I'd love to sit on a swing and have a happy hour drink while the sun sets.
Kin-Ha: AWESOME MARGARITAS (Rich told me to put that in all caps). The owner sat at the bar smoking cigarettes and occasionally popping into our conversation which we loved because it made it homey like we were regulars. Delicious, freshly caught seafood and a laid back feeling.
The only place where I wouldn't recommend eating is Los Corales because it was overpriced and nothing seemed fresh.
Flor de Michoacan: Icy treats in the center of town with a beautiful garden in the back. Its not to be missed.

A flashlight: Much of the beach and the road are unlit at night and walking around can be a little scary without one.
Clothes that aren't floaty: at least when I traveled there in early March it was very windy. My best outfit during the day was my bikini and at night a lightweight jumpsuit. When I tried to wear dresses they were constantly blowing up over my head.
A hat: For obvious reasons

Towels: At least one or two of your own beach towels, otherwise at many places you'll have to pay to rent one.
Empty water bottles for the beach and snacks: Make your first stop when you arrive in town at the convenience store near the bus station to get a few gallons of bottled water and beach snacks. Once you're down on the beach road its a bit difficult to get those things and the bottles of water are expensive at restaurants. Bring your own bottles to fill from your gallon jugs to carry down to the beach.

This is mostly what I brought and I felt like I had over packed. I really only needed the daisy dress, shorts and bathing suits. Bliss is not having to worry what you look like on vacation.


  1. Your tips were very helpful when I traveled there in June, though we figured out the bus situation quickly at Playa and were glad to have saved the money! We did use a cab to Chichenitza though and that was definitely worth it!

    I would reiterate your point of bringing cash! I definitely wished I had more cash with me while I was there. :) I can also suggest that if you stay in Tulum on the city side (not the beach side), Posada Luna del Sur is a GREAT hotel!

  2. OMG!! is Paradise!! *_* amazing pics!!

  3. This looks incredible!

    Maria xxx

  4. Thanks! I highly recommend going if you can :)

  5. Thanks for the tip on the city side hotel! We're thinking we might go again and do more than just eat/drink and nap this time. We completely missed out on the history and sight seeing haha.

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