I’ve said it before but Tulum is my happy place. My first time visiting was 2.5 years ago, after a pretty bad breakup. I arrived heartbroken and came home in a better place. I then went back six months later (two years ago) with one of my best friends. It had been two years since my last trip, and I had thought about it every day since.
On a whim, I booked a last minute trip, going for four days. In a perfect world, I would have gone for longer, but I often find myself feeling restless after more than 3 or 4 days on the beach. I’ve now written several posts about Tulum, but I wanted to pull together one proper travel guide.
Things to know Before You Go:
- Tulum is not where you go when you are looking for a luxury vacation. They really pride themselves on an “eco-chic” mentality. Everything is really beautiful in a bohemian sort of way, but don’t expect air conditioned rooms (it’s breezy though, and there is nothing better than falling asleep to the sound of the waves). For that reason I would say that Tulum is really best done as a girls’ weekend. I tried to think about bringing every guy I’ve dated here and maybe one of them would have enjoyed it. Also, don’t expect TV or Wifi in your room.
- Don’t drink the water! Your hotel will tell you this, but stick to bottled or filtered water. Tulum’s water comes from a Cenote and is a bit salty.
- Bring cash – both dollars and pesos. Most of the restaurants are cash only (they accept US dollars) but the taxis like you to pay in pesos. It’s weird, I know. The ATMs in Tulum are pretty unreliable, so take out enough for your trip beforehand.
What to Bring (and Not Bring):
Keep it minimal! Flip flops, sneakers, swimsuits, coverups… easy dresses at night. And bug spray! (But if you forget it, go to Coqui Coqui and buy theirs. It smells incredible!) Also, loads of sunscreen (I use SPF 50 when I’m down here – the sun is strong!) Also, a small flash light – it gets dark at night! Don’t bring: heels (even wedges… there are so many rocky/uneven surfaces), makeup (okay mayyyybe waterproof mascara and lip balm), or anything valuable. It’s such a casual place – leave your nice jewelry and bags and things home!!!
Where to stay.
The first time I visited Tulum, I stayed at the Coqui Coqui. It’s a magical place. Alas, the rooms are rather expensive (they start at just over $400 per night), and they only have eight rooms on the property. If you can get a room (and afford it), it’s really special. They have an incredible spa, and also a perfumerie. Net-a-Porter now sells their perfumes but every time I visit I stock up. Coco Coco is my absolute favorite, and their black candles are amazing.
The Papaya Playa Project is (pictured above) where I usually stay. It’s not for everyone. It’s super rustic, but so so beautiful. The rooms are minimal – there is electricity in that you have lights and (literally) one power outlet, which they ask that you only use for your laptop or phone. The first time around, I stayed in one of their standard rooms on the water. This time, I rented a cabana as the regular rooms were all booked. It was a little bit more expensive (don’t quote me on this but the standard rooms are around $199 a night and the cabanas are around $300ish.) It was totally worth the extra money. I will let the photos do the talking but I had a giant king sized bed and a little patio that opened up right over the water. Pure magic. I also had my own little private day bed down by the water.
I have never stayed at Be Tulum (it’s very expensive) but I have heard amazing things. I went for lunch and to be honest didn’t love it (it may have been an off day, but it was a little bit too sceney for my liking) but it’s completely gorgeous. And two of my girlfriends just came back from staying at Nomade (pictured below) and they both said it was completely incredible. I wandered around one day and loved the aesthetic.
PS – I took a stab at recreating Casa Banana’s Passionfruit Margarita… you can find the recipe here!
Where to Eat/Drink:
Casa Banana is one of my favorites. I go every time I visit Tulum, if only for their passion fruit margarita, which is one of the best drinks I’ve had… ever, ever… in my entire life.
Hartwood is pretty much impossible to get into, but it is very good. If you want to go, you really need to show up at 3pm and add your name to the waiting list. This trip, I managed to get in (it’s easier when you’re alone) and while the food was very good, I wouldn’t say it warrants the waiting list. Generally, the only way to get in is to go at 3pm and put your name in with the hostess. They have this amazing passionfruit/rum cocktail that I still dream about. I probably won’t make any friends saying this, but I think it’s a little overrated.
Kitchen Table is my favorite food in Tulum. Oddly, when I went, it was pretty quiet… though I have a sneaking suspicion that will change. It’s in the opposite direction as all of the more popular restaurants, which helps, but the food is seriously seriously good. I had the ahi tuna steak and it was incredible. I’m not really a dessert person but I ordered the salted caramel mousse and nearly passed out because it was so good! They only opened up a few months ago, so they’re still flying under the radar… a bit. My friend Danielle had the octopus and swears it’s the best thing she’s ever eaten.
Posada Margherita is an anomaly, because it will probably be some of the best fresh pasta you eat in your life… in Mexico. I did not go this trip, but it is a favorite of mine. From a pure vanity standpoint though, I would suggest going on your last night. The pasta doesn’t do the bikini body any favors. 😉
I don’t tend to shop a lot when in Tulum (There are some really beautiful clothing boutiques but I find most of it to be really expensive + overpriced!) but there are two exceptions. The first is Coqui Coqui (I am obsessed with their perfumes… I’ve been wearing Coco Coco for years and picked up Orange Blossom this trip). They also have the most wonderful candles. The first time I visited Tulum, it was in October. Everyone in my family got a candle that year. For those of you asking about the scents… Coco Coco smells just like the beach, but better. A mix of coconut, sunscreen, salt, and musk. I wear the EDP but I also love the bath oil… I use it as a body oil all over my legs and arms in the summer. It’s the perfect summer scent. And Orange Blossom is your standard orange blossom fragrance (though not as sweet) but makes me nostalgic as it’s also the signature scent of the hotel (the whole property smells of it). It’s the hotel’s best-seller.
The second place I really recommend is Josa Tulum. It’s right across the street from the Coqui Coqui. They have the most incredible coverups. The quality is really nice and they fit so well and have this magical ability as they fit everyone! I have bought one every time I visit and now have three. A sheer yellow and white short caftan, a long cobalt blue jersey gown, and a short white cotton kimono. For the month of April 2016, Josa is running a promotion… take 15% off their online shop with code CELEBRATE.
(Note that you can shop both of these brands online… Net-a-Porter carries Coqui Coqui products here, and Josa Tulum sells online.)
Thanks for the travel guide! Looks awesome! Can u describe the coco scent for those of us interested in buying online? It’s the eau de perfume you wear?
Hi Sarah! Of course! I just updated the post. I wear the EDP of both, but I also love the Coco Coco Bath Oil (I use it as a body oil… it’s incredible!)
What a great travel guide – I’ll be saving this one for later!
Christina :: Simple and Delish
Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ll be book marking this for sure.
Can you maybe write a post for what it’s like to travel alone? I’ve done it before, and loved it. But, I wonder if there are people out there, especially women, who are worried about traveling alone – either because of safety or how it looks to travel alone. It would be awesome to know your tips, etc.
I have one in the works! I’ve done one here –> http://thestripe.com/2013/10/life-traveling-alone/ but it doesn’t really address the safety element.
I would love that too! I’m so nervous about traveling alone, I guess the stigma around it mostly and nervous I will feel lonely. All my friends are getting married or are in serious relationships so there is really no one left to travel with. Would love your thoughts on traveling alone.
I’m a reader and I actually lived in Tulum for a while! I moved there by myself. It’s got some petty theft problems but other than that it’s rather safe! Easy to make friends, too.
Oh my gosh, lucky you!!! 🙂
Grace Angel– where is Kitchen Table again?? We have searched and searched! Today is our last day— sitting in the pavilion at PPP having breakfast now. We get one more fab meal here before we hit the shuttle! xox T
It’s in the opposite direction we went when we visited the Coqui Coqui… take a RIGHT out on the main road. The cab driver should know where it is, but if not tell him it is across from Mezzanine. Took me a bit to find it, too!
This is awesome! I went to Riveria Maya last year, but was thinking of going to Tulum this year. You have me sold! It is beautiful!
Do you still fly in/out of Cancun?
Saved this. Definitely looks like a place to literally go MIA from the world. Cut out. Time alone. Or quality time with someone or someones special.
w-o-w, thanks for sharing!
Tulum is so my happy place, too! I blogged a lot about our trip and I concur, your recommendations are all spot on. I think i described doing my makeup as “swipes of mascara by candlelight”. The only thing I can disagree with is that I think it’s just as lovely for a couples retreat. My boyfriend was super into it, and we were there for 8 days!
Oh Tulum! It’s my happy place too. For an truly unique dining experience, next time try Cetli. It is a tiny restaurant in the chef’s home (in town), with food influences from all over Mexico.
Zamas is a great place for breakfast.
For an amazing massage in the jungle, check out Maya Spa!
As for Posada Margarita, I was skeptical about getting Italian in Mexico, but yep… it’s the best.
gahhh! need to plan a trip immediately! thank you for such a well-thought out guide.
oh my! I need to plan a trip!
Tulum…ahhhh it’s my fave! It is growing so quickly now I can’t believe it. Though I still love it with all my heart. On our last trip we went to Posada Margherita – YUM!!! What a perfect lunch view. The juices and pasta were to die for. We stay at the Teetotum on the road to the beach – it’s such a great fun spot. Great mojitos! The Coco Coco scent is my absolute favorite and was my most treasured souvenir from my first trip. I always buy it when I go. P.S. Your pics are beautiful!!!
This place is on a “need to go” basis for me at this point!
This is such an amazing guide! The whole bohemian-free vibe you’ve described sounds exactly like my spring break last year visiting my cousin in her surf shack in Puerto Rico (and completely coincidentally, the UNREAL mexican restaurant across the street from her place was called Tulum and I don’t think I’ll ever find guacamole that good for the rest of my life…despite begging them for the recipe and many attempts at re-creating it! I loved going without all of the little luxuries – we didn’t wear shoes once the entire week, packed almost nothing and our trip was completely spontaneous! This post has made me want to try something like that again, maybe Tulum will be the place!
Thanks for sharing!
Did you travel by yourself? Thinking of booking a solo recharge vacation but as a lady traveling alone want to make sure you felt safe?
Yes, I did!
I have a post about traveling alone coming up tomorrow afternoon BUT I would def recommend Tulum for a solo getaway. Of course you have to be careful, but I felt very safe. 🙂
I LOVE LOVE Tulum! I’ve eaten at all the restaurants you did except Kitchen Table – it’s now on our list, thank you! We stayed at Be Tulum for a few days on our honeymoon, a bit pricey, but super private and romantic. Their ceviche was outstanding! After reading your post, I can’t wait to go back again! Beautiful photos as well! xo
I’ve had Tulum on my list for quite some time – now I want to visit even more! I’m glad I stumbled upon your travel guide 🙂
This was a great article, I loved the photos too. I live in Tulum and own a vegan restaurant here so I really enjoy reading different perspectives on the area.
nice blog xxxx regards from Belgium
Thanks for all the tips on Tulum. We just got back last November and feel in love. We stayed at BeTulum and it was just amazing, yes is very expensive (used points). You must have had an off day with food. We ate there every meal for 5 days and loved every bit of it. We are off in March 2018 to Nomande, but Papaya Playa is on our list. Thanks again
I realize this post is from ages ago but I’m trying anyway – I’m booking a trip to Tulum next month and am very interested in the PPP, BUT I’m wondering if you found it out of the way? It seems that many of the restaurants and other hotels with cool drink/lounge spots are grouped closer together down the beach. Maybe this is a good thing? Maybe it’s annoying at night when you want to walk to dinner?
Any insight would be most helpful!
It is a little further away but it’s not that bad! Taxis are pretty easy to come by.
Thank you for responding! I’m trying to decide between PPP and a place in the main area further south. Wondering if it’s worth it to be walking distance to most of the restaurants/hotels we want to hit or if it’s nice to be a little separated?
AND (sorry i’m blowing up your old post…) I’m wondering if you found the party atmosphere annoying at times? I hear every Saturday night there’s a rager til 3 am. I’m 29 and my S.O. is 30 so we’re not “older” but also not 21-year olds looking to listen to techno all day long… thoughts? I have gone deep on Trip Advisor and am feeling overwhelmed with mixed reviews so would love the advice of someone who has been there! Thanks again!
It was totally fine. I’ve stayed there twice with no issues, If you’re worried, ask for a room at the other side of the resort.
PS – for older posts, email is better than all this back and forth on an old post. [email protected]. thanks.