Tulum, once known as a dusty town with a few huts on the beach, is now on track to become a trendy beach paradise including design boutique hotels, spas, and yoga hotspots. Tulum is on everyone’s lips: fashion bloggers, indie record labels, and Instagram can’t get enough.
The jewel of the Mexican Caribbean offers spectacular beaches with white, soft-sugar sands and blue/jade-green water. Tulum offers a young and bohemian atmosphere.
Tulum is divided into two areas: the downtown pueblo and the beach. It’s about 2 miles (3 km) from the pueblo to the beach area.
The town center is not much to look at. Sitting right on a busy road with a mix of construction stores, cheap eateries, motels and small grocery stores. And let’s not forget the tourist shops offering ‘real’ Mexican artwork, made in China. It’s not all bad though. The areas behind the main road are quiet, giving it a local town feel with (new) apartments / (rental) houses, and a range of nice bars and restaurants. It’s a good option for those who plan a longer stay in Tulum as the beach area is about 99% hotels only.
The beach area is now known for its chic eco-hotels, +$350USD (+300 euro) a night prices, high levels of service, spa’s & yoga spots, small open-air gourmet restaurants and an ever-increasing food scene. A small road brings you from the Maya ruins in the North until World Heritage site Sian Ka’an, with on both sides small eco-chic hotels and open-air restaurants, tucked away in a semi-tropical forest. It’s exclusive and yet quiet and relaxed.
While renting a car is great if you want to visit some of the cenotes or Maya ruins, renting a bike is part of the charm, and you’ll see people riding bikes everywhere. Taxis are plentiful. They do no use a taxi meter, but prices are fixed and in our experience taxi drivers honest (really).
WHERE TO STAY
Long-term: Only the pueblo offers apartments for rent. We found a nice apartment with two rooms, two bathrooms in the Villas Tulum area. It’s a small quiet neighborhood close to all amenities and a short drive away from the beach and the pueblo. Rental cost (Airbnb): 1000 euro/month, ($1100).
Viento De Mar One of the cheaper hotels on the list, offering good service, beautiful setting, and spacious rooms. Excellent price/quality ratio.
BE Tulum An uber-chic boutique hotel, with 20 suites, all beautifully decorated and including Wi-Fi, air conditioning, room service, and a private pool or Jacuzzi.
The Beach Tulum Upscale boutique eco-hotel with 20 luxury rooms.
Sanara Tulum Spectacular and exclusive, with the trendy restaurant ‘The Real Coconut’ by Daniella Hunter right on the property.
GETTING WORK DONE
While it’s not the perfect destination to get work done (think beach and cocktails), it’s surely a destination to relax, reflect and use that newly gained energy to create something new. It’s a small town, so no co-working spaces to be found.
My favorite beach club quickly turned out to be Be Tulum. A hotel, restaurant and beach club. It’s almost at the end of the beach road, close to the natural reserve Sian Ka’an. They offer a superb setting, great food, and drinks, lounge music (DJ) in the background and a trendy, hip crowd. Highly recommended!
In case Be Tulum is full, head to neighboring beach club Nomade. They charge $15/person which you can use in their beach bar/ restaurant. The beach club itself is nice, the restaurant looks great – just don’t eat there. Trust me on this one.
Paraiso Beach Club. The biggest beach club in Tulum. Beautiful palm tree filled beach and clear water. It’s very busy though and gives me a tourist resort feeling. Stay away from the food.
WHAT TO DO
Although plentiful things to do, keep in mind that Tulum is a small beach town. Except for its amazing beach, Tulum offers Maya ruins, cavern diving, and cenotes. There are however no shopping centers, cinema complexes or McDonald’s. But it’s far from boring, places such as Mezzanine and Papaya Playa Project attract top international DJ’s, while many bars and restaurants play everything from Salsa to live music, lounge and of course… Tequila and Mezcal.
Find a nice apartment/hotel, rent a bike and enjoy Tulum at a slow pace. It’s not the destination to get a lot of business done, but it’s the perfect getaway. The only danger is that you never want to leave.