Sometimes you go on a trip that truly changes your perspective.
It was just about a month ago that I returned from gorgeous Tulum, and I still feel so refreshed and filled with gratitude. Before I left, I had been having a pretty stressful week, and I felt quite demotivated, angry and sad about various situations and circumstances. Despite the frustrations in this crazy concoction called life, it was wonderful to get a chance to remember that there is still peace, joy and happiness to witness and experience. Simple things, but often so difficult to digest. I am thankful I was able to go on this adventure and recognize it.
Dear Tulum; the sleepy beach town on the Caribbean coast of Mexico; where the jungle is dense and the beach is extraordinary; where it gets so dark that you can point out the North Star.
Positive vibes were felt all around. I woke up to the sun streaming through the thatched roof of my quaint hotel room and the sounds of nature - birds chirping in tune to a familiar song, trees swaying in the wind, waves crashing against the sand. I read a book in a hammock as I breathed in the morning air; I ate fresh fruit and drank freshly-squeezed juice everyday. I rode my bicycle down an unforgettable path as the breeze swept over my face. I learned to paddle board in the calmest waters. These little things reminded me of Saturday mornings in my youth. Ah, to be carefree again.
How to Get There
Flights into Cancun from Chicago are as low as $225, and Tulum is a 90 minute drive south on highway 307. You could either take a shuttle down (and arrange for round trip travel) or rent a car. We originally thought of renting a car, but we got intimidated by the insurance problem. In Tulum itself, there are plenty of bikes and taxis to get around.
NEST Tulum: Tucked way down on Tulum's jungle road is NEST, a charming, relaxed boutique hotel that feels like the quaintest beachside home. It's difficult to even call it a hotel - more like a group of private chateaus connected by a sandy pathway. I loved the rustic decor, the beautiful location, the generous happy hour with your fill of wine, beer and mezcal, but their biggest selling point is absolutely the STAFF. They were so welcoming, attentive, non-judgmental (we were cray!) and just plain nice! I highly recommend a stay here, and when I return, this will be my first choice.
Hartwood: We were lucky to snag a reservation for 15 at world-famous Hartwood. The atmosphere - like many Tulum restaurants - was welcoming and romantic with the calming candle-lit glow. Its reputation is not for nothing - my food was delish! If you can't make a reservation, arrive before 6pm and put your name on the list. It's always busy.
Safari: I fell in love with tacos at this spot. So delicious. The open air space overlooks an airstream kitchen with an open fire pit. We also tried so local beers and hibiscus cocktails.
La Eufemia: Then I went to La Eufemia. Best fucking tacos!...at least that's what the welcome sign says, and they're not lying. Set on the beach, this eclectic spot is pretty popular. Their steak tacos are bombbbbb and at only 35 pesos a taco, you can have your fill until you can't eat any more.
La Popular @ Nomade: This restaurant on the beach has the best grilled fish on the south end of Tulum. End of story. Pssst, ask for their spicy sauce.
Wild: This restaurant is very new to the Tulum scene, opening its doors just this past December. Just across from La Popular, it was a bit easy to miss because it was pretty dark. Good ambiance, good food, excellent company!
Mateo's: We stopped by Mateo's on our way to Papaya Playa for some roadside tacos. They were fantastic, though after our experience at Eufemia's, it did not quite reach the standard. They were also on the expensive side. I did enjoy the experience of seeing them made and eating at the "food truck".
We had vague plans to do some traditional sightseeing, including visiting cenotes and driving to Chichen Itza. But I think we did just enough to maximize our fun, and not over-expend our energies on tourist-filled tours. This is a list of things we did during our short stay in Tulum.
Tulum Mayan Ruins -- The only Mayan city that was built on the coast. Beautiful grounds and fantastic beach.
Cenote Encantado -- This was a beautiful, expansive cenote! We met the lovely Javier who taught me how to paddle board and spoke to us about the importance of love, being good, living your life without anger and regret...and told us about La Eufemia!
Tankah Park - Time for an adventure! Swim, Dive, Hike and Zipline!
Yaan Wellness Spa -- The spa is expensive but you can also get good 2-hour massages along the beach for a great price. Sounds heavenly, doesn't it?
Bicycling -- NEST provided free bikes, and we took full advantage!
I-Scream Bar -- It was definitely not your typical ice cream cafe. They sold organic ice cream made fresh everyday, and my favorite flavor (coconut) sold out every time. They also had alcoholic ice cream and other drinks, the best tunes on Tulum road and Mary Jane made the occasional appearance. We had a street party, and met folks from as far off as Switzerland.
Papaya Playa -- A resort that hosts the biggest beach party every Saturday night! We did not RSVP in advance so we actually had to linger outside for a bit. It was a good time, and if I was not too tired, I would have had more fun.
Tulum Centro: We went into town to go shopping. Next time I visit, I will incorporate more time in the town. You get a chance to interact with locals more authentically, food and drinks are cheaper and you can actually practice your Spanish.
Have you been to Tulum? Any recommendations missing from this list? I am dying to know!