Scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest just really gives me the travel bug sometimes but one place in particular really stood out to me amongst the rest, Tulum. If you've seen pictures of sunny white sand beaches with clear water, Bohemian styled boutique hotels, bright blue cave Cenotes, or endless guacamole and margaritas...chances are that place in Tulum. Tulum is definitely as great as the gram makes it seem. After spending a long weekend in Tulum, I have the ultimate guide on where to stay, what to eat, and where to go.
Where to stay:
La Valise is a new boutique hotel that just opened in December 2017 but it is definitely becoming the top runner amongst all of the other 5 star hotels nestled on the beach. This little paradise was once a beachfront mansion and has now been revamped into an eclectic bungalow boutique hotel. Every one of the nine rooms has a special boho-chic style that is practically photogenic in every area.
This hotel not only has amazing beach front rooms with a unique aesthetic but a staff that feels like a second family. It is located in a more isolated part of Tulum where you are a short walking distance from all of the shops and restaurants but have just enough seclusion where you basically have your own private beach. We had our own little hut which included a king size bed, an outdoor shower (showering under the stars is highly recommended), a private bathroom, air conditioning, and all of the furniture is handcrafted artisan items bought from places around Tulum.
As soon as we arrived to La Valise, we were greeted with margaritas and immediately felt right at home. I was itching to get into the sun so we immediately changed into our bathing suits and relaxed.
Where to Eat:
Located right across from La Valise, NU fully exceeded my foodie expectations. Honestly, I never knew that the best food I ever had in my entire life would be in Tulum. The staff was incredibly friendly and the restauraunt gave off a romantic jungle vibe with its warm candelit glow and its firewood smell floating in the air. We started our dinners with drinks (I ordered the Mexican Mule while Roberto ordered a whiskey cocktail) and appetizers. The bread of course was great with several dipping options (my favorite was the brown sugar cinnamon butter) and the mouth watering pork belly tacos were hands down the best thing I have ever tasted! We then got our mains-- I ordered a pasta and Roberto got a beef (I can still taste it!). And then the grand finale... dessert. We absolutely fell in love with the Mango Creme Tarte. You could tell the chefs really paid close attention to detail with every exquisite meal that was prepared.
I am not vegan but this place has some of the best dishes and smoothies I've ever had (and I live in the vegan land, LA). I of course went for a Berry Love Smoothie Bowl which had fresh berries, acai, crispy sweet almonds, coconut flakes, and pistachios drizzeled on top. While Roberto got the Maki Rolls that were filled with fresh veggies. I promise if you aren't health enthusiast this place will definitely satisfy your tastebuds. And what's even better is you leave feeling light and not super weighed down (which is great when you are probably in a bathing suit all day and need to leave room for tacos!).
Gitano is the place to be before you start your night out under the stars. They are known for the Mezcal bar which offers refreshing unique cocktails like one of my favorites was "Kisses In The Car" which has mezcal, passion fruit, tangerine, and haberno and Roberto's favorite was the "Jungle Fever" which included mezcal, chili, lime, and cilantro. And let me tell you... the appetizers are crazy good. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach which means we kept ordering one appetizer after another. We tried everything from the fish tacos to the tostadas, fire roasted caulliflower, and more. Almost every place in Tulum is decked out in bohemian decor but this place in particular is the perfect dinner spot for photos.
Everyone in Tulum seemed to boast about this place daily so we knew we had to check this place out before we went home and we were not dissapointed. As soon as you walk in you are met with giant windows that look over the bright blue ocean, lovely boho decor, and a friendly staff. Roberto and I was starving and wanted to order every carb on the menu. Rumour has it that Casa Violeta has some of the "best pizza in the world" so yep of course I ordered that! On one of our last days it was second nature to order the guacemole as an appetizer for every meal (I basically turned into a giant avocado) and Roberto ordered the brussell sprouts (which were amazing too!). Finally, the brick oven roasted margarita pizza was probably the best margarita pizza I have ever tasted. I think my picture below should give you a little insight to how amazing it was.
You have to start your day off with Matcha Mama. Once again, if you are not a health nut/vegan you will not be disappointed. Not only is it the perfect spot to post a pic for the gram swinging on their white swings or posted up next to the Matcha Mama surfboard, you will be head over heels in love with their refreshing smoothie bowls, juice shots (try the Gin Gin shot, it has: cayenne pepper, ginger, turmeric, honey and lemon), and of course the hot matcha green tea with coconut milk.
Where to play:
Okay, well this one is a given. If you are looking for a little R&R and need to take a break from the nightlife or just want that real peaceful vacation time I would definitely recommend the La Valise beach. We had our own cabana bed (that felt like an actual cloud) and snacks at our side at all times.
During our stay the Papaya Playa Project was hosting a Full Moon Party so of course we had to stop by. Full moon parties are "quite the rage" in Tulum and if you were planning a trip over I would aim to visit on a full moon. The night was comprised of house music by some of the best DJ's, tequila cocktails, and dancing under the moonlit sun. Later in the night we were told of a "secret" party at one of the cenotes so we snuck over for more music.
It's no secret that Tulum has some of the best places in the world to unwind with yoga. I met several people who quit their jobs and moved to Tulum to teach yoga or simply become immersed in the culture. I was so bummed I didn't get the chance to try it but word on the block said these are some the best places to do yoga "Sanará Tulum, Yaan Wellness Energy Healing Spa, and Shambala (which sits right on the water, how much more relaxing can you get?)
If the amazing food wasn't in the picture this would be my favorite thing to do in Tulum! Cenotes are beautiful fresh water systems that are cooler than the sea, are crystal clear shallow waters, and a great place to start snorkeling if you're a newbie. I would highly recommened checking them out during your time in Tulum. I might also add that it's better to arrive sooner than later to miss the crowds. These are my top places to visit:
Roberto and I arrived here midday and did not have to fight a big crowd. This spot is popular for its cave tavern and limestone formations. If you are a big snorkeler this is a place to be!
2. Gran Cenote
This Cenote is definitely one of the most popular (you've probably seen it a lot on the gram). What is unique about this place is the shallow sand and little turtles that roam around.
3. Casa Cenote
If you are looking for a little more sun and a lot less cave I would recommend this one. It is basically a natural pool with a lot of fish and mangroves. If you are lucky you will see the little alligator sunbathing on rocks near the end of the cenote.
Tulum has a strip along the beach that is full of boutiques and unique shops. I managed to lose two pairs of sandals on our trip so of course I had to get my hands on some local hand crafted sandals. Not to mention all of the jewelry was handmade and created with intricate details. Roberto and I's biggest regret from the trip is not going home with an elaborate bright blue large artwork for our home. They always say nothing haunts you more than the things you didn't buy... Another plus on the local shops is that they are open late throughout the night so while you're out for dinner and drinks, you can always pop in for a mini shopping spree.
History and Instagram enthusiasts unite at Playa Ruinas, Tulum’s most iconic attraction. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sites in the Americas, the beach combines white sand and azure waters with Mayan ruins dating to the 13th century. Tulum’s clifftop Castillo, originally built as a watchtower, is currently Mexico’s third-most popular archaeological site after Teotihuacan and Chichén Itzá.
If you are an adrenaline junky you have to check out the zip lines and ATV's. This was another activity on my to-do list that we had yet to get to but I only heard great things about the zip lines and ATV's. I mean, who wouldn't want to fly through the jungle or race your friends and family on an ATV?
How To Travel:
I have to pointers that will make your life a whole lot easier during your stay in Tulum:
1. Rent a car. It is about an hour and a half from the airport to Tulum and it is a lot cheaper to rent your car each day than to Taxi especially if you are considering doing a lot of the activities mentioned above. However, if you are considering lounging at your hotel during your whole stay a Taxi may be a better fit.
2. Bike everywhere! One thing I REALLY loved about Tulum is how everyone is always active outside riding bikes. We would use the bikes to go from restaurant to boutique and it just made life a whole lot easier.