Bali of the South. This was the description many gave to me with respect to Tulum. Not going to lie, based on the multiple conversations I had with various individuals who visited here, and on photos I saw on social media, I had very high expectations. Bali is one of my favourite places in the world, so I was certain I would fall in love with Tulum.
And to my surprise I did not love it. In fact, I didn’t understand the hype or the comparison to Bali. BUT I will state that despite my opinion, I would still recommend to anyone to check it out for themselves. I will also share why I feel the way I do about Tulum.
For starters, I am from Barbados. So already I have an extremely high standard for beaches. Very few beaches measure up with my mother land. And as luck would have it, there was so much seaweed that the ocean looked brown and unappealing. I didn’t have any desire to go for a swim.
Secondly, I went to Tulum during low season. While it was perfect for cost and lack of crowds, many of the places were under renovations. We couldn’t go to some of the places I had on my list including Case Malca, or Azulik for yoga, both to my great disappointment. Additionally, downtown Tulum smelt like sewage when we were there, so my stomach was constantly queezy while walking along the strip. And to add to all of this, I got really sick the last few days there that I didn’t want to leave my bed. This, in hind site, is my fault. I got cocky thinking I’m from the islands and have always had an iron stomach when it comes to eating fruits and veggies down South so I cheekily ate it everywhere I went, including ice and sliced lemon in my drinks. Oops! And I also brushed my teeth with tap water. I do not recommend doing this.
Aside from all the above, I did actually have a great time and I do have lots of great recommendations should you decide to take a trip to Tulum. In fact, you should go! You may have a completely different experience than I had.
Where to Stay
Tulum is known for a variety of jungle luxury hotels such as Azulik, Be Tulum, Nomade and so forth. But the availability and price tag, especially during high season, may be a bit on the expensive side.
More affordable options off the strip are available. We stayed at Los Amigos Tulum, which is 20 minutes from downtown Tulum ($10-15USD cab ride away). I absolutely loved this accommodation and highly recommend it to anyone considering a trip here.
Central Park Tulum, part of Los Amigos, is an eco chic property that brings with it state of the art technology in renewable energy.
With amenities that include several pools, a 3 story gym with a rock climbing wall, a spa with water therapies and access to the Los Amigos Beach Club, it makes for the perfect stay for couples, families or even solo travellers. And the glass pool may or may not have enticed me to book this place. Oh and booking because of the 3 story gym goes without saying.
I spent as much time as possible enjoying the refreshing feel of the pool at Central Park after a workout steps away at Los Amigos Gym.
I had the pleasure of experiencing the water therapies at Leaf Luxury Spa while doing a photoshoot for Central Park Tulum. Even if not staying at this property, I recommend checking out their spa.
For more information on Leaf Luxury Spa, check out the link below:
For more information on Central Park Tulum, please check out their website:
Where to eat
1. Casa Jaguar
This bohemian chic restaurant came highly recommended. The ambiance certainly was that of a whimsical romantic one. The food was good but expensive, and sadly the staff and service don’t measure up.
We had a bit of an unpleasant encounter with the manager who yelled at me for taking photos. We almost left the restaurant but the atmosphere made it all worth it. Despite our slightly negative encounter here, I still recommend checking out Casa Jaguar.
Photos depicting examples of some of the appetizers we ordered
This ever popular eco chic hotel has restaurants with “nests” so you can feel one with nature in the “jungles”. Also on the expensive side, but totally worth it for that magical jungle vibe. And the staff here are also super friendly and accommodating.
I recommend going here for a smoothie at least and if you have time, take them up on their offer for a tour and snag some photos. And if you can, aim for a sunset dinner to compliment the Tulum experience.
3. Matcha Mamma
They had me at smoothie bowls. I am a sucker so even though it was approx $15USD for one, sitting on the swings and enjoying one in over 30C weather after a workout was perfection.
One of the other reasons I had for visiting Matcha Mamma is an Instagram friend (also called Jess) left me a note hidden under a rock a couple days before I got to Tulum, so I was keen to go there to find it. Instagram is such a powerful tool for connecting so many of us, and one of the main reasons I love it!
4. Coco Tulum
As a minimalists’ dream, this beach front hotel also has an Insta worthy beach bar. We grabbed smoothies here (clearly there’s a pattern to my meal selection) while sitting on the swings and watching people shower on the beach through a sea shell. Go there and you will know what I mean.
5. Los Amigos Beach Club
As a guest of Los Amigos, we had access to this beach front club. It came equipped with cabanas, private beach access and a restaurant on the beach. We were able to enjoy an affordable healthy meal by the beach.
What to Do
While Tulum is basically a stretch along the beach coast filled with hotels and restaurants, there is more to do than eating and sunbathing.
1. Walk or bike along downtown Tulum strip
We walked from our hotel to the strip (almost 2 hours as there is no direct access, and we got lost while going down some deserted street), but we also walked down the strip which is about an hour in length. It’s a great way to get in some physical activity while taking the time to stumble on Tulum’s hidden treasures.
There are various hotels, restaurants and shops along the way, so you can stop off for breaks.
2. Tulum Jungle Gym
This was a massive bucket list for me. If you love weight lifting then this gym is up your alley. I actually booked the gym for private access so I can have a photoshoot and watch the sunrise.
A day pass is $25USD so I would suggest you grab a buddy and go throw down to some wooden weights bare foot while inhaling the salt air and sand between your toes.
3. Exploring outside Tulum
Tulum is very small and you really don’t need more than a few days to explore it (unless you want to go to every major restaurant and hotel). I would suggest exploring other parts of Mexico- there is so much to see and do. This is my second time here but there were a few major items I still wanted to check off my list.
i. Cenote Suytun
There are tons of cenotes in Mexico but based on the photos I saw, this was the one I really wanted to visit. We hired a driver for the day to take us to a few places, You could easily rent a car and drive, but given the convenience and reducing the risk of getting lost, we went the driver route.
It cost approx $7USD to enter and there are 2 sections- one where you can swim and the other featured below. I couldn’t get my camera setting to properly work, so trust me when I say photos don’t do this place justice. It was simply magical! If you are on Instagram, be sure to check out my Tulum story highlights for more on this place (@scrubs2sweats).
ii. Chichen Itza Pyramids
This is one of the wonders of the world so naturally was a must see for me. Our driver got us there minutes to 8am, just as they opened. This is key if you want to snag some crowd free photos. It costs approx $25USD to enter. You can do guided tours there if you wish. It is also about half hour away from Cenote Suytun so you can do them both together in half a day, pending how much time you wish to spend at each.
Valladolid is a little colonial town near Cenote Suytun. It reminded me of both Curacao and Colombia with the vibrant doors, cobble stones and small town charm. It may be the perfect spot to have lunch and explore, pending how much time you have.
Some additional places I wanted to visit but didn’t get to include the following:
- Casa Malca for a meal- they were unfortunately under renovations
- Massage at Sanatra hotel or any of the other well known holistic spas
- Yoga in the dome of Azulik – they were unfortunately under renovations
- Day trip to Los Colorados – the pink lake
- Tulum ruins
- other cenotes such as Gran Cenote , Choo-Ha
Thank you for taking the time to read my Tulum travel guide. If you do manage to visit, I hope this gives you some ideas and that you have an amazing time.
Please be sure to follow me on Instagram @scrubs2sweats for more never before seen photos in the coming weeks, and as mentioned above, there are videos in my story highlights showcasing Tulum.