I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “magical” to describe a vacation before. Relaxing, beautiful, luxurious…all words in my travel repertoire. But magical? I think I was subconsciously saving that for Tulum.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Mexico with eight of my best bitches to celebrate my upcoming nuptials over lots and lots of Mezcal and sunshine. It feels like Tulum has blown up on social recently, as I see more and more of my fellow bloggers posting that all-too-familiar hammock-on-a-beach pic. I knew that I wanted a relaxing trip with great food, beautiful beaches, and a sense of peace, and all signs seemed to point to Tulum.
There is no shortage of beautiful, eco-friendly lodging lining the sandy beaches of Tulum. We opted for a long weekend at Zamas after reading rave reviews online, and we couldn’t have made a better choice. Our massive house, surrounded by palm trees and hammocks, was across the small street from the ocean and a short walk to the restaurant. The staff was so friendly, offering us extra keys and wheelbarrow-ing our oversized suitcases down the sandy road to our house.
Casa Laura (also bookable on AirBnB) was equipped with a full kitchen, a large common area, and several outdoor balconies with seating, safe drinking water in each bathroom, mosquito netting on each bed, and an awesome outdoor patio with a large communal table. This was the perfect spot for our large group.
We’ll get more into their breakfast under “Eat,” but a huge win for me was the delicious and cheap morning meal we had each day looking out on the ocean. Fresh smoothies and juices daily, a staff full of smiles, ocean breezes, and a relaxed vibe is waiting for you at Zamas. You really can’t beat this place.
Where Zamas was rustic chic, Jashita was high luxury. Our massive, air conditioned (!!) room had its own plunge pool on the balcony, and our heads were on a swivel for our entire stay. From infinity pool to private beach to dual rooftops for optimal sunset viewing, we couldn’t sit still.
The staff was incredibly attentive, constantly asking us if we wanted re-fills, giving us fresh towels, and asking if there was anything we needed. We met the owner of the restaurant who was so friendly that by the end of the trip, we were hugging goodbye. I felt like I belonged there, and I was devastated to leave.
If I were to bring my parents to Tulum and have them experience the area without the non-flushable toilets (see tips and tricks), mosquitos, and no AC, I would encourage them to stay at Jashita, where luxury is of prime focus. It may be slightly farther from the heart of Tulum, but the peace you find in its solidarity is optimal.
If you Google “best food in Tulum,” you’ll find Hartwood on the top of your list. It’s known for it’s farm-to-table Mexican fare and New York City wait times, so if you’re a foodie you’ll want to make this happen. The open-air, under-the-stars (or for us, rain) restaurant only takes reservations for large groups, so we were lucky enough to secure a spot for nine. The corn and cheese ice creams are not to be missed.
Italian, in Mexico. Weird right? Wrong, it’s the best decision you can make during your time in Tulum. This restaurant churned out the best coastal Italian pasta I’ve had, and was my favorite meal during our stay. I kept forgetting if I was in Cinque Terre or Mexico, and I loved every minute of it. Leave yourself some time to explore the little boutique full of trinkets and textiles.
This is another beautiful open-air restaurant situated in the jungle, with a perfect oversized table for large groups. We had amazing fresh fish and ceviche here—just note that the portions are massive, and you need to have patience with the very slow wait staff. See “party” for more details on this venue.
Any taco shack on a beach with a Wi-Fi password of “fucking tacos” is a winner in my book. When the weather became overcast, we headed to this gem of a dive on the beach and snacked on some cheap but amazing fried fish tacos, appreciating the soundtrack and the hip locale.
We found Safari completely by accident on our walk home from the beach, beckoned in by palm tree wall art, a backyard kitchen in a metal camper, and the smell of roasting garlic on an open fire. Tacos were cheap and the best on our trip, and we had many rounds of local, crisp beer while we waited for the torrential rain to stop. The bathroom situation was a little questionable—a quasi-outhouse deep in the backyard—but we’re hoping that’s temporary. The beers made us forget anything but the kick-ass tacos.
Zamas serves a breakfast fit for a queen. Or, in our case, nine girls hungover from Mezcal in dire need of green juice and sustenance. We did breakfast right each morning thanks to our humble abode, with standouts like the huevos rancheros, avocado toast, Mexican scrambled eggs, and juices and smoothies in every color. Did I mention our meal was insanely cheap? They even had soy espresso drinks, which was a pleasant surprise.
Amansala has both a tasty, traditional breakfast buffet and an ala carte menu, and both hit the spot. We loved that they had lattes, coconuts, and an amazing iced coffee frozen drink that we couldn’t get enough of.
As a guest, this multi-course breakfast is included in your room rate, and we took full advantage of the beautiful indoor/outdoor dining room during our stay. From huevos rancheros and yogurt to fresh juices and pastries, we loved the selections for our meal at Jashita.
After a very long dinner, we ventured to the back of the restaurant, which turned into a quasi-nightclub under the stars with an interesting assortment of DJs and Tulum partygoers. To paint a picture, our DJ was wearing a bathrobe as his spinning attire. There was a bonfire out back even deeper into the jungle for the more low-key set, and we enjoyed a few beats before calling it a night.
This was our favorite night, and not just because of the disco ball suspended from palm trees. We had one-too-many Mezcal mules while we waited for the music to pick up and took in the beautiful surroundings. The party didn’t start until midnight and by then we had been out for hours, so we didn’t stay long to see how busy it would get, but we loved the relaxed beach club vibe, and that the music wasn’t just electric beats.
Papaya Playa Project
This place is on another page from Tulum. It’s a beach complex for partygoers, with tables carved out into the beachside, a dance floor with club lights, and multiple bars. The music was a little trippy for me and there were a lot of partiers flying solo who were having a great time, if you know what I mean. Cool to check out, but we were ready to go after a drink.
The beautiful sand beaches decorated with hammocks, bean bag lounges, and taco stands are plentiful, leaving you plenty to do if you are feeling lazy. If you’re going to mobilize, I highly recommend you plan on the below.
Sup Yoga Tulum
This was hands down the best part of our trip. We were picked up at our hotel and driven 15 minutes to a private lagoon just for our paddleboard class, where we met Nancy, the energizing owner of Sup Yoga who, along with our yoga instructor Caroline, made our experience so wonderful. Not only were we able to use the paddle boards to explore the protected lagoon on our own, we had an hour private yoga class in the most beautiful setting imaginable, which included a photographer, vegan snacks and fresh juices after, and curbside service. I was so relaxed and energized after our day with Sup Yoga! This will make your trip completely memorable.
Private Yoga at Amansala
Unfortunately, my shots the night prior put me in shavasana the entire class, but not before getting a tarot card reading and taking in the beautiful setting of our private yoga overlooking the ocean. The teacher was lovely, the space was relaxing, and we loved the beach and food so much we decided to stay all day! Plus, they have two adorable community yellow labs who will keep you company while you’re getting your tan on after your session.
Most of the hotels on the “strip” have lovely boutiques on the property with expensive textiles and local goods you won’t be able to resist. We spent a ton of time walking the streets and stopping for cervezas and various shops selling dreamcatchers. It’s that kind of place. I can’t steer you to just one shop because Tulum is the perfect place for meandering and “window” shopping…in shops without windows.
Tips and Tricks
Tulum is magical because of its laid back environment, its beauty, and its people. This is maintained thanks to a predominantly solar-fueled space, meaning no air conditioning, a unique bathroom situation, and minimal hairdryers. We may have left with a lot of bug bites, but I’ve never unwinded so fast in my life on a vacation.
That being said, don’t go to Tulum with your wannabe hipster friend who can’t embrace a night out with air-dried hair or a beautiful hotel that may rely on fans. It’s the way of the world down there, and it’s what makes Tulum so cool.