This winter in Canada has been brutal. So many snowfalls and deep freeze records have been broken. When my friend asked if I wanted to escape and head to Tulum for a long weekend, I responded with an emphatic Yes!
I was so excited as my last trip to Mexico was back in university. Besides palm trees, ocean breeze and taking advantage of ladies night promotions, my recollection of Mexico is a blur.
This time I had a different agenda which included: chilling on the beach, going to yoga classes, swimming in a cenote, eating a taco or two and smoothieing my heart out.
Tulum is known for its clear blue water, chalk white beaches, cool cenotes, eco-friendly resorts and top-notch restaurants. It radiates a bohemian, laid-back, tropical vibe. A small town located on Mexican’s Carribean coast, in the state of Quintana Roo. Here’s your guide to plan a long weekend trip.
How to Get There
There are no direct flights to Tulum. The closest airport is Cancun. You will then have to rent a car, take a private shuttle or bus to Tulum. Here’s a great article on how to get to Tulum. Time to get to your Tulum hotel w/Private Shuttle: approximately 90 min. Time to get to your Tulum hotel w/bus (ADO): approximately 135 minutes to reach to downtown Tulum. One way ticket is 242 pesos. If you are staying at the beach resorts, factor in another 15-20 minutes as you’ll need to grab a taxi (approx. 150 pesos) from the bus station to the hotel.
What to Do
From the historical site to seaside activities, there is something for everyone.
FOR WATER LOVERS:
Swim or snorkel in cenotes – Cenotes are natural swimming holes formed from collapsed limestone bedrocks that are usually fully exposed or with a semi-opening. There are more than 6000 underground caves exposing fresh groundwater underneath where you can find colorful marine life in the Yucatan. The main ones are the Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos.
How to explore them: On your own by purchasing entrance ticket for a few pesos or join a tour. It is easy to get to the Gran Cenote in Tulum, so my friend and I opted to take a cab, approx. $150 – $200 pesos (one-way, as of 2018) from Tulum Beach area to the Gran Cenote (roughly around 15 minutes) and then paid the entrance fee and explored it on our own. We saw a turtle, flying bats and tiny fishes. The con to doing it on your own is if you don’t have a waterproof camera, you and your friend will have to take turns to be the explorer and the photographer if you want to capture your experience.
Other things to note:
- Bring a towel and a change of clothes;
- There are restrooms, lockers and changing rooms;
- You do not necessarily need to know how to swim;
- You will be asked to rinse off or wear biodegradable sunscreen; before you enter the cenote water to protect the marine life.
For a more in-depth guide to the best cenotes in Mexico, here is a great article.
Kitesurfing – There are plenty of kitesurfing shacks along the beach for those who enjoy and want to try this activity.
Scuba Dive: Just off the coast and at some cenotes, there are some wonderful diving sites for novice or an experienced diver.
Take a day trip to Akumal – Less than an hour from Tulum. You can visit the Monkey Sanctuary or swim with large sea turtles. I wanted to do this when I was in Tulum, but I missed it due to a misunderstanding.
My concierge was telling me – in February it wasn’t sea turtle season and I wouldn’t be able to see any. I’m not sure why I didn’t press further or did more research. I just thought to myself, there was no point to go.
Looking back I think what she meant to say was: It wasn’t turtle nesting season (which typically happens from May to October) but turtle swimming is all year round. C’est la vie! I will go next time I’m in Tulum. For now, here is a great article guide to how to see the turtles on your own.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS:
Visit the Tulum Ruins – The Mayan ruins date back to the thirteenth century. It is settled on high cliffs along the Caribbean Sea and a short distance from Tulum town. Depending on where you are staying in Tulum, a cab ride to the ruins can cost between $100- $200 pesos. By bike, it is an easy ride and you can expect it to take about 20-30 minutes.
Tip: Go early! We arrived around 9am. It started to get crowded when we were leaving by 10am. They only accept cash at the entrance fee, so bring your pesos.
If you have time go to the Coba Ruins. This is where you can climb ‘El Castillo’ and enjoy the views. There are tours that take you to the ruins and visiting cenotes nearby. Coba Ruins is about 45 minutes by car from Tulum.
FOR RELAXATION JUNKIE:
Yaan Spa – A heavenly spa to relax and be pampered, with great treatments and massages available and temazcal ceremonies. Sweat out your toxins in this traditional purification and healing ceremony inside a steamy, dome-shaped hut.
Stroll along the beach and explore other hotels – All of the beachfront hotels are connected so you are able to walk for miles. One of my favorite is Casa Malca, Pablo Escobar’s hacienda now re-designed into an art boutique hotel.
Yoga and Sacred Healing Workshops – check if your hotel offers these activities in Tulum. We stayed at the Nomade and these were included in our stay to experience. It was fantastic to do yoga in the morning and in the evening to join activities such as full-moon ceremony and Cacao ceremony. Outside of the hotel, there are several places that offer yoga classes in Tulum along the beach area. Often times, you can also join the activity at the hotels for a nominal fee.
FOR PARTY GOERS
Party at Papaya Playa Project – A great beach club for anyone looking to party on the beach.
Where to Stay
If you are doing Tulum on a budget, stay in Tulum town a.k.a. Tulum centro. It is located right off the Highway 307 and is the first part of Tulum you will see when you first arrive. This is the original area of Tulum where you will find banks, shops, cafes and the small nightlife district closer to where all the locals go. Things here will be friendlier on your wallet but you will have to take a cab or rent a bike to get to the beach every day.
The more touristy area of Tulum is known as the Tulum Beach. It is about 15 minutes away from centro on very long dirt road. This is where you’ll find several upmarket spas, hotels, and restaurants along the beautiful white sand Caribbean beach. If you are looking to relax and unwind, I would suggest staying along Tulum beach with beachfront cabanas.
We stayed at Nomade Tulum for 3 nights and the facilities were fantastic. It had a gorgeous beach front and every day there was free yoga and activities at night. And one night at Coco Tulum. Nomade is often pricey but we booked about 3 months ahead and got a really good deal that was the same price as Coco Tulum. Between the two I would say Coco Tulum does not compare to Nomade. For about the same price service at Nomade was way better, there were free activities and breakfast was included every day. At Coco Tulum, the room was very basic and everything else was an add on.
Where to Eat and Drink
Posada Margherita – This place is super duper cute! It’s as if Anthropologie was a restaurant overlooking the beach with its own boutique store up front. It’s warm, rustic and intimate. It has fresh seafood and great pasta. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Raw Love – Located inside Ahau Hotel. Think yummy organic raw food and smoothie bowls.
Gitano – It’s an attractive restaurant, mezcal bar, a dance floor with live DJ or live music with delicious drinks and decent food. A place where you can spend the whole night.
Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar – This place serves mojitos with freshly crushed sugar cane juice out of a converted VW Beetle. Great atmosphere with a mixture of locals and tourists. Come here for a drink and catch some live music most days of the week.
Mateos: This lively and open-air restaurant and bar is known for the best fish tacos in Tulum.
Taqueria La Eufemia – Located on the beachfront, another great place known for top tacos in town!
Hartwood – This is on everyone recommends list for its interesting fusion of Mexican and American dishes made from organic and sustainable food products. However, I didn’t have a chance to dine here as they no longer take reservations. You have to be there at 5:30 pm to queue and put your name on the list but I was either in a workshop or had other dining plans.
Kin-Toh – Located in the famous Azulik eco-resort. Come here for a drink right when the restaurant opens at 5:30pm and explore the place. Cross the hanging bridge to visit the sushi restaurant on the other side. You will be mesmerized by the architecture around you. It is designed as if you are in a tree house, having dinner in your own nests.
Other General Things To Note
- Mexico is a cash-based society. Most places will only accept either pesos or U.S. Dollars are accepted. Upscale hotels and restaurants will take credit card but they will add an additional 2-3% charge.
- Avoid ATM machines that are unmarked as they could be fraud machines. Stick with bank ATMS attached to bank branches.
- Best time to go is from October-December as the weather is still nice but hotel prices are low. Busy/Dry season is from December to April and Rainy/Low season is from June to October
- Climate averages around 30 degrees all year round
- Bring Insect Repellent!
Tell me what other places do you like to escape winter? Share with me below!