Aside from its picturesque coastline, palm tree-lined streets and luminous sunshine, there’s more reason to fall in love with Tulum upon the first visit – it emanates a tangible energy which you can feel. Perhaps attributed to the perpetually flowing water which runs from the network of underground cenotes, this region of the Yucatan peninsula has long been described as an energy vortex (a place of high-energy field) and after visiting, you’ll be conscious of how at ease and centred you feel.
Spend your days exploring Mayan ruins, meandering through the town, practising yoga, eating your fill of tacos, making friends with the eclectic and interwoven tribe which Tulum attracts and of course, discovering the awe-inspiring cenotes (sinkholes) which make this ancient land so sacred. Here’s our tried and tested guide to Tulum and how to experience all of the above…
Originally conceived as a burning man camp, founders Eduardo and Kfir are well-versed in production and hospitality and were encouraged to open Habitas Tulum after a successful pop-up at the well-established boutique hotel Nomade. Designed with respect for the land it occupies, the only permanent structure is a central pavilion made of concrete and metal beams, with palms trees still running through it. Rooms are comprised of raised tents and for those who wish to wake up to the sound of crashing waves, there are ocean-front abodes. Inclusive, inspiring and fun, Habitas encourages guests to become part of their community, which is why all wellness activities are free if you’re a guest of the hotel. These include Mayan calendar readings, daily yoga and mandala workshops. A must-try is the Toh Circle, a traditional clay bath which involves massaging mineral-rich clay into your skin (for your face, it is mixed with local honey) and meditating on the shore before washing it all off in the Caribbean sea. You’ll be left feeling refreshed and energised with glowing skin to boot.
Casa de las Olas
Amongst many eco-friendly resorts in Tulum, this family-run hotel in Mexico’s only LEED-Platinum-certified building stands out for truly practising what it preaches. It has a negative footprint, meaning its ecological impact on the area leaves it in a better state than before it existed. Tucked away from the main party strip at the edge of the Sian Ka’an reserve, it is 100% solar powered, there is no air-con, hairdryers are not allowed and showers use rain-collected water.
Proving that good things come in small packages, this 9-room hotel feels more like a beachside retreat. The beachside bar with a family table (sourced from local artisans, like much of the furniture here) provides a shady spot which is perfect for catching up with emails or getting a bit of work done if you’re not planning on going fully out of office during your trip. The private beach with beds and blankets is an ideal spot to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.
If you’re not afraid of a serious sweat in the sunshine, visit Jungle Gym for a core-crunching workout. Class themes vary from boxing to boot camp-style and circuits and are one hour long.
Try an afternoon yoga class followed by a lunch of fish tacos and guacamole at their grill restaurant. Ahau also hosts a ‘sacred knowledge’ series, essential oil workshops and the only ‘by loving donation’ yoga class in Tulum, which is held once a week and geared at locals.
Be sure to bring your camera because after an invigorating class here you’ll want to get some photos of this beautiful seafront yoga studio. There’s no need to venture far for breakfast afterwards either, as The Real Coconut is just a few steps away and serves a drool-worthy gluten, grain and dairy-free menu which is as inventive as it is healthy! Try the warm plantain bread served with whipped honey, almond butter and blueberry chia jam.
Somewhat of an institute in Tulum, the friendly staff and generous mix of classes are what makes this modest-looking studio worth visiting. It’s basic but charming and there’s something for everyone no matter your level of experience.
This is the spot to recompense for one too many tequilas the night before. Smoothie bowls, immunity-boosting shots and superfood lattes are the order of the day at this jungle cafe complete with hammock seating. If it’s an ample helping of greens you’re after, go for the Green Goddess Bowl with spinach, moringa, spirulina, banana, pineapple, ginger, coconut milk and passionfruit, topped with homemade granola, fresh fruit, chia and goji berries. The Healthy Belly Bowl with papaya, ginger, turmeric, passionfruit, banana and coconut will have you glowing afterwards too.
You’ve probably heard that Hartwood is the go-to dining spot in Tulum; it’s been around for a long time and has built up a dedicated fanbase. While it is worth a visit, if you ask me, recently opened Arca has far more of a culinary flair. Headed up by Noma alumni Jose Luis Hinostroza, a self-confessed finger food fanatic, don’t be afraid to discard your cutlery and eat with your hands here. Everything about this place exudes loud, sexy, Mexican flavour – from the incredible food itself to the outdoor jungle kitchen, heady-smelling incense and perfectly crafted cocktails (try the Har Mar Superstar with mezcal, ginger, lemon, local honey and thyme).
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Antojitos is one of the most hyped taco spots in downtown Tulum and for good reason! They’re only open for dinner and always full of locals, so you know you’re getting the real deal. Don’t expect fancy interiors, just plastic chairs and cutlery, tasty, authentic tacos (order the El Pastor and wash it down with some horchata), a dainty little salsa station and a dinner bill so cheap you’ll do a double take.
La Flor de Michoacan
After all that hot sauce you’ll need something to cool down with, so head to La Flor de Michoacan for the best fruit popsicles in town. There are so many flavours it may take you a while to decide, but once you have, sit in the sunshine and enjoy this fresh snack that’s entirely made of fruit.
Make a pit stop at Matchamama at any time of day for a dose of goodness. The roadside shack offers kombucha, fresh juices and smoothies, acai bowls, cold brew milkshakes and of course, really good matcha!
These should be at the top of your list no matter how time restricted you are. Revered by the ancient Mayans for it’s healing properties, the water in these large open water pools is definitely worth experiencing. The best way to visit them is with an organised tour which will take you to several in a day.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere
This majestic area showcases mother nature at her most beautiful. You’ll find thousands of different species of flora and fauna here in both land and sea. There are marshes, mangroves and a barrier reef to explore, just make sure you give yourself enough time to fully make the most of your time at this UNESCO world heritage site.
This historical site draws people from all over the world as the third most visited archaeological site in Mexico. Entering through a small, stony passage, you’ll be surprised by the vastness of what was once the beginnings of this ancient city which inhabited no more than 1,600 people. Temple of the God of the Wind (Templo del Dios del Viento) is one of the most remarkable of the structures, which all vary in size and degree of decay. It sits at a high point of the cliff side and towers over the sea. It’s a dreamy spot to just sit, breathe, and take in the spectacular view.
-While you can pay with debit or credit cards in many places, cash is king in Tulum and you’re more likely to avoid hidden charges from your bank or the current exchange rate if you avoid too many card payments.
-Around 90% of places accept US dollars as well as Mexican pesos, but it works out cheaper if you pay in the regional currency, so be sure to change up some money into pesos before you visit.
-There are many ATMs but they tend to have a very low withdrawal limit, so preempt this and arrive prepared with enough tender to see you through for a few days – especially if you’re planning on shopping in markets or visiting local eateries and bars.
-Taxis are everywhere in Tulum and while they are safe and cheap, there’s also a ‘collectivo’ (minibus service) which runs from town to the beach daily which is just 15 pesos (60p). Ask at your accommodation for the nearest stop and be aware that it only fits around 20 people, so arrive at your local stop on time to be sure you make it onto the bus.
-If shopping for gifts and leather/artisanal goods, avoid the beach strip and head into town where you’ll find a wider selection at a more affordable cost.
words by Eva Ramirez
Photographs were taken on a Leica Camera TL2.
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