The first stop on our whirlwind tour of Central America was Tulum, Mexico. Tulum really appealed to me because it is everything Cancun isn’t — quaint, foodie, and laid-back with family run hotels & bungalows. After seeing a few of my favorite Instagrammers visit this beach town, I knew this would be a great first exposure to Mexico.
Only a 4 hour flight from Chicago and 1 hour drive south of Cancun, this is a quick getaway location for people seeking for beautiful beaches without the mega-resorts and crowds. In the past, Tulum was an oasis for hippies and art-types looking to relax and practice purposeful living. This “whatever-man” mentality still remains today, and the main street is full of yoga studios, small handmade boutiques and organic juice bars. It’s certainly touristic, but it feels more authentic than the mega-resort towns that litter the Riviera Maya.
We arrived in the drizzly early evening and quickly dropped off our bags at the lovely AirBnb we booked, Playa Canek. The smells of the ocean filled our nostrils right away and my hair had grown about 3 times it’s normal size from the humidity. But neither of us cared, because the warm breeze and light rain was greeting enough. We knew we were on vacation.
Sam & I let our stomachs guide us that first night as we made our way by foot to the main street. I knew ahead of our trip that Mexico was a pretty amazing food destination. But Tulum is truly filled with awesome, modern culinary choices for visitors. I’ll do a more in-depth food post tomorrow, but for our first dinner we ate at the Argentinian restaurant, Casa Banana. Their beautiful white washed brick bar, string light lined patio and smoky outdoor grill lured us in. But their rich flavors and regional ingredients are really what won us over.
I am an early riser so the next morning I was already up at 8am, just in time for beach front yoga at our AirBnb. I’ve never done a class like that before. It was a slow flow restorative type of yoga so the crashing of the waves only enhanced the relaxation.
Sam met me down on the beach afterwards and we walked north along the beach for about an hour, until we reached our brunch destination, Zamas. Located on a corner between two small coves, Zamas has an incredible view. Colorful tables and tropical decor enhance the laid back vibe. This is definitely a place where you could waste a day just drinking juices, smoothies, cocktails and beers. Sam even enjoyed his first drink out of a coconut!
After brunch, we walked back south to our AirBnb along the main road, wanting to check out the various shops and restaurants available. Even with its sleepy vibe, there are lots of little boutiques in Tulum for the many fashion insiders and minor celebs that visit (apparently its become quite the hotspot with New Yorkers and LA folks). I oogled at the rings at Mr. Blackbird, nearly dropping $200 bucks on one I loved (I resisted though). I also enjoyed browsing the handmade leather bags and accessories at Hacienda Montaecristo and the flowy beach attire at Josa.
Around 2:30pm, we got in line at Hartwood to make a dinner reservation for that night. If there is one restaurant people have heard of in advance to arriving in Tulum, it is Hartwood. Written about in the New York Times, Bon Appetit and Eater, this place is well known for dishing up the best fare in town. And when we came back at 6:30 for our seating, it did not disappoint. But I digress, more on that meal tomorrow.
With only 48 hours in Tulum, one has to choose between a few different activities since you probably won’t be able to fit it all in. We certainly didn’t. But nearby to the town are some famous Mayan ruins, cenotes (also known as cave sinkholes you can snorkel in) or adventure sports like kite surfing & scuba diving. Rather than opting for those activities (we’ll have to save them for our next trip here!), we did something a little different — a Flytographer.
Sam is notoriously anti-photo. He just doesn’t like being in front of the camera,preferring to take my photo instead, which I willingly oblige :) However, this has resulted in us having hardly any good recent photos of us. Thankfully, Flytographer connects you with over 300 local photographers around the world in many different countries, allowing you to capture your travel memories on film. We found a locally based photographer from Cancun to come and snap photos of us during our time in Tulum. I’ve only received one of the photos so far as a sneak peek, but once I get the rest of them, I’ll definitely be sharing a full blog post of my favorite shots :)
On our final morning in Tulum, we were feeling rejuvenated yet sad to be leaving this little oasis town. We had to catch a morning bus to Chetumal, so we grabbed a classic Mexican breakfast at the adorably colorful Charlies in Tulum town. Located just around the corner from the Ado bus stop, the friendly staff and classically Mexican decor feels nothing like a bus stop restaurant.
Although Tulum may not be the most “authentic” of Mexican locales, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. I love that it’s such a short journey from home (only 5 hours travel time!) and yet, it feels like a getaway. It offers a lot of my favorite and relaxing travel activities, like eating, swimming, and walking. It’s quaint and quiet feel is a lovely contrast from the bustling Cancun and Riviera Maya. Being tucked away in a small beach paradise is just what we needed to start this vacation off right.
Stay tuned for a full food write up tomorrow!