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Tulum is a perfect beach destination for an ultimate winter weekend getaway.  For many years, Tulum has been a favorite destination of celebrities and fashion editors for its bohemian chic and laid-back beach vibe.  Despite the rapid expansion of mega-resorts along Mexico’s Rivera Maya, Tulum has managed to preserve its rustic charm.  In Tulum, you will find stunning beaches, small boutique eco-hotels, fabulous restaurants, chic boutiques, and plenty of activities, including yoga, kite boarding and scuba diving in fresh water caverns.


Tulum is really made up of three portions – the inland town (pueblo), which is fairly unremarkable with cheap accommodations but authentic Mexican restaurants, the beach zone (playa), which runs along the entire length of the Tulum’s stunning beach, and the Mayan ruins just north of the beach zone. The beach zone is where you want to be and consists of a single narrow road that has been cut through the jungle along the coast and is lined with small eco-hotels and resorts, restaurants and chic boutiques.  Since the beach area of Tulum is largely off the electrical grid and not connected to any central plumbing system, it has been able to preserve its rustic charm and avoid the intrusion of the mega-resorts.  Electricity is provided by wind turbines and solar panels, as well as generators at a number of the hotels and resorts.  As a result, you will find a laid-back beach town with just enough infrastructure to provide for a luxurious weekend getaway.     

While a number of new hotels have been built over the last few years, Be Tulum continues to be the best hotel in Tulum.  Be Tulum, located at the far south end of the beach, is very quiet and secluded.  The reception area is open, with only a thatched roof, and manned by a very helpful front desk staff.  The hotel consists of 20 suites that are set amidst lush tropical gardens and just steps away from the hotel’s beach.  We recommend the ground floor Arena suites, which are spacious and comfortable, with indoor and outdoor showers and a small plunge pool set in private garden with a hammock and loungers, or one of the Ocean suites which are closest to the ocean and have a balcony, a Jacuzzi and a private terrace with a pool.  Unlike many of the hotels in Tulum, Be Tulum offers 24-hour electricity and air conditioning in all of its rooms.  The kitchen at Be Tulum prepares excellent food, which can be enjoyed on the beach, in the covered restaurant or the upstairs open bar.

Be Tulum // Boca Paila Km.10, Tulum // Website

The best way to explore the beach area of Tulum is to borrow one of the hotel’s bicycles and ride north from the hotel along the narrow beach road.  You can ride the entire length of the beach strip in about twenty minutes but you will want to stop frequently to peek into the small boutique hotels, read the menus of the open air restaurants, shop at the many chic boutiques, and possibly book a massage at one of the spas or a yoga session at one of Tulum’s many wellness/yoga centers.  


For your first evening in Tulum, we recommend Gitano, which is a stylish restaurant and bar located in a beautiful setting carved out of the jungle along the beach road.  Gitano has a cool beach vibe, with low-slung lounge areas with patterned pillows, wooden tables set under a large pergola, strings of bulb lights and chandeliers hanging from the trees, great music and an open kitchen with blazing grill and wood burning oven.  Periodically someone will pass through with a smoldering bucket of copal resin to smoke away the mosquitoes. Gitano is particularly known for its outstanding cocktails, including a number of creative and well-crafted mezcal drinks, so we recommend ordering a pre-dinner drink at the bar and sitting back to take in the party-like atmosphere.  We love Gitano for its sexy and chic atmosphere and their creative drinks but, in our experience, the food is rather unexceptional, though you cannot go wrong with the beef brisket or shrimp tacos, fire roasted tomatoes with grilled flatbread or their wood roasted chicken.

Gitano // Boca Paila Road, Km 7 // Website



You will likely wake up to the gentle sound of chirping birds and the waves crashing on the beach as the morning sunlight streams into your room.  We love having breakfast at one of Be Tulum's wooden tables set into the sand at the edge of the beach.  There is no better way to start the morning than watching the sun rise on the horizon with a chilled glass of freshly squeezed juice, hot coffee and a platter of tropical fruit.

After breakfast, we recommend visiting the fascinating ancient Ruins of Tulum located at the north end of Tulum.  For centuries, the Mayans were the only inhabitants of the Yucatan and today you will still find many locals of Mayan heritage.  The Mayans built a number of cities throughout the Yucatan and the ruins in Tulum are among the best preserved.  This ancient Mayan city, built in the late 13th century as a seaport to trade mostly jade and turquoise, was the only Mayan city built on coast.  Today, large limestone walls enclose three sides of the complex and black and grey stones dot the gently rolling hills, marking the outlines of ancient buildings.  The most prominent structure in the complex is the Castillo (Castle), which sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean.  Travel tip:  These ruins are very popular with tour groups and there is little shade so we recommend visiting first thing in the morning before the tour buses arrive and the day gets too hot.


For lunch, we recommend Casa Banana, which is owned by a pair from Argentina and focuses on simple ingredient-driven rustic food with a nod to Argentina.  Like many restaurants in Tulum, the tables are mostly open to the sky and the food is cooked on an open grill or in a wood-burning oven.  Seek out their great grilled seafood and their signature Argentina-style steak and homemade chorizo.

Casa Banana // Boca Paila Road // Website


The beaches in Tulum are among the finest in the Caribbean, with cobalt blue water and pristine white sand.  The area of the beach around Be Tulum is secluded and quiet.  As you head north up the beach, you will find more vendors and the hotels are closer together.  Due to the steady winds, Tulum is excellent for kite surfing and you will see a number of kite surfers skimming along the ocean just outside of the surf break.  You can rent equipment or take lessons from Mexican Caribbean Kitesurf and Paddlesurf, OceanProKite or Extreme Control Kite Surfing, all of which are located in the beach area.  Also, you can rent paddleboards from any of these shops.

Mexican Caribbean Kitesurf and Paddlesurf // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.5 // Website

OceanProKite // Boca Paila Road, Km 6.5 // Website

Extreme Control Kite Surfing // Website

Tulum has been a very popular yoga destination so there are no lack of options if you would like to join a yoga class after a day at the beach.  Across the street from Be Tulum is Yäan Wellness Energy Spa, which offers hatha, vinyasa flow and ashtenga yoga taught by very experienced teachers in their second-floor studio that looks out over the surrounding jungle canopy.

Yäan Wellness Energy Spa // Boca Paila Road, Km 10 // Website


We recommend starting the evening with a pre-dinner cocktail at Casa Jaguar, which is a beautiful restaurant set in the jungle with candles and lanterns adding to its romantic atmosphere.  The small bar, which is near the open grill and wood-burning oven, offers fabulous creative cocktails, including Jugo Jaguar, made with hibiscus, cinnamon, mint, orange and mezcal and Temazcal, made with tamarindo, pineapple, mezcal and basil.  Casa Jaguar is a perfect place for a romantic pre-dinner drink.

Casa Jaguar // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.5 // Website

The best restaurant in Tulum is Hartwood, which draws food lovers from all over the world.  In 2010, Eric Werner and his wife Mya Henry decided to leave New York to start a simple restaurant in Tulum.  They found a small overgrown piece of jungle along the beach road that they fell in love with.  At the time, the land was a thicket of plants and palm trees and the ground was full of standing water and mud.  They hacked their way through the dense jungle and, after a tremendous amount of work, turned this inhospitable spit of land into a stunning open air restaurant with wood thatched pergolas and wooden tables set on white pebbles.  The entire restaurant is open to the sky and lit only by kerosene lanterns and candles on the tables.  All of the cooking is done in the open kitchen using a blazing fire grill and wood-fired oven and the only appliance they use is a small blender that is powered electricity provided by solar panels.  All of the fish is sustainably caught by spear fishing and the exotic produce comes from communal Mayan farms.  Each week, Werner frequently travels for hours to farms and markets throughout the Yucatan to obtain the fruits and produce that he will use for the nightly menu that is presented to diners on a large chalkboard. Although the menu is built around local ingredients, the food is not traditionally Mexican. 

Start with one of their delicious cocktails, which are almost all built on fresh fruit juices, like their signature ginger based signature cocktail, The Hartwood, or their passion fruit and watermelon based cocktail, Passion in the Jungle.  Some Hartwood’s outstanding dishes include Jicama Salad, Yucatan Ceviche and grilled Filete de Coronado and Filete de Robalo. Although the dishes are simple, the purity of the ingredients and flavors produced by the open fire cooking are extraordinary.  This is a dining experience not to be missed.  Travel Tip:  Hartwood is extremely popular and they don’t take advance reservations.  They only take in-person reservations starting at 3 pm.  If you show up at 6 pm, you are likely to have a 2-hour wait for a table.  Rather than spend your vacation standing in a line, you can arrange through your hotel to pay a taxi driver to arrive at 2 pm when their gates open and make reservation for that evening when their reservation book opens at 3 pm.  Well worth the cost!

Hartwood // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.6 // Website



For a truly special experience, we recommend a diving or snorkeling trip to one of the area’s cenotes, which are fresh water subterranean rivers scattered throughout the Yucatan peninsula.  The Yucatan has an enormous network of underground fresh water rivers and these rivers occasionally become accessible when the limestone surface collapses and creates a hole that opens to these underground rivers and water-filled caves and caverns.  These hauntingly beautiful underwater caverns and caves are filled with crystal clear fresh water and massive stalagmites and stalactites illuminated by shafts of sunlight.  For Mayans, this was a place of worship and means of communicating with the gods of the underworld; for snorkelers and divers today, these make for a very special experience. 

There are a number of fascinating cenotes located not far from Tulum, including Gran Cenote, which is one of the most popular cenotes with beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations and is excellent for first-timer divers and snorkelers; Dos Ojos (meaning “two eyes” for the two separate open holes that have interconnecting caves), which is also good for both snorkelers and divers with beautiful formations, a large cavern system that opens to the second greatest cave system in the world, and a cavern called the “Bat Cave” that is filled with bats hanging from stalactites; Car Wash, which is known for delicate rock formations and best for divers; and, for experienced deep divers, Angelita, which is a deep dive where divers descend through a hydrogen sulphate layer at 100 feet to warm salt water below where the sunlight barely reaches and feels like diving in a forest at night.  There are a number of dive operators in the Tulum area but we highly recommend Ko’ox Diving in the main town.

Ko'ox Diving // Carretera Federal 307, Tulum // Website


Surrounded by jungle and sitting on the edge of the beach, Coqui Coqui Tulum Residence & Spa is a very stylish hotel and spa established by two glamorous owners, Nico Malleville and Francesca Bonato.  For lunch, we highly recommend a visit to their fabulous restaurant, which is one of the most chic dining spots along the beach, with day beds and linen covered tables on the small sandy-floored veranda overlooking the beach.  The restaurant offers fresh excellent ceviche and seafood dishes. After lunch, be sure to visit their perfumery and chic boutique store.

UPDATE:  Due to a dispute over land rights, over 20 Tulum hotels, including Coqui Coqui, were evicted from their space in summer 2016.  For now, Coqui Coqui is closed.

Coqui Coqui // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.5 // Website

Alternatively, the food and drinks at Be Tulum are excellent and well worth a consideration for lunch.

Be Tulum // Boca Paila Km.10, Tulum // Website



After an afternoon at the beach, we suggest taking one of the hotel’s bicycles to explore Tulum’s chic boutique shops, including the wonderful perfumes and chic beach ware and bags at Coqui Coqui’s, locally made clothing and house wares at La Troupe, the sophisticated beach designs at Josa Tulum and the locally handcrafted designer bags, belts, jewelry and clothing at Caravana Montaecristo.

Coqui Coqui // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.5 // Website

La Troupe // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.5 // Website

Josa Tulum // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.5 //  Website

Caravana Montaecristo // Boca Paila Road, Km 7.5 // Website


A decade or so ago, the beach area of Tulum was known principally for very simple accommodations and yoga retreats.  Today, the yoga and wellness retreats are still a big draw but they have shed their Spartan origins and you can find a number of luxurious spa facilities.  One of the best spas in Tulum is Yäan Wellness Energy Spa, which is conveniently located across the street from Be Tulum.  After a full day of activities, we recommend the Yäan Balancing massage, which is their signature holistic massage that combines different techniques, including ancient Mayan massage rituals, and uses a variety of essential oils.  Before your massage, you will have an opportunity to enjoy their “healing waters”, which consists of a circuit of hot and cold massage pools, steam room and sauna, followed by relaxation in their serene reflection area. When it is time for your massage, one of the skilled massage therapists will lead you along the winding paths past the healing garden to one of the massage pavilions. Pure bliss!

Yäan Wellness Energy Spa // Boca Paila Road, Km 10 // Website

Final Thoughts

Getting Around

Tulum is located about 90 minutes from Cancun Airport.  We highly recommend that you pre-book a private car through your hotel to meet you at the airport and transport you to Tulum.  While you can rent a car, parking is tough in Tulum and you don’t really need a car in Tulum.  For getting around Tulum, taxis are plentiful and cheap and, for travel along the beach road during the day, a bike is all you need (which can be arranged through your hotel).