The Ibiza of the Mexican Gulf
In December we had the pleasure to travel to Los Angeles for some family holidays followed by a short trip to Tulum before welcoming the new year 2020.
We were in need of some sun rays and boy did we enjoyed them.
It was our first time traveling to Mexico so we didn’t really knew what to expect.
But it was all that we could’ve imagined.
Okay I am aware that traveling to Tulum isn’t really visiting Mexico. Tulum is a very tourism orientated gem that is developing very quickly, which for a short trip to the (winter) sun was just great!
And it definitely gave us the urge to go back and explore the (real) Mexico, ending in Tulum again of course.
We experienced Tulum a bit as the Ibiza of America…
Very attractive designs, good music (a must for us) lot’s of good food and restaurants, beautiful nature, warm temperatures, super friendly people and an amazing ‘chill vibe’. The perfect holiday package!
One little downer was the period of travelling, we went between Christmas and New Years. It's the busiest time of the year, which meant difficulty to make reservations for the more known restaurants, lot’s of car traffic in the famous lane by Tulum beach and much higher prices and less possibilities on accommodations.
So little tip, avoid going during December/January .
We had bikes to get around but at night that wasn’t the case as the roads into the jungle are dark, very dark! Also we were lucky not to have experienced any ‘algae plague’ which is a problem they are suffering with, because of the climate change. It can come up overnight, but we didn’t have any of that, the ocean was crystal clear and beautiful. pfffew
Now here’s my hotspot list.
Enjoy and let me know if you’ve been there, tag me, dm me, show me I’d love to see who follows and likes my tips…
AGUSTO K'AAX - Condo Hotel
After searching for a long time for any reasonable priced accommodation in Tulum for that period and getting a bit frustrated, I eventually bumped into this 'hidden' gem on AirBnB. By cleaning up my cookies and searching via an incognito page. *travel planning tip*
It's not situated in the center of Tulum, thank god = too busy.
It's location is in the midst of the Mexican jungle just outside the buzzing center of Tulum Pueblo, which is very small and concentrated. So I really recommend this place if you'd like a little bit of peace and serenity and waking up with the sounds of nature or in our case, the cat miauwing at the front door.
They have bikes at your disposal to get around. We rented a car to get from Cancun to Tulum and to get around at night. No spooky in the dark bike rides for us! During the day, everything we did was by bike, which is very do-able and fun. Let's say it's a 20" ride to the beach, with the occasional coffee or picture stop excluded :)
The condo hotel is small and very peaceful. I think we we're staying in studio N1 or N2, can't remember. There's a difference in roomtypes, some are bigger and some are smaller.
Ours was very pleasant and spacious, we had a little kitchenette, sitting area and private terrace next to the main court yard with swimming pool where you could enjoy some chill time around the pool or on the outside gather/kitchen area.
There's even a rooftop terrace with another smaller swimming pool. Enough space for al the guests. The staff and owners are super friendly and helpful. Tried, Tested and recommend it!
- Glamping + Beachclub They also own a beach club at Playa Paraiso, 'Agusto Beach' where you can even stay for the night 'glampingstyle'. We enjoyed the guest discount :) you get for the sun beds and lounged at the beach twice. The only glamping activity we did was having an outdoor shower under the palmtrees just before leaving to the airport heading back home. It was the perfect closure of our trip. If you're staying for the day and having lunch, we loved the guacamole and ceviche they serve. Actually it was one of the best guacamole's we've had in Tulum. Loved it...
POST OUTDOOR SHOWER FUN
- Hotel + Beach Club Initially I wanted to book a room here, not only for it's name... but also because I read very nice reviews of it. But of course the hotel was already fully booked. Afterwards when we had lunch there one of the owners (Italian) told us they are fully booked for months in advance. Good for them... I completely understood why, first of all it's ON THE BEACH. So you wake up with an amazing beach and ocean view. Second, it's so cosy decorated and designed that it is very very grammable! I know some of you will hate that word, 'grammable' but hey: haters gonna hate, lovers enjoy live also digitally ;)
So as I said it is a very grammable place which attracts that typical grammy public. Nomadic yoga and healthy shmelty extraordinairs... yes that's what I call them. They are mostly LA-ers actually.
But very much appreciated by myself as they are super entertaining and enjoyable to stare at ;)
ok I'm exaggerating a bit... or not? But the place is very nice, it's a little paradise with an Italian influence. The staff is super friendly and the pasta was really good. I'll go back to have a green smoothie, take some insta pics and hug the dog. Grammable influenced people be aware of them I tell ya!
- Taqueria on the beach
In the midst of (at that time) chaotic and busy beach hubs there's this more local gem, La Eufemia.
Very chill and down to earth vibes, tasty & cheap (fish)tacos, ice cold cervezas, no sun beds, lots of sun and sleeping people though, good music, and a local atmosphere. Bring a dog, they love that here... you can imagine I as a major doglover was on cloud nine.
- Boutique Hotel
Again another one that was fully booked. But we went to have breakfast twice. The outside dining area is like entering a little urban oasis and has a minimal yet very cosy design, which my tastebuds ( yes my eyes can taste :) really enjoyed! This boutique hotel is situated in Tulum town, near the road so I was actually happy not to stay there knowing I had my little home in the midst of the Mexican jungle with my birds and my spiders and my mosquitos... So back to breakfast at Tulum pueblo, it's very very good and for those knowing me I'm very critical when it comes to food especially a good breakfast because it's really the easiest course to prepare and be super creative with.
And I finally had my first reasonable coffee of the trip, they aren't exactly big coffee specialist over there. But never mind they have tequila and mezcal, that's way better.
They just opened a little sister hotel on Tulum beach BOCA PAILA
- Boutique Hotel + beach club We where supposed to have brunch/lunch there and chill by the pool and enjoy the lovely architecture and food but when we arrived there was a Sungay Brunch party going on which they didn't informed us off. My husband is a dj so we're very used to parties, partying crowds and beats, but I swear the music was so loud and the crowd was even more, lovely dressed and glammed though, that we decided not to stay. Bummer, as it was a delight for the eye and other senses but a perfect excuse to go back. Nooo noo nooo we're not getting old(er) we just prefer a bit more peace & quit when we're on holidays... grandma and grandpa take Tulum!!! :)
- Restaurant + Mezcal Bar
I've found my heaven on earth, the mezcal possibilities at Gitano Tulum.
Go there, stay there, drink lot's of mezcal and tequila, never go back to 'the daily life'. This place is kinda 'my thing' and gives me these feelings of excitement; nice designs, good food, super service and hospitality, good-looking peeps,... so I would say if you have to choose where to have your aperitivo and bites in Tulum, go to one of the Gitano groups' places, especially the Jungle room feels like walking into a holiday.
I'm a Mezcal lover, although not a specialist at all and not a heavy alcohol consumer either. But this lil' Iiquor has got the best of me and I just appreciate it very much. One day when I go back to Mexico I'll visit Oaxaca to discover it's birth, history and beauty.
Ok back to Gitano, just go and see and taste for yourself.
No more words needed, but if you could see me now I'm over dramatically pinpointing this hotspot.
MEZE by GRUPO GITANO
3 or 4 doors down the lane you'll find another one of these bad boys...
Meze, opened in December and we were lucky to enjoy the opening night.
Again the Mezcal and Tequila were going down very fluently. We shared some Mezze accompanied by homemade bread, to die for. Simple menu you'd think at first but ones you tasted it, you taste real and local ingredients prepared with passion.I mostly enjoyed following the cooks' work by looking into the open kitchen which I swear is a caress for the eye. A typical Tulum trade marked kitchen, set up with the focus on the wood oven.
But to say one thing, they overdid themselves a bit with the amount of staff. I think I counted 25 pax of staff and we had at least 5 different waiters serving just us two and maybe 4 or 5 other tables.
Not used to that kinda service in Europe AT ALL!
- Burrito restaurant
Authentic burrito's with cheese and beans you say? I'm in. Go and enjoy a everyday Mexican snack that almost feels like having a spontaneous street food dinner.
Actually you can queue in the morning for coffee and burrito till late at night for cervezas and burrito. That's street style right :)
There's a bit of a waiting, but definitely worth it.
Ecological and clean eating awareness is a nice extra they practice, you can read it on their website and it makes their local food even more appetizing.
ps on a side note, I mostly try out local street food on holidays. In Tulum you'll see lot of 'cabanas' that are the street food vendors but besides that you'll bump into more local street vending-bikes too. They cycle around the many construction sites to provide the local construction workers of food & beverages and they'll park just around the corner of a known restaurant where the queues are long! Smart, but I didn't see many tourists indulging into the locals' offer, which is a bit sad actually. I didn't either this time to be honest as some people warned me for it and I didn't have the courage to taste some. Sow now I have a second excuses to go back. Who's joining? I'll pack the toiletpaper and tummy meds...
- Tulum town
Tulum Town is not super stretched but does have different areas as I experienced it
You have the main lane that goes parallel with Tulum beach where all the known hotels, resto's, bars, shops are situated all next to each other. You really don't know where to look first, for me it felt like Disneyland, I'm a sucker for this kinda 'entertainment'. At the end of the lane it gets a bit more quiet and there are some overpriced but very nice boutiques to shop at. I bumped into the Casa Jaguar swimwear (local) and fell in love with the brand.
Then you have the busy and buzzing main road of Tulum pueblo where your eyes get the pleasures of doing what they do best, staring at the cerveza and tequila drinking and food indulging tipsy travelers with some Mexican melodies on the background.
And then you have a bit of a calmer/more local area. If you walk into the smaller streets away from the main road. There I bumped into several mural paintings, which I really appreciated and gave me a smile on my face. As they reminded me a bit of home. The village where my family in Sardegna lives is also known for its mural paintings and had its influence coming from Diego Riviera (Mexican artist/Frida Kahlo's husband). So take a walk and enjoy this outdoors museum. It so colorful that it will surely brighten up your day, even more!
DOS OJOS CENOTE
On Sunday morning we woke up early to have a morning dip in one of the cenotes nearby, before the tourist busses arrived. We were there around 7.30AM when the park just opened.
We chose the Dos Ojos Cenotes because it was the closest one to our other activities planned for that day, stuffing our faces with food and sunbathing... Big plans you see.
We were all alone and the experience was amazing! We didn't dive as I'm to claustrophobic but I can imagine it must be surreal and stunning.
The park has several cenotes and different possibilities of activities to enjoy nature.
Go when the big masses are still sipping on their morning coffee and be aware of the mosquitos, it's the jungle you know.
If you're staying longer in Tulum or Mexico than we did do look up other cenotes sites too as there are many of them all over Mexico worth a dip of your bum.
So to end up this short Tulum experience I would surely recommend it to travelers looking for sunshine, very smooth vibes, foodies & music lovers who are looking for comfort and luxury in a down to earth vibe. Tulum is definitely to commercialized for real nature and culture seeking adventurers.
For those in between, next to the cenotes you can of course also visit the Mayan Ruins and have a trip to lake Bacalar, reason number 3 for me to go back!
Here are some extra recommendations we've had via friends that we didn't have the time for to try and test, reason number 4 to go back! No need for reason n5, Mexico voy a volver!!!
FOOD / DRINKS /STAY/SHOPPING