I decided to put this quick guide on Tulum together to both share with all you lovely people and keep for my own reference, since I learned so much on the trip. My favorite part was definitely the beautiful people of Mexico. Everyone was so sweet, kind and happy we were there. I couldn't believe it took me this long to visit and I would go back in a heartbeat
WHERE TO EAT
On the Beach-It's important to note that beach eating in Tulum is by no means cheap (I was actually blown away by prices when we first arrived). For Kenny and I it was important to research a place a little before we starting shelling out cash. You will find our favorites below, listed from lowest to highest price. Also keep in mind when you're choosing a hotel to pick one near some good eats. Cabs add up quickly!!! We found that renting bikes (ten dollars a day) helped with this.
Mateo's- We ended up at Mateo's quite a few times for breakfast and happy hour. For breakfast they offer tons of smoothies, juices and coffee drinks (perfect for taming a hangover) and some yummy egg entries. The food is good (we just had breakfast) and the prices are more than fair. We loved the two for one happy hour special and lost track of time most evenings on their sunset deck with celery jalapeño margaritas in hand. You can also plug in your IPod to the small speakers on the top deck for a custom dance party, which of course we did.
Zamas- We stopped here for lunch one afternoon and the food is solid. I had a torta and Kenny had tacos with a michelada. What really sold us on this place is the beach front view. Here you can watch fisherman and swimmers out for the day.
El Tabano-This was the first place we ate on the trip and it was an easy favorite. The close proximity to our hotel (the Posada Lamar) made for a welcome convenience. With worn antiques and quirky art, this street side spot fits the Tulum vibe perfectly. The food is fresh and the spicy mezcal margaritas were some of the best we had on the trip. We tried the stuffed jalapeño, fish ceviche with michelada, and eggs in casserole for breakfast. All the food was delicious and flavorful.
Hartwood- Hands down, no question, our favorite place to eat in Tulum. Most nights you could wait an hour or more to snag a prized table, but it's well worth it. We made it a point to go early (they open at 5pm), if you go after 7 they may turn you away. Overall, the prices on mediocre food on the beach is ridiculous, but here we were happy to pay the New York prices for exceptional food. The outdoor wood fire oven gives everything a fire smoked taste that we couldn't get enough of. The pulpo (Octopus) platter, wahoo fillet, calamari salad, and beet with avocado mousse were my favorites. I think we went there four times during our stay...we were hugging the staff goodbye the last night!
Cafe Jaguar- They only reason I'm adding this is because it served us well for drinks during long waits for a table at Hartwood. My jaw dropped when I saw how expensive items where. When we went there the first night it was odd to hear Catpower in the middle of the jungle and be greeted by snotty too cool staff. I will say the drinks are good, but your going to feel a strong Williamsburg vibe and pay big my friends.
Other beach spots you should know about..
The Zebra- The salsa night on Sunday is...well...kind of amazing. They have a lesson before the band starts and then the craziness begins. The dance floor is on the beach and under a full moon, it's a sight to behold. I would have to say...best people watching in Tulum. Overall the food was meh and pricey, but breakfast proved to be better and the guacamole was tasty.
Posada Margarita-We heard from many people who went that this was an extraordinary Italian restaurant, but we never made it. The pasta is made fresh for every order.
In town-There were many days during the stay when we biked or took a cab into town (around seven dollars). The little town is very small and although it's not as polished as the beach town, we found it fun and very safe. It's here you will get well priced fresh fish and cheap beers, hence why we made it a point to go.
El Camello- OHHHH MY GOD. This place was good. It was what I imagined the trip to be, fresh ceviche and micheladas. Lunch here was around ten to fifteen dollars a piece. We couldn't get enough. The vibe is pretty much a dive on the side of the road with picnic tables in a parking lot. The waiters were so friendly and the whole experience was fantastic. I want to eat there right now actually.
Los Aguachilles- This place is next door to El Camello and was very cute. We ate the house specialty aqua chiles (pictured above), which is like ceviche but has sprouts, fresh veggies and fried onion on top. YUM! We did blow a lot of money here on expensive mezcal, but it's vacation so why the hell not! They also had fuzbol in the back, which you know we took full advantage of.
Cetli - We found this romantic little place off the main road in town and it was one of my favorite meals of the trip. The chef was trained in Mexico City and the menu has quite a bit of mole and unique eats. Before you even eat a beautiful tray of breads, cheese and small appetizers are presented to you, which was lovely. We ordered a Chile Relano in almond sauce and a stuffed poblano pepper, both were great.
WHERE TO STAY-It's so hard to decide on hotels for a vacation. You do tons of research and just hope and pray you are making the right decision. We split the trip between two hotels, both of them were VERY different
Posada Lamar-We started the trip here and had them pick us up from the Cancun airport (around $120). I really can't say enough good things about this hotel. The staff was so sweet I fell in love with all of them. We paid around $120 a night and got fresh breakfast (fruit, yogurt, coffee and bread) on our little patio every morning and the wi-fi was fantastic. I would say this hotel fit our needs perfectly, BUT we never found an outlet for electricity (electric can be hit or miss on the beach for most hotels), we had no power for most of the day, and it's an open plan room (that means open bathroom and toilet). For me none of those things really mattered because we were practical beach front for a low cost. Our patio was pretty big and we had a hammock, chair and table. I would say the value here was unmatchable. I would go back in a second.
Neuva Vida de Ramiro- Now if you're looking for a little more luxury or a closed toilet and mirror in the bathroom, this might fit the bill.. The first room they put us in was $200 and in the jungle by the beach. When Kenny first told me we were going to be in the jungle I was like okay it will be a fun adventure, but then we got there it is was quite dark and all I could think about was mosquitos. We ended up upgrading to a beach view room for $270. This was a big splurge for us, but the room and view were pretty special and romantic. This upgrade was hands down the best money I will spend all year. I will say the wi-fi here was not good (you had to go to the lobby to use it) and breakfast was served across the street at the Café Banana. They did have power all day and had an electrical outlet, using my hair dryer again was a treat. The security here was also fantastic!! Our patio here was huge and had a hammock and chairs. The staff here was helpful and ended up giving us 10% off for being unhappy with our first room, which was a happy surprise during check out.
Awesome things to see and do-
Coqui Coqui-This perfumery and spa is a perfect way to spend the afternoon. We got a couples aroma therapy massage. Kenny's masseuse was a really tall Mayan guy and I had a sweet girl from the village... it was awesome. We both agreed they were the best massages we had ever received.
Adventure Tour Center at Mateo's- I pretty much hate tours and avoid them on most trips, but Kate and Jeff who run the tours out of their "lemonade stand" by Mateo's are different. They took us to the Coba ruins and cenote (undergound swimming hole) with a small group. Kate answered all my crazy questions about Mexico and both were just a pleasure to be around. I mean we climbed a ruin and dove 30feet into a cenote, pretty crazy!!!
Tips and random things I wish I would have known-
-Do yourself a favor and buy tons of sun screen and bug spray before you leave. It's expensive in Tulum and you DON'T want to be without.
-Bring a flashlight. The roads are DARK and electricity is not reliable.
-Learn a little Spanish before you go. It's nice to talk to the locals and it shows you're trying and care. It's by no means essential, but I think they appreciate it. Kenny was almost fluent by the time we left!
-Pack light and don't bring nice stuff...you will ruin it.
-My stomach started to act up a little at the end of the trip. Have medicine with you!
-Again keep in mind the electricity situation on the beach. Kenny had to work a few days so it was nice to have a battery pack.
-Don't rent a car. During the second day I wanted to, but I am really glad I didn't. The streets are tricky, there are cops everywhere and cenotes are hard to find.
-Hours for some restaurants can be strange (randomly closed on Wedesday or on the weekends). Look up hours before you go.
-Go to a cenote. It's amazing and there are so many to choose from! I heard that the one in Coba is best because it's well lit, has good stairs and is kept up. Just do your research, some are dark and have bats. YUCK!!