Tulum has been on my travel list for a couple of years. When I was thinking about where I wanted to travel for my birthday this year, Tulum instantly came to mind. Tulum is a beautiful town in Quintana Roo, Mexico full of awesome food and good vibes. When I came back from this trip, I felt so recharged, relaxed and inspired. If I ever just need to get away from everything, Tulum is where I know I need to go back to.
We departed on May 31st with JetBlue and returned on June 5th with Delta. We flew into Cancun and then had to drive to Tulum. The drive is at least two hours.
When you land at the airport and pass through customs, there are a handful of people waving to get your attention to either book an excursion or a shuttle service. We booked a round trip shuttle. It was $150 round trip and divided by 3, it came to $50 a person. We felt more at ease having our return shuttle set-up ahead of time, so we wouldn’t have to worry about transportation to the airport day we were flying back.
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at Hotel Kaab Tulum, a brand new hotel that opened earlier this year. Located in downtown Tulum, which is in close proximity to the central town, the beach and the ruins. The hotel is on the road that goes straight to the beach. It’s about a 10-20 minute cab ride, depending on how far you are going down the beach strip.
When I was researching hotels to stay at in Tulum, none of them surpassed like $120 a night but every hotel I looked at was beautiful. I did my research on just about every hotel in Tulum and this one really caught my eye. We booked a Deluxe Double Room with two Queen Beds for $90/night. With taxes and fees, our total for 5 days came to $537.
The hotel was so chic. The rooms were very spacious and the beds were so comfortable! The mattress felt like sleeping on a cloud and I wish I could have brought it back with me! The hotel was super clean and the pool was well maintained.
The hotel has about 20 rooms total with a pool in the middle and a newly opened restaurant that serves breakfast from 8AM to noon. They will soon have full restaurant and bar service! There were a few times that we were by the pool and wish we could have ordered an appetizer or drink but good to know that option will be able in the near future.
The breakfast at the hotel was cheap and yummy. The orange juice was fresh and my friends loved the coffee. We each got a plate of fruit drizzled in honey before our breakfast came out. The pancakes were a little on the dry side and they didn’t serve them with syrup, so I ended up getting the egg dish that my friend got, the next few times that we had breakfast at the hotel.
There weren’t many people checked in while we were there, so it kind of felt like we had the hotel all to ourselves which was amazing! We had the pool all to ourselves multiple times and Calixto even let us connect to the Bluetooth to play our own music. 🙂
The staff was super welcoming and attentive during our entire stay. We became besties with Calixto, who was just honestly an angel. He always checked on us and would chat with us throughout the day. He helped book our day trip and gave us a few recommendations on where to go. He even switched shifts with one of the employees so he could say bye to us on our last day!
Biking is a lifestyle in Tulum and we saw so many people on bikes daily. Like City bikes in NYC, you can rent bikes just about anywhere in Tulum! A lot of hotels, including ours, had bike rentals outside of the hotel. I don’t know how to ride a bike so cabs were our main form of transportation but after leaving Tulum, I want to learn how to ride a bike!
Taxis are super each to catch in Tulum. Like way easier than trying to catch a yellow cab in NYC. Being that our hotel was newer, not too many people were familiar with it so we had to confirm with our drivers before we got in the cab. There was one occasion where our driver really didn’t know where we were and we were a little lost. However, we ended up only being about 5 blocks away from the hotel so not too bad! But nevertheless, still a little scary when you’re not familiar with the neighborhood.
Taxi prices were cheap. They were about $7-$10, depending on how far along the beach strip you were going. Always ask the price before you get in the car. We’re pretty sure we got played sometimes because the pricing for certain distances didn’t always add up!
WHERE WE ATE
Food is super important to me when I travel. I’m also so eager to try new things and to immerse myself in the culture. I always have a list of restaurants and recommendations handy before I fly. We ate SO good on this trip, like every meal was better than the previous one! As you scroll through, you’ll notice (aside from the first night), I was basically on a seafood diet. 🙂
Gitano: The first restaurant we ate at our first night in Tulum. (If you’re wondering why the name sounds familiar, there is a Gitano restaurant in Tribeca in NYC.) It’s a gorgeous restaurant that is jungle themed. We were sitting outside but it started raining so we had to move inside. The food and drinks were great! They have live bands during the week and a DJ on weekends. Friday is their recommended night for dinner + dancing.
Matcha Mama: If you’ve searched through Tulum hashtags on Instagram, you’ve definitely seen Matcha Mama as it’s a very popular (and instagrammable) spot! They are a plant based Matcha bar near the beach. Their menu includes matcha, smoothies, açaí bowls, kombuchas and more. I had a chai matcha and an açaí bowl and they were both so delicious. The açaí bowl was so fresh and made with love.
Ziggy’s: A hotel on the beach with a beach club. You can rent a cabana but there is a $35 drink/food minimum per person, which honestly is nothing compared to NYC prices. The food here was SO good. The dips that come with the chips were amazing. The coconut shrimp was so delish! I also ordered a mojito but it wasn’t great, so definitely try another drink on the menu! Our bill came out to $67 total, which was crazy, because between the all 3 of us, we ordered so much food! We were below the total minimum but our waiter was super nice and didn’t even mention it to us.
Kin Toh: It is a restaurant inside Azulik, which is a massive eco-friendly, luxury tree house hotel made out of bamboo. That’s honestly the best way I can describe it. (Look on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean.) The restaurant was beautiful but the service wasn’t great. I originally had a reservation for Monday but because of day trip, had to cancel. They wouldn’t let us in without a reservation but let us go to the bar. We spoke with the hosts and put our names down for a table opening. Probably 40 minutes passed and my friend went back to the host, who said we could sit wherever we wanted. We basically waited all that time for nothing.
Our waiter made up for the host’s terrible service by giving us a tour of the wine room and took us to the top of the Azulik. The view was breath taking and I’ve never seen that many stars in the sky in my life! It was definitely an experience but our most expensive meal of the trip and it wasn’t much to brag about.
Coco Tulum: We came here for an appetizer before our salsa lesson at La Zebra. We ended up having full course meals but no regrets! Everything was amazing – service, food, drinks! I mean, the presentation alone of my meal (above) speaks for itself! I want all of my meals served to me on a wooden platter, haha! Hands down, BEST shrimp and Piña Coladas. I ordered two to make up for my crappy mojito from the day prior. 🙂
La Malquerida: Most of our meals were on the beach strip. After our long day trip, we decide to venture into town and eat dinner locally. We passed by a couple of restaurants until we stopped at La Malquerida. No surprise – I ordered shrimp again. This shrimp was covered in a Chiptole + Tequila sauce that was spicy but so good.
Good Burger: This restaurant was also local and about two blocks away from our hotel. Everything on the menu sounded amazing but I ordered the Grilled Salmon bowl. Honestly, I could eat this bowl everyday! It was really yummy and filling but didn’t feel heavy in your stomach after.
Casa Jaguar: This was the last restaurant we ate at on our last night in Tulum. It had similar jungle vibes to Gitano but the set-up was really gorgeous. It was dimly lit so I couldn’t get great pictures but I definitely recommend it. (A couple we met at Matcha Mama mentioned that Casa Jaguar also has Merengue nights.)
WHAT WE DID
I can’t speak too much to the nightlife in Tulum, but have heard good things from my friends that have visited. Elections were taking place that weekend so clubs/bars were closing early and many of them were not allowed to serve alcohol. We were at a bar that got shut down at midnight by the cops because of the election.
Just about every hotel on the beach has a beach club with chairs and/or cabanas, music, food and drinks where you could just chill with your friends. The girls and I visited both Coco Tulum and Ziggy’s. Coco Tulum is known for their Sunday beach parties but I guess because of the election it didn’t happen the Sunday we went. Honestly, it was nice to just sit on the beach and enjoy a delicious meal but I am curious to see what this party looks like the next time I’m in Tulum. We ate lunch at Ziggy’s and it instantly became one of our favorite beach clubs. We wanted to go back at night because they have reggae night on Saturdays. Unfortunately, we missed it because we weren’t ready in time but I’m definitely going the next time I’m in Tulum!
La Zebra is a beautiful hotel on the beach. Calixto recommended their restaurant and made our reservation. They offer Salsa lessons next to the restaurant, right on the beach! I am not a great salsa dancer but I know the basics! It was such a beautiful experience with my best friends. We had a dinner reservation after but we had eaten at Coco Tulum prior and were still so full, so we just ate dessert. Next time, I will definitely have dinner there! There was also a live salsa band after the salsa class. All in all, our favorite night out and we probably would have stayed out past midnight if we didn’t have the day trip booked the next day.
CHICHEN ITZA DAY TRIP
It was my first time going to Mexico and while it may not be my last, my best friends and I wanted to visit the Chichen Itza. Calixto booked the day trip for us and it was cheaper than booking online in advance. Prices online were $170 and up. We paid $96 per person booking through our hotel. This included round-trip transportation, admission to Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil, buffet lunch and trip to Valladolid.
A van picked us up from hotel at 7:30AM and drove us about 20 minutes to a drop off spot, where a larger van picked us up, with additional passengers already seated inside. We drove for almost two hours, where we were dropped off at Chichen Itza and introduced to our tour guide. I still can’t believe my friends and I visited the Chichen Itza. It’s one thing to learn about it in school, but seeing it in person! Ugh, what an experience!
After the tour, we had an hour of free time to take pictures, visit the ruins or buy souvenirs.
Next, we headed to the Cenote Ik Kil. A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. There are a plethora of them in Mexico and they’re all so beautiful.
I don’t know how to swim but still somehow wanted to experience one. I was a nervous wreck because this particular cenote was super deep but with the support of my friends I got in for a few minutes! I was holding on to the ladder but I faced my fears and got in!
After the cenote, we changed and headed to a buffet lunch, near Valladolid which was our last stop. Valladolid is a city on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Although we were there for only an hour, I definitely want to explore Valladolid more the next time I’m in Mexico because it’s a beautiful city. We did tequila tasting (of course, I bought two bottles) and then walked around the city for a bit before heading back to Tulum. I totally recommend the day trip because we definitely got our money’s worth!
All in all, this trip was truly perfect. We were able to accomplish so much and relax. I will definitely visit Tulum again because its a great location to get away and unplug from the world. Next time, I want to split my stay between Hotel Kaab and a hotel on the beach, since we ended up going to the beach strip so often!
There were a few places that we didn’t get to go to that were recommended to me:
- Hartwood: highly recommended restaurant in Tulum
- Papaya Playa Project: a hotel with really cool parties and guest DJs every weekend
- Playa Paraiso: really gorgeous beach that has to be visited
- Casa Malca: Pablo Escobar’s mansion that is now a gorgeous hotel with great brunch and dinner
- Batey’s: bar known to have the best mojitos in Tulum
- Swoon: really pretty rooftop above Good Burger (where we had lunch – seriously, check their IG)
I hope this guide was helpful! If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram.
In case you missed it, see what I wore in Tulum here!