I always thought my 30th birthday had to be a big extravaganza, like chilling on a yacht with a group of friends on the Amalfi Coast. I never considered a solo trip. I always envisioned Europe, specifically Positano and the Amalfi Coast. With COVID hitting Italy just as hard as NYC and California, I knew I needed to select a different destination to celebrate my 30th.
With everything that’s happened in the last year, I’m honestly just grateful to be alive, healthy and able to celebrate another year. When I started planning this trip, I knew I just needed to be on a beach. Then it came to me. Why not do a solo trip to Tulum? Mexico was open to tourism and booking a solo trip to Tulum would be easy because I already know Tulum. I knew where I wanted to stay and where I would eat. It was honestly a no brainer. While a part of me still wishes I was able to celebrate in Italy like I always dreamed, I was ecstatic to return to the place that brought me so much happiness and peace.
This was my second time in Tulum. I visited for the first time two years ago, for my 28th birthday with two of my best friends. If you’re interested in that blog post, you can read it HERE! I share details about what I learned going there for the first time. There will be some info overlap in this post but I’m happy to share an updated Tulum guide, as a solo traveler!
WHY GO SOLO? I decided to do a solo trip for a few reasons. My close girlfriends were also turning 30 this year and we all were celebrating our birthdays in a big way. Our birthdays are also pretty much back to back, so the scheduling didn’t really align. This year makes 10 years since my solo trip/study abroad semester in London, so it only felt right to commemorate it. Historically, planning my birthday always stresses me out and I didn’t want to be stressed planning my birthday this year. I didn’t want the headache or disappointment, soI booked the solo trip. I didn’t want to start 30 off that way. I wanted 30 to start at peace – putting myself and my happiness first.
WEATHER IN TULUM: It was very dry and hot, like much hotter than the last time I visited with my friends. However, I was truly blessed with the weather this time around. For the week I was in Tulum, it did not rain once! Even though the forecast did show some thunderstorms, it was sunny every single day. Temps were in the high 90’s but it felt like 100-102 degrees everyday. Expect to change clothes/swim a couple of times a day! You can see a recap of all of my outfits from this trip HERE.
HOW TO GET TO TULUM:
The best way to get to Tulum is to fly into Cancun Airport. From there, you can take either a taxi or shuttle and head down south to Tulum, which is about a 2-hour drive. I highly recommend booking your transportation before your trip because the airport transportation is VERY overwhelming, with many people waving at you and yelling at you to get your attention.
I booked my shuttle with CancunShuttle. They offer cabs, shared shuttles and private shuttles. Being that I was traveling solo, for my safety, I booked a shared shuttle both ways so I wouldn’t be alone for the full ride. Going and coming, there was a woman in my shuttle each time. When you book, you input you card info but you are not charged until you are in the shuttle. In case your travel plans change, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of a refund. The staff was very accommodating, especially when I asked to change my pick-up time on my departure day.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TULUM:
- ATMs are a little harder to come across on the beach strip. I would recommend getting pesos at the airport or at the City Center. Most restaurants accept cards but most taxis don’t. It’s good to have cash/pesos on hand regardless and in case the card machines have issues.
- A COVID test is required before going to the airport. You will not be allowed back into the U.S. without a negative COVID test, even if you have your vaccination card. COVID Testing Centers are very easy to come across all over Tulum and your results are emailed to you within a half hour.
- You can book excursions beforehand or through your hotel. Lean on the hotel staff for recommendations and scheduling. They are more than happy to help and accommodate you!
- Some hotels on the beach are eco-friendly, so they ask that you don’t flush toilet paper down the toilets. The air conditioning might not be as strong and WiFi may not always be great.
- Download a currency app beforehand, so you can convert menu/cab prices from Mexican Pesos to USD.
WHAT TO DO IN TULUM:
- Exploring the beach strip is a must since that is where all of the beach clubs, restaurants, and shops are located. You can and will probably spend a lot of time there, so its great to learn your bearings to map out your itinerary.
- Depending on how many days you are staying in Tulum, you should definitely fit in a day trip to visit Cenotes, the Tulum Ruins or Chichen Itza. I did a Chichen Itza day trip with my friends two years ago, and it was such a great experience. I highly recommend it! Read about that experience HERE.
- Eat and drink, duh! Tulum is known for their amazing food and each time I visit, I always try new restaurants. Everything was SO good (see a list of places to eat below).
- Visit hotels/beach clubs. Some hotels are exclusive and require a reservation but most hotels will let you hang on the beach or by the pool with a minimum $$ spend per person. Ziggy’s is a favorite beach club of mine and has a $35 USD minimum per person.
WHERE I STAYED IN TULUM:
When my friends and I visited Tulum two years ago, we stayed in the City Center but ended up at the beach strip just about everyday because everything is there – restaurants, beach clubs, shops, etc. I knew I wanted to stay on the beach this time, so I decided to split my trip between the City Center and the beach strip. I also didn’t want to limit myself to one hotel and wanted to explore Tulum more, so I stayed in a total of three hotels. I booked two hotels through Expedia and I booked the last hotel directly through their website.
Elements Tulum Boutique Hotel is a chic boutique hotel, located in Tulum’s City Center and just so happened to be right across the street from Hotel Kaab Tulum, the hotel my friends and I stayed at two years ago! I had no idea until I checked in and it was like it was meant to be. I stayed in the Grand Deluxe Room with Balcony for $132/night. With taxes and fees, my total for two nights was $314.16.
This hotel has 18 rooms total with an outdoor pool, rooftop terrace and restaurant that serves breakfast every morning, from 7:30AM-11:00AM. Breakfast was included in my rate and is $7 per person.
The location is great as the beach is about a 15-minute ride from the City Center. You can take a taxi or rent a bike through the hotel or just about anywhere you see bikes available.
The supermarket was about a 5-minute walk from the hotel and was huge like BJs! This supermarket sold everything – food, water, clothes, liquor, souvenirs, electronics, toiletries, etc. It also has a few ATMs, so you can withdraw pesos. I got to my hotel about two hours before check-in but luckily my room was already ready for me. Once I showered and settled in, I went straight to the supermarket to pick up a 6-pack of water bottles and to get pesos.
Cafés, bars and restaurants are also walking distance. Once you walk down to the street and whether you walk to the left or the right, there are so many options to choose from. There was a cute café down the block from this hotel that I got a smoothie from.
Overall, my stay was great. I liked that this hotel had a pool and is walking distance to so many restaurants and ATMs. I wish the front desk staff were a little bit more friendlier, but regardless, I did enjoy my stay at this hotel.
Coco Tulum is a gorgeous hotel/beach club perfectly positioned in the main area of the beach strip. From this hotel, you are walking distance from beach clubs, popular restaurants, bars and pharmacies.
No rooms were available at this hotel the last time I visited Tulum, so I was beyond excited to stay there this time. I stayed in the Garden View Cabana with Private Bathroom for $159/night. With taxes and fees, my total for three nights was $568.52.
This hotel has 30 cabanas total with spa services and access to the beach club. Breakfast was included in my rate and was served everyday from 7:30AM-noon at Juanita Diavola, which was about a 2 minute walk down the street from the hotel. Lunch and drinks are served at the beach club from noon to 6:00PM everyday. I highly recommend the piña coladas. They are so fresh and truly the BEST.
My cabana was absolutely perfect. I felt like I was in my own little home right on the beach with my hammock and little seating area. Waking up and falling asleep to the sound of the waves was everything I needed. These cabanas are literally on the beach, so you’re walking barefoot through the white sand everywhere. The ocean was less than a two minute walk from my cabana.
Let’s get into the spa services. I received a complimentary foot massage while tanning on the beach and was able to book my massage simultaneously. Honestly, the massage deals were too good to pass up. For $80, I received a 70-minute deep tissue massage and a facial mask. $80!! If you stay at this hotel or decide to get a massage at this hotel, request Alejandro. His hands are magical.
The staff was so welcoming and friendly. I was on a first name basis with everyone – from the front desk, to concierge, to the spa – everyone knew my name here. Julian (hotel concierge) was honestly so great and taught me a new word – Tocaya. It’s a word they use in Mexico when two people have the same or similiar name, so I was his Tocaya and he was my Tocayo. :,) When I checked out, he let me hang out on the beach until my room at my next hotel was ready.
Just want to flag that the WiFi was definitely not great all days but I was looking to disconnect and enjoy my trip, so I didn’t mind. The AC wasn’t as strong as the other two hotels but if you let it run for a little, the room would definitely cool down. Overall, I was very happy with my stay and would definitely stay here again!
Hotel Panamera is a beautiful lifestyle boutique hotel located on Tulum beach. This hotel has 14 rooms with a restaurant, outdoor pool and beach club. On Fridays-Sundays, they have a DJ on the beach and on Sundays, they have their Beach Bazar, which is an outdoor market where clothing and accessories are sold.
I stayed in the Balcony Room for $288/night. With taxes and fees, my total for three nights was $1,054.63. This was my splurge hotel and I didn’t care because it was my 30th birthday. Go big or go home baby. I was a little bummed that my window faced the front of the hotel and not the pool but next time I know to request it upon booking online.
Upon checking in, you are greeted with a Welcome Margarita of your choice. This hotel is so gorgeous in person. The aesthetic is to die for. Staying here was truly a pinch me moment, as I’ve been following this hotel’s IG for some time, just waiting for the day that I would visit and stay!
Being that this hotel is further down on the beach strip, the vibe is definitely more chill and quiet, compared to Coco Tulum that is more in the main area. Popular restaurants like Gitano, Hartwood, etc. are about a 30 minute drive away, just FYI. Matcha Mama and La Zebra are the closest ones within walking distance. This hotel does have a restaurant with really great food. I can attest as I ate all three meals here! However, close by hotels also serve food and there are a few smaller food spots along the streets, too.
You will find more boutiques in this area, so if you want to do some shopping, definitely venture around here! This hotel is also close to Casa Malca, Pablo Ecsobar’s mansion. I didn’t get to make it there this time either but just an FYI, if it’s on your itinerary.
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here and would definitely stay again. The staff was very so easy to talk to and very attentive. Like when walking up the stairs to look at the pool or take a photo, I was instantly approached each time asking if I need to be seated for a meal. Don’t get me wrong – that’s amazing service and we love to see it but sometimes you just need a minute! The service is truly top notch. If you don’t get to stay here, I recommend spending an afternoon at the beach club or eating at the restaurant and getting some content! If you’re lucky to visit when Pilar is there – she is the best waitress and will take care of you!
WHERE I ATE
One thing about Tulum: you are going to eat GOOD. Tulum has amazing food. Both times I’ve been here, I’ve never had one bad meal. They just get better and better.
Kaab Tulum (Dinner): My friends and I stayed at this hotel when we first went to Tulum back in 2019 and it was across the street from Elements Tulum. Their restaurant was still under construction and they only had breakfast available at the time. Now they have a full menu serving all three meals! They accept pesos and card payment.
Juanita Diavola (Breakfast): This is where breakfast is served when staying at Coco Tulum. Beverage of choice is either orange juice or coffee and a basket of bread is brought before your breakfast.
Coco Tulum (Lunch): Piña coladas are a must and you can’t go wrong with any of the seafood on their menu. They accept pesos and card payment. If you are a guest of the hotel, you can also have it charged to your room and pay the balance at checkout.
Posada Margherita (Dinner): I know Italian food doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of Mexico but hear me out! If you want amazing Italian food, you have to eat here! The food was so good, I ate here two nights in a row. It was conveniently a 5 minute walk from Coco Tulum and is the cutest little restaurant right on the beach. You can sit on the beach or on the deck, but either way the view is truly amazing. This restaurant accepts pesos as well as payment via Venmo/Zelle.
Ukami (Dinner): Again, when you think of Mexico, you probably don’t think of Sushi. If you love Sushi/Japanese food, you must eat here! My dinner at Ukami was my favorite meal on this trip. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and wish I had found it sooner because I definitely would have ate there more than once! The waitress said I ordered all of their best foods on their menu. 🙂 The spicy edamame and Shrimp Rock Tacos are a must. I also had their Sayonara rolls (Salmon + Avocado). This restaurant accepts card payment.
Matcha Mama (Breakfast/Snack): Every time I come to Tulum, Matcha Mama is always a must! It’s a super Instagrammable spot but they have the best, fresh açai bowls and yummy matchas. They also have juice shots, too! Conveniently, there is also a COVID testing center right across the street. They accept card payment.
La Zebra (Dinner): My friends and I came here last time because they teach Salsa lessons on the beach on Sundays! It was so much fun and I recommend it. We had dessert after but I knew I had to come back for their food because I heard great things about their menu. Highly recommend their margaritas, tuna tostadas and desserts! They accept card payment.
Hotel Panamera (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner): I was so amazed by the hotel’s restaurant. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, I recommend eating here. Each meal was seriously made with love and the chefs kept bringing me their chef specials. The spicy marg was hands down the best one I’ve ever had. Aperol Spritz and coconuts are not on the menu but they are available, so definitely ask for them! Pilar took care of me almost every meal, so if you visit and are attended by her, tell her I said hi! Francisco is also a gem and such a sweetie with his gorgeous hair.
Overall, I had truly an amazing solo trip. It was the best way to bring in my 30th birthday. I can honestly say I felt very safe in Tulum. I didn’t feel uncomfortable and didn’t put myself in any bad situations. I had pepper spray with me just in case and I never stayed out past 8PM, as the beach would be pitch black! I feel that Tulum is a safe place and it’s just like when you’re anywhere by yourself, you just have to be aware of your surroundings.
It was a blessing to return to Tulum and to experience it again but this time on my own. I was able to explore more and see more of the beach strip. I was able to reflect, relax and eat amazing food – simple Taurus pleasures. I was able to slow down and be present. I enjoyed every sunrise and sunset. I overdosed on Vitamin D. This solo trip was the best thing that I’ve done for me in a while. If you’ve been contemplating taking a solo trip, just book it!
I hope this guide was helpful! I can’t wait to visit Tulum again and continue to explore and share more hotels, restaurants and more with you guys. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram.