Tulum, Mexico’s busy season is underway, as city dwellers in cold locales are flocking to this Mexican haven, escaping the dreary winter months at home. On a last minute whim, I decided to book my first-ever trip to Tulum, and much to my delight, the bustling town of Riviera Maya, Mexico surpassed my expectations. With my camera in tow, I walked along the town's beach street, home to an array of restaurants, shops, and bars, all evoking the barefoot luxury that's synonymous with a Tulum stay. In the guide below, discover where to stay, where to shop, and where to eat and drink during your trip to Tulum.
Where to Stay
I stayed at Casa de las Olas, located at the very end of Tulum’s beach road. The villa has five private suites, all with stunning views of the Caribbean’s clear turquoise waters. Hammocks line the property, making it a serene location to enjoy a relaxing getaway in Mexico. Though the property is beautiful, my favorite aspect of Casa de las Olas was the team behind the operation. They’re tapped into every facet of life in the beachside town, opening up travelers to all of the best things to do in and outside of town.
Photo Tip: Document the large-scale landscape which the property encompasses, but don't miss the details, such as the palm frond shadows that glitter in the sand and the hammock-lined trees that dot the property.
Where to Shop
Tulum’s beach road is lined with artisan shops that house the vacation accessories of your dreams. Mr. Blackbird offers the best jewelry in town. Beautiful stones make up handcrafted rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, and each comes with an explanation of the crystal and the special properties it holds. JOSA Tulum has a range of free-form dresses and kaftans in prints that evoke the essence of Tulum. La Troupe’s shop includes a bed beneath the jungle to showcase the store’s fair-trade and made in Mexico items, where the popular burlap and leather bags by Dutzi Design are available for purchase.
Photo Tip: Tulum's colorful streets make it easy to have a quick photoshoot. Throw on your new purchases and pose in front of Tulum's best street art.
Where to Eat & Drink
Whether you want late night tacos or an upscale dining experience, Tulum is a town full of great food to fit every traveler’s taste. Raw Love Tulum was my morning stop for healthy smoothies and acai bowls. Chamicos on Soliman Bay had the best ceviche I ate for the entire trip, and the scenery felt like I had stumbled upon a deserted island reserved just for me. The much-acclaimed Hartwood restaurant definitely lived up to the hype and is worth any wait you may incur. All of Hartwood’s fish, meat and produce are freshly sourced each day from the Yucatan’s interior farms and markets, and Chef Eric Warner’s only modern convenience is an electric blender. If you venture off the beach road into Tulum’s interior, a visit to Cetli to enjoy Chef Claudia Perez Rivas’s mole is best enjoyed over house tamarindo margaritas.
Photo Tip: To capture your food appropriately, opt for an overhead aerial shot - bonus points if the colors in the food match your table!
Where to Relax
When I walked into Coqui Coqui’s waterfront boutique, I was immediately mesmerized by the etherealness of the design and the intoxicating smell of the shop’s signature oils. I checked in for my three-hour appointment for the Ocean Bath Ritual, which began with a walk up to the spa room that overlooked the entire beach area. The white stones and Mayan music created a dreamy combination, and I tried not to drift off as the treatment began with a sea and coconut oil scrub. That was followed by a Mayan clay body mask with reflexology, a one-hour massage, and ended with a milk and flower bath.
Photo Tip: Do take time to relax during your treatment, but don't miss the chance to snap a photo of the floating rose petals.
And a Few Things to Try, at Least Once…
If you decide to leave Tulum for day trips, a drive to the Coba ruins is in order. On the drive over, I stopped along the road to try the street vendor fruits on display. The pitaya (dragon fruit) is delicious, and the vendors will cut the fruit so you can enjoy as you peruse the roadside shops.
For the more adventurous of spirits, I suggest trying a Temazcal at Uno Astro Lodge. Only done on the full moon and performed mostly in Spanish, the multi-hour celebration of Pachamama (Mother Earth) includes a sacred ceremony blessing the group’s journey, and follows with a four-door cycle of ceremonies inside the igloo-shaped sauna, covered with Mexican textiles.
Photo Tip: Ask a friend to stand in your image of the Coba ruins. They'll help show the scale of the massive temple structure.