Tulum, Mexico January 2021
I've had a long history with Mexico even before this trip. In my younger days- Cancun was my spot and I went a couple times just out of high school and during college with friends. I've also been to Playa del Carmen a few times with ex-boyfriends, and hit up Cozumel for less than 24hrs each time while on Cruises. Recently I had my first experience with the West Coast of Mexico in 2018 when Joe and I traveled to Puerto Vallarta. PV still is my favorite so far of all my Mexico travels- but with travel options being limited this year I decided to try again with the East coast and check out Tulum. What I thought when I booked: Tulum is a super hippy, quiet, relaxing beach town with great foodie restaurants. Not the case. It is not super hippy, or quiet, or relaxing. It does have great restaurants however. The best way I can describe Tulum, large nightclubs and resorts on the beach- instagram influencers- Coachella meets Mexico on the beach.
Thursday: We arrived into the Cancun Airport- which was packed. Made it through customs, and looked for our driver (which I had arranged with our hotel over email). No driver. Tons of cab drivers coming at you asking if you want a ride, but if our driver was there in the sea of taxi drivers and excursion sellers, we did not find them. So, we arranged on the spot for a taxi to Tulum (1.5 hr ride- around $120). It took them awhile to actually find a driver that would take us all the way to Tulum, so we stood outside the airport in a line for about 30 mins. Finally, the taxi company found us a driver, and we were off to Tulum. We stayed at the Maria del Mare Hotel- a small boutique hotel right on the main street in the beach area of Tulum. It was very cute- probably about 30 rooms with private entrances so no elevators, each room had a patio or private deck, really nice big pool, good beach set up with beds and lounge chairs. The beach cove itself had a ton of seaweed so didn't look the nicest, but the property next store also had a larger beach with less seaweed so we went there a few times to get into the ocean and swim. The restaurant on site was meh, the staff was very helpful (even though they forgot to pick us up at the airport, I let it slide by the end since they made up for it.) The location was really good- right in the middle of an area of medium-sized bars/restaurants and shops. However, there seemed to be 4 main parts of Tulum, and getting from one to another was not very walkable (which I prefer). You have your trendy, nightclub and bar scene with expensive shops about 2.5 miles south of where we were staying, our area very close to large resorts like Papaya Playa Project and Azulik, the Archeological Zone near the ruins that also had several large beach resorts about 2.5 miles north along the coast, and what looked to be the original town of Tulum about 2 miles inland (the easiest place to access due to a paved path for walkers/runners/bikes). We stayed mostly in our little area, but when we did venture out, we had to take taxis which was a little annoying due to only one road access and it being backed up all the time with traffic. Bikes are also available to rent, but with that constant traffic and only one path, not the safest option in my opinion. Walking was also difficult to do since you were walking on the road most of the time, no sidewalks really. Once we arrived we went next door to Papaya Playa project for happy hour drinks (it was pretty quiet for a Thursday night so this was really nice to just chill overlooking the ocean with some drinks), and then had dinner at Kitchen Table which was 100% the best meal of the trip. Really good food and cocktails, with lots of outdoor seating. We did walk from our hotel to Kitchen Table, which in hindsight not the best idea. It was dark and again, we were walking on a crowded road. But dinner was amazing and we took a taxi back to the hotel.
Friday: We had breakfast at our hotel's restaurant Mina outside overlooking the beach. Not the best food at this place but of course convenience wins especially in the morning. After breakfast we went for a run and I twisted my ankle (womp womp). After we relaxed at the resort on the beach and swam in the pool (which was freezing). We tried Tunich for lunch across the street- known for their brunch but when we arrived they were only doing select food for lunch- not my fave and the service sucked. After lunch we did some ocean swimming, relaxed more, then happy hour at Mina and a taxi back down south to La Corriente Cevicheria for dinner. The ride took about 40 mins for only 2.5 miles- tons of traffic. It was Friday night and people were out partying. All the restaurants and clubs looked packed. Luckily the restaurant had tons of space, was not crowded at all and had plenty of outdoor seating. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure this is where I got food poisoning and I was out for about the next 36 hours. By the time we got back to the room, I was in full blown vomiting mode. Joe however was all good, for the moment.
Saturday: After an aggressive vomit filled Friday night, Saturday all I could do was lay out all day at the resort on the beach. I was completely dead. Joe ordered a little food for lunch from the resort to eat at our beach chairs. I finally started to feel a little better that night, and Joe picked up take out from Matteo's across the street for dinner.
Sunday: We had set up a Cenote tour with a local tour company and Viator for originally Saturday- but was able to postpone and do it this morning instead, which was huge. I was feeling better, not 100%, but up for this tour. Over about 4 hours we explored 3 cenotes nearby- Cristal, Grand and Casa Cenote. For some reason that day was kind of cold, cloudy and in the high 60s/low 70s, so swimming was a little less comfortable than normal, but this was by far my favorite part of the trip. All the cenotes were pretty cool, and since it was chilly I think it kept the influencers at bay which was nice. After the tour for lunch we tried Puro Corazon, also across the street from our hotel like most spots. It seemed great, again not many people there and lots of outdoor seating, however as I was on the road to recovery, a few hours later Joe started on his own journey with food poisoning. And it might not have been food poisoning- some locals told us it may be drinking water with ice that wasn't filtered, whatever it was it did a number on both of us. Before his illness started, we attempted to walk to the ruins through the Archeological Zone, however the rain picked up, Joe started to get queasy, we ended up bagging it and just cabbing it back to the hotel. Ended up being the right move because once we were back, he started vomiting. I was just starting to get my appetite back, so I ordered Pizza from Boccanera across the street which ended up being super cheap and really really good. But that about wrapped up our Tulum vacation. Sunday we headed back home.
So is Tulum right for you? If you are a walker, hiker or like long bike rides on paths- no. If you want quiet or intimate settings- no. If you want to party- yes. If you want to take tons of photos to create instagram envy -yes. If you like big white sandy beaches with clear blue water- surprisingly no. I feel like more north like Cancun and Playa del Carmen had much bigger, nicer beaches. If you are a foodie- yes. The restaurants were great, and I only got to enjoy just a little bit of the food experience due to my illness cutting that short. If you have a strong stomach - yes. This is the 2nd time Mexico has done me dirty with food poisoning. I do feel like I will not be returning to at least the east side of Mexico anytime soon. I have heard good things about Cabo San Lucas, Oaxaca, Mexico City, but I may be gun shy for the next couple years after what this trip put us through!