Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
For as long as I can remember I had friends and colleagues going to Cabo, Puerto Vallarta and several other popular locations in Mexico. About 10 years ago I remember hearing about Tulum, Mexico. It was hard to get to, not full of tourists and an oasis in the jungle. My interest was piqued.
Having never been to Mexico, I spent a week in Cabo in December of 2019. Had I have known that would be my last International trip before COVID hit, I might have planned a different trip. Don’t get me wrong, Cabo is beautiful, but the resort was very… shall I say, manufactured? To be honest, I believe I could have been on any beachfront beautiful resort and it would have been comparable.
After attending a wedding in Florida this month, my fiancé and I decided to take a little detour on down to Tulum. While it’s certainly more developed than it was 10 years ago, it still has a much more authentic feel than Cabo. It was much easier to get to from Ft. Lauderdale than from my home in Los Angeles. We knew we didn’t want to stay anywhere near their party zone or their “beach public” area downtown. So we found a quaint hotel, a bit further North from that area, called Casa Altamar.
This hotel has a mere 11 units, a private beach that is equipped with kayaks and stand up paddle boards, and a restaurant that did not disappoint. The online reviews were fantastic and there were several comments about the quality of the on site restaurant.
The staff was beyond kind, helpful and welcoming. They knew us on a first name basis and always treated us like we had been there for more than a few days. A daily continental breakfast was included and loaded with fresh fruit and bread. And the coffee- the coffee was DELICIOUS. Lattes, cappuccinos, iced coffee, whatever you want. They whipped it up fresh and brought it right to your table.
Since the hotel was about 20 minutes from downtown Tulum about 60% of our meals were at the hotel’s restaurant. Not a single one was anything less than delicious.
Renting A Car In Tulum
Upon arriving to Tulum, we quickly realized that Uber does not exist there and you rely on taxis or car rentals. The staff of the hotel advised us to rent a car, as it would be less expensive than taxiing everywhere. They also set it up entirely for us, and the agent came to the hotel to have us sign the paperwork. We had a rental car for 3 of our 6 days and it was absolutely perfect. Since rain is common in the jungle, we were able to spend the grey days exploring downtown, the Tulum Ruins and Akumal Monkey Sanctuary. The days with sun were spent entirely on the beach or in these hammocks right here.
A Couple Tulum Restaurant Recommendations
When you are in Mexico for a week, it’s fair to admit you might need a break from the Mexican food. For that, I 100% recommend Posada Margherita. This restaurant sits in the sand, on the downtown beach area and serves up delicious homemade pasta, pizza and salads. You sit with your feet in the sand, while you wash down Italian food with great wine. What better a break from the Mexican food?
11/10 would recommend.
This little hole in the wall has been in Tulum forever. It’s not fancy, the food is decent, but it’s a staple. The beer is $2 and the menu is huge. What more could you ask for when stopping for a quick bite while exploring downtown Tulum? They are cash only though, so plan ahead so you’re not running down the street trying to find an ATM like me.
One more tip- the green pepper in the escabeche they bring you will take you to your knees. I almost had to ask for a glass of milk. Phew.
8/10 would recommend.
The Tulum Ruins
There are Mayan ruins all throughout this part of Mexico. There are some very close to where we stayed and others like Chichen Itza are a couple of hours away. Since we didn’t make the time to drive to Chichen Itza we went to the Tulum Ruins near downtown. They were cool, but honestly pretty packed and after a few minutes the buildings all started to look the same. The coolest part to me was the local residents (look closely at the photo).
Quick Tips For A Visit To Tulum
- Get a hotel farther away from downtown or their beach public area if you want a quiet trip.
- Rent a car. Can’t stress this enough. It’s not too pricey ($75/day) and you have full mobility.
- If you know any Spanish, it’s always good etiquette to try to use it with the local (even just ‘please’ and ‘thank you’)
- Setup transport from whichever airport you fly into (Cancun or Cozumel). We used USA transfers.
- Order pesos from your local bank before you travel so you have some cash on you once you arrive. A travel card like Capital One Venture is great for most purchases and charges no fees abroad.
- Don’t ignore the street food carts downtown! You can get some amazing tacos and churros for a couple dollars (this is where the cash comes in!)
- Wear plenty of sunscreen. That sun is stronger than you think and if you burn too badly on day 1, the rest for the trip may be compromised.
- You can drink the water and ice at nearly all hotels (they have filtered water and ice dropped off daily for guests in large quantity).
- Tipping is proper etiquette in Mexico. Most restaurants have a suggested “propino” on their receipts and the locals and staff rely on this as income.
- Bring mosquito repellant! Don’t forget you’re in the jungle. A day of mosquito bites can really make someone miserable.