Insider’s Guide: Tulum

In picture perfect Tulum, you will ride pastel colored bikes, eat fresh seafood straight from the sea and drift into a relaxed trace only salty air and soft sand can do.

Once a sleepy beach town sans electricity and any real roads in or out, Tulum has managed to keep it’s laid back approach, but now peppered with trendy eateries and beach bars, oh and the electricity is optional. From yogi to beach bum or culinary connoisseur, Tulum is flourishing with options and the next place you need to book, STAT.

TulumHOW TO GET THERE
Cancun is the closest airport to fly into which is pretty popular with the young Spring Break kind of crowd. So if you know what’s good for you, you will get the heck out of there as fast as you can. Just two hours south from Cancun, a shuttle is the best way to get down there, in my opinion. Rent a car at the airport can be an expensive ordeal as the exuberant insurance is not optional. Between the many beach cruiser bikes and taxis, your own vehicle is not necessary unless you plane on exploring other areas on multiple days.

WHERE TO STAY
I needed a little geography lesson for picking a place to stay in Tulum. There are two parts of Tulum. Tulum City, a lively local town with lots of little souvenir shops and Tulum beach, where most of the restaurants and hotels are.

When most people think of Tulum they are referring to the beach and can anything really eat the beach.
We stayed at Zamas Hotel in a bungalow right on the beach.

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WHAT TO EAT
Eat as much fresh fish, guacamole and tacos as possible. Be sure to wash it down with a good strong margarita and water in between, because you know falling facedown in the sand from dehydration is never chic.

Zamas
Apart from being the hotel we stayed at, people come to Zamas for the food and stay for the live music. From all the places I tried, and trust me I tried a lot, the guac here is 10/10. The beauty of eating guac in Tulum is not only the freshness and the bold colour, but the fact I’m not paying $14 dollars a spoonful also makes it taste that much better.

Mateos
Before eating my weight in Mexican food in Tulum, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of how it could possible be that much better in Mexico. If you get the fajitas and ceviche from Mateos you will understand I like did.

Hartwood
I had every intention of eating at Hartwood, so much so it was saved for our last special night in Tulum. Mother Nature had other plans since she sent a torrential downpour on us just moments after we went to make a reservation. Hartwood knew what was coming and was closed for the night. We on the other hand, were drenched from the ride home on our bikes and Hart-less so to speak. Everyone I speak to recommends the seafood restaurant. My recommendation, just don’t wait til your last night to go. There is also a pretty epic waitlist for this place so try get there early.

La Coqueta
Located in Tulum town, don’t be fooled by the plastic chairs and pea gravel. This hidden gem is what I imagine dinner would be like at someone’s abuela. We ordered tour standard ceviche, guacamole and margarita starter, which always got us excited for more. Lets just say after multiple tacos and fajitas we rolled home.

WHAT TO DO

Chichen Itza
If you are willing to spare a day away from the beach I highly recommend a day trip. About two hours away from Tulum beach in the Yucatan state is Chichen Itza, Ik Kil Cenote and Valladolid, a small Mexican town sparse of tourist. There are a couple of ways to get there such as tour group, public bus or private taxi. Normally one for a bargain, we went with the easiest option which also was the more expensive one, but it meant we got to see all the different places quickly and at our pace. Our hotel organized a private driver to pick us up at 6am, arriving at Chichen Itza by opening time at 8am. The beauty of a private car is that our driver waited at each place for us and then drove us home. Not only did we see Chichen Itza, we stopped at Ik Kil, an mind-blowing sinkhole and Valladolid, a perfect Mexican town where we got some authentic grub for lunch. The 52-cent street cart tacos are definitely something to call home about.

Chichen Itza 1Tulum Ruins
If spending a whole day is not for you, the Tulum Ruins are a great alternative. Take a bike north for 20 minutes and you will hit the only Mayan Ruins on the water. The ruins are impressive alone, but perched on the edge of turquoise water is simply magical.

Cenotes
If you don’t make the trip out to the Yucatan, there are a few cenotes only 20 minutes drive from Tulum Beach. Cenotes are naturally occurring sinkholes and underwater caves that now top bucket lists. Check out Dos Ojos and Nic Ta Ha.

Steph_profHerstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.

Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.

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