Ok, back on the Tulum boat for one more post. Can you bear it?
I promised you a more specific review of our time in Tulum, i.e. where we went, what we thought, and what tips we gained about visiting the place. So, if you’re not in the market for a trip to Tulum, my apologies. Hopefully the photo was worth your visit. For the rest of you out there on the interwebs who have found me by looking up “tips for traveling to Tulum”, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, a summary of our favorite places, least favorite places, and sage advice.
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- Hotel Mestizo – This hotel is nearly at the end of the Playa Tulum strip but that made it a very quiet and secluded retreat from the busier portions of tourist Tulum. The staff was incredibly kind and made us feel right at home. Our “eco-chic” cabana was located literally less than a minute’s walk from the beach. Mestizo is not the swankiest option in Tulum but for those looking for a more authentic and “earthy” experience, this is wonderful place! And if you can’t leave your computer at home (like me), their wi-fi was complimentary and very good.
- Hartwood – We were told by several people that Hartwood was a must-visit dining experience. They weren’t wrong! For all you design geeks out there, the branding of the place was stellar from top to bottom. The food and drinks were incredibly fresh and delicious too. It’s a pricey option but well worth the cost. I got the octopus platter and the maize ice cream, all of which was fantastically brilliantly prepared. This is an outdoor dining experience, so be prepared with bug spray and a hand fan. The highlight of our experience had to have been when a massive freshly caught marlin fish was hoisted back to the kitchen over the shoulder of a local vendor. The restaurant was all abuzz with excitement while watching the scene.
- Mexico Kan Tours – Our day trip with Mexico Kan Tours was easily one of the brightest highlights of our trip. They are a small company that makes every effort to share the ecological heritage and culture of Tulum with tourists while also maintaining it’s natural habitat as best possible throughout the process. In a few words, ecologically responsible tourism. Our guide, Miguel, was wonderfully informative and personable. We took the snorkeling and cenote tour and had more than just a fun experience but a really eye-opening one too. To conclude our tour, we all enjoyed a home cooked vegetarian Mexican meal, family style. It was completely lovely!
- El Capitan – El Capitan is a charming traditional Mexican restaurant in the town part of Tulum, otherwise known at “Pueblo Tulum”. It was a great rest stop for a day of shopping in the area. The prices were also relatively inexpensive which isn’t the case at a lot of the other restaurants on the Playa Tulum strip.
- MaMa Muu – This was one of the closest restaurants to Hotel Mestizo so for those that are further up on the strip, it may be a bit of a trek. But it was perfect for us! Since we were there in the off season (late Summer, btw, is the off season in Tulum), we were the only guests during our dinner, which was a shame because the food was awesome! More people would have probably enjoyed dining there as well. The service was very hospitable and the decor was adorable. Think Anthropologie window displays in a Mexico beach town. Like most of the other restaurants on the strip, the prices were a little higher than we expected but that seemed to be the case everywhere. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience regardless.
- El Asadero – We happened upon El Asadero at the end of our day in downtown Tulum. It is a small steak house with great street side dining and incredibly friendly staff. Our meal was delicious, reasonably priced, and the service was fantastic. If you’re wanting to leave the strip for a night in town, this is your place! I only have good things to say about El Asadero.
Least favorite places:
- Las Ranitas Hotel restaurant – I hate giving bad reviews especially when so much from our trip was good. But our last meal in Tulum sadly was not. In fact, really not! We decided to walk up the beach after dark on our last night in Tulum and dine at one of the many beachside restaurants attached to the hotels. We landed on Las Ranitas. Perhaps they were having an off night or the chef was new to the menu, but I have to say the food was almost inedible. I got the Thai Seafood soup and had to stop midway due to the excessive sweetness of the broth. The seafood did not seem fresh either. David got the Tuna steak and it was clear it had been frozen and then poorly recooked that evening. Disappointing for sure. On the bright side, the view of the ocean was stunning!
We did as much research into Tulum before arriving as possible but there was still so much that we learned once there. Here are a few tips that we’ll have in mind for our next trip.
- Come with enough cash to last your entire trip. Apparently there are several ATM machines along the strip that are known to regularly compromise users’ card information. We had to withdraw cash towards the end of our trip and, upon learning about the card scams, went into town to use an ATM associated with a reputable bank. If you have to withdraw cash, that is the good way to do it. But your best option is to come with all you need. The fees can be rather steep once you’re in the country. We used only pesos as well. Many vendors in the tourist parts of Tulum will take USD but it’s a small town and there are many vendors that don’t.
- Pack snacks to keep in your hotel room. As I mentioned, the restaurants in the area are wonderful but they can also be quite pricey. We packed dried fruit snacks, protein bars, and crackers to keep in our hotel room and they came in very handy in between meals or later at night when we didn’t want to go up to the restaurant.
- Consider organic skin products. Due to the particular concern for the preservation of the local habitat in Tulum, many cenotes and snorkeling pools have strict guidelines about the sunscreens and bug repellents that can be worn into the water. You can purchase approved products at most of these locations if yours are insufficient but you might try using organic products throughout your trip anyways.
- Come with your English-Spanish dictionary. Unlike other highly popular tourists spots in Mexico, Tulum is still a fairly small community and many people don’t speak English. Thankfully, David is fluent in Spanish and had little trouble communicating, but if you don’t speak the language, a dictionary could end up being your best friend.
If you’re planning a trip to Tulum and have more specific questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy traveling, friends!