As we grabbed our pastel blue bikes, the wheels crunching along the bleached rock path beneath us, I couldn’t help but think Tulum was like a Mexican Cape Cod. Yes, the locals spoke Spanish, but parking your bike outside an earthy coffee shop serving bulletbroof coffee and matcha teas by a blonde Aussie girl, it didn’t exactly feel like Mexico.
We came to Tulum in July, over 4th of July week, which is actually considered their off-season. It tends to be their rainier, heavier-seaweed season, but we were lucky to still have mainly gorgeous days. There were days of rain, but it was the accommodating 15-20 minute thunderstorms and the sun would break right back out. The seaweed, however, was unavoidable. There were literal seaweed-scoopers out at the crack of dawn everyday scooping the mounds that had washed up overnight, so that beachgoers could still enjoy the crashing waves and not end up in swamp-like conditions. And yes, the mosquitos were out to frolic, as in any warm climate in the summer heat.
All things considered, I would still do it again. Because of the low season, we experienced cheaper accommodation prices, easier to book dinner reservations, and overall less people (which I suppose can be good and bad. Bad when you crave some lively ambiance at night!).
Earthy, gypsy vibes
Local fish, local vegetables (local spinach on almost every menu)
Lots of fresh juices and healthy eats
Handwoven dream catchers, 80s music (specifically "This Must Be The Place by the Talking Heads playing on repeat), and boutiques selling artisan jewelry
We ate at Gitano, recently made even more popular by it’s pop-up in SoHo, New York. It was definitely a buzzy atmosphere, however, I felt the food lacked in appeal. The music and vibes were great, but if I came back I’d really just go for drinks late night.
We went to Hartwood, the highly acclaimed restaurant opened by a Brooklyn couple serving only local, seasonal, and caught-that-day fare. Even though we had a reservation, we were still not seated for over an hour after. It’s the place to be, and usually that comes with a wait fee. Overall, the food was top notch (the shrimp dish, Maya’s Shrimp- Maya being one of the owners- was DIVINE).
Secret Garden was one we stumbled upon after Gitano. Tucked away and cozy, it had great food and friendly waiters. The cocktails, as almost anywhere we went, were excellent and reasonably priced.
Ziggy’s was a surprise- and a great one. We went for a casual lunch after riding our bikes through town, and sat right on the beach with the ocean in view. THE FOOD BLEW US AWAY. We wanted to go back every single day. We had ceviche that was fresh and light and sublime. Every drink ordered at our table was heavenly. Even the chips they served before you ordered were perfect- crisp even in the humidity.
La Eufemia had closed so we were told to head to Iscream Bar for a similar vibe and tacos. Instead, we did Iscream later for drinks but first stopped at Safari for tacos and guac by an open fire served out of a retro Airstream. The octopus taco is a definite must-have.
Arca is a sleek, sexy outdoor restaurant that is partly covered by an awning, and partly out in the open. This is important because as I noted earlier, it tends to thunderstorm. The night we ate here, Dad was CONVINCED it would definitely not rain, because his Apple watch didn't say so. I'm sure we can all guess what happened here: it started to pour halfway through dinner. Luckily we had just finished our appetizers (the bone marrow was delicious, along with their homemade grilled bread) so we ran under the awning for cover and waited for our main dishes to arrive. In the end, they weren't too spectacular. For the sake of recommendations, I'd say come here for a drink - under the covered bar - and get the bone marrow appetizer.
Mezzanine was a surprise throw into the mix. Recommended by an English couple while watching the World Cup, Mezzanine was THE best Thai food I've ever had outside of Thailand. It was probably my favorite meal as well. Their curries were fantastic, their Thai basil margaritas were sublime and they served chicken satay with a peanut sauce that I will remember for the rest of my life. So yes, the best meal I had in Mexico was Thai.
Where we stayed
Rosa Del Viento: Tucked away down the main strip in Tulum Beach, it was a cozy hotel with adorable, clean bungalows with breakfast included. And not just continental breakfast - full on eggs, huevos rancheros, fruit, coffee, etc.
Habitas: Glamping at it's best, Habitas is a well-manicured, ecofriendly establishment with an infinity pool, a decadent eatery, morning yoga, Mayan calendar teachings, and cabanas with outdoor showers. It's heaven.
What we did
You MUST do a cenote while you're here. They're basically sinkholes that develop in limestone with crystal-clear pools beneath that you can swim in. You can find cenotes all over the Yucatan area. We explored Dos Ojos, but near Tulum there is also el Gran Cenote, Cenotes Labnaha, and plenty others.
Ruins - we went to the nearby Tulum Ruins but maybe not at the best time. It was a scorchingly hot day, and the ruins provide little to no shade. Unfortunately, you can't get to close to the actual formations either, so it was honestly a bit of a letdown. It's super cheap to enter, and you definitely see a lot of iguanas and other wildlife, but I don't know that I'd recommend it as a must-do. I've heard great things about Chichen Itza, it's just a much farther distance from Tulum itself.
What we ate
- Breakfast burritos @ Burrito Amor
- Ceviche and guac n' chips @ Ziggy's
- Maya's shrimp dish @ Hartwood
- Octopus tacos @ Safari
- Bone marrow @ Arca
- Everything @ Mezzanine
- Kitchen Table
- Casa Jaguar
- Taqueria Homorio
- Posada Margherita