Once upon a time, there was a scrappy little town on the Yucat?n peninsula called Tulum. The waters were crystalline, the beaches powdery, and the electricity, where it existed, was spotty. And as happens with all undiscovered idylls, eventually Tulum was discovered. Normally this would be a bad thing. But in the case of this tiny Mexican town, when all the models, fashion editors, and people with flawless pedicures moved in, so did the yoga retreats, spa treatments, and world-class restaurants. There are still secret beaches miles from the beaten path, but if you want to work out, eat well, and get a gorgeous (fake!) tan, you can do that, too. Tulum has pretty much everything, except reliable Wi-Fi.
When Melissa Perlman started Bikini Bootcamp?a weeklong, yoga-heavy fitness retreat?at the Amansala Eco Chic Resort & Spa in 2002, the hotel was barely more than a tropical, rough-hewn shack on the beach. Today it’s still a tropical, rough-hewn shack on the beach?it just has a few more palapas (not to mention celebrity clients, such as Sienna Miller and Cindy Crawford). According to Perlman, the worst thing you can bring are preconceived notions.
You might actually love meditating. “You may think you don’t like dance classes or yoga or meditation,” says Perlman, who wants every one of her clients to leave their comfort zone. “Push yourself. Try everything.”
You can live?and even be happy!?without a schedule. “It rains, plans change, a teacher may have you warm up in a way you have never moved your body,” says Perlman. “Go with the flow.” That is, both in and out of vinyasa class.
You’re basically a marine in a bikini. “Remind yourself that you have done more before breakfast than most people do in a day.”
TAKE IT AWAY
Packing for a trip to Tulum is almost as fun as going to Tulum. Keep it light?if you need to check a bag, you’ve gone too far.
A cover-up. This may be the only time you get to throw on a gauzy, colorful swath of fabric and be dressed for the whole day (and most of the evening). Our favorite caftans, like ones from Aish and Lemlem, have a bohemian-cool vibe.
Colorful plastic sunglasses. Oh, yes. They’re back. But these are a different kind of retro, with cool cat-eye shapes and mod rounded frames in colors like pink, gold, and blue instead of ’80s neons. We like styles from Karen Walker and Miu Miu.
A phone case. Your sunglasses are plastic, but your phone isn’t. The LifeProof N??d Case has saved us from surprise poolside splashes and drink spills.
A straw hat. Give us an icy Pacifico and a Panama hat and vacation is pretty much made. We like hats from J.Crew and Goorin Bros.?the brims are made from tightly woven straw to protect the cheeks and forehead from UV rays.
Strappy sandals. You could go with plain leather, but you probably wear those the rest of the summer. We say mix things up with a pair that has multicolored straps or colorful pompoms, like ones from Muzungu Sisters?perfect for showing off your vacation pedicure.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Dinner at Hartwood restaurant could take a few hours?and that’s just to get in. Our advice: Wait it out. The food is that good, the lighting that magical, and the open-air kitchen (with almost no appliances) that fun to watch. If you’re not heading to Tulum, you can re-create the candied jamaica flowers yourself (at least you can try!). Chef and owner Eric Werner recently coauthored a cookbook,Hartwood: Bright Wild Flavors From the Edge of the Yucat?n (Artisan). We cribbed our favorite cocktail recipe.
WHAT’S PAST IS PROLOGUE
For about 40 pesos and an hour of your time, you can sneak in a dose of culture to make your beach vacation more than just a beach vacation. The Tulum ruins are an ancient Mayan port with some very worthwhile views. The ruins are about ten minutes?and seven centuries?from downtown Tulum.