Intrepid travelers who want to experience Mexico’s untouched beauty should bypass the concrete-high-rise jungle that is Cancun, and beeline down the Yucatan Peninsula coast to Tulum. While it houses plenty of comfortable accommodations and restaurants catering to all budgets, incredibly, Tulum remains largely untouched by overwhelming development. Though travelers won’t be able to rely on cell phone signals and Wi-Fi can be spotty, travel to Tulum’s far flung reaches rewards you with remote idylls on the sea. In other words, you’ll find yourself pretty darn close to paradise.
WHERE TO STAY
This beachfront, boutique hotel transports guests to one of the most relaxing and scenic settings in Tulum. With just 9 rooms, Mezzanine feels like a true respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can sip freshly brewed coffee delivered to your room each morning, and bathe with locally made Yucatan herbal toiletries in your bathroom. Guests have access to a plunge pool, and free use of snorkel equipment to explore the underwater sites just offshore from the hotel’s beach.
El Pez at Turtle Cove
El Pez at Turtle Cove has thatched-roof villas filled with charming details and cozy decor, like hand-hewn furnishings, that create an atmosphere most guests will be loath to ever leave. You can sit on your private terrace while sipping morning coffee that is delivered daily to your room, or get active with a stroll along the hotel’s beachfront. Interesting handcrafted cocktails are available at the hotel bar, and are perfect sip while stargazing from the hotel’s common areas.
Hotel Casa Sofia
Tucked into Tulum’s city center, guests of Hotel Casa Sofia enjoy the creature comforts of a stunning Mexican Colonial home-turned-guest house. Simply decorated rooms include wooden, colonial-style furnishings, while colorful tile floors and wrought-iron lanterns give the guest house an authentic appeal. After a steamy day in Tulum’s heat, guests can take a dip in the refreshing swimming pool set in the hotel’s cheerful courtyard.
WHERE TO EAT
Diners can seek solace at Kitchen Table, knowing that the restaurant has made every effort to lessen its ecological impact. From using only natural and reused materials in its construction, to deriving power from solar panels, Kitchen Table remains as eco-friendly as possible. The simple menu executes tasty dishes, like deviled avocado, local lobster, and pork ribs. Save room for desserts that include a decadent salted caramel mousse and dark chocolate-ginger ganache.
Vegans, rejoice! Not only does Raw Love specialize in dishing out innovative vegan meals, it has also mastered the art of creating delicious raw food, as its name implies. Set in the sands of the Ahau Tulum hotel, Raw Love recently reopened following a remodel, and still serves uber-healthy treats, like smoothie bowls topped with goji berries, cacao nibs, and chia seeds.
Eating well — and healthy — is remarkably easy in Tulum, thanks to restaurants like funky little Co.ConAmor, which focuses on whole ingredients, vegetarian plates, and big flavors. Relax with a cup of organic coffee, and dig into fresh guacamole, or a salad of soba noodles, spinach and tomatoes. If you’re looking for something heartier, cheese enchiladas in mole sauce will satisfy your hunger. Like what you’re eating? The onsite store sells many ingredients in bulk.
WHAT TO DO
Fascinating Mayan ruins dot the Mexican landscape, and Tulum has the good fortune of housing a number of well-preserved ruins dating back to the 13th century. Plan a daytrip to visit the ruins and take the time to properly explore the many sites which have dramatic clifftop views of the Yucat?n Peninsula coast and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Highlights include the Great Palace, Temple of the Frescoes, and the God of Winds Temple, which sits perched at the entrance of Tulum’s bay.
El Gran Cenote
The area surrounding Tulum’s ruins is specked with cenotes, giant sinkholes where a cave ceiling collapsed. The sinkholes are typically quite deep, filled with cerulean water, and ideal for swimmers and divers to explore. El Gran Cenote is one of the region’s most popular, so plan to arrive early and beat some of the late-day crowds. Visitors can swim, snorkel and dive while admiring geologic features such as stalagmites and stalactites.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Preserve
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Preserve protects a rich bounty of flora and fauna on the Yucatan Peninsula’s east coast. While visiting the biosphere, visitors might spy some of the 300 species of birds that inhabit the region, and view tropical forests, a palm savannah, wetlands, lagoons, and mangroves. Meaning “Origin of the Sky,” Sian Ka’an is comprised of 1.3 million acres of land stretching along 74 miles of pristine coastline.