Unlike its busy neighbor Cancun to the north, quiet Tulum is a haven for artists, bohemians and nature lovers. Creative types are drawn here, in part, because of the natural, low tech environment.
Once you ease into Tulum’s laid-back lifestyle, it can be hard to imagine living any other way. But even now that I’m back in my busy New York life, all I need to do to find that zen state of mind is to think back on some of my favorite Tulum moments:
Nothing makes me feel like I’m on holiday more than a hotel that offers a sense of place. You can’t get any more authentic than Ahau Tulum? our airy palapa felt straight out of Swiss Family Robinson. We spent most evenings out on the enormous deck, hanging out with a bucket of Mexican beer. We felt like castaways, extremely spoiled ones, that is? Ahau’s plush beds and waterfall shower definitely put the “luxe” factor in this eco-luxe resort.
You won’t look for a snooze button when the first slice of Tulum’s famous sunrise peeks through your window. Leap out of bed and run out to the water’s edge to join your neighbors for the show? it’s ok, jammies are acceptable viewing attire. After the sunrise, sleepy heads can return back to bed, the sound of the gentle waves are a natural sedative and will lull you back to sleep in no time.
I love yoga, but in my New York City studio, it’s not always exactly a zen experience. Mats are jammed into every possible space. It’s hard to relax because I always have one eye on my neighbors, hoping I don’t get kicked (yes it’s happened before).
Yoga in Tulum is different story, we joined a class in a gorgeous cathedral-ceilinged palapa, with plenty of space to spread out and breathe. And you don’t have to worry about sacrificing class quality just because you’re on vacation. Tulum’s laid-back lifestyle seems to attract some of the best yoga instructors out there. We loved our class held at Las Ranitas, a challenging workout that had us sweating? and feeling completely rejuvenated.
In Tulum (and really the entire Riveria Maya area) delicious fruit drinks are everywhere.Refreshing fruit waters (called aguas frescas), green juice concoctions, smoothies, I tried them all, as often as possible. Nothing felt more restorative after a long flight, a tough yoga class or just a long day in the sun than these tasty fruit drinks. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite juice, I’d give it to the post-yoga smoothie enjoyed with my chilaquiles verdes at Las Ranitas.
While you can reach your inner zen by sitting still and meditating, it’s way more fun to reach zen by summoning your inner kid and playing.
There is no better place to play than at Tulum’s Sian Ka’an reserve, a 1.5 million acre Unesco World Heritage site. With lush jungles to explore, crumbling ruins to discover and lazy rivers to float through, the Sian Ka’an reserve is practically a jungle gym for adults.
Practically tourist-free, Sian Ka’an reserve offers something few attractions can these days, a sense of discovery. Deep in the jungle, we got our first glimpse of ruins through the shadow of the trees. We felt like explorers unexpectedly coming upon these ancient structures. Sian Ka’an is filled with these unexpected moments? like the long boardwalk, cutting a swath through the jungle brush, that ends at yet another mysterious Mayan ruin.
Your guide will warn you not to touch a lot of things at the Sian Ka’an reserve. Don’t touch any trees, they might be poisonous. Don’t touch the ruins, they are protected. So when our guide described how it was possible to climb a large root, I got my camera ready, knowing full well the adventurer in the group wouldn’t be able to resist the invitation.
Your captain will guide you through this mangrove in a ponga boat, sit up front for the best views of the many indigenous birds that nest here. But the best part of the tour comes when you’re dropped off and left to float with the current in the lazy river, one of our favorite memories.
The best way to feel completely immersed in a zen moment, Just find yourself some water and sink right in. Whether it’s the spectacular Grand Cenote (Tulum’s freshwater sinkhole that’s perfect for snorkeling), the turquoise waters lapping at the Tulum ruins or even just the gentle waves at the beach in front of your hotel, Tulum’s many swimming options all give you that same feeling of complete relaxation.
There is just something intoxicating about walking under the palm fronds along Tulum’s beach road. During the day, pop into the simple shops and spas lining the street and take in the random bits of zen everywhere’ like this charming hand painted sign and psychedelic VW van. At night, take a walk guided only by moonlight, ducking into some of the cozy bars and restaurants along the way.
Think shopping is anti-zen? Not so with the kind of shopping you’ll find in Tulum. First there’s the setting, shopping here is an indoor-outdoor affair, as shops blend in with their natural jungle surroundings. Next are the items on offer, practically everything I saw was handmade and made locally. Shopping here isn’t about accumulating stuff but instead about appreciating the traditions and skills of local artisans (as expressed in user-friendly items like gorgeous embroidered pillows, blankets and beach cover ups).
Don’t get me wrong, the sunsets in Tulum are to die for. And best enjoyed with a cocktail from your balcony.
But there is something about a Tulum moonrise that outdoes a sunset any day. I felt like I was looking at a page out of a child’s storybook as I watched these moonbeams bounce off the ocean. Yes, I had found my zen state of mind.
Have you been to Tulum? What are your favorite zen moments?
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