Published: February, 2018
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Tulum, Mexico

— Megan Escher
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Beach
  • Ideal length of trip: EXTRA LONG WEEKEND

to & from

  • Multiple airlines offer direct flight from SFO to CUN. Tulum is about a 2 hour drive +/- from the Cancun airport. Taxis will cost around $80 one way. A private driver booked in advance through your hotel is around $135-$200 one way depending on the service.
  • Car rental is easy and the roads are all good.
  • Most of the hotels in Tulum offer free bikes to use during your stay.

Where to Stay

Tulum Beach is a long stretch of perfect sand on the Riviera Maya dotted with eco-chic boutique hotels that range in price and look. Poke around the internet for deals, but these were our favorites.

  • Sanara - Beautiful, Immaculate, Modern, Best Service of the Trip. Great location to walk to dinner and shopping. Yoga Studio on the Beach. Higher end spa on site. Excellent Beach set up. Wonderful healthy cafe. We opted to stay on the jungle side and loved our cabana and swimming pool across the street from the beach.
  • Nomade - We wanted to love this place. It is very boho chic with a sound garden, gratitude tent, North African inspired lounge decor, thatched beach beds and excellent food. The beach cafe is worth trying even if not staying there, it has an amazing grill set up and delicious seafood. The staff needs more a lot direction on service and several guest rooms did catch on fire at 10 am on a Saturday. Luckily everyone was safe and I do hope they find their groove as it has real potential to be truly special.
  • Nest Tulum - You can book individual rooms, or rent out entirely for a private stay. This was the site of our dear friends' wedding and everyone walked from their hotels to the sunset ceremony. It is a beautiful venue for an intimate event. The decor is rustic chic and just tucked away for privacy.
  • Casa Malca - This place got high ratings from some of the other wedding guests.
  • Casa Carolina - A private villa some friends took and they loved it. (It also became the late night clubhouse)

Where to Eat and Drink

In general – amazing fish, delicious vegetables and spicy Mezcal made the trip. Rinse (in the Caribbean) and Repeat!

  • Arca - Our best meal. Beautifully designed bar with tables set in the open jungle on the property.
  • Casa Jaguar - Another open air restaurant in the jungle. Romantic and Cozy.
  • Hartwood - Highest probability of running into someone you know. Was very good but SUCH a scene.
  • Gitano - THE BEST COCKTAILS. This was the venue for the wedding reception and is a gorgeous open air jungle space that was both restaurant and dance club for the night.
  • The Real Coconut (at Sanara Hotel) - Gluten Free and Green Juices. Very tasty lighter fare beachfront.
  • Papaya Playa Project - on the north end of town. Fun with a group. More of the night life feel with guest DJ's and parties to celebrate the Full Moon.

What to Do

  • Coba Ruins are an easy day trip and worth seeing. They are one of the only ones you can still climb. It is about an hour east of Tulum.
  • If you got to the Coba Ruins, you MUST go to Coqui Coqui Coba, a 4 room hotel just about 1 mile from the ruins. It is on a tiny road along the lagoon. It is a striking property and concept and they have an excellent parfumerie and boutique (think 7 on Locust highlights Made in Mexico). Founded by a Argentinian/Italian couple who have a few other properties in Mexico and are opening a hotel in French Polynesia this winter.
  • Tulum Ruins - Less impressive than Coba but can bike from your hotel. No climbing.
  • Sian Ka'an BioReserve - about an hour south of Tulum Beach
  • Or don't go anywhere! Tulum is the perfect place to relax, read a book, have a cocktail, get a massage on the beach, walk the beach, do yoga, ride a bike, get up for sunrise, stay up way past sunset and enjoy paradise!

inside scoop

  • We always befriend our drivers and wait staff whenever we travel. They always know little tucked away spots worth finding. No matter where we are, we ALWAYS hit the Supermercado for to check out the local scene and get gifts. On this trip my husband asked the driver to take him around to the shops where locals go for leather goods and clothing. He got some good deals!
  • Cash is preferred EVERYWHERE - and most restaurants ONLY take cash.
  • Tulum is totally safe, but you do have to keep your head up and pay attention. There is only one way in, and there a lot of big trucks, a lot of shops, a lot of restaurants and A LOT of pedestrians enjoying their holiday on a two lane road.
  • Only drink bottled water.

skip it

  • In my opinion, the Cenotes - underground caves with fresh water. Some of them are very beautiful and some people love exploring them. Climbing four stories underground into a dark cave when I could be swimming in the Caribbean did not have much of an appeal. However, I am happy I checked it off the list. Their are several in the area. We went to a large one near Coba that was recommended by our driver. Here's a link to the cenotes in the area.
  • If you are wanting to do a bigger town, we did stay at the Thompson in Playa Del Carmen. They have a hotel in town with great rooftop pools and a beach house on the water two blocks away. You can use both properties at your leisure. Next time I would skip this. It was little Spring Break '98 for me, but the town is halfway between Cancun and Tulum and since we arrived at night, we decided to try it.

Tulum, Mexico - Suggestions from the Oliver Community

  • Jen Lane Says

    Don’t forget Posada Margherita for dinner…you wouldn’t think that Mexico would have great Italian food – but I promise, this place is not to be missed!

  • Jen Lane Says

    Taqueria Le Eufemia – taco stand and liquor bar – don’t miss this. On the beach, best tacos, good house music. Order the fish al pastor tacos and a cerveza. The jalapeño poppers were out of this world

  • Cynthia Pillsbury Says
  • Cynthia Pillsbury Says

    Be Tulum did not disappoint – incredible setting- very sophisticated and cool. I checked out a few other hotels and was really happy with our choice.
    Sanara was my second choice- very clean and nicely designed as well.
    Make sure to book a spa appt ASAP at the Be Tulum Spa- books up and is well worth it!!
    We were lucky and arrived just as a very cool Astrologer was doing a reading- Tara– fun experience.
    I explored Tulum by bike (day and night) and ❤️❤️ The experience. So much fun to arrive by bike vs. taxi.
    Some favorite shops include:
    Wanderlust (great dresses and jewelry)
    La Troupe (apparel)
    La Tiendita (apparel, suits and pottery)
    Saycia (very cool dresses)
    Shops at Casa Jaguar
    Shops in Jungle Row, especially
    Favorite Restaurants:
    We loved the food (outstanding Civiche) at Be Tulum Beach area.
    Arca (thank you Megan 😘) was our favorite meal.
    Food at Casa Jaguar was sub-par- didn’t love the scene. Would probably skip.
    Drinks at Gitano were delicious; (Arca even better!) restaurant felt too big and touristy.
    Posada Margherita is worth going to— and make sure to swing by the shop, Daria.
    Red Tide was in effect during our stay– it was a bummer, bc I would have loved to take a dip in the ocean, but it didn’t ruin the trip. If I had my kids, I would be very disappointed because the ocean is warm and inviting, minus the red tide.

  • Sabrina Eliasoph Says

    Just went to Tulum on a girls’ trip last month and absolutely loved it! We stayed at Be Tulum which we thought was perfection. Next door is the Nomad Tulum, and it’s a sister property. They have a restaurant called Le Populaire that is fun for lunch scene but I still recommend staying at Be Tulum over Nomad. Feels more special.

    Also highly recommend checking out Azulik Tulum ( It’s an incredible resort that is built into the trees, and also has an amazing art gallery and store. The whole thing sits up high in the trees and has secret walkways and paths– one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever seen. I hear the restaurant there is very special too.

    We learned from the locals to go to Casa Jaguar for late nights on Thursday nights and Gitano is the Friday night late-night scene. It was true – they were both totally packed on *their* given night and the scene at both was really really fun!

    Loved also the restaurant and swings at Mur Mur ( for lunch.

    Also we took an excursion out to the biosphere where you float down these mangrove canals – it was REALLY fun and funny. Definitely would recommend if you are looking to see some nature or have an adventure outside of enjoying the Tulum scene. It was arranged through our travel agent but the biosphere is called Sian Ka’an.

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