Good news, gang! Lovely Indeed is expanding our travel section with some juicy, beautiful city guides! We love to explore the world and go on adventures, and it’s high time we share all of our knowledge with you in a more thorough way. For every new city we hit, we’ll be writing up a thorough guide with our recs for food, sights, lodging, and more. Not to mention, we’ll include tips and tricks for bringing a little one along (look for baby tips in italics!). And we’re kicking it off right here and now with a guide to everyone’s current Mexico fave: Tulum!
Travel to tulum
You’ll need to fly into Cancun; Tulum is about 90 minutes by car south of the Cancun airport. You can grab an airport or hotel shuttle from Cancun to Tulum for not too much. If you want to rent a car, I recommend reserving one from somewhere like City Tulum Car Rental. If you have a baby, you can check your carseat for free and install it in the rental. Tulum is a straight shot, on one road from Cancun — you can’t miss it. We had a car because we were staying between the beach and the pueblo, and because it was easier with a baby. But the Cancun to Tulum Shuttle is also really great option if you plan on staying in one part of town for the most part.
Once you’re settled in town, a great way to get around is to bike! Lots of hotels or restaurants have cruisers for rent. It’s a very bikeable town and lots of fun to hop on and off your bikes while exploring the beach or the pueblo. We traveled our little Yepp bike seat so Henry could bike with us.
Where to stay in Tulum
There are a few options for location: the beach, with all of its boutique hotels, the jungle, with lots of condos and Airbnbs, or the pueblo, with a few smaller hotels and some hostels. If you have a baby and need a little space to spread out, an Airbnb or condo might be the way to go. The hotels on the beach are gorgeous and amazing but they usually don’t have a great space for a baby to sleep (or air conditioning, which for us in August was a dealbreaker).
Beach Lodgings There are so many gorgeous hotels on the beach it’s almost impossible to choose. We didn’t stay on the beach but we stopped at a number of hotels and scoped out the scenes and a few rooms. My faves: Coqui Coqui, Posada Margherita, Mezzanine, The Beach Tulum, and Be Tulum. Most of these are pretty small, boutique spots with just a few rooms and can get a little pricey. But if you’re headed here on a honeymoon or a trip with your girls, it would be worth the splurge!
Airbnbs We opted to stay in a condo in the jungle for about a zillion different reasons. It was way easier with a baby along because there were extra rooms for sleeping, a kitchen to make his food, air conditioning, and more. Not to mention, this Airbnb had its own penthouse rooftop with a hot tub, BBQ, and hammock for lounging. This particular spot also had a bunch of baby toys and a high chair, which was awesome. There are quite a few condo complexes popping up in the jungle, where you can stay with twice the space for about half the cost of staying on the beach. It’s definitely a tradeoff to not be able to walk right out onto the sand, but it only took us about 4 minutes to drive to the beach, and about 10 minutes to bike there.
Pueblo Lodgings Most of the spots we spied in the pueblo were hostels. They ranged from looking like cute boutique hotels to shady motels, so do your research if you want to stay in the pueblo. It’ll definitely be more of a “local” experience.
Best Food in Tulum
I was expecting beautiful beaches and lots of Mexican culture from Tulum. What I was not expecting was some of the best food I’ve ever had… ever. There’s quite a range of high and low when it comes to dining in Tulum, but you can’t go wrong with some of our favorites.
Los Tacos de Don Diego Pueblo side. A small, clean, cute little local joint boasting the “Best Burritos in Tulum.” I don’t know about all that, but it’s a great, easy choice if you’re walking around the pueblo and need a pit stop. They cook the food on a grill right in front of you and are super friendly. The burritos actually ended up being pretty delicious — they come pressed flat. Wash it down with a Mexican Coke. Super easy with a little one; we left Henry in his stroller to eat.
Antojitos la Chipaneca This place. This place! A little local joint in the pueblo, known for its pastor tacos. Which are, in fact, amazing. They cut the meat off the giant slab right there for you and it’s just so good. There’s a little salsa bar — don’t be afraid to dive in and dress up your tacos. Other must-orders are the horchata, which I usually don’t like but was incredible, and the sope. GET THE SOPE, for crying out loud. Order it with chicken and then order another one because you’ll want it. Also, super cheap! Go here if you’re trying to save your pesos. We ate a feast for about $7. Super easy with a little one; we left Henry in his stroller to eat.
Chamicos This place is hidden away a little outside of town; it’s about a 20 minute drive. To get there, hop back on the 307 toward Cancun and drive for about 10 minutes. Look for a sign to the Jashita Hotel and turn on the little dirt road to the right (directly across from a sign for Oscar and Lalo’s Restaurant). Follow the road all the way to the end, past all the hotels. I mean alllll the way to the end. You’ll come upon a grove of palm trees; look for the white plastic tables and chairs. Park under the trees and walk toward the water. Someone will come find you, seat you at a table, and take your order. We got excited and ordered way too much food. Don’t miss the fried fish or the ceviche (skip the shrimp)! Everything is caught fresh right there on Soliman Bay and cooked to order. The setting is INSANE — you feel like you’re on a deserted island. You can sit at the tables or swing in hammocks and stay all afternoon. We set out a blanket for Henry to play on the sand while we ate.
La Nave If you just need a break from Mexican food (I know it sounds ridiculous), this pizza spot in the pueblo is a nice refresher. Simple, delicious pizzas and lots of locals here hanging out. I also had a pretty great margarita. Incidentally, the only place we encountered that offered us a high chair for Henry. We left him in his stroller instead and they were fine with it.
Posada Margherita Maybe my favorite restaurant experience in Tulum. Grab one of their beach lounges and order drinks before lunch. (Don’t miss the drinks, I’m telling ya!) They’ll bring you a pretty tray of breads and crudite while you sip and splash in the surf. Once you finish your drinks, shower off by their patio and grab a seat to eat. We ate on the lounge benches overlooking the ocean, rather than a table, and Henry was so happy rolling around on the benches. The simple pasta was so delicious (simmered in ocean water!) and the shrimp plate was the perfect mix of light and satisfying. Don’t rush a meal here — you’ll want to linger and wander around the beach and their incredible gardens. Pricey but worth it.
Coqui Coqui If there’s one place that’ll rival Posada, it’s this place. We came for lunch and I wish we could have stayed all day. Choose a spot to eat (indoor, on the beach patio, or on the beach lounges) and camp out for a while. We ordered the ceviche (which is now the standard by which all other ceviche shall be judged) and the shrimp tostada (really rich flavors without being too heavy). Get a green juice if you want to feel extra fresh. Be sure to wander around the perfumerie and hang out in the hammocks for a while. Also pricey but worth it.
Casa Jaguar Home of Ryan’s favorite meal in all of Tulum: the Queso Asado. Sirloin in ancho chile sauce over a wheel of brie. Holy crapola, you guys. Go eat it. Immediately. The vibe at this place is impossibly cool — a jungle setting with bars and tables and lounges nestled right in among the trees. We came super early for dinner because we were eating with the little dude, but I’d imagine that when this place is hopping it’s not the best spot for a baby.
Flor de Michoacan If you’re in the pueblo and need a refresher, stop and get one of their paletas. There are more flavors than you could ever try and they’re all so pretty. The coco rallado is a definite thumbs up; if I went back I’d try the chile pineapple.
Best Bars in Tulum
Zamas Just go for a michelada! Hop off your bike, lock it to a tree, and head down the steps to the right of the seating area. Claim a couple of adirondack chairs looking out at the ocean. Pretty soon someone will come and take your order. Get a beer or a michelada (so spicy good here) and shoot the breeze for a while.
Matteos The fish tacos were okay but what was spectacular was the sunset viewing deck on the top level. Head up in the early evening and order drinks while you watch the sun set over the jungle.
Batey In the pueblo, stop by here for a mojito — they use pure sugar cane juice and it makes for a totally refreshing drink.
Where to Shop in Tulum
Mr. Blackbird The coolest, teeny-tiniest store on the beach. I had to hold myself back from buying a lovely little copper bangle. The jewelry selection was so pretty and really well curated.
Coqui Coqui If you don’t go for lunch, go just to hang out in the shop. The perfumerie area is so beautiful, and theres a small selection of Tulum-worthy beach dresses that are as pretty on the hanger as they are when you wear them.
Pueblo Shoe Store Okay, bear with me here. I’m not even sure if this little shoe shop in the pueblo has a name. But it’s on route 307, between the Scotiabank and the Casa Hernandez Gallery. It’s a small shoe store with lots of great leather shoes. Some are the same you’ll find in the tourist shops, but some are legit, locally made, awesome little kicks. I got myself some pink huarache sandals here for a steal.
Chedraui Stock up on food and drink here! Chedraui is the large local grocery store, and you can buy everything from eggs to beach hats. If you forgot an essential, stop here to get it. We did some grocery shopping on the day we got there to have breakfasts, snacks, and foods for the baby.
Things to do in Tulum
Tulum Ruins One of our favorite days was the day we explored the ruins! It had rained earlier so it was cool and kind of empty, and it was the perfect time to go. The ruins are awesome, the place is well-kept, and the views of the cliffs are pretty incredible. If you’re traveling during the busy season, definitely arrive early in the day. Take cash; you pay a small fee for parking and for entry. You can also opt to pay 20 pesos per person to ride a shuttle train to the ruins site from the entrance to avoid walking the kilometer. With the baby, it was worth it to take the shuttle; otherwise we would have walked. Also, don’t take a stroller! We had Henry in the carrier and it was perfect. You can hire a guide if you like; I always opt out of guides and just do my own research ahead of time.
Gran Cenote We almost skipped the cenotes completely because we had Henry, but I’m so glad we didn’t! Gran Cenote is just a five minute drive out of town. Take cash here as well; entry is 150 pesos per person (babies free) and you can rent snorkel gear for 80 pesos. Head down the stairs and take a dip in the crystal clear water. It’s especially refreshing when it’s crazy hot out! Be sure to sit quietly for a while at the turtle area; we saw a family of about 5 turtles, complete with an adorable turtle baby. If you have a baby with you, pass the main entrance to the cenote and go down the stairs at the second entrance. It’s much more shallow on this side and you can stand in the water while you hold the little one. Also, you have to take a moment to swim under the cave from one side of the cenote to the other. Look up when you’re about halfway through and don’t freak out when you see hundreds of bats hanging upside down from the stalactites.
One of the coolest things I found about the beach area in Tulum was that you could experience the beach from the patios of lots of different hotels. Most places were cool with us rolling up and claiming a spot on their lounge chairs to relax. The beach lounges are particularly handy if you have a baby because they usually are a bit shaded. Experiment with different beaches, look for shells, lay in the sun and soak it all up.
It’s just a one-street town but don’t miss wandering around here. It’s an interesting mix of tourist tchotchke stands, local eateries, and a little of this and that. Park your car or bike and wander around for a bit to soak up some local color.
Things to know when visiting tulum
Just a few extra notes! We were there on the off-season (late August); it’s allegedly the rainy season but we only had about 3 hours of rain over a week or so. It was, however, insanely hot and humid. Be sure to drink lots of water, wear massive amounts of sunscreen, and grab shade where you can. Also because we were there in a low season, we didn’t encounter a single line or wait or crowd. It felt a bit empty, in fact, but it was kind of nice with Henry so we could spread out and make noise and go at our own pace.
There’s currently (September 2015) a crazy seaweed invasion on the beaches. The conditions are apparently perfect for growing seaweed and there’s seaweed everywhere you look. The clear, turquoise water is dotted all along the shores with kelp forests and they rake it onto the beaches in piles. If you find yourself at a beach that’s overrun by seaweed, just head up or down the beach a bit; you can usually find a clear spot.
If you go grocery shopping and buy fresh produce, be sure to clean your fruits and veggies. There’s an iodine cleaning solution you can buy; add 10 drops to every liter of water and soak your produce in the solution for 20 minutes. Just an extra precaution to make sure you don’t get sick. Also: don’t drink the water. Most places will provide bottled or filtered water for you.
Bug spray! The strongest you can find, and carry it with you everywhere. We doused ourselves in it and still came back bit to pieces by the mosquitoes.
Finally, head to Tulum with the goal of chilling out. There’s plenty to see and do but really, it’s the perfect place to just slow down a little. Happy travels!
Hand lettering by Shrimp Salad Circus
This post contains paid links from City Car Rental. All opinions are my own.