Every traveler I know has varied interests that guide the things on their "must do" list. My style centers on having one(ish)"must do" items and an "it would be nice but nbd if it doesn't happen". I prefer the rest of the day to happen organically and, let's be honest, this is the best way to have some spontaneous fun and just a little mischief. I would need far more than the 4 days we stayed in Tulum to accomplish everything I had hoped for and the best part about having more interests is that I can start planning my next trip there!
I'd like to share with you a few of my experiences and opinions as well as the things I did not have a chance to do. I encourage you to ask around and get additional information. Blogger and world traveler Ciara from HeyCiara.com shared her blog with me, Everything You Need to Know About Tulum, Mexico, which can be a great place to start.
First, getting there. This one caused me a little stress because I was attempting to book transportation from Cancún to Tulum prior to my arrival in Mexico, but the ADO bus website would not accept USD. Turns out it was super easy to book same day transit from the bus station in downtown Cancún. ADO is similar to Greyhound but... nicer and a ticket to Tulum was about 15-20 USD one way per person, which was reasonable for the 2-hour ride.
My original plan was to head to Tulum solo, so I booked accommodations through Expedia since it felt a bit more comfortable for me. Months prior to my trip, the US issued a travel advisory to people headed to the Yucatán peninsula, due to violence and some scary side effects from drinking ill-processed alcohol. One of my best friends agreed to join me, which turned out to be a great decision- we had so much fun together! The bed and breakfast we stayed in was a little on the outskirts of town, so in retrospect I would try to stay in the middle of the Tulum town "action", although town is readily accessible via a long walk or short $2 USD taxi ride. Aesthetically the place we stayed, Casa Santiago, was gorgeous. There were only six rooms and by the time we left it felt very family-like. Each morning we woke up to an Italian-style breakfast complete with little Italian cakes made by the owners husband- yum!
Tulum has no shortage of delicious restaurants to try. If only I could cram more meals into a day or relinquish my affinity for tacos, I could have tried more. Here are a (very) few places to try:
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Best known for: Al Pastor Tacos
At 61 cents USD (12 mxp) per taco you can not beat these super delicious treats. We ate here at least 4 times and I could honestly have gone even more. The basic tacos come with pork and cheese can be added. From there, head to the toppings bar to add your salsa, lettuce, onions, and limes just the way you like it. Best- Tacos- Ever. Also... you get a cool, random plate like the Halloween one shown here. Bonus!
Best known for: Decadent ice cream
Speculoos. Berry cheesecake. Lemon Pie. Flan with pine seeds. How could one person decide between so many delicious flavors? There are several sweet and savory treats on the menu, but most folx flock to Campanella for the homemade ice cream and waffle cones. One of the sweetest things about Campanella is the ambiance. Grab your ice cream and stroll down Avenida Tulum or find a seat in their open air dining space to people watch while asking other patrons about their choice of flavors so that you know what to order the next time!
Best known for: Spanish cuisine
Street food is essential when becoming accustomed with local food in cities around the world, it is usually really good and really cheap. Since making money stretch is one of my goals while travelling, I try to keep the nicer restaurant limited to 1-2 nights per trip. We found Patanegra through a recommendation from our "madre nueva" at our bed & breakfast and were granted a discount upon mentioning Casa Santiago.
The meal was spectacular! As an appetizer, we had fried calamari and mini octopus with a delicious aoili. For the main course, I had the boneless pork rib confit and my best friend had stone-grilled steak, which came out with a stone heated to 300 degrees Celsius which cooked the steak for us at the table. I know the thought of cooking your own food is not desirable to some but it was fun to try the flavorful carne at different temperatures. All together with alcohol and tip we spent about $1000 mxp (about $50 USD). Definitely reasonable but much more than the average we spent on meals.
Mayan Jungle Tour
Best known for: Homecooked food made with love by local Mayan community members
This one is a bit different. We booked a tour of the Mayan jungle (more info below) that took place on a beautiful piece of land occupied by 40+ Mayan families. All tours there end with a huge all-you-can-eat feast on food prepared traditionally complete with handmade tortillas. There were beans, rice, salad, grilled pork, and traditional achiote chicken. Most of it was flavorful and really good, especially after working up an appetite through swimming and walking.We booked our through Adventure Tour Center but there were several tour companies visiting the property.
Each night we literally ended up on the same block- we couldnt stay away from the mojitos! Calle Centauro Sur at Avenida Tulum housed Batey's Mojito Bar among other small bar/dance spots. The mojitos at Batey's were to die for and the live music keep our attention well into the late night. I had a classic the first time but stuck with mojitos con jengibre (ginger) for the rest of my time there- addictive! There are tons of people that hangout on that particular block as well as some dope ass dj's spinning great music all night long.
During our days, we mostly ate food and explore the area. Our first full day in Tulum, we took a tour of the Mayan Jungle which included ziplining over cenotes, canoeing, laying around in hammocks, and plenty of swimming/snorkeling. This magnificent tour ended with a huge home-cooked meal by the families on the property that was one of the best meals I had while in Mexico. The Mayan communities knew some spanish but mostly spoke their indigenous language. Our tour guide taught us how to say "Dios bo'otik", or thank you in Mayan, to the community for all of their hard work with the food and graciousness in opening up their land for exploration.
Another day we rented bikes (approx $8 USD for 24 hours) and rode down to the beach. It was about a 40 minute ride and was beautiful. We were rained on during the ride, ok- soaked, but it was really fun and didn't take away from the experience. Lots of people bike around the town and it is fairly safe, but you still need to be very vigilant. The Caribbean sea was breath-taking and well worth the ride- in the future I'd consider staying in the Zona Hotelera (beachfront hotel area of Tulum) to get closer to this view.
Tulum was pretty relaxing so we didn't want to cram in too much. If we had more time to stay some of the things we were interested in doing include exploring the beach and Zona Hotelera more (the rain steered us away during our visit). One of my primary reasons for wanting to go to Tulum was to visit the Tulum Jungle Gym for a good workout. It's a Flinstone Bedrock style waterfront gym. That will be top of my list my next time in Tulum! There were also other bars with dancing that seemed fun.
Some of the largest attractions in the area are the Tulum ruins, various cenotes, and Sian Ka'an (a biosphere reservoir). None of these are farther than a short taxi ride and I hear they are beautiful! I'll definitely make these a priority next time as well.
Again, this is the shortest of lists about some of the things to do in Tulum. If you've been there, let me know if there are additional items I should add to my list of "must dos". If you are headed to Tulum for the first time, you are in for a treat! Please enjoy this magical city by the Carribean sea.