The best restaurants, bars and things to do in this Riviera Maya hotspot.
It was the picture of a line of topless girls on the beach (seen from behind) that really got me.
I asked my former colleague and friend Megan if she’d be willing to write up a post about her trip to Tulum, Mexico. When I visited about 15 years ago, it was a sleepy getaway from Playa del Carmen, popular with backpackers and yoga enthusiasts. Then the Hartwood came.
Megan really captured the spirit of the coastal town that has grown up so rapidly in the past decade. –Wally
After spending weeks resisting responding to a chain of emails with the subject “February girls trip to Mexico!!!” I gave in and bought a flight on New Year's Eve. I didn't think I really wanted to go to Tulum with 10 girls I didn't know, but I'm easily persuaded by champagne. The girl organizing the trip was a close friend of mine, but everyone else was either an acquaintance or someone I'd never met.
Fast-forward to February 2018, and we descend upon Tulum from every corner of the U.S. and Europe (thanks to The Organizer having friends in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, Illinois and Germany). We rented a wicked Airbnb with a pool, two kitchens and a really hot next-door neighbor who was sunning himself in the communal pool upon arrival (we aptly named him Mexican Jesus, to give you a visual). We all decided we like this place and I decided these girls are probably pretty cool after all.
Setting sight on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula after a grueling 12-hour trek from L.A. was when Tulum really hit me. The water is so vibrant it practically burned my retinas. We took to the ocean immediately and dove in and out of the waves, channeling our inner mermaids. Tulum has a spectacular natural landscape, with lush jungle on one side and wild cerulean ocean on the other. Pictures can't do it justice.
It didn't take us long to figure out that getting cabs with 10 girls was a nightmare. As dope as it was, our house was far from the beach bars and clubs Tulum is known for. We managed by taking everything we needed for the day and night to the beach with us to minimize our commute and maximize drinking time. We spent most of our days bunkered out at the beach club our Airbnb host recommended, Aura. It wasn't anything too fancy, but it was run by three tattooed Spaniards who brought us an endless supply of margaritas and giggles, so we were happy.
Megan's Best of Tulum
La Zebra Hotel: Gorge views, great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, even if you're not a guest.
Hartwood: Wood-fired restaurant with hyperlocal fare. Dinner only.
Top Places for Drinks
Gitano: Chic jungle restaurant. Slip on a sexy dress and be ready to dance.
Papaya Playa: Good old-fashioned beach party, from what I remember (not much).
Casa Malca: Pablo Escobar's old digs turned funky-sexy hotel. Great photo op.
Top Things to Do
Tulum ruins and cenotes with Sergio: Private tour of the beachfront Maya temple complex and limestone sinkholes in an air-conditioned van stocked with snacks and beer with the coolest local.
Biking along the beach strip: So much more efficient than taking cabs and also a fun way to explore.
Mayan Clay Spa: Get a mud treatment at this spa — it's insane. They massage warm mud into your whole body, including your face and hair, and then you rinse it off in an outdoor shower in the jungle.
Top Place to Stay
Nativus Tulum: Glamping locale I stayed at for a night when the first round of girls left. You're literally in a tent, but a big nice tent, with a full bathroom that's outside. It's incredible, and they serve an amazing breakfast. Plus it has a private cenote and is on the beach road you'll want to be located on.
- Brush up on your Spanish — you'll need it.
- Stay within walking or biking distance to the beach.
- Get to the ruins very early in the morning to avoid crowds (and heat).
- Taking the spontaneous topless photo with all the girls after too much sun and too many margaritas.
- Trying to score weed with Mexican Jesus and failing miserably.
- Running into my older brother, his husband, and my nephews by complete coincidence.