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Since we just got back from Tulum, I wanted to write this travel guide before I forgot everything! I’ve gotten so many requests for tips specifically for this destination so having it in one place will be helpful to you. I’ve included tons of photos, a few different hotel recs, what to see, and what to eat!
The closest major airport is Cancun so flights will be the most affordable flying through there. We found a nonstop from Chicago on Southwest and I know there are nonstops from a lot of other cities in the US.
Tulum itself is about 1.5 to 2 hours away from the airport (depending on who’s driving). Your hotel will likely offer transportation to and from the airport but there are also tons of companies that provide this service too. We opted to go with Lumaale/Feraltar which Matt found online. It was $155 round trip for the two of us which was $50 cheaper than our hotel offered. It was a little pricier than I would have liked to pay but for a 2 hour drive and 2 people, I appreciated the peace of mind. If you have a bigger group though, this gets more affordable since it’s just a flat fee. It wasn’t anything special but we didn’t need it to be. We could pay in advance and they waited for us at the airport and were early to drive us back as we left. We got bottled water too which in the heat, was something I appreciated. Both cars blasted the AC too!
You can also book transporation directly at the airport (tons of people will try to ask you if you need a ride) but I always feel better knowing we have something lined up. Gone are the days where I like to gamble with my vacation time!
Where to stay.
We stayed at Mi Amor which is part of a chain of boutique hotels. We also visited a few others and had friends staying at others while we were there. Here are the pros and cons for each.
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Mi Amor is a luxury boutique hotel and lived up to those expectations! That means, it came with a price tag so do your research and book far in advance if possible. We usually use hotels.com because after 10 nights they give you a credit for a “free night” (the amount is just the average of your 10 stays). The rooms were really nice and spacious with minimalist, but colorful decor. The rooms had AC which isn’t common in Tulum so check beforehand. That was a lifesaver because it was 90 degrees every day!
We also had a private pool but I wouldn’t recommend splurging on one. They’re not private at all – people are constantly walking by (both guests and staff). If anything, just get an ocean view but otherwise, get the least expensive room you can! You won’t be in it! The views were so beautiful because the hotel is situated on cliffs. That also means there’s no beach. If you need to have your feet in the sand, plan a visit elsewhere during your stay or stay at another hotel altogether. Neither my husband nor I like sandy feet so this wasn’t an issue for us. We were content to stay in their little cabanas all day long.
The staff was extremely accommodating and friendly the entire time. Very respectful too. The hotel reached out before the trip asking if we needed transportation to/from the airport but we opted to go with another company because it was a little cheaper! It is the thought that counts!
After booking our trip, I realized that one of my friends was also going to be in Tulum at the same time. They stayed at Papaya Playa which means we got to visit too since our trips overlapped! Here’s what Ashley of DTK Austin had to say about their hotel…
If you’re headed to Tulum and are still searching for a jungle gem (get it) Papaya Playa was absolutely perfect. Tucked away right on the beach, in the Mexican jungle, you feel transported to an entirely different world. You will definitely be one with nature while enjoying the sound of crashing waves. The only worry you have each day is whether you applied enough sunscreen.
Our room was actually a small cottage nestled just on the edge of the jungle which had a beautiful ocean view AND our own private pool located on the roof! If you’re weighing the pros and cons for which type of room you should get, my suggestion is that if you are still wanting a nice room to relax in then splurge on something a little bigger than their basic rooms. They are extremely small and confined. We decided to go all out with our room and it definitely paid off. We had plenty of time to come back and nap or hang out on the balcony in our hammock overlooking the ocean. If you plan to be outside all day each day then definitely go the more cost effective route!
This hotel does have air conditioning plus a fan in each room which is apparently somewhat rare in Tulum. None of the rooms had internet, WIFI or a TV unless you went out to the beach or at the restaurant. Papaya Playa is a place to relax and unwind and worked out perfectly with direct beach access. Papaya does have a full spa to take advantage of as well.
Matt and I were deciding between Mi Amor and Azulik. I had seen so many stunning photos of Azulik that I was dying to go there. However, after extensive research on Trip Advisor, Matt vetoed Azulik. It’s an “eco-friendly” hotel which is quite common in that area. While that sounds great, it just means there’s no AC and amenities are few and far between. There are no showers here and the lighting at night is extremely limited. We walked around for less than an hour one day before deciding to move on. The hotel smelled pretty bad and the wood walkways throughout the hotel were almost dangerous to walk on. The private beach there might be nudist so if that makes you uncomfortable consider that.
What to see.
The beach. I think this is why everyone goes to Tulum, right? Enjoy a few days of warm sunshine and ocean breeze (a lot of breeze). It felt so good to be back by the ocean and have some sunshine after these last 7 months in Chicago!
The ruins. We didn’t make it to these since we only went for a long weekend (we explored one day and relaxed the other 2). Matt’s a big fan of relaxing. However at the airport on the way home he decided to tell me he would have wanted to see the ruins. So, if you have more than a weekend here or are into history/ruins, make the quick trip! It was only a 6 minute drive from our hotel and probably 10-15 minutes from the other hotels I listed!
Cenotes. I had really wanted to go to one of these but for the same reasons above, we said we would see them on our next trip. They are also really close at about 15 minutes from our hotel. There are tons of tour guide companies that will set up a Day excursion for you if you don’t want to do it on your own. Ask your hotel for recommendations!
Town. We got a little taste of this but honestly, I’m not a fan of shopping on vacation. I’d rather see the sights or relax and usually don’t end up buying anything. However, one of our taxi drivers recommended going into town for some of the best fresh seafood and most authentic Mexican food. If you’re not vegetarian and love to shop, I’d say plan to spend a couple hours there!
What to eat.
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Mi Amor. Since breakfast was included in our rate, we ate here every morning! With a pretty amazing view of the ocean, we didn’t even think twice about it. By the end of the day we tried almost everything on the menu between the two of us. The fruit bread, French toast, and eggs your way were our favorites. For lunch, get the fish tacos if you eat meat. The restaurant also had a bunch of salads and I ate the Mixed Greens one – it needed to be a little colder IMO. Hands down the best drink of the trip was a smoothie called the Colada Cloud. It was like a Pina Colada but with banana and without alcohol. So, it was my dream (day drinking makes me too sleepy). We had dinner here one night and I got the Mixed Vegetables and Matt got the Grilled Fish of the Day. Both were decent but nothing to write home about!
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Hartwood. This was a super trendy spot that you could tell people were dying to go to. A true hotspot. During May, they only take walk in reservations so people had gone as soon as it opened to put their name down for later. We just went for a drink – I got a spicy marg and Matt got a beer. My marg was so so but the ambiance was worth it. We could overhear the girls at the table next to us with their food and apparently the food was really really good. So, definitely go to this place – just plan ahead! Check their website to see if they are accepting reservations in advance (it says they are starting in June) or be prepared to wait!
Casa Banana. Also a hot spot with a line out the door (it’s outside so the door was more of a gap in the fence). We didn’t want to wait to try it but the line spoke for itself. If we had more time, we would have made it a point to go here. Hartwood, Arco, and Casa Banana are all only a 4 minute walk apart. While it’s a very dark walk at night, this little area has quite a few things to do so if your plan A doesn’t work out, don’t worry.
Arco. Matt found this one on Trip Advisor and the vibe was a little more romantic than Hartwood. It was also a little quieter which, if you’re on your honeymoon, might be preferred.
Mivida. We met our friends for dinner here and it was a picture perfect spot. You can eat facing the street or in the back facing the ocean. We opted for the ocean, obviously. It also keeps you cooler! It was the cutest little beach shack. Huge menu but limited vegetarian options. So, I had guac and a portabello. Everyone else had pretty good things to say about their fish dishes though! None of us were blown away but I was glad we got a bit of different scenery in there – it was also highly rated on Trip Advisor.
Mina. We ate lunch here with Ashley and her husband one day. The tile floors had me sold immediately! We weren’t super hungry from our 2 course breakfast but my corn and carrot salad was so good. I spied a green juice on the menu over the bar and ordered that too – delicious. Everyone else ordered the calamari, pork tacos, and club sandwich – not one bad meal.
Posada Margherita. I had starred this spot before I left but could not bring myself to eat Italian food in Mexico. My love for guac is too strong! If we had had another day or two, we would have def made our way there as it comes highly recommended by a few people who messaged me to go there including my girl Jenna from Adorned with Love! She knows her stuff!
Kitchen Table. We went here for our last dinner on the trip and it was my favorite meal! There was a very small menu (like 4 entrees) but they whipped up something off menu that was vegetarian for me and it was bomb. It was veggie tacos with tempura carrots and a delicious sauce. The menu changes every day based on what they catch or get from the market. We got to sit right by the kitchen and watch the chefs hustle all night which I found to be really interesting. I also tried their drink of the day which was a passionfruit capirinha – so good. Everything was so freaking good and the ambiance was again on the romantic side. It’s located closer to the beach side (where Mi Amor is) vs. the jungle side (where most of the restaurants are) so if you’re on the beach side AKA north and want to make things easy for yourself, go here! Our whole meal was $60 with 2 drinks, 1 app, 2 entrees, and 1 side!
The restaurant at Papaya Playa was only so so but luckily you can easily walk to Mina if you’re staying there!
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If you have any other questions for me, leave me a comment or send me an email! I’m happy to answer more specifics and make recommendations catered to you!