Welcome to paradise! When our chef Matt said he wanted to reset on a beach before we opened our brick and mortar in Cypress Park, aptly called Yolk & Flour, Tulum is what immediately came to my mind. From LAX, it was a 5 hour plane trip into Cancun and a 1 hour, 45 minute taxi ride. Once landed, we easily caught a taxi at the airport without having reserved one, and set out for a tropical wonderland.
For accommodations, a friend recommended Be Tulum, and the moment we set foot in this tranquil all-inclusive bohemian hotel, it just said RELAX. It wasn’t at all fussy, but it had class with it’s neutral palette, and sandy walkways that were thoroughly submerged in the tropics. We felt like castaways! It was perfect.
Encased in trees, the deck of our beautiful room was so calming, it was hard to pull myself away and make the few steps on over to the beach! We had the lower end room, but it didn’t feel that way. More expensive rooms had their own wading pool. I mean, unreal.
You know our chef Matt and I are always on the hunt for inspiring eats, but we really tried to restrain ourselves on this trip. We wanted to decompress but, ya know, you gotta eat! Everyone said to go to Posada Margherita, because it’s right on the sand, and the Italian owners keep it authentic to their native land. We were weary to go because we are quite spoiled when it comes to really good Italian food since back home, we get it everyday in our very own kitchen. The service here was long, as is the practice in Italy, no rushing while dining. They don’t even give you a menu, opting instead for an Italian waiter to set up a chalkboard and translate the menu from Italian for you at the table, noting his favorite dishes. The night we went, it was broken down by hand-cut fettuccini pastas, fish, shrimp, and specials. We got one of each, and the pasta was indeed hand-cut, but the vegetables were over cooked and immersed in butter. The atmosphere was lovely, but outside of the pasta, the food and wine were disappointing. I’m spoiled, I know that. I get fresh pasta and anything else my appetite desires daily at Heirloom, so I’m not down with overcooking your vegetables and fish for high prices. You, however, might like this place better than me, everybody else does!
When we ventured out of our own enchanting hotel bar, the cocktail bar Gitanos lured us in with it’s sexy vibes, cool playlist, candle light, and occasional exotic bands. The drinks were very garnished, which felt fun, and the bartenders didn’t measure anything which was entertaining to watch, but proved inconsistent for what they served up. We didn’t care, we were on vacation! Drink up! Dance on!
Each morning, Be Tulum included a substantial breakfast for all it’s guests, and the views were nothing short of mesmerizing. Back home, melon is not to be found in the spring unless you buy imports, but it was all over the place here. It wasn’t very flavorful (likely because it’s not in season), but the house-made granola was nice, and so were the juevos rancheros.
As it goes in third world countries, there were so many beach dogs rambling about, looking for food. They all looked healthy enough, but I’m sure were ravaged with fleas because there was a lot of scratching. There is a great shop with pretty day-to-night kaftans called Josa where they have a box to donate money to help fund vaccinations for the dogs. There’s always animal advocates to be found in unexpected places.
The Ruins in Tulum are supposedly a grand sight to behold as they are the only Mexican Ruins on the ocean. Please make note, the entrance closes at 5. We rode our bikes from Be Tulum 45 minutes to get there at 4:30, but they would not let us in! Discouraged, we imagined these iconic monument’s grandeur and promised to be back to see them the next time. We heard it’s best to try to get there in the morning to avoid crowds (and make sure you get in!).
Riding our bikes back, we were starving, and I was determined to get into the packed Hartwood that everyone raves about. Before we left for our trip, we tried emailing to make reservations but got no response back, so we got in line at 5:20 to see if we could walk in when they opened at 5:30 (not: they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Right away, they personally came up to each hopeful person in line to say, no way man. Everyone left. We didn’t. I’m not sure how we finagled our way in, but complimentary persistence helped I’m sure. The staff was really lovely once we got our seats. We were so excited! This place gets all the hype.
We ordered a lot! We especially liked the tequila old fashioned since we had never tried that combination before. Also the papaya empanadas were surprising. This place was abuzz and had a really great energy about it. Our server was from Atlanta! We actually came across a lot of Americans who reside in Tulum and work in hospitality.
We learned that the beloved Coqui Coqui Spa Hotel closed due to real estate issues. Everyone said it was a must go, so I knew it didn’t close due to lack of business. Locals said this sort of thing was happening to a lot of old businesses in the heart of Tulum. This Newsweek article talks more about the issue if you feel like reading further.
Don’t despair! Right across from Be Tulum, is Yaan Wellness Spa, which was a slice of heaven. Included with our hotel package was an hour to experience their healing water circuit which was made of water therapy pools, a sauna, and a steam room with a body scrub. Afterwards we were served herbal tea and papaya slices as we rested with this special shoulder-melting hot pad. I didn’t want to leave!
When in Mexico, must have tacos…. at least that was my thinking! Locals say the best tacos are in town, not the beach area where the hotels are. We didn’t want to have to go anywhere we couldn’t walk, so we went to Taqueria La Eufemia. I’m sorry to report we were not impressed. The fish was not fresh, the tortillas weren’t grilled, the chips were from a bag, the margaritas were from a mix, and the music was so loud. It felt like spring break. Lots of people really love this place, we were just on chill time, and this place was not at all chill.
All in all, Tulum had me conflicted. It’s surely not a food destination, but more of a just-eat-ceviche-at-your-hotel and chill-ax kind of place. For us, Be Tulum was truly sublime because it worked around the natural habitat of Tulum’s rapturous landscape. We did not need to leave, and if we hadn’t we never would have noticed the darker side of Tulum.
With it’s recent popularity among the jet-setters, Tulum is under a lot of development, so jackhammers were part of the background in the daytime. Lacking electricity in the tourist areas, hotels are either run by solar power or mostly loud (gas guzzling), round-the clock generators. Tulum’s ecosystem is very fragile and there is not a lot of consideration to support it as hotel expansion is furiously underway. As a city person, this ongoing audio didn’t disrupt my ability to relax, but it had me thinking as we left. We spotted a disarming amount of litter amid the clear, gentle waves, and observed a lot of people flick their cigarettes on the beautiful white sand. I think as travelers that we need to put ourselves in check. Visiting Tulum is a privilege, so how do we tread lightly and not contribute to the problem?
If we were to return, and oh, I really want to, I would investigate which businesses are sustainable to Tulum’s health. Looking back, Hartford had no electricity, just a solar power blender and candle light. That’s a business whose foot print is respectful to the fact that there is virtually no infrastructure in the area. The public parts of our hotel, Be Tulum, was only lit by candle light at night as well and had no air conditioning (except in the rooms). I know this isn’t much, but it’s a conscious start to help conserve this vulnerable paradise. Admittedly, when I booked our trip, I didn’t even consider the impact of us visiting. I didn’t investigate sustainable practices of businesses in Tulum so I would know who to support. This trip has taught me to think differently about traveling back, and to be mindful when traveling to other vulnerable destinations as well. Our planet has finite resources and we all have to think about ways to protect it, at home and in it’s pockets of paradise.