While it may not be a secret anymore, there are few places more enchanting than the idyllic coastal beach town of Tulum in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Once a sleepy off-the-grid town where backpackers and hippies flocked, it’s since evolved into a bustling eco-friendly hot spot where yogis, fashion bloggers and expats come for chic boutiques, incredible Yucatan cuisine and rustic beachside elegance.
Whether you’ve heard of it or not, there’s no question that Tulum has become one of the hottest travel destinations in the last few years – and the best part is, this Mexican paradise is only a quick 3-hour jaunt from NOLA.
While we’re #blessed with mild winters in the Big Easy, the cold weather can sometimes be a drag. If you’re thinking about planning a trip to beat the winter blues this season, put this hot spot at the top of your list.
Here’s how to really viva Mejico, the Nola way.
WHEN TO GO
Tulum’s high season is December through spring time. But if you’re looking to save some money and score deals on accommodation, hurricane season might be your best bet (usually June-November). Fares are lowest, pricey hotels offer big low-season discounts and the crowds are perfectly dismal.
Grab your passport because Spirit Airlines operates a flight route right out of New Orleans to Cancun for a very reasonable roundtrip flight price in the $200s. There’s a quick layover, but for that price you can spare an extra hour in a terminal.
Once you’ve landed in Cancun you’ve got 2 options. 1 – Pay around $85-$100 for a shuttle that takes you straight from the airport to your hotel in Tulum OR if you’re feeling adventurous, rent your own car and make the trek yourself. An easy straight-shot South from the airport, this road trip is fun and easy, even if you don’t speak a lick of Spanish.
Babes Tip: I opted for a rental and splurged for an SUV to really be able to get out and explore on my own. SO WORTH IT. If you go this route, pay the extra money for a Jeep or larger vehicle that can handle rough terrain if you think you’ll be doing a lot of exploring in town or in areas that may not be as developed. It is Mexico, after all.
WHERE TO STAY
This ain’t Cabo. You won’t find any all inclusive mega-resorts in Tulum, and that’s part of the reason why this place is so appealing. Once you get to Tulum’s main beach road there’s tons of chic boutique hotels and lodging options on both the beach side and the jungle side. Each side is equally charming, but if you’re going to Tulum, opt for the beach side for the stunning ocean views.
Get Your Glamp On
If you want to do chic Tulum without the high price tag, there’s no better option than glamping at Nomade. Retreat to boho heaven at this trendy beachside boutique hotel and immediately get in the Tulum vibe.
Decked out with King size bedding, a private bath, air conditioner and premium linens, Nomade’s deluxe tents will make you question why you’ve ever stayed in normal hotel room. #ZENNNN
Surrounded by palm trees on it’s own private property lies Casita Bonita, and it may be one of Tulum’s best kept secrets.
This gorgeous Casita sits steps away from the crystal clear waters and pristine beach. Like most places in Tulum, there’s no A/C, but the cool breeze from the ocean-facing windows makes up for it.
Perfect for a girls getaway or romantic vacay with bae, Casita Bonita is walking distance to Tulum’s hottest restaurants and bars and offers its own private section of beach.
What makes it so unique? If you travel to Tulum at just the right time, you’ll get your own private sea turtle nests! These little guys burst out of the sand without warning by the dozens to make a mad dash for the ocean and is truly a Nat Geo moment.
Babes Tip: If you take a 15-minute stroll down the beach from Casita Bonita and you’ll stumble upon the eerie shell of Pablo Escobar’s own private villa, or what’s left of it. Both awesome and a little terrifying.
WHAT TO DO
Tulum’s main attraction is obviously its stunning beaches, BUT there’s so much more! Beautiful crystal clear cenotes speckle the entire region along with ancient Mayan ruins that are a quick drive away.
Need even more adventure? Tours out of Akumal, (just a 20-minute drive away) operate day trips that take you swimming with whale sharks or spear fishing if you’re into that sort of thing.
Another option for adventure near Tulum is taking a visit to the Sian Ka’an Reserve, a 1.5 million acre protected UNESCO World Heritage site. There’s a ton of different tours you can do to experience this incredible ecosystem, but if you’re going the budget route there’s nothing better than renting a kayak and a couple snorkels to explore on your own.
EAT & DRINK
Oh, the food. Being the typical Nola babe I am, I was obviously most excited about the food and dranks. While I won’t go into detail about the embarrassing amount of guac and tequila consumed, I will divulge the highlights.
Hartwood – Tulum’s New York Times-famed restaurant certainly doesn’t disappoint. Be sure to make a reservation or wait in line for this jungle-side jewel that you shouldn’t leave without experiencing.
Mezzanine – Swing by this cliffside hotel restaurant to enjoy the best happy hour deal in Tulum with 2 for 1 cocktails, bomb Thai food (Yes, Thai) and an even better view.
Gitano – If you didn’t like Mezcal before you get here, I promise you’ll leave with a new appreciation.
Posada Margherita – Awesome Italian…in Mexico? Oh yes, it exists. This beautiful ocean-facing Italian restaurant epitomizes rustic charm and serves up some pretty righteous handmade pasta. You may even run into your fave fashion blogger.
Casa Banana – Can’t go wrong with killer cocktails and open-fire Argentinian cooking.
Casa Jaguar – Another gorgeous bar with insanely awesome cocktails.
La Popular – Snag a seat right in the sand at this boho beach bar and restaurant at the newly opened Nomade boutique hotel and soak up the views.
Babes Tip: Beware the propina. Propina means ‘tip’ and is included with almost EVERYTHING already, so read the fine print to avoid shelling out more than you need to.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
While the restaurants in Tulum beach are fantastic (albeit pricey), the real gems were found by driving into the Pueblo and exploring the food the locals eat, and it’s way more affordable!
El Camello Jr. – Here you’ll find the rare site of locals and tourists dining side by side. Located right next to a fish market, El Camello Jr. serves up whatever was caught that day straight from the local fishermen. Mind-blowing ceviche, octopus and fresh fish served in huge portions make for a perfectly authentic Yucatan lunch.
Chamico’s – Another local spot that takes some savvy navigation to get to but is SO WORTH the trek is Chamico’s. Located about 15 minutes Northeast of Tulum in picture-perfect Solimon Bay, Chamico’s is a no-frills fish shack by the sea, but by far one of the most memorable meals I’ve had.
Order a few drinks, ceviche and enjoy your own private bay that offers some of the best snorkeling in the area.
Mexico can sometimes get a bad rap, but that shouldn’t deter you from experiencing this magical place. Tulum is an enchanting town in a vibrant country that boasts a rich culture, unbeatable food and passionate people that will always keep me coming back.