Tulum Travel Guide
DESTINATION: TULUM – QUINTANA ROO
TRAVEL TIME: 3.5 HOUR FLIGHT FROM NYC
STAY: 5 DAYS
HOTEL: HOTEL ESENCIA – XPU-HA MEXICO
Mexico has always had a special place in our hearts. We decided to create our own Tulum travel guide. My mother was born and raised in Mexico and it’s where Matt and I got married 4 years ago. We got married in downtown Playa Del Carmen at the famous white church. It has become a tradition to make it down there every year now. It was also the first countrySebastian ever visited. He was 3 months old at the time. Sebastian is now up to 5 countries so far including the Netherlands, Sweden, and Colombia!
We make it down every year and never have a bad time. How can you? The weather is amazing, the people are so kind, and it’s just a beautiful place with so much to do. With Quintana Roo so close, we have made that our primary destination the last few years. It’s an easy trip down and since Sebastian is so used to flying with us, he is great on the flight. Here are some tricks we’ve learned along the way when traveling with a toddler
HOW TO GET TO TULUM
We fly Delta when we go to Mexico so we fly out of JFK. It’s 3 1/2 – 4 hrs when flying direct to Cancun(CUN). Once in Cancun, as it is with most popular vacation destinations, there are many ways to get to your resort. Ground transportation costs are dependent on the location of where you’re staying. Playa del Carmen is only about 30 minutes south and then Tulum is another 25-30km further south.
We stay in Tulum and used private transportation provided by our Hotel. I highly suggest getting this squared away before getting there as you will be bombarded with folks at the hotel trying to get you to use their service. If you don’t know what to expect, it can be slightly overwhelming. You can always rent a car as well if you plan on driving around the peninsula. Most of the major car rental services are onsite at the airport.
WHERE TO STAY
HOTEL ESENCIA – XPU-HA
We stayed at Hotel Escencia just down in Xhu Pa. It’s located right between Playa and Tulum. It’s a gorgeous boutique with 40 rooms spread out over a large jungle filled property. Our suite was appropriately named the Jungle Suite. It had both inside and outside living spaces with a gorgeous bathroom including a sunken tub. The hotel is very kid friendly, which isn’t always the case with boutique hotels. They had a crib waiting in the room upon our arrival. The staff was superb. They always make sure you have everything you need in order to have the best time.
While they are kid-friendly, it is still very much an amazing place for couples. The place is beyond gorgeous with a spa set in the jungle, two beachfront pools, and a beautiful dining area outside on the beach. They have yoga every morning on a deck in the treetops overlooking one of the pools. On the beach, they have kayaks, paddle boards, snorkel equipment, etc. We took the sailboat out one afternoon, which was a lot of fun.
*Other places we have stayed are Hotel Le Reve (where we had our wedding reception weekend), Beach Tulum, Mayakoba.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
DOWNTOWN PLAYA DEL CARMEN
This is where we got married so we will always love this place. We wed in the famous Nuestra Senora in the city center. Downtown Playa sits right on the water and it’s a lively place. It has grown exponentially with the streets lined with restaurants and souvenir shops. They now have a new outside mall with many big brands so if you need any pieces to wear, you have plenty of options in town.
This is a pretty stark contrast to downtown Playa. Whereas Playa is more your typical tourist place with cheap souvenir shops, big food chains, etc. Tulum is quite the opposite. While it has certainly grown over the last few years, it is still relatively small. There’s one central road that is pretty spread out. It’s filled with boutique shops, boutique hotels, and beach chic eateries. It is very Boho as Matt likes to call it. It’s perfect! While it’s not the most entertaining for kiddos if you’re looking for real deal Mexican food and cool places to drink and shop, it’s perfection.
If there was ever a more relaxing swim, I have yet to find one better than in a cenote. This region is known for them and has plenty to choose from for a dip. Many of the larger well-known ones (Grand Cenote, Cenote Azul, etc) get busy fast so if you want a quiet swim, get there early. There are plenty of “private”, lesser-known ones that give you an amazing experience without the crowds. Talk up your cab driver to give you recommendations.
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is an amazing place. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth. You can go on your own to visit and explore or you can do a tour. It’s not your typical tourism hotspot. The tours are limited and they maintain a commitment to sustainable environmentally friendly tourism. See birds, fish, snakes, crocodiles and even perhaps a jaguar. This place is incredible. I can’t wait to take Sebastian next time!
You have probably seen pictures but they do not do them justice. The Mayan ruins are special to this region and for Tulum. They represent the seaport town in which the Mayans lived. It gets very crowded here so go early. If you go in peak season (Summer), it’s also best to visit in the morning before the sweltering heat and humidity in the afternoon.
Tourism is big across the entire Quintono Roo area. Eco-tours and guides are big business and there is so much to do. Our favorite tour we did in Tulum was a couple of days before our wedding. We started out snorkeling just off the coast and then went to a cenote for a dip and do some diving. After that, we stopped and grabbed some amazing tacos off the highway in a cute little drive-up taco shop. After lunch, we headed to the beach to swim with some green sea turtles before hopping on a Catamaran to sail up and down the Tulum coast. It was amazing. Check out the company we used here.
Where To Eat
In Tulum town, they set-up shop and serve the best al pastor tacos you can get. This is true Mexican food at it’s best!
An amazing brunch spot in town offering fresh smoothies and delicious pastries from their bakery.
Perhaps the most popular spot in town. Started by chefs from Brooklyn, they have an incredible menu. It’s a blend of Mexican and American cuisine. The menu changes daily based on the harvest that day. Get a reservation early because you’ll probably need it.
This is one of our favorite drink spots. They offer dinner which is delicious in its own right but come for the drinks. Famous for Mexcal come here to sip the night away surrounded by candlelight.
This was a spot we found on this trip. A hip joint that has a silver trailer where they prepare the food. They cook the meat right in front on a fire and serve it up in a cool little seating area near the bar. Just a real deal Mexican spot. We loved it.
Ki’ Bok Coffee Shop
Perfect start to the day. You can sit out front with your coffee and watch people pass by. You can also relax in the courtyard lined with palms. Grab a fruit bar to go. They’re made fresh every morning!
I would love to hear any great spots we missed so we can be sure and check them out next time we are in Tulum. Thanks so much for reading our Tulum travel guide and following along with us!
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Olivia – these photos are stunning!!!
More color, please!
Hi Carrie! Thank you!! xo, Olivia
Gorgeous photographs Olivia. I too love Mexico, the people, the food, there is so much positive going on there that the news miss out on-