As A DC Local

Vaca in Tulum

My two best girlfriends, Mary and Caroline, and I thought up a plan to do a girls trip to Mexico in celebration of turning 30. We have known each other since we were freshman roommates in college, so we knew this trip would be epic. Well last year we turned 30, but I was knocked up, so Mexico was put on hold. Finally we settled on June 2018, once I got the plans in place for my parents to come help hubby with the bambinos. We were going to Tulúm, Quintano Roo, MEH-HEE-CO!!!! I have to admit I barely did any planning for this trip, since both my friends got excellent recommendations from their friends who had already visited Tulum. So shout-out to Maysie and Liney for all your hard work. I wanted to pay it forward and share our experiences in case anyone plans on vacationing in this beautiful place.

Where we stayed

One of the recommendations was to stay at Coco Tulum. It’s not your average hotel or resort, but so incredibly gorgeous. If you are am all-inclusive, AC-loving, Egyptian 1800 thread count sheet sleeping, 4/5Star-only type of vacationer…this may not be the place for you. If you love rustic chic, don’t mind outdoor elements indoors and are fine with the simple amenities, this might be up your alley. Another perk is the price…much more affordable than other resorts in the area. There are few unattached cabanas to choose from, some with more features than others. Ours was about 20 ft from the beach, faced the ocean and steps away from the beach club bar (basically perfect location). There was a little patio with a hammock that we often found ourselves on in the morning or late at night while sipping some cocktails. There was a king sized bed and a separate room with a twin bunk bed. The cabana did come with A/C, however, it wasn’t much more functional than a strong fan. BTW, most hotels in Tulum shut off the A/c between 7AM and 7PM. Once it’s morning and you open up the doors and windows, the ocean breeze cools off the inside immediately. One weird thing about bathrooms in Tulum is the eco-friendly plumbing…you throw TP in a basket instead of flushing it down the toilet. That took a little habit adjustment and getting over the ick-factor. You also shouldn’t drink the water, even for brushing your teeth. Other than those little caveats, this place was perfect for us!

Where we ate
The food down in Tulum was good no matter where we went. Fresh fish from the ocean, fresh fruit from the trees, savory chicken and beef from some local farms. Every morning started off with a coffee and a smoothie. Our favorite spot was a 10 minute walk down the street to Fresco’s. Great selection, reasonably priced and soooo fresh.

The runner up was the restaurant in a hotel down the street from ours, Ojo de Agua. Really good iced coffee, pressed juices and really cute ambience.

For our first dinner we asked our concierge, Adrian, for the best tacos that were still open and within walking distance. Restaurante Las Estrellas. They had the freshest guac and tortillas to start, and our concierge was right… beef, fish and shrimp tacos that beat out any ones I had in the US.
Second dinner was at the very popular Hartwood. They change the menu every day, which is awesome but the servers have to lug around this giant chalkboard that they use as the universal menu.  At Hartwood use sustainable methods (open fire cooking, and solar powered energy), and use locally grown ingredients. Don’t do like us and forget to make a reservation! The food was so fresh and definitely worth the wait.

We were able to put our name down and grab drinks a few doors down at Gitano.  Between the open air set-up, votive candle lighting and the live music of the soulful singer and sitar, it was a beautiful experience…I’m sure the margarita helped too.

On our way biking to the Mayan Ruins, we stopped by Mateo’s. Decent mexican food, even their basic quesadilla is better than any one that I’ve had (and I’ve had a lot). Their sign reminded me of that scene in Elf when Will Ferrell congratulated the coffee shop for making the world’s best coffee.

The last dinner we had on our vacation came from another recommendation from Adrian. We wanted an authentic choice in downtown Tulum, away from the tourist area.  He recommended Frida, a restaurant that apparently is also part of a local hostal. It was a quaint but cute restaurant with only a few meal choices on the menu. I really liked the presentation, including my mezcal cocktail delivered in a tiny clay pot. The prices were probably half that of the restaurants around touristy Tulum, so definitely worth going off the beaten path.

What to do

  1. YOGA!!!! Tulum is known for being a premier destination for yogis. We went to a morning hatha session at Sanará, which is the top spot in Tulum for yoga retreats. They also offer other wellness and healing programs. The studio is in a glass enclosed room facing the beach with sliding doors to allow the breeze to flow through. They provide all of the mats and blocks that you need and even give you a free coconut water shot afterwards. Alia was our incredible instructor and made the experience really personal and fun. After the session we practiced some poses with guidance from Mary, who is a certified instructor and teaching in DC! (Shameless plug for my girl…find her at @maryt_yoga on IG)

2. Bike the area, especially to the Mayan Ruins. Bikes are how most people, both locals and tourists, get around the beach strip. Like ours, most hotels offer bikes to rent for 24 hours. We had so much fun taking these classic beach combers about 3 miles down the road to the Mayan Ruins. The ruins were soooo cool to see, as they sit magestically facing the Caribbean Sea. Did you know that they were inhabited by people in 564 A.D.? Tulum was built to be a fortress and one of the only enclosed cities built by the Maya. To think these pyramid-esque structures were built without any modern tools or machines is ridiculous. Watch out for the iguanas that have taken over the Ruins community, and bring bug spray TRAVELER TIP: If you go between 9-4:30, tickets are 65 pesos (roughly $3), if you go anytime between 5-7, it increases to 240 pesos (roughly $12). Don’t make the mistake we did and arrive at 4:40…

3. Cenotes are a big attraction in Tulum. They are natural pits or sinkholes that expose natural water underneath. We really wanted to go but didn’t have time! Check them out if you do go, we’ve heard really great things!

4. Hit the Beach. I mean that’s one of the main reasons we came to Tulum. These beaches will never get as crowded as Cancun or neighboring vacation spots. Apparently between November and February are the best times to come for the crystal blue, seaweed-free waters. Our beach club was the most popular one on our part of the strip. TRAVELER TIP: The massages at the hotel costs around $200, the massages on the beach right next to the beach club are $35…and that includes deep-tissue aromatherapy. Best massage we’ve had in our lives!

So that’s our Tulúm vacation in a nutshell. It was amazing to spend time with my girls and not worry about mommy duties for a few days. Shoutout to my parents and husband who held down the fort back at home with my two babies. Mama appreciates ya!  I recommend Tulum to anyone wanting to get away to new and trendy area of Mexico! Hasta Luego Amigos!

Zamas Hotel Happy Hours