Tulum has been on my travel wish list for a few years now. With its laid-back bohemian vibe, local creative community and stunning beaches it felt like the perfect destination for a relaxing and inspiring getaway.
We headed out for some sun, sand, and sea along the Riviera Maya for this year's family vacation. It was a much needed 6-day escape that we divided into Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. I'm open to Airbnb's while the hubby prefers resort-type accommodations. We planned it all out so we could experience a little bit of both. We travel often as a couple, yet still have a whole lot to learn in terms of traveling internationally as a family. I couldn't have asked for a better trip. It was a great experience figuring out how to navigate and enjoy new places together.
We only had one full day to explore the town. If you're planning a trip to Tulum soon, here are a few takeaways I think are important to note:
- Take the direct flight (we flew United from SFO to Cancun), specially if little ones are in tow. Getting to our destination was painless. We booked our airfare, car rental and Playa Del Carmen hotel two months in advance via Expedia to get the best deals. Their customer service and rewards system is outstanding.
- Tulum is an hour and a half drive from Cancun airport. Book your transfer with a shuttle or rent a car in advance for the most seamless experience.
- Contact your physicians and let them know about your travel plans in advance. Our doctor gave us some precautionary prescription medications in case we came down with a stomach bug, as well as some great advice on how to avoid Zika virus. Natalie also took some oral doses of a Typhoid vaccine before we left, and we made sure she was up-to-date with all her shots. Thankfully, no one got sick during this trip! But I always feel it's better to be safe than sorry.
- This all-in-one bug guard and sunscreen lotion worked wonders for all of us, and I would follow up with the spray version when we were out and about. Stay protected from insects and the damaging rays of the sun, without any nasty scents. Sensitive-skin friendly!
- If your trip is going to be short and sweet like ours, take the time to create an itinerary and book restaurant reservations in advance if possible, which I did for Hartwood.
- Traveling with a younger child (Natalie is 7) means we had to plan ahead and take into consideration what activities and how much we could do in one day. While planning in advance helps, it's important to remain flexible with the itinerary and be truly present — this makes the trip truly enjoyable for everyone.
We booked our first Airbnb for our 2-night stay in Tulum. It was fabulous, and I can't recommend Diego's spot enough. Our room was extremely well-kept and thoughtfully designed — rustic minimalism at its best. The only downside? The property was not located in front of the water. Not a big deal, specially since we rented a car and it's pretty easy to get around. Bikes are also provided and a great way to explore the town. I'd say this particular Airbnb is a great solution for couples or friends, specially if you're on a budget. However we discovered that we prefer the resort experience and being right by the ocean. Family lesson number one: with little kids in tow, it's much more practical to be able to effortlessly hop from beach to pool to room.
We had one full day to explore Tulum. With so many recommendations from blogger friends and family, it was really difficult to narrow down the musts. The challenge was balancing just the right amount of sightseeing and lounging. Our day began bright and early with an 8am visit to the Mayan Ruins — getting there during opening hours will ensure you beat the tourist crowds and the heat. Two hours is more than enough to explore (we gave ourselves a self-guided tour) and take a dip in the water. Next on the itinerary was a trip to a nearby cenote. However, we decided to skip this and head straight to brunch on the beach at Mezzanine. I had the best guacamole here. Family lesson number two: less sightseeing, more beach time.
Wearing: HM ruffle top (old), similar here and here. Rag and Bone shorts, similar here. Splendid espadrilles, love this similar style. Celine sunglasses. HM bag, similar leather alternative. Fujifilm camera and lens.
On Natalie: Old Navy top.
Next on the agenda — lounging oceanside at La Zebra. This hotel is extremely family friendly. Natalie enjoyed the beautiful play area and the hubby and I had the best Margaritas and Mojitos! The colors of the Ocean here are something else. And the sand — just like fine powder. This trip was so good for the soul. We've made a firm resolution to plan at least one beach trip a year. Family lesson number three: family-friendly resorts make a world of difference — and a healthy dose of #VitaminSea is a must throughout the year!
On Natalie: Old Navy swimsuit.
A vacation isn't complete without a little form of retail therapy! After a few hours lounging oceanside we hit up a handful of boutiques nearby— all conveniently located right next door to our dinner spot along the main road. My favorite is Hoki Poki Kana, located at the La Placita Shopping Center. I had the pleasure of meeting shop owner and designer Cecile. She creates gorgeous modern bohemian pieces - Mexican inspired and handcrafted locally with a Parisian touch. Also available in her shop: must-have swimwear from Lisa Marie Fernandez (a personal fave) and sunnies by Thierry Lasry.
Josa and Josa Chiquita are also on my best-of list. Lots of gorgeous summer styles for the whole family.
I was so bummed I didn't get to visit the Coqui Coqui boutique, due to the current land disputes. Just another reason to plan a trip back! However, their scents are available to purchase online, here.
Next up: dinner next door at Hartwood.
About a week before our trip, I booked a dinner reservation at Hartwood. I had heard about how difficult it was to walk in and get a table. Thankfully they had just launched their new reservation system via email. This was the one spot every single person recommended so I made sure we didn't miss it. Hands down, it was the best meal I've ever had! Chef Eric Warner's flavorful and fresh dishes are all thoughtfully prepared using local ingredients, without any gas or electricity. A traditional wood burning oven takes center stage in this open air restaurant. It was the ultimate experience in slow living — highlighting an inherent quality and inspired process that is rare these days. We dined under the stars in the middle of the Tulum jungle. I ordered the lobster salad, grouper fillet, and finished off with some cinnamon ice cream (my fave!). Hubby and I are not foodies — but we really appreciated this meal because it was more than just that — it was an experience.
To cap off the evening, we recommend a few drinks next door at Gitano and Arca. Both are beautifully designed restaurant-bars nestled within the jungle. Come for the drinks, stay for the decor.
Our last day in Tulum began with a delicious brunch at Papaya Playa Project before heading out for our one hour drive to Playa Del Carmen. We had the best pancakes ever — I'm still dreaming about the caramel sauce. The chilaquiles are also not to be missed! We really enjoyed the rustic stadium-style seating with a view of the ocean.
I hope you enjoyed my little travel guide! Tulum was a magical place and I hope we get to return and experience more of it. Our trip continues as we travel to Playa Del Carmen for the second half of our Mexican getaway. Post coming soon! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions and need more recommendations!
Thanks for dropping by!