I had a strange experience in Tulum. Everyone and their mother had been raving about it for the last 2 years so I finally booked our spring trip to the notoriously eco-friendly Mexican vacation spot this year. It was definitely an experience but not my ideal tropical vacation.
I’m having a hard time putting into words what my problem was but I think it was just a bit too bohemian and trendy for my taste. Everything was wildly overpriced (as are most Caribbean islands/tropical beach locations), and it wasn’t quite as perfectly pristine as I like. I realize that sounds snobby but that is not how I mean it at all! I just prefer things a little cleaner and a little more manicured.
That being said, we had a lot of amazing experiences, so here are my tips if you’re headed to Tulum.
We stayed at the Jashita Hotel which was about 20 minutes from downtown Tulum. This was a blessing and a curse. It was great because it was calm and quiet and more serene than the downtown area but it cost $30 each way every time we went out to dinner or anywhere other than the hotel itself. That being said, the Jashita was great. Our room was beautiful yet simple with a balcony looking out over the water with a private plunge pool.
They had beautiful Etro soaps and provided free bottled water daily which is important for me! The restaurant in the hotel was great. Breakfast was included and it came with a spread of coffees, teas, juices, and anything off of the menu. We opted for huevos rancheros with avocado every morning. So. Good. And obviously the green juice had me at hello.
I’ve heard amazing things about the Coqui Coqui and know a lot of people who have stayed there and loved it. If I ever went back, I’d stay here because it’s central to all of the restaurants and is absolutely gorgeous. We walked around the space to scope the joint and it had a wonderful energy about it.
If you like seafood, you should probably visit Tulum at some point in your life.
Hartwood definitely lives up to the hype. I wrote a full review on it here. If you go to Tulum and skip this restaurant, you’re very silly.
Chamico’s: My friend Shannon recently honeymooned in Tulum and recommended a restaurant up the beach from our hotel so we decided to check it out. Restaurant is a strong word. . . After a 30 minute walk in the sand (that walk in the hot sun is no joke, folks!) we stumbled upon some plastic tables and chairs in a forest of palm trees surrounded by hammocks. A young man walked up to us and asked us what we wanted to eat. “Menu?” we asked. “No tengo menu,” he replied. We said bring the best of what you have. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.
We ended up with fresh guacamole, shrimp quesadillas, a whole fried fish, and the most unreal yet simple ceviche that I’ve ever had in my entire life. When we were paying, we peeked inside the “kitchen” which was made up of two women cooking in what looked like a small house surrounded by chickens. It was so awesome. We ended up going back again and this time got the fresh lobster which rivaled anything I’ve had in Maine. I cannot recommend this place enough and have since found out that the New York Times agrees. No shirt, no shoes, no problem.
Posada Margherita kept coming up in conversations with everyone we met. We really didn’t want Italian food in Mexico but after we heard 10 times how great it was, we decided to make the venture to this quirky spot. It was SO worth it. The walkway up to the restaurant is lined with vignettes of vintage tables smothered in candles. It was like a nighttime Anthropologie shoot. After putting our names down, we sipped on sweating glasses of white wine at the bar and perused the shop (see more below on that!). The menu had 3 pastas, 3 fish dishes, and 3 shrimp dishes. We ordered the shrimp pasta and a simple vegetable pasta dish. Both were out of this world. The pasta is all homemade on-site and the fresh ingredients and herbs stood out in the most perfect and whimsical way. The place had a great ambiance with a cool breeze and was full of beautiful people.
I had read a lot about Gitano and how great the drinks are. It did not disappoint. Their drink list was to die for and I especially fell in love with their oddly smokey margarita. It was delish. The space itself was super cool, all outside with chandeliers in the trees, a DJ (slash model) spinning music, and female guests in crop tops with their boyfriends in skinny jean cutoffs. Needless to say, Anel and I felt a bit out of place. The food was definitely good (Shrimp tacos were our favorite!) but overall the space was overwhelming and it had a strong gas smell from the generator that we were seated close to. If you go, I recommend asking to sit as far from it as possible. My suggestion is to go here for a drink (or 3) before or after dinner elsewhere.
Sahara Cafe is the Italian-owned restaurant in the Jashita Hotel. It was AMAZING for breakfast (best Huevos Rancheros I’ve ever eaten!), pretty great for lunch (shrimp tacos yet again were the winners), and had the best margaritas we had on the whole trip. They were perfectly salty and just a little bit sweet. Perfection, seriously. The dinner menu looked a little weird at first but the fish was incredibly fresh and everything we ate was excellent. We especially enjoyed the tuna carpaccio. On top of all that, the space is stunning and the most perfectly manicured restaurant we visited on the trip.
I had an incredible massage and overall experience at Yaan Wellness. The first day and a half of our trip was frustrating and underwhelming to the point where I thought about hopping on a plane elsewhere. After this massage, everything changed. I walked in and found my tribe. They staff talked about the energy of the space, gave me tea made from the rooftop garden’s lemongrass, and showed me around the most stunning grounds full of hot tubs with chandeliers and signs that said “smileâ€. I got a 60 minute deep tissue massage, during which my therapist stood on my back and did some energy healing. She truly saved the trip for me!
Most of the shopping was touristy and cheesy but I found a few spots that I loved.
Josa Tulum carries beautiful flowy pieces that have a Calypso St. Barth’s feel but with a (slightly) cheaper price tag. I ended up buying a striped maxi dress/cover up and, after Instagramming it, the Josa crew sent over a bag of beautiful pieces to my hotel which was the nicest gesture and made me love them even more!
The boutique at Posada Margherita was awesome. They carried everything from Catbird rings to natural sunburn salve to beautiful scarves to silk dresses. I could have bought everything in the entire little shop. It’s not cheap so be prepared to just browse or splurge.
Like my pineapple dress in these photos? My friend Alex, the founder and designer of Persifor, is giving you guys 20% off of everything on her site with the code SPRINGBREAK. Happy shopping!
Great post, beautiful pics and your pineapple dress is stunning!
I’ve heard Tulum is very Earthy feeling. So if you are used to modern crisp beach getaways I can see why you’d be a little disappointed. You do NOT sound snobby. When planning and spending that much on a vacation you’d want to be satisfied. Looks like you made the most of it. LOVE that dress!
The trip looked fantastic! I haven’t been to Tulum in so long! Hopefully we can get back there soon!
That’s a bummer Tulum wasn’t all you’d hoped it would be. I’ve been 3 times and loved it every single time. My secret though is I travel there during their off-season in July. So it’s practically abandoned which is actually really nice.
I think sometimes people miss the fact that the whole point of Tulum and the whole Yucatan really is to just hang around and relax and just BE. Maybe you’d prefer one of the all-inclusives a little north in the Riviera Maya.
Beautiful photos! Tulum looks so beautiful, but I always appreciate an honest review! Looks like you made the best of it. xx
Loved this post! I do agree though that when you are paying a higher price, I like to stay at places where things are pretty much perfect! It’s not snobby at all. Beautiful photos and fashion as usual!!!
If you didn’t love Tulum, where are your favorite spots in the Caribbean?
Kristina does the Internets
I’ve heard such great things about Tulum and hope to go sometime in the near future. The food and drinks seem like they were the highlight! 🙂
I just went for the first time too! Tulum is definitely a little more rustic but with high prices so totally get what you’re saying. For the money, it’s hard not to expect pristine. That being said, it’s so relaxing and the beaches are just perfection. And the food is amazing. Coqui coqui is super cool but I’d warn you against staying there if you want polished. The hotel itself is quaint and unique. The whole concept seems really fun. But, the rooms don’t have air conditioning, the lighting is very low (like I held my iPhone up to the mirror to even get enough light to brush my hair after dark and don’t even talk about makeup – the rooms were too hot), the showers are salt water only and don’t get hot, the restaurant service is slow at best, etc. We plan to stay at Be Tulum on future trips since we want to be close to downtown.
Sorry it wasn’t everything to hoped for!
Thanks for your honesty about Tulum.
I would like to read a review written by you for all of the places I want to visit! Your honesty and descriptions made me feel like I was there! Guess I’ll just have to piggy back on your travels until you start your for-sure destined travel blog:)
Loving this detailed guide! I wish I had a similar guide for all our trips…Fodor’s just doesn’t cut it. I really appreciate your honesty about your overall feelings about Tulum. It does look pretty amazing and your daily breakfast and basically all your meals sound sooo good!
I love this honest guide – thanks for giving it to us straight. We all only have so much money and time and it’s important to spend it wisely and on the right experiences. Do you have any tips for vacationing on a paleo diet? I’m heading to Hawaii next week and I’m terrified of losing all my progress eating in the hotels… Thank you! XO
i loved Tulum…..that bohemian/less manicured feel is right up my alley, but I can see why some people wouldn’t feel as strongly about it. We stayed central at Retiro Maya in huts on the beach with no electricity after sun down – different vibe for sure but i loved it so much. Hartwood was so incredible!!! going to check out your post on that next 🙂