Have you ever visited somewhere that was so wonderful you didn’t want to tell anyone about it? That kind of sums up how I felt about my trip to Tulum. Although I think the secret is already out about this charming Mexican destination.
Two of my high school friends and I have been trying to get together every few years from the different corners of the country we’ve scattered to. The first trip was in 2010 and we visited Nicole in Seattle. Then in 2013, Nicole and Lauren visited me in San Diego. We decided 2016 meant it was time for another reunion. Since Sioux Falls isn’t exactly a vacation destination, Lauren picked a fantastic spot and we headed to Tulum.
Tulum has it all! At least all that this travel loving foodie could want on a relaxing beach vacation. Charming boutique hotels, a plethora of high caliber restaurants of various cuisines, plus plenty of cantinas to get your fix of delicious Mexican food. You can bike everywhere in Tulum and there’s plenty to explore nearby as well. Oh, and not to mention the fabulous back drop – the Gulf of Mexico.
We stayed at the Mezzanine Hotel in Tulum and it was perfect. Since apparently my body didn’t get the memo that I was on vacation without kids, I was up with the sun each day. The hotel delivered coffee and a small breakfast snack to our doorstep each morning so I would sit on our porch and have my morning coffee and soak it all in. Not a bad way to start the day. The hotel also had a great restaurant. I especially loved their breakfasts, smoothies and drinks. I easily could have stayed at the hotel the entire time but there were too many other good things to do, see and eat.
Tulum was unlike any other beach destination I had been to before, and certainly unlike any place in Mexico I had visited. Most of the restaurants are outdoors or open air and have a pop-up style kitchen. The first night we ate at Kitchen Table, a farm to table restaurant right across the street from our hotel. Grilled octopus was on the menu that night so I was a happy girl! Kitchen Table is said to rival the infamous Hartwood but without the crowds. I’m glad we tried it, especially since we weren’t lucky enough to get in at Hartwood.
The second day we strolled the beach and drove back to Playa del Carmen to get Nicole. We made it back to the hotel for happy hour at one of the cozy cabanas and then ventured out to the Secret Garden for dinner. I wish I had some photos to do these restaurants justice but since we ate late each night and I was relying on my phone for photos it was a lost cause.
The third day was Nicole’s first full day in Tulum and we enjoyed a relaxing morning at the hotel, strolled the beach and had a late breakfast. After a slow start to the day we decided to venture off the beach road and away from Tulum town to check out some of the ruins and search for Kanlum lagoon. Unfortunately the lagoon wasn’t the aqua blue spot we envisioned (not sure if we were at the wrong lagoon or if it was simply the bad weather). Nicole and I made the climb to the top of the wooden look-out tower and then made a quick descent when the thunder started. Once we finished our trek in the jungle we stopped in Tulum town for lunch at El Camello. We had heard from numerous sources that it was the best place to go for traditional Mexican seafood. Ceviche, fresh tortillas and a cold beer aren’t a bad way to pass a rainy afternoon. The rain continued all afternoon but we wanted to do some more exploring so we took a cab towards the end of beach road and strolled our way back stopping at the shops along the way. We also paused for drinks at Casa Jaguar, another one of the lovely outdoor restaurants. I loved watching them make drinks in Tulum; every spot seemed to have a small herb garden behind the bar and everything was fresh and delicious. After some more shopping and another stop for drinks and appetizers, we headed back to the hotel to eat at the Thai restaurant.
Friday was our bike day and probably my favorite day of the vacation. First we biked down beach road to grab breakfast. After finding out our spot was closed for an event later that day, we continued down the road and stopped at Posada Margherita. This was another spot we had heard great things about but didn’t realize they had breakfast as well. If you’re looking for a spot to eat on the beach this place wins for the most charming location. As you might guess from the name, Posada Margherita is an Italian restaurant. Certainly not what I thought I would be eating when I went to Mexico but the food was so fresh and delicious. Spoiler alert, we went back for dinner our last night there.
Back to the bikes…after a slow start to our day we biked back into Tulum town to do some shopping. Trying to score the best price at all of the tourist shops was a drain (hint, it’s still pretty cheap everywhere) but we got some good stuff. I could have returned with a whole suitcase of different linens and textiles. After we refueled with some burritos and smoothies we headed back down beach road for our failed attempt to get a reservation at Hartwood. Even though we didn’t get in at Hartwood our dinner that evening didn’t disappoint. After some drinks at the hotel we headed back down beach road to Casa Banana . This was an Argentine restaurant and I enjoyed one of the best steaks I’ve had in a long time.
Our final full day in Tulum we declared a beach day. After a stormy start to the day, the skies cleared and we spent the morning on the beach. We decided we couldn’t miss a chance to check out the Tulum ruins so after a few hours relaxing in the Gulf we strolled 15 minutes up the beach to check them out. There were a few other hotels along the way and we stopped at Villa Pescadores for more ceviche, cervezas and swinging. This was my happy place! I easily could have stayed there sipping and swinging all afternoon but we pressed on towards the ruins. It was probably a good idea we left when we did because by the time we made it to the ruins the skies opened up and it started storming so unfortunately, no pictures. As I mentioned before, we spent our last night eating at Posada Margherita. Each bowl of pasta is made to order – delicious!
Sunday we had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. Since I was up early [again] I decided to enjoy a full breakfast at the hotel while my travel companions packed up. I had been eyeing this tropical french toast each morning and it did not disappoint! Our last order of business before heading to the airport was to snap our picture by the touristy Tulum sign. Once that was accomplished we still had some time to kill so we made one final pit stop at El Pez. This hotel and restaurant was on a small peninsula with some of the best views of Tulum’s coast line. I climbed out on the rocks and soaked up the view with the morning yogis.
Ok, Phil is harassing me for the ridiculous length of this post so I guess I’ll just end it by saying I can’t wait to go back. I’m grateful that my friends and I have continued to make the time to get together and even more grateful for my hubby who made this trip possible. I know the kiddos loved their “vacation” with their daddy.