Tulum is a quiet beach town located two hours south of Cancun. I experienced Tulum for the first time in January during the BPM music festival. This was also the first international trip that Mr. A and I took together. Tulum holds a special place in my heart.
Ten months later, we found ourselves back in Tulum for an October wedding. This was during rainy season, and there was a brief rain shower during the wedding vows. Afterwards, as if on cue, a rainbow appeared after the ceremony. The symbolism could not have been more perfect.
The wedding took place at Ahau resort. We stayed here in January, and our bedroom entrance literally opened to the beach, with a reserved cabana and the ocean just steps away. On our return trip, we stayed at the sister hotel Alaya – a smaller resort with newer facilities. I could see myself returning to either of these hotels. The secluded beach setting, romantic accommodations, and exceptional service make for an intimate, nature-focused getaway. A nice alternative to the five-star, glossy resorts which are not in the area. Tulum remains a small, sleepy beach town.
Resort food is usually so-so, and I found this to be true here. Instead, I sought out nearby restaurants for a good meal. One of them was Hartwood. Founded by a New York couple, Hartwood is quite the industry darling and even has its own book. The food here is excellent. Unfortunately the 2-3 hour waits, rude service, and so-so cocktails make this a tough recommendation for me. My companion also got the worst bought of food poisoning after eating unintentionally raw lobster brain. I escaped by only having the tail portion, which was really good.
Casa Banana was my favorite restaurant by far. This Argentine spot is open daily from breakfast to dinner. From huevos rancheros to grilled octopus, Casa Banana got the details right. The dressing for their octopus and side salads left us speechless. And service, though inattentive, was friendlier by far.
Other than dining and beach-going, Tulum offers limited a nightlife. The rehearsal dinner was at Zamas hotel which has a beach restaurant with an amazing shoreline view. I couldn’t go to Mexico without getting a tamarind margarita, and the bartender at Zamas delivered. The freshly ground tamarind paste and chile salted rim was the real deal. Across the road from Zamas is Mateo’s, a outdoor restaurant with a dance floor and live music. The spacious two-floor spot was able to accommodate two wedding groups for a late night celebration.
Tulum is ideal for travelers seeking a simple beach getaway, far removed from the bustling tourist towns. We were only able to stay for a long weekend, but it was enough time to get some sun and disconnect from the world.
More in-depth yelp reviews of the hotels and food are linked below.