[spotlight series. daria hines]
When we first visited ten years ago, Tulum was merely a sleepy beach outpost – a smattering of rustic, bamboo huts lining the Caribbean Sea. Things have certainly changed. Tulum is now a fashionable, (yet still pretty low-key) bohemian getaway. Long, white sandy beaches, eco-friendly, chic hotels, beachside yoga and that exquisite aqua-blue Caribbean Sea…what more could one want? We challenge you not to be instantly lured by this coastal and spiritual utopia…where luxury and earthiness coexist…the hardest decisions to make all day: when to swim, when to siesta, and when and where to eat your next meal.
We love the fact that this small community has been protected against over-development by laws preventing buildings over two stories in height. Solar panels provide electricity (you may need a flashlight at times)…and in keeping with the chilled vibe, no one here seems to answer their phone, so it is oftentimes hard to reach a hotel or restaurant if you need to make a reservation. If you are calling from nearby Playa del Carmen (like we were), we suggest jumping in a cab (for the 1-hour journey south), to make your reservation in person…otherwise you might be waiting awhile!
Posada Margherita: is our hands-down favorite. It was love at first sight when the cab dropped us off at this gorgeous 8-room boutique hotel, full of rustic charm. We had heard endless things about the Italian restaurant here, but little about the accommodation. Dragging our suitcases along the garden path, winding through co-owner Alessandro’s heavenly secret garden, we were instantly captivated. Completely aligned with our aesthetic tastes, this rustic and cosy posada is ideally located on the most pristine stretch of beach. Think hardwood floors, beachy-chic furniture, inspirational quotes on the walls, comfy window seats, and your own little terrace. On top of this, get beachy with swinging day beds, hammocks, a delicious all-day menu, beachside beers, and chilled tunes (when Shazam couldn’t help me identify the blissful mantra sounds of Snatam Kaur’s Ong Namo, I had to ask Francesca what she was playing). Stunning! Also, in keeping with the harmony of the environment and to promote solar energy, Posada uses low consumption lamps and candlelight where possible.
In the evenings, hang out at their intimate and cosy beachside tables to enjoy Tulum’s most delicious, homemade Italian food (the menu here has not changed in over 12 years – co-owner, Federico, nails it in the kitchen!). Simplicity is key. Our favorites: the pasta with shrimp…and the baked fish. You will also go bananas over the bountiful antipasto wooden tray that arrives when you sit down. Homemade focaccia, bruschetta, pickled cauliflower, olives – your belly will be grateful. Fresh fruit is served on the beach each morning, as well as fresh bread, and amazing healthy juices.
As you will notice, Tulum (like some of the other beach towns in Mexico) is largely a cash economy. Credit card facilities are sometimes scarce. Posada Margherita, for example, only accepts cash (for the restaurant and the accommodation). We didn’t realize this when we went to checkout…and we were blown away by Alessandro’s offer for us to pay the bill when we got back to the US. He gave us his US bank account details, and told us just to deposit the money into his bank at a time convenient to us! It didn’t seem to bother him that we wouldn’t be back in LA for another week. Such a kind, trusting gesture. We were so impressed, and very thankful.
Also, Ale and the team have recently opened a restaurant in Bond Street, New York, called Circolo45. Definitely worth checking out when next in the City.
Be Tulum: stunning boutique hotel on the beach, bordering the national park of Sian Ka’an: a coastal reserve that’s both a world heritage site, and ecological conversation project. Plonk yourself on one of the beachside daybeds, take a dip in the infinity pool, or grab a hibiscus mojito from the bar. Friendly service, bike rentals, beach bonfires and a beautiful restaurant. You wont be disappointed.
Coqui Coqui: Yet to stay here, but dreaming of the day we do. This stunning limestone beachhouse offers not only rustic and bohemian-like, concrete guest rooms, but also holds one of our most favorite boutiques in Tulum. On top of that, you will find a cute restaurant and day spa. We swooned over their range of perfumes, as well as their beautiful jewelry. TheDaniela Bustos Maya woven bracelet with antique pesos i bought back in November, has not left my wrist ever since! If your budget allows you stay here – we highly recommend you do.
To eat…after a beachside yoga class (see below), we like to start our morning with breakfast under the open-air palapa at the Papaya Playa Project. Sit high above the beach, and enjoy freshly squeezed juices, coffee, fruit and granola and egg dishes. Also good for post-beach beers or margaritas in the evenings.
Lunch at Mateo's: where they lay claim to having "the best fish tacos in the world”. We can’t say we give them our vote for best ever, but they are undeniably tasty and will hit the spot for sure.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all of the above!) atPosada Margherita (see above). There is a reason this menu never changes. You can’t go wrong with anything here.
Restautare for happy and healthy vegan cuisine, set amidst the jungle. Restautare supports local products and farmers. You can taste the love in their food. Stop by for a juice and a snack (their almond energy balls are addictive), or a warming curry for dinner. Such friendly service. So good.
Simple – as the name suggests, simple dishes up healthy, delicious and super simple fare – the perfect answer when you can not face yet another taco or quesadilla.
Hartwood – run by an ex-Brooklynite couple, this restaurant is one of the most popular, and has earned culinary acclaim for its fresh and healthy food. A fun vibe.
Casa Jaguar – we love the jungle setting of this super chilled bar and restaurant. Kick back with mezcal cocktails (we love the ones with hibiscus, cinnamon and orange) and tasty morsels.
Casa Banana – walk into what seems like a regular Mexican outdoor eatery, but soon discover this gorgeous outdoor setting, under a big palapa, is a lot more upscale. Beautifully candlelit…enjoy exquisite food, amazing wines, and great service. On top of this – the tunes – expect remixes of MGMT, Alt-J, Phoenix, and other indie tunes. Food was sensational. Cocktails too. Yum.
Visit the Mayan ruins…just a five-minute drive north, or short bike ride, from downtown Tulum. Be awed by these reconstructed temples that perch on the rocky cliff face, above the stunning Caribbean waters. Dating back to the 13th through 15th centuries, these relics are simply jaw-dropping.
Rent bikes from Amansala for USD10 per day – its an easy 20min ride from the beach along a bike path into town – just remember to take flashlights with you (if you plan on returning after the sun has gone down). We had an interesting ride home one night, in the pitch dark, swerving to miss other cyclists, and locals walking home along the bike path. The swamp that runs alongside the path would not be so pleasant to land in, so be careful not to pedal off-piste!
Check out the stunning new eco-day spa, opposite Be Tulum on the jungle side: Yäan Energy SPA (website still under construction). Come here for all sorts of different and wonderful spa treatments, energy healing (and crystal therapy!), meditation, yoga and/or their healthy café. A 50min Deep Tissue massage will set you back USD160, the 80min Forever Young facial is USD240, and a 60min Hatha Yoga class is USD25 (and they even offer Candlelight Yoga in the winter months).
Yoga at the Papaya Playa Project– if you are in a need of a good stretch, there is no better place to start the day, than on the sandy floor, beside the sea, of this beachside yoga shala. The most perfect way to welcome the new sun, and set your intentions for the day. Follow it up with breakfast at Papaya’s beachside restaurant.
Book a boat trip out to see the geological wonders of the Cenotes underwater caves – “produced by a process of dissolution and collapse of limestone terraine located above an underground network of caves and rivers”. Swim with fresh water fish, and watch the bats fly overhead.
Saturday farmers market: spend Saturday afternoon swooning over fresh, picnic-ready foods at the small organic market in the garden behind the hostel El Jardin de Frida. Pick up quality artisanal breads, fresh fruit and vegetables, Mayan honey, and our favorite of all the superfoods – chaya - a spinach-like green that might just be the next acai berry.
Enjoy helados (ice cream) and paletas (icy poles) fromFlor de Michoacan in the centre of town – we are totally in love with the huge range of fresh fruit paletas and choc-dipped frozen bananas in coconut (only USD1!!). All so pretty, and so sweet and delicious!
The LOL Tulum boutique at Posada Margherita is our favorite. Only tiny, but so perfectly curated. You will find beautiful floaty dresses – beachy and more fancy, super-stylish and comfy swimsuits, and stunning jewelry. We wanted to buy the lot! Daria and Frenchie carry so many wonderful labels (from far and wide) including:
Swimwear designers: Maima (we met Alejandra – Maima’s owner/designer in the store one day, such a lovely Chiquita, with the most beautiful, softest and stylish swimsuits we have seen), Lilibo, Lure, and Tallowswim.
And jewelry/accessories/fragrances by: Catbird (our favorite out of Brooklyn)– plus pouches we love fromSamudra Pouches, plus VK Lillie, Little Doe is Love, Lizzie Mandler, Takara, Julie Thevenot, Sophie Simone, Cortina, Rosel bags, Leilani Bishop Fragrances, Jao Skin Oil , Aceite de Mamey Pure Seed Oil.
And; Coqui Coqui boutique: for beautiful fragrances, candles, jewelry and clothing.
We love Tulum. We really, really do.