Alrighty, spoiler alert: Tulum is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. When I say Tulum, I specifically mean ‘Boca Paila Road’. This is the main beach-side road in the city and it’s right off the highway- there’s a million little hipster-y instagram-worthy hotels, boutiques, shops, and restaurants. We spent half our trip at an all- inclusive hotel down the road from Boca Paila, and the other half at Maria Del Mar, this amazing hotel at the 3.5 km mark on Boca Paila Road. I’m really only going to be talking about the second half of the trip in this post because there was NOOOOO COMPARISON between the experiences. Being in an all-inclusive can be nice, but the freedom and the fun we had staying on this little ocean-side jungle road was incomparable.
Maria Del Mar
The hotel we stayed at was so pretty and rustic and modern and cool. I want to redecorate my whole house to look like it. The main ‘lobby’- it wasn’t really a lobby in the traditional sense, it was kind of half outdoors and super chill-it led into the restaurant, and there were 3 or 4 buildings down this little path next to the pool and the ocean. We were in ‘Mar 2’ on the second floor (each little building had 3 floors). Our balcony was beautifully furnished and looked onto the pool and the ocean.
Side note, the air conditioning was AMAZING. Super weird to mention, I know, but it was completely silent and super cold and then once the sun went down we left our balcony door open and the breeze coming off the ocean was heaven. The staff was also super helpful and chill (and tan and tall and tattooed and beautiful).
Mina is the restaurant on the same property, and is attached to the lobby-type thing. They have a beach-front portion and a road-side portion so you can choose the view you want based on where you sit. We ate breakfast and dinner there which were both amazing. They cook all their dinner food over an open flame (the pork I had was cut from a literal, full, giant pig that had been slow-roasted whole on a big stick for the entire day. You could cut it with a spoon.)
My pork with apple sauce and sweet potato; Riley got some sort of chicken thing that he said was amazing.
Our Mina dinner view- always something to look at.
Scallops with red pepper and quail eggs, and a chamomile mango daquiri
Breakfast was hashbrowns, eggs, SOME GREEN SAUCE IDK, fresh squeezed pineapple orange juice, and a danish plate with homemade jams.
Other Hotels, Sights, and Eats I’d Recommend
Like I mentioned, the whole road is about 10 km long and there are a bunch of hotels all along it. We biked along the length of the road a few times and stopped in to a bunch of places either to eat at their restaurants, to check out their beaches, or just to look around because we were curious and nosy. What I LOVED about this place as opposed to an all-inclusive is you can literally do anything and go anywhere you want, except for like, into other people’s actual rooms. (It sounds weird but we felt super safe and comfortable the whole time.) The whole 10km-long area just felt like a really cool, fun, communal camp. With really nice rooms and a lot of air conditioning and expensive shops.
This hotel shared our private beach so we wandered over there (a whole 30 second walk) quite often to eat at their restaurant since the food was a lot cheaper than at Mina, but equally delicious.
Jumbo shrimp pesto linguini with, obviously, a mojito.
I can’t believe this is the only photo I got of the food there because it was so good. Riley had duck tacos which were super yummy; we had breakfast there one morning which consisted of crepes and huevos rancheros; and we had a candlelit, beach-side filet mignon dinner there on our last night. Also, for some reason their corona tasted better than anywhere else, and their “””happy hour””” (half price drinks from 12-7) were strong and delicious.
We stopped here for breakfast one morning after biking to the end of the road and back, and the staff was so adorable and seated us next to a breezy open door because we were gross and sweaty. I had the gr8est latte and french toast with coconut cream and grilled pineapple. We also wandered around the property a bit, and they had a really nice beach and private little beach-side villas for their rooms.
Kin Toh and Azulik
A minute’s walk down the road from Maria Del Mar is Azulik, a super trendy hotel, and Kin Toh, it’s restaurant. I really really wanted to eat here since you EAT DINNER IN HAMMOCKS AND LOUNGE BEDS IN A LITERAL TREE HOUSE. The food was good, though a little overpriced, but it was worth it for the atmosphere. We watched the sun set in a hammock above the entire jungle while drinking strawberry mojitos, and eating bread with different flavoured homemade butters and fresh seafood.
This little boutique with locally designed clothes and accessories was on the bottom floor of the hotel and I wanted everything.
This hotel is a little further down the road, but still only like a 10 minute bike ride from where we were. It doesn’t look like too much from the road, but wander inwards toward the beach and they have this amazing white wooden bar area with swings and great drinks and a really nice view.
I’m not a cyclist. I hadn’t been on a bike since I was eleven. But for $10 US per 24 hours, we could rent adorable little baby blue bikes so I HAD TO. (This particular shop was about a 1 minute walk from Maria Del Mar but there are several.) It’s also the best way to get around since the whole area is just one long road and although it’s pretty easy to grab a cab, there’s so many places to stop and shop or sightsee so biking is just way easier. The first time we biked down the road (once I got the hang of it a little) I had a giant stupid grin on my face the entire time because it just felt so freeing and fun to be biking with the ocean on one side and jungle on the other, going as fast as you want, down a little road in Mexico. It was just such a great experience.
Along the entire road there are a hundred shops with handmade, locally made items. There are of course the standard touristy shops with beer, bottled water, post cards and fresh cold coconuts (but not as many as you’d think- I literally only counted two.) There are also middle-tier shops with handmade blankets, dream catchers, artwork, etc- still a bit touristy but also with a very local feel. (Nobody spoke English, for example, and I got a beautiful handmade hammock for only $35 US.) The road is mostly full of boutiques owned by local designers. Really expensive clothing, bags, jewelry, shoes, etc- I saw a $650 price tag on a swim cover and thought, 650 pesos!! what a good deal!! No. That was in American dollars. Everything is super expensive in these shops, but everyone speaks english and it’s still fun to stop in and take a look/chat with the owners and designers about their stuff. It’s basically 5th avenue meets SoHo meets Mexico. Expensive, hipstery, and trendy but still such a great local feel.
Roadside bars and cafes
If you don’t feel like sitting down to eat at one of the million restaurants, there are a million and a half little places that you can stop and grab a quick snack, coffee, boozy milkshake, or fresh juice.
YEAH SO, I hope this made everyone want to plan a trip to Tulum because it’s really such an amazing place. I still have a couple outfit photos to add from my trip so stay tuned for that. xo