The Riviera Maya has long been a hotspot for beachgoers looking for a relaxing vacation in Mexico. The flourishing of mega hotels, Instagramability, and all-inclusive resorts has come to dominate the local economy of the Yucatan as Americans and Canadians seek easy vacation destinations, which is leading to overtourism and exploitation of the local environment.
When considering your next Mexican vacation getaway, why not look for a smaller, more sustainable destination on the Riviera Maya—such as Tulum! Tulum really appealed to me because it is everything Cancun or Playa del Carmen wasn’t. It offers quaint accommodation, foodie-focused restaurants, and a laid-back vibe with a focus on nature and wellness.
Here are 8 Reasons Why You Should Consider Tulum for Your Next Mexican Vacation
Amazing Local Restaurants
Tulum has an amazing food scene which is just a microcosm of the larger culinary traditions in Mexico. In my opinion, Mexico has the best culinary roots in all of North America with a diversity of ingredients not seen anywhere else. Mexico can rival countries like Thailand and Italy when it comes to great food and Tulum has a nice cluster of delicious restaurant options to choose from. Here are just a few of my culinary highlights!
Casa Banana offers traditional Argentinian cooking with a Mexican ingredient flair. Their open wood fire grill really helps set their dishes apart. Order anything that comes with the chimichurri dipping sauce because it is out of this world.
Situated on the corner of Turtle Cove, El Paz restaurant overlooks a beautiful shoreline and rocky outcropping. Brunch is a great time to go because it has an upscale yet unpretentious feel with an approachable menu. Their house made bread is a must order! A hearty homemade whole wheat oatmeal bread were the right balance of chewy and doughy with excellent flavor.
Zamas has an inviting and laid back vibe that makes it easy to waste the day away on their patio. The menu appears small at first glance, but their simple taste on classic breakfast favorites left us more than impressed. Sam & I both opted for “fancy toast” which basically consists of mashed avocado on toast with some goat cheese. Boring right? Anything but. The avocados were ripe to perfection and tastefully salted, packing in a lot of delicious flavor into each bite.
Perhaps the most notorious restaurant in Tulum, Hartwood is a trendy seafood-focused restaurant on the main strip of Tulum’s beach front area. While waiting in line to make a reservation is about the last thing you probably want to do while on vacation in Tulum, it is worth it. You have to put your name in the day of and they start accepting reservations at 3:00pm, so you better be in line by 2:30 or else you ain’t eating at Hartwood that night. The heart of Hartwood’s specialness is the seasonality and freshness of their dishes. They change their menu almost daily depending on what’s available, and there are limited amounts and we saw two of the dishes we ordered get quickly crossed off only minutes after we ordered them.
It is Easy to Get To
Many travelers Cancun because it is easy to get to from the US with daily direct flights from a multitude of cities around the country. Since Tulum is close to Cancun, you can still fly into the major airport there and organize a one-hour shuttle to arrive in Tulum. For us, it was only a 4 hour flight from Chicago and 1 hour drive south of Cancun, making Tulum quite easy to get to.
Ancient Mayan Ruins with Half the Crowds
One of the most unique Mayan ruins in Mexico today, the ruins of Tulum sit on an ocean bluff overlooking stunning views of Caribbean Sea. The ruins are walking distance from the town making it an easy activity to do when you’re looking for a walk. You can even jump in the ocean from the base of the temples during your visit! Tulum served as the primary port for the nearby city of Coba and the central structure of the ruins likely served a lighthouse-like function.
One of the things that really differentiates Tulum from other vacation destinations on the Riviera Maya is the quaint nature of their boutique accommodation options. Most of the hotels in Tulum are on the smaller side, ranging from only a few rooms to about 100 rooms. This guarantees a small feeling wherever you stay! We booked a lovely little hotel, Playa Canek, which was walking distance from all the major things we wanted to explore. The smells of the ocean filled our nostrils right away and my hair had grown about 3 times it’s normal size from the humidity.
…. At a Variety of Prices
Tulum offers accommodations for all types of travelers from backpacking yogis to high-end luxury travelers, so there will be a hotel or AirBnb that fits your budget! Our Airbnb was less than $200 but you can find fancy ‘grammable ecolodges for $4500/night. Do your research to find what suits your tastes and budget best.
Cute Shopping District
Even with its sleepy vibe, there are lots of little boutiques in Tulum for the many fashion insiders and minor celebs that visit (apparently its become quite the hotspot with New Yorkers and LA folks). I oogled at the rings at Mr. Blackbird, nearly dropping $200 bucks on one I loved (I resisted though). I also enjoyed browsing the handmade leather bags and accessories at Hacienda Montaecristo and the flowy beach attire at Josa.
Lots of Different Activities to Choose From
Like many other parts of the Riviera Maya, Tulum offers a variety of different activities to do during the day while you vacation. Cenotes (also known as cave sinkholes you can snorkel in) are some of the most famous things to visit in Tulum, but other options include adventure sports like kitesurfing and scuba diving, or wellness activities like yoga and meditation.
Personalized Photoshoot with Flytographer
I first heard about Flytographer from my coworker and once she showed the company to me, I was hooked. Flytographer turns your travel memories into beautiful momentos in the form of travel so that you can remember your special vacation forever. I did a full write-up of why I love Flytographer (and have now used them three times) but needless to say, I love and cherish the photos we took on the beach in Tulum! Our photographer had us running in the waves, sipping cocktails and watching the sunset, all of which were turned into beautiful photographs.
In the past, Tulum was an oasis for hippies and art-types looking to relax and practice purposeful living, but it has become a popular vacation getaway on the Rivera Maya of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula for travelers looking for a more local, quaint experience traveling along Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. With a main street is full of yoga studios, small handmade boutiques and organic juice bars, this is a place where you can truly relax without being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tourists at a megahotel or all-inclusive resort. I hope these 8 reasons helped you decide that Tulum is your next vacation destination!
This post was first published in December 2015, and then edited in October 2018 and November 2019.
Don’t miss some of my other favorite Mexico travel experiences!