Tulum. There’s a reason everyone is obsessed with it – within one municipality exists all the components you need to design the vacation of your dreams. It caters to the fashion-y crowd and budget backpackers alike, all while remaining so very relaxing. I just returned and already can’t wait to go back.
Tulum town (“pueblo” en español – isn’t my Spanish great?) is about 15 minutes inland by car from the beach (“playa” – I’ll show myself out) and a fairly different experience. The beach zone is chic to death but manages to maintain a very unassuming vibe throughout. You’ll find most of the luxury hotels here lined up side-by-side with a plethora of intimate restaurants and bars. The town offers tons of eateries and shops as well, but in less of a resort-like atmosphere. In town is where you’ll enjoy a slightly more “local” (/economical) experience. Since we had a rental car at our disposal, we opted for an insane Airbnb in town (more on that later) and took daytrips to the beach area. ‘Twas the best of both worlds, and I’d advise doing the same if you’re a bit more on the adventurous side. If you have the pesos to spend and are seeking a bougier, sexier experience, stay in one of the many gorgeous boutique hotels along the beach instead and never leave. I think I’ll try that next.
The town is excellent for spending a morning or afternoon wandering on foot. It’s pretty teeny, so you can likely
eat your way through enjoy it in one go, or, like we did, explore on separate occasions throughout your stay. Before embarking on this trip, I’d done a bit of research between knowledgeable good friends and (my most knowledgeable and bestest friend) the Internet, but my favorite discoveries are always the places I’ve found via my own trusty feet, eyes, nose, and mouth.
So, with those resources in mind, here are some of the standout spots in Tulum pueblo (IMHO).
Stop in here before you head out on a daytrip or tour to fuel up on your artisanal crack of choice. This place is run by fellow Californians and serves up a mean cold brew coffee. It was one of the only spots we found cold brew in Mexico and really, who wants a steaming cup coffee when it’s 90 degrees at 9 am?
Flor de Michoacan
Satisfy your sweet tooth here with one (or more) of the dozens of fresh fruit “paletas” (popsicles! Bet you needed the translation this time) offered. There is such a large and delectable assortment here you might want come back on multiple visits to ensure you get to try everything you wanted to. I won’t judge you.
There’s an eclectic selection of art, textiles, and knickknacks from Mayan artists and artisans on display along the main strip. Prices are a bit higher if you buy from here vs. a bit outside of town, but you have the convenience of knocking out all of your gift shopping at once.
Pick up freshly cut mango from this dude while you shop.
This spot was brand new during our stay – still working out their alcohol license so we stopped in for a breakfast machaca burrito. I can’t vouch for the cultural authenticity of said burrito, but it was definitely appreciated after a night of enjoying the local bars. You’re served popcorn while you wait and every order comes with a set of homemade salsas (the coconut one in particular is, uh, bananas).
A fresh Euro-style panini joint that boasts a little market for imported cheeses, charcuterie and other yummies. This might sound weird but the lettuce and tomato they used gave me a new appreciation for local produce…it’s like I’d forgotten what these vegetables are truly supposed to taste like when doing all my shopping at Trader Joe’s. Also, they bake their own bread here so if you’re going to indulge in some gluten on vacation, this is the spot.
One of the many, many excellent places to go for seafood. The ceviche was so sensationally fresh that my mouth is currently filling with saliva at the memory. Bonus: cute kitty as dining companion.
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
This place is always packed with locals and GOES OFF at night. Get your tacos al pastor, tortas, and other classics here for el cheapo. And warning, go easy on the orange-colored salsa if you’d like to retain any tastebuds for the remainder of your trip. Seriously, your whole face will thank me.
Not pictured, because tequila:
There are lots of eclectic little bars lined up along the main strip. I don’t remember most of their names but you can start at one end of the strip and wander down on foot til you find the vibe you like. Or, stop in for a drink at each and see what happens.
Have you visited Tulum pueblo? What did I miss? Add your favorite spots in the comments!
PS – If you’re visiting via the Cancun airport, be sure to stop through Akumal on the drive! Check out my tips from Akumal here.