tulum, mexico – december 2015 January 16, 2016
Of all the posts I’ve done on RWT, the travel-related ones have been some of the most popular. I’ve had countless emails/tweets/IG comments about recommendations for Tulum, Mexico – a place we’ve been three years in a row. It’s a special place for my husband and I – we celebrated our honeymoon there with friends and traveled there with more friends in 2014. This year, we took off for the Christmas holiday there just the two of us. Our experience there was different than when we’ve been at other times of the year but still very enjoyable. I’m sharing a few photos here along with some updated recommendations and a few travel tips I’ve picked up along the way – you can see many more photos from our trip over on my Instagram account.
Unlike previous trips, we had zero agenda on our visit to Tulum except to relax, eat and drink. We explored a bit more along the beach road this time and tried a few new places and revisited some old favorites:
- Mateo’s: This was our very first stop when we arrived this year and it’s a spot we hit every trip. Until this year, I considered Mateo’s to have the best fried fish taco on earth (that I’ve tasted). While I’ve crowned a new favorite, their fish tacos are still damn good – I’m specifically talking about the baja style fried fish taco. Otherwise, this is Tulum’s version of a sports bar. The food is decent to good, they have a full bar and there are always Brits or Aussies watching football on the TV.
- Posada Margherita: This place is like walking into a dream. A winding path leading you to one of the most beautiful restaurants you’ll ever lay eyes on. Open air (but some seats with cover) right on the beach – the only thing separating you from the water is a section of lounging beds where you can order food and cocktails. The menu is very simple and all Italian – two or three fish dishes, three or four pasta dishes, and a salad or two. This spot is worth a visit just for the antipasti of pickled cauliflower, cheese and fresh foccacia washed down with a cocktail…and make sure you have your camera ready.
- Caravana: A bohemian boutique wonderland. This open air tent is full of handcrafted clothing, caftans, jewelry and leather goods from the region. A bit pricey but the pieces are all extremely unique and unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
- La Troupe Tulum: I always called this place “Mexico Shipping Container Anthropologie”, which is not a bad thing. It’s chock full of beautiful clothing, handmade pillow covers, and really unusual jewelry collections. Every trip to Tulum, I buy something here – this year, I snagged a great caftan dressy enough to wear out to dinner. They take American Express and other cards, which is a rarity in Tulum.
- Gitano: EASILY the sexiest and most beautiful cocktails I’ve ever had in my life. The bar team is extremely talented and take making these exotic drinks pretty seriously – I saw tweezers in everyone’s hands at some point. Made mostly with mezcal, we had drinks with floating ice dishes on top, garnished with flowers and accented with fresh fruit and even smoking cinnamon bark.
- Juanita Diavola: This is the restaurant that is attached to Coco Tulum. While it wins points for being super convenient and great because they serve food all day, we’ve come to realize that everything we’ve eaten there is actually really great. Their breakfasts are wonderful – they may have the best pancakes ever – and I ate the tuna ceviche there on three occasions. They have a wood-fired oven and their pizzas and homemade bread are fantastic. This isn’t just for residents of the hotel – the restaurant was full most nights with folks from all over the beach road. Prices here are also reasonable, as well.
- Safari: This place is new since our last trip in October 2014…and is the hands down winner for best fish taco I’ve ever had. The fish is perfectly fried and comes simply dressed with a mayo based sauce drizzle and a bit of red cabbage. Everything we tried on the well-edited menu was exceptional. Don’t miss the radish salsa they bring to the table with chips…and make sure to wash it down with one of the rum & fresh ginger drinks. Bonus points for refurbishing an Airstream trailer as the kitchen (that’s the surefire way to know you’re in the right place).
- El Tabano: This place was one of our favorites in 2013 and we re-visited on this trip. It was ABSOLUTELY PACKED but the drinks here are great and waiting at the bar is quite pleasant. The menu has plenty of variety so vegetarians/pescatarians/carnivores alike can happily eat here. I don’t think this experience was as good as our first but that was in part because things we wanted to order were selling out. Order what you want straight away – don’t miss the avocado gazpacho, which is made to order in the open air kitchen.
- Arca: This is another new spot on the beach road and it’s a beauty. It’s definitely stylish and sexy…but the drinks and food hold their own. We had a dazzling side dish of roasted cauliflower with a spicy cilantro vinaigrette – after a week of tacos and eggy breakfast dishes…having some fire-y roasted vegetables felt fantastic.
- Coco Tulum: This is the only place we’ve stayed in the three years we’ve been going to Tulum. Coco is just a magical little place – cabanas on the beach, white sand throughout, solar and wind powered with enough modern conveniences to keep you as connected as you want to be. It’s location on the beach road is great – easy to get into town or down the beach road into the more congested areas. You can walk to Posada Margherita or El Tabano as well as a number of other beach hotels, clubs and restaurants. They’ve recently expanded – a beach bar and new cabanas with private bathrooms have been added – and we felt that the staff didn’t expand enough to handle the holiday tourist crowd…but everyone was pleasant and friendly and accommodating as they’ve been in the past.
Also – I’m including a few travel tips as well as a note about Hartwood, which is a subject many people have emailed me about. These are based on our experiences there and I am not a travel agent so…yeah:
- Hartwood. It’s amazing. We went (several times each trip) in 2013 and 2014. It was a challenge to get into even then – you had to be there right when they opened to snag a table or else wait on a list for hours. With their expanding success and launch of their cookbook, it was an impossibility to get in this year….or at least we weren’t willing to waste a good part of a day jockeying for position to maybe get a table. They do not take reservations for parties smaller than 8 and the system they had in place in the past is no more: they now open the queue at 3 pm and there is a line 30 deep in advance of that to see if there are tables open for that evening. You then have to return at your time if you manage to get a table. If you feel up to spending your day giving this a go, it’s an amazing dining experience – the octopus dish there is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Just know that it’s a process and you have no guarantee of a table even once you go through all those hoops.
- BRING BUG SPRAY. I am always the most attractive human on earth when it comes to mosquitos and other biting critters – if you want to be left alone at an outdoor event or picnic, invite me along. We’ve experienced bugs – some sort of invisible sand flea or the like – in Tulum on every trip but this year was particularly brutal. I went through 4 cans of eco friendly bug spray while we were there. Be prepared to get some and bring it along to restaurants and bars – some provide it but many do not – or have your legs and feet eaten up.
- HAVE PESOS ON HAND. We found more places accepting cards this year than in previous years but many establishments do not. If they do, it’s in your best interest to make sure the exchange rate or any fees are clear before you pay up. In most cases, it’s still financially advantageous for you to use pesos.
- BE MINDFUL AT THE GAS STATIONS. We have always rented a car at the Cancun airport and driven into Tulum, which is a beautiful and pleasant drive. It’s also super convenient to have if you want to travel to the ruins, visit Coba, etc. However…the gas station experience there is notoriously a rip-off. Before our first trip, we were told time and time again to give the gas attendant (you are not allowed to pump your own gas) a specific amount of pesos and have them fill only that amount. Otherwise, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable for the gas pump bait and switch, having them reset the amounts, saying that you didn’t give them enough money, putting less gas in than you asked for, etc. Be kind but firm and pay attention to what’s happening at the pump.