Diary of a Week in Tulum
After what felt like an eternity of winter, JL and I decided to book a trip to Tulum, Mexico. I was in dire need of a vacation and needed to escape the city to recharge and refuel my creative senses. As a full-time writer, it’s easy to become stale, and I find a change in scenery always helps. We wanted to travel somewhere new – a warm place that would allow us to bask in the sun without having to worry about the notion of time. And being one of my best friends lives in Tulum, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to visit him and his boyfriend while indulging in what the beach life has to offer.
So we said yes to a seven-day trip (two of which we spent in Bacalar, but that will be a separate post) to a beach town found in the middle of the jungle – about an hour and a half drive south of Cancun. For me, Tulum was quite interesting. Although we were evidently in Mexico, it didn’t fully feel like I was there.
I blame it on the tourists-turned-locals and the ultra-hippie vibes I’m not used to seeing in other parts of Mexico. New York magazine published a thought-provoking in-depth article about where the beach town stands now, and perhaps it’ll make you think twice about visiting. Despite the seaweed issue which is very sad, I personally, fully enjoyed our time at this beach pueblo. However, it must be noted that I didn’t spend much time on the five-mile-long strip of beach where the posh hotels, restaurants boutiques, spas – you name it are situated.
Yes, these spots are hot and uber-Instagrammable, but you must be prepared to whip out a lot of cash if you plan to spend your trip within that radius.
In this guide I won’t tell you what you should do but instead a diary of what we did in hopes that it will help you.
We touched down in Cancun at around noon. Prior to our trip, JL reserved a car at Enterprise which we learned isn't located at the airport. Instead, you must go outside and avoid the sellers, who will try to sell you a package of some sort as you’re trying to exit and find a representative. He or she should be holding up a sign. Once you’ve found them, they should already be expecting your arrival, and then a shuttle will take you to their location – about a ten-minute drive.
Once we were given our car (shoutout to our red Jeep renegade!) we were well on our way to our friends’ apartment in Tulum. As I mentioned above, it’s about an hour-and-a-half drive from Cancun on a two-way road where you must drive VERY carefully.
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Two hours later we arrived at our friends’ place (there were a couple of accidents, so we got a bit delayed. We stayed with them for our first two nights at Villas Tulum. In case you’re searching for an Airbnb, this is a nice area to stay, and it’s a great location too.
We came here for a quick bite, drinks and of course the beach. The food was yummy, I had the fish tacos, JL had a burger, and we all shared guacamole. It was a cute place to chill and catch up with our friends since we last saw them in January when they came to visit us in NY.
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Next, we ran here to try and catch the sunset at around 7 p.m as this spot offers a breathtaking view. Unfortunately, we were a little too late (womp, womp), so we only got to see the last bit of it. Gorgeous, nonetheless.
After showering and changing into something decent we stepped out for dinner at Gitano. I have yet to visit the one in NYC, but Tulum’s is beautiful. We went on a weekday, and not many people were there that night, so it almost felt like the entire place was open for us. The food and drinks were delicious. What we did is we each picked several dishes to share and try a little of everything. The grilled avocado, tostadas, asparagus (I can’t remember what this dish is called), and tiradito de atun were my faves.
Rise and shine! Wednesday we woke up early to get a head start on our day. Being we were so close to Chichen Itza – considered to be one of the modern wonders of the world, we didn’t want to miss out on visiting the ruins. So we picked this day to drive there and stop by a town called Valladolid on the way back.
Off we went in our red Jeep for about two hours. On the way, we saw many vendors who were off the side of the road. They were selling everything from dreamcatchers to patio chairs to woven decorations, handbags, and more. Many were also selling fresh coconuts which I tried on our way back. It was my first time trying a fresh one, and I loved it! So much more than that coco water stuff they sell at the supermarket.
Once we arrived at Chichen Itza which is located in the peninsula of Yucatan, we spent about 1.5 hours going through the ruins. If you plan to visit, definitely wear a hat and sunscreen! You can always buy one there as there are several shops with an abundance of sun hats. Inside you will also find many vendors, and I found this was a prime opportunity to get a few souvenirs.
After recurring the Mayan ruins which I highly recommend, we drove about 45 minutes and made it to Valladolid, Yucatán. There isn’t too much to do here, but it was a quick stop for eating traditional food and exploring a few posh shops. The town felt very colonial with its sherbert-colored stucco walls, and I can tell it's growing into a hotspot. We discovered Valladolid is also considered to be the capital of the world for honey, so we bought a small tube to try and a body soap I have yet to use.
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The funniest thing that happened during our short trip in this colorful town was that JL ran into a friend from New York who he hadn’t seen in about a year! I mean, what are the chances? Who would have thought he would be at the same place at the same time as we were when neither of us even lives there! It's little things like that that make me realize life can be crazy at times – in a good way.
Once our tummies were full from drinking agua de horchata and eating panuchos and tikin xic at Los Portales restaurant, followed by nieve de piñon from La Michoacana, we walked around La Calle de Los Frailes and Calle 41, which are both filled with cute shops.
On our drive back, we made an improvised stop at a cenote. It was our first time swimming in one, and although I was a bit skeptical at first, the experience was truly incredible. There are many cenotes around the area, but I preferred the ones where I could see through the water because I don’t like not knowing what’s under me (yikes!). However, you’d never guess that from our first-ever swim inside a cenote. Cenote Xux-Ha, as it is called, is a deep cave, and at the bottom, is where you find a natural body of water that seems pretty damn deep. That didn’t stop me from jumping in and swimming across to the other side though, and I’m glad it didn’t.
El Jardín de Frida
That evening we ate dinner back at the pueblo in Tulum. Our friends took us to El Jardín de Frida, a super cute hostel that’s right on the outskirts of town. I recommend trying El Ojo Rojo drink and the guacamole!
Batey - We ended the night at Batey where they have a wide variety of awesome mojitos. They have everything from classic to original flavors and they all come with an all-natural sugarcane. if you’re into live music, then you’re sure to have a fun time.
On Thursday we drove to Bacalar, but prior to hitting the road, we stopped for breakfast at Tacos Don Honorio where we ate one too many tacos, and they were worth every bite. I highly recommend the fresh agua de sandia (watermelon juice) or the agua de piña (pineapple juice).
Friday: Bacalar – stay tuned for this post!
After spending two days in Bacalar, we drove back to Tulum and had lunch at Holistika. The food is vegan and delicious – especially the pizza! Then we took a walk through the art installations – very cool!
Sunday we got up early to visit the Gran Cenote – a must if you visit Tulum. But first, it was breakfast at La Coqueta. On this day, we also spent a couple of hours in the scorching sun as we walked through the Tulum ruins. We completed our Sunday by having dinner at La Bomba, a new spot with amazing service, ambiance, and food – I highly recommend!
We decided to spend our last day relaxing, tanning and sipping piña coladas (JL opted for Mezcal) at the beach clubs. Ahead of heading to Casa Malca, we first had breakfast in the pueblo at Natural Juice.
Nomade doesn’t allow people at the beach club until 12 p.m. – at least not if you’re an outsider. So first we went to Casa Malca where we spent our morning laying low on one of the beach beds and swimming in the pool. After a couple of hours, we moved onto Nomade where I had a delicious juice called Diosa del Agave y el Tejido, which is watermelon, coconut juice, lime, and mint.
We spent the rest of our day eating and doing a little bar hopping with our friends. It was the perfect closing to a week-long vacation.