The About as much as I can remember guide to Tulum. Enjoy!
Join Whatsapp groups! (They are the key to life in Tulum)
Rent a scooter if you are able to + comfortable driving one.
Tulum is roughly broken down into four areas (this is a major oversimplication, but will help give a basic understanding): the beach (yellow), Aldea Zama (red), Centro (blue), and La Veleta (purple). Enjoy the toddler scribble designations below hah!
The Beach: this is where the majority of the hotels and trendy restaurants/nights out are located. Very few people live in this area. It's one road running the length of the beach from Sian Ka'an (the nature reserve) to the Tulum ruins. There is a public and private side of the beach. The public side (towards the ruins) is much less developed, quieter and more laid back. The private side is dominated by hotels from Papaya Playa all the way down to Nomade. Things to note: Traffic can be a real beast on the private side given that everyone is stuck to one road. Also, there is almost zero phone service at the beach so ask for WiFi and make sure to plan ahead with friends. Parking is available for cars in various lots (be prepared to pay around 400-600 pesos) and basically everywhere for scooters and bikes (free).
Aldea Zama: AZ is new build central. It's chic, swanky complexes of Americanized apartment living. Mostly gated or portered buildings. It's more picturesque, quieter and definitely the high end neighborhood of town. As I write this, the area is under development so it still feels jungle-esque but who knows how long that will stay. If you are looking for a turn-key experience, this will be your bet. You are the closest neighborhood to the beach, but still quite far from the main swings of things.
Centro: This is the "downtown" of Tulum. It's were most locals live, its walkable, and where you will find all of Tulum's quirky character. It's roughly grid style roads with space for bicycles, pedestrians, and scooters to safely navigate. You have a mix of restaurants, shops, local markets, street vendors, green grocers, nightlife and artisans all packed in one spot.
La Veleta: This is the primary residence of Tulum's digital nomad community. It's the "locals" area for expats.
Tulum is a wonderful Willy Wonka land unto itself and it might not seem the most Mexican. But don't be fooled. Beyond the luxurious hotels, multi-dimensional gurus, and vegan eateries, there is an amazing local community with unbelievable healers, teachers, and experiences right at hand.
Temezcal: If you're going to do it, do it properly. Octavio (Ocho) Yah was easily one of the highlights of my time in Tulum. A Mayan teacher, philosopher, guide, and all around magnetic personality, Ocho hosts proper Temezcals out as his beautiful property, about an hour outside of Tulum, nestled in the jungle. Whilst out there, you can explore some off the beaten path cenotes and local Mayan cuisine. Highly recommend at least having a meal with Ocho. He is fascinating and an avid student of the ancient sun cultures (the Mayans being one of them). His zest for the ancient mythologies + wisdoms plus his passion for awakening the world's wisdom make him a great guide for your time in Tulum.
Ocho Yah: +52 984 128 1703
Sobado Maya + Healing Treatments: The Mayan culture is famous for its many different treatments for healing, awakening, and unlocking the body, mind, and spirit. A classic treatment is the Sobado Maya, which, in focusing on the abdomen, realigns the organs allowing the body to flow + cleanse itself.
Mayan/Mexican traditional healers are known as "abuelas" (grandmothers) or "abuelos" (grandfathers). Finding a proper one is the key to any treatment.
Where to Eat
Sceney but Groovy night out: Treehouse Tulum
Note: You'll need to be on the list for this hotspot in town.
Chilled/Romantic Deliciousness: Posada Margherita
Shoppers beware: there is a dangerously good boutique located on the way in to the restaurant with a fantastic selection of quality brands, from Zimmerman to Kalita. And the manager is fantastic with tempting offers that are almost too good to resist (I'm talking 65% off last season treasures). Come prepared for this honeytrap.
Silly Fun Night Out: Rosa Negra Group - Especially Tantra + Taboo
This might be the most controversial thing I'm going to say here and I know a lot of local Tulum friends are going to give me a serious ribbing for this, but I stand by this 100%. This group of restaurants (Tantra, Taboo, Funky Geisha, Rosa Negra, Chambao, Tora, Parole) knows how to deliver a good time. If you want to dance (on your table is even encouraged) your heart out to a funky mix of jams and just have a great night letting loose with friends, this is your spot.
They are a great lively scene. Hands down the best customer service I experienced in Tulum - the staff is superb. The food is delicious, solid portions and reasonably priced (for the hotel zone) - there aren't as many vegan/veggie options, fair warning. Expect sparklers and the classic club pizzazz in well crafted open air settings. The electronic violinist is a real showstopper.
Thursday - Sunday, you'll have people dancing around their tables busting a move. During the week it's quieter, but still a good spot for a fun dinner with friends.
I had the pleasure of getting to know the General Manager of the entire company and have to say I respect the way they run their business, invest in their staff and create experiences for their customers. You can also find them in Mexico City, Cancun, and Polanco.
Other Great Beach Restaurants:
Habitas - good variety, beautiful setting
Arca - Small but good menu. Farm to table like
IT Tulum - similar to Rosa Negra but more enclosed and sexier. Ask for a table on the cenote.
Raw Love - sister to the restaurant in town.
Sanara - delicious, good wifi + views, but hella overpriced
Bowls de Guadalupe
Casa Violetta - easy to pass, but delicious, low key and so friendly
Where to Stay
The Plug + Play: Holistika Tulum
Holistika is the gateway for many travellers to Tulum. It is also one of the key hubs for the wellness warriors, spiritual seekers, and health conscious journeyers through Tulum. If you are new to Tulum and looking for a community to plug in to, Holistika is the place for you. A variety of accomodations are available for any budget: From the Beehive, Holistika's hostel, which offers both mixed gender and female only options for accommodations, to beautiful pool-view king bed rooms with private balconies, sunloungers, and spacious bathrooms.
Tierra, the in-house restaurant, serves up delicious, vegan friendly eats and is a decent spot for co-working al fresca. Be prepared for lots of random conversations with interesting characters, the bill to take forever to come, and some iffy customer service at times (might have to order twice). But it's a great home base.
If you are going to do a class here, try Itzel's Detox Flow (be prepared, she's tough) or Mariana's Krama Vinyasa. Also, make sure to experience any of the sound bath's in the Domo.
Holistika is located in the La Veleta neighborhood of Tulum which is on the opposite endcap of town from the beach. It is near the hip new restaurants, like La Pizzine and Humo, as well as the local chic good grocer, Gypsea Market.
Highly recommend starting your journey at Holistika. Sample the classes, work out of Tierra, meet some new folks, then venture out from there.