Other than a wild weekend in Cancun, I hadn’t experienced too much of the Riviera Maya, so when planning my recent trip to the area, I was eager to see as much as possible. After spending time in Playa del Carmen, I headed to Tulum in a colectivo ( public van ).
I had loooong been hearing travelers and bloggers rave about the town’s bohemian beauty. And it turns out they were right – Tulum is an absolutely magical town that I will return to again and again.
If you are able to spend four or five days here, I say do it. That’s the most ideal. But if you’re not, no worries! It is possible to pack everything in in three days.
9 AM: Eat breakfast at Raw Love
I loooove a good raw vegan meal and Raw Love is the best of the best. It’s located on the main beach road and, in typical Tulum fashion, in the jungle and under a palapa roof.
If you need more motivation, check out the menu. Super-coco smoothie made with coconut water & meat, spirulina and dates? Pair that with some coconut yogurt with fresh berries, and you’ve got yourself a killer first breakfast in Tulum.
11 AM: Explore cenotes with Adventure Tour Center
Kick off your time in Tulum by experiencing the region’s most beautiful natural phenomena.
Cenotes are crystal clear pools of turquoise water formed when a cave collapses in on itself. People come from alllll over the world to snorkel and scuba dive in the Riviera Maya’s cenotes, so they are a must-do while you’re here. There are hundreds of cenotes in the area, but the most popular are Ik Kil, Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos.
To read more about the tour I went on with Adventure Tour Center, go here. I highly, highly recommend this family-owned company.
6 PM: Eat dinner at Gitano
There are a myriad of fantastic restaurants in Tulum, but Gitano ( gypsy ) was hands down my favorite dining experience.
It is the epitome of Tulum – laid-back and bohemian, yet chic beyond belief. It’s nestled in the jungle and filled with distressed wood tables & handmade dishes. A florescent pink sign marks its entrance and a huge, sparkling disco ball hangs from the trees inside. Creative, digital nomad types sip mezcal cocktails while swaying in long maxi dresses.
Walking into Gitano, you realize suddenly that you are entering an incredibly magical place.
Go beyond a simple margarita and order a craft mezcal cocktail from Gitano’s expansive list. I recommend the Gypsy Disco ( mezcal, rum, basil grenadine ). If you’re not a mezcal person, opt for a bottle of wine.
Order the hummus ( it is the best I have ever had ) and at least two of the specialty tacos. The suckling pig tacos are to die for.
9 PM: Grab drinks at a local hangout
I happened upon Mateo’s completely randomly. My friend and I were coming back from dinner, passed by it, looked at each other and said “I could drink.” We walked up to the bar, ordered two Sols and were immediately enveloped in conversation by the others at the bar. Two hours later, we made great friends with some locals, a few travelers like us and a couple of expats. We also ended up with two free t-shirts from the owner!
This bar is certainly not part of the glamorous Tulum, but I always love meeting locals and making authentic connections when traveling and this seems like it is the best bar in the area to do so.
( If you go, ask for the owner and tell him Christina & Britni say hi!! )
7 AM: Eat a fruit popsicle for breakfast
Head to La Flor de Michoacan for Tulum’s best paletas de fruta ( fruit popsicles ). There’s a wide range of flavors and they’re made entirely of fresh fruit, so there’s no reason to feel even the slightest bit guilty.
8 AM: Explore the Mayan ruins
You have to fit the ruins into one of your three days in Tulum. If you’re a big history buff, you’ll love exploring the ruins for hours on end. And if you kiiiind of couldn’t care less ( like me! ), you can squeeze everything in 45 minutes.
Travel tip: Go to the ruins obscenely early if you want photos without hundreds of people in them! In fact, this applies for any popular site. Go when nobody else wants to go 🙂
1 PM: Relax on the beach
Even though you’re only here for three days, you need to dedicate a couple of hours to this because the beaches in Tulum are notoriously beautiful. White sand, turquoise water that is three distinct shades of turquoise and a perfectly warm sun … This is the recipe for heaven, trust me.
6 PM: Eat dinner at Posada Margherita
Although I came here for breakfast and did enjoy my meal, I have heard incredible things about Posada Margherita’s wonderful Italian dinner fare. Head here around 6 pm to first explore Posada’s small boutique filled with beautiful jewelry and trinkets. Then settle in at a table on the beach and enjoy Tulum’s best Italian food.
For my full review of Posada Margherita and for more dreamy photos like the below, go here.
10 PM: Party at Papaya Playa Project
Papaya Playa Project is not only one of Tulum’s best hotels ( this is why ). It’s also the perfect place to head to on a Friday or Saturday night. The hotel attracts a young crowd that is more than eager to spend a night at the beach club, sipping on strong drinks from the multiple bars and dancing to music spun by local DJs.
I was fortunate enough to be staying at the Project during their Full Moon Party and had maaaaaybe too much fun!
8AM: Do morning yoga on the beach
Sweat off that hangover! Tulum is well-known for its yoga scene, so there is no shortage of options here. If you’re staying at Papaya Playa Project ( which you should be ), there’s free beach yoga every morning at 8 am. You can also head to Maya Tulum and pay $15 to drop in for a class.
12 PM: Eat lunch in Tulum town
Ok, important tip: You cannot go to Tulum and only eat at the restaurants in Tulum Beach. As wonderful as those restaurants are ( and they are wonderful ), they are geared toward visitors and are expensive AF compared to pretty much anywhere else in the area.
You need to head to Tulum Town to eat truly authentic Mexican food. Wander down the main road ( Chetemal – Cancun ), find Antojitos El Chiapaneca or El Tacoqueto and enjoy enchiladas & two Sol beers for 166 MXN ( $8 ). It’s likely to be some of the best Mexican food you’ve had and you’ll enjoy it while listening to live mariachi music.
2 PM: Go shopping in downtown Tulum
Meander up and down Tulum Beach’s main road for countless shopping opportunities. I can’t even name one specific shop that you should hunt out because every store in Tulum is a dreamland. You’ll end up with beautiful pieces of clothing and unique jewelry & trinkets. RIP all of your money.
4 PM: Eat dinner at Hartwood
End your trip in Tulum with a meal at the best restaurant in town ( The New York Times, Lucky Peach ). All meals at Hartwood are cooked sans electricity and are made using only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients.I was devastated to learn after booking my October trip that Hartwood was closed from the month of October to November for renovations. I didn’t get a chance to go, but that only means I have to go back, right?? ( Tag me in & send me your photos if you go!! )
10 PM onward for the rest of your life:
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