we had been talking for months about where we wanted to go for our first anniversary. realizing that we wouldn’t be able to travel to an exotic location every anniversary, we really wanted to make this one count. we considered hawaii, san diego, and some other warm places. tulum, mexico ultimately won out with its ancient ruins, under the radar food scene, and that “we’re in fiji” feeling without the fiji pricetag. we had a few ideas of what to do, where to go, what to eat, and where to stay but we had no idea how much we’d actually fall in love with tulum.
our vacation dates were pretty much decided for us as soon as we found the place we had to stay. there were only 4 nights in the middle of may available when we were looking to book our stay. ahau tulum has quickly become a highly sought-after spot to stay in tulum, and for good reason. billy and i have never stayed in a more breathtaking atmosphere. the rooms are cabana style, right on the beach complete with canopied beds, private decks, and hammocks. we stayed in a junior suite – it far exceeded our expectations, and our expectations were pretty darn high after drooling over pictures of ahau tulum online. the service, the food, the setting, the beach – all impeccable. it was worth every single cent we spent to stay there and then some. if you can book a stay here, jump on it.
our first stop the next morning after arriving was coqui coqui. it’s a world famous perfumery with one of 4 locations in tulum. we booked a couple’s massage at coqui coqui and couldn’t be happier that we did. the room was on top of the building, with ocean breezes and the most sublime setting for this sort of thing. it couldn’t have been a more perfect start to our relaxing week ahead.
the ruins were quite the sight in tulum. we ended up booking our own private tour guide (recommended to us by our hotel). it’s cheaper than a whole tour and the guide provided us with more than enough inside info about the ruins. billy and i were fascinated by the history all around us and blown away by stories we were told about the mayan life. sorry for the lack of photos here – i was preoccupied with staying in the shade and keeping cool. some advice- there’s hardly any tree cover here at the ruins. slather yourself in sunscreen and maybe bring a hat. all in all, definitely worth the visit just to behold some of the oldest history on this earth.
before heading down to tulum, i did plenty of research on where to eat. unknown to many, tulum has quite the up -and-coming food scene. chefs from new york, san fran and l.a. have moved down there to open restaurants of their own and are taking advantage of fresh local goods to create stunning, unique menus. each restaurant is more enchanting than the last, with tables in the sand, rustic decor all around, hundreds of candles lit, and surrounded by thick jungle walls. we feasted on fresh seafood, brick oven grilled meats, zesty ceviche, handmade pastas, and local produce. we couldn’t believe we felt like we were dining in some trendy place in seattle but it was right in the middle of the jungle. we indulged in dinners at casa jaguar, casa banana, posada margherita, and hartwood and here’s the skinny on all of them:
casa jaguar – our first meal. right across from ahau tulum. i felt like my senses were all heightened at this restaurant. such an adorable vibe with chandeliers hanging from palm trees, tables in the sand, and on-point rustic decor. we dined on fish wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the brick oven, marinated ahi tuna salad, and molten lava cake for dessert. it’s a little dark but if you can handle it, it only adds to the sexiness of the entire experience.
casa banana – my god – the best. we enjoyed grilled calamari and goat cheese balsamic asparagus for our appetizer, followed by the most incredible skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. we paired it all with some cucumber gin and tonics and rosemary berry martinis. i could have stayed there at that table forever. what a meal.
posada margherita – i know, i know. italian in mexico? but it came so highly recommended that we just had to try it for ourselves. and we were not disappointed. posada’s entrance leads you through a maze of perfectly staged decor. everywhere you look, the scene is set by colorful doors, potted greenery, and italian chachkies. the path leads you back to the restaurant on the beach, set up as an italian market with tables lit by candlelight and the smell of fresh italian fare. we adored every bite of our caprese salad, cheese platter, pasta primavera and butter fish. we barely had better italian in italy, i swear. we even went back for breakfast on our last morning in tulum.
hartwood – this is that restaurant that we had to get in line at 2pm, wait til 3pm to put our name on a list of reservations for the evening and then come back at 9 to actually eat. it’s a gorgeous restaurant, opened by a couple of chefs from brooklyn. i’m pretty sure it’s responsible for the start of tulum’s killer food scene. we had their famous grilled octopus and pork ribs and while both were delicious, our super high expectations weren’t met. we definitely had better meals during our time in tulum. glad we checked it off our list but if you’re not up for waiting in line during one of your precious beach days in tulum, don’t feel bad. you can just as easily skip hartwood and take advantage of one of the many restaurants down there currently giving hartwood a run for its money.
other places of note that we cocktailed, snacked and lunched at:
// taqueria la eufemia- taco stand on the beach next to coqui coqui, great for a snack or authentic taco lunch
// gitano – great spot for pre-dinner or post-dinner cocktails. loved the bar scene at this joint
// mateo’s – killer fish tacos and a perfect little breakfast stand with amazing smoothies and bagels
// arca – brand new, only about a month old. opened by a couple of san franciscans. gorgeous cocktail bar and trendy restaurant with quite possibly the best old fashioned i’ve ever had and i’ve had my share. you wouldn’t believe this place exists in the middle of the mexican jungle.
// raw love – a tiny little raw bar shack in the middle of our hotel but open to the public. refreshing smoothies and incredible breakfast bowls pictured above. a must visit.
and a few tips based on our experiences:
// wait to buy a huge bottle of sunscreen when you’re down there if you’re traveling with carry-ons. you’ll need it all. and maybe a big bottle of aloe while you’re at it.
//BRING BUG SPRAY. most restaurants have some at the hostess stand but you’ll need it. every night. these mosquitoes just wanna eatcha. eatcha bad.
// you’ll need a flashlight walking back to your hotel after dinner at night. it gets real dark real fast.
// have cash on you. almost all of the restaurants are cash only and while there are ATMs about, you’ll have a heck of a time trying to find one that actually operates.
overall, i can’t say enough good things about our time in tulum. it’s a little exotic oasis tucked back away from the overly saturated and oh-so-touristy cancun, where the jungle meets the sea. each morning greeted us with a strong breeze off the ocean in our own private cabana. we continued our mornings with smoothie bowls from the hotel and then on to the beach sipping on sangria. we’d adventure to the ruins or hop on our rented bikes in the afternoons. sometimes we’d stroll through the dozens of boutiques beautifully set up on the jungle road. then we’d end our days over slow dinners, wondering why we hadn’t ventured to tulum sooner. it was all so completely dreamy.
if you’re looking for a complete getaway experience, where time slows way down and every single thing oozes with elements of paradise – VISIT TULUM. you’ll leave feeling like you experienced something hidden, something authentic, something magical, and something you just couldn’t stand to miss out on.