tulum, mexico: the details
I’ve had this post in my “drafts” folder for a couple months now, so I figured I’d finally get around to posting the details about our trip, just in case you ever find yourself in Tulum in the near future…
[Previous post about Tulum vacation]
Where we stayed:
el pez at turtle cove
(Carretera Tulum a Boca Paila Km 6.4, Tulum 77780 Q.Roo)
Pez is a beautiful, kick-back, relaxed and intimate place to stay while in Tulum. While it’s near other areas of the beach community, it really is separated from everything else in a great way. A freshly cooked breakfast, complete with fresh pressed juice and coffee, is ready for you each morning in the main building, and you can lounge around the premises as you please. The rooms are comfy (but there’s no a/c) and the general vibe is just perfect for Tulum. Ashley (and Roy) are wonderful managers and really help you with anything you need… from food and tour recommendations or just plain fun stories about living in Tulum.
Oh… and it’s called “Turtle Cove” because it’s truly one of the favorite locations for the turtles to lay their eggs. We got to witness 121 baby turtles hatching on the first night we were there!
Where we ate:
We ate at Mezannine twice during our trip … once for lunch and again for dinner. Mezzanine is a Thai restaurant, but it fits in so fabulously in this climate and atmosphere! Now, we knew first hand that the food and recipes were all going to be fabulous (hello… Cathy’s mom is the amazing on-hand restaurant consultant here!), but they were truly over the top good. I will say, hands down, that the Larb was the best I’ve ever had, and Mr. M fell head over heels for their drunken noodles as well. During dinner, we sampled pretty much everything on the menu, and I can tell you that everything that touched my lips was insanely good. The hogfish, the steak, the curries…. oh my!
We went to La Zebra on Sunday night, which is also known as “pig roast & salsa night” at the restaurant! The wonderful chef, Lina, came to our table to make recommendations and almost every single person ordered the roast pork for dinner. Let me tell you that it was absolutely fabulous and my mouth is watering just thinking back about it now. It’s definitely the place to go on Sunday nights, but it gets crowded early, even in the off season!
Sandbar was located approximately 30 steps from the main building of our hotel, Pez. In other words, just next door we had ample opportunities for great food and drink. The slow-cooked ribs were really really good (especially when you’ve spent all day next door smelling them cook up!), and anything with shrimp was delicious. It is a fabulous mix of casual and contemporary and cool, which is pretty much the full Tulum vibe. On Friday nights, they have a big all-night party with rotating DJs and upwards of 600-800 people, but most nights it’s pretty kick back and the perfect way to enjoy the nighttime waves.
We had a “date night” on one night during our trip, where each group went to a different establishment on their own. We chose Casa Banana, as we were craving meat and always love a great Argentinian steakhouse. Here, their grill is all out in the open and you can see your food being prepared while you wait. Mr. M had the pork chops, and I had skirt steak, and they were both wonderful! The best part of the meal was the homemade grilled chorizo, which was so perfectly seasoned that you wanted to eat sausage at every meal afterwards.
The only downside to Casa Banana is that it’s on the jungle side, so it does get lots of bugs in the open air restaurant after sundown. We saw the manager’s family come in to eat, and they doused themselves in bug spray upon entering the restaurant. We didn’t get too many bites, since we dined early, but I could see it being an annoyance on a warm still night after 7pm.
Yes… we’re in Mexico. And yes, this menu is in Italian. This made my “Spanglo-Italian” knowing language heart jump for joy (ask me about the time I went to Italy after taking a year of collegiate Italian and spoke Spanish for 2 days straight to every Italian).
Posada Margherita has a great open air kitchen and the smell of garlic will knock you over in the best way possible. It might seem weird to be eating Italian food in the tropical jungle, but the ambiance of the restaurant transports you away and everything is so fresh that you kind of forget you’re vacationing in Mexico.
The freshly prepared pasta is wonderful and the fish (all’ Acqua Pazza) is out of this world. The portion sizes had everyone wanting to WALK off the meal for the 2 miles back to the hotel.
Zamas was just down the street from Pez, so all of us made it over here for lunch eventually one day. Unfortunately, our experience as much less celebrated that those of the newspaper articles plastering their walls. While the view was nice and the food was ok, it was definitely pricey and the off-season service was super super slow. They also really like a lot of spice in their sauces, so maybe that tempered my opinion as well.
(Zona hotelera Tulum, Tulum 77505, Mexico)
Really great food, really good prices, and nothing stuck up about this place at all. In fact, we went there on Sunday afternoon so that we could get our fill of NFL games on the only satellite TV in town. Really yummy tacos and enchiladas and the fish tacos were much much better here than at the lauded Zamas.
Hartwood is “the new hottest thing” in Tulum right now. It’s definitely one of the best restaurants in town, but it’s also pricey (for Tulum!) and has a pretty limited menu. The drinks are creative and quite satisfying and served in a giant mason jar. And while it is on the jungle side (aka. BUGS!), they smoke the place out to keep it relatively bug free. Everything is cooked in a giant open air wood oven, and the atmosphere is beyond cool. It’s probably your best bet for celebrity sighting, being that the owners are from NYC, but still totally worth a few extra pesos just for the experience.
Activities while we were there:
Swimming in Cenotes
Here are two great lists of cenotes local to Tulum: List 1 [todotulum.com] and List 2 [yucatantoday.com]
Sian Ka’an biosphere
We rented Jeeps in Tulum for the day to get down to the seaside town of Punta Allen (about 2 hours south on the bumpy dirt road going 30 mph). In Punta Allen, we hired two tour boats to take us on a tour of the turtle inlets, visit with dolphin pods and then finally snorkel out on the reefs. If you’d prefer to travel by sea rather than bumpy road through the rainforest, then you can also hire boats to get you to Punta Allen (inclusive or exclusive of the tour itself.)
Mayan Ruins in Tulum
Visit the Mayan ruins anytime outside of the middle of the day. There’s not much shade anywhere around the ruins, and the wind doesn’t want to blow here either. We went about an hour before closing which worked out perfectly for us. We bought our admissions and then hired a tour guide before walking inside. While the views are great on their own, you really do need a guide to be able to experience everything in full. This is a complete “DO NOT MISS” excursion – the ruins are amazing and truly a historical spectacle from every imaginable angle.
Helpful tips for your visit to Tulum:
Pay in pesos! The exchange rate during our trip was 14/15 pesos = $1, but the restaurants and shops had an exchange rate of about $10.5 pesos = $1 if you paid in US Dollars. We learned the lesson the hard way on one of our last nights, and ran to the ATM for more fun money the next day.
Rent a car if you can! Your rental rate (even with the crazy insurance added on) will probably be less than the price of 2 paid airport-to-Tulum transfers, and then you don’t have to ever hop in a cab. You can walk to other locales based on where you stay, but having a car for us made things incredibly easy. It was also the only guaranteed spot of a/c other than the convenience/grocery stores!
How we got there:
Virgin America [SFO-CAN] and Dollar RentACar [Cancun, Airport]
Very cool! I haven’t been to Mexico in years, years I tell you! I totally agree about paying in local currency.
Hellloooooo best time ever :) Great write up! My mom just left for Tulum this morning! I drove her to the airport…seething with jealousy the whole way, of course :) xx
karla diaz cano
great post!! sounds like you had an amazing time. check out my recent visit to tulum here: