Travel Guide: Tulum, Mexico

Phew! After over a month of non-stop travels – I’m finally here to give you the 411 on my new favorite vacation spot – TULUM!

{Top: UNDER $30! // Pants: ON SALE under $12!// Sandals: Jack Rogers // Purse: Tory Burch c/o Shopbop // Necklace: Kendra Scott // Bracelet: Kendra Scott

For those of you who have not heard of this gem before, it’s a Mayan beach town in Mexico located about 1.5 hours outside of Cancun facing the Caribbean Sea. It could not be more different than most Mexican tourist spots or more magical and quant. (Honestly, this NY Times video puts it best!)

I was lucky enough to escape there for a week earlier this month with 9 of my favorites at one of my best friend’s house, otherwise known as Casa Carolina (more on that later!)

{Bikini: TRIANGL  // Sunnies: Karen Walker c/o Shopbop}

What to Expect:

Tulum is uber eco-friendly and that means solar power and for me, leaving my blowdryer at home. Prepare to enjoy days with air-dryed salty hair, minimal make up and sunkissed skin. In other words, paradise! Tulum is also home to many yoga retreats, spas and bikini boot camp. Most restaurants and bars have free wifi and we were lucky to have it at our house too but it really is a time to disconnect (no matter how many instagrams I took, I swear I relaxed & it was nice to not have cell service for the majority of the beach days).

What to Pack:

Below is a sample of what I packed on this trip. My suitcase was full of bathing suits that I lived in, cover ups, shorts, breezy dresses & tops, rompers (I took this one & this too), flat sandals & espadrilles, sunnies and minimal jewels and beauty products. Also, bring a light sweater as it can get cooler in the evenings.

Most days my hair was pulled back in a bun and air dryed (I swear it was the longest I went without using a blowdryer in my life). While I wore wedges a few evenings, I would recommend bringing shoes that you can easily wipe off. After walking everyday, most of my sandals were very sandy and dusty.

If you plan to go to the ruins, be sure to pack tennis shoes and comfortable workout gear (more on that below).

Equally as important to note is to bring plenty of sunscreen (this Irish girl is still burned!), big hats and bug spray. I even bought bug itch cream because the mosquitos can get bad!

{Dress: UNDER $30! // Necklace: Kendra Scott // Clutch: Similar Here}

Where to Stay: Casa Carolina

Most hotels in Tulum are boutique in size, eco-friendly (read: no AC) and serve as a restaurant, bar, boutique, spa and more (all in one!). While there are many fabulous choices, the best has to be Casa Carolina.

{Cover Up: Lilly for Target // Scallop Bathing Suit: PINK // Hat: Similar Here // Sunnies: Karen Walker c/o ShopBop // Beach Bag: Similar Here}

The photos speak for themselves but this house was perfect for our group and belongs to my best friend’s family. The 6,000 square foot villa sits right on the beach with 5 bedrooms, a rooftop, pool, hammocks, beach chairs, its own beachside palayas, patio terrace and large open living spaces. Every bedroom also has an ocean view, balcony and en suite bathroom complete with luxurious tolietries. The house literally comes with anything you may need from adorable patterned beach towels to bottled water and laundry services.

Casa Carolina also comes with two amazing staff members, Paula and Eric, who live on-site in a casasita as well as security in the evenings. They do everything possible to make sure your stay is comfortable from cleaning, cooking, bartending, grocery shopping and even finding & cutting down the freshest coconuts to drink beachside. (I’m also told a few celebrities have vacationed at this gorgeous villa but my lips are sealed there!)

The photos don’t even begin to do the property justice – but check more out here and whether you’re going with family, friends, for a wedding or for leisure – this place comes highly recommended by yours truly. (Oh and morning coffees on the rooftop weren’t bad either.)

{Pants: ON SALE under $12! // Sweater: LOFT // Necklace: Kendra Scott //  Sandals: Jack Rogers}

How to Get Around:

Taxis! I swear there are more taxis at any given moment in Tulum than in New York City. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit – but I was caught saying that more than once during our trip. Seriously, every time we stepped outside the house – there was a taxi passing by, or offering a ride or waiting.

Most places you can just walk along the street, however, for longer distances and into pueblo – taxis are all over. Just makes sure you have plenty of cash and/or pesos for your trip. (Oh and addresses are arbitrary – so know your KM and landmarks.)

Where to Eat & Drink (in no particular order):

Mateo’s Mexican Grill – We went here on the first night, reserved a large table outside and I ate the best fish tacos of my life (yes, life). Perfect bar setting for a group too!

Papaya Playa Project – The Beach Club here holds Full Moon parties and the venue is unlike any other in Tulum. I will admit that us girls were too tired after a long day of travel to attend the party (which fell on the first night of our trip); however, the boys stayed out late and had a blast without us.

Posada Margherita – Tulum is home to many ex-Pats from Italy and thus, produces amazing Italian cuisine. This gem is located right on the beach and something out of a movie screen – beautiful tables, lights and delicious fresh pastas and seafood. We split numerous bottles of vino here and enjoyed dining under the beach stars.

El Tablano – I enjoyed lunch here and my favorite margarita of the trip. It’s located on the jungleside in Tulum and outdoors as well. The entire menu is on a large chalkboard. It’s on the pricier side for lunch but well worth it!

Don Cafeto – One evening went left the beach and went into “pueblo” (town). This spot was authenic no-frills Mexican cuisine – it gave us a taste of the area and its culture outside of trendier spots. If you venture into pueblo – be sure to stop at Don Cafeto and order their queso! Live music played while we dined and we shopped through the markets after dinner. Just around the corner is a Bug Mojito Bar so be on the lookout!

La Zebra – Located right on the beach – delicious cocktails and margs by the pitcher. The deck is the perfect spot for posting up all afternoon.

Juice Stands – Don’t underestimate the small stands on the side of the road – I had a fresh mango – papaya juice one morning and chai latte from a small juice stand along the jungle side so really take time to explore and taste your way through Tulum.

Canopia – We stopped here for fresh coconut water – yes, in large coconuts. If you don’t have coconuts at your disposal like we did at Casa Carolina, I would recommend stopping by for one here!

{Dress: UNDER $30! // Hat: Similar Here // Sunnies: Karen Walker c/o ShopBop // Sandals: Jack Rogers // Purse: Tory Burch c/o Shopbop // Necklace: Kendra Scott}

Zamas –  Colorful chairs and tables + drinks out of coconuts? Check! We actually did not have enough time to dine here but passed Zamas many times and it came highly recommended as it sits at the end of the road with a gorgeous view.

Gitano – This spot came highly recommended to me by my New York friends and was also delicious. There are pink neon lights, a disco ball, chandelier in the trees and quite possibly the best guacamole & pork tacos. Try for dinner or for cocktails.

Hartwood –  Hartwood is probably the most talked about restaurant in Tulum, most recommended and might I say;  for good reason! It is only opened for dinner, however, they now take reservations (on the day of).  People start to line up around 2pm to put their name in. We were lucky with our big group to get a later spot one evening as we stopped in while shopping to get on names on the list. The menu changes each day and they bring a chalkboard sign to you. Fresh cocktails, beautiful atmosphere and delicious food  – both the ribs and filete coronado were popular.

Where to Shop & Spa:

Explore! There are so many little spots in Tulum and all on the same main road. Below are a few of my favorites but don’t underestimate the small gems you might come across just by walking along the jungle side. (Side Note: the “jungle side” is much HOTTER than the beach without the lovely breeze so dress accordingly & use bug spray!)

{Dress: UNDER $30! // Hat: Similar Here // Sunnies: Karen Walker c/o ShopBop // Sandals: Jack Rogers // Purse: Tory Burch c/o Shopbop // Necklace: Kendra Scott // Bracelets: Kendra Scott & Kendra Scott}

Mr. Blackbird – Quant little shop on the main road with sand for floors, leather sandals and unique jewels.

Josa Tulum – local designer with gorgeous tunics, cover ups and dresses.

Coqui Coqui – Explore their luxurious spa, perfume shop and boutique. It’s gorgeous and us girls went home with new candles. Also, if you’re going to book a spa appointment, highly recommend you book a treatment here!

La Tente Rose – Mexican Wine, Beer, Water & Spirits – enough said.

What to See & Do:

Beaches – Most of my time was spent beach side with coconuts, my favorites, magazines and a whole lot of sunscreen! The waves were perfect most days for boogie boarding as well.

IMG_7405 (1)

{Bathing Suits: PINK + H&M + Lilly for Target // Headwrap: SO many here!}

Tulum Ruins – A few of us hiked around the ruins one super hot afternoon – they are close by but spoiler alert – you can’t climb them, but you will meet a lot of wandering iguanas along the way!

Cenotes – I opted to stay on the beach in lieu of snorkling around these but they come highly recommended and there are many spots nearby if you decide to be adventurous!

Long Walks + Yoga – If you’re into yoga, Tulum is your place! There are so many local spots to take classes and be fit on the beach. I also walked along the beach most evenings.

{Shorts: LOFT // Pom Pom Top: UNDER $12! // Sandals: Jack Rogers // Clutch: Similar Here // Necklace: Kendra Scott // Bracelets: Kendra Scott // Sunnies: Karen Walker c/o Shopbop}

& there you have it! Let me know if your travels ever take you to Tulum or if you’ve been before! I know I am counting down the days until I can go back.

6 Responses to Travel Guide: Tulum, Mexico

  1. Annie Reeves says:

    I love how colorful everything is in Mexico!! I’m headed to Cabo with some friends in August, and now I’m even more excited. So beautiful!!

  2. Ashley says:

    This is on our must visit list! Obvi I’m reaching out to you when we make it over there! It looks beautiful!

  3. Dani Colding says:

    Swooning over all of the bright colors and beautiful beaches!! Looks like a blast!!

    Keep in touch,
    Dani

  4. Wow!!!, Then beautiful beaches! Then beautiful girl ! I also want to go to Tulum

  5. Jess says:

    This looks amazing! Did you feel safe there in a group of girls? Were there parts of Tulum you didn’t go to? I’m always a bit concerned about Mexico…

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