10 things to know before you travel to Tulum

Posted by Valeria Ramirez on

It's been a year since our holiday but I’m still dreaming about the crystal blue waters, the soft sand between my toes, the mouth-watering seafood and the unbelievable night skies of Tulum. It was truly heaven on earth and the perfect place to holiday as a family.

We spent two magical weeks in Tulum over the Christmas/ New Year break with our three-year-old son and our family friends who also had a five-year-old and their nanny.

Tulum is a small, picturesque beach town unlike any other. With breathtaking beachside accommodation and trendy beach clubs, it was an amazing place to just forget about everything and enjoy life to the fullest.

Everything is so laid back and friendly, it actually made an ideal destination for little ones. There were lots of kids Orlando’s age on the beach and restaurants which made it easy to meet people and keep him entertained.

You can really experience Tulum any way you like as there are so many attractions for yogis, foodies, romantics, adventure seekers, the oldies, the nudies, the fashionistas and everything in between.

Here are a few things you need to know before you go

1. Make "No te preocupes" your new mantra

This applies to going to Mexico full stop. It means “don’t worry”, and is pretty much the Spanish take on Hakuna Matata. I was introduced to this phrase by our dear friend Antonio who also taught me “Keep Calm and drink Mezcal”. There is no point stressing out about things, just go with the flow and allow the adventure to unfold. Your bag may get lost - no te preocupes. You may get food poisoning - no te preocupes. Your child’s nap times are all out of whack - no te preocupes. Caught in a storm under a tiny bungalow - no te preocupes, and keep calm and drink more Mezcal.

The bar swing at Villa Pescadores

2. There are no direct flights to Tulum

To get to Tulum you will need to fly to Cancun and make a 2-hour car ride or shuttle to get to your accommodation. Most resorts/ hotels will provide transportation options, but if not, there are multiple services that you can use from the airport. I highly recommend printing out absolutely every confirmation imaginable so that you know where you are going and can easily show this your driver to avoid any confusion.

Fish Tacos at La Zebra

3. Cash is king

I am the pay wave queen here in Australia, but in Tulum there are hardly any ATMs, and if you find one, chances are it might not be working, or will charge you an arm and a leg in service fees to take cash out. Try to get enough cash for the entire trip to cover meals, shopping, tipping and getting around. Keep an array of small change, as most cab drivers and small vendors conveniently won’t have the correct change.

Ceviche at Ahau Tulum

4. Tulum is actually quite small

We stayed at our friend’s beautiful Villa Amore which is just off the main drag. This was perfect as we could bike/cab or drive into town all within 5 minutes. It also gives you more space to relax - especially if have children. There are plenty of hotels and resorts on the main strip but can be a little pricey and claustrophobic. Our villa had three bedrooms in the main building plus a private bungalow retreat (where we stayed) that was the size of a one bedroom apartment, a private pool, living/dining areas, a media room, and bike to get around on. It was perfect for us because we could go into town, play all day, and come home for naps etc. We could also stock up on food at Chedraui (the equivalent of Wallmart), and prepare some of the food at home.

Our beautiful home away from home Villa Amore.

The bar La Zebra

5. It's a wellness paradise

Tulum is littered with healthy #foodporn worthy eateries, juice bars, and vegan food hangouts. There are also some incredible day spas and yoga centers where you can do casual classes with the most amazing view. We loved Raw Love Cafe on the main strip for Acai Bowls and smoothies and Del Cielo (meaning from heaven) for mouth-watering breakfasts, juices,, and cleansing elixirs.

Green juices and homemade kombuchas at Del Cielo

6. Indulge a little

Tulum has some pretty incredible restaurant and resorts. Azulik Resort and Maya Spa - is the perfect spot to take your castaway selfie. It is considered one of the best hotels with a clothing optional beach. Located by the beautiful turquoise sea of Tulum, Azulik Resort and Maya Spa boasts awe-inspiring and luxurious eco-friendly accommodation. I loved the organic design of this resort which is literally made out of sticks and twigs, resembling a beachside tree house. All energy used on site is made using the four elements. Being an eco-friendly resort, this property is built on elevated wooden paths that bend, allowing trees to grow freely. All premises are lit by candlelight only, creating a naturally magical ambiance, perfect for a relaxing retreat or a romantic getaway.

Azulik Resort & Maya Spa - image via their Instagram page.

Please note that this is an adult-only resort, we were lucky enough to have our friend’s nanny take care of our kids for one night while we enjoyed a romantic double date with our friends at Azulik's Kin Toh restaurant. We indulged in a six-star degustation, made using fresh, local and organic produce, complete with matching wines and the most exquisite ambiance.  It was an experience I will never forget. The entire dinner experience was candle lit, accompanied by the soft whisper of the ocean and the gentle sounds of a live steel drum.

The ambiance of Kin Toh, Azulik

The spa is something else, however, offering specially designed treatments, pampering your body and your soul with organic products and authentic purification rituals. Combining ancient Mayan techniques with traditional spa treatments, this is the perfect spot to renew your mind, body, and soul.

7. Get a bike

Tulum is famous for its bikes. Virtually everyone gets around on a bike, it’s a great way to keep your fitness up, work off the tacos and tequila and see more of this beautiful place. Most places that you stay at have bike hire. You can ride your bike beachside, check out all the cute little shops you would miss by car. It also means you can dodge all the traffic.


8. Check out the stars at night

I have honestly never seen such an incredible night sky. No wonder the Mayans build their cities there. According to the locals, the ruins were actually observatories to watch the stars. It is a wonder on its own. I will never forget on new years night walking through the jungle onto the beach and looking up. I just couldn't take my eyes off the magic above me.

image: Tulum Mexico via Instagram

9. Explore off the main strip

As a first-time tourist, you can get stuck in the same spot and miss some of the best treasures off the beaten track. We were lucky enough to be introduced to an incredible place called Villa Pescadores which is a beachfront resort & beach club made up of rustic cabanas, inspired by local fishermen with a touch of Mexican retro-style. It is a great place to kick back, have a swim, enjoy some great music, drinks, and heavenly seafood, and a spot of beach soccer with the “kids”.

images: Villa Pescadores via Instagram

10. Don’t touch the Chechen trees

On our arrival our friend Martha told us of the Mayan legend of the Chechen tree, that was apparently right across from our villa. Because Tulum used to be a jungle these trees, have a long history dating back to the Mayans. She said the tree is incredibly poisonous and will literally burn your skin. My husband didn’t believe her, and after a boozy night decided to rub his arm on it. He immediately washed his arm, so there was only a mild rash, however, he was incredibly ill the following day. I’m not sure if it was the tree or the booze, but my word of advice is to trust the locals and don’t touch it. The Chechen Tree usually has the Chaca Tree growing close by, and are most commonly found in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. The Chechen tree is poisonous and the Chaca tree has a nectar which acts as the antidote.

Chechen tree image via Pinterest.

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