Saturday, October 10, 2015

{travel diary} from Tulum, with love

Let's be real up front - everyone is going to Tulum. If you are one of those people who thinks it's part of a fad, it's the new Hamptons, blah blah blah, I don't blame you for turning away + not reading on. While most of those things may technically be true, I don't care + that wasn't my personal experience [you may have been following along via #Tuluminators in July]. I grew up on the beach. I have a bit of a hippie-vibe in my heart [tho, not the no shaving/showering, hemp kind] + I connected with Tulum immediately. There is this addicting vibe of relaxation & community down there every where you look.

There are two options when traveling there - you can choose to stay in at a hotel like Papaya Playa and live in tree house/hut/tree house type of rooms on the sand, or you can stay in a more traditional hotel. We chose the latter, not because the other type didn't seem perfect, but because that's what was available.

Which way to....

Laguna kaan luum

We really scored, though. First - we went in July which I would not recommend for the fellow pale readers. Mexico is hot and that sun is strong. Like bull.  Not realizing that anything south of us was not air conditioned [Tulum is off the grid for traditional power 98% of business run off of generators], the all-inclusive vibe with daily yoga, AC, 24-hour room service and a pool sans seaweed was ideal. The endless rotation of the same 2 CDs being blasted over the infinity pool with bad American music, while seriously painful, was key in actually bonding + meeting some friendly faces.

The free bikes at the resort also allowed us to roam up and down the main road with ease. The day was usually split in half of riding around + lounging by the pool being served Pina Coladas, but the bikes allowed us to: head north to the Mayan Ruins for some sweaty sightseeing [bring every piece of cotton clothing you own, nothing else] + coconut hydration; ride over closer to the highway to test out Mojitos, made from sugar cane cranked through the back of an old VW Beetle; and endless delicious meals along the way.

OH! How could I forget?! Let's talk about the power of social media really quick. A few weeks before the trip, I befriended a local through Instagram who was extremely friendly and, true to her word, emailed me a very comprehensive list of the right way to see the area. We didn't get to meet up in real life, but I am forever grateful for her words!

Mayan Ruins, obviously.

Looking up at Papaya Playa. [I dare you not to say "play on playa" every time you pass by]

Just a 'casual' pose under the palm tree. Perfect print, too heavy fabric.

The infinity pool at Kore Tulum. [I NOW dare you not to sing "IF YOU LIKE PINNNNA COLADAAAAAS" when you order your drinks]
Another casual moment swinging along at Casa Violet.

Without sounding too much like a travel advisor, here are a few tips/spots to head to if you find yourself heading down there:
  • Rent a bike. If you don't have the option at the hotel like we did, renting a bike is a great first, small, investment. Most of the places you will go are within riding distance + being able to stop along the way is key.
  • Dress light & fun. This is a 'duh', but I can't tell you how many times I said "I should have worn cotton" on this trip. Especially after riding a bike to dinner one night in my super cute romper - I definitely had a before/after experience after the ride [#checkthelabel plug]. I also got to wear a few things I never would have worn on a normal trip to the beach, but were perfectly adequate to lounge by a pool [Did I mention our resort doesn't allow children under 18 there? That also made it more acceptable for smaller suits]. 
  • Explore outside of Tulum. With the above being said, there are treasures that need to be explored, + you will need a cab for. I don't think we spent more than $20 to head to the Cenote or the lagoon each way, and I promise it's worth the money.  
    • We went to Grand Cenote for our Cenote experience. If when you go there is still a seaweed issue [thanks global warming], these cenotes will probably come very handy. Tip: go early to avoid too many crowds [especially if you want a fun pic to remember it by]
    • We were told by another new friend + local to head to Laguna kaan luum. How anyone finds these things is beyond me, and walking through the forest to get to the water felt straight out of the X-Files to me. 
  • Friend the locals! Because of Katie, and because of our new friend from Gitano, we were able to see things that we may not have been able to find on our own. Speaking to a couple at the pool at the resort also was key in finding one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever eaten at.
The kitchen at Posada Margherita.

Some flavorful Mezcal, and a beautiful setting of hammocks at Coqui Coqui.
 Delicious eats at Unico [get the tuna dish].

  • To Eat/Drink:
    • Papaya Playa. I would definitely stay here, but this trip, we only stopped by 2x for a dinner + a lunch trip. Like everywhere else, the food was fresh + light, + we even made a friendly little kitty friend who sniffed out the seafood.
    • Gitano Tulum for the best cocktails around + a delicious dinner. There are chandeliers hanging from the trees, + lovely printed fabric on the lounges beneath the disco ball. 
    • Arca for dinner - when we weren't on line to try the Hartwood early enough, we went here which I do think was the best replacement. Like many of the places here, it's mainly outdoors + built around nature. Bug spray your legs accordingly.
    • Posada Margherita for that Italian craving. They make pasta fresh upon ordering that you can indulge in while looking out at the ocean that is breaking 50 ft from you, and the decor is fabulous. You can find it behind all of the doors along the dirt road.
    • Unico. This is a bit newer to the area + an accidental find. The chef actually has experience here in NYC having worked at Gramercy Tavern + alongside Tom Colicchio at Craft. Hands down the best tuna I've ever had.
    • Casa Violeta. You will have your fair share of ceviche while in Mexico, but this one was my favorite, and the atmosphere was lovely.
    • Mezzanine Hotel. This was a pit stop after the ruins + the best Margherita I've ever had. Here, we made a different four-legged friend of the reptilian family, which I obviously kept near by feeding it some herbs from my plate. The view wasn't too shabby, either. Also, probably not a bad option for a hotel.
  • To Shop:
    • Coqui Coqui. You can stay here, you can dine here like we did for our last lunch. Or, you can just stop by + find some great local merchandise + a seriously impressive perfumery, which they are best known for.
    • Mr. Blackbird Boutique. Teeny tiny, but large enough to house a beautifully crafted necklace + hand crafted tote that I brought home. This, I believe, is across the street from Hartwood + Gitano.
    • All the random shops. The best shop, to me, was one that I can't remember the name to. Many of the shops are filled with hammocks + kitchy tourist staples, but you need to go in to many until you find the right one that speaks to you. I was avoiding the tourist gifts + looked until I found one with more locally crafted fabric + goodies.
I believe Heaven is filled with oceanfront hammocks, honestly.

Photos: Robin West

Don't tell you I didn't warn you, but you won't want to come back. Did I miss anything??


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