You leave a little part of yourself in all the places you travel to, but it’s pretty safe to say that in Tulum I left a pretty big chunk. Carved out of the jungle only 50 years ago, this Caribbean castaway town was once a hippy enclave but has now transformed into the destination of choice for stylish globetrotters. There were so many things I loved about Tulum: from the strong ethos of sustainability that permeates the entire town to days spent swimming in some of the most beautiful, turquoise waters in the world, from the organic, nutrient-rich food to the mystique of the Mayan ruins, I couldn’t get enough. Here’s why I can’t stop thinking about Tulum and why I am desperate to go back already:
The dramatic cliffside ruins
Aside from being a stunning beach destination today, Tulum was the site of huge architectural significance for the Mayans. The ruins in Tulum are pretty special, since they’re situated on steep cliffs overlooking the turquoise ocean below. This was one of the last Mayan cities to have been built and inhabited and so the structures remain beautifully intact. For a morning workout, hire a bike and cycle to the ruins but be sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds. Take a dip at the beach below the ruins to cool off before heading back to town.
My first visit to Mexico left me convinced that I could happily survive on chilaquiles, fish tacos and guacamole with tortillas until the end of my days. Also, it is ridiculously easy to eat healthily in Tulum, which I love. Think vegan tacos, organic green juices and fresh seafood, all available on almost every corner. Drool.
The wild Caribbean coastline
The white sand beaches of the wild Caribbean coastline are like something out of well, Pirates of the Caribbean. Seriously though. The currents are strong, the winds are high and the waters are the most brilliant turquoise. I wanted to spend every spare second at the beach and can you blame me?
The focus on sustainable tourism
Tulum is paradise for the eco-conscious with a plethora of eco-lodges, organic eateries and environmentally friendly nature tours on offer for visitors. It’s all about celebrating the natural environment here while negating the impact of tourism as much as possible. There’s a really strong sustainable ethic in Tulum which has shaped the development of this special place. Many hotels are constructed with locally-sourced materials, are solar-powered and offer only limited Wi-Fi. One of the lodges I stayed at was La Posada del Sol, a tiny eco-lodge right on the beachfront constructed from the debris left by a past hurricane.
Every day was margarita day in Tulum and most of the time they were sipped with my toes in the silky, white sand while snacking on tortillas and guacamole. Is that the very definition of bliss or what? Sometimes I’d shake it up a bit and order a fresh coconut or other fruity concoction, but the margaritas generally won out.
Anyone can enjoy a sunset in Tulum, but the sunrise is extra special. The sun doesn’t set over the water, but rises here instead. Set your alarm early and watch the sun slowly peek up over the Caribbean sea, casting a magical warmth over the water. Trust me, it’s totally worth it.
The impossibly clear cenotes
The entire region is dotted with natural, freshwater cenotes that are connected by underground rivers and surrounded by lush jungle. The water is cool and crystal clear and it’s in these flooded cave systems where you’ll find some the best snorkelling and diving in the country. I spent hours floating amongst the turtles, fish and bats at the Gran Cenote, one of Tulum’s most famed.
Mayan pyramids engulfed by the jungle
Only a 45 minute drive from Tulum are the Mayan ruins of Cobá. Explore the vast, largely unexcavated complex by bike and even climb to the top of one of the step pyramids, something that isn’t possible at either Chichen Itza or the Tulum ruins. I felt like I was Indiana Jones (the sundress and sandal wearing kind).
Read more: Exploring the Forgotten Mayan Ruins of Cobá
All the hip places to hang out
There are no two ways about it — Tulum is hip. Once a laid-back hippy refuge, it’s now a hipster’s paradise, boasting design hotels, vegan taco joints and SUP yoga classes. Have a sundowner at the Papaya Playa Project’s beach bar, a meal at hyped-up Hartwood (if you can get in, that is) and do a spot of shopping at the gypsy-chic Josa Tulum boutique and you’ll see why this little town has now been dubbed the ‘Williamsburg of Mexico’.
The cute boutiques
Lining the beach road in between palms are the cutest little boutiques that sell boho clothing, handmade jewellery and Mexican handicrafts, perfect for escaping the hot mid-afternoon sun.
The hidden, local eateries
Venture beyond the cool, upmarket restaurants lining the beach where both the setting and prices are high-end and you’ll find cheap, authentic and downright delicious local eateries. Try Antojitos la Chiapeneca for a plate of al pastor (spit-roasted, marinated pork) tacos or head to El Camello Jr for Tulum’s freshest ceviche. Bring only your spare change — prices are that cheap.
The laid-back vibe
Unlike Cancun and nearby Playa del Carmen to some extent, Tulum is still small, earthy and rustic. While it has emerged as one of the world’s most stylish destinations, the chilled, laid-back vibe remains. In the mornings I’d take a few steps from my door for a pre-breakfast ocean dip before cycling into town for a fresh juice and a walk under the palm trees. Every afternoon you’d find me at the beach where the rhythm of napping, swimming, cocktail-sipping would be on repeat.
The beach bars
There’s no better bar than a beach bar in my opinion and there’s a swathe of them dotting the Caribbean coastline in Tulum, so you won’t be hard-pressed to find one. Stretch out on the cushions, order your margarita or freshly-pressed juice of choice and start scheming about how you can stay forever.