Okay I know what you’re thinking. More Tulum? Here’s the thing. You can’t really do too much Tulum. This was my third time visiting Tulum just this year alone, so I’ve kind of tried.
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Tulum feel so special, but most Tulum addicts that I’ve spoken to agree that it does have some serious charm going on, and more impressively, it doesn’t seem to lose it’s magic as more and more tourists book up every last room in every last boho boutique hotel scattered along the jungle road that makes up Tulum Beach.
I’d argue that most “special” places only have a life span of true special-time until they are discovered by the masses, yet Tulum somehow maintains its enchantment despite the growing crowds. Dear Tulum: don’t know how you do what you do, but please don’t stop.
And speaking of hotels in Tulum (most of which you can’t go wrong with) this time being a group of 4, I was looking for something a little bigger that our crew could share together without being separated by hotel walls and hallways. While the large majority of Tulum Beach is lined with trendy tree house style hotels and the like, this time around after a little research I found the perfect Tulum abode for our group trip: a beach home.
Actual stand-alone beach homes are a rarity in Tulum, especially one that’s this homey, and with it’s own private pool… still steps away from the bright blue beach. Score.
Our 3 bedroom, 3-story beach home, “Casa Mandala” is one of a few gorgeous homes in a collection by Mahayana Tulum. Our experience here differed so wonderfully from our prior Tulum hotel-centric trips in all the ways you can imagine staying in a 3-story home nestled among the jungle foliage yet still a stone’s throw from the ocean would differ from staying in a hotel. With a few of your best friends, none the less.
Nestled in the heart of the action yet somehow secluded and hidden from the bustle of the main road, we found ourselves in a luxury yet homey casa with just about the perfect mix of excitement and peace. Mahayana beach homes are walking distance to some of Tulum’s most distinguished dining, most Instagramable moments and blogger-approved acai bowls. And if you aren’t in the mood to leave your home to dine, well why not have your meals prepared right in your kitchen by a chef? We were lucky enough to experience this culinary luxury for a day of our trip, and I must say, it was far better than room service at any hotel I’ve stayed at.
This trip was special because it was a week-long celebration of my since-middle school best friend’s 25th birthday, and anyone who knows Tulum knows there is celebration to be found, always.
And if staying in a beach home with a group of friends celebrating life in Tulum isn’t a good birthday, nothing is. Our days involved dips in our little jungle pool, short walks to nearby Tulum attractions and delicious eats, and oh yeah, margaritas. Lots of those.
I highly recommend any of Mahayana’s beach homes for any group, from families looking for an intimate secluded abode to a group of friends wanting a house to accommodate larger groups without being separated throughout a hotel. One thing worth mentioning, especially during the warmer months of the year, is that there is no AC in the master bedroom (the third level). While this isn’t a deal breaker as this room is absolutely beautiful and there are plenty of fans for ventilation, it can still make for some toasty nights. If you’re wondering, all the other rooms have AC! The home we stayed in, Casa Mandala as well as all the other Mahayana Beach Homes are hidden away in a little area of jungle that opens up to a very peaceful strip of beach, adorned with palm trees and private beach cabanas for max relaxation.
Huge thank you to Snow and the Mahayana team for their kindness, hospitality and generosity in hosting us and making this Tulum trip so unforgettable and refreshingly different for us.
And now, on to some recs.
Having frequented Tulum I’ve naturally complied a list of some of my favorites of everything Tulum has to offer. Here are a handful that I love and feel are worth sharing with anyone who has their sights set on Tulum and wants to know what’s good.
Kintoh at Azulik
Come here for drinks or dinner at sunset and you’ll find yourself sitting high above Tulum, gazing at some of the most intricate treehouse inspired architecture. Many a photo-op, I assure you. Also check out the IK Lab museum at Azulik, as well as Zak-ik Boutique, the most enchanting hotel gift shop you’ll probably ever browse through.
This is maybe my favorite restaurant in Tulum for level-100 food and ambience. Everything on the menu at Gitano is mouth watering (order the tuna starters, they’re divine), and they often have live music during dinner hours. And as the night goes on so do the DJs, spinning jungle vibes into the night. Easy to grab a reservation online.
Another amazing upscale dinner spot, some proclaim it’s the best food in Tulum… but Hartwood is also one of the hardest Tulum restaurants to get a reservation for (they begin taking reservations a month in advance, but walk-ins are welcome if availability permits)
Along with Gitano and Hartwood, Arca is an excellent dinner option with A+ atmosphere and yummy food. I recommend walking along this strip of restaurants (Gitano to Arca to Hartwood) and you’ll find many other lively outdoor dining options and bars. Mur Mur is another great spot for drinks along this segment of road!
Casa Jaguar is another favorite for gourmet food in an upscale jungle atmosphere and can lead to many a late night of dancing under the stars at the adjoining bar, Todos Santos. Definitely a Tulum nightlife front-runner.
Ocumare at Be Tulum
On a gorgeous hotel property (Be Tulum), Ocumare restaurant has a variety of food options from sushi to fresh organic options. I suggest trying the octopus here! Great for any meal, any time and be sure to explore the hotel property afterward.
This is an awesome cute-casual breakfast spot with healthy breakfast options and a killer acai bowl too. Craving it as I write this.
This stunning hotel is one of Tulum’s top properties and is a boho lover’s dream. Come to the restaurant here for lunch on the beach followed by sunbathing in nets suspended over the sand.
This is a must-see for anyone who watched Narcos – Casa Malca is Pablo Escobar’s old property from way-back when. Restored since Pablo resided there, but it’s arguably the most eccentric and quirky hotel property in Tulum with lots of hidden secrets (for example, enter Pablo’s old underground grotto by the discreet staircase next to the pool). I recommend coming here for drinks and taking the afternoon to explore the different rooms, the artwork, hidden charms, nooks and crannies, etc etc.
Come here in the day for tacos and the same cute swing pic that literally everyone else has taken. Although I’d argue that very few things beat the feeling of eating tacos on a swing while facing the brightest blue ocean.
An Instagram sensation, and for good reason. Not only will you find an IG photo-op on the swings attached to this cute little roadside stand, you’ll also find some top-notch smoothie, matcha and coffee options. A favorite of mine: cold brew with coconut milk and agave.
Boa is a day-time beach club that is great for drinks at sunset. It’s a quick taxi ride away from the heart of Tulum beach, a few minutes after Azulik and thus gets a new view of the sunset that most hotels won’t catch a glimpse of. It’s got a great atmosphere furthered by whatever deep house beats the DJ is playing as the sun goes down. They also serve great dinner here, although the menu is entirely in Spanish.
La Valise / Encantada
You’ve likely seen me post about La Valise hotel before, but did I ever properly emphasize the level of perfection of the tacos here? I vote this best taco place in Tulum. Every single taco on their menu is delicious, but the mushroom tacos (vegan option that tastes like HEAVEN, please don’t make the mistake of not ordering this because you aren’t vegan), the fish tacos, and the al pastor. DROOLING. Also, check out the new jungle restaurant, NU Tulum, across the street for a beautiful dinner under the stars. Order every single dessert on the menu if you feel so inclined (we did, and I can report back that this was a very good decision).
Raw Love Tulum
This is another cute little health food stand, offering 100% raw vegan delicacies. Highly recommend this the morning after a night of tequila induced-dancing to refuel your body with pure goodness. It’s a little bit hard to find, but you’ll see the Raw Love sign from the main road, and after a little wandering through a resort and some beach huts you’ll find this cute, boho stand surrounded by tables and hammocks (for maximum chilling, post raw vegan meal).
Those just about cover my faves along Tulum beach – the area where all the action is. However, if you’re looking to explore outside of Tulum beach (think cenotes, diving, ruins, zip lines, hikes, etc) I would highly recommend browsing the web as there are literally hundreds of activities in the Tulum area, and my little blog post couldn’t even begin to do justice to all that is out there waiting to be explored. However, we did visit some pretty special cenotes on this trip, as well as hike the Coba Tulum ruins and even partook in a little boating adventure. (Read on for deets!)
The Coba Tulum ruins
The Coba Ruins are worth visiting, especially if you’re looking for a booty-blasting stair workout that will put your local fitness classes to shame. Not to mention it’s truly extraordinary to witness the grand scale of these ancient structures, let alone climb up them to some incredible tree-top views of the region. If you’re going to do the Coba ruins, you should 100% rent bikes (shortly after entering the park, just follow the path until you reach the bike rental area – hard to miss). You’ll then take a leisurely, shaded bike ride along winding roads through various ruin sites before arriving to the main event. You’ll laugh at the other sweaty tourists who decided to walk. Also, please note the shoes I have on, and don’t wear anything similar if you do happen to decide to hike these ruins.
Choo-Ha Cave Cenote
Next to Coba ruins there are a few amazing cave cenotes. We picked Choo-Ha cenote, which is completely underground and impossibly surreal to swim in. The fresh, clear cave water is certainly welcome after hiking the ruins!
The other cenote we visited on this trip is a little more hush hush and hidden-away (okay, really it’s a “secret” cenote I’ve been asked not to disclose the location of, as annoying as that is to hear). We were taken there by the incredible Koox Adventure team, who also took us on our boat ride which was complete with up-close waterside views of the Tulum ruins (different from Coba ruins). If you’re interested in finding secret secluded utter paradises and going on unique boat adventures, may I suggest you book a day with Koox. They also specialize in diving, which is maybe unparalleled in Tulum’s intricate underground cave-channels. Going with Koox will take the guesswork out of your exploring, and trust me, the best cenotes are the ones that you can’t find with a google search.
Until next time, Tulum! (Guessing it won’t be too long by the looks of my current Tulum track record)
Going to Tulum next week! Thanks for the tips !
I love your look – you are such a natural beauty! Could you please share what makeup and skincare products you use? Thanks!
You inspire me to travel and write and I’m so glad I got to briefly run into you at Catch LA and just say hi! Keep killing it girly
Where are your kinis from? AND that red romper is to die for!
Jack The Max
Amazing post. Congrats Helen 🔝🤩🤙🏻
Mile High Dreamers
So I’ve been searching for a place to go to celebrate the big dirty 30 in November, and honestly, I’d almost given up finding something that we could do semi quickly (as a teacher, I’ve only got a week!) but still felt worthy of hitting a third decade in my life. Now, I’m elbow deep in Tulum research and I think this might be it! SO many ridiculously cute hotels, dining spots, etc. You guys look like you had a blast and that list is a like having a personal tour guide there. Raw Love is definitely on the list of must visit spots! Such a perfect spot to celebrate a birthday and it looks like your friend was one happy lady.
Thanks for the inspo Helen!
Susie | http://milehighdreamers.com
Tulum looks like a dream 😍definitely adding it to my bucket list!
Hi Helen, can I ask you what filter you use for your photos on your Instagram and on your blog please? Thanks 🤗
I know you’ve probably shared this loads of times, but I’d love to ask what camera you use! The photos are gorgeous. Fantastic post, Helen!
Thanks for this awesome post and rec’s! We’re actually planning our first trip there (my boyfriend and I) in November. I was wondering, what’s the best way to get around town to different restaurants/ drinks, are there taxis? Thanks!
Nice place. Have you and Zack ever thought of traveling to the beaches of Asia? (Phuket, Coron, Siargao, Palau Rendang, etc)