leave your inhibitions at the door
Every year, the kids go to a YMCA camp in beautiful northern Michigan for some good old-fashioned outdoor fun. Last year, we did a “staycation” and while it was relaxing, there was still easy access to work emails, lawns to be mowed, and cooking and cleaning to be done.
This year we did it up proper and got the heck out of town – and not just out of Ann Arbor. We got out the heck out of Michigan, the Midwest, and the country.
Tulum is a 90 minute drive south of the Cancun airport and is like no other place we’ve been to in Mexico. Downtown Tulum is inland and has a few shops and restaurants – many of which cater to locals. The beach area is dotted with a lot of small hotels and private houses on absolutely pristine beach. There are strict zoning laws that govern development on the beach so all of the hotels are small, boutique-type places – most of them have less than 20 units.
We visited the nearby Mayan ruins during a past trip and I took a little one hour detour to Tulum to see a friend (more on that later). But that little excursion was more than enough for me to know that I HAD to go back.
I’ve probably told a 100 people about Tulum before and after our trip and I still can’t describe it in less than a few sentences. Two words that have been used to describe Tulum are “eco-chic” and “glamping” (i.e. “glamorous camping”). I’m not sure glamping is very accurate because the only people in tents are a bunch of hippies – and there aren’t that many of them. Eco-chic might work, though.
Almost all of the hotels are rustic with minimal amenities – so no tvs, phone, gyms, and pools. Many are solar or wind-powered, so the available electricity is only enough to run a ceiling fan, a couple of lights, and an outlet or two.
We stayed at Hotel Mestizo, which was one of the last hotels on the strip. Our unit was a little hut right on the beach. It was fairly small, but there’s no beating the view.
There was no air conditioning, but the ocean breeze was enough to keep us cool at night.
The downside? Like in a boat’s bathroom, you can’t flush the toilet paper. THAT takes some getting used to. (Sorry, forgot to take a picture of that. But I’m sure you can use your imagination.)
At every other resort we’ve been to in Mexico and Dominican Republic, there were spas, entertainment, bars, and staff trying to get you to do all kinds of stupid shit. But not here. With everything being stripped down to the essentials, all you can do is chill. The hotel people aren’t trying to get you to do the limbo, play a beach game, or dance around like an idiot. Unless that’s your thing. You only hear from them when you need to – “Hola Senor, may I get you anything?” With all of the other hotels run the same way, the overall mood on the beach is easy-going and relaxed.
But while the mood is simple and understated, there’s a lot that’s fancy there.
For a long time, the only non-Mexicans that knew about Tulum were hippie backpackers. A few years ago, it started becoming very popular with celebrities and the New York fashion crowd. But unlike St Barth’s and Miami, it was low-key and a place where they went to NOT be seen. Eventually some of them tuned out of New York and settled in Tulum. So the hotels, shops, and restaurants started upgrading and catering to this crowd.
Instead of shops full of crap like this…
…you’ll see JOSA Tulum.
JOSA is a fashion line started by Joanne, a friend we met years ago in St Barth’s. She specializes in vintage-inspired dresses that would look good on the beach as well as out at night. Boom Boom has three JOSA dresses and they are all stunningly gorgeous.
Across the street is Coqui Coqui, a small limestone hotel and perfumery owned by the model Nicolas Malleville.
Some tips if you go
– When we booked the trip, Orbitz offered a shuttle to the hotel for $150 per person. I’m sure a cab will be cheaper. The public buses are less than $20 which I’m sure you’ll love, you hippie.
– We rented a car, which came in handy since our hotel was on the far end of the beach. The drive down there was easy as was getting around in Tulum.
– The car rental was a whopping $4 a day. You read that right – 4 bucks. But stupid me didn’t do any research beforehand about insurance. I’m pretty sure I was covered with my insurance and credit card, but ended up paying for the insurance they offered. It ended up being around $300 for the week, which isn’t terrible. We probably would’ve spent that much in cabs.
– Since we had a car, we were able to stop by a grocery store to buy a styrofoam cooler and loaded up with beer, wine, and water.
– Only about half of the businesses there take credit cards. There are ATMs available, but many of them couldn’t get a data connection or charged insane fees. So when you do take out cash, take out a lot.
Wait til you see what we ate…