The Mexican state of Quintana Roo is no doubt one of the best places to travel from November to January due to the warm temperatures and gorgeous beaches. Home to second largest barrier reef, Mexico’s Caribbean coast runs the gamut of sites to see and exploring. From the touring the ancient Mayan temples and pyramids, deep diving adventures in magical cenotes, hopping around jungle bars to relaxing just outside the jungle on endless white sand beaches with crystal blue water at your fingertips, Mexico has so much to offer to every type of vacationer - whatever your style.
Our Art Director, Sarah recently ventured up to popular hotspot, Tulum to experience the Maya culture, indulge in it's tropical paradise and get the full scoop! Her vision of a well spent vacation complete with the perfect amount of adventure, shopping, site-seeing, tasting local cuisine and of course rest and relaxation comes to life as she shares all about how she made the most of her trip by covering every to-do within 4 days during her stay in the Yucatán Peninsula. Whether it’s a family vacation at an all inclusive, destination wedding, girl’s weekend, romantic getaway, or spring break, Tulum is an unexpected destination for your next foliage filled getaway. .
The Venue Report: What prompted your vacation?
Sarah: Every year my Husband's (now my) family goes on a Winter getaway. One year it was Jerusalem, another year it was Tahoe, but this year called for tropical feels. "NEED IT. GOTTA HAVE!", is what I recall exclaiming when my sister-in-law, Cassandra (aka Cass or @cassie_andthechaos) told me she was moving to the Yucatán Peninsula for 6 months to work remotely while soaking in all magical sun rays that Mexico has to offer. What a total dream boat she is! Everyday inspiring our entire family to just go for it - No matter what the cost or case! You can find her wearing red in the first photo above. Since she was living there we all made the obvious decision to spend our Winter getaway dancing around Tulum in mexican dresses, straw hats and swim suits. #Dreamcation for sure!
How did you prepare for your trip?
Social Media Research ya'll! How cool is it that you can literally type in a location on the hashtag tab of Instagram and instantly see where other people have traveled in that area. I've also had about 20 places pinned on Pinterest for years so it was all about digging those up and building out the inteniary. Also, since I work for The Venue Report I kept tabs on restaurants, bars and hotels I wanted to visit by saving them to my favorites. Since Cass had been living in the area and knew the exact time it took to each destination, she totally owned it when it came to our plans and fitting in everything that we wanted to see.
Also! Depending on what season you are going to Mexico I recommend researching any nessecities you should bring. Since Mexico had just transitioned out of their wet season it was KEY that we stocked up on travel size bug spray. We would've gotten eaten alive if we hadn't brought it. Also, you can never bring enough swim suits. I recommend bringing one for each day you are there. When I travel I love to play with different outfits (that I may not usually wear) with colors and textures that fit into my surroundings - It makes you feel even more alive! Haha
What did your iteniary look like for your first day in Tulum?
- We arrived at Cancún International Airport @7am. Yes, jetlag was no joke as we were flying in from L.A. But the best way to overcome jet lag by sleeping it off on the beach. So that's exactly what we did.
- After flying in we caught a shuttle to our car rental lot. If you want to explore different parts of Tulum I highly recommend renting a car. Right now 1 US Dollar equals 21.60 Mexican Pesos so it won't cost you an arm and a leg to drive yourself around. Some hotels will provide a shuttle to pick you up at the airport but you will end up paying tourist prices.
- After driving 2 hours from the airport to Tulum our first stop was our rental for the week at Saasil. It was absolutely gorgeous! The staff is the absolute sweetest eager to assist you with any questions you may have. Each room has its own wifi password and its own personal pool in the backyard of each unit. If all that wasn't enough their is also a community pool, bike rentals and mini library for you to pick up books left behind from previous travelers.
- After getting our things situated it was off to La Zebra for breakfast. EVERYTHING was amazing! We tried the Fruit Plate, Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, and Breakfast Burrito (Chorizo - Duh!). For drinks we indulged in La Zebra's freshly pressed juice and smoothies. They were incredible. I recommend the Beach Bliss and Mayan Mix.
- After breakfast we headed to CoCo Tulum for drinks and long naps on the beach. Not to mention a quick misting underneath their seashell shower. NEED one of these in our backyard!
- CoCo Tulum was my favorite bar that we visited! The Maya Hibiscus cocktail was incredible. Mezcal is all the rage right now so if you haven't tried Tequila's spicy stepsister than add this to your to-do list.
- After catching up on some zzz's and fueling up on yummy mixed drinks we headed to a couple more Tulum hotspots: Papaya Playa + Posada Margherita.
- For an early dinner we dined at Cenzontle. The Beef Barbacoa with Bone Marrow Sauce + The Pork Ribs is officially the key to my heart. Wooo! Take me back!
- After dinner, we ended the night at the ever inspiring, Gitano Tulum for a night of jungle disco.
What did your iteniary look like for day numero dos in Tulum?
- First stop was Akumal Beach to go snorkeling with sea turtles! This was so fun but I do have some tips for you. If anyone stops you telling you need a tour - You don't. Anyone and everyone is able to rent goggles, a snorkel and a life jacket from the local dive shops on the beach and head out to sea with no strings attached. As much as you will not want to wear that life jacket, bring it. You'll want to go further and further out to sea where the coral reefs are and honey, you are going to need to stay afloat.
- One regret I have is not buying a GoPro before we went on our trip. We could've shot some amazing underwater footage here. I recommend it if you are doing any diving or snorkeling. We had a underwater phone case and it just didn't do it justice.
- Sun bathing with cocos frios in our hands is how we ended our time at the beach. Even if you don't like coconut water you have to try it. The taste is different and refreshing.
- After Akumal Beach we trekked up to the Tulum Ruins. This is another highly saught out tourist spot however, you don't need a tour for this. They offer tours but you can just as easily walk along the ruins at your own pace.
- Keep your eye out for small and medium sized lizards. They are the coolest creatures.
- The old seaport overlooks the Caribbean coast where you can walk down relax in the warm crystal blue water after touring the ruins.
- After swimming with sea turtles, laying out on the beach and exploring the Tulum Ruins we were exausted. We decided to spend the night enjoying our rad hotel and fresh fish from a local market we found on the street. Keep your eyes out for all the fresh fish and fruit stands. They are incredible. We got to see the fish gutted, descaled and cooked right in front us!
Day 3 - Let's hear it!
- We kicked off our day by driving 2 hours to Chichen Itza to swim in the Sacred Cenote. There are multiple cenotes around Tulum but if you want to see the infamous ancient Mayan Temples this one is closest and you'll be able to knock them both out in one day. I have never been to cenote before so I was completely speechless for the first 30min. It was breathtaking. What to expect? You'll be told to shower before you head down into the cenote... And that's really it. The experience is what you make it so cannonball from the top of the stairs, snap all the photos and soak it all in.
- I recommend aiming to arrive at the cenote at 9:30am. The tour busses start rolling in around 10:15am and the sinkhole fills up fast. If your goal is to snap photos without a lot of people filling up the gorgeous well then get there early.
- After changing in dry clothes we drove about 10min up the rode to the entrance of the Chichen Itza Mayan Temples. It was already packed. We eventually found side street parking but if you go in the peak season expect lines.
- The old city was a site to see! Walking around the old ruins automatically teleports you back in time.
- If you haven't seen the movie, Apocalypto, you should watch it before heading on vacation to Tulum. While keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire time, the movie is also a history lesson in Mayan culture and ancient traditions.
- To end the day, we drove 1 hr. 30 min. (In the same direction back to Tulum), to Coqui Coqui Coba . A retreat and perfumeria located in Coba! This has been on my bucketlist for quite some time now and experiencing this amazing venue, hotel, foodery and perfume shop in person was indescribable.
- Coqui Coqui's architecture and design leaves you breathless. While prancing around the grounds happy as a kid in a candy store, I couldn't help but notice all the thought and detail that went into each corner, private pool and the gazebo overlooking the lake - This space was meant for people to take their loads off and relax in the peace of the outdoors. Nailed it, Coqui Coqui! Nailed it!
Day four? Spill the deets!
- Our final day in Tulum was spent under the cabanas of Posada Margherita. One of the only Italian fooderys in Tulum. We lounged drinking Modelos and jumping waves like little kids for like 2 hours. It was heaven ya'll.
- Afterwards, we walked up to the main street and snapping pics, shopping and taking in the beautiful jungle of Tulum.
- Our final stop was the one and only, Hartwood. One of Tulum's top ranked restaurants and if you've eaten here, you'll understand why. You won't find a menu on their website. Just a note reading, " HARTWOOD'S MENU CHANGES DAILY BASED ON THE SEA AND LAND THAT OFFER US NEW HARVESTS EACH DAY." YES!!!!
- We sipped on specialty cocktails and tasted the freshest, most delicious food - I think ever. I can't remember the names of the other dishes (I know, I'm sorry). BUT what I do remember and will never be able to forget is taking a bite out of the Lobster Ceviche (caught that morning, no doubt). We will be going back.
Any last words for future travelers?
- Just some serious advice: Bring bug spray! Rent a car. Get atleast 2 Cocos Frios a day. Eat at (dirty looking) taco shops because they are the best. Shop at the local markets and cook for yourself one night. Make friends from other countries. Let the bartender pick your drink. AND Dance through the streets - Cuz' your vacation!!!
Photos by Sarah and Mark Gabriel Laos Courtesy of The Venue Report