Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tulúm Travel Diary - Part 2

In the first part of my travel diary about Tulúm I shared some general information and advice about what to see and do in the area. As I promised, this second part will deal with hotels and restaurants. I will let you know where we stayed – four different hotels in total – and which ones among the many places to eat and drink you can find in Tulúm were our favourites.
As I have already said, even the most beautiful hotels in Tulúm will have their "rustic" sides, meaning mosquitos, little geckos in the bathroom, possibly sea water from the shower and maybe not 24 hours of electricity. But none of these things lessened how happy we felt on this beautiful stretch of the Caribbean coast.

Click on the images to see them larger.

Our beautiful ocean view Casita at Papaya Playa Project.

Papaya Playa Project spreading good vibes.

After-Yoga breakfast at Papaya Playa Project.

Dinner at Tulúm's most famous restaurant: Hartwood (in the photos: our appetizer, a crunchy salad, and dessert, lemon cheesecake). 

Mezcal Cocktails (and later dinner) at Gitano. I am wearing a tunic by Caroline Blomst for Esprit, sandals by EMU and handmade clutch (made by my mother).

Relaxing at Hemingway.

Posada Margherita – equally gorgeous during the day as at night.

Bikini Bootcamp at Amansala Resort.

Mexican lunch at Tacolum.

Perfectly happy at beautiful Casa Violeta.

The jungle shower in our beach front cabana.

Breakfast at Casa Violeta: whole grain pancakes with cacao nibs and chia.

Amazing dresses and accessories at Casa Violeta's boutique.

Dresses in the above photos: borrowed from Casa Violeta's boutique.

Where we stayed:
  • Papaya Playa Project: this hotel is one of the first on Tulúm's seemingly endless beach when you come to the beach road from Tulúm pueblo. It covers a huge area and consists of many different smaller or bigger cabanas and little houses, a beach bar and restaurant, a spa and yoga area. We spent our first night in a rustic beach front cabana and then switched to a "new casita". If you can, definitely go for the latter - they are divine! You'll have your own little rooftop terrace and front porch overlooking the beach. Which means (if, like us, you wake up really early in the morning) you can watch the sun rise over the ocean from your bed. Before you head to breakfast, make sure to join a yoga session at least once - a very special experience on the beach! PPP also has a very cool beach restaurant and bar, which is great for lunch, cocktails or dinner. They regularly have DJ guests and host beach parties. 
  • Hemingway: our second hotel, a little further up the beach. Hemingway has two different types of rooms: huts on the beach and huts a little further away from the beach in the "Hemingway Jungle Lodge". I loved the beach beds and hammocks here so much that I spent a lot of time just lying on the beach and reading my book. The restaurant at Hemingway is Italian and very good. 
  • Amansala: If you want to combine your holiday on a Caribbean beach with a little health and fitness boost, I recommend you join Amansala's "Bikini Bootcamp". I got the chance to try it out for two days and I enjoyed it a lot. You'll have a daily changing schedule of workouts, yoga, meditation and group excursions, and also the (healthy) meals will be scheduled. Of course it's up to you how strict you take the schedule and how many classes you join each day. If you're up for it, you can start your day with a "coconut workout" on the beach. Believe me, with a backdrop as dreamy as Tulúm's beach, it's a lot easier to work on your muscles before breakfast. I especially loved Kickboxing and Zumba with their trainer Kate – and, saying that, I am usually not a "Zumba person" at all. 
  • Casa Violeta: This beautiful little spot lies a bit further up the beach road, in the slightly more exclusive area of Tulúm. I must say, I loved this stretch of the beach the most. Here, the water looked even more turquoise and the sand even whiter – it made you want to run into the ocean and plash about in the water immediately. The hotel and its restaurant are gorgeous. There's a little enchanted-looking garden, a beautiful boutique and the cabanas are very tasteful, too. Even though all rooms are very close to the beach, I would still recommend to get one which is right on the beach, in order to make your experience perfect. Oh, by the way, you absolutely must try their iced coffee with milk and the chocolate truffles for dessert (you can have a very light lunch of humus and quinoa to balance it). 

Where to eat and drink:
  • Hartwood: If you're going to Tulúm, you will most probably have heard of this restaurant before you get there. Almost all travel features about Tulúm include it (the New York Times has written a good piece on it which is worth reading). And, what can I say, once you've been here for dinner, you will understand why. If you manage to get a table, that is. Before coming to Tulúm I had heard that Hartwood did not take reservations, but later we found out that this is no longer true. If you want a table in the evening, you have to line up in front of the restaurant to make a reservation between 2 or 3 in the afternoon. That's how it works. When we went, we were lucky and got a table at the bar (without a reservation). The food was delicious! Try the beetroot and corn ice cream. Also, everybody says the fish and pulpo are divine (but obviously, as a Vegetarian, I wouldn't know). 
  • Posada Margherita: After a few days of Nachos, Tacos and Salsa we started to crave Italian food (ironically, it feels the most like home). Posada Margherita is the place to go. The restaurant is stunningly designed (especially in the evening with a hundred candles burning in its garden) and the food and drinks were perfect! They also have a great juice bar - stop here when you're walking along the beach in the early afternoon. 
  • Gitano: This place feels like a real restaurant experience. You can see its pink neon logo glowing in the green of the jungle, and when you come in, you will see a huge disco ball dangling between the palm leaves. Gitano has great Caribbean food and tasty Mezcal cocktails.
  • Mateos: If you want good Mexican food, Mateos is your place. I loved their vegetarian Burritos and home made Nachos, and they have great juices, smoothies, shakes and Mexican beers. Everything was so good! A must-try! In the evening, you can have a drink on their sunset lounge before dinner. 
  • Restaurare: A Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant in Tulúm. I am still surprised I was able to convince my boyfriend to go here for dinner one night. And, you know what, we both loved the food. Sweet potatoes, beetroot, quinoa, avocado, beans, veggie chips, ... it was food heaven!
  • La Nave: This Italien restaurant is located in Tulúm pueblo. As I said in part one of my travel diary, you must have dinner in Tulúm town at least once to experience its atmosphere and crowd – and to see the difference in prices between beach and town firsthand. The food (homemade pasta, pizza, fish, ...) at La Nave is amazing and the sizes of the meals are huge. 

Of course there are a lot more places to discover in Tulúm, this was just a little collection of my favorite places. I hope you've enjoyed it.

All photos taken by myself with the Sony RX100 III Cybershot (or my iPhone).

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Tulúm Travel Diary – Part 1

Here's the first part of my travel diary about Tulúm, Mexico! I wanted to write it as soon as I could, before the memory of sand underneath my feet, hot nights with the background sounds of tropical birds, sleeping under thatched roofs, and waking up to the sunrise over the ocean and the sound of the waves diminishes (I hope it won't. I will try to keep everything in mind as vividly as I can). 

Tulúm was even more beautiful than I imagined. It was my first trip to both the Caribbean and to Mexico – and maybe it was a good place to start. Of course Tulúm is not Mexico, it is merely one tiny town – and mainly beach road –  with a dreamlike beach, Maya ruins and a lot of beautiful hotels, restaurants and shops. Thus, I don't feel like I got to know Mexico during this trip, but maybe I got a glimpse of it. Especially because we also travelled around Yucatán a little bit.

When my aunt and uncle visited Tulúm about 20 years ago, there was nothing there except for the Maya ruins. No hotels, no bars, restaurants or shops. It is crazy to think that this little microcosm has developed in such a short time. Tulúm is still a long way from the mass tourism and the hotel blocks of Cancún or Playa del Carmen – and I think this is precisely why people come to Tulúm. There, you can mainly find small "eco chic" hotels with relatively simple cabins or huts, which do not have electricity all the time and often use sea water in the showers. Most restaurants in Tulúm have stone ovens with naked flames and use local ingredients for their food. It feels a little bit like a beach community of dropouts – but at the same time quite hip and stylish. 

This first part of my travel diary will cover general information about Tulúm, what to bear in mind when going there, what to see and do. I will publish a second part in which I will feature the hotels we stayed in (four different ones), and our favourite restaurants. In other words, answers to the only question you have to worry about when on holiday: "Where are we going to have dinner tonight?".
Enjoy part one!

Click on the images to see them larger.

Visiting the Maya ruins of Tulúm. Jumpsuit by Asos, sunglasses by Illesteva.

Tulúm's beach road and shops along it.

Dreamcatchers Tulúm-style.

A perfect Mexican dinner at Mateos.

The beautiful Gran Cenote (can you spot me in the water?).

Lagoon Xel-Ha in Akumal.

Embroidered cotton dress by Baum und Pferdgarten, bracelets by AnniLu, Tiffany and others, rings by Catbird and Natalie Marie Jewellery, photographed in our Casita at Papaya Playa Project.

Cenote Dos Ojos.

Extremely beautiful and incredibly delicious: Posada Margherita.

Colour explosions: souvenir shops in Tulúm pueblo.

The ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá.

The beach bar at Papaya Playa Project.

I have already tried to describe the general atmosphere of Tulúm. And when doing so, I was referring to one part of Tulúm: the beach area. You need to know that Tulúm consists of two parts: Tulúm pueblo, a little town along a main road, and a long stretch of the Caribbean beach with a little road lined by hotels, restaurants and shops.

Even though you will want to stay in the beach area (after all that's what this holiday is all about, right?), you should definitely pay a visit to Tulúm pueblo. Not just because there are supermarkets, banks and other necessities, but also because town is a whole different thing. I recommend to do your souvenir shopping in town: there are a hundred shops to choose from and the prices are a lot better than in the touristy beach area. The same goes for restaurant prices. You will definitely note a difference when you go to restaurants in town (and there are some really good ones!). 

Speaking of prices, Tulúm is expensive. One could say that you pay a lot for the simple pleasure of a straw hut. And especially prices for drinks and meals are quite high, sometimes as high as or even higher than restaurant prices in Hamburg. As I said, eating out in Tulúm pueblo is cheaper.
We always paid in Mexican Pesos, not in US Dollars, because that's what we got from the ATM's and because the exchange rate was slightly better for us this way.
Always remember to take enough cash with you. Almost all restaurants and shops in Tulúm do not take credit cards.

Also, if you want to get out of town from time to time, I recommend to rent a car for the whole duration of your trip. We picked up a rental car at the airport which we kept for the whole two weeks of our stay and we found it very convenient that we could just drive to town or go on a day trip on our own. (Look for good rental car deals at home, before you start your trip.)

With our car we were able to see quite a bit outside of Tulúm, too. Here's what you can do in and around Tulúm:
  • The Tulúm ruins: the ancient Maya city is the main tourist sight and origin of modern day Tulúm.
  • Cenotes: these natural swimming pools, that were created when caves collapsed, are an absolute must-see. You can snorkel with fish (and sometimes turtles) in the turquoise water or just admire the caves. I loved Gran Cenote, which is very close to Tulúm.
  • Xel-Ha: If you like snorkeling definitely drive to Akumal and its lagoon Xel-Ha. When we went there, the weather wasn't the best and still the lagoon and its tropical fish were amazing!
  • Chichén Itza and Ik-Kil Cenote: If you're in the mood for a longer day trip, go to the ancient Maya city Chichén Itza. It is a fascinating place with a dark, brutal history. When going there you pass Valladolid, a colonial town, and you can learn a lot about Yucatán simply by driving around it. You will also pass the beautiful Ik-kil Cenote.

Some general information that might be useful in Tulúm: 
pack mosquito spray, high sun screen (SPF 50), and a torch (when you walk back to your hotel from a restaurant on the beach, the path might not be lit). You will probably not need any or not a lot of warm clothes – when we stayed in Tulúm, it was still hot in the evenings.

The second part of my travel diary will follow soon!

All photos taken by myself with the Sony RX100 III Cybershot (or my iPhone).