Janette Kim Photography



Back in August, Andrew had two weeks to relax before starting his new job so we squeezed in a short vacation. We wanted somewhere that was known for good cuisine, tropical, and most importantly –  had a poolside bar.

Tulum was the first place that popped up in my head but I had reservations due to transportation. To get to Tulum, it requires a two hour drive after landing in Cancun (CUN). It seemed daunting at first, but I reconsidered after discovering a ton of hippie boho chic places that were waiting for us to visit. On top of that, Tulum has been on my radar ever since I unexpectedly stumbled upon Chef Werner’s restaurant, Hartwood, online a few years ago.

When traveling in Mexico, I firmly believe the more the merrier! We were lucky our dear friends Sarah & Dale were able join us on this spontaneous trip. It’s not everyday you’re able to share a once in a lifetime adventure and building memories with friends in a treehouse or diving in a cenote. I, on the other hand, stayed mainly on land since I don’t know how to swim.

Where to Stay?

Most people who travel to Mexico for vacation love it for its affordable all-inclusive resorts. Tulum on the other hand should be viewed as its own entity because “all-inclusive” does not really exist there. It’s also way more secluded, very bohemian, and it can get quite pricey in this jungle. Here is a breakdown on determining where to stay:

The Town of Pueblo
Pueblo is where the locals live and you’ll find plenty of cheap eats but it’s about a 15 minute drive to the beach. Although this area is more affordable, it may hinder you from visiting the beaches and getting the full bohemian experience due to commuting back-and-forth. If you’re okay with that, here’s a hotel that I considered called Casa Pueblo Tulum. It’s beautiful and extremely minimalistic.

ANTOJITOS LA CHIAPANECA: Highly recommend for cheap delicious tacos and we ate here a lot!
TAQUERIA HONORIO: Open from 6am- 2pm everyday. Must try!
BURRITO AMOR: Enjoyed the space more than the food but still good!
EL CAMELLO JR.: Known for ceviche and all the locals highly recommend
CAMPANELLA CREMERIE: Gelato to cool you off from the heat
DEL CIELO: Not enough time to try

The Resorts Along the Beach
If I had no budget then I would’ve 100% stayed at one of the gorgeous resorts along the beach. Let’s be real, the hotels and the restaurants along this strip are pricey so I would’ve been down-and-out by the end of the trip. One of the only all-inclusive resorts I was tempted to book was The Kore. Realistically, we were going to eat out more than dine in which would have defeated the purpose of the deal. So if money ain’t a thang then more power to ya because you will have one hell of an experience! Here are some beautiful hotels to stay at: Azulik (treehouse hotel), Sanara, Casa Malca (Pablo Escobar’s mansion), Nomade, Be Tulum

MATCHA MAMA: A must go Tulum staple! Delicious drinks and fresh fruits!
SAFARI: Tasty and worth trying! Just know each taco is about $4+ each
KIN TOH: If you’re unable to stay at Azulik Hotel then you could still experience it by dining at their restaurant, Kin Toh. Although it’s fine dining, it is a once in a lifetime experience to dine in a treehouse/bird’s nest. FYI, they do accept credit cards but do not allow photography w/ a dslr.
IK LAB: An immersive nature art gallery founded by Peggy Guggenheim’s great grandson! Part of the Azulik Hotel experience and highly recommend swinging by. Admission is free, open everyday from 10am-10pm, must take off shoes before entering, and no dslr photography allowed.
HARTWOOD: Highly encourage making a reservation over a month in advance via email found on their website. Everything is cooked over an open fire with sustainable ingredients. Keep in mind that when it rains, it closes. Credit cards are not accepted so bring enough pesos because you’re going to need it!
RAW LOVE: Fresh & healthy cafe that serves amazing fruit bowls while relaxing on a hammock.

Places we were unable to try due to limited time:

Somewhere In Between
Ultimately, the deciding factor for our stay was based on the quickest way to get to all the delicious places to eat. Ridiculous? I think not. Tulum is known for their cuisine, especially seafood. The places were split between the town and the beach so we decided to stay in the middle at KASA HOTEL. It’s located in Aldea Zama which is a brand new luxury residential area so it’s going through major construction. Our hotel provided a complimentary shuttle to MIA Beach Club and bicycles for extra convenience. We got to enjoy the best of both worlds so this location was ideal for what we wanted to accomplish.

Things You Should Know About Tulum

  • The ENDLESS & MASSIVE amount of algae accumulating all over the shores that no one warns you about! Apparently, algae comes and goes depending on the season, but this lasted a year. Not sure what today’s condition is like but find out before you book.

  • Swim in one of the nearby cenotes such as these:  

    • Grand Cenote: Very popular! Water is very refreshing and clear!

    • Cenote Calavera: AKA Temple of Doom! Tucked away but only a 5 min drive from town! Fun fact: Apparently, if you use your imagination, the holes that people pass through resembles a skull when viewed from above. The word “Calavera” in Spanish means skull which is how this cenote got its cool name.

    • Casa Tortuga: Our cab driver recommended us this cenote! There are 4 cenotes at this one location so you get the most bang for your buck! Includes tour guide, life jacket, goggles, but no lockers.

    • Dos Ojos: If we got a rental this probably would’ve been a must!

  • Tulum is a very bike friendly town so ask your hotel if they provide complimentary bicycles

  • This eco-friendly place is big on yoga so take a class if you can!

  • Tulum beaches have prices comparable to those of big cities in the U.S. like New York City and San Francisco.

  • Brush up on your Spanish! Casa de Cambio=money exchange house

  • Always be cautious whenever traveling in Mexico. Use good judgement and try not to wander off alone especially a night.

  • Taxis are white with a red stripe that should cost about 25-200 pesos. Always negotiate before entering.

  • Don’t faint when you see your bill! The Mexican pesos also use a dollar sign for their currency. So $500 in actuality is $26 in USD. Always double check though because you never know!

  • Always bring your passport when exchanging dollars for pesos and only go to established locations such as: HSBC bank, San Jorge Money Exchange, Chedraui Supermarket.

Rental Car vs. Public Transportation

There’s no right or wrong answer but I would base it on what you feel most comfortable with. Personally, I felt most comfortable with public transportation especially because we weren’t going to travel too far in Tulum. We booked a roundtrip shuttle via Expedia to take us from CUN airport to Tulum. As soon as we exited the airport for pickup, we located the Expedia shuttle which made the entire process super easy. As for booking back, I used our hotels front desk to contact the shuttle service to reserve a time slot to be picked up. So a total of 4+ hours in advance from your return flight time. To get around Tulum, we hailed a taxi or used our hotel’s complimentary shuttle/bicycle.

One day when I’m older, I’m going to return to Tulum and tryout all the stunning places I missed out on my list. And maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to stay at one of those fancy resorts along the beach! If you have any questions regarding Tulum please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Janette Kim1 Comment