The Riviera Maya’s bohemian beach escape
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
Cancun gets kudos for its glitzy resorts. Playa Del Carmen’s laidback personality certainly has its appeal.
But 90 minutes’ drive further south is an of-the-grid oasis where the Caribbean beach vacation is distilled to its essentials: seemingly endless stretches of bone-white sand; Instagram-worthy turquoise waters; and inexpensive small Tulum hotels and restaurants strung together with “manana” vibe that encourages you to just relax and soak it all in.
Bienvenido a Tulum.
Pack light for a trip here because everything you need to enjoy this boho beach town – swimwear, shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops – will easily fit in a carry-on. Tulum is one of those precious few places where if you’re wearing more than the minimum for propriety, you’re likely overdressed.
That’s because everything here revolves around the foamy seas that lap the six-mile-long beachfront stretch. There’s no dress code at Que Fresco!, a seaside bar with Crayola-colored tables under a beachfront palapa where denizens feast on fish tacos washed down with icy “cheladas” (beer with lime in a salt-rimmed glass).
You don’t need to get gussied up for dinner at Casa Banana, the super-casual restaurant at Nueva Vida De Ramiro, one of Tulum’s best-loved hotels where a clutch of breeze-filled bungalows lines the sand.
And you won’t need much more than swimwear and shorts when you visit the town’s famous Mayan ruins (which you must), the only oceanfront remains in the Caribbean.
Touring the grounds of the built-by-hand cliffside castillo will be sweaty work. But the beach that unfurls 40 feet below at the bottom of wooden staircase is a welcome reward for your efforts.
If you’re further motivated to move from beach chair you might rent a bike and freewheel into the “pueblo” (town), where the main drag is lined with a hodgepodge of tour companies, cantinas and bars where you can sip a margarita to the strains of a roving band.
Or take a tour inland to Gran Cenote, a nearby watering hole where you can refresh yourself in a crystalline pool on a sweltering day.
But chances are you’ll spend most of your time in Tulum doing what the locals do: simply taking life as it comes. Sunny skies will invite beachfront languor.
An afternoon thunderstorm offers justification to linger longer over your cerveza. And sunrise brings the opportunity to do it all over again.