Say Mexico, people think Cancun. But just 130km from there, sitting on the eastern part of Yucatan Peninsula on the Riviera Maya, is Tulum. Once to be a place of worship for Mayan Kings, it hardly sounds like the ideal destination however fast forward eight centuries and it’s one of Mexico’s finest attributes, a bustling, beautiful haven for tourists and travel-junkies alike. Forget huge holiday resorts and mod cons – sure, Tulum has eco hotels and up-to-date eateries that cater to both modest and luxe budgets – but a lot of it hasn’t changed. The stunning scenery, the old buildings, the bohemian way of life, it’s still very much a small ruin on the shore of the Caribbean Sea and that’s what brings the masses. That, and the gorgeous beaches, of course.
Tulum’s cliff coastline alone deserves more than just a few Instagram shots. White sands, clear green water, Tulum is the perfect paradise and the only site built overlooking the ocean. You don’t need to be an archeological buff to see that the sites are what make Tulum so special. El Castillo is the tallest building in Tulum, and sits on the cliff-edge, shrouded in lush greenery and overlooking the jade green sea. For untouched remains, take a trip to Coba. It’ll open your eyes to a 26-mile site, home to pyramids and original ancient ruins.
But sunbathing and site-seeing isn’t all there is to do.
The way the land is shaped and the site’s natural amenities mean that Tulum is perfect for active jaunts. Think diving, snorkeling, hiking. The huge variety of landscapes means it’s not unheard of to come across a lagoon, sinkhole and canal within the space of one day. If that isn’t enough nature for you, explore one of Tulum’s many nature reserves. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve gives wildlife fanatics a chance to see some of the world’s most exotic creatures, from jaguars to tapirs, while the 60-acre Monkey Sanctuary is home to adorable spider monkeys.
For the ultimate stay, book in to Azulik Resort, the only cabana complex built on the cliff. It comprises of 11 rustic beachside cabanas, without electricity. Instead of your shrill iPhone alarm, wake up to the sound of birds and the soft sea waves. The villas are eco-friendly, made of local woods, and each with their own private decks and floor to window ceilings. It’s the perfect romantic retreat for honeymooning couples.
Tulum is made up of much more than serine and architectural perfection. If a dance and a drink is your vacation must-have, don’t fret, Tulum has a scene, too. Try Papaya Playa Project, a popular club hosting parties and music events. Proud of their homegrown talent, the club hosts local bands four times a week. Treat yourself to traditional cuisine at restaurant, Hechizo (Spanish for ‘enchantment’) on Quintana Roo before you go. Gourmet food at a beautiful five star hideaway, operate by a husband and wife team.
Be sure to get in a little pampering, too. Maya Spa, in the Cabanas Copal Hotel offers nighttime temazcal sessions; steam baths that indigenous Mexicans believed had healing powers. Expect hot stones, honey and a healthy glow afterwards.
Really, the question isn’t why would you to go Tulum. It’s why wouldn’t you?