Here’s the two-second version: we absolutely love Tulum and you will too.
This little stretch of Caribbean blues and silky sand has jumped to the front of my list for a tranquil, unplugged week of tropical vacay. It feels calm and quaint but not deserted. Hotels still aren’t allowed to build taller than the palm trees but the area is dense with delicious restaurants, yoga studios, and chic boutique hotels. Tulum is in a world of its own; Mexican jungle beach with a classy New York flair, it has Ubud’s aptitude for wellness and self-care, and a food scene on par with Portland (which can include sceney, expensive, and booked up). It’s special. So special that we have vowed to go back next year and we seldom return anywhere within a few years time. This guide is a compilation of our favorite healthy travel and wellness-centered spots and a few notes on tips and tricks we picked up on our Yucatan adventures.
The Healthy Travel Guide to Tulum Mexico
Here’s the quick table of contents for you to search for what you’re looking for.
WHEN TO GO
We went to Tulum at the very end of October and the beginning of November. It was quiet, restaurants were not completely booked (except Hartwood, it opened for the season halfway through our trip), the road was mellow, and most days when we took the bikes out we were the only cyclists on the road. In the mornings, it seemed like a big private beach and we never once felt overwhelmed by crowds, loud music, or hawkers. As any tourist destination does, it got progressively busier from Monday- Friday. If you want quiet, a trip during the week if your best bet. If you want more of a party scene, later in the week is a better time for you (we didn’t party much and still had a great weekend). We absolutely recommend the time of year we went. The crowds (apparently December and April are uber crowded), weather, hurricane season and restaurant access vary throughout the year so be sure to research what time of year will best suit the vacay you want.
WHERE TO STAY
Tulum is essentially a long skinny beach. The beach has one main road that runs from the ruins (north) to Casa Malca (south) and takes about 20 minutes by car from far north to far south. From the most northern point to most southern point isn’t walkable but it is bikeable and taxi-able. People refer to the two sides of the main road as the “beach side” and “jungle side”. Town is 15 minutes inland via taxi or bike and on a different road.
We stayed at Ahua in the southern region of the beach and loved it. Most hotels in Tulum are tucked in off the road and just far enough back on the beach to be private. Though it didn’t seem like it from our hotel grounds, we were surrounded by restaurants, coffee, other beautiful hotels, and lots to do. It’s a win-win setup. We prefer the southern location for the beaches, access to restaurants, and walkability and will definitely continue to stay in that area when we go back.
Note: Our friends stayed at Mezzanine (northern beaches) and loved it. Wherever you end up on the beach is a good choice.
Town is another option. It’s way cheaper than staying at the beach but it is a 15-20 minute commute to the beach area. We stayed in town two nights and felt like our beachy vacation was put on hold (100% recommend visiting town but we preferred staying at the beach).
WHAT TO BRING
- Mosquito Repellent – the bugs are NO JOKE
- Cash (they accept USD and Pesos) – some ATM fees were 14 USD!
- Sunscreen and rose water – the sun is scorching, I got heat rash
- A hat and beach sarong or scarf
- A reusable water bottle
- Cards + books
- Activated charcoal (just in case)
- Consider linen pants or long dresses for dinner, my legs got eaten by mosquitos at dinners
HEALTHY TULUM EATS
The Real Coconut at Sanará Tulum
100% gluten/grain, dairy, and soy-free. Fresh, vegetable-heavy dishes, creative tonics, and healthy versions of quesadillas, avocado toast, and tacos. We loved their plantain bread, coconut tortillas, and coconut yogurt, and stopped in for immunity boosting shots when my body was hinting at a cold. This is heaven on earth (with a view) for the gluten-free vacationer as well as the average, non-foodie yogi. Pop in before a yoga class at their beautiful, oceanfront yoga space. Allergies: 10/10 up to par with any needs (even coconut).
One of our favorite dinners of the trip. We went with friends and none of us could not stop talking about this dinner the next day. The food was incredible… my husband said it was the best octopus he has ever had and I still remember the fresh lobster. Awesome atmosphere, tasty drinks, colorful open kitchen and very funny staff. Don’t skip dessert! P.S. they accept bitcoin for payment (my husband loved that). Allergies: Be sure to show them a celiac card because there wasn’t a great understanding of gluten. I did have a gluten-free meal. Very few dishes contain dairy.
If you want to eat a healthy breakfast in a beautiful little oasis, eat here. It’s definitely top three breakfast spots in Tulum. I got a coconut milk, superfood chia seed pudding, and matcha and was delighted. Be sure to stop by their bar or have a skinny margarita at one of their beautiful tables atop vintage, boho rugs. One of the best drinks of the trip. Allergies: lots of gluten-free options, healthy options, and indulgent options. They were very kind about substitutions for me.
I feel very comfortable reviewing this establishment because we ordered every single thing on the menu for dinner. It was fantastic. Every bite tastes so FRESH! It’s a shared dish spot so go with friends and go hungry. It’s a gorgeous restaurant and epitomizes Tulum with its twinkly lights, trendy waitstaff, crowd, and tasty drinks. We will be back, Arca. Allergies: They were aware of what menu items were gluten-free and double checked with the chef on items I felt unsure about. I never felt uncomfortable asking about ingredients.
Yummy spot for strong coffee (says my husband the coffee drinker) and pastries or an eggy breakfast in town. The joint isn’t fancy but it has a quaint back patio engulfed in palms and a coral painted walls. I didn’t eat here but the food looked simple and fresh. There is a beautiful dress and tunic shop one or two doors down that you have to stop in. Allergies: Unknown but it seemed like a menu where anyone could find something to suit them.
This restaurant reminded me of Austin, TX! It sits on the jungle side of the street and the kitchen is in an airstream. It’s a 100% gluten-free taco joint with delicious guac, yucca fries, and a variety of tacos. It’s simple, no frills, and affordable spot for lunch or dinner. This is your spot for a laid-back meal. Allergies: No gluten here! I didn’t indulge as much as my husband did because of nightshades, but not many people share that sensitivity with me. Not corn-free.
They crush it with their golden milk (cayenne-free). This vegan joint was on our hotel premises which means we frequented it most mornings and afternoons. We mostly got drinks (which were all good) but they have vegan dishes and raw desserts. I think their morning refreshments are the best in Tulum. Allergies: Restaurant is vegan and I believe it’s gluten-free. If it’s not totally gluten-free, the majority of its options are gluten-free and it has nut-free milk.
Delicious Thai food, awesome 2 for 1 margarita happy hour (the basil marg, unsweetened, is perfect), and one of the best deck’s in Tulum. It’s a great place to stop for lunch on your way to the northern activities, otherwise, it’s a bit outside the main area. We liked everything we ordered here (the Tiger Cry was bomb) — any type of eater will be happy here. Allergies: they are very careful about gluten if you mention it’s a problem for you. I ordered something the waiter believed to be gluten-free and he came back out to tell me he had made a mistake and it was not gluten-free BUT the chef could accommodate my needs. Very nice of them.
Do it for the ‘gram. It’s an adorable matcha bar on the side of the road in the jungle, so it has to make the list. Matcha Mamma stood out for it’s Instagram aesthetics (it’s so damn cute) more than it did for its drinks. I know you’ll want the pic too. We went once, got a drink and some pics and then didn’t return. Combining Raw Love’s drinks and Matcha Mama’s look would be perfection. Allergies: Mostly gluten-free/dairy-free (almond milk but no coconut milk)
Real food restaurant in town serving up a huge breakfast menu with options for all types of eaters. Gluten-free pancakes, scrambles, juices, avocado toast, etc. — it’s all there. There is almost always a wait here so either go early or know you may have to walk around town for a bit before your table is ready. Allergies: Many gluten-free options. Options for all types of eaters and allergies. Very accommodating!
WHERE WE WANT TO EAT NEXT TIME:
Hartwood (make a res NOW)
Sabor De Mar
Batey (Mojitos in town)
- food was bland and overrated but loved the vibe and margaritas
- we were sad not to be thrilled by the food because it’s a gorgeous restaurant. Stop in for a drink before dinner somewhere else or dessert
WHAT TO DO
- Walk the beach. We stayed at Ahau Tulum and would wake up, have our tea on our deck each morning and then hit the beach for a long walk. We preferred walking south as the beach becomes less crowded and more jungly. Depending on where you stay and which direction you go, you can walk for hours. Jump in the ocean when you get too hot, and stop for bites or a drink along the way. Casa Malca is one of the last hotels and after that, there isn’t much except for a quiet beach. If you walk north, the beach becomes a bit rockier and less rural but it’s the best direction to walk for sunset strolls.
- Ride bikes as much as possible. It’s the easiest most fun way to get around. Every hotel has bikes for rent and a bike lock area. We rode bikes to the ruins (which I don’t think were that exciting… just being honest), to lunch, to get massages, and to check out other hotels, etc. Take the bikes out for a day and see where the wind takes you! The road between the ocean and the jungle is a little bumpy but cars are extremely used to bikers on the road so it felt really safe. Please don’t ride after dark.
- Hotel Hop. There are so many stunning hotels in Tulum and getting a glimpse of each one is fun. Many are spectacular in a beachy, chic way. Pop into different places and look around, dip in their pool (you may have to sneak) or grab a bite.
- Get your yoga on. Tulum hosts many yoga retreats, is home to tons of skilled yoga teachers and their studios are as picturesque as it gets. Check out Yoga, Amansala, Holistika Tulum, Sanará Tulum to start, but there are many to choose from.
- You must go check out Casa Malca. It’s rumored the current establishment sits on a property where Pablo Escobar used to have an estate. The hotel is owned by an art dealer and has funky art, swinging couches and chairs, and a cool rooftop vista point (and maybe bar up there too, it was being built when we were there). They also have an underground pool… you’ll have to find it. They serve crickets with their tequila shots 🙂
- Sian Ka’an Biosphere (World Heritage Site) was pretty cool. We did this tour and had a good time. It was a fun way to see the prized reserve, float through gorgeous mangroves, and take a break from the beach. Float slowly so you can take it all in and make sure to ask your guide to point out the air plants in the mangroves- they are HUGE! We wanted to do the Kayak Mangrove tour but it was sold out. Next time!
- Go to the Pueblo/town. The pueblo is completely different than the beach area and much more authentic Mexico. 15 minutes between the two and worlds apart. It’s where residents live, full of street-side Mexican restaurants, shops (for tourists) with tunics, hats, beautiful hammocks and blankets (and junk as well). It’s a dose of reality for those who think Tulum’s is a dream that just dropped out the sky and onto the sand. We stayed in town for 2 nights on our trip and it was definitely cheaper but took us out of our beach relaxation state (feels more like city living). We were glad we experienced it. Dedicate an afternoon to go visit, shop a bit, have a meal there, and make sure to pop into some of the dress boutiques (gorgeous).
- Play on the Fred Flintstone Jungle Gym. It’s a unique outdoor workout facility where all the weights are made handmade from wood and cement. You can drop in and workout on your own or attend their morning class. Definitely one of the coolest gyms I’ve seen.
- Sweat Lodge. You can find all the usual spa fixings around town as well as reiki, light therapy, mud baths, and tarot card readings. Tulum also has locations for a traditional sweat lodge (known as a Temazcal). We really wanted to do a one but they sell out quickly! Next time. This will not be your average sauna session, expect shamans, chanting, and intensity.
- Cenotes. We only visited one cenote. It was very pretty but surprisingly cold (I rented a wetsuit). It was enclosed and underground, we saw bats, and it was the purest, pitch black inside (unless our guide had his light on). They were filming the new Peter Pan movie inside which I’m now excited to see. I would recommend going to a cenote but expect it to be a little less glamorous (and way more crowded) than the pictures online show it to be. Go early or go with the crowds!
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