After a very long hiatus prepping for my sister in law's destination wedding, and then of course, vacationing for her wedding for 10 days, I am finally home and back on the blogfront!
We had a fabulous time in Tulum, Mexico and spent a good chunk of it in the Boca Paila area where my sister in law's dream wedding took place, and where they and their very large group of friends from England stayed. I have been to Mexico about 10 times, and have been to other tropical places probably twice as many times, but I have to say that Tulum is one of the most stunning place I have ever visited.
It's hard to describe Tulum in the context of a resort town. This article sums it up quite nicely,"In Tulum, luxury and earthiness coexist". If I were to try and relate the vibe to something that people would be more familiar with, it would be the rustic-chic atmosphere of a wedding designed around vintage, unique pieces (think weathered wood, mason jars, old typewriters, vintage suitcases). It feels very much like that, but not overdone or cliche (in the way that Pinterest has made those types of weddings).
As you turn onto Boca Paila Road and start making your journey to the heart of Tulum's "hotel zone", you are transported to another word. Dense, low tropical vegetation hugs the narrow, unmarked beach road on either side. Every 100 feet or so there's an eco-chic hotel built into the beach jungle (description to come below), a scattering of small but trendy bikini shops and open air markets, and an amazing assortment of restaurants and bars. One would imagine it's reminiscent of old Hawaii, but probably even more quaint.
On the left hand side are the majority of the "hotels" since that is the beach side. The word "hotel" is a stretch, because there really are no hotels. There is an open air reception desk (usually under a grass hut) and then there are cabanas. Cabanas everywhere. Every "hotel" is different, but one thing you will have to expect is that you cannot flush your toilet paper. It's an eco town and their sewage system is delicate. Fresh water is brought in by water trucks and pumped to the individual resorts. The water pressure is low. Don't even think about taking a bath. Depending on where you stay, you most likely will not have AC. With the nice beach breeze and fans in the cabanas, most people tend to be okay with that. Don't use your hairdryer or you could blow the power to the entire resort (which happened to our group - twice!). As the cabanas (mostly) are huts with grass roofs, you will likely need to sleep with a mosquito net. You will still get bitten by bugs, but it won't be as bad. You might not even have your own bathroom, but a shared communal one reminiscent of summer camp.
The concept of these huts was very hard to digest for me, but when you are there, you get it. The huts are scattered throughout the "hotel grounds" which means white sand and lush green tropical plants and palm trees. It almost doesn't feel real. Every hotel seems to have a resident yogi for beach yoga in the morning. Some hotels are actually yoga resorts and focus very much on spirituality, with their very own shamans. I don't believe we saw a single guest under the age of forty in Tulum. It's a hipsters heaven where likeminded twenty/thirty somethings can experience something entirely different than reality. I think more mature generations are probably scared of the lack of everyday amenities they come to expect on holidays (as was I).
The luxury part comes to play when you realize all of this was no accident. The white washed drift wood bar, the vintage blue mason jars hanging from the palm trees, the outdoor shower off of your room. Everything is carefully thought out and planned to transport guests to the most luxurious, non-luxury vacation they've ever had. Don't be fooled by the Mexican staff at reception; the majority of these utopian getaways are owned by ex-pats, and they know what they're doing. Some of the more affordable cabanas (the ones without private washrooms) are priced so that everyone can enjoy a little taste of Tulum. I believe you can rent a hut for under $100 a night. At some of the "fancier" places, be prepared to spend $500 a night for a basic room (with AC).
Unlike the other 98% of Mexican resort towns, however, there is no such thing as all-inclusive. There is no fast-food or grocery store or Starbucks nearby. It's all part of the lifestyle here (or shall I say "vacationstyle"?). Food comes in the way of a trendy restaurant with $12 margaritas and $10 chips and salsa. Seeing as you have no other options for food, it does add up quickly, but the guests don't seem to mind. The price of the food adds to the "luxury" component that makes up for the bug bites.
Above all, the beach along this stretch is incomparable. I've been to many of the world's best beaches, but I have to say this one tops them all. It is pristine, with soft white sand that stretches forever and crystal clear turquoise water. The beach is the reason these eco-boutique hotels exist. It is, in almost every sense of the phrase, out of this world.
In case you are curious, we didn't stay there. We did spend a good chunk of 4 days of our trip along the Tulum strip with the wedding and other doings, but we were only day guests in this little piece of Paradise.
Many pictures to come in Part II, as well as a recap of where we stayed.
Have you been to Tulum, or somewhere like it? What are your impressions?