We first fell in love with Tulum during a vacation in 2013. At that time, nobody we knew here on the West Coast had even heard of it. We were so excited to talk about Tulum, but when we said the name to people, most just stared back at us. Common responses were: “Is it near Cabo?” or “I went to Mazatlan for Spring Break” and sadly, “it’s in Mexico? No thanks.” Fortunately Instagram soon delivered Tulum’s message in the best way possible, with pictures of beautiful people in swimsuits having sexy fun times.
That’s a great argument for a honeymoon, but weddings were largely “unwanted” in Tulum, from both sides. Couples viewed it as too lacking and rustic for weddings, while the hotels had one too many bad experience with loud, drunken wedding parties. All of these notions may have been warranted because we searched high and low, and couldn’t find even one photo of a custom luxury wedding in Tulum. Maybe there had been some, but we couldn’t find the evidence. Within months, we were lucky to with a great couple and plan a gorgeous wedding in Tulum. It was beautifully photographed and later that year, the wedding was published in print magazines and all over the internet. For us, this was a welcome turning point in the perception of Tulum as a destination.
Five years later, we now have an intimate relationship with Tulum, and over half of our destination event business takes place in the greater Yucatan Peninsula region. We are thrilled to be planning dozens weddings, mile-marker birthdays, and co-ed bachelor/bachelorette parties, and each time newcomers love Tulum for the same reasons we do. It is a boutique destination, yet a well-rounded vacation experience. Just 90 miles south of resort-filled Cancun, if feels millions of miles away from the crowds. Boasting some of the most beautiful stretches of Caribbean Coast, it has miles of white sand, turquoise water, 3D IMAX screen-saver beaches. That’s a major draw, but there is SO much more to love about Tulum, so if you are wondering if you should book your trip or plan a wedding here, keep reading to get the insider scoop on Tulum.
Food. Drinks. Style. Vibes. And that’s the short list. Of course it also has tropical weather, white sand and warm ocean water, which we all want. But for us, Tulum is more about what it “doesn’t” have. It doesn’t have massive 400 room hotels; nothing is all-inclusive; there are no key-cards, no golf courses, no TV’s in the rooms, no all-you-can-eat buffets, no roving mariachis, no booze cruises. You will be hard pressed to find a chain store or hotel of any kind. But that doesn’t mean it is “rustic” and boring either.
Bottom line: Despite the fact that Tulum is a boutique destination, you won’t have to sacrifice style or world class food during your stay.
Tulum has built a reputation for sustainable and healthy cuisine – made by world class chefs with plenty of local influence. When you arrive, don’t expect a traditional Mexican restaurant diet of rice and beans. Think more along the lines of “Caribbean Mexico” with fresh, natural ingredients. Meals are prepared in wood-fired ovens and grills, using locally sourced ingredients which include a lot of exotic items and the freshest produce.
Must try: Seafood, duh: Grilled Octopus (It’s fun to say pulpo!) and fish ceviche made from Hogfish or Snapper. Due to the melting pot of expat resident chefs, the Italian and Indian food options are also top-notch.
This isn’t the Margarita part of Mexico. Tulum is just a short skip across the sea from Cuba, which makes it he Mojito part of Mexico, and we’re not complaining. Expect this refreshing cocktail to be served with unique twists, like our favorite: Brown Sugared Rum Mojito. In the right places, you’ll find them grinding fresh sugar and using the syrup in your cocktail. Uno mas for favor.
To top it off, we discovered our love affair with Mezcal white in Tulum. Like Tequila, Mezcal is made from Agave, but the Agave is roasted first for a sophisticated smoky flavor. Tulum’s craft cocktail mixologists infuse the signature smokey flavor with local hibiscus, jicama, herbs and spices for an exotic experience. Another bonus is that Mezcal is considered to provide an “upper” vs. a “downer” alcohol, giving you a fun buzz.
Must try: Classic Rum Mojito, sipping Mezcal with orange slices and chili salt, Passion Fruit Daiquiris
Tulum defines sexy, casual style. Hot, tropical weather means less clothes – and these clothes should be all about stylish boho comfort. When you pack, keep outfits in mind that can transition from beach to dinner to dancing. Flowy rompers and dresses are our go-to for a “one and done” mentality. And honestly, you will spend more time in your bikini and cover up than anything else… so bring options! Tulum is also a Yoga-centric town, so don’t forget your yoga pants if this is on your agenda.
Must try: French-cut one-piece swimsuit with a long sheer skirt. Bikini top, cheeky shorts and silk kimono. Oversized sunnies. Chic slides that can transition from beach to dinner. Lace bralettes to layer under low cut sun-dresses or rompers.
Tulum is a forward-thinking community that attracts healthy, active travelers from all over the world. Young or old, wealthy, or poor, the bulk of the crowd is on the sexy side. The nightlife is lively and sultry, with plenty of options if you are staying along the hotel zone. Walk or cab down the dirt road to Rosanegra, Gitano or Casa Jaguar and follow the music. Better yet, ask some of the young, beachy locals if they know where a DJ is spinning tonight, and you might find yourself dancing on the sand with strangers… if you’re into that kind of thing. The exotic atmosphere combined with crappy wifi and cell service, creates an environment where you can be carefree and feel removed from society if you let yourself. In addition to the scene, the area offers more culture than the average umbrella-drink destination. There are several easy excursions to authentic sights that are only found in the Yucatan peninsula.
Must try: exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of either Tulum or Muyil; floating down the canals of the Sian Kaán biosphere; and snorkeling in a cenote.
Traveling your group to Tulum is pretty do-able as destinations do-able, but there are pros and cons. When we work with a client in choosing a destination for their special event, we take time to ask important questions about their goals, desires, and their guests. All of these details can inform us as to making sure there are no unwanted surprises or disappointments. Here are some pros and cons for taking your group to Tulum.
- A large group of people can easily stay close together at hotels with different price points ranging from $1000 a night down to $70 a night. There also lots of options to buy out entire properties ranging in size from 5 rooms to 45 rooms… perfect for those who want private for both large and intimate parties.
- Transportation is handy. Depending on where you are in Tulum, it can be an easily navigated. From many hotels you can walk, rent a bike, or take a $5 cab to get just about everywhere.
- It is a safe destination. The hotels are good about providing security and at night the streets are filled with other tourists, walking from place to place.
- It’s an easy flight for most purposes. If you reside in LA, taking everyone to Fiji vs. Tulum is a ten hours less flying and about $1000 cheaper for the ticket. A major “pro” in our opinion.
- It’s the jungle and there are mosquitos year round. Some seasons are more pesky than others, so our tip is to take herbal supplements like oregano and garlic for two weeks before your travel to Tulum. Plus, spray yourself with bug spray religiously in the evenings. If you are extra delicious and get bit no matter what, pack Claritin for immediate relief so the bites don’t ruin your fun. But be aware that your pregnant guests may not attend due to the concern of Zika.
- It’s not the “cheap Mexico” people might be expecting. Tulum can be priced as much as the states and often more depending on where you live. You can find great deals and cheap eats if you want to go off the beaten path, but the rule of thumb is popular equals expensive. The more popular the hotel or restaurant, the pricier the rooms, meals and drinks are. Like anywhere, in Tulum you will pay to play. But the value of what you get should outweigh the costs.
- It can be windy, really windy. The sky can burst open rain without warning. Sometimes there’s seaweed in the ocean. Lots of it. These are things to be aware of. Should these situations arise, our advice is to bring a deck of cards and order another drink.
- Unseasoned travelers may struggle in Tulum. As tropical destinations go, Tulum is not as easy as Cancun, and Cancun is not as easy as say, Hawaii. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Mexico is a foreign country.
- Tulum is a two hour drive from the airport.
- The building codes in Tulum are “different” than we know them to be, so you may have to drag your suitcase through the sand, or climb a wonky set of stairs which may or may not have a handrail.
- Tulum is on a sensitive grid, so you may not have A/C and you definitely can’t flush your toilet paper down the toilet. (It goes in the trash can.) So think about your guest list, and perhaps limiting it to those that will be comfortable with those details. If the scales start to tip, then there are several alternatives to Tulum that might make more sense for your group.
In the end, we’ve never known anyone to be sorry they went to Tulum. If you’re like us and love a vacation that is one part off-the-grid adventure, one part sipping a cocktail on a beach chair, and one part bohemian glam dance-party, then Tulum might be your perfect storm of good times.