One of my first acts of business in 2024 was to book a January trip to some place magical.
One of my first acts of business in 2024 was to book a January trip to some place magical. A place that would completely rejuvenate me and get me back to 100% so I can conquer Fashion Month in February. Tulum was that place. Tulum has always been a favorite of mine. I’d usually go around my birthday in May before the pandemic hit. Every year like clockwork, I’d head to the jungle for pristine beaches to unwind and get to know myself again. There’s something very majestic about Tulum. The people are so friendly and the sunrises right after a light rain in the mornings are something to behold. It’s rare to be in awe of nature. We get so used to it but Tulum doesn’t let you make these things mundane. The sky is so deeply velvety black at night that you can see every star with crystal clear clarity. The sand on the beach is seems untouched and the waters warm and translucent. Now that I’ve been to Tulum in the off season, it’s the only time I’ll ever visit again. It’s definitely better to go in the off season when the weather is great with less crowds.
It wasn’t over crowded and rowdy but slow, deliberate and peaceful. You could almost have the entire beach to yourself on a lazy afternoon. A few popular restaurants I visited were all but empty and all the attention to service beholden to you. It was lovely and I’ve now made it a tradition to visit Tulum every January for a lush, hot and beautifully tropical getaway. Of course I found the most stunning airbnb to stay at courtesy of an Instagram search. I wanted to live like a local, off in the jungle, instead of on the commercial Tulum beach strip. I wanted to try the local mom and pop cafes and experience what this version of a life could look like for me, if only for fun. I highly enjoyed every aspect of my trip and honestly can’t wait to return. So if you’re looking for a place, a magical place, to bring you back to yourself, Tulum is it! La Valera neighborhood to be exact. Let’s get into this guide to a relaxing vacation in Tulum, Mexico. For more travel guides on everywhere I’ve been from Paris to Morocco check out the Travel Category.
WHERE TO STAY
ALTAR TULUM CASA COPAL AIRBNB
I saw this incredible Airbnb on Instagram and instantly booked it for 3 days. It’s in La Veleta, an up and coming jungle town about a 10 minute drive from the main beach strip in Tulum. La Veleta gives me the Williamsburg of New York City vibes with tons of super cute coffee shops and farm to table restaurants. I also noticed quite a few expats working there as well. This airbnb is an architectural marvel with beautiful decor and built in furnishings. It has 2 bedrooms and 2 and a half baths. The primary bedroom overlooks the living area but can be closed off with giant wooden folding doors. The primary bedroom also has an amazing soaking tub. The rooftop features a shaded lounge area and a magnificent pool with a water feature. You wake up to the sounds of the birds and it so relaxing. Casa Copal also has it’s own filtered water tap and I was able to make fresh coffee every day. The coffee the host provided was absolutely delicious by the way. The airbnb is in a small complex with about 3-4 other properties as well. Some of which, also have their own small dipping pools. One street over is a busy street with tons of restaurants, bars, shopping stores and even a convenience store with all the necessities you’d ever need. It’s super easy to get a cab in this area as well. Roundtrip transportation to the airport in Cancun was also organized by the hosts, making it a super smooth process.
Panamera Hotel Pool Area
Panamera Hotel Beach Area
PANAMERA HOTEL (Tulum Beach Hotel Strip)
Panamera Hotel was another property that I had the opportunity to visit while in Tulum. I only went for the beach club but the vibes and the service there were top notch. This hotel has an amazing pool and restaurant and the beachclub being small and intimate is one of the most sough after in Tulum. The truffle fries at this hotel were the best I ever had. I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a place to stay on the main beach strip of hotels in Tulum. You will be right in the action and can walk to many shops, restaurants and activities but this place is a quiet oasis once inside. Regardless, I’d definitely head here early to get a bed for a beach club day if you don’t end up staying here.
Dinner at Nomade Tulum, Ocumare
Dinner at Gitano Tulum
Brunch at Once in La Veleta
WHERE TO EAT
Nomade Tulum — Nomade Tulum is a gorgeous hotel. It definitely gives nomad vibes with lots of wood touches throughout the property and well as a beautiful lit pathway to all of the facilities. I’ve come here previously for the beach club and it doesn’t disappoint. There are 3 restaurants, La Popular right on the beach with ocean views that has more of a seafood menu , KUU which serves Japanese fare and Ocumare which has a middle eastern cuisine with nightly music for dancing. This place is very romantic so you have plenty of options. My favorite was Ocumare where I had the best steak tacos, falafel and hummus I’ve ever had in my life. The cocktails were pretty and delicious too. Being that this hotel is on the main strip and one of the more popular hotel, you can expect higher prices for food than you’d find off the beach in La Veleta.
Gitano — Of course I had to make my way to Gitano on my last night in Tulum. I went on a Friday night and it does turn up with tables of friends and a DJ. The service was top notch from the time I entered until I left. The vibe is classic Gitano if you’ve ever been to the New York City or Miami location. It’s definitely the kind of place you get dressed up for. It’s great for date night or a girls night out. Everything on the menu was delicious. I especially enjoyed the watermelon salad, the hummus and the chicken dish. Everything was incredible and the service impeccable. Make sure to make a reservation online at least 2 weeks in advance! Warning: When you go to the bathroom lots of men will be standing around asking if you want illegal substances. Kinda weird but yeah…
Once & Vaiven in La Valeta — Once and Vaiven are both delicious breakfast and lunch spots right around the corner from Casa Copal Airbnb. The vibes are super calming and both restaurants are set up in a beautiful oasis with palm trees, plenty of cozy seating areas and even live music. I loved that they both had so many healthy options with a range of smoothies and vegetarian options as well. For the best French toast, Acai Bowl and Chai Tea Latte head upstairs to Once Restaurant. For the best huevos rancheros and fruit bowl of your life, head to Vaiven. There’s also a burger joint in the complex as well as a Liquor Store to stock up on some of your favorite wines and spirits.
WHAT TO DO
Beach Clubs — Beach Clubs are my go-to for a relaxing time on the beach. Some of my favorites in Tulum are Panamera Hotel, Nomade Tulum, Jashita and Casa Malca Hotel. My advice to get a bed is to get to the beach club by 11am at the latest and in high season, as soon as they open. Some places also allow you to book beach clubs online and in advance as well. Do keep in mind that if you’re not staying at the hotel, there’s usually a cost for a bed or cabana that comes with a food/drink minimum.
Cenotes — You must visit a cenote when in Tulum. Cenote’s are water filled sink holes that occur naturally in lime rock sometimes creating under ground caves. One of my favorites is Gran Cenote just outside of Tulum. It’s so stunning and a real wonder of nature to experience.
Tulum Ruins — Visiting the Tulum Ruins is always a highlight of any trip to Tulum. The ruins sit on a beautiful seaside cliff with crystal clear views of the ocean as far as the eye can see. I always enjoy a nice trek through the ruins. It makes me feel like a kid again to be honest. All of the wildlife and structures that were built long before I existed gives me a sense of wonderment. It’s also not so big and you’re able to make a half day out of the experience.
WHAT TO WEAR & PACK
It’s always hot in Tulum especially if you’re in direct soon. The humidity especially in the jungle is quite intense as well. It also rains several times a day for short periods of time, especially inland in the jungle versus on the beach. I’d highly recommend lots of bathing suits, and airy dresses (that don’t hug the body unless its for a night-time dinner), as well as light linen pieces and hats! Thank goodness I packed a few hats because I needed them. I also packed my trusty handheld mini fan from Amazon that got me through the hottest beach day as well as my portable speaker for jam sessions on the roof of my airbnb. Don’t forget plenty of sunscreen too! I definitely left Tulum with a beautiful golden bronze tan.
Wearing Andrea Iyamah Bikini & Sarong
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