It had been 7 months since we last visited Tulum and we were dying to get back so since I had a week off work and Grant works mostly from home we packed our bags and headed to Riviera Maya (click here to see our first Tulum blog post)!
Well more like half-day trips, there are several sights to see within an hour or so from Tulum.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Get on the beach street and keep driving into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. On the right side of the road are swampy mangroves and on the left side of the road are stunning, white beaches. Lots of people take a boat tour of the mangroves and you can even see manatees and crocodiles! We stuck to the road and beaches for this trip. We accidentally passed the beach we planned on going to so we kept driving past lots of gated houses until we found our own private beach! It was beside an abandoned house and was so gorgeous, it seriously looked like a screensaver. We were there for over an hour and only saw one distant jogger.
Coba was amazing! It’s about 45 minutes away from Tulum and the road is a straight shot and easy to drive on. Coba has Mayan ruins similar to the ones in Tulum but I liked these WAY better! Admission was very cheap Insider Tip: hide your GoPro, they’ll charge you 40 extra pesos for video cameras. My favorite part of Coba was biking through tree covered paths of what used to be an ancient Mayan city! Totally recommend renting a bike. They had a basket for your things, were only $5 for both of us, and made the experience so enjoyable! Coba’s Mayan ruins are different than the others because they have a pyramid you can climb. I didn’t realize that I’m a little afraid of heights until we were halfway up!! It was SUPER tall, the pictures don’t do it justice. But get over your fears because the view from the top is 360 degree jungle!
There are three cenotes near Coba that are perfect for a detour on the drive back to Tulum. You buy a ticket for around $2USD and choose your cenote (or you can go to all 3.) We chose Multun-Ha and it was crazy cool. Drive down a dirt road and then you see a little tiki hut with a spiral staircase inside. It seems a little sketch at first but at the bottom of the staircase you enter a huge cave-like open space with crystal clear freshwater. Be sure to bring a snorkel, there aren’t any fish but there are some cool rock formations.
We had plans to go to Kanlum Lagoon but like the early risers we are, we were too early and it wasn’t open yet. We drove a little further down the road to kill time and explore when we saw a sign for Muyil. It is a very tiny town with one bus stop and a few houses, but it also has Mayan ruins. We had no idea, what a cool find! Apparently you can leave for a Sian Ka’an boat tour from Muyil as well. The ruins weren’t huge but still neat. Definitely check them out if you’re in the area.
Kanlum Lagoon was really cool. Again, we are early birds so we got there before anyone else and had the entire place to ourselves! It is a pretty big freshwater lagoon with clear, blue-green water and a deep, dark-blue cenote in the middle. The cenote is roped off and only for scuba diving. We brought our snorkels, but there weren’t too many fish. It was a little chilly in the morning but the lagoon would be ideal for a refreshing dip on a hot Tulum afternoon.
COMIDA & BEBIDAS
Tulum has a delicious food scene comprised of Mexican and so much more! Eating is one of our favorite parts of travel so we couldn’t wait to try more restaurants. We divided our meals between Pueblo and the beach and they were all delish!
What’s the first thing you do when you get to Mexico? Tacos and margaritas! Taqueria La Eufemia was the first place we ate and it was awesome! The tacos were cheap around $1USD but street taco size so you need at least 3. The taco toppings bar was great and had all the fixin’s. The margaritas were US price and not anything special, so go for the cervezas instead. The restaurant was PACKED and with the fabulous location on the beach people were staying all day, so squeeze in where you can and order up! They had a live band playing Mexican music and house music playing while the band was on break. The people watching was very entertaining. What a crew! Golden retrievers were lounging on daybeds while everyone was dancing, sipping, and snacking! It was a very, beachy bohemian vibe.
We wanted to check out a plant-based restaurant so we went to Restaurare and it was amazing! The ambiance was very romantic with candles and music in a canopy of trees. It definitely did not feel like a sterile vegan restaurant. I had a Thai peanut dish with carrot “noodles” and Grant had the mole. Both dishes were packed with flavor! They also had a great selection of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages and juices plus the service was fantastic!
Nearby our Airbnb (which was amazing by the way) was a small hut selling chicken that smelled great from a mile away so we had to try it! It was very flavorful and straight off the smoker but watch out for the hot sauce it’s super spicy! You can order a quarter, half, or whole chicken.
Apparently the owner is a Michelin star chef who opened a simple (hence the name) more affordable restaurant in Tulum. Since we had such a divine experience at the Lazy Bear we had to check it out. We stopped by for a drink at Simple during our last visit to Tulum but the dinner experience is where it’s at! We split the seafood platter for 2 which had tuna sashimi, octopus, prawns, and a delicious butterfish which reminded us of our favorite fish meal ever, the delicious red snapper we had in Santa Barbara. The vibe is on point too. Above the pool they have a neon sign that reads “Am I dreaming?” More like a food coma!
We tried sushi in Pueblo one night and were a little disappointed. The rolls were subpar and Tulum definitely isn’t up to Tokyo standards. Almost every roll contained cream cheese which was a bummer but they did have interesting combinations. We tried a mint, strawberry, tuna roll. It was very interesting but too much like dessert for my liking. As most things in Tulum, and especially in Pueblo, the price was right- much cheaper than sushi in the US!
This place was highly recommended and is well-known for it’s 7 peso tacos. It was such a treat, super cheap and very delicious! We spent $5 for two plates of tacos and drinks! They don’t serve beer but you’ll need something to wash down the sauces. The yellow sauce was SUPER spicy! Try an agua fresca or Mexican coca-cola. The Mexican version doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup so you can feel semi-healthy while drinking a coke! The restaurant was pretty crowded, definitely a local crowd complete with plastic chairs and a tiny, old-school TV playing 80’s movies.
We had breakfast at Zamas and it was pretty good. Most breakfast menus in the beach area are similar so this was a random choice. I can never justify ordering avocado toast at restaurants just like I can’t justify ordering a grilled cheese because it is something I can make at home that is likely better. But even I was a sucker for the avocado and goat cheese toast at Zamas. Insider Tip: add an egg on top, it seals the deal. This toast pairs well with fresh coconut water straight out of the coconut! Grant had granola and a yummy fresh squeezed juice. Oh, did I mention you’re on the sand and the view is phenomenal?
Since we were in Tulum for a week we both needed to get a little work done so we found a digital nomad haven at Tulum Art Club! It’s an open space decorated with funky art and lots of seating. You have to renew your wifi password pretty often and the music is a little loud so probably not the best work space but it worked well for us for one day! We had iced americanos and kombucha. The espresso was great but the kombucha was only in bottles and a little meh.
We’re suckers for cheap tacos so I had a good feeling about Rincon Chiapaneco right away. It was local, cheap, and delicious! We tried a few different things but the chile relleno was the best by far, a must try!
We stopped by this cheap tamale stand for lunch one day. They were less than $1USD and super yummy. I’m pretty sure they were made with lard but take an ignorance is bliss approach and try them anyways.
Ice cream is my favorite food group and Tulum is 80 degrees even in February so it’s basically necessary for survival right?! We went to two great places. Campanella Cremerie was fancier and had soft serve in pretty dishes. Insider Tip: It apparently has the best wifi in Pueblo. Flor de Michoacan’s specialty is palletas, which are like popsicles but way better! They are infused with fresh fruit and come in tons of different flavors.
Mateos had the best.happy.hour.ever. We were so stoked to stumble upon this gem. The sunset lounge not only had great 2 for 1 drink specials and live music, but the views are the best! You can see the jungle on one side and the Caribbean on the other. The band was fun and was handing out instruments to everyone! We even tried out the tambourine for a bit!
We always like to check out the local experience even when on vacation. Staying in Pueblo and hanging where the locals do is a good place to start!
One thing I noticed this trip that I didn’t last time was all of the street art! There were funky paintings everywhere and even some new ones being painted. Covering walls in both Pueblo and the beach area these murals are great for a photo op!
We did a little cooking and grocery shopping during our trip. It is always interesting to check out different supermarkets when abroad. We went to two, San Francisco de Asis and Chedraui. I did not like San Francisco de Asis at all. No particular reason, I just got a bad vibe and didn’t think they had a good selection. Chedraui is pretty nice and has most everything you need. It is like your average supermarket except they also sell random things like mopeds, appliances, and clothes! For the ultimate farm to table experience check out the street side stands. Everything is local and fresh and they’re all over town.
Tulum was just as amazing the second time around and we just can’t get enough of this little paradise. See our first Tulum blog post to read more about this dreamy town.
For more information on Mexico, grab this Lonely Planet guide book.
Inspired Recipe: Simple Poached Egg and Avocado Toast from Pinch of Yum
So avocado toast isn’t a Mexican food but it is a Tulum food! Tulum is very health-conscious and aguacate (avocado) toast is on most breakfast menus. This recipe is divine but if in a rush or choosing a plant based option skip the egg and simply do avocado, garlic salt, and pepper. That’s my go-to version!