I’m writing this in a scarf, wool sweater, leggings and Ugg slippers. But mentally, I’m still somewhere on a beach, sipping a mezcal cocktail and dreaming of Tulum. Please indulge me while I recap our trip
It’s sort of embarrassing to say, but I can’t recall how I first heard about Tulum other than Instagram. Such an obnoxiously millennial thing to say, but a blogger I like had partnered with one of the “eco-chic” boutique hotels in the area, and had been posting scenes of this magical, instagrammable, beach side village in the jungle a couple hours south of Cancun. I double tapped. I clicked links. Then as those things do, it kind of went away for awhile.
Cut to winter last year and we are rolling up on our big 10 year wedding anniversary. Obviously that calls for a vacation, so planning commences. Exotic locations are googled, dreamed of, the cuisine replicated. For awhile we were set on Thailand, but logistics intervened and we were already going on a lot of trips this year– so it was pushed back. Then, (once again) my Instagram feed starts flooding with Rene Redzepi’s Noma restaurant– closed in Copenhagen but opening a Mexican pop up. IN TULUM. I dug in a bit more to find out that Tulum, while always a prized off the grid hideaway for yogis and spiritual seekers in Mexico, was exploding with generator powered boutique hotels and stellar restaurants right in the Mayan Jungle. Articles labeled it the “Williamsburg of Mexico.” The New York Times did a “36 Hours in Tulum” in 2009, and in 2015, Bon Appetit’s Adam Rapaport interviewed New York based chef Eric Werner about his Tulum restaurant, Hartwood on their Foodcast. Tulum was hot, and only a four hour flight away. We went for it.
We decided to risk it by not only timing our trip around our actual anniversary in October, but also during the cheaper off-season. Tulum has a definitive rainy season, and we were going to risk traveling in the tail end of it. Much like going to Florida for Spring Break, there’s a chance of rain every day– you are in the jungle after all– but to be honest, overcast weather or not– we weren’t going for a tan. All we wanted was peace and quiet, and a few good books to read and a hammock to swing in. If it was rainy that week, that seemed like the least of our problems. We booked the trip.
We stayed at The Beach hotel in Tulum, a 15-room adults only hotel located right smack dab on the beach. I was dumbfounded (even after looking at online pictures) of the view from the bed when we walked in. The ocean was steps away, like, probably-not-legal-in-the-US-to-put-a-building-that-close-to-the-ocean steps away acting as the world’s best ever white noise machine, and somewhat awkwardly after finding out it was our anniversary trip– rose petals scattered all over the bed and a complementary bottle of sparkling wine.
My primary focus (shocking I know) was hunting down the best spots to eat. Sure, the $700/ticket Noma Popup sold out in 2 hours (not to mention it ended months before we arrived– They weren’t sticking around for the rainy season), but in its wake were dozens of delicious jungle hideouts with artisanal mezcal cocktails just waiting for us to stroll in and sit down and order.
While I was constantly on a search for 3G signal and a restaurant review, Chris was a little more interested in the Maya Culture and ruins, as well as the plethora of natural cenotes in the area. We visited the ancient ruins of Coba, to climb an ancient pyramid, and snorkeled in a freshwater cenote one day. We passed on visiting the more impressive Chichén Itzá mostly based on a lackluster desire to drive the two hours there, and as a bonus, avoiding the bus loads of Cruise Ship tourists vying for a selfie in front. The Cenote we opted to visit (there are thousands of them) was practically pure luck it was so nice. The Grand Cenote had easy parking, lockers, snorkels for rent, and you could swim through an actual bat cave! I only wished I had a water proof iphone case. It was essentially swimming in an extremely well filtered freshwater fish tank. With a fair amount of turtles, fish…. and Europeans.
By day 3 we had fallen into this incredible schedule: Wake up at sunrise (because the sun rise is a gorgeous beacon of light filling your room and you aren’t even mad about it). Make coffee. Return to bed, read your book for a couple hours. Go to breakfast (our hotel partnered with the restaurant next door for delicious complimentary breakfast each day), change into beach wear, lounge, suntan, nap, swing in hammock, take beach walks until about 4. Lunch isn’t necessary. Maybe some beachside beers and ceviche at most. Shower (maybe), then get dressed and waltz into any restaurant for an incredible meal and off the charts great cocktails. Being the off-season we missed the most popular permanent restaurant Hartwood which closes for repairs and maintenance (it opens Nov 1 ughhhhh), but it also meant that we could stroll down the street, walk into any spot with no wait at all and be back in bed with the screen door open, waves crashing, and breezes blowing by 10. It was a routine I could get used to. A routine we DID get used to. And then like all vacations do…it ended.
We came away from the trip well rested, well fed, and still not all that great at Spanish (Duolingo says I’m 10% fluent, doesn’t get me very far). Tulum is trendy– yes, but it’s also kind of magical. It’s trendy for a reason. It’s so off the grid and still so (relatively speaking) undeveloped. It definitely feels like one of those places that will creep into your head every few years calling you back. Maybe by the time we return I won’t freeze and lose all 10% of my fluency when people ask if I speak Spanish, and I’ll be able to order a cocktail in Spanish. Small goals.
Here are some more pictures!
IN OTHER NEWS:
Currently reading: Read two beachy book club type books while in Mexico: Cooking for Picasso (ehhh not great. So soapy), and Lunch in Paris which was a true story and made me want to book a flight to France ASAP. I also am still reading the oldie but goodie by David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day. Can’t really go wrong with that one. I also listened to a ton of podcasts, and got ready for Thanksgiving with Bon Appetit’s November issue.
Currently Craving: SOUP. Soup in all forms. First up: Aquacotta by Cooks Illustrated
Currently Watching: Chris and I watched Mindhunter on Netflix, which doesn’t exactly scream vacation! But it has the satisfaction of a serial crime drama, a true story, and as a bonus: Jonathan Groff!