Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to Tulum Pueblo in April.
It took me all of a couple hours to feel it. I’d wandered the cobblestone streets of Merida, explored the beaches of Progreso, lounged poolside in the Riviera Maya. But it was upon arrival to Tulum, my second destination on my second trip to my neighbor to the south, that I really started to feel the Mexi-glow.
We finalized our trip fairly last-minute, and were a bit overwhelmed at first when it came to tackling the Tulum portion of the planning. It turns out there are two distinct and distant parts of Tulum: Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Playa, separated by one long road through the jungle. Depending on your destination and point of origin, the two can be fifteen to forty-five minutes apart — without the heavy traffic that often stifles the single road.
At first glance, we assumed we’d stay at the beach rather than in town. We’re sun worshippers, and what little we’d read about the urban center was pretty dismissive. But, much of the beachside accommodation was booked up — it was Easter Week, not an ideal time to travel in Mexico — and what was left had price tags that left our jaws on the floor. We were down to splurge but also probably not spend our cumulative monthly rent on one night at a hotel, ya know what I’m saying?
Hence, our budgets led us to stay in Tulum Pueblo. And you know what? It was such a blessing in disguise. We loved basing ourselves in town, and still made it to the beach often! Had we stayed in Tulum Playa, I don’t we would have headed into town often — and think we would have had a very different perspective on the destination as a whole.
It turns out Tulum Pueblo is a charming destination in its own right — the same kind of swoon-worthy boutique hotels, yoga studios, and insanely adorable restaurants you’d find at the beach are around every corner with less crowds and less painful price tags. And the laundry lines, cheap taco joints packed with plastic stools, and local families going about their day remind you that you’re not just in an Instagram-designed travel nirvana — you’re in a real, living city in Mexico.
And it’s one for the books. (And blogs!)
I struggled to find much information specific to Tulum Pueblo, when we were planning our trip. So, ta da! Where to stay, eat, and play right in town in Tulum — and don’t worry, I’ll post about our adventures further afield in my next post.
Where To Stay in Tulum Pueblo
After much agonizing over hotels and apartment rentals, we settled on a cute little room at Tiki Tiki Tulum. This is a true boutique hotel with just fifteen rooms, each slightly unique but all unified by an incredible sense of style. It’s at the very far end of town, about as far as you can be from the beach, which did give us pause — but it turned out to be well worth the slight trek for our peaceful setting in the jungle.
The shared spaces included a small pool surrounded by lush greenery, a chic lobby with a bar serving small plates and killer cocktails, a tiny breakfast nook with included simple continental breakfasts, and a reception where the staff gave us great tips and advice on the local area.
We carefully selected the exact room we wanted to stay in and loved our little balcony, the hammock we could string through our room, and a stylish bathroom with refillable toiletries that made my eco-heart happy.
We really felt like we were on vacation here.
Pricing, like everywhere in Tulum varies wildly depending on the season, with the average rates stretching from $85-255 dollars per night. It’s an incredible deal for the area, and while we didn’t end up spending as much time as we’d imagined relaxing there, we were so happy to have our oasis to come back to after all our adventures.
Where to Eat in Tulum Pueblo
Dang, did we eat well in town in Tulum! Sure, we had some very notable meals on the beach. But we found that Tulum Pueblo had an amazing mix of affordable eats and trendy hotspots. Here were a few of our favorites.
Specializing in breakfast, my favorite meal of the day, DelCielo is one of my favorite finds from Tulum Pueblo! They have an air-conditioned indoor seating area as well as an extensive patio for those craving a bit of a breeze. Had we not found this place on our last day, I think we would have returned for their tapas-style dinner, too.
Inside, I found one of my favorite murals I’ve ever seen. Tulum is just a treat for the eyes, every way you turn. My inner design nerd was freaking out pretty much twenty four seven.
Tulum Art Club
We came very close to renting a room at Tulum Art Club for our stay in town — so of course, we had to stop by and scope it out. They have a restaurant with the best setting in town — a gallery bursting with local art. Don’t miss their Sunday brunches, which look like a seriously good time and are top of my list for my inevitable Tulum return.
Matcha Mama might just be Tulum’s most Insta-famous açai bowl spot, which means I had absolutely no choice but to stop there for lunch one day. They actually have locations in both Tulum Playa and Tulum Pueblo, but the town version is much more likely to be found line-free.
Trust me, there’s substance and style — it’s as yummy and refreshing as it is cute!
I can’t take any credit for Taqueria Honorio — but dang, is it incredible. Before arrival, Ian had identified this as his most coveted roadside local taco stand, and we arrived as they opened for a selection of criminally cheap and dangerously delicious tacos. We loved it so much we made our shuttle driver stop here on our way to the airport for one last hit of tortas to go — it was so dang good.
Oh, Burrito Amor, how we love you. This place was always packed, and I could see why — with an extensive burrito menu, a selection of gourmet salads, and all kinds of fancy breakfast options, I could have happily eaten half a dozen meals here. Don’t miss the healthy cocktails and juice blends — I loved my coconut water concoction.
Even better? The burritos arrive wrapped in banana leaves, one of many green moves! Be still my heart.
Feel like picking up a few high end snacks or basic produce? You can find it all at Gypsea Market, a swank grocery store at the end of town. I have a feeling I’d be a regular here if I were ever to become a Tulum expat!
Full disclosure: we didn’t actually eat at Good Burger. But you have to walk right through it to get to Swoon, and I once again found myself marveling at the incredible sense of design that left me one big walking heart-eyed emoji throughout this trip.
And you’ll get no shade from me if you’re craving a burger in the land of tacos — it happens anywhere in the world. I’ll be back!
I was immediately smitten with the bizarre egg-like structures making up the rooftop restaurant of Swoon, one of the swanky restaurants that feels like an extension of Tulum Playa. We showed up without a reservation and had to wait a bit for a table, but it was worth it. The menu was as innovative and the seating and the rooftop setting really made the most of the urban vibes.
I’d love to return here during the day, as well. It’s too cute!
Humo looks also straight out of Tulum Playa! Contemporary Mexican food is served here with flair inside a gorgeous bamboo structure with incredible cocktails to boot. I “oohed” and “ahhed” over this place many times until we finally stopped in one night for appetizers and drinks before dinner. It’s a must-do for design lovers.
Where to Go Out in Tulum Pueblo
Yes, Tulum Playa is where all the major parties that make Tulum famous are. But you certainly don’t need to drive to the beach for a night out! We didn’t do much research into the bars in Tulum Pueblo, but it’s small enough that you really just need to wander with your ears open to find the night’s party.
We found ourselves jamming out to a live band from Mexico City one night, wandering down a rowdy street of backpacker bars the next, and listening to a jungle rave from our balcony another. While I have to admit we were pretty deep in chill mode and didn’t go wild this trip, I loved that Tulum Pueblo had so many flavors of nightlife all its own.
What to Do in Tulum Pueblo
Rent a Bike or Motorbike
So yes, I am telling you that one of the top things to do in Tulum Pueblo is to leave, ha. But it’s true — the town is fantastic as a base, but it’s rare that you’ll spend all day there. Bicycles are a popular and eco-friendly way to get around. With our short trip and long distances we were covering, we opted for a motorbike rented drama-free from our hotel and loved using it to zip to the beach, the Mayan ruins, and a local cenote — stay tuned for all that and more in an upcoming post!
Street Art Stroll
One of my favorite unexpected aspects of the town side of Tulum was the beautiful street art we found when we veered down little alleys or along the side streets. I couldn’t have photographed a fraction of it if I tried. I loved it — inspiration is everywhere in Tulum.
Yoga at Holistika
Tiki Tiki Tulum is located right next to Holistika, a famed wellness center in Tulum Pueblo. We popped over one evening for a vin-to-yin class that started with a strong vinyasa flow and ended with super chilled restorative postures. It was just what we needed, and it was a delightful bonus when we signed in and found out our first class was free.
I felt as revived by the peaceful setting as I was by the class itself — a common refrain I found myself musing on in our time in Tulum. I only wish we had had time to return for more of the incredible classes and workshops offered here, or to enjoy the spa or restaurant. It’s a true gem, and we were so lucky to have it right next door.
We heard a common complaint before, during and after our time in Tulum. “It’s so inauthentic.” “There are no Mexicans in Tulum.” “What a tourist trap.”
I mean, I can’t deny that it’s a highly curated destination that strongly appeals to a specific subset of the population. I fit right into the demographic, and so yes, this post and our trip contained tons of the aspects of Tulum that so many travelers love to hate. But I couldn’t help but think that those who had the most eye-rolling take on Tulum probably never left the single road that makes up the beach.
I’m so grateful that fate sent us to stay in Tulum Pueblo — a pretty shocking conclusion for a hardcore beach girl like me. But I loved the balanced view we left with of this complex and intoxicating destination. And I can’t wait to share more about our trip — stay tuned.
Would you consider staying in Tulum Pueblo?