November 13, 2016

Sunday Spotlight: Tulum Mexico

Stay: Hotel Zamas  

I thoroughly enjoyed staying at this beach side hotel in our own thatched cabanya. We stayed in the coconut grove area with ocean views from the hammocks strung outside on our own little porch. Now this was a different hotel experience than I had ever had before, there was a lizard (not a tiny lizard, a foot long plus lizard) in the room at one point (lesson learned: keep the door fully shut at all times!), the shower pressure was non existent, and the mosquito nets weren't enough to keep me from being eaten alive by mosquitoes. The hotel runs on solar power so no hair dryers, and in general the vibe was more rustic than I am used to. It was all part of the experience and to be expected when one is staying quite literally on the beach with sand just outside the door. Also to be fair I assume those nasty buzzing bugs probably got me outside at the restaurant, not while I was sleeping!

Zamas has both a nice chic little swimming pool, and of course they have a private beach (you can rent rooms along the little cove too). The beach was a bit rocky for swimming, but perfect for cooling off your feet or just listening to the waves from a nearby lounge chair.

The staff at the hotel were exceptionally nice and helpful from the moment we arrived, and they even come in to let down your mosquito nets and give you fresh bottled water and a nightlight candle for turndown service! The towels and bed linens/pillows were very nice and the beds very comfortable in general. The restaurant was amazing too, which leads me to...

Eat: Zamas & Piedra Escondida 

Yes that's right we ate mostly at our hotel as Zamas had delicious food! We had the french toast (with sliced bananas, divine!) fresh fruit plates, and "fancy toast" (toast with avocado and goat cheese) for breakfast each day and were convinced to stay for the rest of our meals! The tacos and enchiladas were also delicious, as were the pina coladas--of which I had quite a few! I should also mention the restaurant is right on the beach with the view of Zamas' little private cove (with huge pelicans diving into the water for fish) and sand under your feet. The wait staff, like all the staff at Zamas, were wonderful and always attentive.

The only other restaurant we ended up visiting was just a few steps down the road at Piedra Escondida. We had the excellent and fresh bruschetta to start, and then I had the most wonderful berries salad which was so amazing (I know, amazing salad? yes, so good!). I highly recommend a visit here too if you visit Tulum!

See: Mayan Ruins & Local Wildlife

I spoke about visiting the Mayan ruins earlier this week, and I think they are a must see if you visit Tulum! The site, amazing history aside, is just plain gorgeous too! Go early to avoid roasting in the sun and the other crowds bused in from Cancun. You will quickly notice the ruins still have some permanent residents by way of the dozen or so iguanas that are easily spotted resting in the roped off buildings and in every window sill. The one pictured above was sunning himself on the cliffs leading down from the ruins to the beautiful crystal blue and ivory sand beach below. I recommend planning to swim there too, something I didn't get to do, but everyone down on the beach looked like they were having a great time :)

We also spotted the aforementioned large pelicans fishing at the beach, little sea birds running and pecking at the seaweed on the shore, and many other lizards laying about. However, none of these experiences could compare to the most special wildlife encounter of the trip. During the wedding reception (did I mention I was in Tulum for a wedding?) there was a small commotion on the beach. I went down to see what was going on and found out a sea turtle nest had just hatched and was shown photos on everyone's phones of a bucket filled with dozens of tiny baby turtles that the hotel staff had quickly collected and taken into the water (they get distracted by the hotel lights, and at this point in the wedding, dance floor lights and have to be taken into the water). I was so bummed to have missed seeing the hatchling turtles (so cute!) but it was still cool to see the hole where the nest was and many of the eggshells. I had returned to the dance floor (at the insistence of the bride, I am no natural dancer) and perhaps a half hour later I looked out over the railing to see a tiny dark speck moving below in the sand. We had been warned to look out for any straggler turtles attracted to the lights and so I quickly hopped over the railing of the restaurant onto the beach and dashed over to the tiny baby turtle swimming in the sand towards the party. I scooped it up in my hands where it continued to push forward with its front flippers like it was trying to swim from my hands. So    damn     cute. I quickly rushed it to the water and set him into the surf. What an amazing experience, and one I will never forget. A wild baby sea turtle, just hatched, in my hands, omg.

Image: Wiki Commons
Do: Swim in the Cenote

There are many cenote (natural freshwater pools/caves) near Tulum and along the Mayan Rivera but the one we visited was called Gran Cenote. The experience of swimming in the cool fresh waters (in some places very deep and very shallow in others), surrounded by cave walls with hanging tendrils of roots and leaves, with little fish darting around and turtles sunning nearby was so amazing I can hardly find words to describe how magical it felt at the time. Gran Cenote has underwater caves (you can hire a guide and go scuba diving if you are certified), and anyone could swim into the dark entrance to the cave. The water here was quite deep and looked like blue topaz with the light reflecting off of the rocks below, but don't worry, there was a thick rope with small floats anchored from the deck where you enter the water outside to the back of the cave, so if you got too tired you could pull yourself back out. The other side of the cenote had a cave like tunnel but with another small cenote on the other side. Swimming and floating between the two areas of sunlight underneath the dark grey cave ceiling with roots and stalactites was beyond wonderful, just so so magical. I've never felt more like a mermaid <3

More: Tips, Taxis, and Travel

I highly recommend you get pesos at home instead of trying to exchange currency or use an ATM in Tulum. When we began to get low on pesos I asked one of the lovely receptionists at our hotel if she knew of any safe ATMs to use and she paused hesitantly and the answer was essentially no. So I think it would be much easier to get more pesos than you think you will need and just change them back once you get home if you don't end up spending them. Taxis (and many shuttles) are cash only, so you will definitely need some pesos to get around, and it is custom to give tips to your drivers and any staff or waiters.

Taxis were easily come by, but the drivers generally didn't speak much English so try and be really specific about where you want to go and ask what the fare will be before you get in. We ended up being taken to the bus station in Tulum city at one point before we corrected our miscommunication that we wanted to go back to Zamas Hotel! The drivers were quite but efficient and the taxi rides weren't very expensive.

As for getting to Tulum and back from Cancun airport, you are most likely going to want to book a shuttle. I think it's easiest to do this ahead of time before you leave and have it all set up for when you arrive. Our shuttle was quite nice and air conditioned and the driver and shuttle company staff were great. The shuttle from the airport to Tulum and then back again was around $100 each way, though I am sure there are probably bargains to be found. We didn't mind paying more for a reputable company and blissful air conditioning. The ride from the airport to Tulum is around an hour and a half long along a straight highway that runs parallel to the coast and is lined with lush jungle and competing grand resort entrances. Though some hotels seem to be under construction or abandoned too by the state of some of the archways and drives. We never felt unsafe during our trip but remember to be savvy and keep your wits about you when traveling in a different country!

I had a lovely time in Tulum, and the wedding (the reason I was down there!) was beautiful and fun. It was a bit more adventurous a trip than I am used to, but really rewarding. I hope you all enjoyed this little recap, soon it will be back to fall fashion here on the blog, but I still have a few more outfits to show you from my trip this week!


  1. How fabulous to have helped out the little turtle! What a great memory to make!


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