Once the preserve of hippies and back-to-naturists, a laid-back town on Mexico's Caribbean coast is luring a new set of stylish travelers without sacrificing an iota of its quirky charm.
From Sian Ka'an, a breathtakingly pristine UNESCO biosphere of mangroves, canals, and wetlands, to the famous Tulum Archaeological Zone—pre-Columbian Mayan ruins situated on a magnificent bluff, to the “hotel zone,” where almost the entire stretch runs on solar power, wind power, and the occasional generator, Tulum has something for everyone.
Left: The Mayan temple Dios del Viento rises from the sea.
There are the rustic hotels, with their simple, bare-bones decor and enthusiastic commitment to environmental causes, and the glamorous resort-style numbers, each with their own special allure. On our most recent visit, we decided to dip our toes in both ends of the pool, starting the week at a no-frills spot called Hotel Zamas, and then spending the next few days at the hyper-stylish Be Tulum.
Left: A hand-painted sign, a Tulum hallmark.
Some things are serious, though, like the hotel's commitment to responsible environmental practices: plastic and glass recycling, free refills for guest's water bottles, and reliance on solar and wind power.
Left: Relaxing in an oceanfront hammock at Hotel Zamas.
We had a terrace enclosed by wooden fencing and two hammocks from which to contemplate the ever-changing moods of the ocean, lapping at the shore just steps from our front door. We spent the days paddling in the shallows, watching pelicans dive-bomb for fish, and clambering around the craggy rocks on the head-land.
Left: One of Hotel Zamas' playful room keys.
I particularly loved poking around in Josa, a tiny boutique founded by a New Yorker that's stocked with racks of sexy dresses in silk charmeuse and chiffon inspired by vintage caftans, and La Troupe, a converted shipping container showcasing floaty dresses and elegant, handcrafted shoes, distinctive for its blue "Cool Since Ever" hand-painted sign out front.
Left: Inside one of the chic shops around town.
Our spacious room had an outdoor shower and private plunge pool surrounded by billowing, gauzy, white curtains, and was decorated with whimsical midcentury-modern touches such as cow-skin rugs, Marimekko-style floral cushions, and a plywood pendant light fixture that resembled a small spaceship.
Left: Beautiful room #19 at Be Tulum.
Left: Breafast—eggs with salsas roja and verde.
Left: Fresh seafood and grilled favorites are served on wooden tables with the waves crashing in the background at Be Tulum.
Left: Be Tulum serves smoothies, spirits, and mocktails from a bar right on the beach.
Left: The infinity pool at Be Tulum.