When a very best friend of 20 years announced she was getting married in Tulum, it was a huge deal. First, because this friend is our George Clooney (but even ol’ George figured out this year that marriage rocks). And second, because she’d be getting married at Mezzanine, which is the very same hotel where I stayed during my only other trip to Tulum, on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, back in 2008.
It was a very different trip back then. For one thing, I was with an ex-boyfriend and not my husband. So there’s that. But also because, so I’d heard, Tulum had rapidly become a very different place than it was only five or eight or 10 years ago.
New York just published a piece, for instance, called “How Tulum Became the Williamsburg of Mexico.” Therein:
Soon after the Times issued its second 36 Hours in Tulum — marking the moment that an expat-run restaurant in Tulum called Hartwood became New York’s most-bragged-about restaurant wait despite being thousands of miles outside of New York —Paper magazine declared the city “2014’s Most Basic Vacation Destination.” (Paper’s evidence: Tara Reid posing for naked selfies in the hammocks of Tulum. Once a vacation spot goes Taradise, it never goes back.) “Someone in my Instagram is in Tulum every week,” an acquaintance who has never been — but claims to recognize the town’s most Instagrammable locations as easily as Brooklyn’s best brunches — remarked. (“Someone else did #Tuluminati,” a Tulum-anticipating friend said at a party. “You can be #2lum2furious,” I replied.) Not that jaded magazines or cheesy hashtags will do anything to derail Tulum’s ascent — nor that they should.
So there’s that perspective, if you care. But we’re just back from Tulum now — and as for us, we found it as desirable as ever, if not exactly as far off the beaten path as it was even just a few years ago.
Where Should I Stay in Tulum?
As it was back in 2008, Mezzanine is a gem. The hotel has 10 rooms. Because wedding guests — including our bride and groom — took over the whole joint, hubs and I grabbed the very last room available. It turned out to be (the same one of two rooms I’d stayed in those years ago, and) perfect for me.
First, it was the most cost-effective room, located as it was on the lowest tier of the tiered property, literally under the pool deck (about $140 USD). But most importantly, for the same reason, it got absolutely pitch dark. As a notoriously bad sleeper, this allowed me to sleep until 8 every morning (at which point pigs flew), and as a result I’m convinced the quality of my trip was enhanced exponentially. And the air conditioner made the room feel delightfully like an ice box as it sweltered outside. Our room was number 6, in the middle of 5 and 7, also on the same floor.
Other rooms are larger with better views, including room 10 — the bridal suite with killer expansive terrace — and rooms like 2, with pitched ceiling. However, if you have sleep issues like me, note that room has no covering on its triangular cutout window. (My friend who stayed in it mentioned that at 10 a.m., the sun hits the bed like a laser beam, so you’re up no matter what; even before the twins, 10 a.m. was like mid-day for me typically, so not super relevant. But FYI!)
Mezzanine has a grotto-like pool, including two daybeds with stunning beach views. And it’s only a short walk to the Yucatán’s only seaside ruins. (Just be warned that “short walk” might mean “20 minutes of pleasant walking along the beach, followed by 20 minutes of feeling like you might keel over from the summer heat as you head up the jungle path.”)
And Mezzanine also has a Thai-inspired restaurant, which was quite good.
Because Mezzanine filled up quickly last April for our dates, many other guests fanned out. That’s how I got to see hotels like Coco Tulum. For most rooms, Coco has shared bathrooms (which reminded me of my summer camp in the fondest way, if my summer camp had been located in the tropics and had a boutique hotel air with a whiff of Williamsburg) (which it did not). Visiting one evening, I washed my hands next to a woman brushing her teeth while humming gleefully; I found the social component of the shared bathroom space delightful, not off-putting.
Coco’s cluster of many buildings are also separated by sand paths, which is wonderful.
Three friends stayed in a beachfront building, taking over rooms C1 (on the first floor) and C2 (above it). The friends with the balcony room on the second floor said they’d pick the exact one if they did it all again. They loved it, and remarked on the excellence of the staff as well.
We also ate in the restaurant there on our last evening, gathering friends like a casual, slightly buzzed snowball as the night went on until our group was at least 10 deep. We enjoyed our mushroom pizza and Greek salad in the Italian-inspired restaurant. Obviously topping it off with beers and drinks because vacation.
Another great plus for Coco: Its beachfront is insane gorgeous. This was particularly relevant for our group on this trip, given an unusual weather pattern (or something more scientific) had created a dense flow of algae that mucked up the beaches around the region. Mezzanine was particularly affected, but Coco was pristine — perhaps in part because the staff raked it every day.
A third excellent option in Tulum is Papaya Playa. Actually, it’s known as the Papaya Playa Project, with Design Hotels backing, which has a lofty stated mission: “…to discover a new form of hospitality, merging local culture, and sustainability to set the stage for original and aspirational hospitality experiences. Most importantly the Project is a corner stone in the manifestation of our vision of a sustainable and responsible Tulum that can be an example of hospitality development around the world.”
It’s located closer to an area of shopping and dining (aka livelier) area than Mezzanine, and also has an excellent beachfront, set with shaded daybeds.
We also enjoyed the restaurant there, where booths on multiple levels have a hemisphere shape, perfect for assembling large groups while gazing out at the sea.
Beyond those three, now more than ever before, Tulum has scores of similar lodging options. Unlike, say, Punta Mita (ahem, fabulously dripping with luxury galore), Tulum remains a mostly affordable place to stay and eat — whether or not it can still claim the cachet of being un- or under-discovered.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts detailing more of our Tulum and Yucatán adventures!