I’ve long dreamt of going to Tulum. At the beginning of this year when setting goals, I wrote down that I wanted to travel to one of my dream destinations and serendipitously, I made it happen! Manifestation y’all! This was another one of my rather spontaneous trips (see: Costa Rica and South Africa) with my travel buddy and podcast co-host Tori!
This is the second time I’ve been able to travel out of the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Protocols and regulations are always changing, so be sure to do research if you’re planning to travel yourself. We did have to have a negative COVID test to re-enter the US after being in Mexico, similarly to in Costa Rica (I give some COVID travel tips in this post).
This post chronicles our time in Tulum, accompanied with just some of my favorite photos from this tropical girls getaway.
Where we stayed: Hotel Mereva
Before I get into our gorgeous oceanside hotel, it’s important to know that getting to Tulum requires a rental car or shuttle transportation from the Cancun airport. We got a rental car for our trip; the roads were generally well-paved and navigating was easy and straightforward.
I really loved where we stayed this trip! If you’ve been around for a while and read my travel blogs, you’ve probably noticed that I normally stay in Airbnbs or, in the more distant past, hostels. This Tulum trip, we stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel called Mereva. It’s in a great location, right on Tulum beach and a short drive from downtown.
The vibes are immaculate, all the decor simplistic, clean, earth toned, and perfect for the beach atmosphere. Our room was spacious with a large roomy bathroom and a balcony that faced the sea.
We arrived around sunset, which was actually quite a treat to see the place for the first time in it’s golden hour glow.
Let’s talk amenities, because there were quite a few! Snorkels, masks, fins, kayaks, and paddle boards are all available to rent for free. There are two pools, one right near the beach front and the other a bit more secluded.
Speaking of the beach front, there are two long boardwalks that lead from the sand out to the sea, with a thatch roof hut half way down the boardwalk and another fixed with hammocks at the end of it. Massages are offered out here, which I’d highly recommend (a massage with actual ocean waves in the background is ultimate relaxation).
The hotel has a little restaurant that offers a complimentary breakfast, and it’s not just a grab-and-go cereal and fruit situation. It’s a multi-course breakfast, including coffee and the freshest squeezed orange juice. One morning I had an acai bowl and huevos rancheros, but my favorite combo was fresh fruit and pancakes with cinnamon butter. It’s really a treat that they offer such a spread!
The last amenity I want to brag about is the stocked mini fridge that comes in your room. It’s loaded with water, sodas, beers, and more, plus it’s all complimentary! Maybe it’s just me but I don’t see complimentary mini bars in hotels too often.
This hotel is pretty highly rated for me, it was such a pleasure to relax and immerse ourselves in where we stayed. I can’t remember the last time I spent a full day just at the hotel while on vacation, but we treated ourselves to that this time. That being said, we of course still got out and adventured around Tulum.
Cenote (se-no-te) translates to ‘deep sinkhole’ in English. These natural wonders actually are a result of limestone bedrock collapsing and exposing ground waters. While it doesn’t really sound glamorous from that descriptions, cenotes are crystal clear fresh waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving! If you’ve been to Florida and explored their natural hot springs, these are somewhat similar (but note: not hot).
There are close to 6,000 cenotes to explore in Mexico, so this is an extremely small sample of what there is to experience. There are dozens to discover around Tulum alone, so if you’re planning a visit do some more research to see what else is out there too! Here are my cenote experiences:
Casa Cenote, which is one of the largest cenotes in Tulum, is located on the same road as the hotel, a super short walk! While we didn’t explore this cenote fully, it seemed quite popular. Many of the visitors we saw were opting to tour Casa Cenote via scuba, snorkeling or kayak. We inquired and were told you are required to have a guide for both scuba diving and snorkeling this cenote.
One thing we noticed about Casa Cenote was that the water’s clarity is heavily affected by the weather! The cenote is directly off of a dirt road, so when weather comes through the water is quick to get murky. If you’re planning a trip to Casa Cenote, keep that in mind!
Cenote Dos Ojos
This was our true cenote experience during out time in Tulum, and we really loved visiting Cenote Dos Ojos!
This spot is a particular treat because it’s two cenotes in one location. If you’re familiar with Spanish, you may have already guessed the name, Dos Ojos (two eyes), hints towards this. The water is crystal clear, an almost startling color of blue. I’d still be prepared to rent a snorkel and mask if you don’t have one! Also be aware, they do make you wear a life jacket while you swim. If you’re interested, you can even do some cave diving (with scuba gear) here!
The waters are very refreshing, though perhaps a little cold at first. Regardless it was the perfect way to cool off on that hot October afternoon. The water is still and calm, small silver fish swim around innocently. With a mask and snorkel on, you’re even able to see the openings of the underwater caves.
The second cenote, or the second eye, is larger than the first. At the first centoe, we were lucky to have a moment of absolute solitude, just Tori and I and the stark blue cenote, surrounded by silence. No such moment happened at the second, busier cenote. While here though, be sure to walk around and explore too. There’s a portion of the cave that has a short walking trail where you can see impressive stalagmites that have formed over years.
An Insta-worthy Art Installation: Sfer Ik
Sfer Ik (which I still don’t know how to pronounce) is oh so dreamy. Located in downtown Tulum, Sfer Ik is like an art museum, where the museum itself is the art.
Natural materials, soft edges, rounded corners, nothing ever sharp or jarring. Everything is smooth, fluid, and serene. Each window seems intentionally placed to best capture the sun rays, no matter the time of day.
There are two levels of the building to explore with an outdoor area on the second floor. All in all though, the museum is pretty small. It’s a lot about taking in the atmosphere and appreciating the small details. A good reminder for life in general.
In the hot day, the clay floors were a cool reprieve. We sat up against the curved edge of the wall for a while —pausing in the presence of this architectural art— before heading into the heat of the Mexican afternoon.
This morning I woke up to a text from my travel buddy Tori saying she wishes we were on our way to Holistika for a yoga class right now, and I couldn’t agree more. Holistika is not just a yoga studio, but a full yoga retreat with rooms to stay, a vegan/ vegetarian eatery and mini-market, a designated meditation room, a walking trail with art all along the way, and of course a pool and cabanas.
The entirety of the campus is incredible, a yogi’s paradise. Arriving on campus for our early morning yoga class, we were immediately feeling welcomed and at peace. We took an hour and a half class inside an open, spacious room where windows covered three of the four walls. While starting our flow, the rain fell hard and fast through the trees, creating the perfect meditative backdrop.
After class, we had a vegetarian breakfast at their cafe and explored their grounds. I’m finding it a bit hard to get all the words together to describe this place and our experience there, but it’s really something you have to feel for yourself.
I myself would look into staying here if I were to go back to Tulum. If you’re looking for a yoga centric retreat in Mexico, this is your place.
Visiting the Tulum Ruins: Everything you need to know before you go!
The ruins are a must-see site in Tulum, but there’s a lot I wish I knew before we went!
Be prepared when you arrive, there will be A LOT of people trying to direct you and get you to pull over to their parking lot. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed though, these people are legit and are there to help you discover the ruins. Speaking of, there are two ways to see the ruins: by foot or by boat. There is a decent price difference, but the boat trip includes some snorkeling afterwards and the guides claim it’s, “the best way to see the ruins.”
That being said, we decided on exploring the ruins by foot. Here’s the next thing you need to be prepared for, lots of walking! From where you park, it’s a decent little trek to the ticketing entrance of the ruins.
It was hot, hot, hot at the ruins. If you’re there on a cloudless day, there’s little to no relief in the shade. The Mayans actually dedicated the Temple on the hill facing the sea (see above photos, left) to the wind gods, so you can at least expect a nice breeze at the top of the ruins. All this being said, bring water!
There are options at the ruins to do an audio tour or have a guide take you around, which we actually didn’t opt to do. We just chose to peruse the informational signs posted around.
Tulum met the expectations I had whipped up in my mind from long dreaming of this destination. I’m happy with our balance of relaxation and exploration this trip too!
For an even more behind the scenes look at this trip, like more details on the COVID regulations, what else I wish I knew before traveling to the ruins, what it was like traveling through the Cancun airport, and more; check out our podcast episode where we recap things in FULL!