There are two Tulum’s. We sort of knew this, but didn’t quite understand the full impact until we finished our beach stay at Tita Tulum – Hotel Ecological and arrived at Secret Garden, our next home away from home for the 8 nights we spent in Tulum Town.
When you see most blog posts, or photos on Instagram, they are talking about or showing the beach side of Tulum. The beautiful, casual, sexy atmosphere!! But inland, several kilometers away, is a whole different world.
Tulum Town is not postcard pretty or quaint!! But it is interesting in it’s own fashion and is a good place to spend a few days as you explore the area removed from the beach, like the cenotes and Tulum, Coba ruins, or to use as a less expensive option to the high price beachfront hotels and restaurants.
There are bike rentals all over town to help you get around it, or to ride down the long dedicated bike/walk path to the beach strip. And it is nice to see so many people taking this ecological option, including the locals. The plus side is that Tulum is flat!! The down side is that we haven’t been on a bike for so long that we decided not to risk a tumble and possible emergency stay. So we ended up hoofing it most places in town and did resort to taxis the couple off times we headed back to the beach and Tulum ruins. (More on the Tulum/Coba ruins in the next post).
To get your bearings on the town, there is a long stretch of main road paralleling the beach. Off of this other streets shoot, but they are typically only interesting for restaurants/shops for about 1-2 blocks in each direction. Towards the north end of town is the bike/walk path with a few restaurants and other businesses lining its sides at the beginning as it goes towards the beach. It is a great path, but I would pretty much only use it for bikes if going the whole length because it is long and Tulum is HOT!!!
Taxis to/from the beach to town were about 100-140 pesos depending upon where on the beach strip you are going/leaving. They were easy enough to get during the day, but the beach road gets busy at night, especially on the weekend, so it could be a bit harder then.
We stayed at the Secret Garden in Tulum Town which is a small (3 bungalows and a few rooms) property 2 blocks off the main road. We had one of the thatched bungalows, simply furnished in natural colors with attached bath, extra sink in the room and a few dishes and wine glasses. The bed left a lot to be desired however and they need to fix that. The rooms and bungalows surround a very pleasant, quiet courtyard that is great for hanging out in when you feel like doing a bit of reading, etc. The birds go crazy in the trees and it sounds like you are in the middle of the jungle which we kind of enjoyed. And one night there was an animal on the roof which amused us. If you are staying in Tulum Town and want to try Secret Garden consider using this affiliate link on Booking.com, no extra charge to you.
There are a lot of restaurants in Tulum Town and many of them are really good. Prices can tend to be a bit cheaper than the beach road but there are still some that will stretch your budget. We made it to La Querida several times for breakfast since they were really reasonable and had great food. Others were Farm to Table, Encantada and Le Bistro. For some great Italian go to La Trattoria de Amauri y Simo, their pesto is fabulous. And for a really nice change from Mexican fare Pasha has amazing Turkish/Middle Eastern fare, although pricey!! This was the best meal we have had so far. Pizzeria Mangalar is decent if you want a thin crust pizza. Come with mosquito repellent on. Everyone raves about Antojito La Chiapaneca for local fare but I wasn’t very impressed, although its is cheap. Don’t expect a dining experience here. It is quick, eat and go and always has a line. Roriama Burgers is so good. They only do burgers and fries and do them right.
We have brought way too many clothes for this trip, especially since we have to go back up to the Bay Area before going home to San Miguel de Allende. But I was unprepared for just how hot and sticky the weather was going to be. I thought I might find some nice hot weather clothes along the Maya Riviera, but what we found was a lot of the typical tourist clothes which just didn’t do it for me. The few boutiques that had trendier, traveler clothes were a bit pricey and the “one-size-fits-all” were made for young skinny things. So, I am still on a quest. With that in mind, once again I stress, bring the loosest, lightest clothes you have. Your body will thank you!!
Unlike the ATM’s along the beach road, there are several banks in town. We used CiBanco for most of our withdrawals (we have Capital One 360) and their charge was a minimal 17pesos. However, one day they seemed to be out of money and we needed it badly so we used HSBC across the street and got a whopping $23USD charge on our $300USD withdrawl. In retrospect I would say avoid them at all costs.
Using Tulum Town as a base for other excursions works well. Other than that there really is not much to do here and our allotted time of 8 nights was way too long!! But this trip was all about sussing out where to spend time instead of the cold weather months of December and January in San Miguel, so we were learning lessons. If you are in the Yucatan for any length of time we suggest heading up to Valladolid for a few days instead of staying strictly in Tulum Town. Check out our next post on “A Few Days In Valladolid” to find out about our stay in this lovely town.