Tulum Travel Guide: What to Experience in Mexico’s Most Glamorous Beach Town

The Modern Woman Guide to Tulum

The swings at Casa Malca.

The swings at Casa Malca.

By Taryn Anderson

Situated on the Caribbean coastline just under two hours south of Cancun, Tulum feels like its own little world. It’s not hard to see why the bohemian town of Tulum is one of Mexico’s most fashionable destinations.

Home to ruins and temples, and thick jungle and cenotes, Tulum is defined by its enchanting blend of nature and its rich Mayan history, both of which inform everything from the locals’ emphasis on sustainability, to the cuisine that pays homage to the traditional ingredients and methods of preparation.

Planning a trip to Tulum? Below are a few of my favorite places to experience the best of what the magical beach town has to offer.

Where we stayed.

My group stayed at the gorgeous Papaya Playa Project, a Design Hotels collection resort right on the water. Waking up in our Jungle Casita and strolling to the breakfast on the beach was unbeatable and we would all book a stay here again in a heartbeat.

Other hotels to consider when booking your stay include Casa Malca, a stunning property near the end of the beach road known for belonging to the infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s in its past life, and Azulik, an eco-friendly and exceptionally designed property home to the high-end restaurant Kin Toh.

I would recommend staying in a hotel on the beach rather than one in town, but the inland town is worth a visit for some of the best ceviche you’ll ever have. However, if you are traveling with a large group, there are plenty of large Airbnb’s available in town and on the way to the beach, while they are harder to come by closer to the water.

Where we dined.


It’s not difficult to see why so many visitors to Tulum rave about Hartwood. The outdoor dining room offers a daily menu featuring incredibly fresh seafood and exotic flavors only found the Yucatán. Reservations are taken online the month prior by email and are necessary to avoid the long queues at dinnertime. Like many businesses in Tulum, Hartwood is cash only.



With Noma alum Jose Luis Hinostroza as a partner, ARCA’s jungle dining room is a stylish and welcome newcomer to Tulum’s beach dining scene.

“From fire to table” is how ARCA defines their menu program, with a majority of their dishes prepared in their wood fire oven, and all executed perfectly. The ambiance created by the smoky air lends an unbeatable atmosphere to the space, and a dining experience that just can’t be replicated outside Tulum . Reservations are available between 6PM and 7PM, otherwise walk-ins only are taken at this jungle kitchen.


Posada Margherita

I know what you’re thinking- Italian food in Mexico? But trust me, Posada Margherita is not a restaurant to miss. With their pasta made fresh in house, beach-seating, and spectacular views of the Caribbean Ocean, Posada Margherita has earned its place as a Tulum staple.


NÜ Tulum

With a contemporary Mexican menu, NÜ Tulum was home to one of the more interesting menus we encountered. The combination of fresh flavors and innovative ingredients, such as the in their Mackerel Carpaccio starter which features cilantro vinaigrette, puree of grapefruit peel and passion fruit ice cream, resulted in an exciting and memorable meal.


The Jungle Room at Gitano.

The Jungle Room at Gitano.

Where we played.


The cocktails and nightlife are unbeatable at this indoor-outdoor restaurant and mezcal bar. With over 50 mezcal varieties brought over from Oaxaca and juice made fresh daily with seasonal fruits and herbs, Gitano has earned its reputation as a top Tulum destination to imbibe.


Papaya Playa Project

Papaya Playa Project

Casa Jaguar

Thursday nights are the most popular at Casa Jaguar, with both locals and visitors alike descending on the bar for their weekly jungle parties. Casa Jaguar runs a phenomenal bar program featuring many mezcal and tequila based cocktails.


Papaya Playa Project

In Tulum, Saturday nights are reserved for Papaya Playa Project’s weekly beach parties. Featuring talented producers and DJs playing late into the night, the vibes are unbeatable. If your Tulum trip coincides with one of their monthly full moon parties, thank your lucky stars.

Check out their Instagram for updates on their events.

Papaya Playa Project’s Event Schedule