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Courtesy Casa de las Olas

Tucked between Mexico’s luxe Mayan Riviera and the expansive Sian Ka’an Biosphere, Tulum has long been a well-kept secret of eco-conscious travelers in search of life’s simple pleasures: a great climate, a perfect beach, simply prepared seafood and a strong margarita.

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep…at Be Tulum, a chic designer enclave
  • Experience…salsa Sunday at La Zebra
  • Splurge…on another night at one of the top resorts along the Riviera Maya before heading home
  • Eat…local Mexican fare at Cetli in town and at El Tabano at the beach, and make a reservation at Hartwood and Hemingway
  • Drink…organic cocktails at The Real Coconut
  • Savor…the wood-fire-oven pizzas at Casa Violeta
  • Visit…the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a stunning 1.3-million-acre nature preserve
  • See…the Tulum ruins, an incredible archaeological site
  • Shop…for fun Mexican finds and beach wear in the town of Tulum, especially at Mixik, which also has an outpost at the beach

Lay of the Land

“Mexico is the front door to South America - and the back door to the states...”
~Tennessee Williams

Tulum is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, one of the three that make up the region known as the Yucatán. Although lately Cancún has been pressing hard for inclusion in the more upscale Riviera Maya, officially the Yucatán begins 22 miles south of the Cancún airport and extends 82 miles down the coast to southern Tulum. Carretera 307 runs parallel to the sea, with exits for the resorts from the left lane, if you’re heading south. About halfway between Cancún and Tulum—a drive that takes one-and-a-half hours in total—is Playa del Carmen, as close to party central as you get along the Riviera Maya, with tons of restaurants, bars and touristy shops.

About 15 minutes south of Playa, the scenery changes noticeably: there’s still construction but much less than to the north, and the jungle seems to get denser as you head toward Akumal and Tulum. Akumal, a scuba and snorkel center whose name means “place of the turtles,” doesn’t have hotels like the other spots; instead, visitors rent houses and villas on the beach.

If Akumal is the serene beauty, then Tulum is its sexy sister. Marked by a series of small palapa-style hotels occupying the beachfront that stretches to southern Punta Allen, the former hippie town still has a seriously laid-back vibe along with some newish additions. All Indagare-recommended hotels are located along Tulum Beach; some of the area’s best restaurants are located in Tulum Town, about a 10-minute drive from Tulum Beach. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere is located about 10 miles south of Tulum.

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Beyond… Tulum

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