If you haven't been to Tulum, you're missing out. Next chance you get to travel, make this your next destination. Best part is, it is extremely easy to book and navigate, leave the stress at home and go off on a magic tropical getaway. Tulum is child and animal friendly for the most part, some resorts do not allow them but the place I recommend staying does. I am going to give you a step by step easy guide on how I travel to Tulum.
When to book: Tulum's rainiest months are June, September, and October. The three-month stretch from October to December is the best time to visit, when hurricane season is over and the weather is warm but not oppressively hot. January through March see the biggest wave of tourists, so avoid that time if you're not a fan of crowds. Personally, I love meeting new people... so my trip was in March.
Booking the Resort: First things first, booking your stay, the earlier you book, the better rate you will receive. I highly recommend Ahau Tulum, I have stayed there twice now. The first half of your booking is charged to your card, the second half is due upon arrival. If you pay for the remainder in cash, you can receive 4% off. Also take another 10% off your next stay for the full booking for being a repeat customer. Book your rooms before your flights, sometimes the rooms you'd ultimately like to stay in may be booked already. See more below about Ahau.
Booking your Flights: Book your flights early and you can purchase fairly cheap airfare, round trip. I used Expedia to find the cheapest flights, direct to (CUN) - Cancun. I personally upgrade last minute to economy plus, for a more enjoyable ride. I do so once I have checked in at the airport, or when I am on my way there. The extra leg space and a blanket are key to relaxing. Sometimes, if you get really lucky, just before the flight, you can request first class for fairly cheap! I upgraded for $100 to first class both ways, on my first trip to Tulum. Another trick to extending the length of your trip, take a red eye flight, departing the evening before and you land on the day of your first nights stay. Therefore you can sleep through your flight and have the entire day in your tropical paradise! Question may arise: "But we can't check in until 3pm". You do not need to check in immediately to start your vacation, Ahau is so accomodating, they will hold your luggage and you can beach it or grab breakfast directly at the resort. You'll forget you even needed to check in, and more times then not, they can get you an early check-in.
Transportation: I reserve a simple small economy car from Hertz, it's been reliable and gets the job done. I do not recommend using a smaller company in Mexico... When you land and get through TSA, there will be multiple car rental booths at the exit, just keep walking. Those are not the ones you're looking for, go to the curb and wait for a Hertz Shuttle, they will take you about a mile around the corner and you will be on your way shortly. My entire weeks rental cost was $160, I was a rebel and opted out of insurance. The drive to Tulum is really only about, one and a half hours, it's a scenic drive so you won't mind. Watch out for the speed traps, they love nothing more then to pull over some fun loving Americans, speeding and hitting speed bumps going 80...Killometers that is... I may or may not have done that on accident! The speed bumps are not painted and come out of nowhere! Also the speed signs go from 100km, to 30km to 80km (example) within the same mile. If you are caught speeding they will pull you over and likely ruin your trip. I have heard so many instances where people are shook down and robbed, be careful and follow the rules. I enjoy having my own vehicle there, you'll get the most freedom out of your travels and the best bang for your buck. Use your phone navigation and it will take you straight to your destination.
Currency: Once you arrive in Tulum, you will start coming across businesses, storefronts, hotels and resteraunts. You will see a little shack on the right with a currency exchange sign. This is where you will want to exchange your currency. I have found that this is generally the better rate, versus the airport. You place your money in a handmade cardboard box and they will return it in Pesos. It is recommended to bring some pesos or USD cash at the least, most places charge a 4% fee for charges to a credit card and the exchange rate for Pesos to USD is generally not good. Learn your math and you'll get the hang of paying for your items. I personally thought it was kind of fun!
Click any photo to Enlarge.
The prior trip I took, I stayed at Ahau half of the time and then ventured over to Azulik for the remainder. We'll put it this way, we were staying at Azulik and ended up back on the beach at Ahau. We highly regretted moving resorts and it quite honestly put a damper on the rest of our vacation. At Azulik, it is beautiful and a sight to see, but for maybe one night. There are too many issues that get in the way of you being able to relax, the A/C is turned off at 4am... the worst time ever, especially if there's a storm outside and you can't leave the doors open for airflow and you basically bake. They tend to have construction building all day long, how are you to relax? Another downside is their water is a "natural source"... I got sick simply from brushing my teeth with the water. Enough of the sad stories, here comes the good! Ahau is extremely user friendly, laid back and accommodating, not to mention the beach is literally at your doorstep.
Imagine this, you wake up in a boutique hand-crafted room, open the mesh curtains around the four post bed, take a step out to the balcony, through the sliders, pushing open the sheer drapes that blow in the wind. You stretch out on the daybed or hang in the hammock and text the front house what complimentary morning beverage you would like.
Meanwhile soaking up the beautiful sunrise, your beverage and local made pastry are served where you lay. You leisurely relax around your room, because its so peaceful you might forget to even leave the room. You play some relaxing music on the bose speaker and maybe decide to take a rinse in the handcrafted shower.
Not feeling up to beaching it yet, go get in touch with your beach body in the beach front yoga class upstairs, at 9am or 3pm daily. The teachers are amazing! Haven't taken a yoga class before? That's okay, many of the students are newbies and do just fine, remember it's your practice, there is no perfect, everyone is on their own journey. There are also a list of other classes and experiences available at Ahau.
(Time-lapse of our yoga class)
Finally, you decide its time to go get some brunch or lunch, take less than a minute walk through the sand to either three of the restaurants on site. Feeling like brunch? Visit Ahau breakfast or All Day Menu at the upper restaurant. Feeling like you want a health kick, head over to the on site resterant Raw Love Cafe, my favorite thing to enjoy there is the açaí bowl.
After you're pleased with your meal, grab a towel and head to the beach front cabanas where you can relax, tan and enjoy food and beverage service all day. They offer another eatery on the beach as well, the Grill Menu.
While you're enjoying your beach time, many artisan jewelry makers and craftsman will walk by showing their boards of jewels and crafts to sell. Not only adults, but children... Both years I have been to Tulum, I have ran into "Aracelli", she works all day long in the blazing heat, "hustling" an income for her family to survive in Mexico. We ended up befriending Aracelli, each time she would come by we would have her sit with us and have a glass of cool water and take a break in the shade. We spoke to her as best as we could and learned that she is only 14 years old, she has no schooling and she would love to move to America and get schooling, but she said it's too expensive. I have a soft spot for her, on our last day I told her to hold on and ran up to my room and found her a gift. A set of beaded foot jewelry, I told her she could make these and sell them as well. I wish I could take her to the states with me! We made sure to support the local artisans and families on the beach sales versus shopping at the tourist traps along the roadsides, because the sales go directly to the families, who hand make these items.
If you get tired of tanning, swimming and being waited on... as if you could ever get tired of that, grab a bike from the front desk and go check out the surrounding area, turn left for the top restaurants and boutiques, turn right for similar. If your not feeling into a bike ride just yet, which I recommend you do... Take a stroll and make your restaurant reservations in the surrounding area, for the places you want to dine at for each night of your stay. They are difficult to get into the same day and you don't want to be waiting around on a table. Check out my blog on the best restaurants to visit in Tulum.
Photos of Ahau, Click to Enlarge.
I recommend the Master Suite Top Level, it is hands down, the best room there. I have stayed in the upper and lower rooms and have found that the upper is more roomy, the vaulted ceilings accentuate the ambiance of the entire room. Don't get me wrong, the beach level is beautiful too, I personally like more privacy and to keep my blinds open and there are guests walking around below. The second room recommendation would be the Junior Master Suite Upper Level, they are a smaller version but still super cute. Take note, it is so necessary to have A/C in the rooms at night and the Bali Huts do not provide that, so if you can handle the heat go ahead, it's the least expensive room. Realistically you cannot go wrong with any room at Ahau, they are all hand crafted and beautifully designed. Ahau only has about 20 rooms so it is not super busy, which is nice! Literally everyone who works there is so down to earth, kind and accommodating. It's enjoyable to feel that kind of friendly energy from everyone. It is centrally located, and walking distance to the best restaurants in Tulum.
Outside of the Resort
We spent the majority of our trip, relaxing at Ahau, it's so perfect, you may forget to leave. Generally, we would wander out of the resort around 5pm and walk or bike the main road. There are multiple boutiques and places to shop. Along with bars and restaurants. Around 7pm-8pm we would go to our reservation that we had made at the beginning of our stay. Not sure where to dine? View my blog on Top Restaurants to Dine in Tulum.
There are many cenotes to view and you probably only want to choose one, as they are all similar. I spoke to the locals and got a list of the best cenotes to visit near Tulum.
We ended up going to the number one recommendation, it was about 35 minutes from our resort but totally worth it. Also convenient that we had our rental car so we could be on our way whenever we decided! Bring a towel in the car for when you are finished, they are not provided! You arrive there, leave all your personal items in your trunk, shoes, bags, towel, phone etc. Check in, you have the option to wear a wet suit for $10 more, I would recommend it as it is about an hour guided tour and the water is pretty cool, but bearable. I opted to rent a water camera so I could show you all the inside of this cenote, funny thing is, I didn't realize the IphoneX is waterproof. OOPS. wasn't worth risking losing all the blog photos! Anywho back to the cenote, it was a small group with a great instructor, I enjoyed having this guided tour because we were able to go deep into the cenote and visited 4 caves, meanwhile learning all about them. Other places you can look around yourself but they would never let you go in as far as we did. You will see plunging spikes throughout the caves, crystal clear blue water and a ton of bats!
Click any photo to Enlarge.
While it is all beautiful and shiny where we vacation, we must also recognize the culture around us. The people building and working at these facilities are living in poverty, so give back to the community, buy local and tip well!