An Enchanting Day in the Rich Hippie Enclave of Tulum, Mexico

With seemingly endless stretches of soft, white sand beaches and aquamarine sea, Tulum, Mexico, acts as my preferred getaway destination.  This hippie enclave caters to yoga lovers and tree huggers alike with bulky wallets.  Despite Tulum’s attraction to the rich and famous, I’ve always encountered affordable and enjoyable options for a day at the beach.

An Enchanting Day in the Rich Hippie Enclave of Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico. View of the beach at La Zebra. La Zebra burned down a few years ago and has been rebuilt bigger and better.
Tulum, Mexico. View of the beach at La Zebra. La Zebra burned down a few years ago and has been rebuilt bigger and better.

Tulum: The New “It” Spot

I compare Tulum to Ubud, Bali.  Yoga aficionados, holistic healers and hippies flock to both in multitudes.  Unlike Ubud, Tulum has a beach and ten times less traffic.  In truth, the combination of an eco-friendly community, laid back atmosphere and world class beaches, have quickly launched Tulum into the travel stratosphere.

Actually, Tulum has become such an “it” destination, don’t be surprised if you spot celebrities in your yoga class.  In fact, a good friend was hired as the private yoga teacher for a Victoria Secret supermodel.  Needless to say they turned many heads while doing downward dogs on the sand at one upscale Tulum resort.

Even though Tulum is in vogue among the movers and shakers, it can be an affordable endeavor.  Indeed when we go for a day trip from Playa del Carmen, we often spend less than $70 USD per person including food and drinks for both lunch and dinner.  First we start at La Zebra for some beach time and lunch.  After I’ll go for a beach walk.  Then on my way back, I’ll return on the main beach road, hitting a few boutiques on the way.  Lastly, a thai dinner at The Mezzanine caps off our day.

Tulum, Mexico. The beach at La Zebra. For an even more secluded beach you can drive down to Sian Kaan nature reserve about 20 minutes south.
Tulum, Mexico. The beach at La Zebra. For an even more secluded beach you can drive down to Sian Kaan nature reserve about 20 minutes south.

La Zebra Beach Club and Hotel

In approximately one hour from leaving my home in Playa del Carmen, I can be eating fresh guacamole and sipping a mezcal mule at La Zebra beach club and hotel in Tulum.  By far La Zebra serves as my favorite hang out spot in this bohemian hotspot.  The chic beach vibe calms my soul while the appetizing menu rewards my palate.

From the minute I reach the main entrance to La Zebra, I feel like I’m entering some tropical oasis.  Warm, rustic wood structures topped with light palm leaves meld seamlessly into the thick jungle.  As I navigate the boardwalk towards the beach, my heart beats faster in anticipation.  And then there it is: the beach.

Tulum may have originally been named Zama, meaning City of Dawn, since it faces the sunrise.
Tulum may have originally been named Zama, meaning City of Dawn, since it faces the sunrise.

The clear turquoise waters sit only feet from the hotel.  A thick line of soft sand dotted with beach beds connects the two.  I usually opt to sit in the restaurant and work while friends or guests splay themselves out on loungers.  I merrily type away while enjoying water views while others plunge in.

After a couple of hours I normally walk up the beach north until it ends with rock outcroppings.  On the way, each beach club and hotel tends to have its own unique style.  From ivory painted rustic wood structures to beach swings, all are equally inviting and impressive.  I plan to visit one or another one of these days, but know they cost more than I’d like to spend.

In Mayan the word Tulum means fence, wall or trench.
In Mayan the word Tulum means fence, wall or trench.

Tulum Shopping and Beach Road

I prefer to walk back to La Zebra on the main beach road.  So I cut through a hotel or club to reach the main thoroughfare.  Here the unsophisticated and unpretentious boutiques and restaurants offer appealing and unique options.

At one store specializing in Mexican crafts, hand knit shirts add a bit of color and design to the drab.  I also found fantastic shoes with vivid design made of beads.  Even though the quality and diversity are superior, prices soar to at least four times what you would pay in other locations.

I did discover a sombrero with such a stunning design, I’ve never seen it anywhere else.  Multicolored threads are stitched across the top adding magic to the already sublime.  In light of such elegance, I bought it despite the price tag.

Then I continue my voyage south past some alluring restaurants.  One of my favorites is Hartwood.  Ranked by Diner’s Club as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, Hartwood offers a new menu daily based on freshness and flavor.  In high season you can wait outside hours for a table.

Tulum, Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing Tulum to be abandoned.
Tulum, Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing Tulum to be abandoned.

Dinner at The Mezzanine

Once I’m back at La Zebra, we hop in the car and head north to the Mezzanine for a Thai dinner on the northern Tulum beach.  Perched on a cliff, this fabulous venue overlooks an aquamarine sea.  I prefer going at sunset to enjoy the kaleidoscope of hues.  From pinkish blue to purple, the light show never seems to disappoint.

I opt for a table outside under the overhanding orange lanterns.  While I down one or two mango margaritas, I feast on succulent red curry with chicken.  Somehow the mix of a bit of sun, some alcohol and fantastic food, induces a divine feeling of satisfaction.

However, it’s hard to remain still as the photographer in me itches to get up and start snapping.  Between the sunset, illuminated pools and intimate lighting, I left my seat at least ten times for photo opportunities.  Even though Allan supports my endeavor, having your dinner companion leave the table so abruptly and frequently, can be annoying at times.

Tulum, Mexico at the Mezzanine. Nick and Krysta, seen here in front, came for their honeymoon. Nick is Allan's grandson.
Tulum, Mexico at the Mezzanine. Nick and Krysta, seen here in front, came for their honeymoon. Nick is Allan’s grandson.

Our Overall Day in Tulum

Once we’ve satiated our palates, we pop back in the car and head back home to Playa.  I’ve never regretted or felt disappointed during any of my many trips to Tulum. Even after doing the same thing time and time again, the routine never feels boring or mundane.

Quite to the contrary, a day in Tulum stimulates my senses.  Aesthetically, the bohemian, chic resorts satisfy my internal designer.  The foodie in me relishes the fresh and succulent favors.  And my nerves automatically relax once my feet are in the sand.  A day in Tulum not only entertains and amuses, it also satiates my soul.

Tulum, Mexico at the Mezzanine. The same company owns both La Zebra and The Mezzanine.
Tulum, Mexico at the Mezzanine. The same company owns both La Zebra and The Mezzanine.

Do you have any questions or comments about Tulum?

Please let me know in the comments.

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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