Barefoot & Blissful - Living in Magical Tulum

May 17, 2018
By TAO Mexico
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Tulum - Mexico’s Favorite Pueblo Mágico

The entire Riviera Mayan tourism industry grew relatively recently out of just a small collection of cute Caribbean fishing villages. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when this naturally beautiful area of Mexico began to accelerate into becoming what is now considered one of the best vacation destinations on the planet. The relatively modern emersion of this side of Mexico’s tourism industry has meant that the region has developed unlike any other in the world. The Riviera Maya has its own distinct face - barefoot and blissful - with its own architectural style and it has its own unique way of providing a lifestyle which is immersed in the splendor of an abundant Caribbean paradise. The Riviera Maya has truly embraced the notion of small, boutique-sized hotels which wholly buy into the notion of eco-friendly, wellness living. As the Riviera Maya steadily established itself as the global location for ecologically minded travelers, more came. As more came, the way in which Mexico did ecotourism changed too. It was honed, practiced, all with an eye on giving clients exactly what they wanted. The epicenter of this phenomenon? Blissfully beautiful Tulum.

Tulum - Living in Nature’s Bliss

There is no other place throughout Quintana Roo which represents the modern healthy, mindful, nature-chic lifestyle of the Riviera Maya better than Tulum. This small, ancient Mayan town has become the epicenter of ecotourism in the region and is the frontrunner in setting new standards for the world in terms of how low-density, ecotourism should be done. In plain terms, Tulum is cool. Blissfully cool. The Riviera Maya has developed its own unique brand of barefoot luxury, which is honed to beautiful perfection in gorgeous Tulum. The spectacular coastline of the Mexican Caribbean sets the scene for a lifestyle which is in harmony with nature. The pure white-sand beaches and impossibly clear turquoise sea set the tone for a level of relaxation which most wouldn’t even dream was possible. Tulum firmly embraced the bohemian style decor of simple, neutral colors and distressed, vintage-chic furnishings. Communal spaces, beach clubs, and bars are often lovingly created for pleasant relaxation and enjoyment, often anchored by the presence of an overseeing Buddha or two. Architects of Tulum have perfected the mindful art of creating living spaces which are beautiful by nature, and are seamlessly woven into the rich tapestry of the ever-present beach, sea, and jungle. Tulum beams with the positivity of a community which understands the importance of wellness - both physically and in terms of nurturing a healthy spirituality. Inspirational messages line the streets of Tulum, where beautiful hand-painted signs invite you to return to your center - “Be Here Now” - and to maintain that positive stoicism while interacting with your everyday things. Oceanfront yoga studios and wellness centers make Tulum an enchanting place to live. No surprise it is hailed as one of Mexico’s best Pueblos Mágicos - Magic Towns.  

Around Tulum - Know the Area

Tulum is located around halfway up the Riviera Maya on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. This naturally beautiful, sleepy side of Mexico is served by Cancun International Airport, which is only an-hour-and-a-half from Tulum. Tulum can be clearly divided into four main areas:

  • La Zona Hotelera - The Hotel Zone
  • El Pueblo - The Town
  • El Sitio Arqueologico - The Archaeological Site
  • La Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an - The Natural Biosphere Reserve

Tulum Beach Life - The Hotel Zone

Beach Road South is what we really mean when we talk about the quintessential Tulum lifestyle. The stretch of road which runs south covers around 7 - 8 kilometers of the coastline, with numerous boutique-sized beach clubs which all offer their own imaginative interpretation of barefoot bliss. One of the best things about Tulum Hotel Zone is the low-rise nature of construction. Low-rise means low density, and nearly all of the beach clubs and communities in Tulum Hotel Zone are for a small number of guests or residents. This equates to a peaceful lifestyle with a sense of seclusion and privacy in their communal areas and beach clubs. It is this unique feature of Tulum which has made it a comfortable destination for A-list celebrities to find the peace to relax. It also provides us - the general public - with the opportunity to prove that we are cool enough not to get star-struck in the presence of an internationally recognized artist quietly meditating in our yoga class. Beach Road North offers a further 3.5 kilometers of hotels and resorts which also open out directly onto the Caribbean Sea. This area of Tulum features larger resorts, which sometimes can appear a little clumsy in their design, with less of the authentic feel and seamless immersion with nature we find on the south side. Beach Road North leads up to Tulum National Park and the Archaeological Zone.  

Tulum Town - El Pueblo

Tulum Town acts almost like an entirely different entity compared to the beachfront clubs and restaurants of Tulum Hotel Zone. The town is located around 5 kilometers from the beach, giving it a strong sense of separation and a different character when compared to the Caribbean seafront. Split by the main highway which runs right down the coast of Quintana Roo, Tulum Town has an unnatural layout - like two strips which run up both sides of the road. It’s not really the kind of place you associate with a tropical paradise. If you are looking for the barefoot Tulum lifestyle - and if you can afford it - the beachfront bungalows and eco-friendly communities of the Hotel Zone are really what Tulum is all about. Tulum Town, however, is an excellent place to find reasonably priced restaurants and hotels. It can be a great solution for the simple things you need in your day-to-day life. Being an easy-going place with easy-going people, most who stay in Tulum Town either ride a secure, designated cycle path to the coast, which is around 3.2 kilometers. Many simply stick their thumb out and hitch a ride from one of the countless people who are happy to help, and are ready and willing to contribute to Tulum’s “buena onda” - good vibe.  

Shopping & Dining in Tulum

Tulum offers a world of dining options to suit every taste. Restaurants range from NYC-run, sleek and stylish fine dining options, all the way down to plastic furniture next to a taco truck. Being the center of all things wellness in the Riviera Maya, residents can get a wealth of delicious healthy-eating options, with world food dishes served with artistry by creative and inspired chefs. In Tulum, you can easily get vegan, vegetarian, and raw-food meals; with plenty of places dedicated to the way yogis like to eat. In Tulum, we have the freshest tropical fruits and the most amazing juices. Tulum is great for shopping, offering everything from internationally-recognized, luxury brands to a treasure trove of artisanal handcrafts and local, natural products. Tulum satisfies the desire for genuinely unique, beautiful items, with a community who love rarities in fashion and design. There are a number of large supermarkets in the area giving residents easy access to all the groceries they want and are used to. Tulum has a few upscale master-planned communities which are effortlessly close to the beach. Aldea Zama, for example, sits in the heart of Tulum and provides a lifestyle of fine restaurants, relaxed cafes, boutique stores, luxury-brand outlets, and large, well-known supermarkets. These pleasant communities are perfect for cycling or walking, with wide, paved streets which barely see much traffic. Residents of Tulum have easy access to a complete set of professional services such as health care, dentistry, and banking, both in Tulum Hotel Zone communities and in Tulum Town.

Tulum Weather - Nice Again

Tulum sits in the Mexican Caribbean, and so enjoys the perfect weather one would expect to find accompanying palms trees, white sand, and blue seas. The average temperature ranges from 75°F ~ 24°C in winter to 82°F ~ 28°C in summer, where average highs can reach a pleasant 90°F ~ 32°C. The days are nice and sunny, yet benefit from fairly consistent coastal winds which provide the entire town with gently refreshing sea breezes. The annual average sea temperature never drops below a welcoming 79°F ~ 26°C, making for great swimming and watersports conditions all year round. The Caribbean Sea is perfect for swimming directly off of the beach, while popular water sports include kitesurfing, sailing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. The rainy season begins in summer and peaks around the start of autumn, where September can see an average of up to 15 days of rainfall.  

Tulum Archaeological Site

Tulum is well-known for having one of the best preserved coastal Mayan sites in all of Mexico. As one of the last Mayan cities to be built, Tulum has maintained the heritage of its ancient civilization which was believed to have been at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries. Situated on tall cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea, adjacent to Tulum National Park, the archaeological history of Tulum is a magnificent opportunity to discover the ancient roots of a fascinating civilization.

Biosphere Reserve & Surrounding Nature

The fourth quadrant which makes up Tulum is the expansive Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve; an enormous 780,000 acres of pristine beaches, coral reefs, rainforest, dunes and natural wells. Sian Ka’an was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987 and is home to a wealth of wildlife, including birds, monkeys, crocodiles, and even pumas and jaguars. Tulum acts as the perfect gateway to explore the wider area of the magical Riviera Maya. Quintana Roo is famous for its cenotes - a series of freshwater springs which punctuate the entire Yucatan peninsula, thought to have been made by a meteor storm which hit the coast thousands of years ago. These life-affirming freshwater cenotes are magical, often hidden places, with barely any other souls around. There are also many, well-known cenotes near Tulum, which can easily be discovered by car.