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If you have read my last post you already know that Tulum and I didn’t hit it off as I had planned. While a big part of it was personal issues, I don’t think Tulum and I would have gotten on at the best of times either. Once I arrived I was pretty sure that I would not be writing a huge Tulum guide simply because I cannot wholeheartedly endorse it as I usually do when I write a travel guide for a place. And let’s be honest, everything and anything you could possibly read about Tulum has already been written. There is no need for another oh so chic guide on where to swing for the ‘gram, prance around, and nibble on delicate Mexican somethings in the city. Another reason is that quite frankly I couldn’t afford to do many of these things because here is news for you: Tulum is bloody expensive.
Yeah, yeah, bad travel blogger – this is something a quick Google search could have told me but I guess I didn’t really believe people when they told me that a) Yucatan is the most expensive part of the country and b) April is considered the highest of high seasons especially with Easter and Spring Break in the mix. I was just a stupid German tourist who was wondering how expensive could ‘expensive’ be in Mexico and booked a one-way ticket.
So no, I don’t recommend you spend extended time in Tulum during your Mexico holiday but if you do end up here, I have some inexpensive accommodation options for you, some nitty-gritty tips on how to get around most importantly where to eat. If Tulum had one redeeming quality for me it was its food. I have not eaten better in a long time and that applied to both – local eateries and street food as well as fancier places.
I have been a huge fan of Mexican food ever since my Mexican roommate Gladys. She also spoiled me for life when it comes to Mexican food and I have dissed many Tex-Mex restaurants over the year because thanks to her I know what good Mexican food should taste like.
With that said, I just spent my weeks eating and trying as many Tulum restaurants as I could muster. This is by no way a comprehensive list of the best Tulum restaurants, but rather places I really enjoyed.
My favorite Tulum Restaurants
Restaurants in Tulum Town
This must have been my favorite place in Tulum town ever. I found it on a random blog (it probably wasn’t random but I can’t remember it and I may have even found it on Yelp – ups) and went there for lunch. In short – it was incredible.
Mind you, you should like pork if you go there. They do have a turkey option and some vegetarian fillings but are definitely known for their pork and yes, that includes locals. They offer tacos, tortas (sandwiches) or quesadillas with either Cochinita pibil which is slow-roasted Yucatan pork or another young slow-cooked pork and both were absolutely amazing. In addition, each plate comes with a piece of crackling. How much better can it get? I left with the biggest smile, only a little sad that I couldn’t eat more.
Come early as they only open for lunch and once sold out they close down for the day!
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
La Chiapaneca is referred to as the godfather of tacos al pastor by many and as local as it gets. Al Pastor refers to a shwarma like meat from the grill and you can see straight into the kitchen upfront – various grills, spit grills, and a ton of meat are working overtime here.
You can choose between tacos, sopes (a thicker taco) or gringas (with cheese) and add your topping – chicken, al pastor, vegetable or beef and also get cheese on top. Once you get your plate there is a little buffet on the inside with sauces, toppings, and limes.
For a seriously cheap and yummy meal, this is the place to go – I was a fan. Though I will say – skip the cheese! While I think cheese makes any dish better in this case it melts and gets stringy but not in a good way, so I would do without.
Encanto Cantina is one of the chicer places and definitely more of a ‘proper’ restaurant with a lovely backyard and a great cocktail menu. This is where I ate my first Mexican guacamole which was so soft and silky that I was convinced they mixed it with fluffy kittens or at least cream.
They have a small selection of tacos and I ate a tuna ceviche taco which came on a folded tostada filled with Cochinita pibil (slow cooked pork). OMG. Very strange but also very yummy. If you are eating on your own, skip the guacamole and save it for another day because portions are huge.
I also tried their breakfast which was lovely safe for some blearing techno music which wasn’t quite fitting at 8 in the morning. But they make amazing fresh smoothies served in cute clay pots as well as eggs in a casserole which come with crunchy tortilla bits, mushrooms, and all sorts of yumminess.
This place is hailed to have some of the best seafood in Tulum town, good enough reason to check out the fish tacos. I started with a tostada which is basically a deep-fried and thus crispy taco topped with prawn ceviche. Now this portion was basically enough to get me full and super yummy – no skimping on the prawns in this country!
The fish tacos which I knew came in a set of four were even bigger. I have yet to find out why but tacos in this country come doubled up – probably due to the fact that they hold up better this way and because corn tacos are cheap here unlike in the rest of the sad world where we have to pay a fortune for them (yes, looking at you, Germany!). Each double taco came with 3 huge battered fish sticks, a side of guacamole, salsa and lots of extra lime (another thing we sadly pay a premium for where I come from). I have realized that for the last year or so I have developed quite an aversion to a lot of battered and/or deep-fried dishes so the fish was a bit too doughy for me though it was still rather juicy and crispy.
And while 120 pesos is on the pricier side for 4 tacos the portion was seriously enormous.
Campanella was another cafe that I really enjoyed and went to frequently as it was just one block from my hotel. They have great coffee and a small selection of sandwiches and waffles as well as ice cream. While I am not a huge ice cream fan I did try some and it was pretty good, and according to their accolades on the wall, it has even won some prices.
I mainly ate their tuna sandwich on focaccia and got my takeaway coffee their (they use biodegradable lids!) and if you are looking for something else than tacos this will hit just the right spot.
Here is a universal truth: sometimes all you need is a good pizza. That holds true when you feel sad, sick or generally overwhelmed with the world and doesn’t change just because you are in Mexico and have taco heaven at your fingertips.
I had one of those nights and was watching an Instagram story of a friend of mine who posted an amazing looking pizza with parma ham with the explanation that she was sick so nothing else would do. Since I was feeling a bit off in general and also coughing non-stop this was my clue to search for a pizza. I was pretty determined that if I couldn’t find a pizza that was just right I’d rather have no pizza at all. I left my hotel turned right and boom – the restaurant downstairs offered pizza with parma ham and the owner was Italian. Nothing more to say but in case you are craving a pizza in Tulum, head to Mediterraneo.
They also offer great huge shared pizzas on a board and some decent red wine.
Farm to Table
Farm to Table became one of my favorite places to eat in Tulum town and not just for the food. The restaurant has such a nice interior and is the perfect spot to sit and work for a few hours as they have a lovely courtyard with an adjacent Airbnb (they don’t have the same owner and I didn’t stay there but it looked lovely – you can check it out here).
The food is local and healthy as the name implies and offers some great options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whatever you are eating, start your meal with a Ya’xa juice which was one of the best fresh juices I have ever had (of course, served with an avocado seed straw!) or some really good coffee. Their pork tacos albeit pricier than any street food were to die for and came with some pickled radishes that just made the whole dish for me and they also have some really great Mexican egg dishes for breakfast.
A special thank you goes out to Lucas, my waiter, who was just the kindest person when I was feeling incredibly sad and anxious one morning. It was one of those moments the kindness of a stranger just blew me away and really made life so much more bearable.
El Camello was another place which came highly recommended for its seafood and it did not disappoint. It is adjacent to a fishmonger and you can watch the guys prepare the freshest seafood while sipping on delicious mango margaritas. They have the usual array of tacos, tostadas, and ceviches with choices of fish, shrimp, octopus and you can order it either battered and fried or grilled, a la plancha.
I had fish tacos a la plancha and they were amazing. Fresh, simple (with a delicious spicy bean sauce), and inexpensive. And did I mention the mango margaritas??
I feel like I need to mention Burrito Amor as it came so highly recommended by many friends and readers. To be honest, I think it might be my Tulum version of Alchemy in Bali – we either needed a second try or I am just the only person in the world who thinks it is vastly overrated.
While I loved the concept of various burritos wrapped in banana leaves, fresh juices and a cool setup, the food just wasn’t the greatest. Mind you, I am not a burrito fan in general as I think the double carb load of rice and tortilla is just not for me and their sauces while good left me rather…er, gassy (sorry for the TMI).
With that said, if you are looking for an innovative take on a Mexican classic and want a place that is a little more Instagram-worthy in Tulum town, check it out.
Tulum Beach Restaurants
When you are looking to eat in Tulum beach you need to be prepared to a) look the part and b) have deep pockets. Everything in Tulum beach is so much more expensive and instead of street food, you will only find Instagram-worthy, hipster food trucks here. Eventually, I just went with it.
I will say though that while prices are high and you are definitely paying for the chicness of it all and the ocean views, the food was still really good wherever I ate. There are still some more options I would have loved to try but I quickly got stuck in my usual rut of finding two or three places and returning over and over.
I spent my first three days at Ziggy’s a lovely yet somewhat unpretentious beach club. A lot of Tulum beach clubs and hotels have a minimum consumption for non-staying guests and it is usually quite steep. Even a day at Ziggy’s will set you back $50 per person but this will get you a comfy beach bed, clean toilets, and some of the best service I have had. I dare say though, it is only worth it if you are planning to stay the whole day so make sure you lather up on sunscreen and bring company – if only a good book.
Tacos, guacamole, and some healthier salads are on the menu and an absolute must eat are the tuna ceviche nachos. I only discovered those on the last day and was quite sad I couldn’t eat them again.
La Bratwurst & Co.
Leave it to the German to take her date to the one and only place she didn’t want to end up in: La Bratwurst. I didn’t even mean to go there in an ironic way because seriously – the place even has a gnome! So no, I didn’t eat at La Bratwurst because who flies for 12 hours just to eat something she doesn’t eat home?
But still, the setup is lovely as La Bratwurst and a few other food trucks build a little venue on the roadside and make a great place for a casual dinner and a few drinks – even on a date. There is a cart for seafood tacos, one for amazing tacos al pastor as well as some salad and pasta options.
You get your food, drink and then there are some communal tables to eat at. In case you wonder, there are toilets on the adjacent parking lot but they are Dixie toilets which in combination with the food trucks make for the perfect festival atmosphere including fairy lights on the tree.
Taqueria Eufemia came highly recommended as one of the inexpensive Tulum restaurants for tacos on the beach. I went there once at night but to be honest, the music was blasting and I didn’t feel it. Instead, I returned for a quick lunch and while the service wasn’t the greatest, the fish and seafood tacos were yummy and indeed, inexpensive for a beach restaurant in Tulum.
They also have a great buffet of extras for your tacos including spicy pineapple sauce with habaneros alongside with the usual condiments and limes.
Zebra is another well-known hotel/beach club combination and if you are looking for a cheaper beach club in Tulum, a good one as the minimum consumption is only $35 per person. I only had lunch there which was great – have I mentioned how much I love Mexican seafood dishes?!
Late in the afternoon you can just make yourself at home on one of the beach beds, enjoy the sunset and a great cocktail menu.
I stumbled across La Corriente by mistake and was instantly drawn to it by their mermaid logo and cute garden set up. It was also my first experience with a Tulum beach restaurant and its rather steep prices. Say what?? One taco instead of four for 80 pesos?!
But to be honest, the food is great here and the restaurant incredibly chilled at least for lunch and if you are a fan of Bloody Marys and other cocktails, this is your restaurant in Tulum.
How to get to Tulum
The easiest way to get to Tulum is flying into Cancun airport and take a transport from the airport. From Cancun airport to Tulum the drive will take between 1,5 and 2 hours depending if you book a private transport or take the bus.
Since I arrived at 9 pm at night and knew I was going to be tired and jetlagged I asked my hotel to book a private transfer for me. This set me back $120 as the hotel added quite a steep commission. While it was practical I was also a bit irritated as I needed to pay it upon arrival in cash which left me searching for an ATM in Tulum at midnight. In hindsight, I would have rather booked a private car with a transfer company directly or had I arrived at an earlier hour taken the ADO bus.
I took the bus later back to the airport and also to get back to and from Cancun when I had to go to the German consulate. You can book your bus ticket here and you can simply pay with your credit card or via PayPal and get an e-ticket for your phone. Alternatively, you can buy your ticket at any of the ADO stations. Depending on what time of day you want to travel you may want to book your ticket in advance.
Busses are quite comfy with aircon, you can select your preferred seat, there are toilets and a lady with snacks will frequently come on the bus when it stops so you can stock up on chips and drinks. They even show some movies (sometimes at a really high volume) so you can practice your Spanish.
Where to stay in Tulum
As I mentioned before, Tulum is a lot pricier than I expected and as I was used to from Southeast Asia and you will see an even steeper increase if you are moving from Tulum town to Tulum beach.
If you want to stay in Tulum town I recommend Ruta del Sol. While not Instagram-worthy by any means this little hotel was super central and not even one block from the ADO bus station and the collectivo taxis. Rooms are simple but come with aircon and very good wifi. Sometimes at night it can get a bit loud from the adjacent bars so don’t forget to pack some earplugs. However, you are within walking distance from many great eateries and shops and the price definitely makes up for it.
Looking for accommodation at Tulum beach? I cannot recommend this Airbnb enough. Andrea has created a little eco heaven right on the promenade but in a part of Tulum playa that is still somewhat chilled. While I paid $60 per night, more than my usual budget if I am staying somewhere for longer, it is definitely one of the cheapest accommodation in Tulum beach if you don’t want to rent a hammock or stay at a hostel. And I dare say, it was so worth it because the little cottages (check her other listings as well as she has a few) are incredibly cute, come with an outside shower, and have an overall good vibe.
You can also access one of the beach clubs on the other side of the road if you buy a drink or a meal or alternatively chill in the hammock in the garden right in front of your room.
To get from Tulum town to the beach you can either hire a bicycle (some places rent them for a fee, my Airbnb provided them for free) or take a taxi. Taxi prices ranged from 150 – 250 pesos depending on the time of day and the driver, and you can definitely try to negotiate a bit. Personally, I didn’t bike anywhere as the roads are somewhat treacherous especially in the evening and I hate biking. Do be careful when driving along the beach promenade as the road is often crowded and not very well maintained.
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