Direct Flight: Tulum, Mexico

Our take on Tulum might be controversial... "fake nice" was the term that kept coming to mind as we entered and exited the seemingly endless beach clubs littered down the strip. This hyped destination was (not surprisingly) more expensive than Miami and New York, more crowded, and dare I say, had average beaches at best. If we were to end this article right now, we would simply advise to pass on Tulum. However, its our duty to get off the beaten path and seek out the more authentic spots a destination has to offer, and that's exactly what we did.

Tulum's not so common spots:

1. Assuming you fly into Cancun, the first random stop on your drive down should be Casa Mono Cafe Bistro. This is a very no frills spot to grab an espresso, home baked goods, and get acquainted with the heat (outdoor seating only). 


2. Keep driving (maybe even speed through Playa Del Carmen) until you reach Hotel Esencia. I would consider just spending your entire trip here if its in your budget ($700 - $3,000 per night depending on the season). This boutique hotel is beautiful, exclusive, modern, quiet, and superior to anything you will find in Tulum.


3. Your next spot (and our favorite of the trip) is Akumal. The beach was beautiful and filled with an equal number of locals and tourists alike. There is a solid restaurant, Lol Ha, that sits on the water and serves great margs, fajitas, and fish. You are still about 25 minutes north of central Tulum here, so plan your drinks accordingly.



4. Que Onda Tacos . Still in the Akumal area, this family owned taco and pasta (yes, pasta) hut is an establishment not to be missed. You will sit outside on the street, there will be stray dogs and locals staring  at you as you dine, and you will embrace every second of it. The food is incredible, and the owners are grateful and hospitable. You will pay cash and tip 100% of the bill as a thank you (tacos are $1). 


5. As you approach Tulum, maybe consider turning around and going back to Akumal or Hotel Esencia. But before doing so, stop at Todo Bien Tulum - The very best coffee and matcha spot. There is not a close second and we would know as we tried 4 different "highly rated" cafes in our pursuit to find the best coffee in Tulum.

To recap, if we could do it all again, we would have loved to visit Tulum in 2013 instead of 2023. Over crowding and high prices have taken hold, without the infrastructure and quality needed to support this hyped destination. Our suggestion is to skip the beach clubs and DJ's on the Tulum strip, and explore the other beautiful, more authentic spots in the surrounding areas.