Tulum, Mexico (review)

My family went to Tulum, Mexico for two weeks in May, 2107. We rented a condo, ate out most of the time and bicycled or took taxis around the area. We visited Chichen Itza, Coba’ and a few cenotes. We played with monkeys.

WHERE TO STAY:

Our condo, #104 located at Artia by Moskito, was nice. The interior was all neutral colors, the layout was good with a small courtyard off both of our ground floor bedrooms and one in front between the gated entry to our unit and the front door. There was lawn furniture and a Jacuzzi tub, unheated and without a filtration system.IMG_0856The Jacuzzi is pictured above. The white sediment in which you can see my footprints at the bottom is sunscreen washed off of former occupants who did not adequately shower. The tubs are not heated or filtered or cleaned between occupants. Vegetation is another problem as it falls constantly from above and into the pool.
The unit had 3 air conditioning units which worked really well, even in the intense heat. We often had to adjust the temp up in the middle of the night as it got chilly inside! Having traveled and slept in hotels without ac, I can tell you that this is an amazing bonus.
The kitchen was well supplied with cookware, dishes, glassware, utensils and appliances including a range, toaster oven, coffee maker, blender and other things. The unit has a washer and drier which were truly crucial because beaches and pools can create a lot of damp, sandy clothing to be laundered! They supplied a full shaker of salt, laundry detergent, cleaners, dish soap and dishwasher pods.
The beds were hard. If you’re looking for a good mattress this is not the place for you. There were plentiful pillows and the living room has a sleeper sofa.
The unit was very well stocked with linens and towels.
The floors are all tile with one small rug. The closets were probably my favorite thing about the condo. Incredibly well-designed with plenty of space for everyone’s stuff.
The property is managed by Mr Roger, who is the father of the owner, Mr Roger. I think I have this right but possibly am confused on some point. Definitely the men on top are father and son, both named Roger. Any time we had an issue, either I or my husband would contact Mr Roger Sr and help was immediate. The two of them did a lot to make our stay comfortable and to rectify any issues we had.
So, the issues, Housekeeping. I could make a really long list of my issues with housekeeping, there were many, none of which are about my inability to speak more than the smallest amount of Spanish. She moved all of our things around endlessly, as if her opinion of where things should go mattered more than us knowing where our things were; the floors were absolutely filthy, socks quickly turned bad colors when worn around the condo but we had to wear something because, yuck; there were 6 rolls on toilet paper on May 6 and these were not replenished until May 19th. 5 people, 3 bathrooms, 6 rolls of tp. You do the math. We bought our own. On May 19th we received 9 new rolls; the kitchen cabinets have insect bait in little piles on the shelves and I get it, Mexico is hot and damp (Tulum is damp, anyway), and insects are aggressive but I really don’t want the rim of my coffee cup or son’s breakfast bowl to have insecticide on it; the housekeeper seemed to clean everything with the same rag–dishes, countertops, the toilets and shower, spots on the floor, *everything*. When she left the rag neatly folded over the edge of the sink I picked it up and sniffed it. It smelled like insecticide and felt very greasy. After that it was difficult to trust anything in the condo as being safe to put near my mouth without having to disinfect it first; our king sized bed was made up fresh 2x per week, which is great, but the duvet cover that just barely covered the flat part of the mattress that was used as a bottom sheet was distressing. I didn’t want to sleep on the mattress pad like the last 40 tenants; I also didn’t care for the duvet cover that was put on the bed as a top sheet. Same issue.
Again, the management did try and rectify this situation but they were not successful. They even brought us wine and chocolate by way of apology. The intention is great but I would suggest hiring an environmental cleaning service to come in and take care of housekeeping, as what is in place is far below the standard set by the the rest of the facility.
There are security officers on duty 24/7. They were very sweet and helpful.
Al-in-all we enjoyed our stay at Artia but if we return to Tulum, we would be inclined to stay elsewhere.

Well then, where would I stay instead?
I did not see any rooms in person but did visit several other locations where rooms are available.

My very, very favorite was Be Tulum and not only because of the super cool name. The whole place is amazing, magical even, with wafts of copal smoke drifting over from the spa and Nag Champa from who knows where.
At night there are tiki torches blazing and deep urns filled with wood coals and something smoky and which mosquitoes hate. It is incredibly clean and offers amazing weekly events such as women’s circles and cacao ceremonies.
The only down note for me was a feeling of people there to see and be seen.
IMG_6919Mark and I having lunch at Be Tulum.

Posada Margherita would probably be my actual choice. The entry path, to me, felt like home.
IMG_6994
PM had a very soft, earthy vibe without the smell of money permeating everything. The beach is beautiful and the restaurant fab, more on that later.
IMG_6996Cabanas and tables at Posada Margherita.

 

There are stacks of amazing beach clubs that deserve exploration that we didn’t have time for. Papaya Playa if you’re young and into techno music and a very open, larger resort. More informal with great cabanas on the beach and more than 1 bar. The food wasn’t the best but someone recommended the ceviche.

Mezzanine. We went because someone suggested the restaurant and I had planned on booking here until I learned it’s an adults-only resort. Mezzanine has the added bonus of being beside the best beach in Mexico. There are stairs that lead right down onto it. The Thai restaurant is locally-famous but I was very sick after eating there, probably more me than the food. The rest of our crew loved it.

WHERE TO EAT:

Posada Margherita. linked above, was Mark’s favorite. Italian food, fresh pasta, great beach-front seating with wines and fresh juices. It’s hard to beat.

Be Tulum, best salad, hands down. Also great beachfront and the hotel is an experience of its own.

Mateo’s quickly became our go-to eatery. Solid, eatable food, decent (though sometimes slow) wait staff, smoothies, breakfast through supper to live music. The prices are great.

If you can have drinks and appetizers on the deck at Zama’s, do it. The views are to die for and pelicans zoom overhead. Service has to be hunted.

El Pez has great grilled fish, excellent service–probably the best we experienced, a roof (you might want this if it’s raining!) and a wonderful view. I think Mark had steak and loved it. No complaints here.

HOW TO GET AROUND:

Call Juan Santos. He and his son, Gerardo drive cabs, speak excellent English and, most importantly are really great guys. If you want to go to dinner at 6pm, call him and have him come pick you up. If you want to go to Chichen Itza, call Juan and book him to drive you. More than anything else I can recommend, these guys are it. They will take care of you, get you where you want to go safely, and if you want to take off for a day of touring, they’re happy to drive you wherever. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Juan was a wealth of information on everything, really. He drove 5 of us to Coba, Mul Tun Ha cenote, then to Chichen Itza and Ik Kil cenote the next day. He found great places for lunch and souvenir shopping and helped us with language hurdles a couple of times. They are not tour guides, so will drop you off and be there when you’re ready to go. Tour guides are available for hire on location.

Bicycles are great from Tulum center to the little strip that ends at Zamas. A lot of cyclists get hit by cars and vice versa. Once the bike path runs out, it’s a tiny, 2 lane road with no shoulder. It’s doable but be careful! Leave your headphones in the basket.

WHAT TO DO:

Really, ‘what we did that was worth recommending’!

Chichen Itza was well worth it. We left at 7:30 am to get there early, before most of the buses and harsh heat arrived. The vendors, and the place is lousy with vendors, were just setting up their tables. The day long cry was, “Almost free!”

If you want souvenirs, you can find them here. Haggle.

We did not hire a guide. I would have loved to have one if it were going to be 80 degrees all day, but heat is not my BFF and so we read the signs, educated ourselves online and via reading beforehand, and tootled around the complex. It is huge and amazing. Iguanas were everywhere.

Cenote Ik Kil, which was our post-Chichen Itza stop off. So, so worth it! I will post pics to explain.

Coba’ is also worth visiting if you want to climb to the top of a Mayan pyramid. You cannot climb Chichen Itza. The complex is much more heavily treed which I think means it has not had the excavation attention that CI has. Still an amazing complex. The sketchy zip line was fun for the kids.

IMG_7022

Cenote Mul Tun Ha was our post-Coba’ stop off and damn! It was grand to descend into the cavern and to fall into the cool, blue water. I mean, it looks blue but who knows? Maybe the lights are blue. Either way, it’s a great way to cool off in the blasting heat of the jungle.

Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and Animal Rescue was awesome. Our guide’s English was pretty good and he was very sweet and helpful. We saw deer, goats, wild pigs, monkeys, birds and a cenote! This was worth it just for the pictures of all of us with monkeys sitting on our heads! We did this on the same day as Coba and Mul Tun Ha.
In spite of what the pictures may tell you, there were a lot of monkeys. I guess I left my camera outside so that they wouldn’t steal it but we have tons of pics on a thumb drive somewhere, with someone who doesn’t live in my house, with pics of each of us with a tiny capuchin on our head, a spider monkey on our lap and hanging out with LEMURS!
It was really a great place to visit.

Yaan Wellness is across the street from Be Tulum. I enjoyed a foot treatment and the Limpia Santiguada, a clearing treatment involving prayer, herbs, copal and a massage with aromatherapy. I enjoyed it, especially the copal and being scrubbed with fresh herbs.
My daughter was severely sunburnt and had the Soothing Sun Therapy but was too timid to tell the therapist to stop when she aggressively massaged those extremely sunburnt thighs.
We arrived an hour early and enjoyed the steam room, sauna, 2 frigid showers in between and the cold and warm pools.
By the time we sat down to enjoy ginger tea with honey, I was limp with luxury. I really loved this place though if you’ve been injudicious with the sunscreen, you might wait a few days.
We were all looking forward to a temazcal ceremony, however one of our party became extremely ill with a high fever and we decided to forego it. It is the one thing I wish I could have done and didn’t. Maybe someday, in another part of Mexico.

The beaches, you need to go to the beach, but that’s the whole reason for going to Tulum, right? (Pics here from Papaya Playa Project.)

 

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