24 hours in Tulum, Mexico

24 hours in Tulum, Mexico

From the best villas and beaches to the best restaurants and shops, our guide to Tulum maps out the perfect day in this effortlessly stylish and historically rich corner of Mexico

The secret is out. Tulum, Mexico, a charming town that was once known only for its Mayan ruins, is fast becoming a must-visit spot for savvy travelers.

Go there today and you’ll experience incredible food, entertainment and activities, not to mention luxurious accommodations. But rest assured, this isn’t at the expense of what brought us to Tulum in the first place. Expats and locals alike who have upped the ante to accommodate the new wave of tourists have also meticulously preserved the town’s character to create an enchanting destination. So how to navigate the many options at your fingertips in Tulum? Here’s our 24-hour guide (yes, you’re still going to the ruins).

tulumvilla_WPStop One: Zen and Eggs, Your Villa

When: 8am
Why: When the soft morning sun is shining and you can hear the Caribbean sea from your bed, rising early to get in a little yoga doesn’t seem like a workout at all. At Turtle Heart villa you’ll find an expansive outdoor space complete with outdoor canopy bed and adjacent beach where you can roll out your yoga mat and work through a few invigorating asanas. After you’ve worked up a sweat, cool off in the pool before indulging in a delicious, fresh breakfast made by your private chef. Don’t have your yoga routine quite down yet? We can bring in a yoga instructor too. Good morning indeed.

Stop Two: Ruins of Tulum city

When: 10am
Why: From town, the ancient ruins are a convenient 10-minute drive away, and are considered one of the best-preserved historical sites in Mexico. You’ll find the remains of what was once a bustling walled city 800 years ago, set against 40-ft cliffs and sparkling turquoise water. Experience El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes and the Temple of the Descending God first hand, and get a sense of the storied history of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Adelita_WPStop Three: Lunch, Bar Adelita

When: 12pm
Why: Warning – even if you’ve already been to Tulum, you might have to book a flight back  just for the fish tacos at Bar Adelita. This eclectic, rustic and comfortable spot is right on the beach, with friendly service and a beautiful ocean view to match. To complete the experience, the food is mouthwatering, made with fresh local ingredients. Aside from fish tacos, the red ceviche is also to die for, and they mix a mean cocktail too. Situated on the North Beach, it’s near the ruins on your way back to town.

Stop Four: Browsing, Coqui Coqui Perfumes

coqui_cropped_WPWhen: 2pm
Why: If you favor earthy scents over super-strong perfume, you’ll love what you find at Coqui Coqui Perfumeria. Inspired by the area, at least a hint of coconut is present within each of the products, and what better way to remember your vacation than discovering a new signature scent? The boutique itself epitomizes the town’s blend of history and modernity – and is the perfect spot to snatch all of those souvenirs you promised: luxurious bath goodies, candles, body oils and more. After you browse, have a cocktail and the next door beach bar and relax on the daybeds. Because shopping for perfume can be exhausting.

Stop Five: Temazcal session at Maya Spa

When: 6pm
Why: This is no ordinary spa session. The temazcal, from the Nahuatl word temāzcalli, meaning house of heat – or sweat lodge – resembles a hut crossed with a pizza oven. Constructed from volcanic rock, the structure is completely dark and centers around a pile of hot stones. Upon entry, you’ll rub yourself with aloe and honey, and along with other participants, chant Puerta! to ask for more heat. Not only will this ancient ritual cleanse your mind, body, and spirit, it will create a profound bond between you and your group members. And it’s guaranteed to work up an appetite.

Stop Six: NOMA Pop-up Restaurant

When: 8pm
Why: A stay in Tulum this spring has to include a visit to the world-renowned Nordic restaurant, Noma. The two-Michelin-star restaurant will open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday each week from April 12 until May 28, 2017. After closing shop at its harborside Copenhagen location – and before opening in a new location – Noma’s chef, René Redzepi will transform his 6-month stay in Mexico into a series of mouth-watering dishes you won’t want to miss. To further create an authentic Noma experience, he’s brought his entire staff of 90 to Mexico with him. The outdoor, open-air temporary restaurant will sit nestled between the jungle and the Caribbean Sea. You can reserve your spot starting December 6th. We’ll see you there.

Stop Seven: Salsa at La Zebra 

When: 11:00pm
Why: If you love dancing with a side of people watching and a whole lot of energy, La Zebra is the place for you. You’ll be nicely primed for fun after your world-class dining experience, and La Zebra is the ideal place to dance it all off. Want to give the other kind of salsa a whirl? Sunday is salsa night: the sabbath, Mexican style. Rest assured after a night on the dancefloor you’ll be ready to lay your head down on your lush bed back at the villa, ready for another day of sun, sea and sand tomorrow.

See all of our Tulum villas

Thanks to Stephanie Bannock for photographs and recommendations.
For fashion, travel and everything aesthetic, see her Pinterest and follow her on Instagram;  Photograph: Josh Nielson/ Mateo’s

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Colleen McNamara