Family Heaven. With Sand and Tacos.
Tulum on the Riviera Maya is a perfect family trip: a little nature, a little history, a lot of beach time and tacos. This guide ensures everyone comes home happy.
TULUM, Mexico – Tulum was exactly what my family (me, the wife Michelle, six-year-old Jake, and four-year-old Sophia) needed in a winter getaway from New York City: stunning white sand beaches, a calm ocean to swim in, interesting activities, and great restaurants, many of which are off the tourist radar. Location-wise, Tulum is accessible enough for easy travel — and you can't help but love the boho chic vibe.
We stayed at Ana y Jose Charming Hotel, but unfortunately didn't love it. It wasn't as authentic (or charming) as they wanted to be, the service wasn't great, and a bad smell permeated the property (we were told it was the mangroves). Next time we go, we'll check out Casa Violeta.
WHAT TO DO
They date back to the 1200s and are not to be missed, not only because they're a nice break from all that beach time. You could easily stay for hours, but if the kids get anxious to get back to their sandcastles (ours were), you can do it in an hour. There are lots of stairs to climb, small entrances to funnel through, objects to jump off, and beautiful ocean views, so bring your camera. Our kids' favorite part was spotting iguanas. For a treat, have the terrific coconut ices sold outside the entrance gate.
Cenotes are deep pits or sinkholes are a geological phenom that occur when limestone bedrock collapses, exposing the groundwater underneath. They're incredible, and they're located all over the area, some underground and some above. We found a great one: Casa Cenote, where you can swim, kayak, snorkel, and scuba surrounded by lush trees. It feels like there are a lot of people when you arrive, but swim away from the entrance, and you'll think you're the only one there. Equipment is available on-site, and the restaurant across the road is great.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere
This adventure turned out to be our fullest and most fun day. We rented a van through the hotel, and after a bumpy, hour-long drive down a dirt road, we got onto a motorboat that took us through nine different ecosystems. (Amazing!) Pristine, untouched, beautiful, and peaceful nature at its best. We saw countless species of birds, alligators, and sea life. The afternoon was spent snorkeling around a reef with fish of every hue imaginable. Later, we visited a cenote, where we donned life jackets and floated downstream with the current. The kids had a blast. (Apparently, there are crocs around here, there but they were sleeping.) The day ended with a traditional Mayan lunch of tamales and all of us sitting on a dock amazed by the beauty surrounding us.
This is where we spent most of our time — as should you. Tulum's beaches are laid back with great opportunities for people watching. My favorite part of the day was early morning with the kids — the color of the sky, the sounds of the waves crashing, the kids running wild with big smiles on their faces.
Tulum is yoga central. My wife loved starting her day with one of their great classes.
WHERE TO EAT
We took our children everywhere. The restaurants are welcoming, laid back, and outdoors — so the kids could wander when they got antsy at the table. Truth be told, the kids fell asleep on our laps every night. Kids make for good napkins.
A beautiful, sexy, outdoor restaurant with authentic yet modern Mexican cuisine and great margaritas. By far our favorite dinner spot — and we aren't alone. It tops everyone's list. Don't miss the albóndigas (meatballs) and the red chicken.
The taco restaurant at the far end of town was our favorite lunch spot. Locals eat here, including the fisherman, which is always a positive sign. The food is good and fresh, and so inexpensive that you can order everything, though fried shrimp tacos, garlic grilled squid, and ceviche are especially great.
The best tacos de lelchón (pork) in town are found at a food truck located at the intersection of Avenida Tulum and Satelite Sur. They're only open until 11am. Make it happen. It's worth it.
La Flor de Michoacan
The paletas (popsicles) are off the charts. They're made with fresh ingredients like sliced strawberries, kiwis, and mango, and not only are they tasty, but they look like edible works of art. The coconut was my fave.
Fun atmosphere, good food, great margaritas.
A hotel that's as chic as it gets. We loved breakfast at the beachside restaurant. Their awesome store, filled with locally made goods, could easily be on the pages of Vogue.
Panna e Cioccolato
Every day ended with a stop at one of the two outposts of this amazing gelateria. There's one in town and one on the beach. The kids loved it, and so did we.