Checking In and Checking Out

Leave Your Shoes and Inhibitions at the Door at This Hidden Eco Retreat in Tulum

by Delfina Forstmann
Azulik Azulik Hotel overlooking the beach. Photo courtesy of Azulik Hotel and Maya Spa.

Bare feet, bare necessities, and barely any light. This eco-friendly Mexican resort in Tulum is the ideal getaway for couples seeking a quiet weekend with nature.

TULUM – After an hour-and-a-half drive from Cancun Airport, down a road dotted with resorts and lit by roadside restaurants, pulling in to Azulik is like entering a different world.

The reception is quaint and candlelit, with a single lamp on the wooden check-in desk. Cheerful receptionists usher me in, hand over a room key, and lead me through what looks like a jungle (it's hard to tell, as it's pitch black), to my villa for the weekend. It takes a few minutes to get from the reception to my Sky Villa, and the winding, wobbly path leaves me slightly out of breath. There’s a birdhouse-sized hut near the door, with a sign that says Deje Sus Zapatos Aqui (Leave Your Shoes Here).

The villa is a single room with a roof fashioned out of palm leaves. Three walls are glass with bamboo shades running down them, and the fourth is a bright pink stucco. The large circular bed sits opposite the pink wall, veiled by white mosquito nets. There isn’t air conditioning but the room is breezy as floor-to-ceiling windows allow the sea air to flow throughout. A stunning view of the Caribbean sea is exposed beyond the spacious balcony where the full moon reflects on the water. It’s truly paradisiacal — even in the dark. Once my eyes adjust, I feel my way to the Maya mosaic bathtub (the only showers are on the beach and in the Moon Villa). A bamboo swing cradles a clean towel next to the large wooden faucet and half a coconut is propped on the tub to rinse, in true rustic style. (According to Azulik’s FAQ “the shower is an invention of rushed men.”)

Left, balcony ledge and sea view from the villa. Right, shoe box outside the villa door.
Left, balcony ledge and sea view from the villa. Right, shoe box outside the villa door. All photos by Delfina Forstmann unless otherwise mentioned.
Azulik Hotel, Tulum, Mexico.
Rooftop views of the main restaurant over the jungle.
Wooden boardwalk, Azulik, Tulum, Mexico.
The boardwalk between the villas and restaurants.

Azulik is an upscale but rustic jungle retreat dedicated to immersing guests in nature and Maya culture. Their ethos is based on a deep respect for the natural world and becoming one with the surrounding Sian Ka'an reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site that spans 780,000 acres.

Besides the villas, the hotel is al fresco, giving guests every chance to enjoy the tropical climate and nature in all its glory. Every detail has been thoughtfully constructed with a nod to Mother Nature. There are no lamps creating light pollution (instead, an Azulik “tribe member” comes over with candles at dusk); a wooden boardwalk, raised on stilts above the soil, leads people to the villas, the beach, and three restaurants without disturbing the natural growth.

I quickly freshen up and make my way up an enormous set of wooden steps to the Maya-Mexican restaurant, Kin Toh. Tribal-style house music bumps smoothly and moon-shaped lamps light the way. The wooden walkway forms a platform from which an enormous net is stretched over the jungle brush, like a hammock. A few couples have claimed space on it, a laid-back hangout for drinks and canoodling. I sit at a table with my trusted travel buddy — my mom — and we realize the hotel is built for romance, at least by night. Luckily, we’re quickly distracted by delicious vegan Mexican dishes, tuna tacos, and a vast assortment of freshly made bread with accompanying spreads. Sufficiently lulled into a food coma, I make my way back to the villa.

Balcony at Azulik Hotel and Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico.
Balcony goals.
Room at Azulik Hotel and Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico.
The dream bed.

Sunrise at 7 a.m. fills my room with light through the bamboo shutters. I’m not bothered – the view is breathtaking. I head out to the balcony and discover I am on the edge of a rocky plateau overlooking the sea. In the spirit of hanging, I cozy up on the lounge swing and take in the view until I’m hungry. There’s no phone in the room but there is a room service menu in a wooden box with a notepad, pencil, wooden orb with my room number on it, and a set of instructions. Here’s how it works: I write down my order on a piece of paper, roll it up, and put it in the orb. Then I toss the orb down a chute outside the villa door that leads straight to the kitchen. I wait for the sound of a gong at the end of the chute signaling that the kitchen has received my order. When breakfast arrives, it’s a heaping tray of fresh smoothies, turmeric ginger shots, açaí bowls, and perfectly brewed Mexican coffee.

Room service at Azulik Hotel and Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico
No-phone-no-problem room service.
Breakfast At Azulik Hotel and Maya Spa.
Picture perfect breakfast.

When I finish, the sun is high up in the sky and I make my way down the jungle path to the beach. The sand is white and soft, and there’s a thump of chill house music (a rotating cast of live DJs play all week long). There are enough sunbeds and umbrellas for all the guests, and a long communal table under a palm leaf shade provides a cool lunch spot. At the beach, guacamole is made in front of my eyes and accompanied by freshly grilled fish and coconuts. The small bar is just starting to open as I get comfortable under a billowing sheet canopy near the water.

Lunch at Azulik Hotel and Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico.
Beachside lunch spread.
Beach at Azulik, Tulum, Mexico
Lounging hammock area on the beach.
Spa at Azulik, Tulum, Mexico
Massage beds and wading pool right next to the sea.

After a day of chill at the beach, my mom and I head to the spa for our Ancient Traditional Massage. We are led to two massage beds that are built into tiled wading pools. They’re outside and exposed to the elements, allowing us to listen to the crashing waves throughout the treatment, which includes being massaged with lemons and hit gently with bundles of herbs. Temezcal ceremonies are on the treatment menu and take place in traditional Maya sweat lodges (they resemble stone pizza ovens) intended to cleanse the mind and body. The ceremonies are run by local shamans and can be booked through the spa, staying true to the incorporation of Maya tradition into the hotel.

At sunset, we go up to the highest point of the resort, a table built into a nest-like structure at the top of the main restaurant. Fitted with a comfy cushioned couch, it gives us the ultimate view of the Sian Ka'an. Once the sun goes down, the sky fills with stars and we watch a red full moon rise over the water.

I spend my last day back at the beach soaking up as much sun as possible before heading to the airport. I leave feeling lifted, rested, and happy. It’s a struggle saying good-bye. Until next time, Azulik!

Book It

Rates start at $700 per night and vary depending on season and days of stay.;Click here for reservations.

Restaurant at Azulik, Tulum, Mexico
Inside the 'nests' of the main restaurant.

Checking In

Location
The resort is in the expansive biosphere reserve Sian Ka'an, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Although surrounded by beach and rainforest, it is easily accessible from the road.

Hotel Style/Vibe
Traditional Maya/Mexican vibe. The hotel is made almost entirely of wood and clay and blends in to the natural reserve around it. The vibe is relaxed, spiritual, and romantic and the staff and clients are all clearly calm and happy.

This Place Is Perfect For
For free spirits, nature lovers, and those seeking a deeper connection with nature and experiencing life without the distraction of technology and artificial light. Adult only and perfect for a peaceful, romantic, or spiritual getaway. All rooms are smoke free.

But Not So Perfect For
The bare necessities come at a price! The rooms are not cheap. The hotel is not child friendly. If you're not comfortable with nudity, the beach is clothing optional and many decide to leave their swimsuits and inhibitions at home. Anyone who is not keen on being immersed in nature won’t be comfortable — there is no air conditioning or artificial lighting in the rooms and you are exposed to the elements.

What’s on Site
A secluded beach with food and drink service, the Maya spa, and an expansive boutique.

Food + Drink
Farm to table Cenote bar, Kin Toh Maya-Mexican cuisine. A Japanese restaurant that you get to by crossing a rope bridge. Breakfast is not included, but room service is worth the experience.

Number of Rooms
48 eco-villas.

In-Room Amenities
There is WiFi, which is free and fast. There’s no mini bar but a wealth of glass water bottles on the coffee table and by the sink. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and bath salts are provided, as is the mosquito repellent and aftersun (a nice touch).

Drawbacks
Closet space is limited to say the least, four shelves and four hangers is about all you get so pack light, you don’t need much anyway.

Standout Detail
Azulik is built entirely out of natural resources (wood, bamboo, clay and palm leaves) and almost everything is left in its organic form. There isn’t any artificial light, besides dim lamps lighting the paths between villas, and the only source of electricity in the room is two power outlets by the door. The hotel’s connection with Maya culture and spirituality made the experience enlightening as well as relaxing. Complementary yoga classes are also on offer every morning.

Checking Out

I was only in Tulum for a day and a half, and decided to stay in my nature hideaway. But I was recommended healthy eatery, The Real Coconut, a 13-minute drive away — judging by its online reviews and photo-friendly brunches on Instagram, it is definitely on my list for the next visit. Sticking to the eco-friendly vibe, Hartwood, according to its stellar reputation, is the place for dinner. Produce is sourced from communal Maya farms and the restaurant works closely with the local community. Also 13 minutes from Azulik by car, walk-ins are accepted but it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Mystical Wander (a service of the hotel) offers various excursions to natural sites in and around Sian Ka’an.

Plan Your Trip

How to Get There
Cancun Airport is approximately an hour and a half drive to Azulik Resort and Maya Spa.

Getting Around
The hotel will call you a taxi or car service and the town and most restaurants are within a 10-20 minute drive away.

Ready to go? Email the Fathom Travel Desk and let us plan your trip for you.

Keep Exploring Tulum

Tulum Essentials
A Long Weekend in Tulum
A Chef’s Food Tour of Tulum