I just got back from a week long trip in Mexico, where I traveled to Tulum for the very first time. While traveling and posting things to do in Tulum on my Instagram, I received many questions regarding COVID related topics and more. In this post, I’m going to outline what it was like to travel to Tulum during the pandemic. However, I’m mostly going to touch upon the highlights of my trip. I’ll share with you where I stayed in Tulum, the best places to eat, where to go out at night, and more.
For context, I traveled to Mexico with my boyfriend who is from Spain and speaks fluent Spanish, so getting around was a lot easier than it may have been with only English speakers. However, mostly everyone in Mexico speaks English to some degree, so don’t worry if Spanish isn’t your forte!
First, we spent the first half of the week in Cancun, Mexico at a resort named Paradisus Cancun. We didn’t need a COVID test to fly into Mexico, as Mexico didn’t require any proof of vaccination or COVID test. I traveled in January of 2022, so I highly suggest doing your research beforehand as things are constantly changing.
Getting to Tulum Via Rental Car
We had no prior plans to travel to Tulum, it was just a random idea we had while we were in Cancun. With that being said, we were able to reserve a car SUPER easily. A lot of the resorts and staff in Cancun are very accommodating to any travel needs you have. For example, if you needed a cab to get to a restaurant across the street, the resort calls one for you. Then, at the restaurant, the host calls a cab for you to get back. It’s all very convenient.
So when we decided we’d get to Tulum via rental car, the hotel personnel reserved a car for us and it was ready the next morning! We hopped in the car around 12 PM and made it to Tulum by 2 PM. Along the way, there isn’t much to stop for as far as food goes, so make sure you either eat before the drive or pack some snacks with you. Unfortunately, we were rushing in the morning and didn’t get to eat, so we ate 7-Eleven tortillas with guac in the car. I know, when in Rome, right?
Lastly, I want to mention that in Mexico, there are attendants that pump your gas for you. Additionally, the bathrooms at the gas stations are not free. Instead, you need to pay the bathroom attendants. Although it was only 5 pesos (~25 cents) a person to use the bathrooms, I mention it because you should definitely carry cash / pesos with you at all times!
Where to Stay in Tulum
Night One: The Hidden Treehouse Air Bnb (7/10)
On our first night in Tulum, we stayed at the most unique AirBnb I’ve ever stayed at before. Upon arriving to The Hidden Treehouse, it was dark so we couldn’t see much. However, when I woke up in the morning I was completely astonished by the views. It felt like I had just woken up in the middle of the jungle in the movie Tarzan.
To start, I’ll go over the highlights of this AirBnb. Aside from the breathtaking views, the location was absolutely perfect. It was right across from the club, Vagalume which was one of the hottest destinations along the main street of all the restaurants and bars.
Furthermore, one of the main reasons we rented this AirBnb was for the photos. With that being said, if you are a photographer, model, content creator, or just want some pretty insane photos, I’d definitely recommend this place!
First, I’ll start off by saying in Tulum, you can’t throw toilet paper into the toilets. Therefore, in a treehouse setting with lots of other people’s treehouses alongside, under, and above you, it definitely creates a bit of an unpleasant odor. Also, the water was a bit salty and also had a bit of a ~funky~ smell. Luckily, you really aren’t in the AirBnb much, as Tulum is a full blown party all day and night. However, you definitely aren’t looking for luxury if you decide to stay here!
Aside from this, the other drawback was that it got pretty hot in the morning. The A/C only works until 5 AM due to city code, and the fan was pretty old. Also, we were up pretty high, thus being higher to the sun and more in direct sunlight. If you run hot, I wouldn’t really recommend this AirBnb, especially if you plan on visiting in the warmer months.
While in Tulum, you definitely don’t need much time to get ready since natural is the way to go, I will mention that the lighting was pretty awful here as well. If you are going to stay here, I highly recommend getting ready before the sun goes down so that you can utilize the natural lighting! You are for sure staying here for a unique, authentic experience in the jungle. Overall, I’d rate this place a 7/10.
Night Two: Amor Rooms (9/10)
We only rented the Treehouse for one night because we only planned on staying in Tulum one night. However, it was so much more than we had expected, so we decided (upon lounging on a beach cabana) to get a night somewhere else. By this point, we knew exactly what location we wanted to be in, so that was our main priority when booking.
Amor rooms was a stark contrast to the treehouse, as it looked like it was styled by a Zara Home Creative Director or something.
Right away, we noticed that the fans were much better here. Overall, it was a cooler temperature and much more comfortable to sleep in at night. Additionally, the shower was amazing. Also, the water pressure was great and it was honestly one of the best showers I had the whole time in Mexico. These rooms were also in a perfect location.
Overall, we said we could definitely stay at this place for a few days to even a full week because the entire place was super modern, comfortable, and chic. On such short notice, this place was super affordable, being half the price of the first place.
If you decide to stay here, beware that their Google Maps location is a bit confusing. We had to ask locals how to get there because it’s a bit hidden and Google Maps / Apple Maps had us a bit further down the road. Much like the first place we stayed, the lighting wasn’t great here either. However, this really doesn’t matter much as the humidity in Tulum makes you want to keep it all natural anyway.
Best Restaurants in Tulum
We weren’t actually able to eat at ARCA, but it was one of the most recommended spots. Since our entire trip was super last minute, we didn’t have any prior reservations, and both nights of our stay we were unable to get a table here. For these reasons, I definitely suggest reserving a table here as far in advance as possible! We did sit at the bar and have a glass of wine (get the merlot blend; it was AMAZING). The vibes were so perfect here, as it felt like a true Mexican jungle experience.
A lot of the other restaurants were a sort of indoor/outdoor situation and a bit touristy. Another restaurant that had a similar Mexican jungle vibe was Casa Jaguar. In my opinion, these two had the best aesthetic for a dinner in Tulum.
If you’re looking for Mexican food with a bit more of party vibe, Mamazzita is your place. We found this restaurant to be a perfect mix of Mexican jungle vibes with the party that everyone wants in Tulum. It wasn’t as crazy as some of the other full blown touristic restaurants and they definitely played better music as well.
The food here was AMAZING. If you eat here, definitely order the sea bass ceviche and the carrot cheesecake.
Tora / RosaNegra
Eat here if you want the full blown dinner party. These two restaurants are basically combined, so it really just depends on what food you’re looking for that night. While Tora is a Japanese fusion with sushi, RosaNegra is Latin American. We tried to go to RosaNegra without a reservation, but it was full so the host sat us on the other side of the restaurant at Tora. Overall, the sushi was pretty good, but I live in LA so I eat great sushi all the time. Instead, I’d order the salmon. It was probably the best salmon I’ve ever had in my life.
Where to Go Out at Night in Tulum
We had a friend in town that had a table at Vagalume; however, the cover here was about $70 USD if you aren’t on the guest list. I’ve never been to Burning Man, but if that’s your vibe, you would absolutely love Vagalume.
My favorite place we went out to was Gitano for sure. It had so many different bars and areas to hang out. If you wanted to dance, there was a super fun dance floor, and if you wanted to get some air, there was a rooftop bar. I loved the authentic, open air jungle vibes and I’m sure dinner here would be absolutely amazing as well! Check out their reservation page to make a resy!
One night, as we were walking along the restaurants and bars around the area of the above mentioned bars, we came across a super cute local spot! We heard Lauryn Hill playing amongst the sea of EDM and knew we had found a gem.
The bar had all these fresh, local herbs that the bartenders used to make drinks. And honestly, this was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. I have no idea what I ordered because I just asked the bartender to whip me something up, but it was delicious! Ask them to make you something fresh that isn’t sweet and you won’t be disappointed!
What to do in Tulum
Mayan Beach / Playa Paraíso
On our first day, we went to this beach where you could see Mayan ruins. It also had a staircase that you could walk up and see insane views of the beach below. The white, sandy beach was like something out of a dream and the water was warm and a perfect shade of aqua.
This beach was super cool because it had many different areas and vibes going on. There are so many different areas to take photos here and it was a lot more unique than the beach areas in the main downtown area of Tulum with the touristic restaurants. If you have a car, it’s definitely worth the short ten minute drive from the downtown area! It felt like I was in the coast of Italy again.
Sadly, we didn’t have time to see the Mayan ruins. However, if you’re looking for something to do outside of the beach and downtown life, this is for sure the best thing you can do! I’d recommend checking out this article to make sure you plan everything out accordingly if you would like to take a trip here while you’re in Tulum! It’s definitely something that I wish I could have done.
One of my favorite things we did in Tulum was rent a cabana bed on the beach. Go to either Tantra or Taboo (they’re right next to each other). We had a friend tell us to go to Taboo, but we didn’t reserve a bed in advance so we ended up at Tantra instead. As for price, it was $250 USD to rent the bed for the day, which included $125 towards food and drink. These places play dance/club music and there’s a lot of crazy, party vibes so if that’s not your thing, then definitely do your research into a more chill spot to rent a bed! However, there were still some people lounging on the beds without bottles / bottle service (including us), so if you want to be in a fun environment, but still have the space to chill, this is your spot.
Honestly, one of the best things to do while in Tulum is walk around the main strip with all the bars, restaurants, coffee shops, artisan shops, and local boutiques! It’s a narrow road with an endless amount of things to do and people to see. Grab an açaí bowl from a local and just walk around and take it all in!
How does COVID affect traveling to Tulum, Mexico
As I mentioned before, we didn’t need a COVID test before traveling to Mexico. However, you do need a negative COVID test before your flight back to the US. According to the guidelines, the test can be no more than 24 hours in advance, so we got our COVID test on the morning of our flight since it wasn’t until 6:30 PM.
In Tulum, there are COVID test sites literally all over the place. We were in and out of the COVID test site within ten minutes and had our negative results emailed to us within another ten minutes. Once you arrive at the airport, you just show the email with your negative COVID test to an agent at the check-in kiosk. It’s super easy and stress free 🙂
In Cancun, we needed to wear a mask AND GLOVES in the buffet area, as well as in some cabs and common areas around the hotel. However, once we got to Tulum, it was totally mask free. Aside from the servers wearing masks, they really didn’t enforce any sort of mask policy. Honestly, it’s pretty hard to in an area where everyone’s constantly drinking and/or going in the water.
Please feel free to write to me on Instagram if you have any other questions! I’m always happy to help with travel questions, as I’m a huge foodie and travel blogger at heart! I hope you enjoy your travels to Tulum; I’m super jealous of you if you’re going and I know I can’t wait to be back again sometime hopefully soon.
If you’re looking for more travel inspo, check out my Chicago Day Trip guide!