So the reason for the radio silence is that my wife and I just got back from a very nice vacation in Tulum, Mexico, where we have been so many times it feels practically like a vacation home. This winter was brutal in the Northeast and we were in serious need of some warm, sunny beach time, which that magical place on the Mexican Caribbean never fails to provide.
I first went to Tulum in the 90s just for a quick visit while staying at Isla de Mujeres off of Cancun and Playa del Carmen up the road (now a sprawling metropolis in its own right), mainly just to see the seaside Mayan ruins. That led to my wife and I going down there for spring vacations beginning in the early 2000s. We initially stayed at Cabanas Copal and then Azulik towards the north end of the resort area many times. At first there weren’t that many hotels in the whole Tulum strip and virtually none south of the small checkpoint down the road from Zamas, essentially only the Maya Tulum yoga spa right on the spit of the small bay, then a little down the road/beach there was Posada Margherita, the original Tulum “destination” restaurant run by some charming Italian ex-pats with help from some very sandy dogs, and just a few other small places scattered on the beach along accessible by dirt road. Hemingway on the beach — which despite the name does not have a real bar! — and El Tábano, on the inland side of the road and still serving up wonderful Mexican comfort food cooked up by a troop of hard working abuelas, were some of the last restaurants and hotels that far south, not including a few exotic outliers tucked into the palms on the beach and in the jungle.
This time we stayed at the very reasonable and good Coco Tulum Hotel on that once-sparsely developed southern part. But now, after countless fashion photo shoots and ad campaigns, as well as travel write-ups in pretty much every major publication in the US and abroad, that southern strip between the checkpoint and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is packed back-to-back with places to stay and eat. Due to the ease of travel from the East Coast (it’s about a three and a half hour flight to Cancun from New York and then about an hour and a half drive down to Tulum) and the magic of the name “Tulum”, snowbirds flock there in ever increasing numbers. Thankfully, it never feels crowded or overpopulated on the beach side because it is so long and the resorts all have their own large sectors. But inland you find that it is absolutely hopping. It’s startling to see tattooed hipsters from Brooklyn and well to do people from all over the world, as well as the traditional backpackers, jamming the paved roads and pathways of what used to be a rutted trail unsuitable for bicycles. There’s even a must-try restaurant, Hartwood, where people line up for dinner reservations in the early afternoon as if it were Per Se in Manhattan. I hear great things about it but there’s no way I’m spending my vacation trying to make the scene in what is to me an escape from all that sort of pretentious jive. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…
In fact, as it’s turned out with the way the southern sector has been (over) developed, it’s the northern “town” section that’s most like it was a decade ago. Continue reading