The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Tulum
I think I’ve been to Mexico 6 separate times. I love going to Mexico. It’s easy to get to, it’s more affordable when it comes to livin’ dat beach life, and it’s always beautiful. And when my best friend was trying to decide where to go to celebrate her 30th birthday, Tulum was an easy decision. I feel like Tulum is the hot spot nowadays. I constantly see bloggers traveling there and it has become a pretty popular place to visit in Mexico. And I was so excited to see this place that so many have recommended and boasted about. But sadly, this was not my best Mexico experience. It was kind of the worst.
But before we talk about the bad or the ugly, let’s start with the good. Because there is a lot of good to be had in Tulum. I mean, look at the view above of just flying into Cancun. Pretty stunning. And that’s what you get when you’re in Cancun or Riviera Maya or Tulum – you get beautiful, clear, bluish-green water with clean, lovely beaches. Tulum is about an hour drive from the Cancun airpot, so it’s not too tough to get to. And when you’re in Tulum, there are bikes and scooters to rent to get you around the city a little faster. Every time I’ve gone to Mexico in the past, I’ve stayed in an all-inclusive hotel, but since there were 6 of us on this trip, my best friend wanted to have more time together and to be able to cook. So we found this little airbnb that was incredibly affordable and spacious and slept all of us quite comfortably. We all had our own bathrooms and had a good size kitchen, dining room and rooftop patio. Our apartment was located right in the Pueblo of Tulum in a neighborhood called La Veleta, which definitely had some pros and cons.
- Pros –
- It was in walking distance to a ton of delicious restaurants, shops, stores, etc.
- It was super easy to get a taxi.
- There is nightlife nearby.
- Cons –
- It was loud AF at all hours, people were shooting off fireworks at all hours of the day (not sure why), a gas truck drives around blaring music all day errrrday, and there were constant police sirens.
- Since it’s in an up-and-coming neighborhood, there were dogs wandering everywhere and sh*tting everywhere, so you really had to keep your eyes down every time you were walking anywhere.
- It’s about a 20 minute drive from the beach, so if you want a beach vacation, it’s a little bit of a trek.
We also had the issue that our apartment constantly smelled like sewage. Which isn’t super fun when you’re trying to cook dinner. But luckily we didn’t spend too much time indoors and ventured out most days. And while venturing out in the Pueblo the first night for dinner, we ended up running into a CrossFit-style gym! We were planning to create our own workouts to do on the rooftop of our apartment, but after finding this gym, we decided to venture in and experience a Tulum workout. And let me tell you – they don’t f*ck around. The coach made me do my own workout that included about 500 reps so I cut that number down myself and didn’t explain why since he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish. But we ended getting an amazing workout in which felt awesome before heading out for multiple cocktails on the beach.
On our first full day, we rented bikes and biked down in the rain to the Ruins. You can get tickets and wander the ruins, but you can also simply follow the path down past the Ruins and you’ll run right into the beach, which is what we did. When you wander the beach, you’ll different hotels and most of them have a beach club that you can pay a fee to stay at or simply grab a bite to eat and a fun cocktail. We wandered to a random hotel that had adorable little bungalows and sat down for lunch. When we were in Tulum, we didn’t get the best weather. It was normally 70 degrees, unless the sun came out. But luckily, after biking through the rain, we were greeted by blue skies for our lunch break. I wish I remembered what beach club we were at because that’s where my downfall of the trip began. But I’ll get to that later.
For dinner that night, we decided to grab a cab and head to the beach to experience one of the restaurants that was recommended by a reader. Since we had eaten A TON of Mexican food, we picked a Thai restaurant at the Mezzanine Hotel and HOT DAMN was it amazing. At one point, we all started coughing when they were cooking some hot peppers which I’m guessing was for their curry paste. This restaurant was legit and my panang curry was fantastic. I pretty much licked my bowl and wanted to place a second order. Since I wasn’t feeling too hot, I passed on the cocktails but everyone else had delicious cocktails while we were there. We were inside but this hotel is right on the beach and we could tell that the view must be stunning during the day. It made me wish that we were staying at that hotel because it was really beautiful!
The next morning, I woke up feeling just a tad off, but nothing too bad. So I ignored it, pounded some bottled water and we went on our way to Xel-Ha. My best friend found this stunning water park and saw that it had almost 5 stars on Trip Advisor with around 15,000 reviews so we decided to try it out. This place has SO much to do. You can snorkel, sit in a tube in a lazy river (me, duh), swim with dolphins, pet some stingrays, go to the spa, go on rides, wander caves, cliff jump, zip line, and about a million other things. It’s huge. And food and drink is included. Not saying it’s good whatsoever, but it’s included so you don’t have to worry about figuring out your meals while you’re in and out of the water all day. We spent our afternoon exploring the entire place, but since I was feeling on the sketchy side, I didn’t partake in many of the fun activities. I did, however, bruise my foot trying to exit the water. Like a pro.
This waterpark is awesome if you have a big group or a family and want everyone to be entertained throughout the day. I’m a person who can sit on the beach and do nothing all day long and be completely content, but I know most people like to move their bodies and experience different things while traveling. And this place gives you a ton of different experiences. I wish I could have enjoyed it more but the stomach pain and bloat started to really set in at this point.
That night we stayed in and I ended up going to bed early because I was feeling pretty off. And that morning, the food poisoning really set in. Looking back (and after hearing from multiple people on social media) I think I got the food poisoning from the shrimp ceviche I had on the beach near the Ruins. A ton of people reached out and said they got food poisoning from the shrimp, especially the shrimp ceviche since it may not cook through all the way. One of the guys on our trip also had some food poisoning and he was the only other person on the trip that had shrimp like I did. So I spent that day rolling in bed in truly agonizing pain. I’ve had some pretty miserable food poisoning before and I also have a gluten allergy that can make standing impossible, but this food poisoning made sure to make it’s point. It felt like someone was sticking a serrated knife into my belly button and wiggling it back and forth. I sat in my room alone (because I absolutely DID NOT want to be around anyone) literally screaming and yelling more obscenities than usual to simply get through the pain. It’s what I imagine labor pains to feel like after multiple friends have told me, “Don’t be the hero – just take the drugs and get the epidural.” It was brutal.
That day was a pretty big bummer because I not only had to miss going to that gym for a second time, but I also had to miss out on a long day on the beach side of Tulum where my friends went to hit up a beach club. Our apartment didn’t have much for blankets and I was going through some major cold sweats and had to bundle up in a fleece that I wore to the airport in Colorado then cover my bed sheet with towels. It was a real treat. Once my body stopped trying to rip itself apart, I made my way to the beach to meet up with my friends. I knew that I would either be lying in bed feeling awful or lying on the beach feeling awful, so I picked the beach. I only made it a couple hours before feeling like it was tie to turn in for the night. After getting back to our apartment and eating very little, I went to bed by 6pm and didn’t wake up until 6am. That part was magical.
The next morning we packed up and headed to the airport. We ended up getting to the airport about 4 hours before our flight and because of that, there was another flight to Denver leaving by the time we got in the terminal. Since I couldn’t imagine stomaching another meal in Mexico or sitting in pain for 4 hours in the airport, I asked what it would cost to get on the flight back. They said $275 and I handed over my credit card. I would have paid anything to get home earlier, especially because I had to leave the next morning for an 8 hour car ride to Nebraska. Well, I think Mexico was giving me a little pat on the back because after trying to run my credit card for about 20 minutes and not succeeding, he simply let me on the flight. The system was down, but he was still nice enough to send me on my way! So rad. I was able to get into Denver 3 hours earlier and buy myself a gluten free pizza (which was the only thing that sounded edible at the moment) and cuddle with my pup. Thank you for that, Cancun Airport.
So even though this wasn’t my best trip to Mexico, I definitely learned quite a few things.
- When traveling to the beach, I want to be ON the beach. It’s fun staying in an apartment and getting the feel of a city and having a space to hang with friends, but I would much rather wake up to the peaceful sound of the beach and walk straight out to the sand.
- I will never ever EVER eat the shrimp again while in Mexico. I was incredibly careful about the water, even brushing my teeth with bottled water, but the shrimp is what did me in. I thought being on the beach meant it was safe to eat the seafood. That’s what you would think, right? Wrong. After talking to many people on IG, it’s safe to say that shrimp is a no-go. And if you do eat it, make sure it’s extra cooked. Ceviche was a bad choice.
- I will always fly Southwest. I love them so much.
- Next time, I will definitely eat less beach club food and more recommended-restaurant food. I totally wish we would have hit up more restaurants that were recommended by readers!
In case you want to check out some of the restaurants recommended by readers, here’s a list I kept on my phone while we were traveling:
- Mateo’s (for the best fish tacos ever)
- Gitano’s (great cocktails)
- Batey Mojito & Gaurapo (drinks and live music)
- Posada Margherita (not sure about gf options)
- The Real Coconut (for breakfast)
- Casa Banana
- La Zebra
Hope that helps you have a great experience while you’re in Tulum and not get food poisoning!
Shop My Tulum Looks & What I packed in My Suitcase
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Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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