Tulum is a good idea at any time of year. But from December to March, the lazy Caribbean days are infused with a low-key buzz as a cool crowd descends from the US and Europe to escape winter. Just try to spot anyone not wearing Zimmerman.
Where you stay in the chic Mexican beach town will make or break your Tulum experience. Do you want to see and be seen, steps from the coolest restaurants and boutiques, or do you want a quieter version of Tulum, the way it used to be? Or, let’s be honest, is your priority inducing maximum Insta-envy in everyone back home?
Whatever you seek from your time in Tulum, there’s an abode to help you achieve your #holidaygoals. These are the suites those in-the-know are booking this season.
La Zebra, Sea View Ground Floor Suite With Plunge Pool
La Zebra is the quintessential Tulum boutique hotel. The property has just 15 rooms, all probably less than 20 paces from the water’s edge.
Try to snag a ground floor suite with a private plunge pool facing the ocean – looking at one body of water while submerged in another body of water feels so good it should be illegal. The upside of a second-storey suite, however, is the private balcony with better ocean views.
With so few rooms, La Zebra guests feel particularly VIP. Staff keep a daybed reserved for each room at all times, should you have the sudden urge to get horizontal and sip a mojito, and it’s never hard to get a reservation at the spa.
But what really makes La Zebra so in-demand is its location. It’s next door to The Real Coconut, a restaurant doing modern, healthy cuisine and recognised as one of the best in Tulum – aim to have at least one meal a day there. Hartwood, Gitano and Casa Jaguar, the most popular dinner reservations in Tulum, are all only a five-minute walk north along the main road, as are a string of great fashion boutiques, for when you’ve worn all your outfits in your Instagram posts with a few days left to go.
El Pez, Luxury Sea Front Cabana
This is Corona commercial Tulum – you know, ‘from where you’d rather be’ – at its finest.
Perched on a bay at the north end of the beach, the ‘rustic’ but still modern and comfortable bungalows (think air-conditioning, polished stone floors and luxurious beds) at El Pez are the place to stay if you want a casual, unpretentious vibe without sacrificing on good service, food and drinks.
The on-site restaurant serves up more ceviche and mouth-watering tacos with house-made tortillas (get the slow-roasted pork or fried fish) than you can handle, with craft cocktails, frosty cervezas and a sophisticated wine list to wash it down.
Book one of the Luxury Sea Front Cabanas – they’re on the top floor of the bungalows and have a private terrace decked out with comfy sun lounges. Doze off a lunchtime margarita session as the warm sea air gently blows the palm trees. Told you it’s like a Corona commercial.
Casa Malca, The Malca Suite
Aesthetes will love this design-forward property at the sound end of the beach.
It was formerly a mansion owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, but it was abandoned after he died in 1993. In 2012 it was bought by New York art collector and gallery owner Lio Malca, who transformed it into a 42-room boutique hotel thoughtfully decorated with pieces from his collection.
The hotel restaurant, Philosophy, and two bars are superb, and like all good Tulum hotels the property is right on the sand. So there’s little need to leave Casa Malca at all, especially if you’re only there for a few days of downtime.
The Malca Suite is so impressive it’s worth booking your trip based on its availability alone. At 70 square metres, it’s the biggest room in the hotel, located on the second story with two terraces for enjoying views over the ocean and the jungle. The statement furniture and art works make it feel more like the spare room at a fashionable friend’s home than a hotel. Pablo would approve.
Hotel Esencia, the Beach Suite
Tulum gets busier every season, forcing some to venture outside of it find those muy tranquilo vibes.
A 30-minute drive north is Hotel Esencia, an exclusive and secluded boutique hotel on a private beach. Once the home of an Italian duchess, it’s been renovated and expanded to encompass 40 suites over 50 acres of jungle. It’s the kind of place where once you check-in, you don’t leave the grounds until it’s time to leave.
Dining options are diverse for a relatively small hotel. There’s the Pool Restaurant, doing modern European and Mexican cuisine, and Mistura, serving up Peruvian-Japanese fare using the region’s plentiful fresh fish and ingredients.
The rooms are luxuriously minimalist, white from floor-to-ceiling, decked out with designer pieces and amenities, and most have a private thatched balcony and/or plunge pool. But this season, the just opened Beach Suites are in hot demand.
Less than 20 metres from the water, they boast their own private decks looking over the beach and double bathtubs. Because you deserve to soak in a bath looking out at the ocean, glass of chilled rose in hand like the damn kween you are.
Book a stay at La Zebra, El Pez or Hotel Esencia with Small Luxury Hotels of the World via www.slh.com or call 1 800 219 010 (toll-free).