Tulum is about an hour south of Cancun, but it feels a world away. Far from the mega-resorts and spring break madness, Tulum is a tiny town where beachgoers stay in electricity-free, boutique eco-hotels and practice Yoga, visit Mayan ruins, and explore a nature preserve when they’re not basking in the sun on the pristine Tulum beach. The budget-minded traveler can stay in Tulum Pueblo, which is filled with a ton of great restaurants and shops, and is only a short ride to the beach. Whether you’re beachside or in town, you are never far from some spectacularly fresh dining.
Breakfast:For breakfast in town, Natural Café is a great way to start the day. There are a few sidewalk tables, but the open entrance and brightly colored walls make even the inside tables feel alfresco. Eggs are served with potatoes with fresh herbs, turkey bacon, and toast. Fruit and vegetable juices come in any combination, like The Energizer, made with orange, carrot, celery, papaya, and melon; and yogurt with fresh fruit and granola is served in a large, glass goblet. Offering a fantastic variety of sweet and savory breakfasts that won’t weigh you down, Natural Café will leave you feeling light and energized for a day at the beach.
Lunch:Tacos are a must in this Mexican town, and for the best, go to El Asadero. The wait at dinner can reach an hour or more, so taking a break from the beach and heading back into town for lunch is a smart way to avoid the crowd. Whether you order a corn or flour tortilla, the arracherra (Mexican flank steak), chorizo, and chicken tacos are not to be missed, and an order of three is a perfect amount. El Asadero’s guacamole is also some of the best in town. A tall glass of horchata keeps the spice at bay and is perfect finish to these must-eat tacos.
Sunset Drinks:When the sun starts to set, stay on the beach and enjoy a pre-dinner drink. Grab a cocktail or cerveza at La Vita é Bella, a lovely, rustic, beachside hotel where you can sit at a table with your toes in the sand — whether you’re inside or out. The restaurant’s floor is the sand of the beach, and you can either sip drinks inside, under romantic candle light, or watch the waves crash and enjoy the sea breeze outside. Daiquiris made with fresh fruit juice, like watermelon or pineapple, are a perfectly refreshing way to bid the sun adieu. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/procrastinet)
Dinner:The freshest seafood in Tulum can be found at El Camello Jr., an open-air restaurant in town. All of the fishermen bring their daily catch to the owner and he distributes it to all of the hotels and restaurants in town. He keeps the best catch for his own restaurant, and uses it in bright and tangy ceviches. The fish is so fresh that with only a little lime juice, cilantro, tomato, and onion, his ceviche is the best tasting food you’ll find in town. Hot and crunchy tortilla chips, with a side of black beans, are perfect for scooping up the ceviche or for dipping in a delicious fish stew. Served in a great, big bowl, this fish stew is made with a spicy tomato sauce and hunks of fresh crabmeat, snapper, octopus, calamari, and prawns. The fish tacos are also a favorite, and El Camello Jr. also happens to be one of the most affordable places around.
Dessert:For a sweet end to the night, Flor de Michoacan, on the main drag in town, offers fresh fruit and ice cream popsicles that will have you coming back again and again. The fruit pops are made entirely of frozen fruit, and with freshness being the theme here, Flor de Michoacan’s fresh fruit is all this pop needs to be the sweetest, most refreshing dessert around. The kiwi is perfectly tart, and the mango heavenly. A strawberry ice cream pop coated in milk chocolate and covered with Coco Krispies is a favorite, as is the coconut pop, coated with chocolate and coconut shavings. A charming garden out back is a delightful place to lick these sweet treats, and to think about which flavors to try next time.