As noted previously, Tulum is a hippy-chic hangout that makes room for all demographics. It is basically one beach road and all the hotels, restaurants and hangouts that fit long its 5k corridor. Sitting about in the middle is the the kitchy Mateo’s Mexican Grill.
Some might complain that Mateo’s is not “authentic” and too gringo friendly, but they would be missing the point. Like modern television, Mateo’s is a comfortable, friendly, easy place to go when you don’t want to think to hard about what you are doing.
They seemed to be open whenever we needed them to be and had the best coffee in the area. Sorry to report, this is not saying much as Mexican coffee in general is almost always like bad camping coffee, over-boiled café con leche. They do have a nice breakfast selection, tasty fajitas, totopos and of course a range of tacos. The kitchen is open and colorful with pyramids of fresh produce displayed in brightly painted crates.
Perched above is a viewing platform that in theory is an evening cocktail lounge for sunset viewing or maybe its a yoga platform? or a tanning deck? While it looked very interesting, it somehow wound up being closed for 3 different reasons over the course of our 3 days in Tulum. Maybe they just have it open in high season? Still it looks like it would be a lot of fun!!
While in Tulum we stopped by Mateo’s almost daily for the excellent smoothies and juices (and coffee fixes). Our favorite smoothie, which we have been recreating at home is the ‘Mayan Power Boost’. A vitamin packed cocktail 0f chaya (spinach), strawberry, pineapple and lemon. A wonderful way to get the day going as you head out to check some cenotes.
We can just about promise you that if you stay in Tulum, at some point you will find yourself at Mateo’s. Enjoy it for what it is and you will be a happy person!
papaya agua and ‘Mayan Power Boost’. A vitamin packed cocktail 0f chaya (spinach), strawberry, pineapple and lemon.
Tulum itself is a much chiller place then we expected after hearing it’s name for years in travel circles. It is the essence of hippy-chic with a lovely variety of hotels and restaurants; none of which cross into pretension or put you off. We stopped into many for a look at the rooms, grounds and menu.
Be Tulum is one of the more boutique of the hotels along the jungle road that is the main drag of Tulum. An impressive gateway led through to a luxurious garden, full of green palms and hanging candles. A winding footpath crawled its way towards the ocean, past a series of two story bungalows, each room with a very small private pool.
Here one runs into the only problem with Tulum. As it is prime vacation territory, the ocean-front lots can be a bit small, and in the case of Be Tulum a bit overbuilt. A few less bungalows and a even just 2 meters more buffer between the path and the rooms would give the privacy one wants for the price-tag.
At the end of the path, lies the main pool, bar and dining area. Definitely among the the most stylish of all the hotel bars in the area, it was well adorned with design furniture and a fashionable crown of good-looking adults. The menu looked tasty, if not overwhelmingly Mexican, being mostly sushi and ceviches; but with El Tábano up the street your not far from your gastronomic fix . The beach as always in Tulum is of wonderfully fine sand and blue water, if a bit narrow and public.
If you are looking for a place that is out of the bikini-catalog, I think Be Tulum could be it.
El Tábano is first on the list of many a foodie review of Tulum. So it was with some excitement that we ducked through the driftwood gate, into the open garden littered with tables and easing with well curated music. The short answer is that El Tábano has by far the best dining in the area and owners Paf and Laura deserve all the kudos they receive.
Our lead was the cold tomatoe and papaya gazpacho. Spectacularly refreshing, cool and sweet it was an instant winner, reinvigorating the palate on a hot afternoon. Next the plates started coming quickly, a fresh guacamole salad, an organic bean salad, huitlacoche crepes, chili ancho stuffed with shrimp and nuts – each plate radiating forth with its own perfumed flavor contour, as dishes in Mexico tend to do.
The fresh fish tacos were quite good, but not quite as mind-boggling as those from the Viceroy in Playa del Carmen, which are very very very hard to top. A highlight was the hot pepper salsa which was made fresh on our request. The tomatillos and chillies were still warm from the stove top!
The menu changes consistently, and is quite malleable, as it is only chalk on the large blackboards by the entrance; easily alterable. It is good to arrive early as items are only available until they run out, which they did 3 of the 3 times we were there. Pricing is quite reasonable and many of the ingredients organic. El Tábano was also where we were able to purchase the flowery local Yucatan honey (you should do this too!).
In the evenings bug spray and/or long pants and chosed shoes are recommended for dinner. As you are dining in a garden, there are plenty mosquitoes at night. Though as we forgot, the waiter was on-hand with a solution! The staff is relaxed and friendly, happily chatting about each dish. If you find yourself in Tulum, for everyone’s benefit, please remember that you are in the Caribbean, and probably in need of a vacation. So please don’t get short if the staff runs at a slightly slower speed then they do at home.
Avocado, Mint, Cucumber Soup
Fresh Hot Pepper & Tomatillo Salsa
Plantain Rolls filled with Cheese
Roasted tomatoes with Goat Cheese and Diced Apples
At the entry of the hotel Yoga Shala is the lovely outdoor Mexican café, Bless. Nicely integrated into the landspace, this roadside eatery features healthy quick meals, such as quesadillas, sopa de lima and has a nice amount of vegetarian options. Yummy juices and the thankfully ever present, aromatic Aguas round out the menu.
Yes, these are the photos that you have marveled at in National Geographic come to life. Best is that they live up to all expectations of wonder and amazement. You CAN really see hundreds of feet through water clear as glass.!
Cenotes dot the entire Yucatan and each one is unique in its own way. Just 17 Kilometers North of Tulum, Mexico, in Quintana Roo, is the cenote Dos Ojos. This water cave system is one of the top 10 longest in the world with 28 known Cenote entrances and the deepest known cave in the region with a depth of 118 meters (396 feet)! The Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) refers to the 2 main pools that reach the surface near each other.
Cenotes are caves that are formed as the limestone base of the Yucatan peninsula desolves, leaving behind only pure clear waters. Revered by the Mayans, they were viewed as gateways to the afterlife as well as all important sources of freshwater. Upon early exploration many treasures (and skeletons) were discovered in their depths pronouncing their use in the fabled Mayan sacrificial rights.
At a constant 77º (24-25ºc) they are comfortable either in trunks or with a shortie wet-suit provided with a tour. One can either snorkal or scuba dive (with open-water certificate), and both are magical. The tour costs about $40 and includes a cabaña to change and lock-up your personals, wet suit & flashlight. The guide, who like pretty much everyone we encountered was not pushy or overbearing, takes you on a relaxed 1.5 hr swim through the two main Ojos.