For my birthday this year, I decided to go all out to celebrate. The theme: “Gypset Gemini” began with a big bash that included a tarot card reader and Mediterranean feast at a friend’s place in the city, and finished with a trip to Tulum, Mexico with my best girlfriends.
Tulum is notorious for feeling more removed and relaxed than it’s noisy neighbors, Playa del Carmen and Cancun. However – don’t be fooled by the thatched roofs and jungle backdrop. This spot’s secret has been out for a while; and plenty of big city folk have since decamped to enjoy the simpler life - or just spend a few days off the grid and unplugged. With this migration, comes a certain caliber of dining and shopping studded along the dirt roads and lush landscape. Luckily, even those associated with celebrity restaurateurs (such as the insanely delicious Hartwood – owned by Peasant’s Eric Werner of NYC) are executed with such respect that they blend seamlessly into Tulum’s wild vibe. That being said, I enjoyed every fish taco and michelada I had from the moment we landed; be it from a roadside stand, beach shack, or recommended dining “destination”. So don’t be afraid to explore!
The term “Gypset” is a hybrid between Gypsy and Jetset - so Tulum was a perfect destination, with it’s eco-centric economy and rustic, bohemian charm…
Speaking of exploring… Besides lying in the sun and stuffing your face with the best guacamole of your life, there is plenty to do in Tulum. Located on the Riviera Maya (at the eastern end of the Yucatan Peninsula) – Tulum is home to several archeological sites housing Mayan ruins that have been impressively preserved through the decades. While we didn’t make it as far inland as Coba, we did enjoy Zama’s spectacular bluff side views that are responsible for it’s name, meaning City of Dawn.
Not to be missed is the unique, natural wonder of the cenotes. Created by collapsed limestone bedrock, these sinkholes reveal crystal clear groundwater from deep below the earth - occasionally reaching as deep as 100km! There are several in the area, but after a morning tour at Zama, we drove across town to the Gran Cenote for our Ariel-mermaid-style adventure. Stalactites reach from below and above – and birds and bats alike fluttered above our heads while we swam around in the glowing waters. Believed to have magical powers, many locals visit daily – and I certainly did my best to soak up a little extra birthday magic...
On the way back through town, we stopped at Charlie’s where we loaded up on authentic Mexican cuisine before picking through the local shops for treasures like woven hammocks, richly embroidered clothes and textiles, silver and brightly painted pottery. My favorite scores of the trip included an embroidered muslin dress (which, I later realized was meant for a 9 year old and consequently had to be expanded in the armpits lest I resemble a quasi-moto-scarecrow while wearing it) and an impeccably crafted, tan/white cowhide bag. Each for less than the price of it’s counterpart at Zara.
When the sun sets and bedtime looms, there are dozens of boutique hotels to choose from along the resort strip, but don’t expect to see a Ritz Carlton, Best Western or any other big chain hotels of any kind (thank God!). With the exception of Be Tulum and a few others, most of them don’t have air conditioning, and some even limit their electricity to certain hours. So for those of you who hate to sweat, or can’t function without a hair dryer – bring a hat, wear a braid or just get over it. We stayed at the limestone stacked Coqui Coqui, famous for it’s lux line of essential oils and fragrance. The vibe was whisper quiet and relaxed, with spacious rooms and a concierge girl so hip we wanted to befriend her. Amansala is well known for it’s yoga and bikini bootcamp programs, and Ahau Tulum offers hip digs at affordable rates.
WHAT TO WEAR
Don’t bring heels of any kind, jeans or even makeup. Do bring gauzy, lightweight dresses, cover-ups, flip-flops, straw hats and bohemian jewelry. Bras and bikini tops optional.
WHERE TO SHOP
There are loads of chic boutiques all up and down the resort strip. For the most local, inexpensive and specialty crafts – head toward the north end. And of course, in town there are tons of beautiful artisanal creations mixed with cheesy souvenirs for next to nothing. Don’t be afraid to barter!
WHAT TO BRING
The jungle landscape and tropical climate are a heaven for mosquitoes...and a nightmare for bare legs and arms. On the beach there’s generally no problem, but around sunset on the jungle side it's like a plague of locusts every single evening.
HOW TO GET AROUND
There’s no need to rent a car in Tulum, which is great news for New Yorkers who may or may not even have a license. Cabs are plentiful and cheap, and bikes are simple to rent. But it’s easy to go through an entire day on foot as majority of shopping, hotels and restaurants are conveniently located on one main strip.
Happy hippie travels xx