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  • Writer's pictureLena Jennings

Living la vida Tulum 🌴🌴

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

In the middle of a global pandemic I decided to relocate to Tulum, Mexico for six weeks. I wanted a change of scenery after sheltering in place in the same four walls of my house for nine months. I am an avid traveler and use Kayak to store all of my travel itineraries. They collect all my travel stats and in 2019 I flew 172,851 miles, spent 207 days on the road visiting 14 different time zones. So when 2020 came around I intentionally told myself that I was not going to travel for the first 6 months of the year and get rerooted in community. But after those 6 months I had plans to go to Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, and Egypt. Jokes on me that we enter into a global pandemic where it felt unsafe to even go to the grocery store. I along with the rest of the world, had to adjust to life shelter in place for my own good but also for the good of others. I did it, I really did and I chose to not see any of my friends and stay home. I don't get a gold star for doing so because so many of us did. But it got old and I got tired of the never ending groundhog day. So I set out to get rooted in another city for a change of scenery and I do not regret it one bit. Criticize my decision and COVID shame me for being selfish because I sure was. I chose to be selfish and not feel guilty about choosing my own self care. I needed the break and really I had THE best time meeting new people, dressing up to go out to dinner, and exploring the jungle in what felt like each day a new adventure.

I went with a girlfriend of mine who is just as adventurous as I am. I asked her if she wanted to move to Tulum and without any questions asked she said "of course." Once she said yes I got hesitant like "am I crazy for this? is this not responsible? is this trip too long? what will other people think about me going on this trip? is Mexico safe to travel to now for 2 young black girls?" As I was telling this idea to others their limitations and negative thoughts began to fill my mind and my she reminded me to "listen to my intuition and do what I want to do." What did I want to do? I wanted to travel. So we did it. We bought our tickets to Cancun & booked the best airbnb in Tulum. We decided the rest would be figure itself out when we got there. I didn't know what to expect from this trip. I don't even fully remember my sentiments before I left but I knew that every single moment of the trip blew me out of the water. From the food, to the scenery, the blue ocean water, and the people (local and travelers) made the experience so worth while. Where do I begin? To start here is a general list of recommendations for Tulum. I also created a Google Maps list of my Tulum favorite places of ease of access while you're on the go!

General Tips:

  • Tulum is the jungle. If you are looking to relocate here or work from Tulum for an extended period of time be ready for some spotty WiFi, weak signals, and the occasional power outages. You're in the jungle so don't get frustrated when the signal goes out.

  • September, October, and November are the rainy seasons. So expect rain periodically throughout the day. It will pour for about 30 minutes then clear up but when it rains, it POURS.

  • The sunsets in Tulum are absolutely amazing. You have to take multiple moments to enjoy the beauty of the sky because man they are CAPTIVATING. Every night we tried to go to our rooftop to catch the sky show off.

  • The mosquitos are active and you will get bitten. Bug spray doesn't repel these bugs at all so bring some itch cream so you aren't too bothered by the bites.

  • Traveling around Tulum is much easier with a car. Don't reserve a car ahead of time, rent a car at the airport directly so you can haggle the price. Be warned the roads in Tulum are terrible, many of them are unpaved and are filled with potholes. Also, police target tourists and if you get pulled over they want nothing more than $$. The price for these tickets aka bribes can range from anywhere between $40 and $100 USD. Alternatively you can rent bikes, which we did, and we used Ola Bike Tulum. What I will say is the roads are terrible, especially after it rains so the route to the hotel zone is not the smoothest. I am also not the best bike rider so I fell multiple times in mud and the stress of riding on a narrow road in traffic was a lot for me. You can also take a taxi around town with each ride ~$30 USD and could get to $40 on weekends.

  • Get connected to the Black in Tulum Facebook page to find community. We met so many people through the group after putting ourselves out there and posting saying we were looking for friends in town.

  • It's humid -- don't expect to wear any straight/blowdried/flat ironed hair. It will frizz up. Braids and natural hair all the way because nothing will last here. But the humidity does wonders for your skin!

Food and Accommodations:

  • The popular party restaurants that everyone visits are: Taboo, Rosa Negra, Gitano and Bak. The later the reservation (10pm and later) the better because the restaurants turn into the closest thing to a club in Tulum.

  • Places to eat at on the hotel strip: Casa Banana, Selina, Mateos, Kin Toh. The beach clubs have really good food too, I recommend going to Ziggys and Le Zebra to enjoy a good meal on the beach.

  • Tacos. We must talk about this because I really was expecting to have some amazing tacos. It's Mexico so why wouldn't I? But sadly, I have had better tacos in Los Angeles. The thing in Tulum is seafood so don't come expecting to have the best tacos of your life. If you must try tacos in Mexico we did a self led taco tour and it was a fun activity to explore the center of town with friends! We visited Tropi Tacos, Antojitos La Chiapaneca, and El Tacoqueto (our favorite!!!).

  • The hotel zone is incredibly touristy but the center of town is more local with really good food. Some of my favorites in the town center: Bonita Burger Bar, Burrito Amor, El Tacoqueto, Del Cielo, Safari Campfire food, and Chacabar.

  • If you want to stay at in Airbnb in the neighborhood I would highly recommend staying in Aldea Zama or El Centro. Many airbnbs are located in La Veleta and it's a great up and coming neighborhood, but give it 5 more years before you book there for the roads to get paved.

  • If you're looking to stay right on the beach stay in the hotel zone. I haven't stayed there but the ones that come highly recommended are Hotel Bardo and Hotel Azulik.

Things to see/do:

  • Rent a yacht, you won't regret it. My favorite thing is the sunset so to be able to rent a boat while the sun sets is the best thing. We used H2OH Sun Cruises. But there is a black owned company called Yacht Club Company that we also heard of after the fact.

  • Zip lining is a popular activity, I didn't do it but if you want to definitely use Viator to book your trip.

  • Visit Mayan Clay Spa if you want a traditional Mayan massage. I haven't had a massage since COVID started and was in desperate need of a little rub down so I throughly enjoyed myself for a 2 hour massage.

  • BEACH, enjoy the water and the ocean and just try to do nothing. You can go to the public beach and just enjoy the sand but treat yourself and go to the private side at a beach club. My favorite beach club was Ana y José. We didn't want a beach club where the music was blaring and people were dancing all over the place. Ana y José is super chill with the best service and amazing food but even better cabanas. Rent a cabana for the day and you won't regret it. The minimum spend is $225 so if you go with a group it's so affordable! We made it a point to go to the beach every single Sunday to just sit and literally do nothing but eat all day, lay on the cabana, and float in the ocean.

  • Check out the cenotes, there are 3 within 20 minutes from here. My favorites are: Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera.

  • If you want to see some ruins, check out the Tulum ruins. They were a cool piece of history but once you see one ruin you've seen them all. But don't waste your money, look it up online and call it a day.

My favorite part about Tulum was really the people. To my surprise I found community after community in Tulum. From the very first weekend in Tulum we found an amazing group of people to hangout with where we instantly connected. Once that group of travelers left we made it our prayer to find people to hangout with while in Tulum. And as always, God showed up and we were never without community the entire time we were in Tulum. There’s something about this place that allows for such deep connection to happen in the span of a few days because everyone is so present and open to possibilities.

My number 1 recommendation: go to Tulum. I have nothing else to share. Go and have the time of your life. Make friends, eat amazing food, and catch all of the sunsets because you deserve it.

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