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Where to Stay in Tulum

In the days following our visit, there has been an increase in cartel-related incidents in the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically Quintana Roo–including Cancun and Tulum. I have debated publishing this post but in the end decided that the experience we had was too magical to withhold. Please always check with current government safety guidelines when traveling.

Checking in and tuning out: Diamanté K Hotel is where to stay in Tulum for complete relaxation and a more culturally immersive experience.

After a drive from Cancun airport that takes almost as long as our flight from Atlanta to Cancun, we arrive at the Diamanté K. We are in that twilight dark, where the sky still shows up as deep violet, but the low lights of the hotel complex have all come on and most of our surroundings are hidden in shadow. We follow our guide along a stone and sand path, then up a long staircase by flashlight. He promises to turn the lights on for our stairs when he leaves us. This is just the first example of environmental economy we will observe during our stay. When we get to the top of the stairs, he opens the door immediately to right. Room number “PH”. He turns on the lights from the switch on the left and motions us into the room.
We are stunned.

This room is expansive: A large open rectangle with a thatched roof that positively soars above our heads, the details lost in shadow as the lights can’t quite reach the tall corners.

The Vibe: Rustic. Bohemian. Romantic.

The King size bed is covered in a pebble-grey natural textured cotton blanket with tassel trim. Mosquito netting is tied back artfully at the corners.
Two sling-style woven deck chairs sit in front of the bed, facing a wall of windows.
At the far left of the room, under the windows, two side-by-side sink bowls in carved rock, resting on a live-edge wood counter.
The only wall in the room is also on the left and hides and the generous double shower space from the toilet-only water closet. To the right of the door where we’re still standing, gaping at it all, is a padded bench space and another wall of windows. The view is darkness, the glass only reflecting this massive room that is somehow ours for the next 4 days.

And Incredibly Calming.

Natural beige concrete walls and floors, polished velvet-smooth. I’ve never enjoyed walking on a bare floor in my bare feet as much as I loved it here. Clearly hand-hewn wood bed, massive armoire, ceiling beams, sink counters. Actual pebbles used in the shower floor. Woven light fixtures give the ultimate beachy paradise vibes.
Natural palm leaf thatched roof. I can smell the dry sun and the damp rain–the story of seasons–from the roof.
When I do an experimental sit on the bed there is a hint of lavender and maybe clary sage from the linens.

Holy shit they weren’t kidding: This place feels like a paradise, and I can’t even see much of the grounds beyond low amber path lighting and a string of lights in the distance marking the restaurant.

The Only Restaurant You Need: Casa Maria

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Literally everything on the menu at Casa Maria is a delight for the senses! Our favorites:

  • Acai bowl, apple cinnamon yogurt & chia, ham & cheese croissant, green sauce enchiladas for breakfast.
  • Baja style fish tacos for lunch. I’m still dreaming of the light crispy breading over flaky white fish, crunchy red cabbage and creamy avocado dressing. Whatever the sort of BBQ flavor honey sauce served on the side was. . .I wish they’d sell and ship it to me.
  • Sweet-spicy chipotle shrimp tacos. I’m pretty sure Tulum has the fattest and most succulent shrimps.
  • Shrimp dumplings, plantain & cheese empanadas (the mole sauce is another one I’d love to have in my cupboard!), Caribbean tuna ceviche, coconut shrimps (we got these all three nights). When I say it’s all good–it’s ALL good.

A Cocktail for Any Hour

It’s vacation, right? I love coffee. . and a couple mimosas in the morning. The locals informed me tequila and mezcal are for the afternoons. A light white wine like a Pinot Grigio went great with dinners. Obviously we had to work our way through the cocktail menu too. Is it even a beach vacation if you don’t have a piña colada?

Diamanté K: Some info about this idyllic boutique hotel and more reasons this is where to stay in Tulum.

Owned by the charismatic actor, businessman, and activist Roberto Palazuelos: “El Diamanté Negro”. From everything I can find on him, it seems his bad-guy persona is just for his roles: the man is passionate about taking care of the people, animals, and ecology of Quintana Roo. I like the idea of staying in a place owned by good people, ya know?

As a nod to Mayan legends, the letter K was used to honor the Mayan god Kukulcan.
Number of Rooms: 29 and a variety of options here so be sure to check out the room types on their website.
Price Range: Depends on the season and room type but this hotel is VERY affordable! Like, crazy-good.

Good to Know:

  • There’s no air-conditioning. Keep those windows open to the ocean breezes, and be sure to use the little fan above your bed at night to stay cool and deter mosquitos. We slept just fine and since we were coming from damp and freezing temps no a/c was actually awesome.
  • Drop that mosquito netting at night: it’s not just a decorative vibe.
  • You are in the jungle. Do not have food in your room and the opossum strolling along the roof beam won’t bother you.
  • They don’t want you flushing the toilet paper (or anything else) in the National Park hotel zone.
  • There are some incredible experiences to be had on property!
    • Book a massage with Erika or Larissa.
    • Mayan culture is all around. Deepen your connections with a cacao ceremony.
    • Get an energy boost in a Reiki circle.
    • Join the yoga class in the mornings.
    • Pet the sweetie calico cat on property if you see her – bonus for feeding her some tuna ceviche at dinner.

Located in the hotel zone designated about a year ago as a National Park, Diamanté K (pronounced “kah”) is about as safe an area as you could wish for. The National Guard checks all vehicles, bikes, pedestrians going into the park. In my mind this is a big selling point and why I’m saying Diamanté K in particular and the National Park Hotel Zone in general is where to stay in Tulum.

While this is awesome for security, it’s also restrictive on what you can buy and bring back to the hotel. No glass, plastic, alcohol means we had to get sneaky to bring in the water and wine we purchased at the grocery store!
There really should be some different rules applied to proven hotel guests. We also had to pay the park entrance fee to walk back in prior to 5pm. We did NOT have to pay it when we took the taxi back in (with our water and wine hidden under the front seats). So. . .that was interesting. More Tips at the end of this post!

Tulum: a small town with one touristy main road, surrounded by incredible natural beauty

So I’m not gonna lie; after walking in my new (too big) Superga sneakers 2.5 miles to Chedraui grocery, I had serious blisters and we didn’t do much walking around Tulum town. We did however hit Antojitos La Chiapaneca, a delightful little spot on the corner of Avenida Tulum (the 307-the main road) and Aquaria Norte. According to my online research, this place has some of the best tacos. When I said this to our affable taxi driver, his response was “yes–that’s what They say”
Me: “Have you had the tacos there?”
Taxi Driver “No. . .my favorite is Taqueria Honorio but they’re closed now. They close at 3.”
Me: “Okay well, you can’t judge ’em ’til you’ve tried ’em so you should come in with us!”

And that is how we ended up having tacos with our taxi driver, whose name we learn is Carlos! After sampling, Carlos decreed yes these tacos are tasty–but Honorio is still better. So jot that down.

Places on my Tulum Town list I didn’t get a chance to check out because I was an idiot and wore new shoes on our 2.5 mile walk from the hotel to the grocery store:

  • Taqueria Honorio – Carlos said it’s the best and he works in Tulum so. . .I trust him.
  • Kaahal Home Tulum – for authentic home decor and textiles. Right across from Antaojitos La Chiapaneca!
  • Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar: cash only, they serve up drinks with sugar cane and the press is in a VW Beetle. The word is that Batey’s is the essence of Tulum’s easy-going hippy vibes. Half a mile away from Kaahal Home store.

South Tulum Hotel Zone: a little rough and wild

I originally booked us at Hotel Panamera. So I was still wanting to see this hotel and the area it’s located. The day after our grocery store walk and Tulum town adventure, I slap on sandals that won’t rub my blisters.
We walk from Diamanté K to the National Park entrance: about 15 minutes but worth it because 1) we’re eating and drinking EVERYTHING and need to offset those calories, and 2) the traffic in and out of the National Park zone during the day is slow-moving. I’d rather walk in and out than sit in a taxi in the line-up!
We get a taxi at the roundabout outside the park entrance no problem and I negotiate 500 pesos to take us about 3.5 miles and a slow-traffic 25 minutes to Hotel Panamera. (He said 600. I countered 400. He said 500. I said fine.)

We get drinks and admire the pristine stretch of white sand beach into clear turquoise ocean outside, and the laid-back glam vibes of Hotel Panamera. But overall we are beyond glad to have discovered and stayed at Diamanté K.

The south hotel zone of Tulum is. . .different. After drinks at Hotel Panamera we walk about 2 miles back towards the north, hailing a taxi outside the other resort I almost booked: Amansala.

The road is narrow and walking it feels similar to the tight squeeze of walking around Positano. But that’s where the similarity ends. There is a lot of debris to walk around or over. Thriving boho-glam vibe-y restaurants and shops are interspersed with vacant and abandoned once-thriving businesses. Bustling and also clearly abandoned hotel complexes hide behind high walls. It’s a bit disconcerting. Mark’s comment: “If you were walking this at night someone could grab you and drag you into any of these abandoned spaces, and no one would ever know.” Not a cozy thought. We pause for photos and I make one quick shopping stop but really– we just want to be back in the National Park and tranquility of Diamanté K. I’m bummed to have missed some of the shops and restaurants I’d read about. . .but I don’t think I would go back to the south hotel zone.

Book a Tour! Here’s the day I planned:

  • Snorkel and swim with the sea turtles in the Caribbean at Akumal.
  • Visit the ruins and learn about the Tulum port city archaelogical site.
  • Swim in a cenote.

And hope it doesn’t get cancelled. Or maybe. .hope it does?

If you’ve read about our other adventures, you know I’m a planner and learning about local history and culture is high priority–right up there with eating and drinking all the local specialities! And I DID book us a really great day around Tulum. But the company messaged me and cancelled due to the van breaking down. And you know what? We spent the day RELAXING around the sanctuary of nature and beauty that is Diamanté K. I think this was the best possible outcome. We haven’t had a relaxing beach vacay since February 2016.

Some tips for doing Tulum smarter

  • Try to buy sunscreen and bug spray at the Cancun airport. Bonus for environmentally friendly versions.
  • Hit the cash machine at the Cancun airport. You’re gonna need pesos for taxis and anything you book at the hotel like massages or ceremonial activities. And Casa Maria gives you 10% off if you pay in cash!
    • If you don’t get pesos at the airport, the closest place is the giant Costco-style grocery store Chedraui. We walked the 2.5 miles from the hotel. It was a long, straight, hot stroll. We felt perfectly safe. It’s the main road 307. Got a taxi back (bargained for 300 pesos.) If you get pesos here, there’s a money exchange place just outside Chedruai you can get smaller amounts than the 500 peso notes the machine spits out.
  • Arrange for transport to the hotel in advance. It’s a cacophony of humanity when you walk out of the Cancun airport, and they’re all trying to sell you something. We opted for STP Caribe and a luxe black suv. They’ve got bright Granny Smith apple-green shirts and are easy to spot. What a relief to be able to follow a vetted company rep out of that crowd.
  • Stay in the National Park hotel zone at night. They’re currently building a beautiful wide sidewalk that will have regular-interval path lighting at night for safer strolling between hotels. As of this publication, there isn’t much to stroll to or from near Diamanté K; Mi Amour hotel is closest to Diamanté K and it’s very Instagram-driven in design, but the food wasn’t nearly as good as Casa Maria. My advice would be to venture out during the day and tuck back in when the sun goes down.

A special mention of gratitude to the Diamanté K front desk gents: Paco, Enrique, and Javi.
Also to the Casa Maria team: Mariel, Johnny, Emmanuel, and Marcos.
You made our trip just as special as the sun, sand, and pristine ocean views.

Sending love and hopes for peace and safety to all of the wonderful people who call this enchanting part of the world home.

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