Our Kid-Free trip to the Riviera Maya – and where to visit in Tulum

We love Mexico

Apparently Mexico is where we like to take our kid-free vacations. The only other trip Chris and I have been on in the last six years was to Cabo in 2015. This time we went back to the area we got married in 2011: The Riviera Maya (including Tulum). 

We were gone a week – the longest we have been away together since having kids. It was due time. I got a lot of questions about how we are able to take a kid-free vacation. Most important to point out is the fact that we took a trip without our kids doesn’t mean that it was easy. It just means that we did it. If you’re waiting for it to feel easy to leave your kids, then you might be waiting a long time. 😉

kid free vacation Tulum

We have also had some practice. We’ve done quite a few overnights together away from the girls. We do it every anniversary and usually another time throughout the year. Our last anniversary, we went to Palm Springs for two nights. My parents stayed with the girls.

So, not only have we had practice but my parents have had practice too. Our parents don’t live in San Diego and as much as we wish they did, I think the fact that they only see the girls every month or two means they don’t get burned out as quickly! So they come in refreshed and more able (and willing) to help for a solid few days at a time.

I put together three pages of notes for the week we were gone. One had the girls’ schedule broken down in detail, one had meal ideas, and one had a list of general info (important phone numbers, contacts, ideas for activities, etc.). Everyone felt prepared and comfortable. 

My advice to anyone nervous about leaving their little ones is to take baby steps. Do shorter getaways to lead up to a bigger one. Train a trusted and available family member in how to care for your little ones.  But do them if you can. We believe in these kid-free trips, we see them as essential. We come back rejuvenated, re-centered and even more committed to our family.

(Most of these photos were taken on my iPhone. All the photos that look pretty and professional were taken by my photographer friend Chris)

hotel beach tulum

Unico 2087

Our trip started at Unico 2087, a super luxury all-inclusive resort located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Our close friends were getting married and all the wedding guests were staying on property. Being in Mexico on vacation and with your friends is kind of the ulitmate. Let’s just say there was a lot of Tequila, laughter, hangovers and fun. I wouldn’t call it relaxing, but it was fun. 

The resort was gorgeous. Super trendy and pretty. Good food, good drinks. We got massages at the spa twice because they were only $44. So okay maybe it was a little relaxing after all.

We stayed in a swim-up room which was awesome. The river didn’t go anywhere except to other rooms, which was fun because we had a couple rooms worth of friends a short swim away. The most fun was swimming between rooms at 2am after the wedding, but it didn’t last long when security came and told us to go to bed.

unico riviera maya spa photo

wedding unico 2087
My Best Man Wedding Date

unico food and drink all inclusive

riviera maya beach unico resort

unico mexico all inclusive

unico riviera maya spa photo

all inclusive unico 2087

Tulum 

I was BEYOND excited to explore Tulum. I had heard the stories, seen the pictures, and had gotten a quick taste of it 7 years ago. Chris and I had done a day trip to the ruins and to a cenote a couple days after our wedding but hadn’t made it to the town. We planned to but a hurricane came in and we had to leave the area 4 days sooner than planned.

The “little” beach town was bigger than I imagined. Well maybe not bigger (its still a quaint beach town in a lot of ways) but the one narrow road was longer that I pictured. The main drag is at least three miles long, full of hotels and stores and restaurants on either side.

Tulum downtown street

Tulum Main Road

I didn’t find it to be the easist town to explore, you kind of have to know where you’re going, or at least where you’re starting. If you stay at a hotel in the area, you go from there. We stayed a little bit north of the main area so it was a quick cab ride to wherever we chose to start our day (which was usually the Real Coconut – see below). Cabs aren’t cheap but they all charge the same flat rates.

When I have described Tulum to friends after coming home, I use the word random a lot. There are so many random little surprises – everywhere! I mention some of the ones we ran into below… 

We didn’t have a lot of time but we made the most of it. We didn’t have time to enjoy the beach, and that was convenient because there was a big seaweed problem. We chose exploring over lounging and we don’t regret it. Hopefully you won’t have to choose! 🙂

Tulum Restaurant/Bars:
Mina, Maria del Mar

This is where we stayed, and it was great. It’s located at the very north end of the strip (map at the bottom of the post). The food (contemporary Mexican-Argentinean cuisine) at Mina was awesome. We were lucky enough to feast here for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner and everything was perfect.  We skipped the free breakfast we were offered and got a delicious green juice to go each morning. 

La Zebra 

“A modern take on Mexican food” – it doesn’t really matter, I can never have too much Mexican food. When we came here, we ordered the guisados (individual portions of specialty dishes served with soft corn tortillas, rice, beans and salsa), basically a make your own taco situation. There were four of us and it was a fun way to eat a little bit of a few different things. We came on a Sunday night and there was a live Salsa band and a ton of people dancing. Awesome people watching and fun music. Made me deeply wish I knew how to dance like the locals! 

The Real Coconut, Sanara Tulum Hotel

I want to live here. It’s that simple. Its gorgeous, delicious, and the food is my kind of food. It’s exactly how I enjoy eating: local, organic, clean, gluten free, dairy free, and refined sugar free. It’s right on the beach and I’m not exaggerating when I say you never want to leave. The view, the decor, the food…and now they even serve booze too. A must visit! 

Rosa Negra Tulum

We didn’t mean to eat here. I had read about it and as amazing as it sounded, I thought it might be too fancy for what we were looking for. There were six of us and we had plans to go elsewhere but a random torrential downpour had us running for shelter. I’m so happy we found our shelter here.  The restaurant features Latin American cuisine. We got appetizers, 3 different ceviches, and a couple tostadas, and everything was delicious. Random moment: Ladies are offered a champagne cocktail from a little station after visiting the restroom. 

Raw Love

Vegan, local, organ, gluten-free, eco-friendly outdoor cafe, nestled in the Ahau hotel property. Super centrally located and was nice to just wander the grounds too. Right next to the Tulum Jungle Gym. 

I Scream Bar (or Ice Cream Bar?)

Random side-of-the-road dive restaurant/bar with random car-part decor and cheap, simple, delicious tacos. It was just what we wanted after sweating our butts off wandering the beach. Cheapest meal we had, but totally hit the spot. We went back later that same night and sat at the I scream bar counter. I think they actually do serve ice cream during the day?? But at night the “bartenders” were jamming out to a really good playlist and pole dancing for our entertainment. It was awesome. (Located across the street from Ahau/Raw Love)

Azulik

Just come for drinks if nothing else! I’m sure the food is good too, but we didn’t stay for dinner. It was a really fun (and the most random) place to explore for sure. More below. 

best of tulum
Maria Del Mar / Casa Malca
organic gluten free tulum
The Real Coconut
gluten free organic tulum
The Real Coconut

yoga tulum alaya

best cocktail tulum
Green juice at Mina, Cocktail at Casa Malca

 

Tulum Photo Ops: 

Holy crap, the photo ops are endless here. Every inch of this place is instagram-worthy. As obnoxious as it sounds, most of the spots we visited were places I found on Instagram. It’s an amazing resource when you need it to be! 

There are swings and hammocks galore, fun road signs and backdrops… its hard NOT to take a good photo in Tulum. 

Matcha Mama – adorable road side cafe with swings. So beachy-boho, so Tulum.

Coco Tulum – gorgeous white swings on the beach (in a black and white themed hotel)

Azulik – nests up in the trees, nets with ocean views. They don’t allow DSLRs, you can only take pictures with your phone. They cited “politics.” Random. This whole place is the epitome of bizarre and awesome. Bridges to nests with amazing views, nets to hang out on, and weird rules about what you can visit if you are just there for cocktails. We were very confused. You MUST buy a drink before entering the restaurant area so get there before sunset. We got there too late and by the time the mixologist made our very expensive cocktails and let us pass, the sun was down and all our pictures are dark.

IK LAB – an art gallery connected to Azulik. The building itself is art, not unlike Azulik and ZAK IK Boutique (also attached to the hotel).

Grand Cenote (and any cenote) – I did a ton of research on which cenotes to visit and had a list of half a dozen. We ended up going to ONE (time was precious) and it was the Gran (or Grand) Cenote. This is where I had my memorable mermaid moment, thanks to my BFF Chris.

Follow you Dreams sign – I can’t tell you exactly where along the road it is but we saw it a few times going back and forth. Makes a cute photo op, especially if you’re on bikes. 

Casa Malca – supposedly Pablo Escobar’s mansion. A million different photo ops here but they’ll ask you to leave if you take a picture with anything other than your phone (which happened to us). Random moment: this whole place! Dolls popping out of suitcases on the walls, hanging velvet sofas, a hidden underwater pool…but its a gorgeous property!

Tulum Jungle Gym – Visit here to work out on the beach Fred Flinstone-style. We had every intention of working out there and even visited to get the class schedule but alas, timing and heat didn’t allow for it!

tulum underwater cenote
Gran Cenote, mermaid moment 🙂

tulum underwater cenote

tulum underwater cenote

tulum underwater grand cenote

where to go tulum

tulum iklab azulik
IK LAB, attached to Azulik
pablo escobar museum
Casa Malca
pablo escobar tulum
Casa Malca
Alaya, Tulum, where we did yoga. All donation based.

casa malca tulum

tulum beach nests
Beach at Maria del Mar

tulum shopping

Azulik nets and nests

I love maps and like visuals so here is a map that shows where a lot of these locations are in relation to one another:

Map of best places to go in Tulum

Have you visited Tulum? Is it on your bucket list? Share below!

best of tulum photo ops

 

 

 

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