hello TA -
you have been an invaluable resource in my trip planning, and it's time i give back :)
a little bit about us - my husband and i are in our early 30s, live in nyc, love to travel, and try not to go back to the same place twice (other favorite spots around the world include zambia, mal pais in costa rica, and trancoso in brazil).
we spent 9 amazing days in tulum, from December 26th - January 4th. this was not our first time to mexico, but first time to tulum. we were a bit over-whelmed with all of the beachside bungalow/hotel options but after doing a ton of research, i was so happy with how we planned our trip and was actually blown away at times. so here goes...
we stayed at La Zebra our first few nights. due to rather late booking and the peak holiday week, all beach-side bungalows were taken so we had #14, jungle side. the room was really beautiful - so well appointed, a good size, and a very comfy bed. we loved our stay there and the only complaint was that the shower didnt stay hot for long enough. the beach at La Zebra is GORGEOUS and the restaurant had really good food/drinks (passionfruit margherita - amazing). also, in comparing prices to other nearby properties (nueva vida, etc...), La Zebra seemed to have the best value. we would definitely return.
We stayed here for two nights over new years, due to La Zebra not having availability. We actually liked the concept of moving into town for a few nights, so we could experience a different side of Tulum and save a bit of money. While this was a nice property and the amenities were good value (ie - nice breakfast, big room, great shower, pretty pool area, etc....), the location is not ideal. Its at the far south end of town, down a dirt road. Also, while i recommend spending time in town (some of the best meals we had), I wouldn't recommend sleeping in town.
Villa Las Estrellas:
one word: HEAVEN. please see my review of the property for more info.
RESTAURANTS (in order, starting with our favs):
Pousada Margherita - we went twice for lunch, and absolutely loved everything about this place. from the owner, who sits at the table to explain the menu, to the delicious app plate, to the fresh and homemade pasta dishes, to the overall relaxed and european vibe. coming from nyc and loving that perfect balance of rustic luxury and charm - this place hat it all. highly recommended.
Mateos - best fish tacos, just like the sign says. great vibe here with incredible food at really good prices! my husband and i loved this place and went back whenever we could. the mexican sampler platter, the fried fish tacos, the salsa fresco, chicken fajitas - it was all delicious!
El Tabone - loved. wasnt nearly as expensive as we thought (per other TA reviews), and really enjoyed the open-air atmosphere and delicious food.
other great spots on the beach side: mezzanine (fantastic thai food!! we are from nyc and are used to great thai, expectations were more than met here and the setting is pretty spectacular) casa violetta (get the grouper with potatoes and vegetables), zebras (awesome fish tacos, ceviche, and salads). the one that we would skip is ohm. we went for the pizza and were disappointed.
great spots in town: La Nave (great pizza/pasta), Cetli (the chef is the mexican giada! she has such passion for the food she creates in her kitchen, and we loved our experience here), tacoquito (really yummy home cooked meal, with beer, all for under $8. a bargain).
* spent a day with edventurtours and loved it. we had qui-qui as a private guide, who was the mexican mayor. he knew everyone and was just fun energy to be around. swam in dos ojos cenotes and then went to an 'aquariam' for snorkling. highly recommended.
* toupes. the only thing we didnt like about tulum
* nightlife: super mellow. i was in bed by 10pm most nights. zamas was great for live music.
* yoga. i practice in nyc at kula and jivamukti, and was excited to check out a few classes in tulum. overall, i was a bit disappointed with the quality of the teachers. but the two that stood out and i would highly recommend: inspirit (we took a morning vinyasa class) and petit shambala (morning vinyasa class)
* getting around: definitely rent a car. its nice to have the freedom to drive into town whenever you want
* taco/tamale stands: try them ALL. one of our favorite nights consisted of hopping from one stand to the next - we had the most satisfying dinner, all for under $5.
we cant wait to return. please feel free to email me directly if you want more info - happy to help in any way that i can!
thank you again for all of those who helped us :)