Boutique Tulum Hotels

These boutique beachfront hotels in Tulum, Mexico, offer a romantic, eco-friendly retreat By: Judy Zimmerman
Be Tulum pool // © 2012 Be Tulum
Be Tulum pool // © 2012 Be Tulum

Tulum’s beachfront boutique hotels have carved out their own unique identity in the Riviera Maya by focusing on sustainable and ecological tourism. This is one of the main factors that distinguish Tulum from the region’s larger-scale resorts.

Considered to be one of the best beach destinations in North America, Tulum offers miles of white, powdery sand and turquoise-blue waters and is only about a two-hour drive from Cancun’s airport, where van transport is available. However, renting a car may be the more reasonable and practical option. On a recent visit to seven of Tulum’s boutique hotels, the following are four of my favorites.

Be Tulum
One of the newest hotels, Be Tulum, has a wedding planner on site and offers massages for its international guests, many of whom are from Los Angeles. Its five, two-story concrete buildings house 18 air-conditioned suites made of native materials with furnishings of clean, modern lines and large glass windows that help the suites blend into the surrounding tropical forest. Only two of its suites are on the ocean. All suites offer a terrace, either a Jacuzzi or a private pool and a hammock. Guests relax at the candlelit pool bar and restaurant/lounge on the oceanfront deck. Room service is also available. www.betulum.com

Hemingway Romantic Eco Resort
Hemingway’s 14 wooden bungalows with tiled floors and private baths are decorated in bright colors and are equipped with fans, mosquito nets and hammocks. There is no air-conditioning at this gay-friendly resort, but the electricity is turned on for 6-10 hours each evening. Candles and torches light the way in the evenings.

Visits from June through September are discouraged as this time of year is often rainy, windy and extremely humid. While wind keeps the mosquitoes away, clients should bring insect repellent with them.

Credit cards are not accepted at the property. Reservations must be made with a deposit of 30 percent, either through a PayPal account or a bank transfer.

La Zebra
Seventeen concrete cabanas with thatched roofs are spread throughout La Zebra on a clothing-optional beach. Exteriors are painted hot pink, in-your-face purple and lime green. All are equipped with mosquito nets and ceiling fans. Clients should be warned that the hotel’s wind turbine power is not sufficient to supply air-conditioning or accommodate hair dryers.

Although there’s not a lot of nightlife in Tulum, every Sunday night guests enjoy free salsa lessons and a live Cuban band. La Zebra’s sister hotel, the Mezzanine, has a Thai restaurant and a martini lounge. Its Friday night parties under the stars are legendary. www.lazebratulum.com

Ana y Jose Charming Hotel & Spa
When it was built 30 years ago, Ana y Jose was one of Tulum’s first beachfront hotels. All 24 of its thatch-roofed, air-conditioned guestrooms have recently been remodeled with crisp white and bright orange furnishings accented by natural dark brown materials. Unlike the other three Tulum properties, some rooms offer televisions. Three suites, suitable for families, include a two-story house with living and dining rooms, three bedrooms and a kitchen. Maid service is available for $3-$4 a day. Ana y Jose offers honeymoon packages and an oceanfront spa. It is one of Tulum’s most popular venues for weddings. www.anayjose.com

While each of the aforementioned hotels includes breakfast in the price, lunch and dinner (which often feature fresh fish) are also available in their restaurants. Delicious international cuisine can also be found at other restaurants that are just a short walk away.

Free Wi-Fi access is available in the hotels’ public areas. Excursions for cave-diving, reef-snorkeling, kite-boarding and visits to Tulum’s coastal ruins can easily be arranged. Bikes are another popular way to get around the hotel area.

While some guests at these boutique hotels comment that “it’s expensive for what you get” most are delighted to get exactly what they came for — to sink their toes in the white powdery sand, relax with a good book and the sound of the surf and to nestle in a hammock beneath the palms.

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