January 11, 2023
Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting boutique hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. For over twenty years we’ve scoured the earth, evaluating hotels for every taste and budget, creating a hand-picked selection that’s proven and unforgettable. Now, we’re the official hotel selection of the legendary MICHELIN Guide.
Here are the top boutique hotels in Tulum, Mexico:
At the moment there may be no place in Mexico with quite as thrilling a reputation as that of Tulum, the Goldilocks of resort destinations — it’s wild but also a bit luxe, stylish but also authentic, spiritual but also grounded. No wonder the hotels sometimes struggle to live up to the myth. La Valise Tulum, however, makes it look easy. A beachfront villa and a handful of bungalows, with the jungle on one side and a spectacular white sand beach on the other, it’s a slice of heaven — and it’s packed with the modern comforts, traditional crafts, and eclectic, bohemian design that Tulum is supposed to be all about.
Here there’s no contradiction between palapa roofs and the decadent luxury of a king bed with a direct view of the Caribbean. The style is meant to evoke a Robinson Crusoe fantasy, but an eminently tasteful one, and in that it absolutely succeeds. La Valise Tulum is the sequel to a successful micro-boutique hotel in Mexico City, so they’ve got some experience at this sort of thing — you’re not just in a beautiful place, you’re in good hands as well. And of particular note is the cuisine — one restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, with an emphasis on the Mayan-influenced local cuisine, while NÜ Tulum, open for dinner, features a dream team of seven Mexico City chefs.
Somewhere between glamorous excess and spartan backpackers’ minimalism is the Mayan Riviera town of Tulum. More concretely, it’s just down the coast from Playa del Carmen, on the less developed end of the Riviera Maya. And while the coastal hotel zone is where most of the hotels are — you’ve got to admire the clarity of that logic — the western edge of the town center, two miles inland from the beach, is where you’ll find the low-key, affordable, and charmingly mid-century modernist Hotel Tiki Tiki Tulum.
Here, of course, “inland” connotes a jungle-scape in vibrant shocks of green. Totaling just 15 rooms, Tiki Tiki feels as much like a Miami apartment building as it does a boutique hotel, due in no small part to the sizable rooms, the courtyard pool, glass-block windows, perforated surfaces, slatted wood, and a steady diet of blues and greens colluding towards a rewarding aesthetic eyeful. Of course some rooms come with indoor hammocks, the better to idly thumb through a paperback while drinking in the patterned tilework and floods of equatorial light.
Not every hotel in Tulum is right on the beach, but Hotelito Azul is just about as close as you can get to the Caribbean and still wake up warm and dry. This is a destination whose fame has compounded year upon year, and the local hoteliers are struggling to keep up — here they’ve renovated a formerly undistinguished property, adding front-facing full-length glass doors to every room, in order to maximize the impact of the views. And while only the front row has that unobstructed vista, the effect in all of them is to bring the environment inside.
The style is simple, spare, with a touch of design but plenty of handmade charm, and while the rooms are comfortable, they stop short of anything that could reasonably be described as high luxury. All the same, it’s hard to imagine needing much else — which is a good thing, because that’s about the extent of Hotelito Azul. 31 rooms, two sun terraces, a beautiful little stretch of beach, and the occasional hammock, day bed, or lounger for taking it all in. A light breakfast starts the day, and from there you’re off to explore the beach, the town, or the sea, in any order you like.
With Tulum getting busier by the day, guests are increasingly looking for a bit of extra privacy and seclusion, and hoteliers, looking for space, are establishing hotels outside of the most obvious locations. Una Vida Tulum is one of these — set on a verdant piece of land to the west of the city center, where the rainforest meets the town, it’s a villa-style hotel, its rooms and suites clustered together in groups of two or three across the property.
The king rooms open onto terraces, for maximum interaction with the environment; some come with plunge pools, while the jungle studios add kitchenettes and outdoor bathtubs. The suites have kitchenettes as well as a separate living and dining room, and at the top of the range is a three-bedroom private house, with a full kitchen, an outdoor lounge, and an indoor-outdoor bathroom.
The difficult balance for Tulum’s boutique hotels is how to balance deep immersion in this location’s inimitable atmosphere and unique environment with the high-end comforts modern travelers have grown accustomed to. Hotel Bardo, set on the lush, forested west side of town, walks precisely this line: its minimal-modern concrete-clad villas open onto private jungle gardens with hammocks and little plunge pools, and while air conditioning and wi-fi are present, you’re gently encouraged to go without. At 645 square feet they’re comfortably spacious, and the semi-outdoor rain shower is a particularly welcome touch.
And as the name might suggest, there’s a Buddhist influence at work as well as a local one. The hotel’s spa and “healing center” offers therapies drawn from both eastern and Maya traditions — there’s yoga, there’s “sound therapy” incorporating Tibetan signing bowls, and there’s a Temazcal sweat-lodge experience led by a local shaman. Meanwhile, you could hardly ask for a more atmospheric restaurant than Milum, with its thatched roof and stone carvings serving as a backdrop to some fine contemporary Yucatán fare; meanwhile the adjoining Kinky Room is more wholesome than it sounds, and promises the best cocktails in town.
There’s not much in the way of concept to separate one of Tulum’s beachfront boutique hotels from any of the others — you can pretty much count on a laid-back, indoor-outdoor vibe, a sort of rustic-minimalist approach to design, and a wealth of arts and crafts by local makers. The differences come down to execution, and Nest Tulum is earning a following by getting all the details just right.
Its founder, an American music-business veteran, was a Tulum traveler before he was a hotelier, and Nest is his chance to create the hotel he always wanted to see. Along with alums from other well-known Tulum hotels, he’s established a stylish 12-room boutique hotel just off the beach to the south of town, at the far end of the Riviera Maya from busy Cancún.
Now that Tulum is well established as an international destination, its biggest worry is preventing the kind of over-polished overdevelopment that’s befallen so many other formerly well-kept secrets. A hotel like Encantada Tulum ought to put some of these fears to rest — this place is anything but over-polished.
With its thatched roofs and its handmade craftsmanship it’s as rustic as can be, but rustic doesn’t mean spartan — look a little closer and you’ll find luxuries, just not ostentatious ones. With just eight rooms, it’s as quiet and intimate as can be, and they’ve all got plush king-size beds, hardwood floors, wraparound decks, and air conditioning, for when the delightful breeze isn’t quite getting it done.
Tulum, like many a destination before it, has rapidly evolved from undiscovered paradise to hotel hotspot. The best hotels, naturally, are the ones that recapture some of that ends-of-the-earth feeling, and Tago Tulum, with its close-set suites surrounded by wild greenery and its splendid little stretch of white-sand beach, combines modest size and thoughtful luxuries to create a cloistered, serene little world in the heart of one of Mexico’s most famous places.
The Ocean Front suites, naturally, are the most prized, with views of the Caribbean from the foot of the king-sized canopy bed. But the Ocean View and Jungle View options are equally attractive and equally luxe — and in all cases the interiors are a handsome mix of hand-crafted elements and contemporary design.
As much as Tulum has grown in recent years, it’s impressive that its hoteliers have managed to keep things relatively low-key and low-impact. Ahau Tulum takes this approach to a higher level; it’s named for the Mayan sun god Kinich Ahau, who represents universal consciousness. Needless to say it takes great pains to minimize its ecological footprint, as does more or less every small hotel in this part of the world. Where it excels, however, is in the related goal of stepping out of the way and letting its guests experience the closest possible communion with nature (short of sleeping outside under the stars).
The accommodations range from suites to freestanding cabañas, palapas, and even Balinese-style huts, all of which are rustic in style but modern in construction, and full of contemporary comforts. Many of them look directly out to sea through vast windows, and all of them are as open to the air as you want them to be. Also open to the air is Ahau’s restaurant, which serves a hybrid Mexican-Caribbean cuisine. And for lighter fare, there’s the Raw Love Café, with an entirely vegan menu — not at all a typical choice for a Mexican hotel, even in Tulum.
The Riviera Maya has long been a popular vacation spot, for obvious reasons — white sand Caribbean beaches, ancient ruins, easy access. But in the past few years, it’s Tulum in particular that’s lured a certain subset of travelers. They snap up the direct flights from New York to Cancún, then catch the bus down the coastal highway, yoga mats and sketchpads in tow, to get away from it all in this rustic-chic beach enclave, preferably to a hotel like Nomade Tulum.
Located right on the beach, Nomade brands itself as a human-centered hotel, as a temporary habitat for, well, nomads. It’s a mission that’s perfectly in keeping with Tulum’s slightly starry-eyed vibe, as are the Nomade’s “self evolution” philosophy, not to mention the shaman-led workshops and meditation workshops. But even a nonbeliever has to admit: this is a gorgeous and thoroughly peaceful beach hotel.
As wild as Tulum might feel in places, the bustling town is a draw in its own right. Here is a selection of the best Tulum boutique hotels near the town center:
Era Hotel & Spa Tulum