Written by Jason Holland for International Living
Dozens of white-sand beaches…the clear azure Caribbean stretching to the horizon…and warm weather (and water) year-round. Mexico‘s Riviera Maya is certainly a heaven for beach lovers. And this stretch of coast on the Yucatán Peninsula welcomes millions of vacationers seeking to soak up the sun every year. But there is still a place, away from the main tourist trail, where you can get all the benefits of that Caribbean lifestyle and enjoy life in a fun, funky, but convenient small town.
Tulum is about two hours from better-known Cancún and 45 minutes from chic and bustling Playa del Carmen. Although it is growing and developing quite rapidly, it’s still worlds away from the crowds. Tourist do find their way to Tulúm but they tend to be laidback and stay in hostels and boutique hotels—this is not a rowdy party crowd. And it has a distinctly Mexican atmosphere, mixed in with a small but significant expat population of retirees, business owners, and others.
That’s what makes daily life in Tulum so appealing. You can enjoy real fish tacos ($3 for three) and ceviche ($8 for huge bowl) at a local’s place like El Camello. (I like to eat at street stands a lot too, with tacos at 70 cents each.) You can also enjoy international cuisine, gourmet fare, and a cappuccino at any number of cafés. But this isn’t a made-for-tourists town, so there are also well-stocked grocery stores, banks, car washes, medical clinics, mechanics…anything you need for daily living.
If you’re ready for a day out on the water, you can rent a beach chair and umbrella at the beach-side “hotel zone,” which is about a mile away from the main town. There are plenty of restaurants right on the water where you can stop in for lunch with a view. Every day the Caribbean is impossibly blue—I never get tired of looking at it.
Opportunities to live right on the shore in Tulúm are limited. On the beach in town much of the land is taken up with boutique hotels and beach clubs. So, if you’re buying a home or land you’ll have to go inland a bit—but you’re still just a 10-minute drive from the water.
A new one-bedroom apartment in town is listed for $90,000. There is also a pool in the tropically landscaped common area. Nearby is a two-bedroom condo for $148,000. This one also has a terrace, access to a pool and a Jacuzzi. Condos like these are popular in Tulúm, with many new developments on the horizon.
But there are also good-value homes on offer. In a gated community, just a short walk to the beach, is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home for $128,000. Close to the town center is a three-bedroom home for $269,900. This one comes furnished and has its own swimming pool.
All these places put you in town, where you can walk or bike everywhere for shopping, going out for a bite to eat, or to visit friends. And you’re still close to the beach. Ideal. There’s a distinctly bohemian flare to Tulúm—a legacy of its time, decades ago, as a stop on the hippie backpacker trail. There are plenty of yoga studios and natural healing centers…art galleries…and chilled out beach clubs. But mostly the funky side of Tulúm expresses itself in the relaxed attitude locals and expats alike share. This is a town where flip flops, shorts, and t-shirts are the uniform…and there’s always time to stop and chat with a friend you see on the street.