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Ultimate Tulum Guide for Sustainable and Wellness Travel

TULUM GUIDE SUSTAINABLE ECO TRAVELER

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Tulum has been branded as a eco-friendly haven but in recent years the expansion and development has left this small town playing catch-up. Simply put, there is no modern infrastructure in Tulum. No underground sewer system for proper waste management, no electrical poles running along the streets to power your iPads and hotel TV screens… in fact there aren’t even sidewalks. Up until a few years ago there was no recycling facility and currently garbage goes to an open landfill in the jungle. The lack of infrastructure puts the onus on the hotels to manage their guests’ waste – from plastic bottles to poop. Some hotels go the extra mile to ensure they leave no negative impact on the environment – but others do – and that’s the main reason we wanted to create this guide.

With all that being said, Tulum is still a beautiful location, with white sandy beaches, cenotes, and one of Mexico’s largest protected masses of land – the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. There are amazing farm-to-table and healthy plant-based restaurants, wellness activities to heal the soul, water sports for the active ocean lover, and a booming night life.

Our guide has you covered with: where to stay, what to do, what to avoid (think tourist traps and animal exploitation), transportation options, and how you can give back on your trip.

Casa De Las Olas runs 100% on solar

WHERE TO STAY

These hotels have sustainable initiatives such as using renewable energy, reducing plastic waste, and giving back to the local community

HOTELS ON THE BEACH

CASA DE LAS OLAS – TOP CHOICE (100% off-grid)

  • 100% sustainable
  • powered by the sun
  • eco-friendly septic
  • uses reusable bottles for shower toiletries
  • compost and recycling in room and onsite
  • collects rain water to use for irrigation
  • no AC, rooms are designed to be cooled by the ocean breeze
  • food served for breakfast and lunch sourced locally

HABITAS TULUM

  • completely plastic-free hotel!
  • built with locally sourced all natural materials
  • their line of bath products available to guests are made with natural + organic materials that do not harm the environment and containers are re-used
  • they participate in a complex recycling and composting system
  • they regularly partner with environmental organizations (both local + international) to promote environmental education
  • their #HabitasConcertSeries donations directly fund the placement of plastic receptors throughout Tulum town where the collected plastic is then upcycled through our partnership with SMEC.

AZULIK

  • All of the villas are built from wood with eco-friendly materials that are sourced locally
  • no air conditioning, lights, television or wifi in the rooms to reduce energy usage but also to encourage disconnecting from technology (note: you don’t need AC with that ocean breeze)
  • many of the communal spaces are candlelit instead of using conventional lightbulbs
  • water in the rooms is served in glass, not plastic

SANARA

  • Supplement their generator use with solar power
  • Water conservation is managed with rainwater collection, greywater recycling, and a microbe-based septic system
  • Thoughtful architecture: the raised structures reduce damage to beach and allow space for sea turtles to nest

HOTELS IN TULUM TOWN

PRANA BOUTIQUE HOTEL – TOP CHOICE FOR TULUM TOWN

  • Wash towels and sheets every third day to save water
  • Reuse and donate glass bottles to be used for a popular construction technique in Mexico that involves using glass in the walls to let light through
  • They provide glass water bottles in the rooms, which are cleaned and refilled every day instead of plastic
  • In-room toiletry bottles get re-used
  • Their wastewater its filtered and then used to irrigate the plants in the hotel’s garden

Book your hotel with us and save $50 on your first booking

Wellness Travelled Tulum Travel Guide For Conscious Eco Sustainable Travellers
You must try the whole fried plantain from Charlie’s Vegan Tacos

WHERE TO EAT

Farm-to-table, healthy, veg-friendly options, local flavours

Breakfast:

THE REAL COCONUT

  • in Sanara Hotel – great healthy breakfast. Try it out after a yoga class in their studio.

MATCHA MAMA

  • Great spot for breakfast. Get your caffeine fix, an acai bowl, and a shot on the insta famous swings. Bring your own straw. Note: there is a Matcha Mama in town as well.

Lunch:

CHARLIE’S VEGAN TACOS

  • 100% vegan cuisine. Some healthy options but mostly vegan comfort/fried food. Must try the plantain!

RAWLOVE TULUM

  • in Ahau Hotel. Raw vegan food in a beautiful tropical setting. Must try the raw pad thai. Bring your own straw if you want a fresh coconut.

NOMADE HOTEL

  • Go for lunch and stay for the beach. Try the Fiesta Bowl salad, Chia Pudding, and Hot Macondo chocolate.

LOS BOWLS DE GUADALUPE

  • Plant-based vegan Yucatan style bowls, pastries, juices, smoothies and coffee.

Dinner:

VESPERTINA RESTAURANT:

  • 100% vegan restaurant. Try the beet mole.

FARM TO TABLE:

  • Restaurant using organic, local, and seasonal products. All organic waste from the restaurant is collected and turned into compost for their own farm to grow fruits and veggies. Offers vegan options including bowls, pancakes, tacos, fruit aguachile, and more.

ARCA:

  • small share plates. Vegetarian options. Beautiful presentation. Great to eat at the bar if you can’t get a table.

HARTWOOD:

  • sustainable and locally caught fish, plus plant-based starters and sides. Famous spot so make sure you get your reservation one month before your arrival date. The portions are large. Must try the whole roasted beet appetizer (big enough to share).

KA’AN:

  • New spot in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. Local and seasonal menu.

*BONUS* NIGHTLIFE :

Because we all need to have some fun and shake our tail feather every once in a while.

GITANO:

  • Great spot for dinner and live Mexican music. Friday nights it turns into a “scene” after 11pm.

PAPAYA PLAYA PROJECT:

  • Burn some calories dancing the night away at one of PPP’s famous full moon parties right on the beach. Every Saturday night. Expect to not go home until 6am 😉
Wellness Travelled Tulum Travel Guide For Conscious Eco Sustainable Travellers
Riding a bike is common on the Tulum strip

GETTING AROUND:

PRIVATE SHUTTLE (good option from the airport):

Olympus Tours: free WiFi in the van.

LOCAL TAXI:

  • most people take a local taxi for short trips. They’re easy to catch or call. We befriended a local taxi driver who took us anywhere we needed to go for longer trips as well, thus saving us on costs for doing a tour.
  • tip: Sunday night is the busiest for taxi’s because so many people leave for the airport. There is a lot of traffic and it’s harder to hail a taxi. We recommend calling for a cab in advance if you’re looking to get somewhere at a specific time.

CAR RENTAL:

  • If you’re planning to do a lot of day trips, a car rental could work out to be less expensive.
  • www.rentalcars.com is reliable based on a recommendation from a Tulum expat.
  • tip: Tulum is very strict about parking on the strip – we saw cars getting towed every day. Make sure you’re always legally parked or expect to get towed.

BICYCLE OR ELECTRIC BIKE:

  • most hotels have free bikes that you can take along the main street that runs along the beach strip.
  • tip: Contrary to the cute photos you see on IG of people biking in Tulum, the road along Tulum beach is quite busy with cars and taxi’s – often leaving bikers little room for comfort. If you’re staying at the end of the beach closer to Sian Ka’an Bioreserve it’s much quieter and safer for biking.

WALK:

  • It’s easy to get around by foot either walking on the road or beach if you’re close enough to your destination.

CARBON OFFSET YOUR TRANSPORTATION:

step 1:

  • Use a carbon calculator after your trip to determine CO2 emissions.

step 2:

  • Find an organization that offsets emissions by planting trees or funding renewable resources

Carbon Offset organization of choice:

Wellness Travelled Tulum Travel Guide For Conscious Eco Sustainable Travellers
Start off your morning with a yoga class at Azulik’s Yoga Dome

WHAT TO SEE & DO:

AZULIK UH MAY ART GALLERY:

  • An art gallery hidden deep in the jungle that incorporated tree’s into the interior design so as not to cut them down.
  • Tip: Bring GPS – there are no road signs and it’s new so even our driver didn’t know where it was or had heard of it.

SIAN KA’AN BIORESERVE:

  • This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the largest protected areas in all of Mexico. There are tours about 30 minutes outside of Tulum where you can spend an afternoon floating down the river, visit a lagoon with “no filter needed” blue waters, and walk along a wooden boardwalk through the grassy fields of the wetlands.
  • Eco-tip: The most eco-friendly way to see the bioreserve is a paddle boarding tour with SUP YOGA TULUM. This way you don’t need to boat through the lagoons.
  • Eco-tip: Sunscreen is strictly forbidden during this tour unless it is reef-safe and biodegradable.
  • money saving tip: instead of booking a tour through the hotel, get a taxi driver to take you to the boat docks, where you can pay the guides directly when you arrive.

VALLADOLID & CENOTE OXMAN:

  • About 1.5 hours outside of Tulum is the town of Valladolid. It’s an authentic Mexican town with cute shops and restaurants. There are also several cenotes nearby, but our favourite was Cenote Oxman. Complete with a rope swing and not overly crowded, we spent an hour enjoying the cool dark waters.
  • Eco-tip: sunscreen is strictly forbidden and you are required to shower before entering the cenote.

PADDLEBOARD YOGA:

  • 30 minutes outside of Tulum is a unique paddleboard yoga experience in a quiet and calm lagoon with a company called SUP Yoga Tulum. They also offer river tours through the Sian Ka’an Bioreserve.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS ACTIVITIES:

SANARA HOTEL:

  • Yoga 3 times daily
  • FULL MOON FLOW – Every month on the full moon day, a class of yoga, sacred rituals and live music. Overlooking the rising moon.
  • Sound healing every night at 7:15

NOMADE HOTEL:

  • Monday: Group Temazcal
  • Tuesday: Gratitude Tent –Bibi talk; “Introduction to Energetic Lovemaking”
  • Wednesday: Tranformational Breathing class, Biogmagnetic & Sound Healing
  • Saturday: Tranformational Breathing class

HOLISTIKA HOTEL:

  • Daily yoga classes

CASA DE LAS OLAS HOTEL:

  • Weekly yoga classes, check in advance for schedule

AHAU TULUM:

  • Aerial Silk Yoga: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 4.30pm

AZULIK MAYA SPA YOGA DOME:

  • daily yoga classes for all levels

TOURIST TRAPS:

GRANDE CENOTE:

  • the most instagrammed cenote in perhaps all of Mexico, is often the most overcrowded. If you’re looking for a quieter experience, there are many other cenote options around Tulum.

TULUM RUINS:

  • While we love to visit historical sites when we travel, the Tulum ruins are over-crowded and overly “touristy”. Look out for lots of gift shops… and even a Starbucks.

WHAT TO AVOID:

DOLPHIN DISCOVERY TULUM-AKUMAL:

  • This is a tourist attraction that keeps dolphins in a swimming pool to do tricks. Tourists can swim with the dolphins. We never recommend supporting activities that involve animals in captivity with the exception of sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres that don’t put tourist activities above the health and safety of the animals.

DOLPHINARIAUS TULUM (part of the Bahia Principe Hotel Tulum):

  • This hotel keeps dolphins in a swimming pool to be used for tourist entertainment. We don’t recommend staying at this hotel or visiting this attraction due to this animal exploitation.
Tulum Travel Guide For Conscious Eco Sustainable Travellers
Don’t forget to pack zero waste items to cut back on single-use plastics

UNIQUE ITEMS TO PACK FOR TULUM:

  • “Zero waste” reusable food items like straws, cutlery, and tupperware if you plan to eat on the go. Our ultimate sustainable beach packing list can is here.
  • Reusable bags – we’ll admit, the shopping is Tulum is great. Bring your own bag if you plan to shop at the local markets.
  • Natural bug repellant – the mosquitos can get bad at night, put some on before you go to outdoor restaurants that are surrounded by greenery.
  • biodegradable sunscreen – chances are you will swim in Tulum. Conventional sunscreens can kill off coral and ruin clean cenote drinking water so opt for a reef-safe option instead.
  • Water bottle that filters water or a LifeStraw – There is no clean tap water in Tulum so many hotels and restaurants give out plastic bottles. Some eco-hotels provide clean drinking water in large jugs or glass bottles – email in advance if you’re not sure. Tip: if you’re in a pinch, go to the local grocery store – they sell water in large glass bottles.
  • Microfibre towel or Turkish towel – instead of using a new beach towel every day, consider bringing your own towel to cut back on water consumption.
Tulum Travel Guide For Conscious Eco Sustainable Travellers
Spend 5 minutes a day picking up trash on the beach

GIVE BACK WHILE IN TULUM

HELP GET DOGS TO THEIR FOREVER HOME:

  • Playa Animal Rescue needs people that are traveling from Playa/Cancun area to help bring dogs to their new international home. Escorts are provided all the necessary paperwork and instructions to help transport the dog and the new adopter will be waiting for you on the other side. Very easy process!

*Dog Escorts are often needed to Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Minneapolis, but also to other areas around Canada and US!

DO A BEACH CLEAN-UP:

  • There is no shortage of trash on Tulum Beach. This is because it washes up on shore due to ocean pollution. Bring one of your reusable bags and collect some trash on one of your beach walks. The hotel Casa De Las Olas was generous enough to take the plastic bottles to the local recycling facility.

BRING A SUITCASE OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES:

  • Not Just Tourists is a not-for-profit that gets tourists to bring medical supplies to the countries they’re visiting. There are drop-off locations on the way from the Cancun airport to Tulum.

*For Canadians only

SHOP LOCAL:

  • If you’re thinking of buying art, clothing, or other souvenirs, make sure you’re buying from local artisans to directly support the local community.

So what do you think? Do you feel ready to book the ultimate Eco Tulum trip? Get $50 off your first booking with Wellness Travelled. 

Help spread the word about conscious travel in Tulum – pin this post or share on social media.

TULUM GUIDE SUSTAINABLE ECO TRAVELER

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