TIDE TURNS HIP­PIE TO HIP

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET TULUM -

Is Tu­lum, on Mex­ico’s Yu­catan Penin­sula, the next big thing or so over al­ready? It de­pends who you ask. But its pow­der-white sands, calm Caribbean wa­ters and Mayan his­tory trans­lates to an un­de­ni­ably ap­peal­ing beach holiday des­ti­na­tion, 1½ hours south of Can­cun In­ter­na­tional Air­port. “It’s the place to be in Mex­ico,” says Carolina Ro­drigues from Casa Malca. “Can­cun has had its time, I’ve been here six months and you see a lot of new things hap­pen­ing.”

The tides of change have seen Tu­lum grow from tiny hip­pie out­post where trav­ellers would stay in huts with no elec­tric­ity to a beach­front-re­sort strip where the hottest restau­rants come with a two-hour wait for a ta­ble and you can eas­ily drop $500 on a dress in a de­signer bou­tique.

How­ever, with the spread of real es­tate has come a va­ri­ety of op­tions and down­town Tu­lum is where you’ll find the ADO bus sta­tion, buzzy bars, shops and an art-gallery-cum-cowork­ing space, should you need to bal­ance work with play. But if you’re here for the beach alone, it’s worth spend­ing a lit­tle ex­tra to stay sand-side. Here are three op­tions for all bud­gets.

CE­LESTE MITCHELL

EL PARAISO HO­TEL OVERNIGHT RATE $US176 (ABOUT $225) + TAXES (STAN­DARD ROOM)

Ask a lo­cal for their favourite Tu­lum beach stay and they’ll tell you El Paraiso. Stay­ing at El Paraiso Ho­tel means you have first dibs on those sun loungers and a pic­ture-per­fect out­look af­ter your com­pli­men­tary con­ti­nen­tal break­fast. In­side your room there’s plenty of bang for your bud­get buck with two queen-size beds, air­con­di­tion­ing, fan, satel­lite TV and pri­vate bath­room with hot wa­ter – a sell­ing point in Mex­i­can ho­tels, though you likely won’t need to use it. You’ll find the Tu­lum ruins a seven-minute walk away – ar­rive on open­ing time to avoid the crowds. Book a beach­side mas­sage and grab lunch from the on­site restau­rant. At night, there are restau­rants and bars within a 10- to 15-minute walk.

BOOK­ING.COM

PA­PAYA PLAYA PROJECT OVERNIGHT RATE $US286 (ABOUT $373) + TAXES (MAYA OCEAN­VIEW CA­BANA)

In 1994, Pa­paya Playa Project be­gan with six tents dot­ted along the beach­front. If the owner re­ceived six guests, he would sleep in his car. Fast-for­ward 24 years and the eco­minded re­sort stretches 1km along a pri­vate beach with 130 rooms and a beach club host­ing DJs ev­ery Satur­day night, while re­tain­ing 93 per cent of the jun­gle. Kick your shoes off and re­lax into the chilled-out vibes. You’ll find yoga classes on the beach, spa treat­ment rooms open­ing to the Caribbean, plush daybeds, stand-up pad­dle­boards, and kitesurf­ing lessons. Spot en­dan­gered na­tive Melipona bee boxes in the trees, pass the jun­gle nurs­ery, and learn of the re­v­erse-os­mo­sis wa­ter treat­ment plant that sup­plies ice to the bar and bot­tled wa­ter in the rooms. DESIGNHOTELS.COM

CASA MALCA OVERNIGHT RATE $US539 (ABOUT $690) + TAXES (JU­NIOR SUITE GAR­DEN VIEW)

Once the hide­away of Colom­bian drug lord Pablo Es­co­bar, Casa Malca opened four years ago at the south­ern­most end of the Tu­lum strip and has grown from eight rooms to 41. Owned by New York art dealer Lio Malca, ev­ery­thing from the the­atri­cal cur­tains fash­ioned from an­tique wed­ding gowns with float­ing vel­vet lounge chairs at the en­trance, to the Keith Har­ing-print bar is an ex­pres­sion of his taste. Leonardo DiCaprio has stayed twice, Elle has been snapped on the swing­ing couch, and Cara Delev­ingne had her birth­day on the open-air rooftop. Af­ter lunch un­der the gaze of the kooky doll col­lec­tion in Phi­los­o­phy restau­rant, de­scend the stairs into the cenote-style steam pool, and sip cocktails in the se­cret bar – you’ll feel like a to­tal A-lis­ter. DESIGNHOTELS.COM

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