Just Back From

Unplugged in Tulum


is magical. I can’t think of any other place in the world that casts its spell so quickly. As soon as you come up for air after your first dive in the warm turquoise sea there, you’ve already forgotten what day and time it is. Tucked between Mexico’s luxe Mayan Riviera and the expansive Sian Ka’an Biosphere, Tulum has long been a well-kept secret of eco-conscious travelers in search of life’s simple pleasures: a great climate, a perfect beach, simply prepared seafood, a strong margarita. Recently the beach-chic crowd has arrived, as well as some hotels that are not really “green” in the Tulum sense of the word (most of Tulum’s cabana-style beach accommodations don’t have AC, pools or electricity after 10 P.M.). But despite an influx of visitors and a worry that one day this little patch of heaven will get too built up, for now Tulum remains beautifully, willfully its own special spot.

“You’re surrounded by incredible nature in a place that’s rightly famous for yoga, meditation and a laid-back lifestyle,” says James Greenfield, the owner of eco-property Casa de las Olas. “Anyone who tries to impose something on Tulum that it is not loses. This place has its priorities intact.” And one dip in the sea, one walk through the mangroves, one swim in a pristine cenote demonstrate why preserving this fragile habitat is more than worth the occasional inconvenience of eco-living. Take the beauty of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a million-plus-acre wonderland of tropical eco-systems, including lagoons, sand flats, savannas and jungle, and the home of countless species.

Unlike the flop-and-drop resorts of the Caribbean or even the Riviera Maya, Tulum offers tons of activities. There’s Mayan history, seen in the archeological sites of Tulum and Cobà (a one-hour drive away). There are countless cenotes, ranging from small, refreshing swimming holes to complex underground rivers. There are incredible snorkeling, especially in the Biosphere, kite surfing, catamaran cruising, scuba diving and boat excursions. There are daily yoga and meditation lessons on the beach and small spots for massages. And in the evening, when the night sky explodes with stars (there’s hardly any light pollution here), many of the hotels have live music and dancing.

I had a mental to-do/explore list for my trip, and I didn’t accomplish any of it. Even a massage seemed pointless, considering how completely relaxed I felt, lying on a shaded lounger on a deserted stretch of beach. It was enough to listen to the waves whispering to the shore, watch the dare-devil kite surfers glide by, read novels and occasionally walk to the closest cenote for a dip. Priorities shifted, allowing me to fully embrace the Tulum lifestyle—imperceptibly, easily, as if by magic.

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