Ever dreamt of packing it all in, moving to Mexico and living like a carefree castaway? If yes, then Habitas Tulum is your ticket to ride. At the quieter end of the town’s Carribean-skirting strip, this hotel isn’t just by the beach, it’s right on the sugar-white sand. Sporting traditional palapa roofs and canvas walls, the rooms are arranged within a coconut grove, overlooking the surf or rustling palms. Your shoes will lie forgotten as you drift between the ocean-facing pool, Mexican-fusion restaurant and Moroccan-style lounge areas, all of which are ringed by sand. Rediscover long-lost serenity with the help of yoga classes, cacao ceremonies and Mexican massages – or lay supine in a hammock, sampling every mezcal cocktail the barman can come up with. Viva la vida.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £256.21 ($357), including tax at 19 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $5.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include yoga classes, sound-healing sessions, cacao ceremonies and live music. Breakfast isn’t usually included (dishes start from MX$150).
The hotel’s central courtyard doubles as an open-air event space, and can be set up for sunset concerts, parties and creative workshops.
At the hotel
Private beach, yoga deck, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: minibar, air-conditioning, Helvex bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All of the palapa-roofed hideaways are designed to the same standard, but if we had to pick a favourite, the Oceanfront Rooms just about edge it. Running along the water’s edge, they all have private terraces looking out to sea, but you can also watch the Caribbean sunrise from the comfort of your bed.
The outdoor pool is on the hotel’s private beach, metres from the lapping waves. It borders a deck with sunloungers and day-beds, and there are hammocks hung from some of the nearby palms.
Wellness is a big part of the Habitas lifestyle. Guests can take advantage of daily yoga classes, Mayan clay rituals (in which you smear yourself in skin-soothing mud) and cacao ceremonies, all held on the sand or sea-facing deck. There’s also a two-room spa that specialises in Yucatán-inspired treatments, where the therapists unite time-honored techniques with modern know-how.
A selection of swimwear for the daytime and mosquito repellent for after dark.
The sandy surroundings and lack of adapted rooms make the hotel unsuitable for wheelchair users.
You’ll need to be over 18 to live the Habitas life.
Moro is in a tall, light-flooded building that serves as the hotel’s social heart. The three-tiered space is more like a pavilion than a dining room, with most of the ground floor open to the sea breeze. Tables carved from thick timber are strewn across the ground floor, sea-spying mezzanine and the beach itself, ensuring you can make the most of the Caribbean climate. The menu is mostly continent-crossing fusion, with dishes borrowing from Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine alike. The octopus is a perennial favourite, made with spiced chickpeas, grilled red bell-peppers, carrot hummus and onion ‘ash’.
The beach bar is a few steps from the main pavilion. Fresh juices, ice-cold cervezas and mezcal cocktails are the order of the day; sip yours at the wooden counter, in a hammock or on one of the Moroccan rugs placed on the sand.
Breakfast is available from 8am to noon; lunch from 1pm to 6pm; dinner from 7pm to 10.30pm.
Habitas is on a quiet stretch of Tulum’s beachfront strip. The centre of town (often called Centro or Tulum Pueblo) is less than a kilometre away.
If you’re coming from outside of Mexico, the best place to touch down is Cancun, which can be reached directly from most European hubs and larger US airports. From the airport, the drive takes around two hours; the hotel can arrange private transfers for US$128 each way.
Having your own set of wheels isn’t essential – Tulum and its beaches can be explored on foot or by bike, and there are plenty of cabs should you want to explore the strip. A car will definitely come in handy if you want to go day tripping to Mayan ruins and distant cenotes, however. If you do hire, you can park on the street outside the hotel for free.
Worth getting out of bed for
Everything about this hotel encourages you to slow down and slip into the pace of beachfront life. Hammocks swing in the breeze, palms cast dancing shadows on the sand and it’s never too early to take a pew at the bar. There’s a daily programme of activities included in your rate, most with a wellness focus – sunrise yoga sessions, cacao ceremonies and live music are all part and parcel of a stay here. If you’d rather play the castaway hermit, book in for a solo spa treatment then pick a perch on the pool deck or private, white-sand beach.
Even if you’re a veteran of out-there art spaces, we’ll wager you’ve never seen one quite like Azulik Uh May, a multidisciplinary venue hidden in the Yucatán jungle. The labyrinthine site houses an art gallery, design and fashion studios, creative spaces and more, but the most impressive part is the buildings themselves – flowing, organic shapes that were built with no formal plan. Further afield in Tulum National Park, you can dive or swim in cenotes – natural, water-filled sinkholes created when the limestone bedrock collapses. Some are above ground and easy to get to, others are hidden under the earth in spectacular caverns, offering more of a challenge. Diving Cenotes Tulum can organise trips for all abilities. Man-made splendour can be found in the form of Tulum’s 13th-century Maya ruins – the thing that put the town on the map in the first place. Built as a port city for trading jade and turquoise, Tulum stands on a cliff overlooking the sea – an anomaly among Maya settlements. If you’re up for a day trip, the vast Maya and Toltec temples at Chichén-Itzá are about a two-hour drive away.
Tulum is one of the spiritual homes of the breakfast bowl, and Del Cielo is one of the best places to get your fruit-topped fix. If you’re more into savory starts, the English breakfasts and omelettes are equally good. Slow-food champions Farm to Table grow nearly all of their produce on their own organic farm, ensuring the freshest ingredients possible. The generous portion sizes make it perfect for a hearty lunch, and any leftovers will be used as compost for the restaurant’s next crop. For a laid-back dinner, book a table in the wood-clad dining room at Rosa Negra, where the chef sources best-in-class ingredients from around the world. Tasmanian smoked trout, Japanese Kobe beef, Alaskan king crab and Nigerian tiger shrimp are just a few of the standout offerings. At Verdánt, indulgence needn’t weigh on your conscience. Built with recycled materials, this fine-dining restaurant has its own vegetable gardens and rainwater purification system, and anything that isn’t grown onsite comes from ethical farms and fisheries. Husband-and-wife team Maya and Ben work their magic on both sides of the kitchen – Ben as executive chef, Maya as flawless host and sommelier.
Ringed by thick jungle, Arca cuts a modish figure with its grid-like pavilion roof, concrete bar and tables carved from polished slabs of timber. Try the Oliver Twist, a soothing yet zesty potion made with Hendrick’s gin, chamomile gin, orange peel and tonic water. Inspired by the colonial architecture found along the Yucátan peninsula, Gitano Tulum has a beautiful mirror-backed bar that looks like it emerged from the jungle after being obscured for a century. There are more than 50 mezcals on the menu, which can be savored alone or used as a smoky backbone for cocktails.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this beachfront hotel in Tulum and unpacked their folk art bought in town, a full account of their Mexico beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Habitas Tulum…
How do you capture the essence of Tulum? We’d probably go with a sensory trifecta – the sugary scent of copal, the smoky tang of mezcal and the feeling of fine white sand beneath your feet. If one or more of those sound appealing, we’ve got good news: they’re part of everyday life at Habitas Tulum.
This hotel goes back to the basics, recapturing the beachy bohemianism that first put this stretch of Yucatán coast on the map. The whole hotel is on the sand, making ‘barefoot lifestyle’ a very literal description. Dotted between coconut trees and other exotic greenery, the rooms are a cross between tent and palapa-roofed hut, sporting canvas sides that ripple in the sea breeze. There’s all the luxury you need: king-size beds, alfresco rain showers and powerful air-con – but you feel undeniably close to nature all the same.
Then there’s the atmosphere, which smacks of an artists’ colony. A glass-walled pavilion acts as the hotel’s agora – a social heart that’s at once a Moroccan-style lounge, restaurant, beach bar and event space. Daily activities (all included in your rate) give you the chance to mingle, and things often get lively after sunset, when the mezcal flows and the music gets going.