A stylish and spiritual stay in Tulum, Hotel Bardo shows guests the quieter side of Mexico’s party-loving coastline with meditation, Mayan traditions and mezcal on tap. The jungle-shrouded, polished-concrete villas all have a plunge pool and garden, with a calm communal pool for mindful swims and sunlounger reflecting, and a fire-pit for sundowners and stargazing after dark. At the spa, regular massages are swapped out for sound baths, celebrations of sunset and traditional Mayan rituals led by a shaman, including one that mimics Mother Earth’s womb. It even smells good, thanks to the bespoke scent created to make everything (even) better.
Double rooms from £460.86 (MXN10,116), including tax at 16 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of MXN28.37 per room per night prior to arrival and an additional room tax of 5% per booking on check-out.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast.
The wellbeing doesn’t stop at spiritual cleansing and Mayan meditations: the hotel helps a local charity for street children by hosting events and raising money for their accommodation and food.
At the hotel
Yoga shala, fire-pit, boutique, free WiFi throughout, bicycles to borrow. In rooms: air-conditioning, free bottled water and Nespresso coffee machine.
Our favourite rooms
The villas are all crafted from the same polished concrete, with an outdoor shower, plunge pool, hammock and garden. To really feel like you’re in the jungle (and not one that’s this close to civilisation in the form of refined restaurants and well-dressed nightlife), book a villa away from the main pool.
The leafy main pool is serene and speaker-free. Guests from the Una Vida resort next-door can book sunloungers for the day, but no children are allowed.
One of the villas houses a spa, where things get a little more interesting than your average massage: treatments include sound baths and shaman-led Mayan ceremonies.
A void for your newfound inner peace to ease into. Your own personal shaman, optional.
The jungle-lined pathways and grounds are not easily accessible for wheelchair users.
To preserve the Mayan mysticism, the hotel is adults-only.
The three tables nearest to the fire-pit at Milum are the cosiest – but for the clearest stargazing potential, ask to sit at the spot next to the Agave living room.
Take me to church.
Milum may as well be a shrine and one we’d gladly worship at the altar of: candles, candelabras, feather-like foliage, carved faces – and votive pineapples. The menu highlights Yucatán produce, with breakfasts of avocado on toast in its birthplace, grilled lobster for lunch and snapper and mash for dinner. Guests can also head over to Ananda at Una Vida for a slightly less religious experience (and casual pastas and paninis).
Despite the name, the most risqué the Kinky Room bar gets is with its cocktails, the stories behind which the mixologists will just love to tell you about if you pull up a pew.
The restaurant is open all day between 7.30am and 11pm. The bar serves drinks until 11pm.
Whatever’s on offer in the restaurant can be delivered to your villa between 7.30am and 10pm. Drinks can be dialled in until 11pm.
The hotel is in Tulum, next-door to the Una Vida resort and close to the Yucatán coast.
Cozumel airport is technically closest, but the journey south to the hotel includes a ferry – Cancun’s international hub is your best bet, an hour and 45 minutes away by car. Transfers can be arranged on request.
There’s plenty to keep you entertained within Bardo’s boundaries (not least sound baths and sunset celebrations), but if you have brought your own wheels, the property has a private car park.
Worth getting out of bed for
For yoga at a more-reasonable-than-usual hour, head to the hotel’s shala at 9am every day; and continue on your journey to inner peace by calling in at the temazcal hothouse, the daily celebrations of sunset and the regular sound baths. For catered craft shopping, head to the village of Macario Gómez, around 20 minutes away from Tulum, where you can pick up both colourful textiles and typical regional food; or keep the quest for wellness going with a trip to Mystika Museum, an ‘immersive mystical experience’ with hallucinatory whales, butterflies and (to keep it authentic) Mayan ruins.
In downtown Tulum, La Barracuda is the ultimate ceviche spot, and cosy, intimate Tú masters both mixology and Mexican food. More edible art forms (including ones graced by grasshoppers) await at Macario. And if you’ve OD’d on guacamole, try Moro by Habitas, where the sax-musician chef’s Spanish-meets-Moorish menu will help you change it up.
For cocktails with an easy conscience, turn up thirsty at Nana Rooftop where forlorn fruit peel makes a star turn in most beverages and there’s a menu of mezcal from all over the country. Swap Mexico for Morocco at Saikuk, or swim/dance/party at Muyal’s DJ-enhanced cenote.
Mr Smith and I arrived at Hotel Bardo on a sweltering August day. Having been in Mexico for five days already, we’d fully acclimatised to the time zone. As for the heat and humidity, only one of us was thriving. While I adore it, my other half can get a little flustered and forgetful.
We came off the bush-lined road and reached an opening dotted with tiki torches. Ari, a Mexico City native with a somewhat chaotic energy (which we loved) welcomed us like old friends. He seemed just as excited to see us as we were to be there, asking us about what we were hoping to get out of our stay and if we had any set plans over the next couple of days. His advice: to scrap them all and go with the flow, make the most of the communal areas, lie in (breakfast is served until 11:30am), and sign up for a Temazcal ceremony. We consented to all of the above.
It wasn’t until we’d completed check-in and asked for the wifi password that we realised Mr Smith had left his phone in the cab. Ah, that brain fog-inducing heat! Luckily, a few swift phone calls from the hotel security meant the driver would be doing a U-turn. Ari, of course, said it was a sign that we should probably switch off for the next couple of days anyway.
Crisis averted, we got to know our new digs. Indoor-outdoor spaces all revolved around a vast, palm-fringed pool at the heart of a petite complex. The hotel is essentially made up of a series of open dwellings which make up the separate spaces, from the reception-cum-boutique to the bar on one side of the pool and all-day restaurant on the other.
Because everything is so open yet shrouded in lush foliage and bamboo, it feels both intimate and spacious. At the far end of the pool was a gravel path with a curved bamboo wall and behind it was our villa.
A front garden made great use of limited space, with a private plunge pool – just big enough for two – a breakfast table with two chairs, and a hammock. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors opened up to reveal an immaculately designed, minimalist space with a brutalist feel; all concrete slabs and low-lying furniture. It had a softness and romantic warmth to it too, though, thanks to cushions, candles, incense, dim lighting, and a pretty sexy outdoor shower.
The hotel is calm and secluded, sitting on the outskirts of the Tulum Pueblo, set back from the perpetual hustle of the beach zone. It’s less than a 10-minute walk to the main strip where you’ll find local restaurants and great cafes too (try Del Cielo for brunch).
Complimentary bikes are great for getting around and of course taxis are abundant too, but our preferred mode of transport was the Collectivo: a super-efficient public minivan service which runs from Tulum town to the nearby cenotes, beach zone, and beyond.
People rave about the food at Hotel Bardo, and with reason. The menu perfectly summarises the best dishes from the Yucatan, adding just enough modernisation to make it palatable to the health-conscious, global audience it attracts.
At breakfast, the golden porridge infused with turmeric, local honey, fresh fruit and various superfoods was truly delicious – and looked like a work of art. Later in the day, poolside tacos and truffle fries were fast-casual but felt a little fancy, too. For dinner, we feasted on whole roast local fish with charred vegetables and a surprise Mayan chocolate torte to celebrate Mr Smith’s birthday, which was sweetly accompanied by a Mariachi-style singalong.
Our first full day in Tulum was spent exploring the local cenotes, which are a must whether it’s your first or tenth time visiting. After a long shift swimming and stuffing our faces with pollo tostadas and tacos al pastor at my favourite spot in town – Antojitos la Chiapaneca – we returned to our villa for an early evening power nap.
What was meant to be a quick recharge before heading back out for the evening turned out to be a three-hour, full REM-cycle sleep. The bed was just too comfortable! Mr Smith and I awoke to the roaring of thunder and sound of fist-sized droplets plip-plopping into the plunge pool outside. Our evening plans of heading to a beach bar were scrapped and just as Ari had proposed, we decided to go with the flow.
The ‘flow’ led us to the Kinky Room: the hotel bar which (overheard from a Spanish couple at breakfast) did tremendous gin cocktails. Neither of us particularly like gin, so we ordered two mezcalitas – smoky, potent, divine – and took a seat on the cosiest looking sofa to watch the rain from our copal-scented, candle-filled shelter. There was a billiards table and board games too, the perfect rainy-day pastimes.
What Mr Smith and I loved about Hotel Bardo is that nothing feels overdone. In a destination that’s seen style triumph over substance as its popularity has grown, Hotel Bardo really isn’t trying to be anything. It’s embracing of a rudimentary type of luxury, a place to go with your own flow (facilitated by the super friendly and genuinely enthusiastic staff) and be as awed by the company you’re with as you are by the holiday itself. You feel connected to the elements too, which, if you ask me, always inspires a sense of renewal.