Life: it’s better on the Yucatán Peninsula, especially if you bed down at Kai Tulum, whose tropical casitas are utterly in tune with their surroundings (we’re talking sea-and-sand-inspired styling, natural materials, stilts and palapa roofs). The clifftop Mayan ruins are a short walk away and a stay here also puts sparkling cenotes, watersports galore, dreamy beaches and buzzing bars on your doorstep. Rooms are refreshingly fuss-free, letting the ocean views do the talking; there’s also a laidback beachfront restaurant, which dishes up melon smoothies, mezcal cocktails and seafood feasts.
Noon; earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £269.66 ($380), including tax at 19 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of $2.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include WiFi, use of the beach chairs and umbrellas, plus purified water. Breakfast (a la carte) is an extra cost.
Private yoga classes can be arranged onsite or at one of Kai Tulum’s sister hotels nearby (an extra cost). The same goes for beauty treatments from visiting therapists. Wannabe Rambos can make use of Kai’s ‘Jungle Gym’, a few kilometres away.
At the hotel
Beach; beach lounge; beach club at Playa Pescadores next door; jungly grounds; free WiFi. In rooms: deck, air-conditioning, free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
Do you want full views or full seclusion? Rooms with partial ocean views offer more privacy – for less ocean-gazing.
Bring light layers for the tropical temperatures. Add a dash of spicy scent – Le Labo, perhaps? – to turn up the (already considerable) heat.
Kai Tulum and its grounds aren’t suitable for wheelchair-users.
Little Smiths of all ages are welcome. Cots can be provided for free; under-12s can share their parents’ room at no extra cost.
Light bulbs and cleaning products are eco friendly; the restaurant’s ingredients are organic and locally sourced. The buildings star natural materials, palapa roofs and stilts, minimising the construction footprint and the impact on the biodiversity of the land.
They’re all born equal here; pick according to your sun-seeking or shade-needing preferences.
Fresh from a Bounty ad: pearl-white linens; gold; sun-glow skin. Staff sport polo shirts and shorts, so you might want to steer clear of that combo.
Kai’s open-air restaurant is bang on the beach (come armed with your favourite shades by day). It’s a winsome setting for melon smoothies, sea-fresh ceviche, perfect pizzas and other happy-holiday fare.
There’s no formal bar as such, but the restaurant will rustle you up a tequila – or mezcal-heavy cocktail, or a delicious fresh-fruit smoothie.
You’ll find Kai Tulum in Quintana Roo, on the northern end of the playa, near the ruins (huzzah).
Cancún International Airport is 65 kilometres away (a two-hour drive); the Smith24 team will happily book your flights.
There are plenty of car-hire options at the the airport, and the hotel has free on-site parking.
Hop on the regular bus service from the airport to Tulum’s bus station terminal, if you’re on a budget, then take a taxi to the hotel zone. There’s also an airport shuttle service every 15 or 30 minutes.
Worth getting out of bed for
Beyond sea frollicking, sunbathing and eating everything you fancy at the restaurant, there’s not a huge amount to do at the hotel – and that’s part of Kai’s charm. Stroll along the beach, admiring the colourful fishermen’s boats, which are moored in the mornings and evenings, bobbing prettily on the water (when they're not out on the waves or beached on the sand). If you’re feeling a little more lively, go diving or swimming in the sparkling cenotes: Gran Cenotes and Cenotes Dos Ojos are some obvious choices. If you’d like to join a diving tour of the cenotes, get in touch with Dive Cenotes Tulum, based at Callar Polar Poniente. Try your hand at kite-surfing and other watersports with help from Extreme Control, whose HQ is on Carretera Cancun. It’s well worth making the 45-minute drive north of Tulum for the Cenotes at Chikin Ha, which are jaw-droppingly beautiful, well-maintained and thankfully free from the selfie-snapping masses. It’s pretty much illegal to go to Tulum and come home without visiting the Maya Ruins at Carretera Federal. (You’ll soon see why.) Save some energy to experience Tulum’s famous/infamous nightlife, too.
Sin Yolanda in Tulum is equal parts colourful and fashionable. It has a breezy open-air setup, with the beach just a stroll away. Highlights include aguachiles (a spicy shrimp ceviche), tostadas, tacos and brick-oven pizzas. Naturally, all of the above are best enjoyed with a mezcal or tequila cocktail, or a local beer. Kitchen Tablegrills succulent seafood and meat to juicy perfection in its jungle kitchen by Tulum National Park. It’s eco-conscious, too. For something a little fancier, make a beeline for Posada Margherita hotel on Carretera Tulum–Boca Paila; its Italian restaurant is dreamy. You could also nip to your near neighbour, Playa Pescadores (Kai Tulum’s laidback sister) for a fishy feast served in bohemian surroundings.
Toast those Tulum sunsets in style at Mezzanine Thai Restaurant and Martini Baron Carretera Tulum–Boca Paila. The master mixologist honed his skills at Soho House, so you know you’re in safe hands. Add Thai bites to the equation if you’re feeling peckish.
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 beachy hotel on the Yucatán Peninsula and unpacked their beachwear and mezcal, a full account of their Mexican break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Kai Tulum…
Isn’t it time you encountered the Tulum version of yourself? The version that wakes up at 10am and starts the day with a fresh melon smoothie, pastries and tropical jams – all enjoyed while sitting admiring the ocean, with toes tickling the warm, waveside sand? That version of you that spends the day in a bikini or beach shorts, doesn’t brush their hair much, hops from sunbathing to surfing to snorkelling to diving cenotes to exploring Maya ruins, rewarding all of the above with a tequila-splashed cocktail and/or succulent seafood afterwards? We’re talking about that holiday embodiment of you that loses track of time, doesn’t know what day it is, forgets to check their emails and doesn’t give a fig about what’s on TV. If you’d like to become acquainted with that particular you, just head to Kai Tulum for a week or two…