Sandwiched between lush jungle and a pearl-white beach, La Valise Tulum soothes mind and senses with its soaring palapa roofs, Mexican artwork and copal-incensed interiors. Designed to be thrown open to the sun, the rooms melt into their surroundings thanks to cream walls that borrow their colour the sandy beach and stripped-wood furniture that pays homage to the forest. Beyond your room, everything's practically begging you to slip into the lazy pace of Tulum life: hammocks swing in the sea breeze, daybeds stud the private beach and the restaurants promise long, leisurely dinners of ceviche and Charadinhas (Tulum’s take on the Caipirinha). Just make sure you’re up in time for breakfast, which is sufficiently feast-like that it could be used to placate a Maya god.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $253.80, excluding tax at 19 per cent.
Rates include a generous breakfast – and we mean generous. To start, there’s an assortment of breads (including rye, fresh white bread and fruit loaf); papaya jam; granola; yogurt; and a plate laden with fresh papaya, kiwi, mango and more.
You can dine in-room, which is particularly romantic if you throw open the windows to catch the sun sinking behind the palms.
If you can, swing for one of the the upper beachfront rooms – their six-metre-high palapa ceilings add serious eye candy and make them seem larger than the ground floor rooms. Being on the first floor also puts you flush with the tops of the palm trees and azure ocean beyond.
There are two infinity-edge plunge pools at the front of the hotel, both facing the palm-fringed path that leads down to the beach. They’re adults only and unheated, keeping things cool and calm.
There’s no spa, but you can have various Yucatan-influenced treatments in the comfort of your own room. There are Maya cocoa body scrubs, a deep tissue rosemary and eucalyptus massage, and a skin-reviving treatment that uses mineral-rich clay from local cenotes.
Tulum has a tropical climate, so bring that insect repellant. If you’re bringing makeup, opt for something light and minimal – anything heavy is liable to start sliding south in the heat. Better still, ditch it all together – Tulum’s that sort of place.
With sandy paths and stairs to contend with, this one’s not suited to wheelchair users. Smoking is not allowed on the property.
Over-12s are welcome, but the mellow atmosphere means the hotel’s best suited to older teens and adults.
You’ll be further from the road if you sit closer to the centre. It’s not a particularly busy one, but ignorance of any passing cars will only add to the intimate atmosphere.
Stylish, lightweight finds from vintage shops, marketplaces and eco-conscious boutiques. Don’t be afraid to make liberal use of the insect repellent dotted around in the restaurant.
Open for dinner and drinks, the hotel’s sister restaurant Nü is all about coming together. It was started by seven chefs from Mexico City, who left as a group to start a new life in Tulum – they’ve even got the same heptagonal tattoo, which they took as the restaurant’s logo. The entire place is open-air, ringed by tall palms and succulent greenery, making it seems like you’re in a clearing in thick jungle. During the day, sunlight filters through the fronds and illuminates plumes of incense smoke; after dark, candles and lamps light the way to the tables. Head chef Cesar Castañeda and his team specialise in rethinking national staples like mole and ceviche – dishes that sound familiar, but they’ll often add ingredients and spices that you’ve never tried before. Decadent breakfasts and an all-day Mexican menu are served at casual beachfront restaurant La Valise.
There are two bars: one is in Nü, which has more of a jungle feel, the other one in the outdoor lounge and pool area. At Nü, you can expect reconfigured Mexican cocktails and an ambient, spaced-out soundtrack. La Valise is the place to bring in the sunset.
La Valise restaurant is open from 8am to 11pm; Nü serves food from 6.30pm to 10.30pm, and the bar is open until 11.30pm.
Anything from the menu at La Valise restaurant can be ordered to your room.
La Valise Tulum is on the quiet end of the town’s beachfront strip.
You’ll be flying into Cancun, which can be reached direct from most European hubs and many US airports. The drive to the hotel takes 90 minutes; return transfers in a luxury SUV are available for US$260. If you’d like to take the sting out of booking flights and transfers yourself, call our Smith24 team, who can arrange both for you.
You won’t need a car if you’re not planning to stray far from the town – Tulum and its beaches are easily explored on foot or by bike (which the hotel can provide for free). If you want to enlist a little more horsepower, the local cabs have you covered. A set of wheels will come in handy if you want to go day tripping to nearby towns and more distant cenotes; if you’d like to hire, give the Smith24 team a call. There’s valet parking at the hotel, too.
Worth getting out of bed for
The beautiful beaches and Caribbean climate aside, it’s Tulum’s 13th-century Maya ruins that really put it on the map. Built as a port city for trading jade and turquoise, Tulum stands out for its clifftop location and thick perimeter walls – both a rarity in the Maya world. After you’ve worked up a sweat clambering around the temples and clifftop castle, cool off with a dip in the sea just below. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds, especially in peak season. Elsewhere in the Tulum National Park, you can dive or swim in one of the areas many cenotes – natural, water-filled sinkholes created when the limestone bedrock collapses. Some are open air, ringed by lush vegetation and bathed in sunlight; others are hidden under the earth in spectacular caverns, where the Maya used to communicate with their gods. Try booking in with Diving Cenotes Tulum, who pride themselves on their safety record and have something for all abilities. Down at the beach, you can also get airborne on a kiteboard, check out the local lagoons on a paddleboard or get your PADI scuba diving qualification; Extreme Control can arrange all three.
Whitewashed beach shack Matcha Mama Tulum serves up matcha teas, smoothies, açai berry breakfast bowls and other cooling confections, all of them vegan and packed full of of natural goodness. Ringed by lush vegetation on all sides, Casa Jaguar looks like a hip rooftop bar spliced with a setting from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The Caribbean-influenced dishes aren’t the town’s cheapest, but try the grilled sea bass or glazed octopus and you’ll soon see why it’s made a name for itself. The atmosphere tends to kick up a notch after dark, particular on Thursdays nights, when dinner and drinks transition into a jungle party. Off-grid enthusiasts will delight in green-minded Hartwood, where the staff travel deep into the Yucatan countryside to source ingredients from communal farms. All the cooking is done over their wood-burning grill and oven, giving the dishes a back-to-basics character that celebrates the quality of the region’s produce.
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 palapa ornaments, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside La Valise Tulum in Mexico…
With a destination as lauded as Tulum, it’s only a matter of time before a certain type of hotel pops up – the one that’s designed purely so guests can harvest their next crop of likes on Instagram. But dig beneath the surface, and some of these places start to come undone around their would-be-artisanal seams. Thankfully, there are hotels like La Valise Tulum, where they’re resolutely committed to evening up the odds. Sure, the hotel’s stylish, earth-toned interiors are a showcase of Mexican craft and have one foot planted in the town’s classic beach-bum aesthetic, but you won’t find any dream catchers here, nor have your downtime punctuated by the machine-gun patter of iPhone cameras going off in all directions. Many of the staff are multilingual, and so friendly that you sometimes forget you’re at a hotel and not staying with friends – very accommodating friends, mind you. They’ll greet you with icy margaritas when you arrive, and if they catch you having to wait in the lobby, there’s a good chance another cooling creation will soon be winging its way towards you. Start the day with a mountainous breakfast at La Valise, while away the day on the sand, then cross the road to bring in the night at Nü, where romance is set by the heady scent of incense and the stars shining through the palm fronds. We’ll understand if you want to take a picture or two...
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