Dreaming of a jungle-meets-beach Mexican hideout? You've found it. With bright-white minimalist interiors echoing the pristine white sands of the beach on your doorstep, Lula hotel on the Riviera Maya is a wellbeing palace for dedicated yoga lovers, healthy-eating gourmands and anyone seeking tranquility.
1pm; earliest check-in: 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £167.44 ($212), including tax at 23.5 per cent.
Rates don't usually include breakfast.
Neither rooms nor public spaces are particularly wheelchair accessible.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: yoga mats, beach towels, air-conditioning, bottled water and Lula bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We're particularly fond of the stylish Tamarind suites; those on the ground floor have private gardens complete with al fresco claw-foot bath tubs, and those on the second floor each have an ocean-view balcony. Travelling with friends or en famille? Book the three-suite Beach Villa, with its spacious living and dining room.
Who needs a pool when the Caribbean's on your doorstep?
It's more than a spa, it's the Lula Wellness Centre. In-house and visiting specialists have created the hotel's Cleanse & Heal programmes, all designed to leave you feeling much better when you check out than you did when you checked in; if you've always been intrigued by crystal healing, craniosacral therapy or biomagnetic treatments, now's your chance to experience them all in the wellness centre's five sumptuous treatment rooms. (And don't worry: vanity isn't completely ignored. You can always indulge with a mani-pedi or facial.)
Check in, then check out – tranquility rules here. Handily, there's yoga on tap: don't miss your chance to chill hard with a beachside class or two. Please note that Lula charges an extra four per cent for any credit card used on the property.
Little Smiths of all ages are welcome, but not particularly catered to.
Lula was built using eco-sensitive methods, and sources local organic produce and free-range eggs and meat as much as possible.
You're right on the beach – every table's a winner.
Leave your cocktail dresses in your suitcase – beachwear and yoga kit will suffice here.
Did you know there's such a thing as coconut cheese? The chefs at beachfront restaurant and bar the Real Coconut did. (It's well named: you'd be surprised what delicious things they can do with the humble fruit.) And, you'll be hard pressed to find anything on the menu that isn't good for you: fresh locally grown ingredients are put to work to keep guests in tip-top condition (there are plenty of dairy-, sugar- and gluten-free goodies on offer, too).
If you're under the care of the on-site nutritionist, you'll receive a customised menu on arrival – all sorts of detox and supplement programmes can be arranged.
Pull up a chair at the Real Coconut and sip sundowners till long after the sun's down. Or, knock back something a little healthier: Lula's proud of its 'juiceologists,' who'll customise a smoothie or shot to suit your fancy.
Breakfast from 8 to noon; lunch from noon to 5pm; then dine from 6pm to 10pm. The last drinks are poured at 11pm.
Sanara Tulum Hotel, KM 8.2 Carreterra Tulum Boca Paila, Tulum,
You'll find Lula on pristine Tulum Beach, on the Riviera Maya.
Cancun Airport is just over an hour’s drive away, and is served by daily flights from a host of European cities. (Taxis are plentiful, or Lula can arrange transfers.)
Most guests explore on foot or by bicycle (the renowned Maya ruins are an easy bike ride from Lula) and the hotel can easily arrange taxis or drivers to take you further afield. If you do decide to drive, though, there's free parking on site.
Worth getting out of bed for
Do as much or as little as you like: tranquillity's encouraged, no matter how you prefer to go about getting there. Daily yoga classes take place each morning and evening (8.15am for the early risers, and 10.15am for the lie-er in-ers, then 5pm).
And then there's the glorious beach: Lula's private stretch of Tulum's white sands is the sort of spot where you can while away entire days doing nothing more than lounging on a day-bed or paddling through the breakers.
In the Lula Wellness Centre, the signature Lula Breathe Swedish massage or Lula Relieve deep tissue massage will work out the knots even yoga can't reach, and there's a host of shiatsu, reiki and reflexology on the menu, too.
It's likely you'll be in such a chill state of mind that you won't want to go farther than the on-site restaurant; however, a little further along the coast is extremely casual beachside eatery Taqueria La Eufemia, whose shrimp tacos and ceviche generate a lot of word-of-mouth buzz. If you're heading into Tulum, try Taqueria Don Beto for cochinita pibil tacos, or Taqueria Honorio (3 Satélite Sur) for a delicious breakfast all wrapped up. Finer diner Arca plunders the Yucatán's fertile surrounds for its experimental fare: roasted bone-marrow with tamarind and pasilla glacé, organic Cornish hen with brown butter and chamomile sauce, suckling-pig roulade with chorizo sauce and peanut crumble.
A 10-minute drive north lies Azulik, a superlative sundowner spot, where you'll toast in stilted nests that rise above the jungle canopy.
Who wouldn’t want their nightmares slayed by a web of Yucatán yarn, enchanted with good vibes allegedly passed down by happy-mountain-turkey feathers? This is my kind of wellness. Mr Smith and I are dozing under a giant artisan dreamcatcher in Lula. To one side is tropical jungle, to the other, the stupidly beautiful white sands of the Caribbean coast. There’s no rock and no hard place. ‘From now on I’m only sleeping on bamboo cotton’, murmurs Mr Smith.
On the southern end of a strip that stretches from Tulum’s ancient ruins to the mangroves of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere, luxury eco-friendly hotel Lula immediately stands out for not standing out. It’s so sleek and simple: a harmony of white minimalist geometry and dark wood alongside muted clays and concrete floors. Mr Smith calls our beach-facing room ‘nautical rustic’, because of its rope details. I’m going for ‘industrial minimal’. But really there’s just one word for it: heaven. We’re faced with all kinds of brilliant blues and the vegan silk cocooning us is just a small part of Sanará’s eco-fabric. Our room is even elevated to allow turtles to nest underneath.
At reception, simultaneously calm and excited staff member Daniel shows us the on-site Wellness Centre, praising the hotel’s ocean-facing yoga studio and Friday’s sound healing: ‘You’ll feel like you’ve had six hours’ sleep.’ With reflexology, crystal healing, aromatherapy and Mayan clay massage, this is one of the area's most sought-after spas.
Once an off-the-grid hippie retreat, Tulum has been described by the media as ‘the Williamsburg of Mexico’ and ‘the next Ibiza’. The question is, will the addition of excess to the eco-chic yoga hotspot prove our road to ruin?
Tonight we’ve a much-coveted table at celebrated restaurant Hartwood. Set on the edge of the jungle and designed by the same team behind Lula, it draws New Yorkers to Tulum and commands a two-hour wait (yes, really). We can see why; the roofless zero-carbon eatery deserves its own salutation. I’m not sure Hartwood’s roasted octopus and beetroot with avocado-habanero cream could be beat; but, after dining this decadently, we certainly are.
We head back to our room to watch the supermoon rise over the ocean. The dreamcatcher jingles in the air-con; there’s a whole octopus in my belly; and this joy is sustainable. ‘Good night and sweet dreams’ a card left on our bedside reads. Tomorrow will be 87 degrees – in winter.
Aware that coming to Tulum and not taking a yoga class is like swearing off wine in Tuscany, we tiptoe quietly past the studio (they’re already in downward-dog position), and barefoot it through the palms for breakfast in Lula's open-plan beachside restaurant, the Real Coconut. Owner Daniella Hunter is a digestive-health whizz and her coconut-cheese-and-flour tortilla chips are the talk of Tulum. My body – generally a squat, not a temple – thanks her for the dairy-, gluten- and bad sugar-free dishes.
After, I spot a giant double bed in the white sand of Lula's private beach with a slate that states ‘For my friend Lisa’. Sorry yoga, it really does have my name on it. Mr Smith is the calmer of us two, but anxious when forced to lie still, so grabs one of the hotel’s kayaks and heads into the surf. I watch for a while. A girl hula-hoops past in slow-mo; a sombrero-topped cyclist offers massages; eight pelicans skim so low they seem to brush a canoeing couple, and Mr Smith has become a dot: I’m in a state of bliss.
That afternoon we grab the hotel’s bikes. Still powered by coconut, we dodge taxis, potholes and pelicans to ride to the clifftop Mayan ruins, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, which exhibit the civilization’s deep understanding of astronomy, science and maths. Resident iguanas photobomb us as we explore.
Mr Smith is a chef (I know. lucky me); throughout our stay he’s been taking note of recipes to reproduce back home. Back at the Real Coconut that evening, he adds the ‘healing chicken-liver-and-broth pâté to Hartwood’s beetroot on his list. Daniella describes it as a ‘gut-healing treat’, which is a good thing, since we later wander down the main road to abuse our bodies with mezcal. Before we know it, a VW Beetle is transporting us to a party in town. Our Hartwood waiter dances to electro on a makeshift stage: ‘This is my party!’ he hollers as he pours glitter on our heads.
Rising early the next day, we hire a local taxi to take us to some cenotes. I didn’t realise that more than 6,000 sinkholes punctuate the area. Ranging from open and savage to eerie, cavernous and stalag-mighty, the Mayans believed the freshwater pools were iridescent portals into the underworld. We snorkel, following divers’ torches as they light a crystal-clear underground maze and then flip over in the mangroves to view hyperreal butterflies and birds from a fish’s eye view.
You don’t need to scuba dive to get your rocks off underwater. At Cenote Manatee Mr Smith is excited by a large fish called a ‘Register? Ringbinder? Ray?’ (he has the memory of a fish) and at Dos Ojos I discover the joy of hollering ‘to the Baticueva (Batcave)!’ while trying not to get water in my mask.
We end our trip by going off-piste for straight-from-the-sea fresh ceviche at Chamico's ‘secret’ beach shack. Rocking in a hammock, I’m mesmerised by a family deep frying nachos, throwing batches into a giant refuse bin for keeping. Genius. Meanwhile, Mr Smith is fully submerged in seven colours of blue, attracting fish by trying to flick his glitter off.
I had always thought dreamcatchers too ‘faux-bo’, but after two days at Lula I’m trying to squash theirs into my luggage (purchased from the Wellness spa – not yanked off the wall) and Mr Smith is still yarning about their bamboo cotton. Instead of bedding, I’ll get him a nacho bin; it’s truly the stuff of dreams.