When we were offered the one of a kind opportunity of dining at noma Tulum with American Express, we knew we couldn’t pass it up. We had heard such great things about Tulum, the incredible beach, the cenotes, the Mayan ruins and most importantly, the food. So we decided to add on a few extra days before the event in order to really experience Tulum. As soon as we arrived, we hit the ground running, more like, we hit the ground bicycling. We cruised up and down the hotel strip along the beach that’s filled with restaurants, shops and hotels that range from luxury clean aesthetics to open aired beach huts and everything in between. Since I’m cramming an entire trip into one blogpost, I’ve document each day with where we stayed, what we ate, the activities we did and what I wore.
We stayed at Sanara which had come recommended by a friend of ours. We arrived into Tulum around 2pm. I actually had no idea that our flight from Atlanta would be so short (another reason to head back down soon). I guess I’m used to flying to Europe where the flights are so long and you lose hours. The drive from Cancun Airport to Tulum is around 1:45.
Arriving at lunchtime we were quite hungry. We’d avoided airplane snacking in order to hold out for the guacamole at the end of the Mexican rainbow. After checking into our room, we made our way to have lunch at the restaurant at Sanara, called The Real Coconut. Everything on the menu has some kind of coconut in it and it’s all incredibly healthy and delicious. A great start to our first afternoon and was followed by some sun on the beach and bodysurfing in the warm, blue ocean.
We weren’t too hungry for dinner, so we rode our bicycles to Nomade and had margaritas and mojitos on a beach swing while we watched the sunset. Finally, when it was pitch black, we rode back to our hotel and sat down to make plans for the rest of the trip. When we are on trips, we like to use the first day to get a taste of what the possibilities are. While we could research more about activities and restaurants before arriving to our locations, there’s no substitute for actually being there.
We woke up early for sunrise. Even though we were pretty tired from staying up late working, we always get that excitement of being somewhere new that gets us out of bed at the crack of dawn…
After the sun was fully up and the restaurants started trickling open, we got back on our bikes to head to breakfast at RawLove. Thomas and I both went for their bowls- I ordered one with papaya, ginger, turmeric, passionfruit and banana, while Thomas got the classic acai. The star of the show, in my opinion, was the matcha green tea latte with coconut milk! One of the things we liked the most about Tulum, which is hard to say the same thing about when traveling elsewhere, is the large variety of healthier food options. Even if you aren’t a health nut that only eats raw food, you’ll still appreciate not feeling weighed down by every meal.
After doing some exploring around the shops in the area, we hit the beach at our hotel. I’m not very good at relaxing on the beach, although I wish I was. After about 15 minutes of reading, I’m ready to get up and do something. Thomas loves being in the water, so we spent a good hour body surfing, which felt so amazing in the warm water of Tulum. We worked up quite the appetite and ordered some smoothies and guacamole while we dried off.
For a late(ish) lunch, we headed to Posada Margherita. You might be thinking, ‘Why would you eat Italian food in Mexico?’. We were thinking the same thing when we followed a million recommendations to go here, but we totally get why now. The fresh pasta was incredible and the snapper (which was the catch of the day) was absolutely delicious. Totally worth the break from Mexican food (which is not something we say lightly). The space is also really beautiful and sits looking out at the ocean.
We ended the evening with dinner at Gitano. Originally recommended for drinks, we wound up here after discovering we’d have no chance of getting into Hartwood, everyone’s hands down favorite dinner spot in Tulum (but requires a few hours wait before opening to put your name on reservation list, which we did not do). Gitano turned out to be wonderful. We ordered the full fish with taco sides (fresh tortillas, salsa trio and cabbage) and sides of sweet potatoes and cauliflower in mole sauce. The meal was unforgettable and one that Thomas swears he will try and recreate someday.
We’ve said it before and we will say it again, the best time to see the most touristy places are as soon as they opened. We woke up early to a few rain showers but decided to hop in a taxi in order to arrive at the Tulum Mayan Ruins right at opening time (8am). Luckily, as soon as we arrived, the rain clouds departed and we had the ruins nearly all to ourselves. In fact, we spent about an hour at the ruins, and when we left, people were coming in by the hundreds via buses. The ruins are definitely an impressive site, every time we visit these ancient cities we can’t help but wonder what life would have been like back then, with a little bit of imagination it’s fun to picture these ruins during the height of the Mayan civilization.
Hungry from our walk around the ruins, we set course for breakfast at Nomade. The decor at Nomade was probably my favorite of any hotel that we wandered onto. I loved the Moroccan vibes with the rugs, low tables and bean bags for sitting in the restaurant. Our breakfast did not disappoint, there’s nothing quite like a fruit platter when visiting somewhere tropical like Mexico.
Having made our way back and forth to Nomade a few times we noticed a drink stand called Matcha Mama. Later that day we slipped into our swimsuits and headed back out for a couple cold Matcha concoctions in order to cool off from the heat and humidity before heading back to the beach for the afternoon.
While enjoying our teas, we asked for lunch recommendations. The lovely woman working there mentioned Casa Violeta as her favorite spot by far. Feeling not too hungry, but unwilling to skip a meal in this culinary wonderland, we took a chance on her recommendation. We walked along the beach to Casa Violeta, not far from Sanara and perched up at the best seat in the house, our own little cabana on the beach. With too many options to choose from, we did what anyone would do, we ordered way too much food. We got chips and guac, ceviche, two orders of fish tacos, quesadillas and margaritas. Let’s just say, this time our eyes were exactly the same size as our stomachs…we polished everything off and wished there was room for more!
Later that evening we got dressed up and grabbed drinks at Be Tulum. We got lucky because they had a fabulous jazz singer performing on the beach at sunset. It was such a peaceful way to end the day. Afterwards we decided to end the night early and order room service instead of going out. Sometimes that’s the best option!
We woke up early with plans to do some cenote swimming. After scouting some locations the night before, we asked if the front desk could help us pick between Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos Cenote and Cenote Cristal. After confirming our #1, Cenote Cristal, we jumped in a cab and set off. It was 8:15 when we arrived at Cenote Cristal, the sign read “Abierto” and the opening hour said 8, yet the gate remained locked, with no one in sight. We decided to wait, at around 8:30 we grew discouraged and were ready to head to another cenote on our list. Luckily, our taxi driver jumped on the phone to a friend that informed us that it actually opens at 9, so we waited even more. Just as we were getting ready to call it off, the operators arrived at 9:05 to open the gates. And boy are we glad we waited! The cenote was like an oasis in a desert. Palm trees and tropical plants grew along the water’s edge, with clear blue water. On the opposite end of the cenote was the main attraction, a wooden diving platform. Standing up on the platform you could see clear through to the bottom of the cenote, with fish about the size of a shoe swimming around in small schools. Thomas braved the jump first, starting with a pencil dive, then graduating to flips. I worked up the courage, and went with the crowd-pleasing cannonball, met with 5s and 6s from the judges and a sore butt. (Thomas told me to say that FYI! ha!)
We ended up spending about an hour and at half at the cenote and only saw one other couple that came for about ten minutes and then a group of guys who showed up just as we were leaving. It was a treat to have the whole place to ourselves that morning (and luckily the mornings are hot enough to want to get in the water!). Afterwards we jumped back in the taxi and we headed back to Raw Love for round two of smoothie bowls and matcha lattes.
After washing off back at Sanara, we spent the rest of the morning/afternoon shopping in the town, which I shared in this post. We relaxed the rest of the afternoon and hung out with the Amex team, eating fish tacos on the beach and getting excited for the upcoming activities we had planned with them.
We ended the day with drinks at Casa Jaguar followed by a delicious vegan dinner at Restaurare, where we ate…..more tacos!
Day- Zimmermann Dress
Our final full day was the grand finale of what had been an incredible trip so far. In case you missed my Instagram’s and IG Stories, we spent the entire day with the team from noma. noma, in case you don’t know, is a restaurant based in Copenhagen, Denmark, that is consistently ranked in the top 5 in the world. Having won the top spot in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Their restaurant in Copenhagen was closed as they prepare to open in an all new space, so it’s chef, René Redzepi, decided to open a 7 week pop-up restaurant in Tulum. What seems like only a 2 month commitment, is actually a lot more than that. They spent over 9 months searching Mexico for the greatest ingredients they could find, sourcing things like wild fruit that’s too rare to be commercially cultivated or mezcal that’s made in such small quantities that it isn’t for sale! They built everything in the restaurant, tables, chairs, utensils, cups, you name it, they thought about it.
We started off the day with an amazing brunch, which was followed by René sharing the story of noma Tulum. We had read all of the accolades the restaurant had received and spoken with a few people that dined nights before us, but it wasn’t until listening to René that I realized we were in for a real treat. Even if I didn’t like a single dish from the whole day, (which was not the case) it’s so rare to be in the presence of collective expertise that I knew I had to soak up as much as possible.
After the speech, we met at the restaurant for what turned out to be my favorite part of the whole day. We spent about an hour sampling mezcal and tasting the long list of unique ingredients that noma chefs would be using later that evening. The back stories behind each of the ingredients were fascinating. Naturally, my favorite was the chocolate made only from white cacao beans, which come from a variety of cacao, that produces a very small percentage of white beans. The final course during the dinner was a chile pepper filled with chocolate ice cream made with that special chocolate.
After the ingredient tasting we met for tacos, because you have to have at least one meal with tacos per day in Mexico, and then we had a few hours to chill and relax before our dining experience that evening.
Finally, it was time for dinner and apparently, time for the thunderstorm to start. It poured rain but of course, noma had a back up plan. They sat us in the kitchen at the chef’s table. It was the perfect vantage point to enjoy our amazing 15 course dinner. I won’t go into detail of each dish and what we ate, because that could be a whole blog post on its own, but the entire experience was incredible. Actually seeing the chefs prepare and make each dish, with the tedious amounts of effort that go into the smallest of things, it made us sit in awe. It was a true art form. As lovers of Chefs Table, we felt like we were living in a real-life episode (if you’ve seen them, then you know what I mean!).
Sadly the next morning we were packed up and off to the airport. But alas, we already have another Mexico trip in the works….!