Lately it seems like everyone has been talking about visiting or wanting to visit either Tulum or Sayulita, Mexico. Between the super popular restaurant Hartwood in Tulum and ABC’s Bachelor in Paradise being filmed at Playa Escondida Resort in Sayulita, it makes sense that both places would suddenly be abuzz. Since I’m lucky enough to now have experienced both, I’m going to do some compare/contrasting that might help you make a decision on which to visit soon (though I highly recommend both!)
If you’re looking for an ultra-bohemian, tropical destination with upscale, trendy restaurants, bars, and hotels, look no further than Tulum. While there is an old town area you can visit, Carretera Tulum Boca Paila is where it’s at in terms of the Pinterest-worthy experiences you’ve most likely seen your friends posting about. There are tons of eco-resorts to stay at along that street, and you’ll be right in the mix to walk to the many adorable bars and restaurants located there.
Now, let’s talk about Hartwood! Even as I say the name, my mouth is watering just thinking about the incredible meal we had there. The menu is updated daily based on what is fresh and readily available in the Yucatan, and every dish that we tried was packed full of flavor and quality. The jicama salad, ribs, and fire-roasted beet are what stood out to me and has left me craving it ever since!
The one thing I will say about Tulum and the whole coastline along the Eastern side of Mexico is that the seaweed has definitely been a major issue these past few years. It’s super smelly and keeps you from being able to enjoy a dip in the ocean (for the most part), although the government has stepped in and has employed workers to comb the beaches daily to help clean it up. Hopefully they can figure out what’s causing it soon so people can really enjoy their beautiful coastline!
Instead, what many people do is check out one or more of their “cenotes” (seh-no-tays), or naturally-formed limestone freshwater sinkholes that you can swim in! We got to check out the Gran Cenote, which was such a cool experience. I would suggest bringing snorkel gear along with you, as there are many stalactites hanging and you want to swim with your head down if you can!
Sayulita is adorrrrrable in a totally different way than Tulum. While Tulum can be a bit bougie (For example, Chef René Redzepi of NOMA recently did a pop-up dinner there for $600/person!), Sayulita is a tiny little surf town that has somehow managed to maintain its charm despite becoming so popular.
We decided to stay at an Airbnb (I linked our exact one) because we had a tough time figuring out if there were many hotels there, and I’m so glad we did because not only was it SO awesome, but it seems like the thing to do there is stay in hostels. I’ve had many experiences with Airbnb in many different places, and I can honestly say that this was one of the best. It was incredibly unique and super close to town (about a 5 minute walk). The whole concept was completely open-air style living, which was great while staying in such a tropical climate. We had our own pool, kitchen, living and dining area, hammock, and the choice to sleep in a room with locking glass doors or the open palapa near the pool.
As for things to do in town, we spent the majority of our days going to the beach or perusing the number of cute boutiques that they offer. We had quite the interesting experience happen to us upon arrival, which was us being told that due to a major election going on that weekend, there would be no selling of alcohol anywhere that Saturday and Sunday. So in the evenings we made the most of our Airbnb and listened to music, ate chips and guac, had a few beers, and then got ready to head out for dinner. While we did eat at a couple restaurants in town, I would say that the stand-out meal we had was the late night al pastor tacos with pineapple. So, so good.
The town is so cute and colorful, and the prices are much more affordable than Tulum currently. Hope this post helped give you a little more insight to both of these awesome places!!