Tulum is located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, nested on the warm waters of Caribbean Sea. The region has also been coined as the "Riviera Maya." Tulum is no longer the sleepy bohemian beach community it once was twenty years ago. In fact, the the five mile strip of hotels known as the "Hotel Zone" is as busy as ever and growing as we speak.
New hotels, restaurants, and enormous residential communities are popping up all over. Tulum’s current population is expected to grow from 40,000 people to 200,000 in the next few years. Cancun gets about six million visitors a year, and many of those travelers are coming to discover the magic of Tulum and the surrounding area.
The hotel zone is a nice place to stay if you want to party at large crowded restaurants, or lounge at trendy hotels with DJs blaring music while hipsters pose for instagram photos.
However, if you want a more authentic, relaxing experience away from the hustler and bustle, then I would recommend staying at Hotel Mereva or their sister hotel Alea ( each is within 400 meters of each other). The hotels are located in Akumal Bay which is about 6 miles from hotel zone. Akumal is located near the spectacular Mayan ruins of Tulum, Xel-ha, Xcaret, Chichen-Itza and Coba. The ruins are definitely worth a visit! Both hotels are on the ocean and offer wonderful amenities, as well as impeccable service and delicious food.I recently had the pleasure to stay at both. I was treated like family as were all the other guests.
The Mereva Hotel is little over an hour and a half drive from Cancun airport. I rented a car from Enterprise. Ask for Cesar, and tell him Ted sent you. For about $275 USD you can have a nice SUV for a week. That includes full insurance. It’s a straight drive along highway 307 to Mevera Hotel. Waze works great, so set your navigation and drive with confidence. The turn off for the hotel requires a u turn off main highway to get to the entrance. You will first go down a dirt road for about half a mile which leads to a guard gate, and you simply follow that road to the end and you will find ample free parking for the hotel.
If you decide to hire a shuttle service to the hotel from Cancun airport it will run you around $100 each way. So for a little bit more you can have a car which gives you access to go to some of the beautiful sites that are a short drive away. Having a car I think gives you lot of flexibility to see and explore the area. The streets are generally paved very well and the highways are wonderful. Street signs are generally in English and Spanish. I felt completely safe driving in the Yucatán Peninsula.
However, if you’re just planning to stay mainly at the resort, and you don’t plan to go too many excursions then you could just take a shuttle from the airport. It’s a personal preference. You can always hire a taxi to take you to hotel zone which is about 20 minutes away, or hire a taxi to visit many of the wonderful Cenotes or Mayan ruins and the city center of Tulum. The City center you will find many quaint restaurants and shops. don’t forget to bargain a little in the shops not the restaurants!
The Mereva and Alea hotels are situated on a private strand of beach, which includes a few other small boutique hotels and the rest being large private residences. All the rooms have ocean views of the beautiful turquoise Caribbean Sea, and many have a hammock on the balcony. I had an upstairs room which gave more of a panoramic view. Another good option are the rooms right on the ground floor, which gives easy access to the two beautiful pools, as well as the ocean.
I really enjoyed the pools at the Mereva —there’s one in the courtyard which is very private and well-kept. You will also find inviting hammocks by the pool and on the beach. The second pool is on the ocean side, so you can swim while gazing out at the blue green ocean and enjoy the warm breeze on your face while sipping one of their signature cocktails. The Pool at Alea Hotel is is also wonderful. It's very contemporary and wraps around to the ocean side of hotel.
All the staff were very friendly and extremely accommodating. It’s really a family atmosphere and someone is always there to help you if you need anything, but they’re also out of your way so you feel like have the entire property to yourself. You can choose to dine at their outdoor cabana in the courtyard area, or you can decide to dine at one of the tables that is is set-up directly on the ocean. Upon arrival in the evening, I opted to have dinner on the ocean and it was fantastic! I had the special dish of the day which was brisket of beef and mashed potatoes. Try one of their signature cocktails! Also recommend the ceviche appetizer— it was so fresh. They use fresh caught sea-bass for their ceviche.
Also, the hotels offer free use of kayaks as well as snorkeling equipment. There is a popular Cenote directly in front of the hotel that is worth a visit for a swim, snorkel or scuba dive. There are lots of fish and under water caves to explore to explore there. I also we went to a remote Cenote by car ( about a 45 minute drive) called Cha-Ho. It's spectacular if you are up for a small adventure and you want to get away from the crowds.
I found the warm beautiful turquoise water to be just as lovely as in the hotel zone. So it’s a trade-off between having the relaxation and privacy of these small beautiful boutique hotel or being in the hotel zone with all the crowds. You can also take a nice walk up and down the beach and around the bay and see some of the other boutique hotels, as well as some of the private residences on the beach. Also, depending on the time of year, you may be fortunate enough see some of the turtles coming to shore to a lay their eggs. It’s a ritual they have of returning to their birthplace to lay their eggs — and they don’t use GPS equipment!
The rooms are very well appointed with marble flooring and beautiful floor to ceiling sliding doors that lead to a nice patio with sitting area and hammock. The ocean views are memorizing and the warm wind is intoxicating. The bathrooms are nicely appointed with rain shower features in the large showers. They provided you with all the basic shampoo and lotions, soft towels, and a convenient mini bar. What more could you need. Did someone say room service?
Ordering room service is always a treat and you can choose from a variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items as well as desserts and specialty cocktails. They even have a pizza oven, and can make you an incredible pizza if you have a taste for that.
Another wonderful thing that they offer massages on the beach. Be sure to book that a head of time so you don’t miss out on that treat!
I can’t say enough good things about Remy, the general manager and all of his wonderful staff at the Mereva and Alea hotels. The Alea is a little more modern in design but both are very charming. I recommend trying both as I did.
I hope to visit again soon and report on the two new recently completed roof top suits with private infinity pools at the Mereva property. Go visit now, its time to recharge!