From the tourist-friendly Aoelian islands to volcano-shadowed Catania, Sicily emerged as the holiday destination of choice for hip travelers this summer. But for the fashion industry’s year-round hotspot du moment, one need look no further than the Mexican jungle setting of Tulum.
The region’s many draws include stunning turquoise waters, windswept palm trees, Mayan ruins as well as top-notch ocean and cave diving—not to mention easy accessibility from New York. “We left our house in Bushwick, [Brooklyn] at 11:30am and were on the beach at 5:30pm,” gushed photographer’s agent Jasmine Kharbanda, of her travel addiction-inducing visit with her husband last year.
Although there are some intrepid travelers who have visited the sundrenched community since accommodations were limited to tents, the new abundance of yoga packages, Temazcal sweat lodges and other holistic services have earned Tulum a deserving reputation as an unmissable destination for detoxing. And indeed, the tiny town and epically long beaches reportedly turn into impromptu runways for models, agents and photographers during the winter holiday season. “Tulum is a fashion hang out that’s accelerating right now,” explains fashion photographer (and Kharbanda’s husband) Paul Maffi.
Despite this spike in popularity, Tulum remains somewhat of an anti-Ibiza. At Casa Violeta, for example, the idyllic setting—including a sand covered yard, lush tropical flowers and a scrumptious namesake restaurant—is made all the more charming by its mere 12 hours of electricity. This spartan approach is uniformly praised by guests who come to enjoy the simple bungalows, top-notch spa services (Tomer for yoga, Carlos for massage) and sincere environmental ethos.
On our recent visit, the Italian, Colombian and American gypset wiled their days away sipping mango and papaya juice while the crystal clear waters lapped against their tanned ankles. Evenings, meanwhile, were capped off by watching enormous turtles arrive from thousands of mile-long journeys to lay eggs in the pristine, moonlit white sands. “There’s not much of a social scene,” notes Maffi, who came for the diving. “Everything is catered around the ocean and the cenotes (the caves). The beauty is unspoiled.”
Accommodations and stellar dining are also worthy perks on the list of attractions. Casa Margherita, for one, is one of those impossibly hip posadas—perfectly chic from the bar-top urns to the fine glassware—and unsettlingly pricey, delicious dishes (the lobster ravioli is a must). From the Caribbean fare at Le Banana to the genius fish tacos at El Tabano, there’s truly no added shortage of food options. Mateo’s, meanwhile, is the place to go for live music, including Mexican mariachi, whereas Le Zebra is great for swinging salsa. And be sure to seek out Amansala for bikini bootcamp or Maya Clay for detoxifying massages if you’re looking for full-body rejuvenation.
Coqui Coqui, the brainchild of former model Nicholas Malville, has found a charming marriage of food, fashion and fine setting. Mixing Old World Mexican designs (think dark woods on a white background)s, the beachside perch reflects the fashionable region with rustic-chic charm. The boutique sells Mexican scarves, amazing hats and a perfumeria with scents you’ll want a bottle of at home (we went for the Madera). If you want to get a broader taste of the region, venture on to Valladolid, a neighboring historic town where Coqui Coqui has a two-room sister hotel.
And, of course, be sure to take a trip to the nearby ruins, or, if you have the time, climb the highest ruins in the region at Coba to look out into the jungle and peruse the local artisan stalls.
Our Mexico coverage continues next week when we cover hip Mexico City hotels.