The perfect healthy day in Tulum, Mexico
Beaches, bike rides, and the best vegan burrito...ever.
I’m the kind of person who wants it all on vacation. The idea of a multi-day detox meditation retreat gives me a sense of dread and anxiety. (Counterintuitive, right?) An on-the-go indulgence marathon leaves me feeling exhausted just thinking about it. But having access to a bit of everything and—boom!—I’ve found my happy place.
I imagine this is what the experts refer to as balance. And as a wearer of many hats—I’m a pastry chef who also loves to run—when I actually am able to go on a trip (despite what Instagram tells you, we can’t all travel 24/7) I want to squeeze every drop out of my getaway and scratch every single tourist itch without totally burning out and needing a vacation after the vacation.
I needed someplace that ticked all the boxes: sunshine, beach, beautiful scenery, workout options, and delicious food (natch).
So when it came time to plan a getaway with a friend this past spring, I needed someplace that ticked all the boxes: sunshine, beach, beautiful scenery, workout options, and delicious food (natch). Cue Tulum, a destination overachiever that offered up all of the above—and then some.
I ate the world’s best vegan burrito (three times!) and several paletas (read: fruit popsicles) that I swear were life changing and spoke deeply to my pastry-chef heart. I was able to run up and down the beach…and also just chill on the beach and do nothing. I woke up before the sun every day—and still log a full eight hours of sleep.
In other words, after my four-day respite, I came back to New York feeling rested and fulfilled.
Here’s how to have the perfect healthy day in Tulum, Mexico:
Move: Morning run
Merely suggesting an early wake-up time is inviting the eye rolls, I know, but hear me out: Getting a run in before the sun is beating down is key. By 10 a.m. Tulum is hot, and you’ll want to be within a few feet of the ocean, so work out early. (Besides, I’m incapable of sleeping in when I’m somewhere new and exciting.)
We got caffeinated with DripKit at the Airbnb and then hit it for a morning 5k. Avenida Coba, the main road that goes from town to the beach, has a paved path that makes biking and running a piece of cake (not to mention safe). A mile or two down and back and we were awake and all hyped up on endorphins for the day—all before 8 a.m.
Back at home base, we picked up our rental bikes from Ola Bike Tulum (about $7 USD per day), threw yoga and beach gear in the baskets, and biked to morning yoga. Let me quickly say that I’m not a yogi—don’t get me wrong, I do yoga, it’s just not my thing. (I once wrote in the “About Me” section of an online dating profile, “I do yoga, but I don’t like it.”) Along with things like foam rolling and kombucha, it’s always just been something I see as great for overall wellness…but has never really sparked joy.
Well, folx, let me tell you: Tulum changes you. I was doing yoga every damn day and loving every minute of it. The beautiful views from the local studios don’t hurt either. Take the 8:30 a.m. class at Sanara ($21 USD, no advanced sign up necessary) and thank me when you eventually come to after the deepest savasana ever.
The raised wooden studio rests on the impossibly velvety white sand of this eco-resort on the southern side of Tulum beach. As class begins, the sliding glass doors are opened to let in the ocean breeze and sunshine. They provide mats, blocks, blankets and filtered water, plus class finishes with a complimentary probiotic shot and a major feeling of gratitude. Did I mention that it was only 9:30 a.m.?
Km 8.1, Carr. Tulum, Tulum, Mexico; (310) 933-6408
Breakfast: Raw Love
We checked off fitness and relaxation, and it’s not even midday. Why can’t I be this productive IRL? We stopped by Raw Love, a short walk down the beach, for their Alkalize Up (a rich, thick smoothie packed with good stuff like raw coconut, avocado, ginger, and lime) and Passion Elixir (which was beyond refreshing, thanks to the blend of passion fruit, moringa, and turmeric).
Km. 7.5, Carr. Tulum, Tulum, Mexico; +52 984-130-2013
Relax: Paradise Beach
Beach bumming, tacos, chips, guac, and probably a few cold, boozy beverages are all on our minds…it is vacation after all. So we left in search of sand.
The beach in Tulum runs from the Mayan ruins up north to the southern end of town, where the eco resorts and spas taper off into the jungle. Right in the middle it’s what you’d expect: a little crowded and touristy, but fun nonetheless. Head north to Paradise Beach and it’s a much more low-key vibe.
We hopped on our bikes and made our way up north to the Pocna Beach Club, about a 20-minute ride. The beach beds were more affordable (think $25) and the area way less of a scene. Plus, the water was spectacular. Shallow, warm, and clear with a white-sand bottom that stretched out for maybe 50 meters under idyllic, soft waves. You could just float forever.
Somehow, we spent five hours here, sunning, taking cooling dips, enjoying beverages, eating veggie tacos with chips and guac from the beach club, and using an entire tube of SPF (necessary). Be sure to take a break for Origami Gelato just a quick walk up the beach; the coconut and the cardamom chocolate flavors are incredible, and they have lots of vegan options too.
I felt content, pleasantly tired from the biking and sun, but not beat. Oh, and I read almost an entire book and only picked up my phone to snap a few pics. (My vacation hack: I kept my phone on airplane mode until I got back to the Airbnb, with just some saved pictures of local maps so I could navigate around.) Beach day success.
Km. 1.5, Carr. Tulum a, Av. Boca Paila, Tulum; +52 984-231-3472
Pocna Beach Club has showers, so we rinsed off the sand and sunscreen and got on our bikes and pedaled back to town. The ride took us mostly on the main roads, where fortunately there are bike paths (not to mention drivers who are used to cyclists), but please use caution.
The town of Tulum has a great local energy and it shouldn’t be missed, no matter how loudly the beachside frozen margaritas are calling your name. There are tons of hole-in-the wall taco places, great coffee shops, and local markets. We grabbed an iced matcha and cold brew at the aptly named Matcha Mama and ordered a quesadilla snack from El Carboncito on the main drag that was so cheesy, I’m still dreaming about it.
QROO 15 470 Zona Hotelera, Tulum, Mexico
Dinner: Burrito Amor
Dinner at Burrito Amor is pure amor. The outdoor restaurant on the edge of town is built into what looks like an old gas station, and although you should expect a wait at dinner, it’s worth it: They serve hands-down the most delicious burritos I’ve ever tasted, made in an open kitchen and served in a vibrant, welcoming setting.
The menu is full of fresh, local ingredients with plenty of veggie and vegan options. Case in point: the nopale salad (featuring cactus, puffed amaranth, serrano chili, and a creamy avocado dressing) and the vegan burrito (which came with chaya—Mayan spinach—and a dressing made with local herb epazote).
Also: Do not sleep on the homemade sauces and condiments; at one point my friend admitted between bites, “I’m just using my burrito as a vessel for sauce.” (If TSA allowed, I would have brought back a gallon of each.) The avocado-tomatillo was bright, acidic and so punchy it made my mouth water. Mixing it with the habanero cream gave it a fiery kick that the avocado quickly mellowed out.
Each griddled burrito came wrapped in a banana leaf instead of foil, which was fully compostable, and dinner for two with drinks and sides came to about $30 USD—a fraction of what we would have paid by the beach.
Av. Tulum Pte Mz 3 Lote 5 Local 1, Av. Tulum, Centro, Tulum, Mexico; +52 984-160-2989
Dessert: Flor de Michoacan
Post dinner we rode over to Flor de Michoacan, AKA paleta paradise. It’s run by Gabriela, who makes about 25 different flavors of paletas, from simple fresh fruit to cookies and cream. Her fruit flavors are refreshing, clean, and simple—and most of them don’t have any added sugar, just fruit (local whenever possible) and water.
You can be as healthy or indulgent as you want here. Over a few visits, we tried strawberry, spicy mango, coconut, guava, lime, horchata, and chili-lime pineapple. (Did I mention that the paletas here are amazing?) They cooled and refreshed us after a long day of sunning, running, cycling, and yoga posing—and there’s a dreamy garden out back where you can enjoy the frozen treats in peace, away from the noise of cars and bikes.
It’s the perfect bow on an ideal day in Tulum. We rode our bikes back to our Airbnb along the lit path on Avenida Coba, crashing into our beds and passing out fast…feeling totally, blissfully balanced.