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A Simple Guide to Mexico’s Cabana Scene

Beach Living in Tulum, Mexico

Many of us dream of waking up in the morning and opening the door onto a pristine, endless beach; a place where the sea is your soundtrack and you can eat tacos for breakfast.
Lucky for us, this place exists in Mexico’s boho beach village of Tulum.
It’s here that the dream becomes a reality. As well as the beach there’s delicious cocktails and ancient ruins. What better way to experience it than from your own beachside cabaña?
These little huts have everything you would normally find in a hotel (bed, shower and WC) but with a few twists. Instead of a regular corner shower, I found an outside conch shell shower using filtered sea water.
Sounds like paradise, right? These small touches make cabaña stays an experience in themselves, but there are a few things you should know before you book to make your stay the best it can be and stop the dream turning into a nightmare!

Garden or seafront cabaña?

Seafront Cabana in Tulum
The decision between a garden or seafront cabaña may seem as simple as choosing between waking up to the sound of exotic birds or the crashing waves, but there’s more to consider.
Garden cabañas are more susceptible to bugs and wildlife from the trees, and the crashing waves of a sea front cabaña may have you up all hours nipping to that outdoor bathroom in the dark. I dreamed of opening my door to the swaying palms, but in reality, a bug-less room was my number one priority!

Outside spaces

Tulum cabana living
After a long day of sunbathe-swim-repeat, a shady spot to read your book or have a doze is perfect before taking on the next round of Coronas or the free salsa lesson taking place next door.
Make sure your cabaña has somewhere undercover, with a gentle sea breeze and maybe even a hammock for chilling out.

Mosquito nets

Even the more luxurious cabañas can still be susceptible to mosquitoes. Make sure yours has a decent mosquito net without holes, and make sure you use it.
More rustic cabañas may have unique touches (read: holes in the roof) which means any number of nasties can and will get in! If any do, ask the reception or bar if they have bug spray to kill intruders.

Unique touches

Swings on Tulum Beach
Whilst a living tree poking through the middle of your cabaña and into the roof may feel like a great creative touch at first, the next Caribbean storm will see it creaking as it sways, and adding even more humidity to your room as it absorbs the rain. Storms are common, and amazing to experience (especially if you’re from the UK where a rumble of thunder is front page news) but weathering them in a cabaña can leave you feeling exposed to the elements.
I am the girl who opted for the cabaña with the tree poking through the roof, and after two nights and no sleep I ended up having to move to another room one storey up.  So, instead of holes in the roof, look for unique touches like taps made from sea shells, local art on display or eco-friendly bath products.

Getting around

Chichen-Itza, Mexico
Tulum’s cabañas, shops and restaurants span about 7km, which is perfectly walkable, but you may want to consider hiring a bike to get about or a car if you’re going further afield.
The Mayan ruins are at the end of the beach road and accessible by bike, but I hired a car for the drive to Chichen Itza, which was perfectly safe and a great way to beat the crowds! The Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza are well worth ticking off your bucket list; we were lucky enough to have the site almost to ourselves due to a presidential visit, which kept the tourist coaches away and allowed us to really enjoy the grounds.

What to pack

Tulum’s laid back lifestyle is a million miles away from the brightly coloured spring-breakers of Cancun, and its atmosphere means a whole new pack list.
Make sure you’ve got plenty of tropical strength insect repellent and those comfy elephant print trousers you bought in Thailand. All your backpacking staples are welcome here, but you’ll find new treasures in any of the shops along the beach road. Save space in your bag and support local crafters as they walk along the beaches with their handmade creations for sale. I picked up a cute anklet which will stay on my ankle for years!

Watch out for turtles

Newly hatched leatherback turtle
Tulum Beach is a nesting beach for turtles. In perfect conditions in May/June when the sky is clear and the wind is coming from the north east, these magnificent animals come to lay their eggs.
We were lucky enough to see one and stare for hours into the darkness as she hauled herself from the sea across the beach, dug a hole and laid eggs, then disappeared into the water. Such a miracle, which could happen just metres from your cabaña front door! Next on my list is returning to see the baby turtles hatching!
However you decide to plan your Tulum cabaña escape, have a wonderful time and a Corona for me!

Claire is a traveller and thrill-seeker, always looking for her next adventure or challenge. From hiking the Inca Trail to the souks of Marrakesh, you can follow her escapades at her Weight the Anchor blog, and on Twitter and Instagram.

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