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  • The Anonymous Hungry Hippopotamus

Tulum-inous Day One

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

*Puerto Morelos (El Merkadito), Tulum (Piedra Escondida, Gitano)

The charming village of Tulum lies on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico's Yucatán peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. Tulum is a colonial name meaning "wall" in Mayan. The city was so named because of the limestone wall surrounding it, built to protect its citizens. The city's original name is Zama, meaning "dawn" in Mayan. The name is thought to refer to the stunning high cliffs and seaside location of this city that faces the sunrise. Tulum's rich Mayan history, turquoise waters, well preserved ruins, and 10 miles of powdery, white sand beaches, draw visitors from all around the world. For all these reasons and more, Tulum drew me to its shores and became perhaps, my favorite Mexican city.

Bienvenidos a Mexico! How does Mexico say "welcome?" With a cocktail, of course. Before I even left the airport, I encountered a bar offering a variety of welcome drinks. I chose not to partake, as I had a long drive ahead of me from Cancún to Tulum.

About a third of the way to Tulum however, hunger got the best of me, so I decided to stop in the small, seaside town of Puerto Morelos. Puerto Morelos is a slow-paced, fishing town located on the Riviera Maya. Along the main beach, you will find El Faro Inclinado, or the leaning lighthouse, which is a symbol of the city.

El Merkadito, meaning "market" in English, is a great spot for a meal in Puerto Morelos and is located a short, five-minute stroll from El Faro Inclinado.

The restaurant serves fresh fish and sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea. You can eat on this delightful terrace or...

...relax on the lounge chairs that sit seaside.

I toasted my trip with a margarita (because what else do you toast a trip to Mexico with?) and some chips and fresh guacamole.

While I was deciding on the entree, the friendly waiter came by with the fresh catch of the day.

With that introduction, the choice to order fish tacos was simple. The fish was tender and flaky within, and was complemented by the crunch of cabbage and onions, the warm tortillas, and a variety of freshly made salsas. Refreshed and satiated, I got back in the car to finish the journey to Tulum.

I arrived at my hotel, Piedra Escondida, just in time to enjoy my complimentary, welcome drink and the Tulum sun, setting over the Caribbean Sea.

Piedra Escondida was one of the most intimate and enchanting hotels I have stayed in. With only 9 rooms and the most lovely and welcoming staff, I felt more like I was visiting a close relative with an extraordinary home, than staying in a hotel.

The views from the hotel are incredible. This was the private beach located just steps from my room.

In fact, all the rooms and the restaurant have ocean views and the same proximity to the beach.

Everything about this hotel, including the rooms, felt warm and inviting.

After settling into the hotel and resting for a bit, I headed farther south in the Zona Hotelera, to Gitano (Spanish for gypsy). Gitano is a restaurant and mezcal bar with several locations. I dined at their original location (with the now iconic pink, neon sign) in the lush jungle of Tulum beach.

The tables are warm and romantic however...

...they sit in an extremely large restaurant space with disco balls and club music bumping in the background. I found the restaurant better suited for a late night snack, cocktails and dancing, than for an intimate dinner. That said, the food was creative and tasty.

Fish boquinette in banana leaf.

Fish steamed in banana leaf with tomatillo and chile serrano marinade, topped with fresh kiwi.

I thought the addition of kiwi was a refreshing surprise and the marinade had a good balance of creaminess and spiciness.

Crispy Chicken Al Recado Rojo.

Fried chicken thigh with pepita lime butter, spinach, cambray onions and achiote sauce.

After the meal, a short drive back to the hotel and some unpacking, I closed the books on my first day in Tulum. Stay tuned for highlights from day two.

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