UPDATED: April 2017
What exactly is a beach club? I found myself pondering this question on a recent trip to Tulum, Mexico. Based on other beach towns and Caribbean Islands that I’d previously visited, I always assumed that by designating itself a beach club, a business is offering up its beach space and services to the public (for fees or expectation of food and/or beverages purchases). In Tulum, however, this doesn’t necessarily ring true. And for me, it lead to a fair bit of confusion. Some places call themselves a Hotel and Beach club but don’t allow outside guests (I’m looking at you Be Tulum), and others don’t call themselves a beach club but allow access to non guests. So, if you don’t want to spend any precious beach time searching for a perfect spot to plunk your butt for the day, it may be best to call ahead to double check.
North End of the Beach
The north end of the beach is quite a bit different than the south end. It’s much closer to the ruins, and therefore feels a lot more touristy. Resort goers from Cancun and surrounding areas take day tours to the ruins, and afterwards are released on mass to this area of the beach. There’s a scattering of hotels and beach clubs along this strip and most in the area seem to charge for usage of their beach chairs (on top of what you spend on food and drinks). That being said, this is possibly the nicest stretch of beach in all of Tulum. We only spent one day on this side of the beach, so my opinion of it could just be a reflection of my ignorance of it- that being said, one day was more than enough.
Villa Pescardores: it’s about as north as you can get on the beach and because of this, has a terrific view of the ruins. It’s also a really scenic section, with lots of boats around the beach- it’s really perfect for taking photos. We were the first people on the non-guest side, but were soon joined by a tour bus. I believe we paid around $15-20 for use of each chair. We ordered what turned out to be mediocre (and expensive) drinks and sat back to relax for the day. Through no fault of the club, this didn’t quite work out. It was very windy that day (perhaps it is everyday- we didn’t go back to find out), so much so that sand was blowing in our faces, our drinks, our eyes, etc. It came to the point of being unbearable, so we quickly gulped our drinks, paid our bill (not cheap, even though we only stayed for about 45 mins they still charged us for a full day of beach chairs).
El Paraiso Hotel and Beach Club
El Paraiso Hotel and Beach Club: This was by far the busiest beach club we encountered. It takes a few minutes to find some beach chairs, but once you do someone quickly comes over to get you to pay up. I think the price varies based on the type of beach bed you choose. Once you pay, they slap a bracelet on you (it feels like going to an all inclusive hotel). I don’t believe you can run a tab here, you order a drink and then pay as it comes. Other than being really busy, this is honestly one of the most beautiful spots on the entire beach in Tulum. There isn’t too much seaweed, the water isn’t too rough, the sand is soft and white, and the trees seem perfectly situated. That being said, it’s so busy that it’s not the most relaxing. We had a drink or two, went swimming and moved along.
La Vita e Bella
La Vita e Bella: It took us ages to find some loungers, and when we did someone came over to tell us they were for hotel guests only, it took some convincing (and a promise to order a couple of drinks) and we were allowed to stay. For some reason they don’t provide beach service for food, and we didn’t feel like sitting in a restaurant, so we didn’t stay long.
South End of the Beach
The South end of the beach is hotel, after hotel after hotel (it’s actually a bit overwhelming), and across the street are lots of great restaurants and shops. Along with the constant line of traffic, there are people biking and walking. Most of the people you’ll meet in this section are either staying along the beach, or in town.
Papaya Playa Project
Papaya Playa Project (PPP): This is a hotel that also advertises as a beach club, and certainly not falsely. You can arrive in early morning and stay the entire day as long as you meet their minimum spend requirement (it doesn’t take much). It’s a really large and beautiful property, somewhere I’d consider going back and staying. The beach is scattered with palapas, and each essentially has it’s own double mattress for lounging. Service was generally pretty good (the exception was a ridiculously busy day where I waited 45 minutes for one drink), and they have a wide selection of food (it’s delicious) and drinks. If you can, check out the spa. PPP is on its own section of very long beach, but you can’t walk to other places from here.
We returned here a few times in 2017 and found it to be generally the same. The minimum spend has gone up a bit but otherwise we found everything pretty much unchanged from last year. Service and food were both really good. It still remains one of our absolute favourite beach clubs.
Viento del Mar
Viento del Mar: We only discovered this as we drove past and I happened to notice that the sign said “hotel and beach club”. I’m so glad we dropped in to ask about it. Along from PPP, this was another favourite, and I’d highly recommend it. The first time we went they had us pay the minimum spend upfront and then we paid the difference at the end of the day. This seems like a really good system. However, the other time we went, they didn’t have us do this. We noticed soon after noon this place filled up, so arrive early. Service here is attentive, food and drinks good, and well priced. There are lots of palapas and comfy beds.
Sadly, our return here did not go well. So bad, in fact, I regretted ever recommending it to you, dear readers. We assumed it would be somewhat the same as last year- we walked up, picked out a bed and were quickly accosted- not just by one server but three or four who seemed to stand around glaring at us like we were doing something wrong. One of them informed us that if we wanted to stay for the day it would cost us 1400 pesos (that’s about $70 USD) per person- just for the beds, and that amount would not go towards food/drinks. We quickly packed up our things and left, never to return. I’m not sure if they have new owners, or just new policies, but either way, it’s an unfortunate loss, both for us, and them!
Villa Las Estrellas
Villa Las Estrellas: We ended up here one day when we couldn’t seem to find anywhere but hotels. It’s really difficult while walking along the beach to figure out what is what, so we ended up just going from one place to the next to see if they allow non-guests. When we first asked it actually seemed to take a fair bit of convincing, we promised that we’d be staying the day, having lunch and drinks. It turns out that they actually allow non-guests with a minimum spend, so I’m not sure what the initial fuss was about. That being said, once we got settled into two comfy beach loungers under a palapa (they also had lots of hammocks around) we received great service.
We also returned here in 2017 and absolutely loved it, even more than last year. They were warm and welcoming and very helpful when we walked up. They were also really well priced (just a small minimum spend per person). Service, food and drinks we’re fantastic. Also, a major bonus for this place is that they allow you to use their pool. The water was really rough when we were in Tulum so we appreciated having the option of a pool. We’ll be back!
Coqui Coqui: To be completely honest, we’re not sure what all the hype is about. Yes, it’s a beautiful building, with a lovely perfumery inside but otherwise this was not our favourite. It was actually the first place our hotel recommended we go. When we arrived we were quickly ushered away from the beach loungers and told non-guests can only use the few sofas along the front of the restaurant- not what we were looking for. So we moved along. We did go back on a much quieter day and we’re allowed on the loungers (the hotel must not have been full). We had a couple of overpriced drinks and vowed not to go back again.
La Zebra: This was another of our favourites- only issue was that the beds fill up very quickly and it’s often difficult to find some shade (great for my bronzed husband- not so great for my nearly translucent self)- but there are a lot of different areas so I could escape to a shady chair to read. Food here is really great, good drinks, but service is iffy. They frequently have live bands- which just adds to the really fantastic, beachy vibe.
Again, we found this place really similar to the previous year. Good service and food, really nice beds but still difficult to find some shade. There’s a really great vibe here, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
La Luna *NEW*
La Luna: The first time we visited here we had the best time! It was our first stop after our bad Viento Del Mar experience and we found them very welcoming. The hotel must not have been full at the time as they offered us beds that were reserved for hotel guests only. Service was also very helpful and attentive. However, on a return visit with friends we had the worst (and extremely bizarre) service we’ve possibly ever had. We had to wait for about five minutes before the waiter even noticed us (while he flirted and danced with a guest). Finally he greeted us and found us a spot. We ordered drinks, one of which never arrived even though we reminded him a couple of times (we also noticed the people next to us ask for a menu at least three times and never received it). Finally we gave up and asked for the bill. When we went to pay, we found our server and the manager very aggressive about tipping, despite the horrible service. We likely won’t go back here.
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