The One That Got Away: Casa Tangamanga, Tulum


I will never deny that we are very fortunate, privileged people. First and foremost, by saving and careful economizing in other areas we usually manage to take four real vacations a year. But above and beyond that, we were incredibly fortunate to make it to Tulum when it was still fairly cheap.

In the world of tourism on the “Riviera Maya,” for a long time Tulum was the place for hippies, backpackers and assorted weirdos. Spring breakers went to Cancun, partiers went there or to Playa del Carmen. The vast proliferation of all-inclusive resorts along the coast gave people who prefer buffets and swim-up bars an excuse to stay at their resort and leave only by tour bus.*

In Tulum, the hotels were (and still are) collections of beach cabanas off the electric grid and not necessarily bursting with creature comforts. For a long time many of them had sand floors, which is cool but means that your bed will turn into a massive exfoliating device after a few days.

But the beach…oh, that beach. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, lined with palm trees, fluorescent turquoise, and stretching for miles. The whitest, finest sand I’ve ever felt. Literally like powdered sugar. It’s impossible to get rid of it, just like powdered sugar. My Kindle cover had Tulum sand in it until the day the Kindle died.

We went during the financial crisis and stayed in a gorgeous little cabana with a view of the ocean. The bathrooms were shared, but they used conch shells as showerheads. It was ridiculously romantic and it cost around $450 for the week. Now, even one way back near the road will run you about $160 a night. Tulum has turned into a place where you’re more likely to run into a movie star than a naked hippie doing his salute to the sun when you head out for a cup of coffee in the morning.

When this property started up I got really excited. Small, personal, shared outdoor kitchen, and it would hold a bunch of people. At the time, even in high season, you could rent the entire place and sleep up to 12 for around $275 a night. Now it’s around $500 a night for three rooms.

So, goodbye to Tulum. I’m glad we met you when you were still cool. I still love that coast of Mexico but we’re going to have to head farther south.

* We’ve been to all-inclusive resorts twice for a grand total of six nights. And while I can totally murder a decent buffet and make it economically unfeasible for the hotel ownership, it always really got to me that people bring enormous, quart-size insulated mugs to resorts so they can fill them with booze and not have to move for an extra 20 minutes as they lounge around getting absolutely drunk. C’mon now. At least get up once in a while to get another drink.



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