Tulum North Beach – Mezzanine and Mi Amor of the Colibri Hotel Group
The word Tulum conjurs up images of secluded beaches, sleepy village, magical sunsets and delicious Yucatan food. A few years ago it was a remote destination that attracted mega stars of the entertainment and fashion industries seeking anonymity in less accessible destinations. Although busier than it used to be, Tulum still maintains its beauty and the beach is unparalleled.
Tulum preserves it’s unique character because it is “off the grid”, so to speak. Hotels must generate their own electricity with solar power or generators and truck in potable water, among other challenges. This alone prevents the large all inclusive resorts from taking over this area and blocking access to the beach, which is the case all the way between Cancun and Tulum. Tulum is where the “eco chic hotel” was born and I am happy to stay still thrives.
The long beach of Tulum is interrupted by a rocky ridge, separating the north and south sandy sections. The north beach is a smaller, 2 km stretch of white sand ending at the edge of the Tulum Mayan ruins. A few years ago it was nearly empty with only one or two small beach bars where you could get a drink and just caught seafood and lounge for a few hours under a makeshift umbrella. Now the beach is lined with beach clubs and packed with day visitors, at least in high season. Fishing, snorkeling and diving boats are there to take you to the nearby reef to explore the underwater scene. Does it detract from the charm? Perhaps to some, but still, this is the local scene and I love this beach, the shallow azure sea and white sand under the blue Tulum sky. Off high season it goes back to a quiet place with no crowds and a secluded feel.
We have been coming here for years, when the road from Cancun to Tulum was barely a gravel road and full of pot holes at that. I know the area well and have developed what I call my “Tulum rituals” that allow me to enjoy the area “my way” regardless of how things changed over the years.
My north beach “ritual” involves two very specific hotels. For those in the know it’s hard to think of Tulum without immediately thinking of the Collibri Boutique Hotels. The four Tulum hotels owned and operated by this group are among my favourite on both the north and south sides of the beach.
I can’t be mistaken in my assessment because recently the world class Noma chef Rene Redzepi teamed up with this hotel group’s La Zebra Hotel to stage a 7 week Noma Tulum pop up dinner under the jungle canopy to the tune of $600 pp ($750 with tax and gratuities). The dinner consisted of a 15 course tasting menu of food created with local ingredients by the Noma staff who was transported here from frigid (in winter) Copenhagen. Redzepi sourced familiar and obscure ingredients from throughout the Yucatan and commissioned plates, bowls, glassware and serving dishes from Mexican artisans in neighbouring Mexican provinces. I had an opportunity to attend this dinner (aka buy a rarely available ticket) but was travelling elsewhere and had to let it go. Cannot be everywhere at once.
The four Colibri hotels are each unique and different than the others but all fit under their “bare foot chic” philosophy. Recently I visited all four hotel in the Calibri group and wanted to tell you about them, going north (in this post) to south (in next post).
It so happens that my two personal favourites are located on the north shore. For me the best way to experience Tulum North beach for both food and setting is with a a stay or a stop at the now famous Mezzanine Hotel. If I am here for the day I start with coffee or breakfast at the Mezzanine, walk the beach and come back for lunch lingering on the patio hypnotized by the scene. A stay at the Mezzanine is even better. The Mezzanine is a nine room property perched over the rocks with a set of stone steps leading down to the sand.Recent renovations created a long terrace shaded by trees and a white canopy, overlooking a sweeping stretch of white sand and unparalleled Caribbean sea. Bring your camera, the view is spectacular. It is my favourite spot for casual chic where you can sit on the patio bare feet in your bathing suit (cover up for me) for delicious, unique food and great drinks.
The Mezzanine has a Thai Chef Consultant, Dim Geefay who developed a menu executed by resident Chef Garn Surasak. Dim is a Thai cooking teacher and television personality who grew up in Bangkok. She created is a menu that is a sophisticated blend of Thai dishes made with local ingredients and presented artfully on beautiful tableware. I often try to get them to sell me the beautiful dishes or tell me where they sourced them. Breakfast is always delicious whether you opt for their huevos rancheros on crisp tortillas, the stuffed brioche, French toast or one of the other dishes or smoothies. Lunch is a treat and the menu offers appetizers such as money bags or spring rolls, beautiful salads, curries, whole fried Thai style fish with tamarind and piloncilo sauce and other delicacies. You can’t go wrong at the “Mez” as locals affectionately call this hotel. Two for one drinks are served between 1-4 (has to be the same drink, twice). Mezzanine features the same menu through lunch and dinner.
Although this is a small hotel it serves more beach goers than the number of guests staying at the hotel. If you do stay there, you can find seclusion in areas reserved for hotel guests only, lay in a hammock or find a quiet spot and listen to the sea.
For a more elegant, contemporary chic you may want to stay at or visit Hotel Mi Amor. This spectacular adult only hotel is set over a rocky ridge with the waves bouncing against it just below the ultra modern glass structure of the main house. I have written about this hotel before here, when it just opened a couple of years ago. It is still one of my favourite hotels in Tulum. This intimate but spacious luxury hotel has 17 rooms in adjacent buildings with two floors, each with a balcony or a private plunge pool and a variety of views to choose from, from sea to forest to garden. The rooms are modern and spacious in a pared down luxury style and quality toiletries. The infinity pool beside the lobby/dining room faces the beach and the sunning terraces cascade down from the dining room doors to below along the garden and rocks. A spa on the premises may tempt you with a couples massage or other signature treatments. Remember, no kids on the premises.
What attracts me the most however is the food. A sophisticated French-Italian menu created by Chef Paul Bently . Chef Bently (from Australia) has been at Mi Amor since 2006 and developed a unique menu of local ingredients and Yucatan flavours that is sophisticate and simply superb, whether you are there for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If your budget extends, stay here and enjoy what Tulum has to offer from your luxurious accommodation. If you are not staying here be sure to stop by to experience the cuisine and ambiance of this beautiful property, before or after a beach walk on Tulum’s beach. The hotel personnel are friendly and welcoming.
The four Colibri hotels (Mezzanine, Mi Amor, El Pez and La Zebra) hold music nights open to non-guests and offer 20% discount to Colibri card holders you can get at the hotels. A resident DJ mixes music live at the Mezzanine during happy hour.Mi Amor has live jazz on Wednesdays and Saturday evenings over dinner. On the south beach you can listen to classic iconic songs performed by Jenny Williams and band on Friday and Saturday evenings and at Zebra you can join a popular salsa party on Sunday nights.