When many people think of Tulum, images of Mayan ruins, scantily-clad beaches, and tequila-soaked nightclubs come to mind, and while Cancun’s quieter (and arguably chicer) next-door neighbor certainly merits its pre-conceived reputation, there’s another side to Tulum that makes it a global destination for a wider swath of international traveler. With its family-friendly environs, tranquil ambience, world-class cuisine, and proximity to immersive nature, the Kimpton Aluna Resort Tulum is the ultimate jungle-chic getaway for every kind of passport-equipped explorer, especially U.S. residents looking to dip their toe back into international travel; easily accessible from major U.S. airports, it’s the rare resort that feels far-flung while still being shockingly easy to get to. Photos of the resort alone are likely enough to compel a visit, but if you need another nudge, here are 5 reasons why Kimpton’s new Tulum resort should be at the top of your list for spring break, summer vacation, winter warmth, and beyond.
It’s Easy To Get To
As far as international travel goes, Tulum is a breeze. Heck, the coastal town on the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo is easier to get to than many domestic destinations. Traveling from major international airports like Miami, Orlando, Houston, and Dallas, especially, it’s a scant three-hour (or usually less) direct flight to Cancun International Airport, and even further-out cities like Philadelphia and New York take barely a few hours. In fact, the drive from the airport to the heart of Tulum is likely to take about the same amount of time as most flights.
To reach Kimpton Aluna, it’s about an hour and a half drive along the Caribbean coast. En route, leaving the clamorous traffic of Cancun behind, the environment slowly melts into a calmer, quieter pace, with the hidden gem of a hotel as the pinnacle. While still close to the nightlife and dining epicenter of Tulum’s downtown drag, the hotel is tucked just enough away to provide a sense of serenity and relaxation, in a jungle setting that feels much further away than it actually took to reach.
It’s an Opportunity to Reset and Reconnect
At the risk of sounding too much like a Gwyneth Paltrow-sanctioned GOOP retreat, Kimpton’s Tulum resort is the kind of hushed haven that facilitates relaxation and inner reconnection. This all starts as soon as you set foot in the lush, open-air lobby, an ambient space that feels more like a posh beachside cottage than your typical check-in area. After registering, guests can partake in a welcome ritual that entails writing their woes on a piece of paper — something that’s causing negative thoughts and that they want to leave behind — and placing it in a fragrant wood fire. It seems simple, but it symbolizes the start of a retreat that’s at once healing and rejuvenating, especially at the tail end of a pandemic that’s long rendered international getaways like this unattainable.
That spirited sense of rejuvenation extends throughout the property, from the zen of the rooftop yoga classes at sunrise to the simple calm of drinking fresh juice on a balcony, overlooking a pool surrounded by enough tropical vivid-green flora to make the whole setting look downright Amazonian. It takes mere minutes upon arrival to assure that Kimpton Aluna is a refreshingly far cry from the late-night, neon-lit stereotypes of Tulum as an enclave for insomniac clubbers. Here in this forested hideaway, there’s room for both.
It’s Immersed in Nature
The comfy, lush confines of the hotel make it abundantly clear that Kimpton Aluna holds its connection to nature in high regard. The resort itself — resplendent in tropical trees and wafting in the aroma of copal wood, burning your regrets in the lobby — is an oasis between the beach and the jungle, and providing convenient access to Tulum’s natural splendors is a key tenet for the property.
Though it’s not located on the beach itself, the hotel partners with nearby Maïa Beach Club at the Ikal Hotel, and can easily arrange transportation for guests to get them there (there are also free bikes that guests can use if they’d rather work up a sweat along the way). Swanky and vibrant, bustling with bohemian-chic beachgoers slurping passion fruit margaritas and scarfing crispy fish tacos, this is the kind of sexy fun-in-the-sun vibe that many travelers likely envision when they imagine Tulum’s coastline, and this is one sandy stereotype worth witnessing. Despite the scene-y atmosphere (it’s got the Miami-esque convivial beach club vibe where you half expect to spot celebrities lurking in the crowd or luxuriating on enormous shaded day beds), the beach highlights the convenient location for the far-calmer Kimpton Aluna, and how you don’t need to literally reside on the bustling shoreline to experience it.
Beyond the beach, other famous natural assets for the region include Tulum’s iconic cenotes, lagoons, Mayan ruins, and jungles, all of which are easy excursions from the hotel. Utterly surreal and other-worldly, cenotes are natural cave-side pits formed from collapsed limestone and filled with crystal-clear groundwater, found throughout the Yucatan Peninsula in all shapes and sizes, including some that are exposed to open-air and others that are entirely underground. An easy day trip from Kimpton Aluna, Cenotes Casa Tortuga Tulum is a natural park and heritage reserve that invites visitors to (literally) dive into the history of these alluring subterranean pools. Guided tours take guests underground, through chilly and pristine waterways, to explore both aquatic caves and wide-open surface pools. For the latter, put on a pair of goggles and jump off a ledge for a deeper glimpse at these natural beauties.
Of course, this being Tulum, there’s also a bougie cenote alternative, as seen at the recently opened Buuts’Ha Cenote Club. Located just outside the center of the Cenotes Casa Tortuga Tulum tour, this upscale day club provides a more curated cenote experience, with two levels of hammocks, lounge chairs, and daybeds descending into a sprawling cave, with waterfalls on each side. There’s a full bar and restaurant, with cocktails as beautiful as the backdrop, and impressive snacks like tuna tataki tostadas, avocado hummus, bone marrow tacos with octopus, and marzipan mousse with rompope coulis. The day club is available for reservations, and there’s a VIP Lounge for added intimacy and extravagance.
Beyond the cenotes, another enthralling aspect of the region is its proximity to Mayan history and nature at its most tranquil. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a seashell’s toss from Kimpton Aluna, and best experienced on a guided tour with eco-conscious Mexico Kan Tours. The local Tulum-based company conducts various tours, including one that combines a land-based trek through the jungle and the ancient Mayan site of Muyil, learning about ecology, flora, fauna, and Mayan civilization along the way. Picnic-style lunch is provided — expect hearty, energizing feasts like handmade veggie burgers on whole-grain buns with nutty, granola-clad cookies — before tours conclude in grand finale-style with a boat ride out into shimmering turquoise lagoons. Out here, on the aquatic side of the biosphere reserve, visitors can literally float down an all-natural lazy river, through a forest of mangrove trees. Using life vests to stay afloat in the gentle, free-flowing warm water, it’s the ultimate bucket list experience you never knew existed.
The Food Takes Haute Jungle Cuisine to New Levels
Don’t fill up too much at Buuts’Ha Cenote Club or Maïa Beach Club, because Kimpton Aluna has emerged as a culinary powerhouse befitting Tulum’s status as a burgeoning global dining destination. Under chef Rogelio Dominguez Vargas, the hotel’s distinct dining outlets and experiences are as world-class as you’d expect of a jungle-chic oasis in one of the most coveted foodie destinations on the planet. Light, organic, and locally inspired food is the bill of fare at Parallel 20°, the open-air poolside restaurant on the ground floor, open all day for wholesome breakfast buffets, power lunches, and vacation-worthy dinners where the dishes are as vibrant as the lush surroundings. While much of the menu is sourced locally, and inspired by Tulum traditions, the chef also spotlights dishes from other countries that lie on the same circle of latitude — 20 degrees north of the equator — as Tulum, including China, India, and Thailand. At every turn, a meal here could include anything from a fried lobster salad festooned with vegetables and tropical-green tuiles designed to replicate the colors of an aquarium, to traditional cochinita pibil tacos, made from slow-roasted and shredded pork in an aromatic sauce made from achiote paste and oranges.
Upstairs, Bhanu Sky Kitchen is a rooftop restaurant that allows the chef to flex his muscles even more with a Mexican-Asian fusion philosophy. Up here, where a long central bar and coal-fired open kitchen are flanked by high-top tables and cushioned booths overlooking a 360-degree canopy of trees, that quintessential Tulum energy is as palpable as the fiery sunsets, smoky mezcal margaritas, and bracingly fresh seafood. Starters include hiramasa crudo with watermelon aguachile and Mayan chili, langoustines with plump white corn and kewpie mayonnaise, and slow-cooked short rib tacos with habanero and plantain leaves, while heartier sandwiches and plates include char-grilled lobster rolls with yuzu butter, papaya and lobster ravioli and duck “al pastor.”
Rooms Are Sanctuaries
The ultimate refuge of jungle comfort, rooms at the Kimpton Aluna feel like grown-up, glammed-out treehouses. Perfectly attuned to the resort’s ambience of zen and relaxation, all guest rooms come equipped with balconies, polished wood furnishings, chic white walls, fresh flowers, and vibrant art pieces inspired by Mayan culture. Adding to the luxury of it all: silken robes, in-room yoga mats, and if you’re lucky enough to snag a suite, jacuzzis and fully stocked mini bars. No matter whether your room overlooks the pool in the center of the courtyard, or the bountiful gardens, each and every space feels like a peaceful sanctuary — at surprisingly attainable price points that make the hotel totally doable for solo travelers, couples, and families alike.
In many ways, as seen with its long established U.S. properties, the Kimpton brand has been a pioneer. It’s true with its eco-conscious design, its emphasis on chef-driven dining concepts, its atmosphere of inclusion and diversity, and its mindful immersion into each and every market it touches. Rather than set up shop with a cookie-cutter template with each new location, Kimpton brings thoughtful boutique energy wherever it deems to expand, and this new Tulum bungalow — a peaceful jungle retreat with top-tier food, rooftop views, and access to some of the world’s most breathtaking natural treasures — is yet another example of a hotel that knows how to provide a sense of home wherever you are.
Written by Matt Kirouac
Read more posts by Matt Kirouac