scenes from my vacation | a birthday trip to tulum, mexico

hotel nueva vida de ramiro tulum

Because I’m a “turkey baby,” every birthday I’ve had for the past 29 years has been spent at home, pre- or post-Thanksgiving, in the unpredictable cold weather of the South.

Not this year.

For my 30th birthday, which fell on Black Friday, my boyfriend and I jetted off to Tulum, Mexico, where I basked like a cat in the 80+ degree sun.

For five nights, we shunned television, computers, hair dryers and heavy makeup (OK, the last two are more directed at me) to truly take in the eco-destination that is Tulum.

hotel nueva vida de ramiro tulum

Our hotel, Nueva Vida de Ramiro, could not have been a more perfect spot for getting closer to nature.

Built into the natural landscape, NVDR is a quiet, eco-fabulous hotel that boasts beautiful sea views and big sea breezes for those staying in the beachfront suites.

It’s powered by solar and wind, and the bungalows are perched up on stilts to guarantee these breezes and views regardless of whether you’re on a top or bottom floor.

We stayed in #27, Ternura, in what the property deemed the “Zona Corazon.” You’ll see below that there are other romantic names for the other suites in the heart zone.

hotel nueva vida de ramiro suites

So, back to those views. This is what we saw from our room every day:

view from hotel nueva vida de ramiro suite

Being this close to the beach (seriously, maybe 20 steps) meant we got all the breezes we needed for a comfortable night’s rest.

This suite doesn’t have air conditioning — and it’s not necessary at all. Between the breezes and two in-room fans, my typically hot, sweaty body was just fine (and even kind of chilly a few nights!).

happy birthday kimberlyloc

Once we were settled in after a long day of travel, we walked across the street to the hoppin’ Casa Banana, an Argentinian-style restaurant with killer drinks and delicious beef.

Sam and I each ordered steak skewers, and indulged in passionfruit margaritas and beers for my birthday dinner. We closed the meal with chocolate torte, which helped me come to terms with turning 30.

For our first full day in Tulum, we opted for a beach day after our courtesy breakfast at Casa Banana.

To be able to roll out of bed, apply sunscreen (I brought Acure for my body, TATCHA for my face and Elemental Herbs for my lips) and take a few steps to get to the sea felt unreal. When you live in the middle of the country, you soak in every bit of this experience as you can!

Plus, when the beach looks like this … yeah.

tulum beach in the morning

And when you look up from the beach to admire your eco-hotel and it looks like this … double yeah.

view of hotel nueva vida de ramiro from tulum beach

My sea-loving self spent as much time in the water as possible. There’s just something about saltwater that makes my hair and skin feel so revitalized.

At times, I found myself scooping up the light sand and scrubbing it on my arms and legs.

Natural exfoliation for the win!


Once it was time for a late lunch, we wandered down the beach to a spot where we remembered a happy hour sign: The Real Coconut at Sanara Hotel.

Sam and I shared fish tacos, and they were so damn good that we went back to this spot for lunch once more during our stay.

The tacos are made with the catch of the day; this particular catch is grouper, and true to the restaurant’s name, the taco shells and chips are made from coconut.

fish tacos at the real coconut sanara hotel tulum

After lunch, we explored the Tulum Beach Road to check out the many restaurants, shops and spas.

We passed Mayan Clay Spa, which I so desperately wanted to experience but ran out of time, as well as dinner spots La Famiglia and Simple, which was recommended to us by Sam’s sister.

After the stroll, some rest and relaxing showers, we ventured over to Simple to enjoy fish, tacos and margaritas. I tried the taco trio that included shrimp, octopus and steak tacos. They didn’t compare at all to Sam’s fresh fish order seasoned with a flavorful dry rub, but that’s why you share!

simple restaurant tulum

Over-indulging at Simple led to a bit of a stomachache the next day, but we toughed it out and rented bikes to make the 5-mile trip to the Tulum Ruins.

We pedaled down the busy beach road, sharing it with walkers and trucks, on beat-up cruiser bikes that had probably been around since the Mayans were walking this town.

Nonetheless, it was a fun, carefree ride, and gave us the chance to take in the views of the entire beach road and sea. Everything is better by bike!

When we got to the ruins, it was extremely hot and sunny. This didn’t help my queasiness, but we (slowly) made it around the ancient temples and enjoyed the fantastic sea views. This is my favorite view:

tulum ruins

Once we finished at the ruins, we biked back and attempted to buy some beer for the beach. Wrong. No alcohol sales past 2 p.m. on Sundays made Sam and Kim very sad tourists.

So instead, we went back to the beach to rest and drink water (probably a better idea anyway) before getting all dolled up for dinner.

This was the one night where I decided to wear makeup beyond lip gloss, just because.

(After prepping my face with travel-sized Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator and travel-sized Mun Skincare No. 0 Argan Oil — what tiny treasures! And of course, I had tiny sample sizes of my limited edition body oil to smell good and stay soft.)

Here’s what I used:

I got a bit glammed up because I wanted to wear my funky, bejeweled, purchased-for-this-trip Mexican Doll dress and look the part.

No pictures to prove it, though. Doh!

Once we made it to La Famiglia, which had been open just a few months, we found ourselves awaiting the most mouthwatering Italian food (yes, you read that right).

The Italian owners set up shop in Tulum to bring a taste of their homeland to the resort town. Think comforting gnocchi, lasagna, ravioli, pizza and more.

Sam and I ate here twice during our trip — it was just that good, and because it was new and relatively under the radar, there were no obnoxious waits.

la famiglia tulum

For our next-to-last day in Tulum, we had another casual beach day to frolic and play, and enjoy the incredible location we had at our fingertips.

We enjoyed dinner and drinks at La Zebra, the hotel next door, and stargazed a bit after dinner. I kind of forgot what a cluster of stars in the night sky looked like!

For our final full day in Mexico, we had a driver take us to Coba, another Mayan archaeological site, about 40 minutes away from Tulum. Our driver waited for us while we explored the site for a few hours.

temple at coba ruins

When we thought we had made it through all the ruins at Coba, a pedicab stopped us to ask if we saw the giant pyramid. I puzzled through my pictures to show him what we saw and he said no, no — let me take you there.

So we hopped a pedicab for something like 70 pesos ($4) to find this magnificent structure awaiting us:

temple at coba ruins

That’s Nohoch Mul, the largest temple at Coba towering 138 feet.

Tourists can climb the 120 steps to the top to take in all the views, but this chicken in falling-apart-sandals only made it about 65 steps before saying “this is enough and I’m terrified.”

Meanwhile, said chicken’s boyfriend decided that halfway up a bazillion-year-old temple was the perfect place to reapply sunscreen and take some pictures.


Coming back down to my speed, after our adventures at Coba, our driver took us to the nearby Cenote Choo-Ha to relax and swim. A cenote is a natural sinkhole created where a cave ceiling has collapsed. Cenotes were the only source of fresh water for the Mayans and are considered sacred.

So, naturally, now locals charge 50 pesos to come see and swim in the cenotes!

choo ha cenote tulum

After taking a dip in the cenote, we headed back to the hotel for another late lunch and some final beach time. Sunset walks on the beach are my thing, especially with this guy:

walk on tulum beach at sunset

Once it was time to pack our bags and bid Tulum a warm goodbye, I caught this beautiful sunrise around 7:30. Man, do I miss this:

sunrise over tulum beach

I’m already dreaming and scheming about ways to get back to Tulum in 2016. This place is extremely special and oh-so-relaxing. I hope it never loses its boho charm!

Have you been to Tulum? Where are you traveling in 2016? What beauty products do you take on tropical vacations? Tell me in the comments section! may include affiliate links to featured products. Not all product links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from an affiliate link, earns a small commission.

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