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  • Writer's pictureDawn Neufeld

Tulum - Check!

If you're like me, you've got bucket list travel ideas saved on Pinterest. Bali. Maybe the Maldives. On Insta, you follow resorts seemingly frequented by only bikini-clad social media influencers (seriously, WTF?) on yoga retreats. The ocean waters are always crystal clear and the cocktails always seem to be on point. They are the places you think about when wanderlust is taking over. At the top of my list was Tulum. And when I had the opportunity to take one of my solo trips, I booked a flight and a retreat package without hesitation.

Tulum is a boho-chic town. It's about an hour-and-a-half, air-conditioned ride to Tulum from the Cancun airport (the flight was quick as well - just a little over two hours from Dallas). I've followed Amansala's Insta feed for a while and was drawn to it's gorgeous beachfront location. They offer inclusive retreats too, so I signed up for the Beach n' Bliss package. I figured a little yoga, some sightseeing, and a lot of chill sounded perfect. I could've signed up for the more rigorous and intense "Bikini Bootcamp" retreat, but I probably would've died and that wouldn't have been a lot of fun.

When I arrived at the eco-chic resort, I was greeted near the front desk by one of Amansala's resident yellow labs. I have to be honest with you - I chose Amansala because they have puppy dogs on the property. And I love puppy dogs. This dog was sprawled out on the floor and I quickly figured out why - Tulum is stupid hot. And the humidity - lawd. I spent the rest of the week picking outfits based on what would show the least sweat. I figured it wouldn't matter much - I'd be in a swimsuit in the ocean chillin' anyway. Who needs clothes?

Unfortunately, I think my expectations may have been a little too high for this laid back resort. Let me share some of what I experienced - maybe it will help you if you decide to head to Tulum...

One of the first things I noticed about Tulum was the smell - it was rank and hard to avoid. As I was being shown to my room I saw why - Sargassum. I didn't know what it was but soon found out - it's a seaweed that dies as soon as it hits the shore. There's so much of it that it just piles onto the beach. So for my entire trip, the ocean was brown and I couldn't escape that smell. There was no getting in the water, and that was heartbreaking. I hear Sargassum is predictable so you can plan travel around it. I had no idea it was even a thing. Now I'll never forget it. The resort did it's best to clear the beach of it every morning but by the end of the day, it pretty much looked like this.

I learned pretty quickly that everything in Tulum was laid back and at Amansala, I'd have to go with the flow. I received very few instructions about the Beach n' Bliss package. I didn't know when and where I was supposed to eat, with whom, etc. There were no orientations or anything... I just had to figure things out and it was pretty intimidating. Two or three days went by before I actually realized there were other bikini bootcampers there - the other bootcampers invited me to their table after they realized I was with the retreat. Only after someone else in the group complained did the service/attentiveness get any better. This wasn't necessarily a staff issue - the staff at Amansala is incredible. Everyone was so nice and most needs were immediately met. There just didn't seem like there was a lot of information or coordination happening, and it really did affect my experience there. But the food was super tasty and so fresh - the mango was my jam.

If you don't like yoga, don't sign up for a yoga retreat. Duh. I figured that out the second day I was there. I woke up that morning looking forward to the sunrise mediation on the pool deck (I could see the deck from my room - no one was meditating). While the bikini chicks were getting their morning sweat in, I decided to take a long walk down the smelly beach. When I got back, I made my way up a windy staircase to the yoga room where about ten other people had already set up their mats and I ended up right in the front of the class. The instructor was pretty hardcore - and there were times I just had to stop. While everyone else was in their downward dogs, I was trying to convince myself not to fall into child's pose and cry. I gave up that morning - I'll admit it. That was my first and last yoga class for the rest of the week.

But let me tell you about the great things that happened on my trip...

My room at Amansala was really wonderful. The view - (minus the brown seaweed) just perfect. I made sure I was up every morning by 6:15 so I could watch the sun rise. I was surprised that no one really locked their rooms during the day - my security and safety were never a concern.The resort was quiet overall (until a group of young men checked in for the night and blasted music from their bluetooth speaker), there weren't a bunch of kids running around, and it was super relaxing.

The cenote. Oh my God. The cenote. One of the activities offered by Amansala is a twenty-minute bike ride to a private cenote. A big group of us hopped on (slightly raggedy but definitely boho-ish) bikes and made our way down the road in single file (to avoid getting run over). We made our way to a locked gate without really knowing what was waiting for us. After we secured our bikes we walked across a beautiful mangrove to the cenote, which was like a lake. The water was crystal clear and cool. After the long, smelly bike ride it became my refuge and was totally worth risking my life. The cenote treks were my jam.

Another fun outing was to the ruins of Tulum. We had a tour guide who shared a lot about the history of the ruins and the Mayan culture. I love stuff like that. Seeing the ruins was definitely a highlight of the trip. Dancing in the rain when the skies opened up on that hot and humid day - priceless.

And on my last morning at the resort, the beach cleared a bit and I was able to put my feet in the cool water as the sun came up over the horizon. I'll remember that moment forever.

Overall, I loved Tulum. A highlight was my last evening there with some of the incredible women I met at Amansala - we spent it enjoying cocktails from the treetops and eating at a five-star restaurant that gave women a glass of champagne when they emerged from the restroom (sorry guys). I think on my next trip down there I'll be sure to plan around any potential seaweed beach takeovers. And I'm not sure I'd stay at Amansala again (there's a pretty fabulous hotel I want to check out next time - Casa Malca. It's one of Pable Escobar's old homes). While the resort was beautiful, I definitely felt the lack of attention to the bootcampers, and that tarnished the experience a bit. I think a first day orientation with a little extra guidance would've really helped out my experience. If I do return to Amansala, it won't be with any sort of packaged plan - I'd show up without expectation and ready for some serious chill.

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