Here's Why Tulum Is So Hip It Hurts—In a Good Way

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If you've got an ounce of style but have never been to Tulum, we're pretty sure it's high on your bucket list. In the past few years the once quiet boho town in Mexico's Riviera Maya has become the hottest beach destination for the beautiful people, yet somehow hasn't lost its soul along the way. 

For now at least big developers have been discouraged, and while there's plenty of cash floating around, its character has evolved rather than changed irreversibly. 

All of which makes it the perfect subject for journalist-adventurer Julia Chaplin, famous for her Gypset series of books for Assouline including Gypset Style, Gypset Travel, and Gypset Living — and now Tulum Gypset, due out in August. "Fusing the carefree lifestyle of a gypsy with the sophistication of the jet-set, Gypsetters are artists, surfers, designers, and bons vivants who live and work around the world," as Chaplin puts it, and Tulum is their current Mecca of choice. 

"A hub for barefoot bohemians and glamorous goddesses, Tulum is a Mayan hideaway that perfectly distills the Gypset lifestyle," Chaplin writes. "An off-grid escape for nomadic creatives, it is a playground for spirituality and community. This tiny, idyllic eight-mile strip of sand on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula tucked between tropical jungle, Mayan ruins, and the Sian Ka’an biosphere [is an] isolated and breathtakingly beautiful environment."

The "boho-chic crowd’s home away from home," Tulum is a "rare and successful modern experiment in both consciousness and sophistication, bolstered by its down-to-earth hotels, mesmerizing cenotes [natural swimming holes prized by the ancient Mayans], and lush backdrop."

Not to mention great nightlife. "Social mores have been turned upside down," Chaplin notes, "comfortably rearranged with bare feet and a smile, and plumped up for boho consumption. It brings to mind the early days of Bali and Goa, the days before mass tourism diluted the utopian dream." 

“We go to Tulum to create,” as Pablo Gonzales Vargas, the founder of Mayan Warrior, the wildly popular Mexico City-based deejay/art collective that performs frequently at Burning Man and in Tulum, tells Chaplin. “We’re trying to build a better world: one with creativity, spirituality, and consciousness." But they're doing it from a bus tricked out with a 7,000 watt sound system, topped by a giant illuminated God’s eye and headed up by a Mayan deity lit up in neon.

Chaplin also addresses the changes taking place. "I first heard about Tulum in the early 2000s," she notes. "Before that, it was fishermen, locals, and a few backpackers renting out hammocks in thatched huts. Then the yogically-inclined fashion crowd started to trickle in."

First famed photographer Mario Testino bought a house and began doing photoshoots there, then "New York transplant Melissa Perlman co-founded the hotel Amansala with its trending Bikini Bootcamp, and the beautiful and talented young couple Nicolas Malleville and Francesca Bonato (he’s a model for Gucci, Burberry, etc., and she’s an Italian designer) opened Coqui Coqui, an exquisite seven-room guest house on the beach whose guests included Jade Jagger, Sienna Miller, and Kate Bosworth."

Due to various complications over land ownership however, some properties have been seized and things remain in a general state of flux, which, for now at least, is helping to preserve the boho vibe. The rich young things in thong bikinis may eventually get bored and move on though, so don't wait another second to book your trip there – or to pre-order your copy of this beautiful book.