For a travel writer, 15 months is a long time to go without international travel. I've taken a handful of road trips during the pandemic, but haven’t left the country since January 2020. For some context, my husband (a front-line healthcare worker) was vaccinated in January, and I had my second vaccination in late March. So what's it like to travel to Tulum during a pandemic? Here, I break down my first trip.
Flying to Tulum During the Pandemic
We took a non-stop American Airlines flight from New York's JFK Airport to Cancun. The flight took off at 10 a.m. and pre-departure, the airport felt fairly deserted. Airport employees were constantly cleaning tables, chairs, and basically anything that was or could be touched. On the contrary, the flight was full and the airline filled the middle seats. Of the entire trip, this was by far the most crowded place we encountered. We flew coach on the way out and while service was suspended, drink and snack bags were handed out. It seemed that everyone complied with wearing their mask the duration of the flight. On our return flight, we upgraded to business class and appreciated the extra space and lack of an occupied middle seat. Here, drinks and a snack were served. Tip: Download the VeriFLY app prior to your return flight. You'll enter your travel information as well as the negative COVID test results required for re-entering the U.S.
Where to Stay in Tulum During the Pandemic
We chose to stay in an Airbnb property in the La Veleta area of Tulum. While we have stayed at a hotel during the pandemic (for my husband’s job), this felt like the safest way to dip our toes into international travel. The apartment was big, affordable, and off the beaten path. It had a small private rooftop pool that we had to ourselves and a kitchen to cook meals if we chose.
How to Get Around Tulum During the Pandemic
We rented bikes for the duration of the trip, which turned out to be a solid move. The beach cruisers were about $7 per day and had a basket to tote towels and (mostly) tacos. La Veleta is situated a bit out of the way, so we were able to easily bike to restaurants or the beach. Biking is a really popular way to get around Tulum, and there are bike racks just about everywhere you could want to go. On days that we wanted to travel farther, we rented a scooter ($25 per day), which is not only convenient but super fun.
Where to Eat and Drink in Tulum
Over the course of two weeks we ate every single meal outside. From simple taco stands to cocktails on the beach to more high-end dinners, it was easy to enjoy pretty much all that Tulum had to offer in a breezy open-air environment. It appeared as if outdoor restaurants were operating at normal capacity, with staff masked at all times. In the town of Tulum, our favorite restaurants were: Humo, El Camello Jr., Antojitos La Chipaneca, La pebeta, Taqueria Honorio, Don Cafeta, Safari, Burrito Amor, Raw Love, and La Pizzine. In Tulum Beach, we enjoyed Posada Margarita, Kanan Beach Club for lunch, Bagatelle Beach Club, Hartwood, Mezzanine, and cocktails at Gitano and Casa Jaguar.
Do I Have to Take a COVID Test Before Entering the U.S. from Cancun?
Yes, you do have to take a COVID-19 test before entering back into the country, even if you are fully vaccinated and have a vaccination card. The good news is that it’s easy once you get into Tulum, as there are trailers with COVID testing all over the place. We chose one downtown and paid $30 for the antigen test (either test is acceptable, but the antigen is a bit more expensive). Make sure that you have your passport information when testing, which can even be a photo of your passport; you’ll need this before taking the test. Once we provided our information, we got the swab and our results were emailed (be sure to clearly print your email) to us in about five hours. Note: This test must be taken up to three days prior to your departure flight.
The bottom line: We had a fantastic trip and felt completely safe traveling to Tulum.