(Tips) I always keep myself up the night before I travel so I can knock out on the plane and combat any jet lag (as evidenced by my tired eyes in the photo, below). A window seat is the way to go so you can lean against it while you sleep, and I've found that the last few rows of the plane can have some empty seats, if you're lucky. (I swear, it's like the airplane gods are speaking directly to you when there's a whole row open so you can lay down.) I also wear an oversized sweater that can double as a blanket for when it gets chilly in-flight.
We took a red-eye flight and landed early the next morning in Cancun. We booked round-trip transportation to and from the airport via our hotel, Papaya Playa Project, simply because I figured it'd be the easiest option. I usually try to aim for the most economical option, but traveling is tiring, especially after a connecting flight. For a 90 minute drive to Tulum, my goal was a hassle-free and safe drive directly to our destination.
(Tip) Book transportation one-way to your hotel if you want to do the hassle-free thing, and find a friendly taxi driver with the best rate to take you back to the airport. If you don't rent a car, you'll likely take several taxi rides to and from town and surrounding villages, and will get a grasp on rates in pesos. You'll know what a good negotiated rate is and who to ask. (It would have saved us about $50-75.00 this way.) Also of note: we exchanged some currency prior to traveling and found a better rate than what was listed at the airport (and pesos will allow you better negotiated rates than dollars).
Our bungalow, the most charming bungalow that I ever did see.
This view! I meeeeean...
The lobby of Papaya, which can't get much cuter. (Eco-chic, as they'd describe it in Tulum!)
After settling in, we headed straight for the beach in front of our hotel. The beach cabanas had my name written all over 'em, each and every one. We plopped down and immediately ordered food and drinks. And by food, I mean a massive Mexican feast, which we managed to somehow eat in entirety. (And then Christian fell asleep, so I naturally used the opportunity to take a bunch of selfies.)
(Tip) Downtime is necessary on your first day, especially for a shorter trip. Trying to squeeze too many agenda items into an already-tight schedule will only wind up exhausting you; relaxation - even for a hour or two - is a must.
Since we had planned on Saturday being our chill-out day, we thought it was best to schedule a nice dinner for that same evening. Christian had a connection for one of the most popular restaurants in Tulum, Gitano, and we scored reservations ahead of time. The food was fantastic, a healthy spin on traditional dishes (more on what to eat/do later) - and so was the tequila. I'm not a tequila drinker, but right before we left, we were brought Mezcal shots on the house. When in Mexico....
(Tips) Ask for Amanda and tell her we recommended Gitano! She also gave us great advice on what to do during our short stay, and scratched some things off our original list that she mentioned were either too touristy or too family oriented. Also, make sure to buy bug spray, and apply extra at night! (Seriously.)
Tulum's beach zone, as a whole, looks just like this. It's absolutely beautiful.