Move over, Playa del Carmen: Tulum has been gaining ground as the hippest destination in the Yucatan. According the 2006 Guinness World Book of Records, Playa del Carmen was the fastest growing city in the world. By 2012, Investment Properties Mexico announced that Tulum’s growth rate had surpassed Playa’s.
A stroll down Tulum’s pristine beach will leave no doubt as to why. With yoga classes and nutritional elixirs offered at every turn, this stretch of the Riviera Maya seems divinely inspired for laid-back couples, lovers of holistic wellness, and jungle adventurers.
But there’s trouble brewing in the yoga capital of the Yucatan. Tulum’s explosive growth has put an immense strain on the town’s existing infrastructure, causing issues with sewage, trash disposal, and even wildlife conservation. Properties along the beach road are all off-grid, and as a result, will often cut corners with gas-powered generators or improperly disposing of sewage.
While the government creates plans for long-term solutions, several of Tulum’s hotels have already stepped up their efforts to preserve paradise. Choosing to stay at any one of them during your next visit not only helps promote sustainability as a viable business plan in the region, but around the world.
It’s important to note that many businesses will brand themselves as an “eco-resort” in order to make themselves appear more attractive to travelers, when in reality they take few — if any — measures towards meaningful sustainability. Whether you’re visiting Tulum, somewhere else in the Yucatan, or another country altogether, check the hotel’s website for a mission statement or action plan that outlines their commitment to sustainability before making a ﬁnal decision on who to book with.
To help get you started, we’ve rounded up some of the hottest hotels in Tulum that take their environmental and social responsibilities to the next level.
Papaya Playa Project
Papaya Playa Project offers a wide range of rooms in a secluded area of jungle along the beach. The property seems charged with creative energy, so it should come as no surprise that they seem to be paving the way for sustainable innovation in the region. Papaya Playa deﬁnitely wins the award for most ambition. In July 2015, they announced their goal to become a ”zero emissions and zero contamination community by June 2018”.
This gorgeous beachfront collection of cabanas serves not only as a peaceful getaway, but as a hotspot for arts and holistic wellness. Whether you’re looking for ecoworkshops or sound healing, chances are, Alaya offers it. The hotel also goes the extra mile with their sustainability efforts; Alaya adopted the UN’s 17 sustainable development areas and made it their mission to address each one of them.
Voted one of the best eco-friendly and sustainable properties in 2016 by Spaﬁnder Wellness 365, Azulik isn’t just a sanctuary for hopeless romantics, but for wildlife as well. Part of their concept is that the premises is only lit by candlelight. Not only does this minimize generator use and create a charming ambiance, but the absence of artiﬁcial light maintains natural conditions for sea turtles during the breeding season. As a result, the beach in front of Azulik has one of the most popular turtle nesting areas in the area. For the best chance of seeing the turtles, consider booking at Azulik between June and October.
Nueva Vida de Ramiro
With only 33 rooms scattered across 7.5 hectares, Nueva Vida de Ramiro offers both beachfront access and jungle-shrouded privacy. They avoid using gas-powered generators by relying on a comprehensive system of alternative energy. Solar panels and wind generators supply the property with power 24 hours a day. In addition, they have action plans in place to prevent sewage contamination of Tulum’s underwater river system.
If you’re interested in a hotel that values social responsibility as well as environmental conservation, Sanara delivers. They are involved in multiple endeavors centered around community development, from education to micro-ﬁnance of local projects. On the environmental side of things, Sanara supplements their generator use with solar power. Water conservation is managed with rainwater collection, greywater recycling, and a microbe-based septic system. Their distinctively serene architecture style is as functional as it is beautiful; the raised structures reduce damage to beach and allow space for sea turtles to nest.
Prana Boutique Hotel
Uninterested in exploiting the term “eco-friendly“ for marketing purposes, Prana Boutique Hotel kept their sustainability efforts a private affair until recently. One aspect that sets them apart from the rest is their commitment to recycling. With no dedicated recycling center nearby, glass bottles are usually bound for the landﬁll. At Prana, glass bottles see new life as building materials in walls or gardens, and what doesn’t get reused is shipped to the closest recycling center.
With only ten unique rooms across seven buildings, Posada Lamar offers an extraordinary amount of intimacy at its beachfront property. Each cabana is built with a mix of recycled or locally sourced organic materials, and all the electricity is supplied by solar panels and wind generators. Management and softening of artiﬁcial lights preserves the stretch of beach in front of Posada Lamar so that the breeding cycles of sea turtles and other native animals are not disrupted.
While the benchmarks for true sustainability continue to rise, these forward-thinking hotels are building momentum not just in Tulum, but across the industry. As more travelers prioritize bookings with hotels that are committed to sustainable development, other businesses are sure to jump on the bandwagon — and that’s hardly a bad bandwagon to be on.
Green thumbs should look no further than Harmony Glamping. Although located in the town of Tulum, Harmony Glamping shares a peaceful space with the Green Beat Organic Permaculture Farm. All permanent structures are built with bio climatic principles in order to naturally cool the buildings, and much of the furniture is made using recycled materials. If you’re interested in learning more about the on-site permaculture gardens, guided tours are available and workshops are held every other weekend.