If you like to spend your time on beaches watching sweaty, leathery narcissists pursuing a selfie stick down the beach as if it were the Pied Piper, then head to Boca Paila in Tulum! You will be in heaven. It’s also a great spot for being told by 16 year old models/Maitre D’s imported from Manhattan that you’ll need to come back in several hours/NEVER, despite the fact that most of the tables are empty and it’s only 6.30pm. My ego was left in tatters after a night traipsing fruitlessly around Boca Paila’s gastro hotspots; I still feel a little gun shy approaching a humble Franco Manca.
I was under the impression Tulum was a chilled, off the beaten track place to go. It isn’t. Sadly, the track is so well trodden by £500 Louboutin espadrilles and Hermes sandals that all that remains of the jungle are the facades of self-regarding restaurants like Jaguar, Hartwood and Le Funky Banana or something. Actually, the Banana place was really quite nice, you should go there if you’re in town, as is Hemingway’s.
Away from the relentless show-offery that takes place on the beach, there are some joy-inducing boutiques to be found on Boca Paila. One of my favourites was the tiny shop at Posada Margherita called Lol Tulum, run by LA native Daria Hines (@dariatulum). I found some of the prettiest bikinis I’ve ever seen by the likes of Boys & Arrows, Lili Bon Swimwear, Cali Dreaming, and possibly the most gorgeous of all, Made by Dawn. You can also find beach boutique classics like Ancient Greek Sandals, and some truly stunning dresses by Yvonne S.
A more affordable discovery was a beautiful shop called La Tiendita, situated modestly without signage about 7.5km down Boca Paila. The talented girls who run it – Francesca Durante and Noelia Pretini – have a brilliant eye coupled with first rate visual merchandising skills, the kind that get me spending every time. Pretty arrangements of complimentary muted, earthy blues, greens, greys and taupes sent me into a bit of a frenzy, squawking excitedly, ‘we need this, we need this!’.
My companion gently reminded me that we didn’t need anything at all, so I compromised and settled on a beautiful handmade Mexican throw (originally bought under the pretence of being a gift for someone else… that old chestnut), a pretty blue peasant skirt, and two bikinis made locally in fabrics picked out by Francesca and Noelia. They were $70 each but I figured they were well worth it as very few other people will own the same ones.
Curiously, some boutiques in Tulum pride themselves on importing designers from the States, which interests me very little, so head to La Tiendita if you wish to purchase some beautifully designed, handmade Mexican produce.
Lol Tulum, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila km. 4.5 | @dariatulum
La Tiendita, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila km. 7.5 | @latienditatulum