Tulum is known for its boutique hotels and boho lifestyle — so where does a Conrad Hilton fit in?
Hilton has been making waves on the shores of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula with the addition of a handful of new resorts in some of the area's most popular destinations. Now, one of the most luxurious properties in the bunch, The Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya, is officially open.
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Not too long ago, this sleepy town less than two hours south of Cancun was a quiet place few tourists knew about. Once associated with yoga retreats and wellness experiences, Tulum has more recently transformed into a haven of hyper-chic boutique hotels and Airbnbs, Instagram-obsessed influencers and the trendy set who tend to reject mainstream anything for bespoke everything.
That pivot toward luxury travelers is becoming even more apparent with the opening of the new Conrad Tulum Rivera Maya.
Located 8 miles outside of Tulum, the 349-room resort overlooks a secluded bay amid a tropical forest. Big on design, the property draws inspiration from the nature surrounding it, featuring calming earth tones, beautiful natural stone and stunning wooden elements like large doors engraved by local artists (in true Tulum fashion).
Each room has its own balcony with a relaxation tub for two or a plunge pool, plus floor-to-ceiling windows, a spa-inspired bathroom, a 65-inch TV and a design that reflects the bohemian nature of Tulum in a very sophisticated way.
Home to 11 different bars and restaurants, this Conrad outpost offers no shortage of international flavors. At Ukai, sustainable sushi is front and center, while Kengai serves up an izakaya-inspired menu. The Mediterranean restaurant, Maratea, is bound to attract a crowd of influencers to its eye-catching tables, some of which look as if they're sitting inside tall baskets hanging from the ceiling. The hotel's lobby bar, Chaak Bar, is another can't-miss spot, as it serves craft cocktails in a luxurious setting inspired by Mexican cenotes and the Mayan god of rain.
Feeling a bit more in tune with Tulum's reputation as a place to go for a spiritual cleanse, the resort's spa hosts a gratitude ceremony led by an in-house shaman and healer. It also offers a variety of other treatments and rituals designed to help guests on their "journey to complete well-being."
Cash rates at the Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya start at $645, plus taxes and fees, and reward nights require at least 90,000 Hilton Honors points a night.
While Hilton may be one of the first big-league companies to bring one of its highest-end luxury brands to Tulum, other noteworthy points hotels have a presence in the area.
Papaya Playa Project, part of Marriott's Design Hotels portfolio, is a Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy option that really leans into the barefoot, shabby-chic nature of Tulum. It claims to "exude healthy creativity" with community "jam sessions," beachside bungalows and breathing workshops. While it's certainly a nice hotel, it offers a form of luxury that's more for the soul than the experience you'd likely have down the street at the Conrad. There's also a Category 5 Aloft in Tulum, but this Marriott property is rather unassuming.
Similarly, IHG invites guests to enjoy a "bohemian jungle retreat" at the Kimpton Aluna Resort Tulum. Open since 2020, the hotel offers everything you may expect to find at a nature resort, including rooftop yoga, locally sourced food and a laid-back jungle vibe.
Despite the presence of these other brand-name properties, the Conrad manages to feel like a true outlier.
While Tulum is a place you have to visit for yourself to decide if it's for you, its ever-evolving identity makes it a destination that could (in theory) appeal to anyone. For some, it's a place to reconnect with nature and find yourself. For others, it's a destination you visit to see and be seen. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which version of Tulum is more prevalent and authentic.
Related: 13 of TPG’s favorite points hotels on the beach in Mexico
I'll be curious to see if Hilton's presence in the area — both with the Conrad and the adjacent Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya All-Inclusive resort, an upscale take on an all-inclusive property slated to open this summer — changes the landscape. Will travelers give up their treehouses and nature retreats for sustainable uni and salmon roe at a five-star resort with a five-star price tag? Or, will the reverse happen, prompting a shift back to the rustic-chic wellness outposts more commonly associated with Tulum?
Only time will tell how Tulum will play out — or if it's already played out. But for now, it's a place getting a new type of recognition, whether that includes beachside yoga or not.