Tulum may not seem the obvious choice for an all-inclusive vacation. This off-grid, bohemian bolthole, known for its mystical Mayan ruins and otherworldly cenotes, tends to draw barefoot yoginis rather than loyalty program enthusiasts.
Hilton thought differently, however, debuting in May 2022 the company’s largest resort (735 rooms) in the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as what is touted as the region’s “most impactful self-sustained resort,” according to developer, Charles Elmann Fasja.
Geared towards travelers keen to experience the region’s eco-chic sensibilities and world-famous cultural sites — without sacrificing luxe modern amenities, gourmet dining or a mainstream, family-friendly vibe — at first blush, the property appears to exemplify the ever-evolving all-inclusive model where quantity no longer supersedes quality.
As someone who stayed at a couple of first-generation all-inclusive hotels in Mexico a decade ago and decided absolutely never again, I was keen to see if this highly anticipated property would make me wise up to the benefits of this liberating, budget-friendly and booming concept.
Here’s what my experience was like at the Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Resort.
Behind colossal wooden doors, the breezy open-air lobby is designed to draw you immediately towards the ocean. There’s a youthful beach house vibe with a hum of dance music emanating from the beachfront and arriving guests sipping mezcal-laced welcome cocktails served from a roaming tequila cart and swinging in hanging rattan chairs beside ornamental water features.
The lobby’s eco-chic theme runs through all the public spaces with a soothing beige and cream color palette, artworks sourced from local artists, and furnishings and statement pieces crafted from organic fibers and textiles.
Between thick mangrove forests and a sliver of white sand, rooms and suites are housed in six discreetly low-rise “casas.” Open hallways with latticed woodwork, white stonework and glass-fronted balconies artfully blend indoor and outside spaces — wherever you look, there are views of the ocean, mangrove forests or the palm-fringed pool areas.
With two check-in desks, there was only a short wait to complete the reservation process. After a brief primer on the resort’s layout and expansive amenities, I was handed my Hilton bracelet which functioned as both a door key and a guest portal (there’s a QR code on the reverse) for restaurant information/reservations, room service and a spa menu. I was advised that if I lost it, I would be charged $150, which seemed steep — and it did break the holiday spell a little.
The Hilton Tulum is located within the same gates as its upscale sibling, the Conrad Tulum, and is a 90-minute drive from Cancun International Airport (CUN). The hotel is not in Tulum Pueblo, or near the Mayan archaeological site, but 13 miles north, near the Akumal, known for its beautiful swimmable beach and snorkeling (with turtles).
Meet-and-greet transportation can be booked in advance through the resort’s transportation/tour partner, Tropical Elite Tours. It costs $120 each way (for up to six passengers) in a van or $175 (up to four passengers) in a luxury SUV. If you wing it and take a taxi with one of the many companies soliciting at the airport, it will cost around $90.
Due to recent conflicts between taxi drivers and ride hailing services — and the inconvenience it has caused to tourists traveling to/from the airport — for peace of mind, it’s worth paying extra and booking transportation ahead of time.
I’d paid $220 for a Nature View King Room but was upgraded to an Ocean View King (I have Hilton Gold status) for an off-peak stay for the week before Thanksgiving last year. Pricing is per person but children under 13 years pay a 50% discounted rate.
Based on current pricing, if two adults were to plan a peak stay during the middle of March, an Ocean View King would cost $665 (including taxes), going up to $1,040 for an Ocean View Suite or $4,500 for a luxuriously appointed Presidential Suite with a full kitchen, dining room and freestanding soaking tub. Points rates start at 90,000 for a Nature View Room.
If you upgrade to the Enclave level, you’ll receive such perks as a dedicated check-in, an exclusive restaurant specializing in ceviche, two private pools, nightly turndown service and plusher room amenities (robes, slippers and a welcome gift). An Enclave level Nature Room with two queen beds would cost $574 (based on two adults) mid-March, versus $491 for a comparable standard room.
A great way to earn free nights is to apply for a Hilton Honors cobranded credit card — Hilton Honors American Express Business Card or Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — that offers members free night certificates, either as ongoing benefits or as special perks you can earn by spending. If you earn these certificates, you should be able to apply them to stays at the Hilton Tulum when there is points availability.
The information for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
- An eco-sensitive, villa-style design with chic public spaces, vibrant restaurants and bars and highly functional rooms.
- Plenty of lifestyle amenities, including eight oceanfront pools surrounded by banks of sun loungers and cabanas (extra fee), a huge state-of-the-art gym and a lavish spa.
- Extremely family-friendly with a designated “Family Zone,” complete with shallow pools, water slides, children’s menus, a large, inviting kids club and a teen club, both offering day and evening programming.
- With plenty of tranquil nooks and several pools to retreat to, the experience can be as action-packed or chilled out as you want it to be.
- Only one small area of the beach is usable and the ocean is too rough here for swimming.
- The “Family Zone” is located at the far end of the resort, a golf cart ride away from the lobby and the hub of action (restaurants, boutiques and adult-oriented pools), leaving some families to feel rather sequestered.
- Pool service was erratic and most guests ended up walking up to the bar to order drinks instead of waiting for a server to come by.
- Overall, the dining is decent for an all-inclusive, but the flavors and ingredients repeat a lot across each restaurant.
While there’s little trace of Tulum’s alt-world mysticism, the property does feel rooted in its location. It successfully embraces the area’s sustainable, all-things-local philosophy and radiates a laid-back vibe. With many guests scrolling on screens and laptops poolside, it doesn’t have the same escape-from-reality mood or eclecticism that characterizes the boutique hotels in Tulum Pueblo.
At the far end of the resort, the Family Zone has a fun-loving vibe with kids toggling between the beautifully designed kids club, the expansive splash park at the family pool and the churrería. During my two-night stay, the week before Thanksgiving, the resort felt quiet and the evening entertainment — light shows, dancing, Latin music — didn’t stir the same enthusiasm I’d expect takes hold during peak holiday periods.
With state-of-the-art amenities, including a large gym, spa, menus that skew wholesome, and a daily schedule of fitness and mind-body classes, it’s easy to maintain and introduce wellness rituals into your vacation.
My standard Ocean View King room was located in “Casa 5” at the southern end of the resort. A mangrove-fringed path runs behind the buildings to each casa and on the occasions that I walked from the lobby to my room, it took around 10 minutes (in full sun).
At 452 square feet, the room was thoughtfully laid out to maximize space. The design reflected the oceanfront setting with gauzy white drapes over blackout shades, blonde wood furnishings, cream and white stone floors and white linens accented with jade and blue throw cushions. An eye-catching wall of ivory bricks framed the bed and completed the melding of interior spaces with the natural setting that defined the resort’s overall framework.
In the corner, a beige chaise and table with two chairs created a separate seating area and the workspace and outlets were well-positioned to charge devices. Shelves and a closet stocked with two robes separated the bedroom from the bathroom and there was a Nespresso coffee maker, a safe and a minibar stocked (and restocked daily) with a selection of soda, juice, water, light beer and seltzer. A smattering of decorative objects and coffee table books added a dose of local color.
By the bedside, an alarm clock/speaker had a charging pad, USB port and Bluetooth connectivity and there was an adjustable reading light.
While there was no wow factor or anything particularly design-forward or high-tech about the room, everything worked seamlessly and was logically arranged to create a highly functional, calming space.
Food and drink
An expansive breakfast brunch is served from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. in the ocean-facing Vela Sur, with floor-to-ceiling windows, tiled floors and nautical-themed decor. There’s something for every palate with American, continental and classic Mexican fare, plus egg and waffle stations, ceviche, tacos, copious cereals, breads and cakes, as well as more health-conscious local produce and toppings (chia, sunflower seeds, nuts, dried fruits), juices and smoothies.
During my stay, families and groups of friends gravitated toward the lunch buffet, which was served in a huge open-air palapa in the “Family Zone.” The set-up was typical of most upscale all-inclusive resorts, with several entrees (rib eye, shrimp and fish of the day) as well as salad bars, ceviche stations and an array of desserts.
Couples that don’t want to uproot themselves from the adult-oriented section of the resort and trek over to the Family Zone for lunch can graze poolside on standard Mexican fare like guacamole, tacos, ceviche and tortas.
For dinner, there’s a la carte dining at Maxal (Mexican), Auma (steakhouse), La Luce (Italian) and Noriku (Asian). Two other restaurants, Chiringuito Seasalt and Cocomar, are reserved for guests that upgrade to the Enclave level. There’s also 24-hour room service.
The best dining experience of my two-night stay was at the flagship dining venue, Auma, which had a polished vibe, picture windows framing Caribbean Sea views and a wrap-around balcony for coveted al fresco dining.
An assortment of grilled meat (prepared with myriad rubs/marinades and seasonings), as well as seafood sourced directly from the coast, is served with locally grown (often organic) vegetables and potatoes.
As is fairly standard with all-inclusive resorts, you’ll need to pay a supplement for what are considered premium options; rack of lamb (500 Mexican pesos/$26) filet mignon (700 pesos/$37), rib eye (700 pesos/$37), lobster (800 pesos/$43) and oysters (300 pesos/$16), as well as non-house/Mexican wine.
For my appetizer, I ordered the oysters topped with chaya, garlic cream and panko, followed by grilled fish of the day (local sea bass) served with sides of roasted broccoli, seasonal mushrooms and fries. It was fresh and artfully presented, and there were a few surprising twists along with the familiar Mexican tropes.
The colorful Azulinda lobby bar melds a vibrant cantina ambiance with eclectic lounge decor — bean bags, tree stump tables and wicker furnishings. It’s a perfect gathering spot for a pre-dinner cocktail (plump for the cucumber margarita or a caipirinha), or to pull out your laptop and catch up on work.
Amenities and service
Between the Family Zone and more adult-oriented confines of the resort, there are eight oceanfront pools lined with sun loungers, cabanas (extra fees apply — between 1,350 pesos/$64 and 2,350 pesos/$112, including premium drink packages) and parasols.
The Family Zone includes two family pools, a mini water park/splash park, cinema lounge and a large, open-air palapa restaurant/bar where the lunchtime buffet is served. There is also a large, cleverly designed kids club and teen zone, which are both highly engaging spaces for younger guests and offer a full program of activities and events (day and night), including crafts and face painting.
Staff place towels on most loungers early morning, but otherwise you are on your own when it comes to setting up beds/umbrellas. The slivers of white sand that separate the pool from the rocky coastline are also dotted with beds and umbrellas. The shallow pools are not heated, but I found the temperature comfortable enough, as long as I was swimming.
A short golf cart ride from the lobby, the cenote-inspired spa is shared with the Conrad Tulum. Mayan-inspired treatments and massages incorporate indigenous ingredients and techniques — expect some chanting, aura cleansing and other mind-body rituals. More traditional Swedish, deep tissue and Ayurvedic massages also are available. The Kinich Ahau Journey (80 minutes) involves a four-hand massage using hot poultices with corn and cocoa seeds (5,400 pesos, or about $270).
The state-of-the-art gym, located on the lower level of the main building, has over a dozen cardio machines — ellipticals, treadmills and stationary bikes — as well as ample free weights and a small studio that hosts a daily schedule of fitness classes, along with yoga and Pilates.
Out and about
Hiring a car is the most convenient way to access Tulum’s top attractions. Car hire is available at the hotel for around $100 per day. Or, you can sign up for day tours with Tropical Elite, the hotel’s on-site tour operator/transportation service, which has an office just off the main lobby.
Tulum’s famed clifftop archeological ruins are among the best preserved in Mexico, and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of one of the region’s sacred cenotes (Gran Cenote is just 22 miles from the resort) is a magical, one-of-a-kind experience. There’s also superb snorkeling and diving along the Great Maya Reef near Puerto Morelos, or a 40-minute boat ride from Playa del Carmen (22 miles north) on the island of Cozumel.
Jungle-clad Coba (around 43 miles inland) is one of the Maya Route’s more immersive archaeological sites, with many pyramids and temples that haven’t yet been fully excavated.
The Hilton Tulum has accessible rooms with wide doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, plus roll-in showers. Most of the hotel’s public spaces — including the pool areas and restaurants — are accessible via ramps, elevators and paved walkways.
Walk-in showers are equipped with handrails and there are user-friendly light panels by the bedside. There are audible alerts, visual alarms and Braille signs in the hallways and elevators.
There is not an accessible swimming pool or business center at this property.
Sure enough, after two relaxing days at the Hilton Tulum, I’d started to rethink my aversion to all-inclusive hotels. Despite a few service glitches, I was impressed with its laid-back vibe, exceptional amenities and eco-sensitive design that takes its cues from Tulum’s stunning coastline. The main drawback for me personally was the narrow beach in front of each casa, and the inability to use the ocean due to strong waves and undercurrents.
For Hilton loyalists with points to burn and young families who appreciate a more budget-conscious, all-inclusive concept, it’s an appealing property. Almost everything at this property is indeed “free” (with the exception of those premium items) which avoids irritating nickel-and-diming that can soon take the shine off your vacation.
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