In February, The Cut published an article asking, “Who Killed Tulum?” And while dismissing the beautiful, coastal town in Mexico as no longer being worthwhile (despite the many people who, y’know, actually live there) may not have been the intention of the author, that’s what came across. The article is filled with gossip and scandals from a town that developed into a tourist destination at an exceedingly rapid pace. Complaints about the endless parties, the young crowd, and the morals (or lack of thereof) of said partiers dominated the piece. It ended up feeling like travel-imperialism — with an American outlet commenting on the “right” way for a non-American city to evolve without truly representing the reasons why Tulum is still such a special place.
Those of us who know and love Tulum know there’s a reason why people started traveling from all over the world to experience its magic. With strong ties to its Indigenous roots, epic landscapes that stretch from beach to jungle, and an unmistakably charged atmosphere of humming creativity, the city is intimately connected to the rhythms of the earth. The Cut may not see it, but I still do.
Yes, Tulum developed very fast — too quickly to create the infrastructure that was needed to support its growth. And yes, there were (and are) visitors who disrespect to the place and the people who reside in this once-cozy beach hamlet. But the allure of Tulum, and the Yucatan Peninsula in general, goes much deeper than any clickable headline. Tulum is also Mexico’s first sustainable tourism zone and home to the Yucatan’s first community-driven arts and ecoculture festival, Art With Me — which kicked off today and runs until April 29th.
Art With Me tells the story of a Tulum worth fighting for (but only in a way that is consistent with what locals want). Uproxx sent writers Erin Granat and Courtney Scott to the festival last year and I’m on site this time around. With programming focused on workshops, Indigenous ceremonies, interactive experiences, and, yes, pulsing music, Art With Me makes you believe in the collective power of change. When The Cut article came out, attendees of the festival shared stories of Tulum on Facebook and Instagram that reflected a city that’s changing, sure, but very much alive.
This year, Art With Me features music by David August, Bob Moses, Yokoo, and a range of female DJs that include Los Angeles house artist DJ Duchess, and Palestinian house artist and current Mexico City resident, Nour. If you’re headed to check it out this weekend or curious about what this awesome festival and Tulum, in general, have to offer, we’ve created a guide to some of the coolest experiences to have (along with photos from last year) to kick your wanderlust into full gear.
1. Help Plant an Urban Garden
For those who like getting a little dirty, literally, this is a great opportunity to get your hands in the earth. Festival attendees and members of the community collaborate on an eco-collective art piece, helping to plant a new urban garden with Huerto Roma Verde experts from Mexico City. Besides leaving a lasting, living contribution to Tulum, you get to learn valuable gardening skills and connect to others in a positive, sustainible way.
2. Visit a Cenote
Thousands of years ago, an asteroid’s impact ruptured the ground of the Yucatan, causing holes to form and fill with water throughout the Peninsula. These ruptures are the cenotes – freshwater swimming holes and caves that are a signature of the area. They are scattered all around Tulum and make for incredible day trips. Snorkeling gear is available at most cenotes, and though there are many popular ones to check out, we recommend asking the locals their favorites.
Hanging out in a more tucked away cenote, far from the crowds, is an experience like no other.
3. Get Into Healing
One of the most powerful experiences to have in Tulum is to allow yourself to get connected to nature, the earth, and the magical energy of the place. It’s no wonder yogis and wellness facilitators from all over the world settle in Tulum. And Art With Me’s programming, which features around 300 different activities, is heavily wellness focused. From Mayan clay ceremonies to plant medicine healing to traditional sweat lodges, a lot of the day’s activities include some sort of healing experience that you won’t find elsewhere. Don’t miss out.
4. Eat Like a Local
While Tulum is filled with high-end restaurants by some of the best chefs in the world, there is nothing like eating a good taco made by a local. Some of the best tacos in Tulum can be found at Taqueria La Eufemia and Safari Tulum, two staples run by longtime Tulum residents. Don’t miss out on the grapefruit mezcalita at Safari. If you’ve had your taco fix, the festival’s culinary arm — Eat With Me — showcases top Mexican chefs with innovative menus, exclusive tastings, and jungle dining experiences.
5. Discover New Art
Besides bringing original installations from Burning Man all the way to the beaches of Tulum, Art With Me will be hosting Simon Vega, who creates art inspired by self-made architecture and vendor carts found in the streets of Central America using wood, cardboard, plastic and more. A large focus of the curation this year is the Indigenous creative scene. And be sure to check out the Tulum Art Club, which will include Anton Kojtom, Porfirio Gutierrez, Beatriz Poot and more, sharing their unique stories through art.
6. Dance Off the Mezcal
While most of the programming at Art With Me happens during the day, you can count on hand-picked talent from around the world to keep you dancing until late into the night. Expect to see Dramian from Mayan Warrior, electronic veteran Isaiah Martin, house and techno musician Halo Varga, DJ and producer Caines, and techno artist Jan Blomqvist (Live), and more. Sets are intended to be played live rather than as recorded productions, so parties won’t feel so much like clubs but more like informal gatherings with new friends in one of the most beautiful places in the world.