El Pez, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, welcomes adventurous families looking for a peaceful alternative to the crowds of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. This eco-chic boutique hotel is located in the colorful village of Tulum on a quiet, secluded cove. It’s the kind of place where people go to slow down, unplug and unwind.
Rustic beach charm and thoughtful, upscale touches make this a special destination for intrepid family travelers seeking an authentic beach vacation experience. El Pez may be small in size, but it has enormous personality.
El Pez has 19 rooms, including six luxury cabanas and two beach homes that can accommodate families. The Ocean View Cabanas can sleep four comfortably, with a king-size bed and a twin trundle bed. For families with small children, first-floor cabanas work best — the stairs are rather steep and the balconies are a potential hazard.
Rooms have fresh, simple decor, including wooden furniture, original art and colorful accessories. Each room has its own private terrace with loungers. Open the screened windows and doors to welcome in the ocean breezes, or cool down with the air conditioning units in each bedroom.
The Tulum Beach House has one bedroom on the main floor plus two additional rooms on the second floor, sleeping up to six guests. It also offers a small kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and a living room. The second beach house, La Casa, can sleep up to 14 guests in five bedrooms. Families can rent all or part of the beach houses.
The lobby, lounge, bar and Gran Palapa restaurant are grouped under a vaulted palm-leaf roof. It’s a cozy and comfortable gathering place where families can play games, visit or simply enjoy the beach views. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, which is included in the stay. Lunch and dinner are served daily at an additional cost; a kids’ menu is available.
The food is locally sourced, fresh and creative. Sunday brunch is a special treat with live music. Grownups shouldn’t miss the signature cocktails created just for El Pez by world-famous mixologist Jasper Soffer. Refreshing nonalcoholic alternatives include agua frescas, smoothies and health drinks (try the Happy Jamaica).
Each morning, a basket with a carafe of freshly brewed coffee is delivered to your room. If you’re staying in a beach house and need to stock your kitchen, a large modern Chedraui grocery store is about 10 minutes from the hotel.
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El Pez is located on the small and private Turtle Cove. Families can relax and feel completely safe, as there is no beach traffic from other resorts. The waves in the cove are small and gentle, perfect for swimming or boogie boarding. A giant rock on the north end of the cove makes a natural playground, great for climbing and exploring, and creates a shallow protected area just right for young children. There is also a saltwater pool, but be aware that it is quite deep and there is no shallow end for little swimmers.
The 24-hour concierge can help arrange excursions or recommend activities nearby. Don’t miss the famous, well-preserved Mayan ruins at Tulum. Perched high above the ocean, they were once a thriving marketplace and seaport. Arrive early to beat the heat and the tour group crowds, and bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as there isn’t very much shade. Pack your swimsuit if you’d like to take a dip at the beautiful beach.
Other fun day trips from El Pez include the eco-adventure park Xel-Ha, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, or swimming in one of the many nearby cenotes (underwater sinkholes). The Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are located about a two-hour drive northeast of Tulum.
For an unforgettable experience with nature, visit El Pez during turtle nesting season. Turtle Cove is a protected and popular nesting ground for endangered turtles. From May to September, turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Our first night at El Pez, we watched in awe as a large green sea turtle dug an enormous hole in the sand to lay her precious eggs. The next night, a different nest hatched and several baby turtles had to be rescued from heading toward the road opposite the beach. The turtle rescue volunteers were happy to teach us about the turtles and their habitat.
Tulum is fun and funky. Borrow a bike and explore the eclectic collection of boutique hotels, shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants, yoga studios and beach clubs. It’s a welcome escape from the crowds of Cancun and all-inclusive mega resorts. After a delicious lunch at Mateo’s, we climbed the tower to relax in the hammocks and take in the jungle views.
Tulum is off the beaten path and quite literally off the grid. There are no public services, and businesses must provide their own utilities, including electricity and water. While El Pez enjoys electricity 24 hours a day, other businesses may not.
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Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino was hosted by El Pez in order to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Denise Smith except where noted.
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