Arrival / Day #1
La Zebra is only about a 10-minute drive down the road from its sister property in Tulum, Mi Amor.
When we arrived at La Zebra, we pulled into a large parking area located across the street from the hotel. This is really convenient, because it means that you don’t have to search for parking on the main street.
As you enter La Zebra, you immediately notice a completely different vibe than Mi Amor. Mi Amor has more of that modern-chic feel, while La Zebra has the traditional Tulum beach feel with the palapas and cozy, colorful lounge furniture out on the beach. When I pictured Tulum in my mind, places like La Zebra were what I always imagined.
Right at the front of the hotel is a cool lounge area with artsy "zebra" décor on the wall and a colorfully tiled floor.
Once we got to the reception area, located near the restaurant, we were greeted warmly. They immediately asked what we wanted for our welcome drink.
We asked for a margarita with no sugar and no salt. This is basically tequila, Cointreau and fresh squeezed lime juice on the rocks. Sometimes, places still insist on adding some sort of sugar because they don’t believe we like it too tart. At La Zebra, however, they listened to our exact order, and that’s exactly what they brought us.
Since our check-in time wasn’t scheduled for another hour or so, we decided to check out the beach and surroundings while we waited to get fully settled in. The restaurant was quite cool with tall palapa roofed ceilings and lots of colorful décor.
The tables had different Mexican artwork on them, and they were all different colors (blue, purple, green, pink, and so on.)
They had a really neat hammock that was made out of a repurposed wooden boat. We immediately knew we would be taking advantage of that cozy spot at some point during our stay.
One of the main differences between Mi Amor and La Zebra, other than their style, is the fact that the location of La Zebra is on the beach side of Tulum's main strip. Once you walk outside the front of the restaurant, you make your way to the sand. Zebra's beach had beanbag chairs, palapas and chaise lounge chairs, and cozy mattress-covered beach beds. There was definitely something for everyone.
As far as the rooms, La Zebra has several different types to choose from. They have a few of the classic cabana-style rooms with the palapa roof.
The majority of their rooms are more-contemporary suites.
They also have a beachfront balcony penthouse suite, which looks amazing. Rumor has it that they are going to be building a bigger one on the cabana side of the beach. We will have to check that out on our return trip!
As we were walking around, we also noticed a kids area with seesaws, a jungle gym and other fun things for the little ones to enjoy while mom and dad relax nearby.
We also saw a chef's tasting room located right next to the kitchen.
While we were waiting for our room to be ready, we took our welcome margaritas out on to the beach and snagged one of the cozy lounge setups.
We heard a lot about the food at La Zebra... that it was one of the better restaurants on the strip. While we were lounging, we asked our waiter for some menus. We wanted a little snack, and they had a bunch of ceviches on the menu. We quickly decided to give two of them a try. We went with the pulpo ceviche and the tuna/avocado ceviche. The order came with their delicious salsas and chips.
Their chili oil and peanut salsa was my favorite; I couldn’t get enough. This was also the chef’s specialty recipe. I knew this because I asked for the recipe and was told by the server that this was the chef's little secret sauce, and he would never reveal the ingredients.
Once we finished our snack, it was time to check into our room. Our room was very nice. We had a king bed, a day bed with rollaway bed underneath, a large bathroom and shower, and a nice patio with our own private jacuzzi. It was just perfect!
After settling in, we wanted to go exploring because we were now on the opposite end of the strip from our last hotel, Mi Amor. We quickly unpacked our things and headed to the reception to see what we needed to do to rent some bikes for the day.
Since La Zebra was a sister property of Mi Amor, we sort of figured they were going to have the same bike rental policy, and they did. I believe their rental fee was slightly higher than Mi Amor ($15 US per bike per day)
We went ahead and got the bikes rented. Then, off we went to explore the different restaurants, shops, bars and cafes on this side of Tulum. The first place that caught our eye was Canopia. Their sign said craft beer & craft cocktails on it, plus the restaurant looked cool. We made a stop here to try their beverages. I tried the closest thing to an IPA, and Jamie had their margarita. They were both great!
After the drinks, we cruised by some cool little boutique shops, which all had amazing décor.
We had heard good things about Gitano, so we made a quick stop to check out their bar and patio area (in case we wanted to stop by later). They were not open for lunch, only dinner, so they were closed when we stopped by. The restaurant had a great vibe to it, so we knew we would make a stop later that night for one of their famous mezcal cocktails.
On our way back, we decided to make another pit stop at the hotel right next to La Zebra. It was called Sanara, and it was a fairly new boutique hotel.
The design was awesome. It had a very modern look to it. They had a stylish interior area with a great bar. There was a nice patio lounge just outside.
They also had a really nice beach setup with hip, comfortable lounge furniture all along the beachfront.
I ordered a margarita with no sugar/salt, and Jamie opted for one of their mezcal specialty cocktails. Both were fantastic!
After our visit, it was time to head back and lounge at our own hotel. We picked one of the palapas to unwind for the afternoon.
La Zebra has way more lounge options than guests, even at full capacity. This is nice because you can really spread out and not have that feeling like you are on top of one another.
For dinner, we were really wanting something authentic. We knew we wanted to make a return visit to El Camello.
We drove this time (as opposed to riding our bikes or taking a taxi). It was only 10-15 minutes from La Zebra. For dinner, we knew we wanted to try some of their other options. The last time we got so full so quickly from their ceviches. One of our favorite Mexican dishes back home is shrimp diablo, so we decided to try their shrimp diablo with black beans and veggies.
We also ordered the whole fish. It looked amazing and was served with black beans.
We couldn���t pass on the ceviche altogether. We ordered their small pulpo ceviche, which was so incredible the last time we came for lunch and was an absolute repeat. Everything was delicious. It was just the dinner we needed and were looking for. Authentic Mexican food with fantastic service at incredible prices. All around A+ and 100% recommended for anyone visiting Tulum.
On our way back, we hit up Gitano for one of their mezcal cocktails. We thought this would be the perfect nightcap. We found a parking spot right out front and headed on it. The atmosphere at night was very lively. The place was packed, but we saw two open seats at the bar and snagged those. They had a huge menu of specialties. We just asked the bartender to bring us two of his faves. They were both fantastic, and we were glad we made the pit stop!
We got up around 7am and realized that we didn’t have an espresso machine in our room like we did at La Zebra's sister property, Mi Amor. We went to the reception to see about how we get some coffee to our room, and they told us that they would deliver two cups for us. We were thinking that the coffee was going to be included, since that had been the trend at all the hotels we had been visiting. When the gentlemen arrived, he had our coffees and a bill of 100 pesos, which translated into $3.5 US per coffee. If you add a tip, you are looking at the same expense as an overpriced "fancy" coffee drink from Starbucks. It was fine, but a little unexpected as we figured the morning coffee in the room would be complimentary.
After our coffee, it was time to burn some calories and get our blood flowing for the day. Since we had a beach to work with, we decided to do a beach run for our workout. This was a great way to check out all the hotels along the beach. There are so many with so many different vibes, from tented camps (literally camping on the beach) to palapa styles to hip boutique hotels.
One negative thing that no one is really mentioning online or in the news is all the seaweed on Tulum's beaches. I mean, it’s really all over the beach, and the cleanup efforts don't make much of a dent because it keeps washing in.
When I asked the locals what they thought the problem was, the consensus was that global warming was the main cause. No one really had any clue as to when it was going to go away. It is really a bummer because the beautiful turquoise water that we thought we were going to see (what you see in the pictures on the websites) has been converted to a brown/red/orange mucky mess.
Put it this way, the entire time we were there, we only saw about 15-20 people who actually went into the water. It just wasn’t appealing at all; no one wanted to wade into the muck. Again, it was a huge bummer, and one that I hope works itself out soon.
For the rest of the afternoon, we wanted to explore more of the streets of Tulum. We planned to go in the opposite direction from where we explored the previous day.
We took a left outside of La Zebra and headed down the street until we made it to Be Tulum, where we decided to stop for lunch. Be Tulum was gorgeous! The décor throughout the grounds was very nicely done.
Once we entered the main area, we saw a hip mezcalaria, a sleek pool setup, an oyster bar, and very cool beach/lounge area.
We grabbed a beautiful table for lunch. We both noticed that they had lettuce tacos on their menu. This option looked light and tasty, so Jamie went for their scallops and I opted for their oven fish, which was baked in a pizza oven.
Wow, the food was terrific! We really enjoyed the tacos and the surroundings. Be Tulum has so many different places to lounge and enjoy.
On our way back, we decided to check out a couple more cool-looking spaces that we saw on our way to Be Tulum: Mama Muu and Villa Violeta.
We enjoyed a happy hour there. The cocktails were not packing a punch by any means, but the service and view were fantastic!
After our little Tulum village bike tour, it was time to make our way back to La Zebra. When we arrived, we spotted an open bed and went ahead and claimed that for the afternoon.
We noticed that several other guests ordered the tacos, and they looked incredible. We took a look at their lunch menu and decided to make a fish taco order.
WOW….please keep these tacos on your menu La Zebra. They were incredible. We have heard that they might be altering their menu soon, so we ask that they keep their ceviches and tacos!
For dinner, we were thinking of walking along the strip and seeing what caught our eye. Hartwoods was a joint that we were told to try numerous times. However, we heard that we had to come wait in line at 3 in the afternoon for a reservation for dinner, so we knew this was not a place for us.
That setup just screams overpriced and overrated. I may be wrong, but, from the looks and responses from locals and visitors, I think I am right on point with that opinion.
Anyway, I love authentic dishes that aren’t outrageously priced. I have the feeling that this street in Tulum is turning into something more and more touristy and overpriced. I really hope they keep some of the more authentic spots open.
Since we couldn’t get into the packed Hartwoods, we decided to give the newly constructed Arco a try for a cocktail. Wow, what a cool place. The décor and architecture were stunning.
We sat at the bar and enjoyed our drinks. Jamie opted for a whiskey craft cocktail, and I had a mezcal specialty cocktail.
For dinner we were thinking of trying Cenzontle, which looked cool. In the end, however, we opted to go back to our place, La Zebra. We felt they had the best options for us at prices that made sense.
Again, most of the restaurants along the main ocean strip in Tulum are really pricey. This is especially true of all of the newer establishments.
Once back at La Zebra, we selected a nice table out on the patio, which had a great view and a nice cool ocean breeze. For dinner we decided to share several items. We started with the traditional corn masa empanada, stuffed with huitlacoche, mushrooms, corn and Oaxaca cheese, and served with aioli and a pre-Hispanic salad made with chili and lime-roasted grasshoppers.
The next dish we tried was the ensalda de pulp crujiente. This was garlic sautéed octopus, chicharrón, tomato and mixed vegetables served with avocado mousse and chipotle aioli.
The last item we had was the ceviche poblano. It had fresh fish and shrimp, corn, sweet potato, avocado, cucumber, tomato, pickled onion, cilantro seeds with a poblano and xkatic chile sauce. It was topped with herb-infused oil and sprouts.
All the dishes were great. We got the spicy salsas to increase the heat intensity of the food.
On our last morning, we decided to skip on the coffee and just start our day with our beach run. Hopefully, La Zebra joins their sister property Mi Amor and gets the nespressos in the room for our next visit. Having the coffee in your room is really nice. It is not even the fact of paying for it (although that does play into it), it is more or less the convenience factor. I like that you can literally roll out of bed and have a cup of coffee in your hands in less than a minute.
The beach run in the morning was so refreshing. The fresh ocean air in your face and all the cool boutique hotels to check out one after another really make the run enjoyable.
After our run, we sat down to enjoy some breakfast before we had to take off to the airport. I went the boring-but-tasty route and had them make me scrambled egg whites with pico de gallo and black beans on the side. My breakfast also came with their homemade coconut bread and preserves, which is something I had read about. Yum, it lived up to the hype and then some. I am not a huge bread person, but this is not your typical bread. If you come to La Zebra for breakfast, give it a try. It’s that good!
Jamie went for the huevos rancheros: two egg whites in ranchero sauce and black beans avocado over a fried tortilla stuffed with cheese. Yep, she definitely ordered the winning dish (although I think the bread was the winning side dish).
Once we finished breakfast, it was time to get packed and on the road back to the Cancun airport.
A side note: they will give you two towel keys when you check in. Make sure you keep these in a safe spot as they will charge you for them if you do not return the keys upon departure. The reason I am saying this is that they look like your typical hotel key cards with the electronic magnetic strip. I almost tossed these in the garbage thinking they were just the entry keys.
La Zebra has that authentic Tulum getaway feel. You will notice it the minute you step foot on the property: from the colorful Mexican décor to the palapa thatched roofs to the incredible beach setup with all the cozy lounge options.
Being on the opposite end of the beach side of the Tulum strip has its advantages. For one, each hotel on this end has complete beach access. You are also centrally located. There are a bunch of restaurants within walking distance (or a quick bike or cab ride away). Although biking to the inland village street may be a little far, you can get there by taxi or car in 10 minutes. Having the beach access allows you to walk along the entire beachfront and stop off at whichever hotel restaurant/bar looks appealing.
The other great thing about La Zebra is the room choices. You can go for that traditional cabana-type feel with the palapa style roof, or you can opt for a more modern room with an ocean view or the garden/jungle view. We had the garden/jungle view, but we had our eye on the ocean view rooms, especially the penthouse with the plunge pool and rooftop lounge….
We sampled a lot of food during our visit in Tulum, and we thoroughly enjoyed La Zebra menu. They had a lot of great options to choose from, and everything was very delicious and reasonably priced.
Like I mentioned in my previous article about Mi Amor, I highly recommend splitting your stay into a few different properties so that you can experience more of what Tulum has to offer. By staying at Mi Amor for our first leg of our trip we were able to experience that entire side of the strip, including the inland downtown area. When we moved to the sister property, La Zebra, we were able to experience the opposite end of town. This made for a much fuller and richer overall experience. We got to experience two completely different hotel styles, with different scenery and atmosphere, but with the same phenomenal level of customer service and culinary expertise.
We are very much looking forward to a return trip to Tulum and cannot wait to experience the other sister properties of the Colibri Collection: Mezzanine, El Pez and their 4th property, which looks stunning and happens to be in Nicaragua (It's called Yamaya)
Sad to go, but looking forward to seeing you again soon La Zebra.
Bye for now Tulum…