“Rustic-chic cabanas and a self-catering house for 6-12 on a private beach by the Caribbean Sea, near Tulum's Mayan ruins”
Several decades later, the result of their move is now one of Tulum’s best-known beach retreats. Its rustic cabanas are nestled in a cove on the Maya Riviera where sardines are pursued by pelicans. Most have immediate access to the idyllic white-sand beach and the peaceful bathtub-warm water that make Tulum so enchanting. There are also two airy self-catering houses with enclosed gardens (one with four bedrooms, the other with six and a private pool) which are ideal for families and groups, with sweeping sea views and full access to the hotel facilities.
The fact that it’s unpretentious and miles away from the package tourists of Cancún and the property giants of Playa del Carmen explains why so many people come here to embrace a different kind of beach vibe. And Tulum, although busier by the year, still retains its lovely, bohemian charm – as well as arguably the best beach on the Yucatán Peninsula.
- The friendly atmosphere makes you feel at home
- The beautiful beachside location means it's a footfall from the Caribbean Sea, yet well placed for exploring Tulum's ruins by foot or bicycle
- The cabanas have a Caribbean feel, there's a cooling pool and you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach
- The villas are great value – particularly if there are 8-12 of you
- The food is consistently delicious – Zamas houses a top local restaurant, with popular live flamenco and funky jazz performances
- A noisy road runs next to the property and some accommodation is set on the far side side of this, away from the beach (Casa Vallejo, Casa Laura, some Garden Rooms and all Jungle Bungalows)
- The beach is small and the shoreline is rocky, so it's not great for swimming, but there is a communal swimming pool
- On our last visit we found the seaweed a little problematic in the bay – it comes and goes but can make the water appear murky (and can also smell a bit when it collects on the shore!)
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel + Villa
- 20 rooms + 2 houses for 6-12
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Bicycles Available
Zamas styles itself as 'rustic-chic', with no attempt to outshine the natural environment. To most people, this means back-to-basics camping without creature comforts, in the company of insects you'd rather never have met. In reality, Zamas offers laid-back and stylish accommodation swathed in bright primary colours.
The hotel rooms, some self-contained, others part of larger cabanas, have one or two kingsize or queensize beds and shower bathrooms; a few have additional single beds and sleep up to six. Some of the Beachfront Rooms are raised from the sand and set so close to the surf they’re almost tumbling into the sea (which drowns out the noise from the road behind). We stayed in one on our last visit and had our own hammock that swayed beneath the palms with stunning views of the bay. It had a rustic feel (air con was the only modern appliance to be seen), a thatched roof bedroom and adjoining shower room.
Families should go for the Garden Rooms, located in a quiet palm grove well away from the buzz of the restaurant with plenty of outdoor space - brightened with murals on the walls. Some of these rooms are across the road from the beach (known as the 'jungle side'), as are the Jungle Bungalows, where we stayed. The latter have huge verandas and hammocks - perfect for lazing around and gazing out to sea.
Larger groups can spread out either in two-storey Casa Laura, which has four bedrooms (for up to 11), sea views, a full kitchen and a private enclosed garden and is just over the road from the beach and restaurant, or in Casa Vallejo, a six-bedroom house for 6-12. Some rooms have sea views, plus there are three bathrooms, a dining and lounge area and a full kitchen. We liked the look of its high ceilings and towering windows, quirky furniture hewn from tree trunks, and the polished adobe walls daubed in vibrant shades of sky blue, jade green and terracotta. Best of all, it has a private garden with a T-shaped swimming pool. Guests in both villas get full access to the hotel’s facilities.
Both the house and the cabanas are remarkably airy - beds are cool inside the mosquito nets, and cold drinking water is freely supplied (you can refill bottles outside the restaurant).
- Cots Available
- Mosquito net
- Safe box
Zamas’ Que Fresco! (‘How Fresh!’) restaurant is romantically set on the edge of the shore and candlelit by night. It is renowned locally for serving divine food and biting margaritas on brightly coloured wooden tables under the stars. Folks come far for its traditional Mayan dishes (such as a whole freshly caught fish stuffed with local herbs, wrapped in palm leaves and baked in a clay oven) and mouth-watering seafood platters - shrimp with achiote or red snapper spiced with olive salsa. There are also wood-fired pizzas, spare ribs with garlic chips and vegetarian specials such as grilled enchiladas with tomatillo, avocado and pumpkin-seed sauce.
Breakfast can be healthy granola, yoghurt, tropical juice and fresh fruit salad, or a hot option such as omelette with cheese and chaya (Mayan spinach). You get a voucher to choose only one dish and a drink - we enjoyed the avocado on toast with a poached egg.
A couple of nights a week, the restaurant becomes a popular live music venue - we heard a great guitar trio, complete with a flamenco dancer. Staff are aware that there are families staying at Zamas, so the music doesn’t usually last beyond 10pm.
Guests staying in Casa Vallejo can eat in the restaurant or self-cater. The house has a vast dining table, plus a full kitchen with a large oven, a hob, a fridge-freezer, a blender, a coffee machine and all the bits and bobs you might need. Basic supplies such as washing-up liquid, oil, salt and pepper are provided, and anything else can be picked up at one of the convenience stores nearby.
If you fancy eating out, there are lots of options that have mushroomed along the beach road and in neighbouring hotels.
- Restaurants nearby
Apart from lazing on the beach...
- Go diving (open water and cave diving) or snorkelling (there's a small shipwreck 20m from the shore and the reef is about 200m out). There's an on-site dive shop where you can arrange snorkelling and diving expeditions, as well as trips to the local cenotes (limestone springs which are abundant around Tulum)
- During the summer months there's outstanding whale shark watching - and brave souls can jump in and swim with them
- Fly fishermen can take part in world-class bonefishing at Boca Paila (25-45 minutes from Zamas), and fly fishing in the Sian Ka’an biosphere (45 minutes south)
- Go horse-riding along the beach, book a massage, or take a yoga class at the nearby studio
- Visit the nearby Mayan ruins - a 10-minute drive, but make sure you go early to beat the bus crowds. There are more ruins at Coba (45-60 minutes' drive), which is set in dense jungle and is less commercial, though it's becoming increasingly popular. Ek Balam and Chichen Itza are further afield (1.5 and 2.5 hours away respectively), but the hotel can arrange a day trip for you
- Take a boat ride into the vast ecological biosphere of Sian Ka'an - the entrance to the park is just a few kilometres south of Zamas and you can bird-watch, fish and kayak here
- The hotel can organise various activities, including a romantic beach picnic, boat rides to the ruins and guided walks to see turtles laying their eggs and hatching (May to October). Enquire when booking
- Bird watchers will be in their element - there are plenty of feathered friends in the grounds, and birds nest in Sian Ka’an during the winter months
- Borrow the hotel's kayaks, try kite-Boarding or, if you're here at the right time of year, swim with dolphins
- There are 3 excellent golf courses in the area, one just 10 minutes north of the hotel
- Play chess or backgammon if it rains
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Plantlife / flora
- Scuba diving
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
Children are welcome and those under 6 stay for free. Zamas can provide baby cots on request, and the restaurant has highchairs. Note that all bathrooms have showers only.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
All rooms have additional single beds (except the Small Beachfront Rooms), and some have 2 double beds. Casa Laura has 3 double bedrooms each with a single bed for a child and a private enclosed garden. Casa Vallejo has 4 bedrooms (3 doubles and a twin), plus 2 loft rooms with 2 single beds apiece which aren't suitable for toddlers, and a private pool.
Babysitting can sometimes be arranged
Baby cots and highchairs are available
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids Activities nearby:
- Whale shark tours in season (July - September)
- Swimming excursion to Turtle Bay and catered picnic on the beach
Families Should Know:
The loft bedrooms in Casa Vallejo aren't suitable for small children
- Airport: 90 minutes
Zamas is a 1.5-hour drive south of Cancún airport, on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.
Cancún International Airport is 120km away - click on the links below for a list of airlines serving it.
From the Airport
The hotel can arrange transfers (enquire when booking), but the most convenient way to get here is to hire a car at the airport (see below).
It's an easy drive from Cancún - head south along the coastal highway past Playa del Carmen and carry on past Tulum for 5km on the Boca Paila road. See our car rental recommendations.
Taking a taxi from the airport is expensive compared to other options. An airport taxi will charge depending upon supply and demand at the time to Tulum - and only airport taxis are allowed to transport tourists away from the airport. However, for your return, you may take any taxi to the airport from Tulum (this can be arranged by Zamas). Always agree the taxi fare before departing.
There are no buses which travel directly from the airport to Tulum. Instead, you need to first take a bus north for 30 minutes to the Cancún bus station, and then return south to Tulum via a 2-hour journey. Once you arrive in Tulum take a taxi to Zamas (a 10-minute drive).
Once at Zamas it's fairly convenient and cost-effective to take taxis (they have a taxi radio). There are also buses to major tourist sites.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Mexico and getting around
- Cancún International 120.0 km CUN
- Beach 0.1 km
- Shops 5.0 km
- Restaurant 0.2 km