Book Review: "Educated – A Memoir"

“I think the tragedy here isn’t that bad people do bad things. I think the tragedy is what good people do to keep secrets.”

Hi friends! Happy weekend. There is no denying that in the last few weeks, the world has changed. COVID19 has impacted almost every aspect of normalcy. In light of the current state of events, I am posting about something that can be enjoyed in times of wellness or crisis- reading! Yes, I am back with another book review. The above quote comes from an interview with Tara Westover, the author of, “Educated: A Memoir.” I just recently finished reading this book in about two days. It was that gripping/ unbelievable/ surreal/ incredible.

This book came up as a suggested read on Goodreads, so I did a little research and saw glowing reviews from Barak Obama to the New York Times. I decided to give it a try, and I am so glad that I did. “Educated,” is truly unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s a memoir (from someone my age) that reads like fiction.

“Educated,” chronicles the life of a girl born to a brood of survivalists in the shadow of Buck’s Peak, a mountain in Southern Idaho. Tara is one of seven kids in the Westover family. Her father (Gene) runs a scrapyard in the mountains and her mother (Faye) helps him maintain the household. Gene isolates his family – Tara receives no formal education and doesn’t even have a birth certificate. He denies them health care in medical emergencies and refuses to provide an education in anything other than the Bible and the ways of life on the harsh mountain. The Westover family suffers horrific and unbearable accidents, mainly as a result of Gene’s actions or ignorance.

Eventually, Tara begins to realize that going to college is the only way she will be able to break free from the physical and emotional prison her family keeps her in. This book is about not letting anyone, even those you love the most, stand in the way of your own freedom. It is also about overcoming impossible odds to realize one’s true potential. At it’s heart, this is a story about how education and learning can enable growth, change and survival in the most abysmal of circumstances.

I don’t want to give too much away. Since this book is a memoir, it is difficult to summarize without telling the story itself. The depth and beauty of this book lies in the details of Tara’s incredible life story. Westover lights up every single page and I could not read this fast enough. Her writing is absolutely beautiful, poetic, and gripping. Some parts of this book were extremely graphic and violent and hard to get through. I would very much recommend this book with the aforementioned caveat. 4.5 stars out of 5.

Did you read this book? What did you think? What is your favorite book you’ve read recently? Let me know in the comments below!

PS: Did you know that if you have a Kindle, or the Kindle App, you can download books for free through your library card? Since many libraries (including the Cleveland branches) are closed at this time, I thought I would share this little piece of information in case anyone was unaware. Similarly, you can download audio books for free using Hoopla or other apps, just by using your card!

One Skillet Wonder Dinner

Hi friends!

Today I’m sharing a tried and true recipe that Ryan and I absolutely love. The original recipe is from Chelsy’s Messy Apron, linked here.

Almost done!

With current social distancing measures in place, Ryan and I have been eating every meal at home (obviously). This adds up to a lot more dishes than we have ever had! Seriously, every day, there is a stockpile of dishes waiting to be rinsed.

I love this recipe for many reasons: it’s easy, cheesy, delicious, easily adaptable comfort food and…. it only requires one pan! We have made this dish a LOT (it’s pinned to our “Favorite Recipes” board) and everyone seems to love it. It’s super filling and soooo easy – the perfect meal for when you just don’t feel like cooking!

As I mentioned above, it’s also easily adaptable to different dietary restrictions or preferences. We substituted Banza elbow chickpea pasta for normal elbow pasta. You can also include chipotle peppers, bell peppers, or other items you may need to use up in your fridge! You can make this as spicy or mild as you want, depending on the salsa and taco sauce you use.

If you have kids it could be a fun recipe to have them help out with, and it’s sure to please the pickiest of palates.

Without further ado – here is the recipe that we have modified a bit along the way.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (could also use ground turkey, chicken, tofu, or even a few cans of beans!)
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1-2 (or more) cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 cup of taco sauce
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • Taco seasoning – you can buy a premixed packet or make your own! We made our own using 1 tbps chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp smoked paprika, and 1/2 tsp chipotle powder. Yum!
  • 2 cups of elbow pasta (or other small shaped pasta). We used Banza pasta which is entirely from chickpeas!*
  • 1- 2 cups shredded cheese (we erred on the side of generous levels of cheese)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Toppings: Sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), scallions, cilantro, etc.

  1. Start by browning the ground beef (or substitution) in your skillet over medium heat. This should take around 4-7 minutes depending on the amount and type of meat you use.
  2. Remove beef from stove and drain (I skipped this step so it is technically optional and saves additional dishes #lazyAF)
  3. Add your onion and garlic to the pan with the ground beef. Sauté for a minute or two over medium heat.
  4. Add in your taco seasoning and stir so everything gets evenly coated.
  5. Add in the corn, taco sauce, and salsa. Stir so everything is well combined.
  6. Add in the pasta and 1 cup of water and stir to combine.
  7. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat and then reduce heat to low or medium-low and simmer, covered, for 5-7 minutes. If you are using a nonstick skillet, you’ll need to stir the mixture every two minutes or so.
  8. Remove the cover and add in the last cup of water, again, stirring to combine everything. Cover again and continue to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and stir. Add in the shredded cheese and stir until it’s all melted and delicious 😋.
  10. Serve in a bowl with your favorite toppings!

* Please note, if you substitute the small elbow pasta for something more substantial (like penne, rigatoni, etc.), you may need to add a few additional minutes for the cooking time.

Easiest Lunch/ Dinner Recipe

Hello 👋🏻 to all my loyal readers . I have a super easy and delicious “recipe,” (if this can even be categorized as such) to share. Someone I follow on Instagram shared this in their stories (thanks @journeyintolavillelumiere). They did not include many details but it looked delicious so I took mental notes and tried it out for myself! This recipe is full of protein, fiber, and warm flavors – perfect for when there’s still a chill in the air! No pictures because a) I didn’t take any and b) it basically looks like a pile of mush after completion 🤣.

Ingredients (for four servings):

  • 1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of tuna, drained (standard tuna can side)
  • 1 small/medium yellow onion
  • 1 can cannelini beans
  • 1-2 tbps olive oil
  • 1 tbps Italian Seasoning (like Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset) or more to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Spinach (optional for serving)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional for serving)

Step One: Cut up your onion into slivers. There is no rhyme or reason as to how you cut, just small bite size pieces.

Step Two: Heat up the olive oil in a pan (medium heat) and add the onion, stirring occasionally. I cooked the onion about 7-8 minutes allowing it caramelize a bit. The onion should be translucent.

Step Three: Add in the can of diced tomatoes, canellini beans and the cans of tuna fish. If the the tuna is packed super tight break it up with your fingers as you add it in. Stir to combine.

Step Four: Add your seasonings and salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Make sure you do a little taste test to see if the spices are right. I actually added some crushed red pepper at this point for a little extra kick!

Step Five: Serve and enjoy! We served on a bed of spinach but you could put this on top of rice, lentils, or pasta! It would also be good with some toasted sourdough or Italian bread. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan 🧀 . I had the leftovers for lunch today and it was just as delicious and filling:

It’s an odd combination that I never would have thought to try, but it’s honestly surprisingly satiating! It is sooo easy (I mean the main ingredients are in cans people, come on) and very healthy and filling.

Editor’s Note: If you don’t like canned tuna, this probably won’t be your jam. I am admittedly not the *biggest* fan of canned tuna but I like a good tuna salad now and again, and found this recipe to be quite yummy! Also, it’s “Always Hungry,” friendly!

Bon Appetit!

The Perfect Smoothie

Happy Sunday friends! After a crazy week, it feels nice to relax.

I am in the midst of reading a book (recommended by my sister) called “Always Hungry?” by Dr. David Ludwig. It provides the science behind why many Americans always feel hungry (hint: sugar and refined carbs, hiding out in places you wouldn’t even realize), and how to overcome this feeling by fueling your body with real, whole foods (including fats 😲). I love that this book dives into the ‘why’ and that it provides it a detailed meal plan with step by step instructions for literally everything you eat!

Ryan and I have been following the recipes in the book for two weeks now, and it’s honestly some of the best food we’ve ever made at home! I haven’t missed refined carbohydrates at all, which is shocking to me. We both feel better overall (much more satiated) and are going to continue with the meal plan. It’s easy to follow when each meal truly feels like a treat.

One of our favorite breakfasts from the book is called the “Power Shake.” It couldn’t be easier and keeps us full from 7am to noon (however I would recommend getting a snack in between). If you’re looking for something simple, filling, and downright decadent, look no further!

Power Shake (serves 1, just double everything for 2 people):

  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (or unsweetened almond or coconut milk)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons almond or peanut butter
  • 5 (yes 5!) scoops of whey or collagen protein powder (plain, unflavored, and no additives)
  • 1/2 pear (or additional half cup of berries)

Add all these items to your blender and blend! That’s it. I recommend adding the cream at the end to make the shake a little less thick. I also almost always opt for extra berries vs. half a pear just because I love berries. It tastes like a milkshake and it is so delicious.

There’s no need for honey or any sweetener because the berries are so sweet naturally.

For the whey protein, I used unflavored collagen powder from Trader Joe’s. I couldn’t taste it whatsoever.

Would love to hear what you think of this recipe, or if you’ve read the book!

My Skincare routine and favorite products

Hello all & happy weekend!

Today I am going to walk through my skincare routine and some favorite products. A few friends, coworkers, and others have asked me about skincare (much to my bewilderment), so I decided to do a quick little post. To be honest, my skincare routine isn’t the most regimented, and I think that I was (very fortunately) genetically blessed with fairly low maintenance skin, which always helps. However, over the last five years or so, I have been focusing on trying to use better quality products and take better care of my skin overall.

So, what prompted my skincare journey (aside from realizing I am no longer 22)? My sister also has great skin, and several years ago, I asked what her routine was. She sent me down a rabbit hole of Korean skincare products that I still use today, in addition to some other items I recently picked up. Let’s get started!

Step One (Wash your face): Cleansing Oil

So the first step in any skincare routine is to obviously washing your face. I do a “double cleanse” which is just fancy talk for slathering on a cleansing oil, and then washing it off with a typical gentle cleanser (step 2 below). I absolutely love this oil and it’s a very affordable option. I have used it for about 3 years, and one jar lasts anywhere from 8-10 months. It blends really well and gets off absolutely every last bit of makeup. It smells incredibly fresh/ wonderful and is really a treat to use. Your face will feel soft and luscious after using this cleanser. For a more luxurious option, try this Elemis cleansing balm. The scent is ridiculously good and it can also be used as a face mask! It is also a good sized jar that will likely last a long time. I have both and will do a splurge or save post in the near future!

Step Two: Foaming Cleanser

I used this Hadalobo product for a couple of years and loved it. It’s gentle and does a great job of cleaning off any residual dirt/grime/residue after the oil cleanser. Buy it here. Again, this cleanser usually lasts me upwards of a year! You just need a pump or two each time you wash your face. I recently started using Cerave foaming cleanser. It works equally well! With the double cleanse system, you don’t need to use any cleansing products with lots of harsh chemicals or astringents.

Step Three: Serum or Essence

This is the step where you want to tailor your selections to your skin type specifically and can get creative. You can use vitamin C, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, ampoules (basically supercharged serums), etc. all based on the needs of your skin! I always use this lotion right after I wash my face. It instantly makes my skin feel moist (ew) and honestly, plump (double ew). It almost acts like a primer* (*I think, I do not use primer so I am unsure) in that it makes my skin feel super smooth. As part of Step Three, I also recently started using one of my all time favorite skin care products, Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads. These are honestly transformational and make my skin look completely revitalized like no other product. I was definitely #influenced to buy them, and they are one of the pricier items on this list (and in my entire skincare/beauty regime), but they are 100% worth the hype and the price. This is one of the only skincare products I have ever seen visible results with. If you buy one thing from this entire list, I would buy this. I would also highly recommend doing some research on which serums/ essences would be best for your skin type!

Step Four: Moisturizer

Again, this is where you want to tailor your selection to your needs. I have fairly oily skin, so I usually use a light moisturizer. You can’t go wrong with classic Oil of Olay (although it’s categorized as on the “heavier” side it’s always worked for me and feels light). I think I have been using this moisturizer for ten years. I also just recently bought Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream. This is waaaay more expensive than Oil of Olay, so unless it’s a miracle worker, it may just be a one time purchase for me. First impressions though – amazing. The smell alone is *almost* worth it. It’s one of those smells that just feels clean, luxurious, and fresh all at once. Kinda makes you feel like you are in a spa overlooking the ocean somewhere (and hey, that’s worth something right!?). Also, a little goes a long way, it is super blendable and absorbs quickly. I have heard this compares to the famous “La Mer,” cream so we shall see.

I love to also use a night time moisturizer, especially in the winter months when my skin resembles that of a shedding snake. This Banila mask is a winner in my book. I have also loved some other products from Laneige, so I want to try this one soon too.

A few more options – all of these have been on my list to try. This Banana Sleep Mask – love the packaging and have read multiple good reviews! Missha is another great K-Beauty brand. I have tried other products from this company and loved them. This sleeping mask is only $12 (on sale right now) and I have also heard good things about it.

Step Five: Sunscreen

Last but not least, you must finish off your skincare routine with an SPF. This is the one step of my skincare routine I need to focus on more (I tend to forget it). It is so important from a health perspective, as well as for an anti-aging routine if that is a concern. The one SPF I love (recommended by my sister 🙂) is this Biore product (from Japan). This doesn’t feel or look like a sunscreen at all and is more of an essence-type product. It is so lightweight and better quality than much more expensive sunscreens like Supergoop, La Roche Posay, etc. This sunscreen is recommended on tons of Korean beauty forums/blogs, is inexpensive, and it lives up to the hype. This is probably the other product I would recommend most (after the peel pads).

Some other favorite skincare products:

  • Lip balm: Nivea Lip Balm – So moisturizing and so lightweight. Love the smell too.
  • TULA Eye Balm: This product is wonderful. It is very cooling and provides a little bit of highlight under the eye which is great especially if you struggle with baggy or dark circles.
  • Neocutis Lumiere Eye Cream: This eye cream is wonderful. I have literally tried a bazillion eye creams over the years and this one has actually provided a noticeable brightening effect.
  • Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil: This bright blue oil is applied before bed and turns clear as you rub it in. It contains trans-retinoic acid ester complex and gives a nice glow the next day. It does contain retinol, just something to keep in mind.
  • Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Treatment: I bought this and had it over a year! I use it at night paired with the Luna Sleeping Oil. This is an exfoliating product and contains purified lactic acid. It also has a nice fresh citrusy scent. If your skin is sensitive, I would definitely ease into using this item. You can almost feel it tingling immediately on your face.
  • If you are a fan of face masks, I highly recommend this Caudalie Exfoliating Mask. I have had this product now for two years (is that even allowed with skincare!?) and it is amazing. Apply to clean, dry skin and leave on for ten to fifteen minutes. I notice visible clarity and that *glow* factor after I use this mask. I only use this mask every other week at most.

Editor’s note: I am obviously not a dermatologist (or a beauty product expert) and you should probably speak to one if you are starting a new skin care regimen and you plan on using items with any sort of elevated pH. I also think it’s great to speak to a dermatologist in general about these products as they may be able to recommend some items with prescription level retinol, glycolic acid, lactic acid, etc. These are just my personal favorite items that I have used consistently and have made a difference.

What are you favorite skincare products? Any must haves? Let me know in the comments below. Stay tuned for an another beauty products related post, coming soon!

Florence, Italy

Ryan and I went to Italy 🇮🇹 in October of last year, and I am finally getting ready to post some pictures six months later! First up, Florence!

I won’t be doing a traditional post with extensive recommendations, etc., because we barely scratched the surface with what we saw in our few days there. I do have one recommendation if you are planning a trip to Italy – it helps to do some reading and research prior to going. Various websites, travel forums online, and podcasts all proved helpful. I also read a couple of books about the Duomo di Firenze and Florentine art. I ended up purchasing ‘Florence: The Paintings and Frescoes’ which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in art, history, or if you are planning to visit several museums or churches throughout Italy. It provided great context for Italian Renaissance art and beyond. It’s also a gorgeous book. You can purchase it here.

Florence has to be one of the most magical cities in the world. It is truly breathtaking and of another time. Around every corner lies a piece of history on full display. The cobblestone alleys, marble facades, worn wooden doors and ochre stucco buildings form an enchanting maze of streets that are a joy to explore. There is an overwhelming amount of museums, churches, palaces and places to visit. Incredible food and wine are just the icing on the cake! Florence is also very walkable and easy to navigate, especially with the Arno river serving as a beautiful landmark. It’s almost indescribable and I can’t recommend visiting enough.

Shots from around the Arno River:

A look across the Arno.
The spectacular view from our AirBNB.
This was taken on our last night.

Views of the city:

One of my favorite shots ever ☺️
Golden hour, my favorite time of day!
The most dramatic lighting I have ever seen. A storm had just passed through and the sun illuminated the Duomo in brilliant light.
The narrow streets of Florence.

One of the “must sees” in Florence is the Florence Cathedral, aka, ‘the Duomo.’ It is located in the center of the city and cannot be missed due to its sheer size. It’s truly an architectural marvel and a wonder to behold. On this trip, Ryan and I did a guided tour to the top which was amazing and so informative. I definitely think it’s worth it to make the climb up, and the views are stunning. The inside of the cathedral itself is fairly simple vs. the outside, however, the dome has an amazing fresco by Vasari which is an incredible sight as you make your way up.

A caveat: Yes, it is extremely touristy. The wait was four hours to get into the cathedral (if you hadn’t purchased a ticket ahead of time). The square where the cathedral is located is also swarming with tourists. However, that said, it is completely worth it to at least walk around it and observe from the outside. The exterior is much more detailed than the interior, other than the dome. Also, only a tiny percentage of tourists climb to the top, so when we got up there, it was hardly crowded at all! Another option is to walk around at night. We did this multiple times and it was very enjoyable.

Pictures can’t do it justice.
😩😩😩
The Last Judgement – Vasari + Zuccari (sponsored by Cosimo I de’ Medici)
Don’t look down!
Giotto’s Bell Tower and terra cotta rooftops.

We also visited Sante Croce on this trip. It is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Foscolo, the philosopher Gentile and the composer Rossini, to name a few* (*this sentence came straight out of Wikipedia, but it sums it up quite nicely 🤣). Sante Croce was much less crowded than the area around the Duomo, and I truly think the interior is more aesthetically pleasing. We just waited in a very short line right when it opened and bought our tickets then and there! Timing is everything – if you visit places on the earlier side, they are much less hectic.

The exterior.
Wow.
Again, pictures don’t come close.
Incredible frescos and stained glass throughout.
Ryan in the Sacristy of Sante Croce. The frescos behind him were so beautiful! (Gaddi, Gerini and Arentino). Opposite Ryan (and out of the frame) is the crucifix of Cimabue, which was unfortunately irreparably damaged during flooding in the 1960s. Still beautiful!
A beautiful courtyard within a museum housed in a former Medici villa.
Detail of fresco.

Some other favorite shots from Florence:

Detail at the top of the Duomo.
Interior of San Miniato al Monte
Interior of San Miniato al Monte. One of my favorites.
Winding streets and Cyprus trees 🌳.
Just couldn’t get over this view!
Amazing pizza. I came to this same pizza place with my Mom three years prior! Still just as good.
Enjoying some rosé on our balcony.
Quintessential Italian trattoria.

I have so many incredible photos to share but as you can see, my blog post would be book length at that point. To summarize: if you’re thinking about visiting, do it! My only regret is that we didn’t have more time.

Highlights:

  • The unbelievable art and architecture throughout the city. It felt like a treat to wander down each and every street. Unparalleled museums and history everywhere you look!
  • Gelato every night – the one by our apartment happened to be incredible! Il Procopio is another favorite.
  • Walking tour of the city at night. It wasn’t crowded, the temperature was perfect, and we learned so much history along the way. Pro tip: Try to do any guided (or self guided) tour early on in your stay so you can become familiar with the city.
  • Climbing up to the top of the Duomo – would also have loved to climb to the top of the bell tower.
  • The food! There is no shortage of amazing food. Cured meats, cheeses, Florentine steaks, pasta, gelato, croissants, cappuccinos, etc.
  • Wine. I’ll just leave that here.
  • Walkability – truly a walkable city which makes it easy to explore. I especially loved walking along the river and up to San Miniato al Monte.
  • The incredible churches. I am not religious and I would highly recommend adding several into your itinerary.
  • The Uffizi Gallery – unbelievable to see all of the pieces in here. The building itself rivals the Louvre.
  • Wandering around. So fun to walk through the streets, peruse shops and stalls, and stop for a glass of wine along the way!
  • The Giardino di Boboli- acres and acres of manicured gardens overlooking rolling green hills. A perfect escape from the crowds if you need it!

What I’d like to see next time:

  • The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
  • Basilica di San Lorenzo
  • The Bargello
  • Santa Maria Novella
  • A few more of the palazzos-turned-museums
  • More photos of Ryan and I, and more food pics! Not to worry, I more than made up for this on other legs of our trip ☺️.

We had four full days in Florence and it was incredible. We can’t wait to return someday. Next up: Rome, Praiano, and Orvieto. I hope you enjoyed this post! What do you love to do in Florence?

Tulum Travel Guide

Hi everyone-

As you may have read in my previous *detailed* post, Ryan and I just got back from Tulum, Mexico. Below you will find a quick and easy read of our recommendations if you are planning a trip to Tulum.

Where to Stay:

There are two main areas that travelers stay in – Tulum Town and the Hotel Zone, the area directly on the beach. There are not a ton of chain hotels in the city of Tulum or beach area (in fact, there may be zero chains). There are many hostels, boutique hotels, and smaller properties in this area. Unless you travel outside of Tulum (towards Cancun), you will not find “all-inclusives” around, and honestly I don’t know why anyone would want to stay in one given the spectacular food readily available!

Tulum Town: We stayed in AirBNBs each time we have gone to Tulum so honestly didn’t look into hotels here. There is no shortage of available AirBNB listings and they range from super cheap to moderately priced. Each area of Tulum town has amazing restaurants and bars. I would look for somewhere relatively close to the center of town.

The Hotel Zone (the Beach area): We have never stayed in this part of Tulum (so take my suggestions with a grain of salt) but we are thinking of staying here the next time we visit.

Budget:

  • Diamante K – We met a fellow traveler at breakfast (basically The Dude incarnate) who mentioned he had stayed here on a previous trip and highly recommended it. 4.4 out of 5 stars on google.

Moderate:

  • Ahau Tulum – We had breakfast here and the food was beyond delicious and fresh. The hotel itself looks beautiful and fades into the jungle behind it.
  • Mi Amor –  See above – great reviews, moderate price point. It’s on our list!
  • El Pez – When I was doing research, I read a lot of great reviews about this place.

Fancy AF:

  • Nomade Tulum – Have heard amazing things about this property. It has 4.4 out of 5 stars (same as the budget option).
  • Cabanas Tulum
  • Sanara Tulum
  • Be Tulum – We randomly went here on our first trip for beachfront drinks and received very nice service and delicious cocktails to boot. The hotel looked beautiful but clocks in at around $900/night in high season. Yikes!

Where to eat: It is almost impossible to come up with a list of places to eat, because everywhere we went was delicious. Here is my best attempt!

Breakfast:

  • Ki’Bok Cafe ($) – Our go to spot! We love everything on the menu. Recommend the fruit plate, molletes, huevos divorcados. Their espresso is some of the best I’ve had anywere. We had lattes every morning.
  • Hunab Ku ($) – Another great breakfast spot discovered on this trip. Delicious bowls of tropical fruit and coconut cream coffee. Offers a mix of Mexican and European cuisine. Friendly staff and service.
  • Raw Love ($$) – this is a cafe with two outposts- one in town, and one on the beach. We got smoothie bowls (super authentic lol) full of fresh tropical fruit and coconut. This was one of my favorite meals, hands down. Not cheap (for Mexico) but about the same as a smoothie bowl in Cleveland.

Lunch/ Dinner:

  • Arca ($$$)- We enjoyed an incredible dinner here. This restaurant is set in the open jungle near the beach and is mainly small plates. It was an experience that I will never forget. You could not get this food anywhere else in the world. Amazing cocktails too.
  • Hartwood ($$$)- Right next door to Arca and very similar. No reservations and long wait times but the OG of the *foodie* scene in Tulum.
  • La Chapanecha ($) – Casual taco place. Tacos al pastor literally had me drooling and scrounging for scraps on our plates. Tacos are 10 pesos each🤯. They also serve empanadas and other delicious items.
  • El Camello Jr. ($) – Another casual (and delicious) option. We had sea food here (shrimp and octopus) and it did not disappoint. Our huge dinner was about 15 USD total.
  • Don Honorio ($) – We didn’t make it here, but my sister and her husband did and HIGHLY recommend it. We tried going but it closes very early, so we missed out. Amazing tacos.
  • Posada Margherita ($$$) – If/when you need a break from tacos, I highly recommend this restaurant. We shared pizza and home made pasta on the beach. Delicious cocktails and friendly service. Can’t beat the view either.
  • Burrito Amor ($/$$) – Amazing burritos. This was actually one of my favorite meals while we were there even though it’s more Tex-Mex. I had a vegetable burrito, filled with beans, delicious grilled veggies of all sorts, and fresh melted cheese. Ryan had carne asada which was delicious. I think they were $5.00 each. Great chips/guac also. Kinda trendy vibes but delicious and totally reasonable.
  • Chamicos ($$) – About a ten minute drive from Tulum, this casual restaurant is on a secluded stretch of beach called Soloman Bay. We had amazing ceviche and shrimp tacos. Recommend for both the food, view and the laid back atmosphere. Enjoy some fresh seafood and then go lay in a hammock- what could be better!
  • La Barracuda ($$) – Another good seafood place in town.
  • Bateys – Although they serve food, we came here for the mojitos. They are seriously the best mojitos you will ever have, anywhere, hands down.

What to do:

  1. Go to the beach! Playa Paraiso is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to in my life. The water is crystal clear, fairly warm, and calm. Walk, ride your bike, drive your car, or grab a taxi and head out with a towel and some sunscreen.
  2. Swim in the cenotes. There are literally hundreds within an easy driving distance from Tulum. I’ve never seen anything like them!
  3. Walk around town. No matter where you end up staying, take time to walk around town and look at the murals, eat some street tacos, and stop in some shops.
  4. Eat, and eat often (see list above). Seafood, tacos al pastor, etc.
  5. Visit the ruins in Tulum (very picturesque and well preserved) as well as in other areas close by (Coba, Muyil, etc.). If you’re up for a day trip, head to Chichen Itza.
  6. Ride bikes along the beach road. It’s a beautiful and fairly smooth path (a welcome respite from the very bumpy roads we frequently encountered!).
  7. Catch a sunset on the beach. It never gets old.

8. Sample some Mezcal. Smoky and smooth, it’s a delicious agave liquor from the Oaxaca state. We each had a few delicious cocktails with Mezcal and they did not disappoint. I don’t see it very frequently on menus in the states.

9. Relax! It can be hard to do these days, but it’s much easier when you’re in a beautiful environment filled with sunshine and ocean breezes.