The Internet can be a fickle ally when it comes to planning adventures. You can find amazing deals, but you can also get yourself into hot water by booking with a shady company or hotel. Or, you can have your heart broken bit by bit as you discover perfect place after perfect place to stay that just happen to be way beyond your travel budget.
This last scenario happened to me when I came across the website for Azulik, an “ecoresort” in Tulum, Mexico. The concept is magical large, private cabanas overlooking the roaring surf, with soaker tubs on every balcony. At Azulik the eco-resort concept means no electricity, no phone, and no air conditioning, but the indoor and outdoor tubs promise plenty of hot water. And you can summon a staff member to take your room service order by raising a flag at your cabana’s front door. The online pictures are stunning.
I was smitten. The only problem? Rooms start at US$325 per night. On a trip that was built around hostel stays and self-catering apartments at a tenth of that price, Azulik was simply out of reach. I cursed at the picture of a woman lounging in an outdoor soaking tub, overlooking the sea below. And then oh, and then I noticed the small link on Azulik’s homepage pointing to current specials. Among other deals, I found the one that would cure my heartbreak at 60% off regular rates for booking a room within 24 hours of arrival. With a month in Mexico and no set plans of where I had to be and when, this option was workable. Yes! Soon, my partner and I found ourselves settling in for three nights in the honeymoon suite. Regularly priced at US$350 per night, the 60% discount brought it to US$140 per night: still not budget accommodation, but within the realm of the reasonable. With a king-sized bed draped in a lovely mosquito net, plus hanging beds and soaker tubs carved from large trees both inside and outside, it was stunning. I got myself into that soaking tub as soon as I could, now I was the woman in the picture I had seen online. Bliss! As we eased into the vibe of the place, I took advantage of the free morning yoga classes, got used to evenings lit only by candlelight, and continued to be blown away by our good fortune. I even came to appreciate the iguanas who were on constant watch on the cliffs below (except the one who skittered into the room to lick jam off the remains of a breakfast tray). As I relaxed, I started to warm up to the idea of leaving my swimsuit behind and hitting the beach below.
Ah, yes – Azulik has a clothing-optional beach (it is, in fact, a clothing-optional resort). Raised in a straight-laced protestant home, I never pictured myself frolicking naked in the waves (a long-time Vancouver resident, I’ve never even ventured near Wreck Beach, our local clothing-optional haunt). But as Mexican time took hold and the eco-resort atmosphere seeped into my soul, I found myself throwing caution to the wind. In the crashing surf, bare as the day I was born, looking up at our cabana on the clifftop, I realised life is simple; life is good. IF YOU GO Azulik is the most luxurious of three properties that make up EcoTulum Resorts and Spa. Copal offers mid-range accommodations, and Zahra caters to the budget traveller. All have direct beach access. Copal and Azulik are clothing-optional. Where: Tulum, Mexico. Cost: High season (Nov. 15 to April 30 and July 15 – Aug. 31): US$40 per night for a basic no-bath cabana at Zahra up to US$350 per night for the luxurious honeymoon suite at Azulik. Online specials can save you 20% – 60%. Contacts: The resort’s main site, www.ecotulum.com, offers information on all three properties. For individual properties, visit www.azulik.com, www.cabanascopal.com and www.zahra.com.mx. Photo Credits: Images by Christina Newberry, except ‘Azulik, Doce’ by jason_chinn via Flickr.