Written by Carina Moravek
Photos by Carina Moravek
After a quick 90-minute bus ride from Cancun, we rode into a small town called Tulum, which seemed to be almost completely submerged in the jungle. Later, as a tarantula greeted us outside our airbnb; we quickly realized that you are merely a visitor in someone else’s home. Once in the town, after a bumpy bicycle ride on unpaved roads we saw many artisan shops with handmade goods from the town’s residents – from dream catchers made from actual drift wood to small ceramic skulls that were hand painted. My advice, if you’re going to buy anything, buy from the town and not from the shops along the beach as they are wildly overpriced closer to the festival. Small taco and empanada stands border a few larger restaurants as you near the tourist district of Tulum. We arrived at the box office Wednesday evening and were immediately greeted with a ceremonial cleanse with something called Copal. When burned with coals it emits a smoke with cleansing properties used often by the natives. We then put our bracelets on, eager to explore the coast where most of the festival was going to take place.
Shuttles were difficult to find and many of the drivers were unaware of the actual festival schedule so it was rather difficult to travel to and from events. We were faced with making the decision of driving a car our friends rented and parked along the side near a cool night club called Diablito Cha Cha Cha that hosted several after parties through out the week. We saw Polo Corp play there Thursday night, a key member of Polo and Pan, a Spicy French Duo that never disappoints. We later realized having a car was not as great an idea as we thought because the police ended up towing it, which took about 5,000 pesos to get out of the lot. Thankfully, we were able to retrieve it; a mistake we wouldn’t make again the rest of the trip. We then relied on our bicycles; luckily, our airbbnb provided the bicycles to us. However, there were places all over Tulum’s coast that offered transportation of all kinds. Taxis, of course, were convenient being the most available any time of day but bicycle rentals and scooter rentals were also accessible. Traveling on foot was a commitment, most of the events were all across the beach line and sometimes unsafe to walk at night.
Throughout the week, there were nightly concerts, art walks, live bands, and a multitude of gatherings for people with interests of all kinds. A unique aspect of this festival that was new to me was the culinary experiences that select restaurants near the festival held. If you had an all access pass, you could freely come and go and try several of the appetizing options they provided, but mostly you would have to pay for a completely separate attendance ticket to join the fun. Traveling up to Kin Toh, a late nightspot with a priceless view of an endless ocean and lush jungle to the left, we were promptly served oysters and cocktails. This was one our favorite stops before heading out into the night. Later in the night, they would have local DJs serenade the guests. But no matter which nightly event you chose, the people were all happy to be there and embraced the music.
My favorite of the week was Bedouin. They played at a stage with incredible moving lights where fire breathers and eclectic dancers gathered in front and to the side of the stages next to the beach. Together, this dynamic duo share an eclectic sonic vision that pulls from diverse influences paying homage to their Middle Eastern heritage, Western upbringing, and world travels. Their combined musical backgrounds and ever-evolving taste captures the sensibility of imagination and constantly explores the connection between the beyond and our internal beings; it was a perfect way to end an evening filled with wonder.
A bar and restaurant called BOA, one of our favorites, had a beautiful beach view right by the water and used beanbags for seating. Eventually, after a while, you realize everything is just one extended happy hour from 12-7 in most places. The waves crashing behind the soft pink and red sunset on the picturesque white sandy beaches were not the only highlighted beauties in this paradise. The festival attracted visitors of a very chic standard, many of which were known influencers or ‘sophisticated burners’. It would actually be easy to label this festival a perfect mesh between Burning Man and Art Basel if I were to describe it as anything else. Hotels in this area are usually sold out well in advance and tourism to the area is more popular than ever, as stated by the locals and hotel staff so I was grateful to have had this opportunity to see things I may not normally have had the chance to see. The hotel and restaurant staff made every experience truly remarkable.
Habitas, a glamping spot in the heart of the festival hosted a photography art walk lit by candles and copal that led you to large tent underneath giant trees where a live performance would be held. There were small tables lit by candles and pillows for seating that allowed you to take a seat while you waited for the live music to begin. David Harrington brought an improvised set of jazzy guitar melodies that almost spoke its own language alongside the drums and keyboard of his musical counterparts. Known for his influence with Nicolaas Jar, he did not disappoint with an almost Led Zeppelin ambiance with only his sounds to entertain the room.
One thing we learned was that many of the concerts later in the evening filled up rather quickly, and if you weren’t there on time, you may miss it completely. On our last night, we went to the hotel Be Tulum and the hotel had maxed out capacity at 7:00 pm and did not allow anyone else inside even though Yokoo, a popular melodic DJ based in Berlin with dreamy sounds and a heartthrob among most, was supposed to play from 5pm-9pm.
With the aid of Art with Me*GNP, the festival also provided another aspect that included the surrounding locals and hotels in the area to build awareness on the environmental needs of the area by hosting talks and seminars on how to make this magical bohemian destination sustainable for many years to come.
Whether you are taking a stroll through the art walk, looking at the provided sculptures, or doing yoga in one of the sweat lodges, it is clear this festival is building collaboration between public and private initiatives to preserve and uplift this beautiful part of the world. With particular focus on topics such as waste management and the use of organic and inorganic waste as well as the ongoing treatment of black water systems, conservation and preservation of vegetation and natural spaces, you can tell the ultimate goal is to preserve and maintain this magical place. There was so much to see and do that it was truly overwhelming making decisions of which activities to choose from, but regardless, in every direction you looked there was beauty and magic all around.