I can’t believe it’s been a month since my Pilates retreat to Tulum with MNT Studio! It was exactly the type of self-care I needed right before the Holidays. Prior to Tulum, MNT hosted several retreats, both local to Northern California as well as in Hawaii.
When I found out the timing of the retreat could possibly work with my tight work schedule, I knew I had to sign up! This was my first retreat with them and I can’t wait for the next one!
What to expect on a Pilates retreat
Besides living your best life in paradise and working out twice a day, you should expect to disconnect, make friends, and enjoy time to yourself. Although we did have access to the internet at the resort, connection was slow, which was more of a reason to embrace a digital detox from work and social media. (Although I was able to post a few stories as showcased in my MNTxTulum highlights on Instagram here.)
When I signed up for the retreat, I didn’t really know of anyone else who attending except for the studio owner, Elaine Hayes, and studio manager, Lauren Reibel. I later found out I knew the photographer, Julia O’Test as she previously lived in San Francisco! Note that most of the gorgeous photos in this post were taken by Julia herself!
To my surprise, I didn’t expect to make so many new friends who were around my age and in similar phases in life. So expect to make a few friends (or over a dozen)!
Although this was a retreat on a beach with over a dozen other women, there was plenty of opportunity to balance out solitude with group activities.
The ladies and I stayed at Sueños Tulum, this lovely eco-friendly resort with a semi-private beach. The staff was wonderful alongside with their two dogs, Lobo and Chapo. We paired up in rooms, although there is an option to upgrade to a single room instead.
Each double occupancy room had beds with canopies as well as a hammock, I believe. Our absolute favorite thing about our rooms is the bed itself. Not only were the sheets super soft, but laying down on the bed felt like sleeping in the clouds.
I love how the beach at Sueños Tulum was semi-private in that the lounge chairs were designated for guests. I’ve been on cheapy beachy vacations where at least one person in the group would stay behind on the beach to watch our belongings. However, at Seuños, we felt our belongings were secure, perhaps because the staff was present.
The food at the resort was amazing (more about that below) and the level of service was excellent. If I am lucky enough to return to Tulum, I will definitely consider staying here again! I also think their little dog Chapo is so adorable. Although he is a fraction of the size of Sassy, he has twice as much attitude! Can you believe?!
Upon arrival, we found swag bags on our beds! Thank you to brand partners who made this fun surprise possible!
You know I love my grip socks like Toesox, but I was also super excited about the swimsuit by Dawne Florine, the shaving kit by Flamingo, and the cute unmentionables by Underclub (the founder and CEO Katie was actually on the retreat as well!) I also loved the little bow scrunchie by Lululemon and our special edition MNT x Tulum shirt as well as the MNT tote bag, which is so practical for us busy women on the go!
In case you didn’t already know, Pilates reformer is my favorite low impact workout. So a vacation in Tulum with Pilates classes was right up my alley! However, I knew that a Pilates retreat with reformer classes would be difficult to pull off.
While all of this might seem super low impact, the classes were super challenging and definitely lived up to the same rigor I’ve experienced in MNT’s classes back in San Francisco.
So here’s a secret: I LOVE Pilates, but actually avoid mat Pilates if I can use the reformer instead. Given that I’m still working on my mat Pilates practice, I knew the workouts in Tulum would be a good challenge for me.
The workouts are designed for all levels, with modifications to level up or down as you wish. I was quite impressed that MNT brought over some equipment like bands and balls. Both these pieces of equipment can either provide assistance or challenge with resistance, depending on the movement and direction of the exercise.
One of the best things about working out in the hut (aka “palapa”) was the view of the ocean and jungle while working out. It was relatively cooler in the palapa, which was much welcomed when we worked up a sweat. I did miss having a mirror to check my form, but Elaine gave clear directions and demonstrations alongside with hands-on assistance if desired.
Given how hot it was, part of me wishes I brought shorts for the workouts. I normally wear leggings for barre or Pilates so I didn’t think to bring a pair of shorts. However, it might have been for the best since the mosquitoes came in full force while we worked out. I always get bug bites when traveling to some place tropical. So the leggings were a good idea. I should have worn the grip socks I packed, but it was just too hot! Don’t worry – the bug bites go away once you return home 😉
Fresh Food & Delicious Eats
In preparation for the trip, the studio asked for dietary restrictions because the resort will accommodate as much as they can. I was happy to find dairy free and gluten free options. I always know dairy wasn’t my best friend, but I only recently found out that I’m prone to celiac disease, which made sense because I sometimes felt terrible after eating gluten.
Seafood is my protein of choice and that’s basically all I ate while in Tulum. Seafood with avocados and lots of fruit. I think my favorite delicacy was grilled octopus! I’m a huge fan of squid, but when octopus is cooked right, it’s perfection!
Continental breakfast with fruit, yogurt and bread was served daily. À la carte options were available for purchase and super affordable! I had fresh eggs every morning and I couldn’t be more happy. Back at home, I’m constantly on the go and rarely do I ever get to sit down and enjoy a hot breakfast so this was the ultimate treat!
Side bar: One of my favorite things at Sueños was the granola served with the yogurt. It is made primarily of toasted nuts and seeds. The granola was actually made available for purchase in the hotel lobby since Gael, one of the nicest staff members, makes the granola himself! I’m not sure if he sells this online, but you can check out @arecales_palmae on Instagram if you’re curious about Axa’atic granola.
For lunch, we did a mixture of exploring town as well as ordering from the kitchen at the hotel. This is one of the few times where the hotel food did not disappoint! Everything was made using fresh ingredients!
Matcha Mama was a fan favorite since it was close to Sueños and nothing beats a cool refreshing snack during a hot girl summer day. Of course Julia, my photographer friend, knew to go here because it was super Instagramable with the swings and the flamingos.
Two dinners were included with our package, one on the first night and one on the last night (shown below). We also had a fancy dinner at this hip sustainable joint called Hartwood. Their seafood was divine!
Besides frolicking on the beach and exploring what town has to offer, a few of us also went to Cenotes Casa Tortuga which are water-filled sinkholes. These caves were sacred to the ancient Mayans as they sometimes used the cenotes for sacrificial offerings. (And no, I did not find any turtles.)
Yea, had I known all that, I might not have signed up for the adventure. I initially didn’t want to go because swimming in a cave sounds scary. Not to mention, I’m not the best swimmer. However, once I saw how amazing the water is, I wanted to at least see what the cenotes were all about.
We had the nicest guide whose name was Jorge, I believe. And he was such a good swimmer! Although we all had life vests, different parts of the cenotes proved to be a challenge.
Imagine swimming in a dark cave with only a few inches of air space between the water and the ceiling. It wasn’t like that during the entire course of the swim, but I wouldn’t recommend the second cenote we visited to someone who is claustrophobic. It now makes me wonder why I agreed to swim through the second one, but once you go through the path, there was really no point of return.
I was just so glad to go through this experience with the other ladies. All it took was bravery from one of us to lead the pack (along with Jorge) and the rest followed along. Given that I was perhaps the worst swimmer, I stayed very close to Jorge to make sure I got out of the cenote ok.
Now, not all cenotes were enclosed caves. The last few cenotes we visted were open. However, it still proved to be a challenge since we had the option to jump into the third cenote, which was open to the elements.
As previously mentioned, I am not the best swimmer and although I had a vest, it was a mental obstacle I wanted to get over. I ended up being the last the jump off the cliff. But hey, I jumped and it was super exhilarating. A few brave girls jumped a second time into the waters without their vests! I choose life.
Although I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, I couldn’t be more proud of us for getting past those challenges to explore the beauty that the Yucatán peninsula has to offer.
Rest & Relaxation
One of the first things my roommate and I did upon arrival (besides eat breakfast at the resort) was lounge on the beach. The moment I settled into my lawn chair, I instantly calmed down with the sound of the waves and the view of the ocean.
I just finished a busy week at work and was on another small vacation in New Orleans prior to that. In addition, other things were on my mind during the flight to Cancún.
However, immediately spending time on the beach on the first day was exactly what I needed to set the tone and enjoy the rest of my vacation.
The Sunsets and the Moon Rise
The most magical time of the day for me was sunset. How is it possible for Mother Nature to paint a scene with the most appealing shades of pink, purple, and blue?! Each sunset was different and each was pure perfection.
Right after one sunset, we experienced a tropical storm. Not ideal while en route to our dinner reservations across town. I found the first few minutes of the rain magical. After that, it was simply torrential and we sought refuge under the palapas at a random beach hotel.
On our last night, a few of us saw the moon rise along with the sun set on. I think that was by far, the most incredible sunset I experienced in Tulum. So much pink and purple – it was unreal! The moon made quite the arrival as she bid the sun farewell!
When I finally committed to the trip, the retreat was only two months away! Although I may not have gotten the best prices for my flight, I knew I wanted to fly directly into Cancún. I booked a non-stop red eye out of SFO in order to make our first class in the evening on Day 1.
I chose the right flight since about half of the attendees (seven to eight women) were on the same flight. I am thankful that MNT arranged for transportation to get us to the hotel. Sueños Tulum about two hours away from the airport and all of us basically fell asleep during the drive.
Funny side story – While in SFO, I had a feeling which women might attend the retreat. One ended up being my roommate! But I was too shy and tired to strike up conversation at the airport. It was easy to spot us because most of us were in leggings or lounge wear.
What I found so interesting was that women from all over the states flew in for the retreat! Naturally, most of us are from the Bay Area given MNT’s location, but I just love how this vacation allowed me the opportunity to connect with like-minded women, both near and far.
Until next time, Tulum
I was long overdue for Travel. Earlier this year, I received an Away carry-on luggage as a birthday gift, which was enough to give me the travel bug. (Shameless plug: Use this link for $20 off your first purchase!)
Long story short, I haven’t done as much traveling as I wanted and I was long overdue for a trip. Tulum was my first international flight in six years!
I came into this trip knowing I just needed a vacation. I wanted to relax, get a tan, eat some fresh ceviche, indulge in avocados, and workout to stay balanced. I didn’t expect meet such an empowering group of women who were great company and are boss ladies in their own respects.
My roommate informed me that although Pilates retreats are hard to find, they’re out there. As much as I want to explore the world as a solo traveler, going on this retreat was the perfect way to dip my toes back into traveling abroad because I felt safe with this group of women and enjoyed their company.
Will I return to Tulum? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is ¡Sí! I didn’t even have time to explore the Mayan ruins, so I must return!
With all that said, I definitely have the itch to do more traveling in the future. To this day, I’m still reminiscing of my time in Tulum with such a fabulous group of women. I have tons of photos to go through, but these are just some of my favorites. Promise me to stop by soon and check up on new additions I make to this photo journal.
Thank you so much to the MNT team for planning this trip! Both Elaine and Lauren did an amazing job. As much as I love to research things to do, I love how all I needed to do was pack a bag and show up! And gracias you to Julia for making us look fab in these photos!
I couldn’t be more pleased with my new friends who made this retreat to Tulum a highlight of the year!