James of Casa de las Olas and Eric of Hartwood Restaurant discuss with Ralph Lauren Magazine about living in Tulum.
“Once a hippie hideaway, Tulum has emerged as a destination for the fashionable to decompress and spiritually recharge”
“s we enter Hartwood, an open-air restaurant located, as its website says, “on the jungle side of Tulum Beach Road,” a guitarist plays a melancholy Spanish tune. Oil lamps cast a faint light in the damp darkness. Near the large wood-burning oven’s wild flame, a pile of squashes, dried flowers and potatoes are displayed like a Dutch still life. Standing in the orange light, a tall, thin man with a prominent ginger beard toils at the oven. Eric Werner is his name, and he once worked at Peasant and Vinegar Hill House in New York City. He first visited Tulum years ago, fell in love with it and stayed, opening Hartwood in December 2010. “My wife, Mya, and I believe that if you put your whole self into your dream and pray,” says Werner, “then Tulum is the place to build upon those principles.”
We sit among jasmine and gardenia trees. A bronzed man with wild curly hair brings pineapple-habanero margaritas followed by deliciously charred skirt steaks, melt-off-the-bone pork ribs cooked in agave leaves, mashed sweet potatoes, persimmons and sautéed chia, an exquisite, pungent local spinach. Here, there is no electricity, everything functions on sustainable energy and the ingredients come from nearby farms. “Tulum is a truly magical place,” says James Greenfeld, a New Yorker who moved here to open his five-suite luxury rental, Casa de las Olas, near the Sian Ka’an nature reserve and who organizes OH! Food, a sustainable gastronomy festival, with Werner. “It’s very raw and pure.”
Like Greenfeld and Werner, many of the people who now live in Tulum were once only visiting; bewitched by the town’s mystical charms and turquoise Caribbean sea, they stayed. Tucked in the Yucatán tropical jungle and spread along the narrow, powdered sugar–sand beach, this is where hippie travelers once came to camp and discover the area’s thriving Mayan heritage, including deep spiritual rituals that inspired a New Age revival. But now Tulum is also a home away from home for editors, photographers and socialites such as Carine Roitfeld, Mario Testino and Jade Jagger, who flock in for the holiday season to relax, practice yoga and explore the area. A three-and-a-half-hour flight from New York, three major Mayan temples, the world’s second largest coral reef, a biosphere protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the luxuriant jungle, soothing cenotes (sinkholes used for bathing) and a never-ending beach lined by the rustic palm-thatched huts known as palapas—this, they say, is paradise.”