Crystal blue water, Mayan ruins galore, and highway street signs reminding you to be happy. This is Tulum. Although it has become more touristy over the years with plenty of beach resorts, you can still visit and experience Tulum like a local without breaking the bank.
CURRENCY: Mexican Peso
CLIMATE: Tropical (warm & humid), Dry season: Oct – May
DRESS CODE: Casual
GETTING AROUND: Local bus, Local taxi
COST OF VISITING: $ – Hostels start at $12 per night and food is a little as $4 to $5 (USD) per meal
TIPPING: 10-20% in restaurants is appreciated
SAFETY: While Mexico has experienced an increase in drug related violence, Tulum has remained relatively safe, Use common sense when downtown
The most common way to get to Tulum is by first flying into Cancun. From there, it is a 2-3 hour journey to Tulum. The options listed below are all options from Cancun International Airport (CUN).
If you have some time to spare, bus is the most affordable way to get to Tulum, and pretty easy if you ask me. Once you arrive in the Cancun airport, walk outside of the arrivals building and you will see a stand where you can buy bus tickets. It is located directly in the middle of where the buses park. From here, an ADO bus will take you to the ADO bus terminal in Cancun city center. From the central bus terminal, you can buy a ticket to take a bus to Tulum. Buses leave 3-4 times per day. Check the ADO website for the most up to date schedule. The trip will cost you around 242 pesos (~$12.50 USD) and bring you directly to Tulum city center.
TAXI OR PRIVATE DRIVER
There will be plenty of taxi operators or private drivers waiting outside the arrivals terminal. You can either haggle with them there or prebook with a company online. Expect to pay around $50 USD round trip.
You can prebook a shuttle to pick you up at the airport and take you directly to your accommodation in Tulum. There are multiple shuttle operators to choose from. I recommend googling “cancun airport to tulum shuttle” and comparing a few different companies for pricing on your dates, as well as checking online reviews (Google or Trip Advisor). I have seen prices starting at $42 USD one way ($84 round trip) to $100 one way. It depends on how many people you have and when you are traveling.
WHERE TO STAY
WHAT TO EAT
WHERE TO EAT
There is SO much amazing food in Tulum. One night, we wandered around eating small portions so that we could try as many places as possible. The list below are some of the ones we went to and that I recommend. BUT this list is only to get you started.
Amazing tacos right on the beach. Tacos. Beach. That is really all I need to say. But also, there is just something I love about being able to order tacos and then brining your plate to the do it yourself toppings bar with multiple sauces, unlimited onions and cilantro, and limes limes limes. Yum. It is best to get here early as people come here to eat lunch and then end up spending the day here since it is located directly on the beach.
One of the best tacos places in Tulum. Ask the locals. They know.
Good tacos right next to the bars in town. Great for a pick me up in between drinks.
A cute place to eat or drink. We went here for appetizers and stayed for drinks. The restaurant layout is cute with a back patio for eating, drinking, and socializing. One of my favorite nights ever started here, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.
WHAT TO DRINK
WHERE TO DRINK
Literally translates to “Balls of Dessert.” Serves ice cream and alcohol and ice cream with alcohol in it. Located on the road by the beach area. A cute place with good vibes. Totally stop by and check it out after a hot day on the beach. You won’t be disappointed.
A MUST to visit in Tulum. The sugarcane is pressed to order here right inside the restaurant. If you are lucky, you can even give the wheel a spin yourself! There is an old car inside the restaurant which has been turned into the stand where the sugar cane is stripped and pressed. This bar not only has absolutely delicious and fresh mojitos, they are a happenin’ place in the evenings (even with the locals), where you will often find live music and even better vibes. Totally check it out.
Of course I had to find one of the only craft beer bars in Tulum to add to my beer list. Hermana Republica is a cute little bar hidden away on a corner street that serves Patito beer, brewed in Merida, also located on the Yucatan Peninsula. They have about 8 different beers on draft and let you order a flight to sample them all. They also serve food here, which looked mucho sabroso, but I came just for the beer.
WHAT TO DO
CENOTE (noun): A natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath [and creates a beautiful place to swim and explore].
There are tons of cenotes to check out in Tulum, it is hard to know where to start. We went to the Gran Cenote which was a good but easy bike ride from the city center. It isn’t as “Gran” as I imagined but it is still beautiful and I recommend at least checking it out.
RENT A BICYCLE
There are many small local places that rent bicycles for around $5 USD per day. When visiting Tulum, you will most likely either stay in the city center or by the beach. Either way, you will want to visit the other and renting a bike is the perfect way to get around. The bike ride will take around 30-45 minutes between the two.
WATCH THE SUNRISE OR SUNSET
In Tulum, the sun rises over the ocean and sets over the jungle. Even though the sun sets over the jungle, we found a “secret” sunset spot” you can reach from the beach. Head to the Playa Ruinas public beach and take a left to go directly behind the Mayan Ruins. You are able to hike up the hill toward the back of the ruins. Keep going even when it feels like you are trespassing (I am pretty sure you are allowed here but not positive haha) and you will reach the top of the hill to the watchtower. In front of you, you will see white sand and turquoise water. Turn around and you will get an amazing view of the sun setting over the jungle. Great find.
RELAX ON THE BEACH
It was initially hard for me to understand which beaches were public and which were not in Tulum. If you stay in a beach resort, you get your own private beach. We were staying in town but still wanted to go to the beach. The first day, we just walked through a resort and went straight through to the beach like we owned the place. The second day, we ate at Taqueria La Eufemia and therefore had a seat reserved on the beach all day. Finally on one of the last days, we found a beach we felt comfortable sitting on without worrying we were going to get kicked out. Check out this list of the most beautiful public beaches in Tulum.
Please, please go to Bacalar. This small fishing village is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We weren’t sure if we should go here at first, but it was highly recommended by others staying at our hostel. Wow, we are so happy we went. It was an easy trip and the Lagoon of 7 Colors is a natural wonder. I have never seen anything more beautiful. And I have seen a lot. And if you have time and don’t need to go back to Tulum, why not continue on the bus to Belize?!
Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula including a massive pyramid and ancient stone carvings.
Akumal is a coastal resort with white sands, a coral reef, and lots of marine life. Many come here to snorkel with turtles. We spent a day there but didn’t happen to see any turtles while we were there. I heard they come out at certain times but am not 100% sure.
Coba is an ancient Mayan city consisting of a network of large stone causeways. Prior to 2018, you were able to climb the ancient pyramid, but now it is closed off for tourists.
A sleepy and charming town I am totally bummed I didn’t have the chance to go to, YET! If you visit here, I highly recommend stopping by one of their cemeteries. The tombstones are painted in bright, colorful hues.
Cozumel is a beautiful island located right off the coast of Playa del Carmen. In order to get here, take a bus from Tulum to Playa del Carmen and then jump on the ferry to Cozumel.
Laguna Kaan Luum is a hidden treasure south of Tulum. Here you can swim in clear, green water. The center of the lagoon is a cenote, that some say gets up to 80 feet deep!
The cultural heart and capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula, only 3 hours away from Tulum. Here you can explore the local markets, colorful architecture, and many archaeological sites.
A pink lake! And not just “I kind of can see how people call it pink.” but really PINK. Check out the photos. The pink color comes from pink and red colored microorganisms that thrive in these extra salty lakes. Even the flamingos in this area are pinker than most due to the brine shrimp living in these waters. Although an amazing site to see, I have heard there is not much else to do here except for take a photo. You can no longer swim in these lakes as they are on private property, but if you are all about the ‘gram, then this trip is for you.