¡Bienvenido a Tulum! Tulum is without a doubt the hottest destination in Mexico at the moment. Amongst the palm trees, you’ll discover countless beach clubs, boutique stores, trendy cafes, yoga retreats, and picturesque hotels. In Tulum, anything is possible. You can take exciting day trips, lounge around at a beach club, or explore all the hotspots that Tulum has to offer. We’ve visited several times in recent years and have experienced practically everything the area has to offer. Below, we’ve compiled our top tips for Tulum!
Our opinion of Tulum
What was once a quiet village has now transformed into one of Central America’s most renowned destinations. Tulum is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it kind of place. There’s no denying the abundance of beautiful sites to explore, from the vast paradise beaches and wondrous cenotes to the ancient temples. Tulum is divided into two distinct areas: Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach. At the beach, you’ll discover a wealth of exclusive beach clubs, ultra-luxurious hotels, and trendy restaurants. However, prices there can be quite steep, and it’s a definite social scene kind of vibe.
If the beach scene isn’t your thing, Tulum Pueblo provides a great alternative with a more relaxed atmosphere. Here, the cost of living is significantly lower, and it serves as an excellent base for biking to the beach or exploring other areas nearby. While tourism has undoubtedly transformed Tulum, we still highly recommend visiting, as there is so much natural beauty to behold. On our own visits, we’ve found it amusing to observe the young, wealthy American crowd walking around Tulum Beach in their big hats and tiny bikinis, checking out the hottest spots in town.
How to get to Tulum?
From Bacalar to Tulum
By rental car: 2.5 hours away
By bus: 3-hour travel time from €15 and runs more than 20x a day
From Cancun to Tulum
By rental car: 2 hours away
By bus: both large tour buses and shuttle buses leave for Tulum. You have a choice of boarding at Cancun Airport or the ADO bus station in Cancun. See the different buses, departure times and reserve your ticket in advance here.
From Valladolid to Tulum
By rental car: 1.5 hours away
By bus: just under 2 hours travel time from €9 and runs 15x a day
Tip: When parking your car in Tulum, be sure to use the designated yellow parking spaces. Ensure that your car’s tires are inside the yellow lines, as parking outside the box could result in your car being towed away. If this happens, you will have to pay a hefty fine
What to do in Tulum?
We recommend staying in Tulum for at least four nights to fully experience everything it has to offer. This will give you ample time to visit the hotspots at your own pace, take a day trip, and still have plenty of time left to relax on the beach. Read on for our top recommendations on what to do in Tulum.
Explore Tulum by bicycle
Exploring Tulum by bicycle is a relaxing way to take in the sights. To ensure a stress-free experience, it is recommended that you rent a bike from a reputable company with good reviews. You will need to provide a form of identification, such as a passport or driver’s license, as a deposit. It is also important to invest in a good padlock to secure your bike to a sturdy object, as bike theft is unfortunately common in Tulum. Ola Bike Tulum is a reliable company that provides high-quality bikes for exploring the area.
Tip: When riding your bike in Tulum, consider placing your backpack in the basket at the front of the bike. To prevent theft, loop the backpack’s handles around the handlebars, making it difficult for anyone to grab it while you’re riding.
Visit the cenotes around Tulum
Mexico is home to thousands of cenotes, making it the perfect place to cool off and explore. Tulum offers several impressive cenotes, and we highly recommend visiting three in particular.
Gran Cenote is an excellent spot for snorkeling, with an abundance of fish and even the possibility of spotting small turtles. Snorkeling gear can be rented, but it can be quite expensive, so bringing your own equipment is recommended if possible. Due to its popularity, Gran Cenote can get very crowded, so it’s best to arrive early in the day. Keep in mind that cameras are not allowed, but you can bring a GoPro or phone. Your bag will be checked at the entrance. Gran Cenote is located 5 kilometers (3 miles) outside of Tulum Pueblo.
Cenote Dos Ojos has incredibly clear water and is one of the best cenotes for capturing breathtaking photos. The network of tunnels and caves beneath the surface make it an excellent spot for experienced divers to explore. Cenote Dos Ojos is situated 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Tulum on the road to Playa Del Carmen.
Cenote Calavera is a smaller cenote compared to the others, and it’s essentially a hole in the ground that you can jump into. However, once in the water, you’ll discover its unique charm. There are also sunbeds available for relaxing after a swim. Cenote Calavera is located just 3 kilometers (2 miles) away from Tulum Pueblo.
Drink a mojito at Batey in Tulum Pueblo
Batey is the place to be in Tulum Pueblo. Unlike the bars in Tulum Beach, Batey’s atmosphere is laid-back and authentic. People gather around large tables, making it easy to meet new people and enjoy a fun evening out. The live music every night adds to the already vibrant atmosphere. Don’t leave without trying one of their famous mojitos. With 7 different flavors on the menu, the passion fruit mojito (known as “maracuya” in Spanish) is a favorite among visitors. Cheers!
Also nice: prefer to have your own table but still want to enjoy a lively atmosphere and live music? Ajala is an excellent choice then. Just a short walk from Batey, it’s a great spot to grab a drink and soak up the local atmosphere.
The Mayan ruins of Tulum
The Mayan temples at Tulum are truly unique. As one of the last trading cities built by the Maya, Tulum held immense importance. Constructed in the 13th century, it is the only Mayan city located by the sea, making it a crucial hub for both land and sea trade. The temple sits atop a high cliff with the impressive turquoise sea in the background, creating a truly breathtaking sight. Visitors can opt for a guided tour to learn more about the temples and the Maya civilization, or explore on their own and read the informative signs. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, as you can take a dip in the small bay located below one of the temples after touring the ruins.
Snorkeling with turtles at Akumal
Encountering a sea turtle underwater remains one of the most extraordinary experiences you can have. The coast of Akumal is home to the green sea turtle, and it’s an excellent spot for observing them in their natural habitat. These fascinating creatures primarily feed on sea grass, which covers the ocean floor in this area. As a result, sea turtles tend to live close to the shore and are easy to spot.
The green sea turtle has been a protected species for several years now, which is why Akumal Bay is also a protected natural area. Snorkeling with the turtles in Akumal has become increasingly popular in recent years, which is why visitors are only allowed to swim and snorkel in a small designated area. While it’s possible to encounter the turtles on your own, your chances are better if you join a tour. These measures are in place to protect the animals, so it’s important for visitors to follow the rules and not touch them. While being part of a group can be less intimate, seeing the turtles swimming in their natural habitat is still a special experience. Akumal is located just under 30 km from Tulum.
Chilling out at the beach clubs of Tulu
Beach clubs in Tulum come in all shapes and sizes, from chic and upscale to over-the-top and laid-back local spots. While some visitors enjoy the expensive beach clubs, we prefer the more affordable options with a casual atmosphere. After all, some beach clubs can be all just showing off.
Chile Tulum is a great low-budget beach club option. The atmosphere here is relaxed and the food is excellent. If you prefer a fancier beach club experience, Papaya Playa Project and Coco Tulum are both good choices. Keep in mind that there is often a minimum spending requirement to spend the day at these clubs. For a truly local beach club experience, check out El Ultimo Maya located in Sian Ka’an National Park just next to Tulum. The beach here is untouched, offering a tranquil setting. While El Ultimo Maya may be a bit basic, we loved the laid-back atmosphere and friendly people. Don’t miss out on the delicious fish or shrimp tacos while you’re here!
Visit the most beautiful beaches of Tulum
The beaches around Tulum are some of the most picturesque we have ever seen. The sand here is so white that it can even be blinding in the sun. Most beaches are dotted with tall palm trees, and the sea water is pleasantly warm. Besides Tulum Beach, which of course should not be missed, there are a few more beaches worth visiting. Playa Paraíso and Playa Tankah are both great options. At Playa Tankah, you may have to pay an entrance fee, but it’s worth it for the unique experience of swimming in the calm waters within a circle of rocks.
Sidenote: Climate change has caused an increase in seaweed washing up on the east coast of Mexico several times a year. This means that from one day to the next, a once-pristine white sandy beach can be covered in brown seaweed that will eventually decompose and give off an unpleasant odor. When seaweed is washed ashore, many people work to clean it up as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes there is so much seaweed that it takes a while for the beach to be fully clean again. However, this is not always the case, as the seaweed phenomenon is not seasonal and can vary from place to place. So while you may be unlucky and encounter seaweed during your visit, it’s also possible that you’ll be lucky and find a seaweed-free beach. Keep in mind that this phenomenon can occur on different beaches at different times, so there may be seaweed on Isla Holbox but not in Tulum, or vice versa.
Admire the most impressive work of art in Tulum
If you love to travel and are active on Instagram, chances are you’ve come across this stunning piece of art. Created by South African artist Daniel Popper, this awe-inspiring wooden sculpture of a female upper body, complete with intricate rope details, is reminiscent of the Burning Man style. Up close, the details are simply breathtaking. Naturally, this work of art is incredibly photogenic, and during the day, there is often a line of people waiting to take a picture with it. You can find this piece of art near the entrance of Raw Love Cafe, and there is now an entrance fee to view it. The artwork is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm.
Nightlife in Tulum
A visit to Tulum would be incomplete without experiencing its vibrant party scene. There are parties and festivals of all kinds, ranging from exclusive beach parties with renowned DJs at Papaya Playa Project that may cost a steep entrance fee, to more affordable and lively gatherings at places like Gitano or Batey. At Gitano, the atmosphere is often cozy, and the party schedule changes frequently, so it’s always a good idea to check with your hotel for the latest information. Batey, located in Tulum Pueblo, is also a great option for partygoers, with its liveliest nights typically falling on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Some parties, such as those in the jungle or at a cenote, may require tickets, so it’s best to plan ahead.
Best restaurants in Tulum
Eating out in Tulum is a daily culinary delight. With so many restaurants and cafes to choose from, it can be overwhelming. We have eaten at many different restaurants and we have compiled a list of our favorites. If you begin your day in Tulum Pueblo, be sure to visit Del Cielo for a delicious breakfast. Their extensive menu has something for everyone. Alternatively, if you’re starting your day at Tulum Beach, Raw Love Café is a must-visit for their mouth-watering fruit bowls. For a healthy breakfast with options such as oatmeal, french toast, or egg and avocado toast, head over to Fresco’s. These breakfast spots are also great for lunch.
Of course, being in Mexico means you must try the delicious Mexican food. In Tulum Pueblo, we recommend Burrito Amor for the most delicious and affordable burritos, including great vegetarian options. If you’re at Tulum Beach and craving tacos, head to La Malinche for their tasty grilled fish taco. If you’re looking for something other than Mexican cuisine, Nao is a great spot for sushi and La Hoja Verde offers healthy and delicious vegan options.
Budget tip: At Tulum Beach, there are few options for a quick and inexpensive lunch. Are you at Tulum Beach and want some quick food for little money? At the GOmart you can buy sandwiches and this supermarket also has a Subway.
The difference between Tulum Pueblo & Tulum Beach
Tulum is split into two sections: Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach, so when making a reservation, you’ll need to decide which one you prefer.
Tulum Beach is a long beachside road with white sandy beaches, packed with countless cafes, restaurants, beach clubs, bars, stores, and hotels. You’ll also find many artistic creations throughout the area. The beach can become hectic and congested due to its popularity, causing traffic on the narrow road. It’s important to note that hotels and restaurants in Tulum Beach are typically pricier than those in Tulum Pueblo, although a few affordable dining options are available.
Tulum Pueblo is a charming village located 4 km inland from Tulum Beach. A straight road, with a well-maintained bike path alongside it, leads from Tulum Beach to Tulum Pueblo. Although the village itself is not particularly noteworthy, it offers a great variety of good restaurants, cozy bars, and hotels at very reasonable prices. For instance, the Calle Centauro Sur street is home to several bars with live music every night and many excellent restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious meal at an affordable price. Whether you prefer luxury or simplicity, Tulum Pueblo has a hotel that will meet your needs. However, the main drawback of staying in Tulum Pueblo is the distance to the beach, which is about 20 minutes away by bike. Although the beach is easily accessible, it is still more of a “getaway” than having the beach right in front of your hotel. Nonetheless, people come to Tulum primarily for its beautiful beaches, so staying in Tulum Pueblo shouldn’t discourage you from visiting the beach.
Our choice to stay
We stayed in both Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach and enjoyed our time in both locations. However, we personally prefer Tulum Beach as it offers the convenience of being just steps away from a beautiful beach. To save money on food, we often drove to Tulum Pueblo in our rental car to grab a bite to eat. Keep in mind that traffic can get quite congested on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Choosing to stay in Tulum Pueblo may be a more budget-friendly option as hotels tend to be less expensive. Alternatively, you can split your stay between the two areas. While we found Tulum Pueblo to have a more relaxed atmosphere and attract a more diverse crowd, Tulum Beach has its own charm with a variety of cafes, restaurants, and beach clubs. Below, we have listed our favorite hotels in both Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Tulum
Unfortunately, hotels in Tulum are often quite pricey, and during the busier winter months, prices can sometimes quadruple, especially if you don’t book well in advance. We’ve had the opportunity to test out quite a few hotels, and here are our recommendations:
Recommendations in Tulum Pueblo
If you’re looking for an affordable hotel in Tulum, then Trece Lunas is the perfect spot. As soon as you step into this hotel, you’ll find yourself in a little paradise. There’s a lovely pool, and you’ll stay in a spacious apartment equipped with a kitchen, air conditioning, and a comfy bed. Trece Lunas is a bit farther from the center of Tulum Pueblo, which is why it comes at a lower price. You can also enjoy luxury at an affordable rate at Chill Kanil. They have a beautiful courtyard with a nice pool and sunbeds. If you’d rather stay right in the heart of the town, then the splendid Botånica Tulum is perfect. Owner Fernando will warmly welcome you and provide helpful tips for your stay in Tulum. The staff is incredibly friendly as well, creating a delightful atmosphere in the hotel. Enjoy a refreshing drink at the bar, take a dip in the pool, and bask in ultimate tranquility.
Recommendations in Tulum Beach
Imagine waking up, stepping out of your hut, and taking a dip in the azure blue waters of Tulum right away. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Chancabañita is often the most budget-friendly option at Tulum Beach. While the bungalows are simple, you’re right on the beach here. Our bungalow didn’t have air conditioning, but with plenty of ventilation and a good fan, the nights were pleasantly cool. If you’re seeking more luxury, you can step from your bungalow at Zamas Hotel straight onto the beach. It has a very relaxed atmosphere, a nice pool, and hammocks and sunbeds. For a unique stay, check out Our Habitas Tulum. The design of this hotel is fantastic. Among the trees, you’ll find various ‘tents’ that can hardly be called tents anymore; they’re so luxurious! You’ll stay right on the beach, shower in the open air, and some tents even have their own pool. Besides offering a comfortable stay, the hotel also organizes many activities such as yoga, breathwork, and beach workouts.
Our Habitas Tulum