Tulum, Mexico, is fast becoming a must-visit beach destination. With its white-sand beaches, sunny weather, and warm, aquamarine waters, it’s easy to see why tourists are flocking to this tropical paradise.
However, there is so much more to this stunning coastal town. Tulum boasts exotic jungles, crystal-clear cenotes, archeological ruins, a fantastic nightlife, and delicious foods.
With so much on offer, you’ll never have a dull moment in Tulum. This Tulum travel guide will tell you everything you need to know about this gorgeous seaside town.
If you’re looking to have the vacation planning taken care of, take a look at this Tulum itinerary.
Traveling to Tulum
Wondering how to travel to Tulum? This tropical destination is around 81 miles (131 km) south of Cancun. Unfortunately, this coastal Mexican town is yet to build its own airport.
So, the best way to reach Tulum is to fly into Cancun International Airport. From there, you’ll have to travel 1.5-2 hours (depending on traffic and weather) to Tulum.
How to Get to Tulum by Bus
Traveling by bus may sound mediocre, but it is one of the best ways to reach Tulum.
ADO is a fan-favorite amongst many of Tulum’s visitors. This company offers great service at an affordable price.
Now, you might think that saving money means the bus will be hot and overcrowded. Well, that certainly isn’t the case with ADO. These buses feature comfortable, reclining seats and much-needed air-conditioning. So you can sleep away from the jet lag on the bus ride down to Tulum.
ADO has several buses driving from the airport throughout the day from all four of their terminals. From 10:55 through 21:45, buses depart from the airport. This trip will cost around 300 pesos (US$ 14.82 – according to the day’s exchange rate). Do remember that these times may change, so it’s always best to check ADO’s website first.
Traveling to Tulum Via the Airport Shuttle
This is one of the pricer options available. While it’s a great, affordable choice for those traveling in a group, it’s still more expensive than taking the bus. But if you’re traveling solo, this is not the best choice if you’re looking to save your pesos where possible.
However, taking a private shuttle can be convenient. Your driver will meet you at the airport exit and help with your luggage. Plus you don’t have to worry about whether your arrival time corresponds to the bus’s departure time.
After all, once you’ve touched down, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to waste another second indoors when you’re so close to sandy Mexican beaches and crystal clear water.
Another great thing about taking the shuttle is that it’ll drop you off right in front of your accommodation, versus buses, where you’ll have to find a connecting bus, taxi, or collectivo.
Shuttles will cost upwards of 810 pesos (US$40); this price will fluctuate depending on the company as well as the time of year. So definitely sit down and compare the various options available to you.
Traveling to Tulum Via Rental Car
While it is often nice to have your own set of wheels when traveling, having a rental car in Tulum is not advised. The roads aren’t in impeccable condition, the traffic is often/overwhelming (more so in the cities/towns). And unfortunately, there have been increasing reports about auto theft in Tulum.
That said, if you’re set on getting a rental car when you visit Tulum, you can rent a car from the Cancun Airport, or you can go into Cancun and rent a car from another agency.
Getting Around Tulum
When traveling in Tulum, you’ll most often drive from the pueblo to the beaches or out to the archeological sites or cenotes.
Having said that, everything is close enough that you can walk. Alternative transport options include taxis, bicycles, and collectivos.
Getting Around Tulum by Taxi
Taxis are typically the form of transport tourists make use of while in Tulum.
The taxis frequently travel between the beach zone and the pueblo, but they also go out to the archeological sites and cenotes too.
The cost to travel via taxi is quite affordable, with trips from the hotels to the beach or ruins costing around $100 MXN (US$ 5).
Getting Around Tulum by Bike
Biking around Tulum is a great way to travel cheaply and get some exercise in while on vacation.
Many hotels and hostels have bikes that guests can make use of freely. Alternatively, you can rent a bike for around $150 MXN (US$ 7.5) for a day – the price drops the more days you rent the bike out.
Getting Around Tulum by Collectivo
Collectivos are vans intended to transport locals in Tulum. However, you can quite easily slip on and catch a ride for $100 MXN.
Best Things to Do in Tulum
With spectacular natural settings and ancient ruins right on your doorstep, there is so much to do and see in Tulum.
1. Float in a Cenote
Perhaps you’ve seen the images of people floating in the turquoise waters of underground reservoirs in Mexico. These cenotes are native to the Yucatan Peninsula and surrounding areas like Quintana Roo, which is where Tulum is.
This activity has to be a part of your Tulum travel bucket list. Below are some of the top cenotes to visit.
If you’re looking for crystal clear, turquoise waters, then we recommend Gran Cenote. With snorkeling activities and chill areas, it is one of the most popular cenotes in Tulum.
While its name implies that it is a ‘Grand Cenote,’ it is actually made up of smaller caves linked by wooden walkways.
Visiting this cenote is an incredible experience, but be aware that it is often crowded. So do try to go for a dip earlier in the morning.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos – or ‘Two Eyes’ in English – is another spectacular cenote, especially for snorkeling and diving.
This cenote has one of the largest cave systems in the Yucatan Peninsula. It has two deep sinkholes – forming the two eyes that gave rise to the name – connected by a 400-meter underwater tunnel.
Cenote Car Wash
While this cenote was once used as a ‘carwash’ by taxi drivers once upon a time, it’s now a beautiful and tranquil spot to visit. This large, open-air cenote contains water plants and marine animals. This makes it a prime spot for snorkeling.
This is a large open-air cenote that links to the ocean via an underwater cave. This means you’ll get to see an array of freshwater animals and marine life.
Cenote Calavera is definitely one of the gorgeous pools you may recognize from social media posts. This skull-shaped cenote has a ladder for easy access – although adrenaline seekers may opt to dive straight in! There’s also a swing which makes for a fabulous Instagram shot.
Some other amazing cenotes to dive into:
- Cenote Zacil-Ha
- Casa Tortuga
- Cenote Azul
- Cenote Angelita
- Choo-Ha Cenote
- Multum-Ha Cenote
Tips for Visiting the Cenotes of Tulum
Entrance fees typically range from $100 – $400 MXN (US$ 5-20). This excludes the additional fee you pay to take your DSLR camera, drone, or GoPro in for pictures.
Don’t even think about jumping into the cenotes if you have any sunscreen, lotions, or make-up on. Even if it’s biodegradable!
These items cause algal bloom and other environmental issues. And don’t think you can sneakily slip in – visitors have to rinse off before heading into the water.
These stunning water holes have become wildly popular in recent years. If you’re looking to enjoy the beauty without hundreds of Instagram (wannabe) influencers around, then it is best to head to the cenotes in the early morning (preferably as soon as they open).
2. Discover the Maya Ruins of Tulum
Tulum’s natural wonders are a sight to behold, but its ancient Mayan ruins are definitely one for the books.
There are Maya archeological sites throughout the regions of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and further inland. However, the ones found here in Tulum are particularly special as they were erected on a 39ft (12 meters) high cliff overlooking the Caribbean ocean.
These Maya ruins were once a prominent seaport fortress and trading center for the Maya people. So visiting this attraction is an excellent way to delve deeper into Mexican history and culture.
These Tulum ruins feature several interesting structures. There is the House of the Halach Uinic, which is where the high priest resided.
El Castillo is the main pyramid which was once a primordial lighthouse for sailors looking to safely navigate their way to the beach.
The best-preserved building here is the Temple of the Frescoes. The Maya people used this building as an observatory. Inside, original Maya murals still adorn the walls.
3. Admire Tulum’s Street Art
Murals have always served as a way to convey stories to one another, and in Tulum, this is no exception. This coastal town is full of vibrant artworks, and they are possibly one of the town’s best-kept secrets!
Murals have been incorporated into Mexican culture since the early 1920s. To see these artworks, you’ll have to head to downtown Tulum (or the Pueblo backstreets).
Calle Sol Oriente
From images of Maya women cooking together to interesting fish-people and Aztec figures, the walls of Calle Sol Oriente are filled with colorful paintings.
On the corner of Calle Satelite y Calle Mercurio, you’ll find a mural by Emma Rubens. The intricate painting is of an old Maya man, titled “El Parajito.”
If you find yourself strolling along Calle Beta Sur, be sure to look out for a burst of color. Two particular murals found here are “Deep-Sea Diver Kiss” and a painting of a woman’s face emerging from the earth.
Lastly, somewhere you may not have expected to find murals are the walls of the Tulum cemetery. These paintings include symbols of religion and death in the Maya culture.
4. Relax on some of Tulum’s finest beaches
With sandy shores, turquoise waters, and sunshine pretty much all year round, you can’t not spend a day or two tanning under the Mexican sun.
Tulum’s Southern stretch of beaches is ‘private’ as this is the strip where many of the hotels and clubs are. So, reaching these spots means you’ll have to head through these establishments – maybe stop at the bar for a drink – before reaching the sandy expanse.
The positive of doing this means that you’ll have fewer people and more space. Plus, the hotels and clubs often have beach chairs and cabanas available for you to use.
You can still enjoy the Tulum beaches without having to fret about exclusivity. The public beaches, located to the North, offer beautiful settings that have not yet become overdeveloped, like the hotel area.
These beaches – Las Palmas, Playa Paraiso, and Playa Ruinas – are also much wider, meaning you’ll have plenty of space to set up your towel and umbrella. Do keep in mind that these beaches do tend to get overcrowded during the high season.
5. Explore the Sian Ka’an Biosphere
The Sian Ka’an is a nature reserve and UNESCO heritage site located in the Riviera Maya.
This preserved ecosystem is teeming with flora and fauna. Whether you love dolphins, birds, or turtles, you’re very likely to catch a glimpse of these animals here.
With 2 797 km² of space, Sian Ka’an is enormous! So when visiting this nature reserve, it is best to explore one of two destinations – Punta Allen or Muyil.
Going to Punta Allen means you’ll be hopping on a boat and traveling through the mangroves. This is the better option if you want to spot dolphins and other aquatic animals – you may even spot a manatee or a crocodile! Do consider booking a guided boat trip around Punta Allen, as this is the best way to learn about the ecosystem.
If you decide to visit Sian Ka’an via Muyil (the Maya ruins), you’ll get the chance to see this archeological site too! From the ruins, walk around El Castillo and down the path to the entrance of the nature reserve.
It’ll cost around $50 MXN per person to enter. Now that all the formalities are out of the way, it’s time to explore this gorgeous jungle ecosystem.
Stroll along the Canan-Ha trail through jungle marsh until you reach the observation tower. While the climb up is steep, the view of the lagoon and jungle is breathtaking. Otherwise, you can continue along the trail until you reach the boat dock. Again, taking a boat tour of this side of the Sian Ka’an lagoon is highly recommended.
6. Kaan Luum Lagoon
While we have mentioned Tulum’s incredible cenotes already, none compare to that of Kaan Luum Lagoon. The 25-meter wide cenote sits in the middle of a shallow lagoon.
Located in the middle of the jungle 8 km outside of Tulum, this is a must-see attraction.
The middle area of the lagoon is around 262 feet (86 meters) deep, and you can only explore it by going scuba diving. Otherwise, you’ll have to join the other swimmers and simply float in the shallow depths that encompass the deeper area.
While the view from the ground is pretty spectacular, it’s nothing compared to seeing it from above.
So if you have brought a drone along during your Tulum travels, do fly it here. This will cost you an extra $300 MXN over the $100 MXN entrance fee, but it is definitely worth it.
Other Things to Do in Tulum
Tulum offers visitors so much in terms of activities and attractions. This Tulum vacation guide suggests just a handful of the best things to do in Tulum, Mexico; below are some more fun activities you can do.
- Try a yoga class
- Ride a bike around Tulum
- Visit the Coba ruins and surrounding cenotes
- Grab dinner at a night street food market
- Take a day trip out to Akumal, Playa Del Carmen or Valladolid
Tulum Guide: Weather & Travel Tips
So now that you know what amazing things there are on offer in Tulum, it is time to get to the nitty-gritty details of this Tulum, Mexico travel guide.
Weather in Tulum
With only a couple hundred miles sitting between the equator and Tulum, there is no doubt that this coastal town is a tropical destination. And it is precisely this wonderful, warm and sunny weather that attracts tourists from near and far.
However, this coastal town does experience its fair share of wind and rain too. And it’s best to avoid booking your vacation during Tulum’s rainy season.
Temperatures in Tulum average between 75 – 90°F (23-32°C) throughout the year.
May till October is often hot, muggy, and often Tulum, Mexico’s rainy season. July and August are the hottest months of the year, with temperatures sitting at around 82°F (28°C).
If you want to avoid the Tulum hurricane season, definitely don’t book your flights for June till October.
The best and most popular time of year to visit Tulum is from December through April, as this is when you can expect dry, warm weather.
December and January can still be a bit of a gamble, though, as this is when it tends to be cloudy and windy. This is when Tulum experiences its ‘coldest’ weather with temperatures hovering at around 75°F (24°C) during the day – sounds pretty toasty, actually?
Tulum Travel Tips
Before you head off on your adventure in Tulum, there are a few things you should be aware of first.
As a Mexican coastal town, Spanish is the predominant language spoken by locals. However, almost everyone working within the tourism industry is able to communicate in English.
Money: Currency, Banks and Credit Cards
The local currency in Tulum is the Mexican peso. At the time of writing this guide to Tulum, the exchange rate was US$1 to $19,80 Mexican pesos.
In terms of payment options, cash is king. Some restaurants and shops will accept US dollars, but it is best to carry Pesos. This will ensure that you don’t end up paying more than you should.
There are local ATMs located throughout Tulum, so do make use of them. If you are carrying a Visa or Mastercard, know that this form of payment is only accepted at upmarket hotels and restaurants.
What to Pack for Tulum
Boasting warm, tropical weather, you’re definitely not going to need your winter jacket on this trip!
For maximum comfort, pack clothing that is lightweight and breathable such as beachy sundresses and loose t-shirts. If you tend to feel the cold easily, pack a light cardigan for the evenings.
If you’re planning on partying up a storm while in Tulum, make sure you pack appropriate clothing. We’re not saying you should be dressing up in your LBD and heels, but you don’t want to look like you’ve just rocked up after spending an entire day out at the beach, either.
Sufficient bathing suits and beach cover-ups are a must. And the same can be said for sunglasses and reef-safe sunscreen too.
One of the most important things to remember when packing for Tulum is eco-friendly mosquito repellent. Those buzzing buggers are a nuisance, and you certainly don’t want to spend your beach vacation itching and scratching.
Lastly, if you’re traveling from any country other than North America, you’ll have to pack an adapter. You don’t want your phone or camera dying on you while in tropical Tulum.
Safety in Tulum
This Mexican town is extremely safe – you definitely don’t have to worry about walking around at night per se. But it is always best to keep your wits about you.
As with any other destination, don’t leave your personal belongings lying around.
Tipping in Tulum
Tipping is customary in Tulum, so always tip for good service. This should be around 10-20%. But first, check the bill to see if they have already added a gratuity fee to the final amount – this will be labeled as “propina” on the bill.
Where to Eat in Tulum
One of the best things about visiting Tulum is that you’ll get to sample some delicious local cuisine. From top-class beachfront restaurants to relaxed vegan cafes nestled in a tropical garden, there is no shortage of restaurants in Tulum.
Bonita Burger Bar – $-$$
Set in an outdoor garden, this restaurant offers delectable burgers. It even has yummy vegan options too!
La Gloria de Don Pepe – $$
Located in the pueblo, this charming little spot is the perfect place to sample some Spanish tapas and amazing wines.
Del Cielo – $$
This tropical style bistro offers diners the chance to enjoy Mexican, Caribbean, or international dishes.
Raw Love – $$
Raw Love is arguably one of the most popular eateries in Tulum. It has two restaurants, one located in the pueblo and one behind the famous “Van a la Luz ” art statue near the beach.
The latter is the most frequented. Once you see the gardens filled with hammocks and hippies and have sampled their vegan food, you’ll understand why.
Arca – $$$
This top-class restaurant offers a contemporary menu featuring flame-cooked, Maya-Mexican dishes. It also features a changing menu, so no matter how many times you visit, you’re unlikely to have the same thing more than once.
Street Food in Tulum – $
Whether you are looking for quesadillas, tacos, or dessert, you will find what you are looking for at at least one of the street food vendors of Tulum.
Two spots where you’re likely to hit gold are on Avenida Tulum Oriente Mza 6 as well as behind the Plaza Municipio.
Guide to Tulum Nightlife
The Tulum party scene has exploded in recent years. By day, it’s a relaxed coastal town, but by night its bars and clubs are teeming with party-goers.
Whether you’re looking to feel the deep beats of house music reverberate through your body or shake what your mamma gave ya to salsa music, there is a place in Tulum for you.
No matter the night of the week, the bars and clubs will always be open. But, on certain nights of the week, specific bars or clubs are the party hosts.
- Mondays: This is the only night off.
- Tuesdays: Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar (located in the Pueblo).
- Wednesdays: Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar again!
- Thursdays: Casa Jaguar (located in the Middle Beach Zone).
- Fridays: Gitano (located in the Middle Beach Zone).
- Saturdays: Papaya Playa Project (located in the Beach Town).
- Sundays: Salsa Night at La Zebra Hotel (located in the South Beach Zone).
Where to Stay in Tulum
In Tulum, you can have your pick of five-star luxury hotels, eco-friendly lodges, or laid-back hostels. Below is a small collection of accommodation options. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list, take a look at my round up on where to stay in Tulum.
Luxury Hotels in Tulum
Situated a couple of hundred feet from the ocean, this hotel has a prime location.
While the wooden exterior and thatched roofing give this hotel a rustic look, it is anything but. Surrounded by tropical trees, this luxury hotel has the perfect aesthetic for a jungle/beach hideaway.
Mi Amor is yet another high-end hotel in Tulum. However, it is strictly labeled as adults-only – definitely a great spot for honeymooners.
This luxury hotel sits on a rocky hill just off the water, and it has palatial sunbeds looking out over the ocean – the perfect place to sit back and relax!
Mid-Range Budget Hotels
Perhaps you want to spend a little less on your accommodation and a lot more on curating amazing memories around Tulum. Below are some top choices that still offer bang for your buck.
Nestled in a natural jungle, this accommodation gives off relaxed jungle vibes.
There are plenty of hammocks strung up around the property – the perfect spot to admire the natural surroundings or read a good book.
There are several cenotes near the hotel, and Pepem also has bicycles for guests to make use of – so you can easily reach the cenotes and other attractions on your own.
This is a fabulous hotel that is on the beachfront and budget-friendly. When you’re not lounging around the hotel pool, you can take a dip in the warm, Caribbean ocean.
With an on-site spa as well as yoga classes, Suenos Tulum is the perfect tranquil getaway spot.
Budget-Friendly Hotels & Hostels
If you’re planning to explore every inch of Tulum and its surrounding areas, you’re probably not too phased about paying top dollar for accommodation. Below, you’ll find budget-friendly hotels in Tulum that still allow you to enjoy a little taste of grandeur.
Chill Kanil offers air-conditioned rooms with a minimalistic yet tasteful interior. Free wifi means you can keep in touch with all of your friends back home.
One of the best things about this hotel is that it is pet-friendly. So you don’t have to worry about leaving your fur babies at home.
If you’re a 20-something-year-old who’s looking to have a blast in Tulum, then this hostel may be just the place for you. After all, hostels in Tulum are one of the best places to meet other interesting travelers.
Enjoy a continental or an à la carte breakfast before heading out for a day of exploring. Then come home to a comfortable, vibrantly decorated room.
This hostel also features a restaurant and rooftop lounge – so you can catch a glimpse of the sunset every evening.
Final Thoughts on Tulum Travel Guide
Are you ready to leave your worries behind and head to the laid-back town of Tulum? If your answer is yes, then grab your visa and start packing!
If you’re unsure – which you definitely shouldn’t be – here’s a reminder of what makes Tulum such an incredible tropical destination.
You can spend your days relaxing on gorgeous sandy beaches, explore the surrounding exotic jungle, dive into cobalt blue cenotes, learn about the ancient Maya culture, sample delicious local cuisines, and party up a storm.
Are you convinced now?