Travel

A Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico

February 4, 2019

Tulum is located in Mexico, within the Yucatan, and along the Riviera Maya along with other notable cities such as Playa del Carmen and Cancun. It is a town filled with color, beautiful beaches and amazing margaritas! I absolutely fell in love with Tulum and I couldn’t get enough of the laid-back, peaceful vibe. Whether you’re planning on visiting Tulum or just heard about it for the first time, I hope you find this guide to be informative, helpful and inspirational!


Best time to Visit Tulum

Anytime! Just depends on your preference and budget.

  • January – April = Peak season and higher prices
  • May – June  = Temperatures are warmer.
  • July – October = Hurricane season, so cheaper time to visit
  • November – December = Hurricane season ends with nice weather and fewer tourists.

How to Get to Tulum

The closest major airport is Cancun airport. I flew into Cancun from Miami, which is about a 1.5 hour flight. Then the drive is approximately an additional 1.5 hour drive to Tulum, depending on traffic. If you are driving from Playa Del Carmen, the drive is approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour south.


How to get to From Cancun Airport to Tulum

There are several ways of getting from Cancun to Tulum. All options are pretty straightforward and depend again on your personal preference and budget.

  1. Private Transfer – Personal driver takes you and ONLY you to your hotel.
  2. ADO Bus – A company that operates buses in the Yucatan Peninsula. Using these buses is a reliable, safe and relatively inexpensive way of traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula.
  3. Shared Transfer – Shared options pair people arriving at the same time as you, wait no more than 20 minutes to transfer to your hotel. This open is cheaper than private, however you have to stop along the way to drop off others in your vehicle.
  4. Rent a Car at Cancun Airport – Renting a car seems relatively cheap when you search online, but be careful because there are many hidden fees you are informed of when you arrive in Mexico to pick up your car. For example, insurance is mandatory on the vehicle or you can’t rent it. If you are okay with this, then by all means rent a car, as it is really nice to have the freedom to transport yourself around. Don’t forget to take parking into consideration when traveling around Tulum.

How I transferred to Tulum from Cancun Airport

I arranged and prepaid for a private shuttle online through Happy Shuttle. Traveling as a couple, we decided to save time and not make any stops and have the shuttle to ourselves with the option of a quick stop at the bank. Our private round trip transfer from Cancun Airport to Tulum cost $130 Total. Taking a private transfer is a good option if there are two or more people because the cost is for the entire shuttle, not per person.


Currency in Mexico

The currency is the Mexican Peso. The currency exchange was 1 US dollar for about 17 pesos. I’m sure you’ve heard…”Mexico is cheap!”  and that may be the case in other areas of Mexico, but Tulum is expensive. Expect to pay what you would for food and hotels in expensive cities in the US or Europe. Of course, there are definitely places to find cheap tacos, but be aware that most places are on the pricier side.

Credit cards are accepted at some places, like upscale restaurants, boutiques and hotels. Many restaurants will have a sign outside that says “Cash Only”. For this reason, I recommend stopping on your way from the airport at a bank and withdrawing money for your trip. The best places to go to an ATM are an actual bank or the grocery store where ATMs are bank owned.


Tulum Beach vs Tulum Pueblo

When you visit Tulum, you can chose to stay in Tulum beach or Tulum pueblo. Hotels on the beach are much more expensive and so are the restaurants. Staying in Tulum Pueblo is much more affordable and only a 20 minute bike ride or a quick taxi ride. Deciding whether you stay in Tulum beach or Tulum town is kind of dependent upon your budget and how close you want to be to the beach. If you’re spending a week or so in Tulum you could even split your stay between both areas.


Where I Stayed

Elements Boutique Hotel – We decided to stay in Tulum Pueblo during our visit to Tulum. Although the beach is highly desirable, the price was right in Tulum Pueblo. Since we visited during high season, all the beach hotels were $300+ a night. Since we knew our room would only be used for showering and holding our belongings, we didn’t feel the need to splurge. Elements Boutique hotel is a beautiful property with friendly staff. This hotel is modern, clean, spacious, and is in the perfect spot between the town and the beach. The beach is a 20 minute bike ride or a 10 minute cab ride. If you’re interested in being close to the Mayan ruins and cenotes, this is a great place to stay. The grocery store and ATM are in walking distance with breakfast and bikes included during your stay.


Additional Hotel Options

There are too many resorts to count in Tulum. You really can’t go wrong, it all depends on your budget and if you prefer the beach or town. Below I have listed some places that I visited for meals and would recommend based on my experience as a dining guest and/or touring the hotel grounds.

Luxury

Azulik Tulum 

Nomade Tulum 

Sanara

Mi Amor

La Zebra

Mid-Range

Coco Tulum 

Hotel Tiki Tiki 


Getting Around Tulum

The town of Tulum is small, making it easy to get around to most places by walking or riding a bike. Depending on where you stay, visiting cenotes, ruins and beaches in the surrounding area, it maybe best to take a taxi. If you walk or ride a bike, be careful at night because the roads are very dark, narrow, have many pot holes and speed bumps.

Bikes

Many people ride bikes around Tulum. Most hotels provide them for free with a lock. Many even have baskets for your bag, camera, etc. Out hotel provided free bikes with baskets and we used them frequently to go Tulum Beach.

The traffic is crazy at night and sometimes during the day depending on the day of the week. There are pedestrians, potholes, and bumps to keep an eye out for. Most cars seem to be very respectful of bikers. Parking your bike is easy as you can lock it up on any tree. Bikes were our preferred way of getting everywhere along the beach road.

Taxis

For longer distances, it’s best to hail a taxi right along the street. Taxis in Tulum are white. I recommend negotiating the price before getting into the taxi. At night when everyone is trying to get to their hotel the taxis are more expensive and typically occupied, so sometimes its a good idea to grab a taxi someone is getting out of or from a hotel.


WHAT TO SEE & DO

Visit Cenotes

There are so many cenotes in the area and it can be overwhelming. I suggest prior to your trip to research and chose the ones you would like to visit. Some are within just a few minutes of Tulum, and many others are hours away. Since we stayed in Tulum Pueblo we weren’t too far away from some of the popular cenotes. We decided to ride our bikes to two different cenotes. We visited Cenote Calavera and the Grand Cenote. They are both located on the right side of a Avienda Coba, which has a bike path lane. We reached Cenote Calavera within 15 minutes and the Gran Cenote was about another 15 minutes north. Our cenote hopping took a few hours and we made sure to arrive pretty much right around opening time. If you want to have the cenote with little to no people arrive EARLY or at the end of the day!

Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins are ancient Mayan ruins perched above the beach and are a nice way to spend the morning exploring. Get there at opening to avoid major crowds (it’s so much more beautiful without all the tourists!) The famous Tulum ruins are just a few miles from Tulum pueblo. It’s definitely possible to ride your bike a few miles from Tulum or take a taxi. We decided to ride our bikes, which took about 15 minutes. We locked up our bikes on a tree, purchased a ticket and began to explore. Once we finished up at the ruins, we hopped back on our bikes and road to Tulum Beach (about 20 minutes). The ride is really nice and a great way to get some exercise in after eating lots of tacos! The Tulum ruins entrance fee is 70 pesos (about $4).

Rent a Bike

Bikes are a popular way to get around in Tulum.  You can rent one and ride into town or to the ruins.

Enjoy the Beach

This one is obvious!  Tulum is known for it’s turquoise water and white sand beaches.  Put on your swimsuit, lay in a cabana and enjoy a margarita. You can rent cabanas for the day for as little as 30 USD to 75 USD per person depending on the hotel. I would recommend Ana y Jose, Coco Tulum and Casa Malca to name a few.

Shop the Local Boutiques

Walk or bike up and down Tulum Beach’s main road for countless shopping opportunities. You’ll end up with beautiful pieces of clothing and unique jewelry & trinkets. Be ware the Tulum boutiques can be pretty expensive!

Visit Azulik for a Sunset Cocktail

Azulik is an eco-friendly hotel with organic architecture made from its surroundings. They’ve built the elevated wooden paths that twist and turn allowing trees to grow freely! It looks like a treehouse straight out of a fairytale! If you’re not a guest I suggest arriving at 5:00 PM to stand in line for the opportunity to get a taste of Azulik at Sunset. They open their doors to non guests at 5:30 PM. Of course, everything comes with a price and you must spend at least 50 USD per person in the bar area. I know, it’s expensive AF!

TIP: If you’re interested in staying at Azulik, it’s important to know that there’s no electricity, air conditioning, or wifi (only in the lobby). Great if you’re looking to disconnect. You should also know, if looking to stay at Azulik, there are no showers only bathtubs. Everything is lit by candlelight.

Visit IK Lab

Free art exhibit located next to Azulik. This is an art gallery showing very exclusive pieces, and I think they are the “If-you-need-to-ask-the-price-you-can’t-afford-it.” variety. To be honest, I wasn’t impressed by any of the pieces for sale and I think the structure that is housing them all is the true gem! Worth a stop if you’re next door at Azulik. Be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering and all your belongings must stay at the front with the security guard. No professional cameras only cellphones allowed.


WHERE TO EAT + DRINK

  • Rosa Negra – A jungly, open kitchen restaurant serving locally sourced, Mayan-style vegan cuisine. We loved their mole and refreshing cucumber drinks.  This place is right on the main beach road as well!
  • Posada Margarita – An Italian restaurant on the beach with a great ambiance and decor. Pastas are all made home made and
  • Hartwood – A highly rated restaurant serving up Mexican and American cuisine. Located on the jungle side of Tulum’s beach road. Local sea-to-table ingredients cooked on the grill or wood burning oven. Menu changes daily based on availability of ingredients. Make reservations well in advance or you will most likely miss out.
  • Antojitos La Chiapaneca – Super simple, delicious and authentic tacos in Tulum Pueblo. Probably the most famous spot in town. Local waiters don’t speak English so try to brush up on your Spanish.
  • Gitano – Famous for its mezcal bar. Come here for dinner when all the candles are lit up and you can drink the night away.
  • Batey Mojito + Guarapo Bar – A fun bar with an outdoor patio, DELICIOUS mojitos, and live music in Tulum Pueblo.
  • Ziggy’s – This fun beach bar/restaurant is right on the beach with a lively, fun atmosphere and a great selection of drinks and tacos.
  • The Real Coconut – Located in the Sanara, The Real Coconut restaurant is gluten, grain, refined sugar and dairy free with a “food as medicine” philosophy. The decor and view are amazing and overlook the ocean.
  • El Tabano – is a hip and fashionable Mexican restaurant that serves original dishes inspired by European cuisine. Here, the ever-changing fresh, healthy menu is written on a chalkboard, and the open kitchen allows diners to see their food being prepared.
  • Kin Toh in Azulik – Built on stilts above the jungle, Kin Toh is a must visit if only for one overpriced cocktail. This is more for the ambiance than the drinks themselves as you’ll feel like you’re in a treehouse made completely of bamboo. If you’re not staying at Azulik, make sure to head there around 5 pm in order to enter for sunset cocktails.
  • Nomade  – Gorgeous and serene restaurant, right on the ocean, with boho chic design. The food is incredible and fresh. Beds are available for visitors not staying in the hotel for 50 USD, but only ones without an umbrella or shade.
  • Matcha Mama– An adorable beach side shack serving up some of the most delicious fruit bowls and smoothies. Great spot for breakfast or a snack.

If you’ve been to Tulum, I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about my travel guide! If you have any questions at all about traveling in Tulum, please don’t hesitate to contact me or chat with me on social media – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I hope that you found this detailed travel guide helpful, informative and inspiring for your travel planning and future adventures in Tulum!


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  1. Such a helpful guide to Tulum! I’m heading there this winter and there are so many crucial tips here, thank you for sharing!
    Meredith
    The Longest Weekend
    thelongestweekend.co

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