Tulum has some of the most stunning beaches in Mexico. This laidback town on the Riviera Maya is known for its Maya archaeological site overlooking the Caribbean, yoga centers, cool clubs, and boho hippie vibe. While it used to be just a day trip destination to visit the Tulum ruins, it’s now a destination in its own right, attracting visitors from all over the world. The Tulum coastline stretches over 10 miles from the Tulum ruins to Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. The beaches here are all exquisite, with sugar-white, powdery sand, and water that is bright azure to turquoise from a distance and crystal clear when you're in it.
The main town of Tulum (referred to as Tulum Pueblo) is about 3 miles from the coast, and Tulum National Park takes up the area between them. There’s just one road leading from the town to the hotel zone and beaches. This road splits at a roundabout. Turn left at the roundabout to access the north side beaches, and right to go to the south side beaches. Although all beaches in Mexico are technically public, in practice, many hotels limit access to the beaches to their guests. In Tulum, the north side beaches are less developed and tend to be more easily accessible. There are more natural areas, but since these beaches may not get cleaned very often, during seasons when there’s a lot of sargassum (seaweed) washing up on the shore, it can pile up, which may put a damper on your beach experience. The beaches on the south side are home to some of the more upscale hotels, restaurants, beach clubs, and bars and can be difficult to access if you’re not a patron.
Wondering which beach to visit and where to find the best beach clubs? This guide will help you decide which is the best Tulum beach for you.
The competition is steep, but this beach gets our vote for the most Instagram-worthy. The Tulum archaeological site is dramatically perched on a 40 foot-high cliff overlooking this idyllic beach with crystal-clear water and powdery white sand. The walled city was one of the last Maya cities, at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries, and it served as an important port for Cobá, the larger city located 30 miles inland. After exploring the ruins where there’s little shade to be found, you’ll be ready for a refreshing dip. Find the wooden platform and steps leading down to the beach. There’s nowhere to change, so wear your swimsuit under your clothes and bring a towel. Get there early to enjoy it without the crowds!
Playa Santa Fe
This beach is located just south of the archaeological site, but you can’t reach it from Ruinas Beach because rocky outcroppings block the way. From outside the archaeological site, turn left, and you’ll find a sign pointing to public beach access and the entrance to the Santa Fe Beach Club. Follow the path, and when you get to the open beach, turn left, and you’ll see a wide stretch of lovely beach. The Santa Fe Beach Club is little more than a shack that rents out beach chairs and umbrellas (there's also camping here), but they serve excellent burritos and shrimp tacos, in case you’ve worked up an appetite or sip on a cold beer or fruity cocktail with your feet in the sand. The archaeological site is still visible from here, so you can also get some great photos.
This is a long, flat beach with calm surf a few minutes walk from Santa Fe beach. Playa Pescadores is a good spot for families to spend a day at the beach. Several companies offer snorkeling tours, and you’ll get a view of the Maya ruins from the water. Visit between May and November for a chance to spot some sea turtles. If you just want to relax on the beach and enjoy some food and drinks, Villa Pescadores and Kai both have chill beach clubs with comfortable spots to rest in the shade. Besides great ceviche, the restaurant at Kai also offers excellent wood-fired pizza. Stay until the early evening to enjoy live music under the stars.
Heading south from Playa Pescadores, the next stretch of beach is known as Playa Paraiso (“Paradise Beach”). You’ll find yoga enthusiasts, iguanas, and other beach lovers on this wide public beach dotted with palm trees. Choose a spot in the sand in the shade of a palm tree for free, or pay a minimum in booze and bites for a shaded cabana. Playa Paraiso Beach Club has food and drink service, beach beds, chairs, and umbrellas, as well as relaxing beach-side massages. They also offer free parking, which can be difficult to find (show your receipt from the restaurant to avoid being charged).
Playa Las Palmas
This beautiful beach is the perfect spot for beachgoers who want to escape the crowds. It’s quieter and more secluded than Playa Paraiso and Playa Pescadores and has fewer vendors. Pocna Tulum hotel is located here and rents out day beds and loungers, and runs Kogure Japanese restaurant (if you’re hankering for some sushi, this is the place!). Otherwise, this beach is mostly virgin. If you don’t want to spend at the beach club, bring water and snacks, and enjoy your time in the sun for free.
On Tulum’s south side, you’ll find the Papaya Playa Project beach club, which has a cool, laid-back vibe during the day, which turns to a party atmosphere on weekend nights. There’s a minimum spend per person to use their facilities, but you get a beach bed, towels, and wait service. They even have an infinity pool looking out over the ocean. Lie back and enjoy being served light food and drinks throughout the day as you listen to the soul and funk playlists compiled by local artists and DJs. On the weekends, the club hosts live events and gigs by a variety of entertainers. It’s best to make a reservation if you’ll be going on the weekend.
Fourteen miles south of Tulum, within the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, you’ll find Boca Paila, a small fishing village that has so far escaped the tourist development that predominates on many of the Riviera Maya beaches. Here you can enjoy raw, unspoiled beauty and no crowds. There are a few small hotels, restaurants, and spots for camping, but since services are scarce, bring your own food and water, and don’t forget the sunscreen! The beach here is ideal for long walks while looking for seashells.