Planning Your Trip
Things to Do
Tulum attracts visitors searching for fun in the sun, relaxation, and proximity to nature. The destination got its start as an off-the-grid beach spot for backpackers and hippie types. Back in the 1990s, it had dirt roads, mostly barren beaches with hammocks hanging in a few rustic cabanas. Now, Tulum’s eco-friendly, boho-chic vibe attracts travelers from all over the world. It has rustic-chic boutique hotels, hip beach bars, and trendy restaurants that are frequented by hipsters, Instagram influencers, and celebrities. It’s a hot spot for yoga retreats, dining, boutique shopping, and even nightlife and electronic music festivals.
This Tulum travel guide will give you an introduction to this beautiful destination and the information you need to plan your stay.
Planning Your Trip
- Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Tulum is in the late fall and early winter when the weather is pleasant and before the crowds of tourists descend in late December until March.
- Language: Spanish is the most commonly spoken language, although there are many Maya speakers in the area (16,000 speakers of Maya in the municipality of Tulum) and many people who work in the tourism industry speak English. It’s a good idea to learn some Spanish phrases before you go.
- Currency: The currency is the Mexican peso (MXN). Tour companies, activities, and hotels may list prices in U.S. dollars but will accept either dollars or pesos. For purchases in shops, restaurants, and street stands, use pesos for the best deals.
- Getting Around: There are plentiful taxis, but Uber does not operate in Tulum. You can rent a bike for a convenient way to get around town and to the beach; many establishments in Tulum pueblo offer them for hire and some hotels provide them for their guests free of charge.
- Travel Tip: Most restaurants and bars, even upscale establishments, are cash only, so be sure to carry enough cash with you for what you need. There are ATMs around town where you can withdraw pesos directly from your bank account, and this is usually the most convenient way to exchange funds, and this method offers the best rate.
Things to Do
You may be tempted to spend your whole vacation at the beach, but don’t miss a visit to Tulum's archaeological site; it’s the only Maya walled city located right on the coast. If you’re into health and wellness, check out the yoga, meditation, and holistic wellness offerings at Yäan Healing Sanctuary or Sanará. Nature lovers shouldn’t miss a day trip south to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, which has tropical forests, mangroves, and marshes, and a barrier reef just offshore. If you enjoy swaying to tropical rhythms or dancing to the beats of EDM, you’ll also find your bliss in Tulum.
Here are a few activities to enjoy:
- Take a walk or a swim on one of Tulum’s beautiful beaches.
- See sea turtles in their natural habitat. Mama turtles come up on the beach to lay their eggs and then the babies hatch and return to the ocean between May and October.
- Take a refreshing dip in a cenote.
- Go on a day trip to visit Cobá archaeological site.
- Find your zen with a sunrise yoga class.
What to Eat and Drink
The food in Tulum is fresh, inventive, and delicious. This is a great destination for food lovers and there’s something to suit all tastes and palates. There are upscale restaurants like Hartwood, which offers a changing menu based on locally sourced foods, or Bal Nak, which serves creative takes on classic Yucatecan dishes. If you love seafood, head to El Camello Jr. for ceviche and Baja-style fish tacos. For vegan and vegetarian options, check out Raw Love or El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra. You can also find simple tacos and other cheap eats at Antojitos El Chiapaneco or Mexican-Italian comfort food at La Querida.
When the sun goes down, there are plenty of options for sipping cocktails or dancing under the stars. If you’re looking for great mezcal, don’t miss the underrated Pasito Tun Tun, or perhaps you’d prefer to sample some inventive cocktails on a jungle terrace at Gitano. There are monthly full moon beach parties at Papaya Playa Project, and mojitos made with freshly squeezed fruit juice and sugar cane at Batey, a popular bar in Tulum pueblo.
Where to Stay
Your main choice is whether you will stay in the beach area or Tulum pueblo. Most of the hotels on the beach are rustic chic, peaceful jungle-beach boutique hotels. You can expect to pay premium prices for a stay right by the beach, but in keeping with the eco-conscious vibe of the destination, many of the beachfront hotels don’t have air-conditioning, the power may be shut off during the night, and shower water is brackish (somewhat salty). The beach is gorgeous, though! If you opt to stay in Tulum Pueblo, there are economical hotels and Airbnbs to choose from, which may have more of the modern comforts and generally better value.
Unlike in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, you won’t find many all-inclusive resorts in Tulum. The Dreams Tulum is about a 15-minute drive north of Tulum, and Kore Tulum is all-inclusive but not directly on the beach. When considering your options, be sure to check the location of your accommodation; many hotels in the surrounding areas add Tulum to their name but aren’t actually in Tulum.
The closest international airport is the Cancun Airport, which is located 73 miles north of Tulum. From there, you can arrange transportation with your hotel, rent a car, or take a bus. The ADO bus line offers service from Cancun airport to Tulum a few times a day. It’s about an hour and a half drive to Tulum from the Cancun airport or two hours by direct bus. If the timing of your arrival isn't right for a direct bus, you can catch one to Playa del Carmen and from there get a bus to Tulum.
Money Saving Tips
- Travel during the low season: avoid late December through March and the summer, when there are lots of European visitors. If you book when there are fewer people, the weather may not be as nice, but you can find some great deals.
- Pay with cash and in Mexican pesos to avoid paying extra; the exchange rate offered by local businesses isn't good.
- Stay in Tulum town (pueblo) and go to a beach club for fun in the sun. Taqueria La Eufemia is a good and fun option where you can enjoy the beach, drinks, and food without breaking the bank.
- Find accommodation with a kitchen or at least a mini fridge so you can save on food and drinks.
- Eat at local spots. There are lots of street food places and local taco restaurants that offer tasty food for cheap.