March 4, 2024

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The Ultimate Travel Guide To Tulum

The Ultimate Travel Guide To Tulum

Tulum is one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico and has become a favorite among wellness enthusiasts and content creators in recent years. This beach paradise gets a reputation as being crowded and costly, but this is not necessarily the case. Tulum is definitely still worth visiting!


Find out how to stay in Tulum on a budget, what to do while visiting, when to go for the best weather and deals, and where to eat.


What To Know When Visiting

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Image Credit: Unsplash by Kamil Kalbarczyk 

Tulum is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the Caribbean Coast of the country. As part of the idyllic Yucatán Peninsula, there are lots of beaches and Mayan ruins to explore there.

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Many travelers imagine beachfront hotels when picturing Tulum, and although this is part of the location’s appeal, there is also a downtown area to explore.

Related: Is The ADO Bus From Cancun To Tulum The Best Way To Travel?

This area is called Tulum Centro or Tulum Town and is approximately 3 km from the beach. Travelers who choose to stay in Tulum Town get a more authentic experience in terms of restaurant options, and they can save money on accommodation.

The easiest way to get around Tulum Town and travel to the beachfront is by bicycle.

Best Time To Go

Tulum is popular year-round, however, the peak season is during the winter, from November to January. The high temperature during this time of year hovers around 23ºC during the day. The wettest month in Tulum is October, so traveling after this time lends itself to drier, more pleasant conditions.

The low season is Tulum is from May to November, with the slowest months being July to September. During this time there are fewer crowds, less bustling nightlife, and hotter temperatures.

In August, the temperature can hover around 28ºC during the day. Visiting during the low season can mean fewer crowds and better prices.

Must-See Sights Near Tulum

Tulum is the ideal combination of historical interest and natural wonders to satisfy every type of traveler. Some top things to do in Tulum include excursions to Mayan ruins sights, swimming in the many cenotes, and relaxing on the beaches.

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Image Credit: Unsplash by Anna Sullivan

Tulum Archaeological Zone

The Tulum Archaeological Zone features the ruins of a Mayan city that is centuries old. It overlooks the Caribbean Sea from its position on a bluff, just a 20-minute drive from Tulum Centro.

  • Hours: Monday to Sunday, 8 AM to 5 PM
  • Entrance Fee: ~$4.37 (~$85 MXN)

Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos, And More

One of the top things to see in Tulum is the many cenotes (underground swimming holes/sinkholes) which are fun to swim in and go scuba diving. There are tons of them in and around Tulum Centro, leaving travelers spoiled for choice.

Some of the most popular are Gran Cenote (just 10 minutes away from Tulum Centro by car) and Dos Ojos Cenote (30 minutes from Tulum Centro by car).

Cenote Escondido is another option that is only 10 minutes away from the city center.

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Image Credit: Unsplash by The Free Birds

  • Hours: Monday to Sunday, 8 AM to 4:45 PM (Gran Cenote), Monday to Sunday, 9 AM to 5 PM (Dos Ojos and Cenote Escondido)
  • Entrance Fee: ~$25 ($500 MXN) for Gran Cenote, ~$18 ($350 MXN) for Dos Ojos, ~$10 ($200 MXN) for Cenote Escondido

Parque Nacional Tulum

Tulum National Park is home to Mayan Ruins, white sand beaches, and lush greenery. Travelers can escape the busy Tulum Centro district in the high season with a relaxing afternoon in nature at the park.

The park is just 10 minute drive from Tulum Centro.

  • Hours: Monday to Sunday, 7 AM to 4 PM
  • Entrance Fee: ~$4.37 (~$85 MXN)

Yal-Ku Lagoon

Yal-Ku Lagoon is a shallow cenote located a 30-minute drive up the coast from Tulum Centro.

This is a unique spot to swim where fresh water from the underground rivers runs into the salt water of the Caribbean Sea. Swim and float around in the tropical paradise for a relaxing afternoon.

  • Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Entrance Fee: ~$14.50 (~$280 MXN)

Where To Stay: Beachfront Vs. Tulum Town

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Image Credit: Unsplash by Roberto Nickson 

Whether travelers want to stay on the beachfront or in Tulum Town ultimately depends on their budget. The luxury beachfront resorts in Tulum are stunning, but they come with a high price tag.

Related: The Best Accommodations In Tulum For Your Next Vacation

Backpackers will find that staying in one of the desirable neighborhoods of Tulum Town helps them keep costs down. Tulum Centro, the city center, is a great option for travelers.

They can also stay in La Veleta, which is an up-and-coming spot for travelers to base themselves while exploring the region.

Luxury beachfront hotels:

  • Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya
    • Address: Carretera Cancun Tulum 307, 77774 Tulum, Quintana Roo
    • Amenities: Private Beach, Water sport Facilities, Outdoor Pool

Mid-range hotels in La Veleta and on the beachfront:

  • LUV Tulum
    • Address: Carretera Tulum Boca Paila Km 7.6, 77780 Tulum, Quintana Roo
    • Amenities: Private Beach, Complimentary Breakfast, Pets Allowed

  • The Strabon Tulum
    • Address: Calle 16 Sur, La Veleta, 77780 Tulum, Quintana Roo
    • Amenities: Outdoor Pool, Restaurant, Free Toiletries

Budget accommodation in Tulum Centro:

  • Che Tulum Hostel & Bar
    • Address: Calle Polar, 77780 Tulum, Quintana Roo
    • Amenities: Outdoor Pool, Restaurant, Lounge/Bar

Best Spots For Food And Drinks

Tulum is a foodie’s dream destination and there’s something here for every budget. Fine dining restaurants cater to a luxurious experience along the beachfront, but there are plenty of local restaurants and street vendors to purchase great eats from in Tulum Town.

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Image Credit: Unsplash by Marvin Castelino

One attraction to check out year-round is the Tulum Street Food Market, which is simply a row of street food vendors in Tulum Centro.

Travelers will find tacos, burritos, and even vegan options here, late into the night.

  • Date: Year-round
  • Address: Calle Sol Ote. 3, Tulum Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Travelers staying in Tulum for weeks or longer may prefer to visit grocery stores rather than dine out constantly. The Wóolis Foodie Market Tulum is an excellent health foods market with personable staff and quality ingredients.

  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 AM to 9 PM, Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM
  • Address: Satélite Sur local 4, Tulum Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

In addition to these local food markets, there are plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from in Tulum.

  • Best restaurants for breakfast: Raw Love, DelCielo, Don Cafeto
  • Top eateries for lunch and dinner: Taqueria Honorio, Sabor de Mar, La Coqueta, El Cayuco Tulum, Mía Restaurant & Beach Club
  • Greatest bars: Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar, Papaya Playa Project, Naná Rooftop Bar.

Related: These Restaurants In Tulum Are Worth An Entire Vacation Trip

Best Beaches In Tulum

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Image Credit: Unsplash by Spencer Watson

The main attraction of Tulum is its stunning beaches. These beaches boast white sand, crystal clear blue waters, and lots of trendy beach clubs to hang out at. Playa Paraiso is a famous beach in Tulum that is beautiful but extremely crowded.

Las Palmas is another public beach that is a little more secluded. There are many to choose from in this part of the Yucatan Peninsula, but these are some of the best.

Related: A Non-Touristy Guide To Visiting Tulum, Mexico

Playa Ruinas is a beautiful beach in Tulum that is below a site of ancient Mayan ruins. This adds a new element to the area and makes it one of the most unique beaches in all of Mexico.

  • Address: Zona Hotelera Tulum, 77765 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Akumal Beach is another popular choice for travelers to hang out at in Tulum. It’s about 30 minutes from the city center and is extremely lively and well-established.

There are restaurants and bars to choose from, making it possible for families or couples to spend a full day there.

  • Address: Carretera Tulum, Yodzonot, 77776 Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico’

Secret Beach is no longer a secret, but it’s a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon in Tulum. This beach is located within the Reserva de la Biósfera Sian Ka’an and takes approximately an hour to reach by bicycle from the city center.

  • Address: Secret Beach, QROO 15, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tips For Exchanging Currency

Mexico’s currency is MXN (Mexican Pesos), so travelers have to exchange their USD or CAD if they want to pay with cash during their trip to Tulum. Many places accept credit cards but for smaller establishments, beachfront bars, and street food vendors, travelers should be prepared to pay with cash.

Related: Packing For Tulum? Here’s What To Bring (And What To Leave At Home)

Travelers can exchange currency at home before departure through their bank. If they want to wait until arriving in Mexico, there are a couple of options. There are opportunities to exchange currency at the airport in Cancun, however, these vendors don’t offer the best exchange rates.

Travelers can wait until arriving in Tulum and use their bank cards to take currency out of the local banks’ ATMs for better exchange rates. In Tulum there is an HSBC and CIBanco Tulum.

How To Spend The Perfect Day In Tulum

Tulum is a relaxing vacation destination when staying near the beach, but it can also be a culturally rich spot for digital nomads to live for months at a time. The perfect day in Tulum starts with breakfast in Tulum Town before cycling to the beach.

Travelers can pay many hotels in the hotel zone for the privilege of using their beachfront for the day even if they aren’t staying at the hotel.

This is a great way to relax on some prime beach real estate while saving money on accommodation by staying in Tulum Town.

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Image Credit: Unsplash by Alex Azabache

Grab lunch at Taqueria Honorio before heading out on a guided tour of some of the region’s best cenotes. Visit Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos, or Cenote Azul. Spend the afternoon swimming, taking beautiful photos, and enjoying the natural beauty. In the evening, head back to Tulum’s beaches and have an upscale dinner at Mía Restaurant & Beach Club.

Then, close the night out with some drinks and dancing at Papaya Playa Project.

FAQ

Q: Does Tulum have an airport?

No, Tulum doesn’t have its own international airport. Travelers will need to book their flights to Cancun and take overland transportation from Cancun Internaitonal Airport to Tulum Town. From the airport to Tulum Centro it’s approximately 1.5-hour drive. Travelers can take a bus, taxi, or arrange a private transfer.

Q: Is Tulum affordable?

Tulum is no longer a hidden gem of Mexico and due to its popularity, all prices have increased. Travelers can still visit on a budget if they stay in Tulum Town at a trendy hostel and opt for street food for most meals.

Of course, there are many affordable hotels in Mexico, it just takes some investigating to find them.