Tulum is a dreamy beach town on the Riviera Maya. Some people think that it’s getting too touristy, and it’s true that it has changed over the last 10 years, but in my opinion it’s beyond fantastic. I love the artsy, boho vibe, the amazing eco resorts, white sand beaches, gorgeous cenotes and historic ruins. Tulum is the perfect place to relax. This travel guide has everything you need to know about Tulum including the 5 best things to do, hotel recommendations and delicious food.
Weather and the Best Time to Visit Tulum
- High Season – December holidays through Spring Break is the busiest time in Tulum. The weather is great and the beaches are packed. It can be crowded but it can also be really amazing as long as you avoid the major school holidays. The people that have kids and can’t avoid these times can at least look forward to being there with lots of other families. Hotel rates are most expensive and attractions are very busy during this time.
- Shoulder Season – Right after Spring break (April-May), you can still get great weather and much better hotel deals. November through mid-December are part of the great weather dry season with temperatures in the high 70’s. There’s still humidity and a little rain but It’s a nice by the beach and a little on the hot side at Chicken Itza.
- Low Season – June through October is hot (temps in the high 80ºs to 90ºs) and humid with rain rolling through for a few hours. If you don’t mind that weather, then you can score some great deals and avoid the heavy tourism. Be aware that September and October are hurricane season. Make sure you have travel insurance in case you need to make a last minute change to your trip.
Best Things to do in Tulum
You can literally do nothing but chill in Tulum but if you’re like me, you want to know what activities are available. For this travel guide, I’m including the best, coolest things to do in Tulum in addition to getting your relaxed beach vibe on. The one thing that’s missing that we really wanted to do was a half day trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It’s definitely one of the top Tulum attractions if you’ll be in the area for at least 3 days. You can also set yourself up in Playa del Carmen to be close to all these activities.
1. Visit a Cenote or a Few
Cenotes are one of the things that make this area of the world extraordinary. There’s nothing quite like swimming in crystal clear water, in a cave. There are a lot of Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Check out the list of the “must see” cenotes below. They get busy so go right when they open.
5 Amazing Cenotes to please your inner mermaid
- Ik Kil Cenote – Hours: 9am – 5pm | Cost: Adults 80 MXN Kids 40 MXN
- Gran Cenote– Pictured above left Hours: 8am – 4:45pm | Cost: Adults 180 MXN
- Cenote Suytun – Pictured above right Hours: 9am – 5pm | Cost: Adults 120 MXN
- Cenotes Labnaha Hours: 9am – 5pm | Cost: Adults 80 MXN Kids 40 MXN
- Dos Ojos Cenote Hours: 8am – 5pm | Cost: Adults 200 MXN
2. Go to Azulik
Azulik is a hotel with multiple restaurants and activities. It has mixed reviews from the people that stay here. Some love the romantic off the grid feel and others feel like it’s too expensive and/or uncomfortable without electricity or feeling too exposed. Regardless, I highly recommend a visit, even if it’s just for a meal. Here’s what you should see:
- The bar has a net area with pillows where you can have a drink, watch the sunset or hang out at night. It gets crowded with people trying to take pics, but if you go after dinner, you can relax and enjoy.
- Kin Toh restaurant is the one pictured above. The food is absolutely delicious Mayan Mexican cuisine and they have private tables that make the dining experience even more special. You can make a reservation ahead for a group to get one of the tables overlooking the entire Tulum Jungle. It is an unparalleled experience.
- Tseen Ja is the sushi restaurant that is attached to the bar area. It has great food and an upbeat, kind of groovy, chic vibe. Go for the sunset experience above the jungle and enjoy a cocktail while you wander the pathways and enjoy your vacation. Make sure you visit the bathroom, before dark so you can admire the decor.
- Wellness – You can get tickets and attend sound meditation, take a yoga class or try one of their ancient rituals.
- Go to the gift shop – seriously. It’s the most unique gift shop I have been in worldwide. The design is stunning and you’ll find lots of interesting things to look at.
- Every little detail of Azulik furthers their concept of eco “design in harmony with the environment” from the walkways like the one pictured above, to the health and wellness philosophy to the dining options and outdoor spaces. Make sure you visit.
3. Bike Riding to the Beach
The first thing we noticed when we got to Tulum was everyone riding bikes. Almost every hotel will let you borrow a bike. It’s the fastest way to transition into vacay mode and immediately start enjoying yourself. Hop on, ride through Tulum town to get the lay of the land or straight to the beach.
There are a few things to note about the beach in Tulum. You can choose between public beaches or a private beach club. The public beaches are family friendly and fun. Some prefer the live music and party atmosphere of the Papaya Playa Project. Others are looking for an upscale, hotel experience. Whatever you are looking for, they definitely have your perfect day at the beach in Tulum.
4. Eat at Amazing Restaurants
We had so many good meals in Tulum, that the restaurants could be in a travel guide of their own. You could probably eat at a different place every day for a month and love each delicious dish. So we may need to go back and try more but for now, here are the spots we recommend.
- Azulik $$$-$$$$ – Already discussed at length above, Make a reservation for Kin Toh or Tseen-Ja and enjoy!
- Hartwood $$$$ – Super popular (read: make reservations but just know you’ll still have a wait) for this off-grid, delectable restaurant that sources fresh ingredients and grills it to perfection.
- Nomade Hotel Macondo $$-$$$ – The breakfast is amazing. The host actually takes you on a tour of the buffet. It seemed like a funny thing to do but gives you insight into what Nomade is all about. There are mixed reviews about lunch and dinner so stick to La Popular, their beach restaurant that’s the perfect spot to chill for lunch.
- The Real Coconut $$-$$$- The food is innovative and so yummy. Grain free, non-dairy, organic food never tasted so good. Great breakfast spot. I wish this restaurant was near me. We would go all the time but the incredible Tulum beach views would be missing.
- Posada Margherita $$-$$$ – It might seem weird to eat Italian food in Mexico but the pizza and fresh pasta is sooo delicious. Cash only.
- Loco Tulum $$ – Great shrimp and fish tacos in a fun, casual environment.
- Matcha Mama $ – Should I be embarrassed to say we went for smoothies 4 times on our 4 day trip? It’s so delicious. Lots of people come for the Insta opportunity but you’ll just want to hang out here on the swings like a Tulum version of Friend’s Central Perk.
5. Go to the Mayan Ruins
The Tulum ruins, the only Mayan seaport, are right on the beach and very easy to get to from anywhere in Tulum. You can ride a bike there or take a taxi. Tip: Go when it opens at 8am to get there before the tour busses. You don’t really need a guide for the Tulum ruins, it’s easy to explore and travel around on your own.
Hours: 8am – 5pm | Cost: 70 MXN paid in cash. There’s a photography fee of 45 MXN for any camera other than your cell phone. | Bring: Pesos to buy your ticket, bathing suit, towel, hat and sunscreen so you can enjoy the beach afterwards and water. It can get really hot.
Chichen Itza is a place you need to visit at least once in your life. It is one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We went a long time ago and were able to climb up El Castillo (the pyramid). You are no longer allowed to do that but just know that El Castillo is not the only thing to see. Chicken Itza is an entire Mayan city. Plan to spend a few hours and don’t miss the Great Ball Court.
Hours: 8am – 5pm | Cost: 480 MXN (foreigner price, approx. $25) and an additional photography fee for a video camera or tripod. | Bring: Pesos to buy your ticket, good walking shoes, hat, sunscreen and water. It’s hotter here than the Tulum ruins. Also bring a swimsuit and towel to visit Il-Kil Cenote nearby.
Bonus #6 Go to See the Ven a La Luz Art Installation
Originally created as the entrance to the inaugural Art With Me Festival, Ven a La Luz is a 30 foot tall structure that symbolizes our connection to nature. South African artist Daniel Popper was the visionary for this project to bring awareness to the fragile ecosystem in Tulum. It is now permanently located at the entrance of AHAU Tulum.
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Tulum Travel Guide: Hotels
Tulum has the most incredible boutique hotels. The bohemian, eco chic decor is relaxed and positively divine. They can be quite expensive at high season. If you are looking for a more affordable option, there are some great places outside of the main area that are only a few minutes away and much more affordable.
- Nomade – beautiful property and rooms located on the part of the beach road I like most. The hotel’s restaurants and beach are amazing with a boho chic vibe.
- Be Tulum Beach & Spa Resort – Also in the same part of town, is one of the most stunning eco resorts you’ll ever see with with large private rooms.
- Elements Tulum – stylish, clean, inexpensive boutique hotel that is a bike ride away from the beach but still near restaurants and shops.
- Hotel Tiki Tiki Tulum – cute new mid century decor that’s a short distance from the beach and town. The location is nice for people who want to be removed from everything but won’t be great for everyone.
How to Get to Tulum
Most people fly into Cancun Airport. Here are your options for getting to Tulum.
- Air conditioned ADO Bus – It takes 2 hours and is approximately 260 pesos. It’s really easy, inexpensive and comfortable.
- Get a private transfer that your hotel can arrange for you.
- Rental car – personally I wouldn’t choose this option. Lots of people have issues with cars in Mexico and it’s so easy to get around without one.
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