Looking for a travel guide to Tulum, Mexico that will help you with where to stay and the best things to do in Tulum? Then you’ve landed on the right page.
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 Tulum travel guide has everything you need to know about planning a Tulum vacation.
Where is Tulum Mexico Located?
Tulum is one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico. Located in Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is approximately 80 miles south of Cancun and is known for its beautiful beaches and clear turquoise waters.
Tulum has two main areas: Tulum Playa and Tulum Pueblo. Tulum Playa is the beach area and is home to many hotels and resorts. Tulum Pueblo is the downtown area and is full of shops, restaurants, and bars.
How to Get to Tulum
If you’re looking for the easiest way to get to Tulum, fly into Cancun International Airport and take the ADO Bus. It’s comfortable, affordable, and very easy. You can also have your hotel arrange a private transfer, though it will be more expensive. It takes 2 hours to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum.
Your other option is to fly into Cozumel Airport and take the ferry to Playa del Carmen. From there, you can catch a taxi or the ADO bus for the hour-long drive to Tulum.
Or if you want to visit Tulum after a trip to Belize, like we did, you can take the San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi from San Pedro, Belize to Chetumal, Mexico.
It takes 2 hours, which includes the 30 minutes to go through customs on the Belize and Mexico sides. Once you arrive in Chetumal, it’s very easy to get a 3 hour shuttle to Tulum.
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. 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 Mexico
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.
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.
It’s important to pack reef friendly sunscreen into your travel bag for Tulum to stay sunburn free while keeping the environment of the Cenotes protected.
Also, bring a microfiber quick dry travel towel. Hotels don’t want you to take their towels on day trips and a travel towel is much more compact to carry.
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 500 MXN
- Cenote Suytun – Pictured above right Hours: 9am – 5pm | Cost: Adults 120 MXN
- Cenotes LabnaHa Hours: 9am – 5pm | Cost: Adults 120 MXN Kids 40 MXN
- Dos Ojos Cenote Hours: 8am – 5pm | Cost: Adults 350 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 and do at Azulik.
- 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, private beaches if you are staying at a hotel or a private beach club.
The public beaches are family friendly and fun, but they can get really crowded in high season.
Some prefer the live music and party atmosphere of Tulum beach clubs like the Papaya Playa Project. Others are looking for an upscale, hotel beach experience with lounges, waiters and a relaxed vibe.
Whatever you are looking for, they definitely have your perfect day at the beach in Tulum.
4. Eat at Amazing Tulum 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. Here are the spots we recommend.
- Azulik $$$-$$$$ – Already discussed at length above, Make a reservation for Kin Toh or Tseen-Ja and enjoy!
- Hartwood $$$$ – Super popular (make reservations but just know you’ll still have a wait) for this off-grid, delectable restaurant that sources fresh ingredients and grills it to perfection.
- Nomade Hotel Macondo $$-$$$ – The breakfast is amazing. The host actually takes you on a tour of the buffet. It seemed like a funny thing to do but gives you insight into what Nomade is all about. There are mixed reviews about lunch and dinner so stick to La Popular, their beach restaurant that’s the perfect spot to chill for lunch.
- The Real Coconut $$-$$$- The food is innovative and so yummy. Grain free, non-dairy, organic food never tasted so good. Great breakfast spot. They opened a restaurant in Los Angeles but it’s missing the incredible Tulum beach views.
- Posada Margherita $$-$$$ – It might seem weird to eat Italian food in Mexico but the pizza and fresh pasta is sooo delicious. Cash only.
- Loco Tulum $$ – 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 to Tulum? 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. Spend a Few Hours at the Tulum Archeological Sites
A visit to the Mayan ruins in Tulum is a must. This historical site was once the only Mayan seaport and was occupied by the Mayans from 1200 AD to the 15th century. The ruins are set on a limestone bluff overlooking a breathtaking view of the turquoise sea.
To get there, you’ll need to walk or ride your bike 10-15 minutes down the road. But don’t worry, the best guides are stationed right by the entrance so you can skip the line by hiring one.
With a good guide, you’ll be able to learn about the history of the site and get insider information on Mayan culture and rituals.
Plan to spend about 1-2 hours at the ruins. And if you want to beat the crowds, get there early before the tour busses arrive. Finally, don’t forget to bring water, comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and wear sunscreen. It gets hot without much shade.
Tip: Bring change for the bathroom – it’s 5 pesos per person.
Hours: 8am – 5pm | Cost: 85 MXN paid in cash. There’s a photography fee of 45 MXN for any camera other than your cell phone.
6. Do a Day Trip to Chichen Itza
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.
To get to Chichen Itza you either need to rent a car or book a Chichen Itza tour. The benefit to booking a tour is that everything is arranged for you and it’s very economical. You will also see the colonial city of Valladolid and go to a Cenote.
Chicken Itza is an ancient Mayan city that was home to as many as 50,000 people. Plan to spend a few hours to see everything and learn about the history.
In addition to seeing the infamous El Castillo (also known as Pyramid of Kukulcan), you will also see the Temple of Warriors and the impressive Great Ball Court. It’s the largest Mayan ball court and ancient sports arena.
Hours: 8am – 5pm | Cost of entry at Chichen Itza: 571 MXN (foreigner price, approx. $30), kids are 85 MXN and an additional photography fee for a video camera or tripod. If you take a tour, the ad
Bring: Pesos to buy your ticket, water, good walking shoes, a packable wide brimmed hat, and reef friendly sunscreen. It’s hotter here than the Tulum ruins. Also bring a swimsuit and a quick dry travel towel to visit Il-Kil Cenote nearby.
7. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
A half day trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the largest protected reserves in Mexico. Visiting this area is one of the top things to do in Tulum.
Wander the ancient ruins of Muyil and see native birds, animals and plant species. You might even spot a monkey. Then enjoy a boat ride through canals that were part of the ancient Mayan civilization.
You will visit the Maya temple of Xlapak before floating on a lazy river in the turquoise waters through huge mangrove trees. Finally, walk to the highest part of the eco-preserve for a bird’s eye view of the jungle.
If you are going to book one tour, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a top choice.
8. 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 and one of the top Tulum attractions.
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Travel Guide to Tulum Mexico Hotels
Tulum has the most incredible boutique hotels. The bohemian, eco chic decor is relaxed and positively divine.
Hotels in the Tulum Playa area can be quite expensive at high season, especially the Tulum beach hotels. However, if you want access to the private beach (trust me, you do) then staying at a beachfront hotel is the way to go if it’s in your budget.
Beach front Boutique Hotels in Tulum Playa Area
- 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 beach zone, this is one of the most stunning eco resorts you’ll ever see with with large private rooms.
- Encantada Tulum – A more remote and amazing experience on the beach between Tulum National Park and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It’s an amazing escape for a relaxing vacation.
If you are looking for a more affordable option, there are some great places outside of the Tulum Playa area that are only a few minutes away and much more affordable.
Tulum Boutique Hotels That Are a Short Distance From the Beach and More Affordable
- Orchid House Tulum – Located outside of the hotel zone in Aldea Zama, Tulum’s newest neighborhood with restaurants, bars, and all the amenities. The Orchid House is a stand out. Guests love the decor, food, and location.
- 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.
And that’s a wrap on our travel guide to Tulum! We hope our Tulum travel tips have been helpful and you are inspired to add this beautiful beach town to your itinerary. Tulum is a place where you can truly relax and disconnect from the outside world.
With its beautiful beaches, turquoise waters and lush jungles, it’s no wonder that Tulum is one of the most popular travel destinations. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Tulum has something for everyone.
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KaraDecember 7, 2019 at 9:55 pm
Tulum sounds like a great place to visit! Visiting a Cenote looks like a beautiful experience and bike riding on the beach is always fun. I love all of your photos!
JeniferDecember 8, 2019 at 9:47 pm
Thanks so much! Tulum is such a treat. Definitely worth the trip.
SimoneDecember 3, 2019 at 11:55 am
It must be such an adventure to swim in a cenote, this is so cool! Those ancient Mayan ruins are very spectacular, so impressive how they’ve built it.
JeniferDecember 4, 2019 at 8:23 pm
It’s so interesting to see what is left from ancient cultures and swimming in a cenote is just awesome!
JenniferNovember 25, 2019 at 1:22 pm
I really want to go to Tulum!
JeniferNovember 25, 2019 at 2:59 pm
You’ll love it!