Traveling to Tulum has truly been one of the most amazing experiences I”ve had in my 26 something years of living. I’ve spent many trips in tropical paradises like Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, The Bahamas but none of them match the experience and adventures of Tulum. My only complaint is that we didn’t’ stay longer! It has taken me weeks to write this blog post but I wanted to make sure that you had a comprehensive guide with the best information so you know all the in’s and out’s of making this trip. Now, lets get started.
Most of you have seen the Mexican paradise across social media. Tulum is famous for it’s soft, white sandy beaches, Pinterest worthy scenery and laid back energy. More recently it has become a hot spot for influencers and jetsetters across the world.
There are actually two parts to Tulum: the original sleepy town that has now boomed with restaurants, scuba shops and affordable hotels, and the beach strip which I can only describe as heaven on earth (this is where you see most of the pictures taken). The little boho hippie chic town has my heart and I knew I’d fall in love the moment I arrived.
If you have followed along on my travels, or are simply reading this because you’re looking for your next adventure, please bare with me as I break-it-down for you. This post is a comprehensive guide to Tulum- where to sleep, eat, drink, travel tips / tricks, and all the exciting adventures surrounding the beautiful town. I will have a separate post coming that focus’s on the planning and budgeting aspects of your trip. So stay tuned for that in the upcoming weeks!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BEST TIME TO VISIT TULUM
The best time to travel to Tulum is in during Mexico’s dry season from December to April. If you travel during this time you can expect higher prices and a bit of crowds, since it’s peak season and the beaches are at their best. We went over our Christmas Holiday and while it was busy it did not feel over crowded. The busiest places were the airport, bus stations, and the cab rides to the beach at night.
Rainy season starts in Tulum around June and lasts until roughly October. Weather wise, it’s pretty much a flat, windless 80 degrees all year. I’ve heard people say there is more seaweed in the ocean during this time, but when we went the hotel staff were constantly raking it off the beach so it was not a hassle.
Traveling to a new place can be intimidating. Especially if there is a language barrier. I recommend downloading a translator app on your phone. It will help you brush up on your Spanish before hand, and really helps during awkward moments of travel. We made it around just fine on little Spanish, but many cab drivers speak little to no English.
You will fly in to the CANCUN (CUN) Airport, which is located about 2 hours from Tulum town. From here you will have a few options getting there:
1. Taking the ADO public bus.
2. Private transfer service.
3. Renting a car.
1.TAKING THE ADO BUS
This is by far the cheapest way to travel to Tulum. I will tell you from personal experience – we skipped this option on our way TO Tulum, but took the ADO bus on the way BACK. Here’s why…
First of all, we were traveling during the Christmas holiday to a country we have never visited before. The last thing we wanted to worry about was getting to our destination, so we opted for a private transfer service to get us there with no hassle. Once in Tulum we were able to get the help of our hotel staff to book our ADO tickets back to Cancun.
IF you decide to travel the ADO BUS you will save a lot of money. Tickets to Tulum will average around $25 per person to get there. There are only a few routes that will take you directly to Tulum. The times are 11:05 am, 12:25 pm, 3:15 pm, 8:00pm, and 9:45pm. If you miss one of these times you will have to take a bus to Playa Del Carmen (45 min) , and then switch bus’s there and take another one to Tulum (45 min). You may pay less $$, but you can expect your travel time to be extended a bit. However, still a great option for solo travelers and budget travel!
2. PRIVATE TRANSFER SERVICE
Ben and I opted for the Private Transfer service and were SO happy with our transport. We got a great deal from HappyShuttle Cancun. I highly recommend them for couples, families, and groups. We paid $95 USD for our trip from the Cancun airport to our hotel in Tulum town. We had the shuttle to ourselves which had brilliant AC and snacks and beverages you are able to purchase prior to your trip. HappyShuttle had great communication and responded quickly to any questions we had prior to our trip. Once at the airport they were easy to find in their lime green shirts. We were on our way in no less than 20 minutes!
There are plenty of other private transfer services. We got a great deal online, but most private transfers will run you between $100-200 one way. I recommend asking your hotel if they offer their own private transfer and the cost before booking elsewhere and overpaying!
3. RENTING A CAR
If you are going to be doing some sightseeing and daytrips from Tulum you might want to have your own car. There are many car rental companies at the Cancun Airport where you can get a car and return it after your vacation.
If you rent from the airport it is very easy to see signs leading you to the highway. The 307 “Highway” is the only road that runs through the state, so it is not a true highway, however it is easy to drive. When you get to the highway you only need to go right to Tulum and then it is a straight shot. You will drive through Puerto Morelos, Playa Del Carmen, and Puerto Aventuras. All of these towns have highway bridges that go over local traffic so it speeds your way to Tulum.
My personal experience is that driving in Tulum is not as safe as you may think. While we were always in the back of the cab, I couldn’t imagine driving. People are always bumper to bumper, side to side, and weaving in and out of the lanes at high speeds. I would have absolutly hit someone or been hit. If you do decide to rent a car check out these reads on car insurance, gas station scams, and police checkpoints along the way.
WHERE TO STAY
WHOOHO! I’m so excited to write about this part, picking out where you will be spending your nights is so important, and there is much you need to know about the options in Tulum.
There are 4 main options:
– Hotel Zone Boutique Hotels $$$$
– Tulum Town Hotels $$-$$$
– Airbnbs & Hostels – $-$$
HOTEL ZONE & BOUTIQUE HOTELS – $$$$ (avg. cost 200+ a night)
The high end resorts are located on Tulum beach, a long north to south strip of land with the best beach access. You actually have to walk through a hotel property in order to get to the beach as there aren’t public access points from the main road. This will be the priciest option but well worth it if you want amazing views of the beach and to be close to all the popular breakfast spots, bars, and some cenotes.
THE BEST LUXURY HOTELS ON THE BEACH
1 | DREAMS TULUM – Dreams Tulum is a luxury all inclusive with its own spa and views of the Tulum ruins along with scuba diving, amazing rooms and family friendly activities for the kids. Note: it’s not located on the beach strip, but it costs just as much! Absolutely worth it if you’re celebrating a special event or getaway.
2 | BE TULUM – A five star resort at the end of the Tulum Beach strip and highly ‘Instagrammable’. Even if you don’t stay here, come around sunset for cocktails, sit at the bar swings and enjoy the atmosphere!
3 | COCO TULUM – Another beach front resort that you wont want to miss whether you are staying there or not. There’s a cafe offering Italian fare and pizzas, plus a casual beach bar with hammocks. They offer cabanas, massages and yoga classes as well! This resort is in very high demand!
4 | ZULUM TULUM HOTEL- (ecofriendly) A beautiful resort located on the beach strip that focuses on respect for lands, and strives to create an experience that interferes as little as possible with the natural balance of the region. Ben & I were invited here for breakfast one morning and had the most incredible experience! The owners were so friendly and we got to meet their two dogs and the “instafamous” beach donkey Sancho!
TULUM TOWN HOTELS $$ (avg cost. $120+ per night)
If you are looking to cut down on your budget and still get the luxury of a nice hotel, Tulum Town Hotels are your best bet. It shouldn’t cost you more than $10 USD to take a cab to the beach, or you can even ride your bike there in under 30 minutes !
1 | ARUMA BOUTIQUE HOTEL- THIS IS WHERE BEN & I STAYED AND LOVED IT. Aruma Boutique Hotel is a very new, and modern hotel with great staff! (We were so happy to have AC and a fan)Shout out to Maui for making our trip even better! They offer an complementary breakfast with your stay which was delicious, but if you decide to venture out you are right in the center of all the main restaurants and cafes. You get a free club pass to their sister hotel Agua, where you can head to their beach and use their cabanas and chairs!
Pro tip: Visit Ki Bok Cafe right around the corner for the most amazing coffee & mochas. I also recommend grabbing a cocktail and watching the sunset from the rooftop bar and pool area. Excellent location if you want to be in the center of everything.
Check rates: Booking.com,
2 | HOTEL TIKI TIKI – This is another hotel we look at staying in, but was already booked full for the holidays. Hotel tiki tiki has fantastic reviews, and a beautiful lavish landscape, clean and airy rooms, and a nice cool pool to take an afternoon swim in.
Check out reviews and deals here: Tripadvisor.com
3 | HOTEL ALUNA – Another highly ranked and saught after destination. The property has an outdoor swimming pool, beach clubs access in sister properties, and bikes for rent. The property also offers pool views, a terrace, garden , Spa, and a 24-hour front desk. All rooms in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. Each room has a private bathroom. The units feature a wardrobe. There is an on-site bar and guests can also make use of the business area.
Check rates: Booking.com
AIRBNBS & HOSTELS ( avg price. $50-$100)
AIRBNB’S are a great option if you are visiting during the off season as prices tend to drop. There are many new investment communities and complexes that are strictly owned by airbnb owners that are safe and affordable. Here are a few of my favorites:
The town of Tulum is small and compact, making it easy to get around to most places within town by walking on foot. To visit cenotes, ruins and beaches in the surrounding area, the following options for getting around are available.
There are taxis driving around everywhere in town and also parked along the main avenue, making it very easy to find a taxi when you need one. Most cab drivers wont speak a lot of English but know the main spots around town and the beach. If they are unfamiliar with the place you are going, try to have a map or translator app on your phone to communitcate better with them. From Tulum town to the beach you should expect a cab fare of around 150 pesos ($7-8 USD).
There are numerous local shops in town where you can rent bicycles, with most of them being located along Avenida Tulum, the main avenue running through town. Be sure to ask your hotel if they rent out thier own bikes too. I would recommend avoiding bikes along the main beach road if it is busy season. Always be aware of your surrounds as the cab drivers will come close as they can with out hitting you. A bicycle, however, is ideal for getting from the town to the beach, the ruins and nearby cenotes, all of which are around a 20-30 minute bike ride.
Local colectivos can take you from town to the beach area or Tulum ruins. They run all day long starting early in the morning and depart when they are full. You can find the colectivos parked and driving anywhere along the town’s main avenue. To catch one, either walk up to a parked van, tell the driver your destination, and wait until the van has enough people to leave or stand along the side of the street and wave at an oncoming van, which will then stop and let you in. Again, tell the driver your destination and he will bring you there. There are always colectivo vans waiting in the parking lot at the Tulum ruins and driving along the beach road to take you back to Tulum.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Tulum has an endless amount of adventures to be explored. Where you stay is the least of your worries in this town, its choosing what you’d rather do with your time that matters most. The most popular things to do and see are the cenotes, Mayan Ruins, and the white sand beaches of course. However, the little boho chic town offers so much more to do! Below I’ve listed a few of our favorite experiences that I hope you will enjoy too:
SWIM IN A CENOTE
There are literally thousands of centoes scattered across the Yucatan Peninsula. Made of precious limestone, and filled with crystal clear waters, they make for the perfect afternoon dip. While some of them are at ground level and easily accessible, others are located below ground in cave like forms! Some of the most popular cenotes in Tulum are the Gran Cenote (pictured below), Cenote Azul, and Cenote Ik Kil.
If you want to beat the crowds and travel the local cenotes (like we did) , check out my blog post TULUM CENOTES: THE LOCALS GUIDE and view Tulum’s best kept secrets.
EXPLORE THE MAYAN RUINS
Tulum’s ruins may not be the largest Mayan ruins in Mexico, but their spectacular location on a cliff overlooking the beach makes the Tulum ruins a marvelous site to behold. I recommend getting there early to beat the crowds, and head down to the beach or a cenote afterwards for a swim.
If you have a few days in Tulum, I highly recommend heading inland about 2 hours to check out the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins( ONE OF THE 7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD). This tour will cover the ruins and a cenote swim in the middle of the Mayan Jungle! Click here to read more about the ruins!
CHAMPAGNE SUNSET AT KIN TOH
Alright guys if you get to do one “fancy” thing in Tulum let this be it. I found out about Azulik Hotel through the power of social media. It’s one of the most beautifully crafted, luxurious, ecofriendly accommodations in all of Tulum and dare is say – all of Mexico. The resort itself is extremely expensive to stay in, so if you want a look around be sure to check out their restaurant Kin Toh. Research before my trip suggested that we skip the extremely costly meal and head to the bar for some cocktails at sunset. The restaurant opens at 5pm but if you want to be in line first and take some pictures in their famous nests and nets over looking the Mayan jungle – get there at 4:30. Ben & I went up for some cocktails which cost us about $30 USD for two.I’ll let the pictures do the speaking but you MUST put this on your Tulum Bucket List.
LISTEN TO LOCAL MUSIC & SIP MOJITOS AT BATEY
As Tulum’s nightlife scene explodes, the same unassuming bar still remains the go-to place to start your night out. At Bateys (prounouced (bah-tays) you’ll find live music in the late eveneing and an energetic crowd spilling into the streets with tropical drinks in hand. This is located right around the corner from Aruma Hotel we stayed in, and directly next to Kin Toh, our favorite cafe.
DISCOVER CASA MALCA (PABLO ESCOBARS ESTATE)
Casa Malca is actually a 41 room luxury resort that sits at the end of the hotel zone. It’s difficutlt to find as the only identifying marker is a big railroad like “X” sign on the left hand side of the strip – about a 5 minute drive past Agua. Gallery owner Lio Malca ibought the property in 2012 then renovated the building and created a new boutique hotel that he filled with valuable pieces from his art collection, including works from Keith Haring, KAWS, and Marion Peck.
RELAX AT THE BEACH
Most hotels or beach clubs charge for chairs / cabanas on the beach, so unless you are staying in a hotel there expect to have to pay for your visit. You’ll be using private property, so will need to pay or buy food/drink or some combination. You can avoid this by bringing your own towels and blankets, walking along the beach and finding an empty spot in between. Our hotel had a sister property that we were able to enjoy food/ drink service in their cabanas. Ziggy’s Beach Club is a popular option for a beach day. You will pay a flat rate for your beach beds and additional charges for food and drink. It’s quite pricey $$$ but worth the cost if you want a relaxing day and being catered to.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
This is a section that I need to write a entirely separate post about. It’s nearly impossible to list all the amazing options Tulum has to offer. Right now I’m working on a more comprehensive food / drink guide – but in the mean time I will show you guys a few of our favorite Tulum spots to grab a quick eat and drink at.
Considered to be one of the most “instaworthy” spots in Tulum, Posada Margherita features declicous Italian fare with even tastier views! You can enter by street or walk up on the beach which is what we did. We grabbed one of the best views in the house sitting at a long bench and low rise table that stared out into the ocean. 1st picture shows our view! The pasta is made in house and is quite delicious – we ended up spitting an appetizer and small plate (pictured above) and enjoyed one of the best meals on our trip! Make sure you bring pesos as they don’t accept credit cards.
Ben & I loved this restaurant so much we went back twice and brought friends. This delightful Arginentian restaurant was situated directly next to our Hotel in the center of Tulum town. The ambiance was breathtaking as we dined by candle light, with beautiful lights lining the canopy, and live music serenading us into the sunset. We sipped cocktails and dined over Beef Wellington and yummy empanadas. Highly recommend the steak here!! Everything about this place is 5 star with great food, quality service, atmosphere, and being one of the few places that accept credit cards. We loved this place so much and recommend it to everyone who visits!
This was another restaurant / bar we visited multiple times on trip. I Scream Bar is by far one of the most popular restaurants and bars on the hotel strip – it attracts most of Tulum’s night life in the evening. We enjoyed a late night here tossing back tequila, but during the day we ate some of the best guacamole and tacos we had during our trip! 5 stars for their amazing service as well! Make sure to drink their caperanios
A nice dinner spot that serves a little twist on classic Mexican dishes, known as one of Tulum’s most popular restaurants. They serve rustic wood-fired proteins and veggies, along with ceviches and salads. The restaurant and bar boasts a bohemian- chick vibe and jungle atmosphere- prime grounds for pre- or post-dinner drinks.
If you’re in the mood for a night out defined by pretty people and creative cocktails, Gitano is it. The lush outdoor lounge takes on a magic feel with its canopy of twinkling lights and disco balls, making it the ideal locale to see and be seen. There’s a full menu of fresh, modern Mexican plates like basil guacamole and truffle mushroom tacos, but what everyone is really here for is the bar’s fruit-forward cocktails — most of which incorporate Mexico’s signature smoky spirit, mescal! To save some money I personally recommend checking Gitano out after dinner hours and grabbing a few cocktails!
La efuemia was a recommendation to us from a local airbnb host who knew the owners. Not many travelers know about this local taco joint on Tulum’s beach so I’m here to give you the exclusive. La Efuemia is the locals taco joint. As one of the original taco joints in Tulum this is the premiere destination for all the locals and the waitstaff to go after their shifts. It soon became so popular by word of mouth that they opened a new destination on the beach. At La Efuemia you will find easy tacos, cheap beer, and amazing views as you dine on the beach overlooking the sea. Truly one of Tulum’s best kept secret.
Planning a trip to Mexico, and Tulum in general is overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on this beautiful location. Rest assured that no matter what you choose to do or where you choose to stay you’ll have a beautiful time.
One last thing… even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend…
FOR YOUR PINTEREST
Thanks for reading along friends! I hope you found this guide useful for you’r upcoming Mexico trip. Please let me know if you have any additional questions about travel to Tulum, I am happy to answer them for you! Make sure to follow along on my adventures by subscribing to Freedom of the Dress!