In recent years Tulum has become one of Mexico’s most popular destinations. The beaches are beautiful, with blue warm water and fine white sand. The beach strip has a bohemian vibe with boutique hotels, shops, resorts, yoga studios, trendy restaurants, and hip bars. The area around the beach also has a lot to offer with beautiful cenotes, Mayan ruins, and the quaint laidback town of Tulum itself (which is not actually located on the beach). It’s was easy for me to fall in love with this destination for a few days. Read on for my recommendations in this Tulum Travel Guide.
Tulum Travel Guide
Where to Stay
When visiting Tulum, you basically have two choices: Stay on the beach, or stay in town. It’s important to note that these are two totally different experiences. The town of Tulum is actually a few miles from the beach, and although the beach is accessible by taxi or bike, you won’t get the same beach-holiday-vibe as staying in the beach zone. That being said, the town of Tulum is a much cheaper place to stay, and it also has it’s a fair share of nice restaurants, bars, and shops.
My recommendation is to stay on the beach if you can afford it. Since Tulum Beach is miles from the town, the majority of boutique hotels and resorts in the area are off-grid (or partially off-grid). Don’t expect to have wifi (or even cell phone service) in certain places. Most establishments won’t accept credit cards. But, the disconnectedness is what gives Tulum beach such a hippy, unplugged atmosphere.
When looking for accommodation on in the Tulum beach area, you’ll find hotels on either the “jungle side” or the “beach side.” This is because there is a dirt road (the main drag) the runs behind all of the “beach side” resorts. On the other side of the road is the jungle, and the cheaper hotels that are “jungle side.” Asking about beach access is very important when staying jungle side. Many beach side resorts will not let you pass through unless you are a guest. You don’t want to have to walk a mile to reach the beach when it’s only 50 feet away!
I stayed at a new hotel called Origens on the southern end of Tulum beach. The farther south you go, the cheaper your accommodations will be, but also the more remote. We had beach access with a quick walk across the main drag and through a little alleyway. My hotel was bare bones but very chic. The rooms were tiny wooden cabanas surrounded by trees and connected via an elevated walkway. It was quiet, beautiful, and in a central location near many restaurants and bars. The price was around $120 a night, which is in the mid-low range for Tulum beach.
Where to Eat & Drink
Unlike many places in Mexico that I’ve visited, restaurants on Tulum beach aren’t cheap. You should expect to pay US prices in cash (pesos or USD) only. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Matcha Mama – $ – Acai Bowls. Great place for breakfast. Small cafe bar with swings as chairs.
- Taqueria La Eufemia – $ – Beachfront bar and tacos. Popular place with the cheapest meals/beers on the beach.
- I Scream Bar – $ – Ice Cream & Drinks. This lively bar is one of the most popular in Tulum Beach & they have live music every night
- La Zebra – $$ – Beachfront restaurant at a resort. Nice bar and decent food. Views & beach cabanas.
- Casa Banana – $$$ – Pricey place with amazing chef-quality cuisine, excellent service, creative cocktails, & stylish vibe. Splurge-worthy!
$ = Meals Under $15 / $$ = Meals Under $30 / $$$ = Meals $30-50
Things to Do Around Tulum
Lay on the Playa
A visit to Tulum would not be complete without a few days of laying on the beach, sipping cocktails, and taking a swim in the gorgeous aquamarine waters. Access to the beach can be tricky if you don’t have a beachfront hotel, but many restaurants allow access. If you’d like to sit on a beach chair, be prepared to order something and maybe even pay a minimum fee. Otherwise, bring a towel and pop a squat.
Take a Yoga Class
There are plenty of yoga options on Tulum Beach and, unlike everything else, it’s pretty affordable to attend a class. Some are even donation based. Just walk along the main drag and you’ll see different hotels advertising yoga classes.
Get a Massage
There are many places to get a beach massage, right next to the water. The average price I saw was about $40 for one hour. This is twice as much as I’ve paid in other Mexican destinations but still cheaper than in the USA.
Visit the Mayan Ruins
Tulum’s Mayan Ruins are special because they are located right on the water, making it a scenic spot for taking photos or having a picnic. A visit to the ruins takes just a few hours and is accessible by car or taxi. Be sure to pack sunscreen as the ruins are mostly exposed. There is a cost for parking, a small entrance fee, and, if you want to bring your large camera (DSLR or similar,) you will be charged another additional fee. If you’re lucky you might spy a few monkeys or coatis in the trees around the ruins, but no matter what you’re going to see hundreds of lizards. The ruins have become their home, and they will proudly defend it! I made the mistake of laying down in the grass near the ruins, and the lizards became curious and approached me. My reaction? Let’s just say I made a bit of a scene for other tourists.
Swim in a Cenote
If you’re tired of salt water, you should definitely treat yourself to a day at a local cenote. If you don’t know, cenotes are natural pits, or sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Typically the water is a cold and crystal clear. Often cenotes lead to a cavern or cave filled with fruit bats! Some cenotes require you to hire a tour guide to explore, others charge a fee for swimming, and some are free!
Grand cenote is only a few miles from Tulum and is easy to access by bus, bike, or taxi. There is a small entrance fee, which allows you to swim freely for as long as you want. Lockers, snorkel gear, life jackets, and fins are available for rent at an additional cost. Changing rooms, bathrooms, and outdoor showers are provided. Grand cenote is wonderful if you want to experience an open pool, a cave, and a swim through cavern all in one location! As a bonus, there are turtles swimming in the water (though they mostly keep away from you).
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