A Tulum Travel Guide and Tulum Itinerary

tulum beach, tulum sunrise

It helps to know about Tulum ahead of time, so I’ve created this comprehensive Tulum itinerary and Tulum travel guide to help you prepare for your visit and plan your Tulum itinerary. The little boho hippie chic village has to be one of the most uniquely “un-Mexican” destinations in Mexico, and I don’t mean that in a bad way or a good way. It just has a more Bali meets LA vibe than a Mexico vibe.

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About Tulum

Mexico is an amazing country with astounding culture, food, music, beautiful beaches, and wonderful people. But for some reason, I wasn’t that excited about visiting. Maybe Cabo’s all inclusive scene just didn’t enthrall me years ago so I was a bit turned off from travel in Mexico. But I kept hearing about Tulum, and decided to give it a whirl. I didn’t research a Tulum itinerary ahead of time, so I felt rather unprepared, but made it work. Hence why I wrote this Tulum travel guide to help other traveling to Tulum. This Tulum, Mexico travel guide is geared towards 5 days in Tulum.

follow that dream sign Tulumdrone shot of Tulum beach

Tulum can be divided up into Tulum town (pueblo) and Tulum beach (playa). Tulum beach is the stretch of businesses and hotels along the beach with one main road running down the entire length. It is full of luxury beach hotels and restaurants all with stunningly creative vibes. Tulum town is off the beach, more budget friendly, with more local Mexican authenticity.

Best time to Visit Tulum

Anytime. Ever. However, July-early October is hurricane season…which also makes it the cheapest time to visit. July and August are also oppressively hot. January to March is peak season so prices are highest. October through December are nice weather and fewer tourists.

How Many Days in Tulum

This all depends on how much time (and money) you have, but I think 5 days should be the minimum to be able to experience a variety of cenotes, ruins, different food, and have some time to relax at the beach. Personally I think 5 to 7 days in Tulum is perfect, but I wouldn’t be mad about a month, ya know? If you only have 3 or 4 days, stick to cenotes close to town and maybe stay on the beach.

tulum white sand beach

Is Tulum Safe?

The short answer is yes. The little beach village feels totally safe. Just like anywhere, exercise common sense about not leaving your belongings laying around, etc. It felt safe to walk and bike around even at night. The biggest worry you’ll have is getting hit by a car if they can’t see you at night, and even that felt a lot easier than I expected.

With that said, there is a lot going on in Mexico that may have reason to concern you. Reports of crime (both petty and serious) have increased in Tulum recently. You hear more about it in bigger cities like Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, but the violence has begun to infiltrate Tulum pueblo as well. Violence agains tourists, however, is pretty rare in Tulum. But if you are traveling to Mexico, I suggest you check the US Department of State’s website for advisories in particular areas and read up on the current situation.

Scams are occasional so having an idea of what things should cost before you go helps. Ask your hotel what a taxi should cost to get between certain areas. Taxis in Tulum do not use meters, so agree on a price ahead. We found the prices to be consistent among different taxis and predictable for the distance we were going…although not necessarily cheap.

Tulum street art

How to Get to Tulum

Cancun is the nearest airport to Tulum. If you are arriving by air, you will have to fly into Cancun. The drive is approximately 1.5 hours to Tulum, or a little more if the traffic is bad. If you were in Playa Del Carmen, the drive would be approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour south. The drive is pretty straightforward down the double lane coastal highway.

How to get to From Cancun to Tulum

There are 4 main ways of getting from Cancun to Tulum.

  1. Private Transfer to Tulum
  2. ADO Bus to Tulum
  3. Renting a Car at Cancun Airport
  4. Shared Transfer to Tulum

Private Transfer to Tulum from Cancun Airport

This was my preferred way of traveling from Cancun to Tulum directly from the airport. I’m not exaggerating when I say there are at least a dozen different transfer companies that you can book ahead with. Most prices range from $150-$170 roundtrip. I would compare all the companies on Trip Advisor for reviews, but for the most part, they’re all the same with a $10-$20 difference in price. Click here to compare prices and reviews at TripAdvisor. This is a great option if there are two or more people because the cost is for the entire van, not per person. Click HERE to check prices.

You can also just book a smaller private car easily and ahead of time. Try searching on Booking.com’s Rideways website for transportation (my link will take you to that exact page) and put in your starting and ending point to get prices and book ahead. I did not use this method, but it looks like a great one. I’d love to hear feedback from anyone who uses it. A small car is cheaper than the private vans.

ADO Bus From Cancun to Tulum

The ADO bus is a large, air-conditioned public bus that runs frequently from the Cancun Airport to downtown Cancun or Playa Del Carmen, and then Tulum. You can check bus times at their website which is in Spanish only. You can buy a ticket when you exit the airport at the little ADO stand just past the Margaritaville shack (welcome to Mexico). This bus is by far the cheapest option.

Renting a Car at Cancun Airport

This was an option we considered, as the drive to Tulum is pretty straightforward and there’s basically just the one highway down the coast. But after hearing a number of people’s stories about being pulled over and fined for no reason, and having to hand over all their cash to the police, I decided against it. This type of practice is ridiculous, but what can be done? If you want to take your chances, there are car rental agencies at the airport. Read up on the insurance policies before going. We use Booking.com and it’s a good place to compare prices on rental cars and book ahead. The freedom of having your own car is appealing, but I just didn’t want to deal with it.

Shared Transfer to Tulum

This option is similar to the private transfer except they sell each seat. So if you are traveling solo, or even with two, it will likely be cheaper than the private transfer. Roundtrip prices for one person seem to be around $50-$65. For two though, it adds up to being almost as costly as the private transfer option. Traveling as a couple, we decided to save time (no other stops or waiting for other passengers) and have the van to ourselves with the option of a quick stop at the bank or store.

Money in Tulum

The currency is the Mexican Peso. When you google the currency exchange, 1 US dollar is around 20 pesos. In Tulum, you’ll likely get more like 17 pesos per dollar. If you’ve never been to Tulum, maybe you’re thinking…”Mexico is cheap!” That may be the case in other areas of Mexico, but Tulum is like the Hamptons of Mexico. Think of it as a glorified hippie luxury summer camp. Expect to pay what you would for food and hotels in expensive cities in the US or Europe. But you can definitely find cheap tacos at a little beach shack or lots of great lodging and food options in the pueblo for considerably cheaper.

Very few places accept credit cards throughout Tulum. We did use them at some of the more upscale restaurants we dined at, one nice boutique I shopped at, as well as to pay our hotel charges at the end of our stay. Other than that, most everything is cash only.

Standalone ATMs in Tulum beach are not recommended unless you’re desperate. They can be susceptible to hacking and charge a hefty fee (I’m talking like 10% of your withdrawal) plus any fees your bank charges. The best places to go to an ATM are an actual bank or the grocery store where ATMs are bank owned. There are often two ATMs side by side that dispense pesos or US dollars. You always want to get pesos. Businesses will not give you a good exchange rate on US dollars; usually less than 17 pesos per dollar. Ordering currency from your bank ahead would be the best option.

Tulum Beach versus Tulum Pueblo

As I mentioned before, when you visit Tulum, you either stay in Tulum pueblo or Tulum beach. Prices on the beach are much higher and the restaurants are more expensive. But you could certainly ride a bike or take a taxi from one to the other, although from the southern end of the beach to the pueblo is around 6-7 miles. Here’s a map to show the layout. I used Encantada as the starting point in this map, because that is where we stayed and it is at the southern end of Tulum Beach.

Deciding whether you stay in Tulum beach or Tulum town is kind of dependent upon your budget and how close you want to be to the beach. If you opt for staying on Tulum beach, the farther south you go, it seems the beach gets a little wider with less seaweed, but honestly, the entire stretch is pretty perfect. Certain times of the year, there is some seaweed (or sargassum) on the beach everywhere and it’s impossible to avoid. Many of the nice hotels rake it up in the mornings though. Tulum beach is obviously much more picturesque and luxurious than staying in the pueblo but you’ll pay for it.

drone shot of tulum beach

Where to Stay in Tulum

I’ve compiled a list of hotels by area and budget. Only hotels with good reviews are included. This is certainly not a conclusive list, but I researched pretty heavily to pick some of the best ones. Airbnbs and private vacation rentals are other great options. The price ranges I’ve categorized them in tend to be low season or shoulder season so prices would increase a bit during high season (December-February). It was really hard to narrow this down, especially in the luxury beach category. Almost every hotel in Tulum is stunning and gorgeous.

cabana in Tulum, Mexico

Places to Stay near Tulum Pueblo

Tulum on a Budget <$60

  • The Free Hostel Inn – Super budget friendly, shared facilities, close to the beach and town, free bike use, better for solo travelers.
  • Hotel Scarlette – Lots of space, perfect for affordability for families at around $50 per night, technically not in the pueblo, but still not on the beach.
  • Hotel Casa Santiago – Very nice hotel and pool, in the pueblo for around $50-$60/night.
  • Tubo Tulum – For a unique hostel experience, check out these tube style rooms.

Mid-Range $60-$200

  • Biwa Tulum – A rooftop pool, more modern feel, and good reviews.
  • Ginger – Nothing too fancy, low end of the price range, great location in town, and well reviewed with a pool.
  • Hotel Coco Hacienda – More of a tropical vibe and well priced.

Tulum Luxury >$200

  • Azura Boutique Hotel – This is more of an apartment in downtown Tulum, but beautiful. Honestly, if you’re spending this much, I see no reason to stay in the town versus beach, however this place would be nice if you wanted a bit more room and a kitchen for cooking.

Places to Stay on Tulum Beach

Tulum Beach on a Budget <$100

  • Pal Mar Glamtainer – This is a cute little shipping container apartment in the hotel zone. It’s even air-conditioned.
  • Posada del Sol Tulum – The reviews are not extremely high, but for beachfront it’s pretty affordable.
  • Suites Tulum – Again, reviews are not wonderful, but budget friendly for being on the beach.

Mid-Range $100-$200

  • Zamas Hotel – Unique thatched cabins and beach access across the road.
  • Coco Tulum – Gorgeous white, chic, tropical vibes on a beautiful beach. The only catch are the bathrooms are shared. If you want an en suite, you’ll spend a little more than $200/night. Beautiful beach location amidst the action. Not the best if you’re looking for seclusion.
  • Casa Ganesh – Rustic beach cabana feel, in a great location along the strip for restaurants and beautiful beachfront spot.
  • Hotel Rosa Del Viento – a lovely beach front property with the thatched roof cabana feel with private en suite baths and high reviews. Quite a long ways towards the south end of the beach, so a longer bike ride or taxi ride to most restaurants, but perfect for seclusion an a more private beach.
  • Hotel Nueva Vida de Ramiro – Gorgeous beach, rustic beachfront cabanas in a great location, excellent reviews.
  • Hip Hotel Tulum – A beautiful location towards the southern end of the beach with fairly affordable beach bungalows.

Luxury Beachfront Hotels in Tulum >$200

  • Azulik – Probably the most unusual hotel in Tulum, if not all the world, this work of art is a photographer’s dream. Each of the 48 distinctly unique villas are intertwined with nature and have astounding views. This high priced hotel is not for everyone however; with no electric lights and open to the elements, Azulik defines ecoluxury. And “Instagram sensation.” Azulik oddly has not such great reviews. Maybe that reflects people’s expectation for luxury, when it’s really rather rustic. Make sure to read their website and reviews to have realistic expectations.
  • Alma Tulum Hotel Boutique – Good reviews, beautiful beachfront location, outdoor pool.
  • Coco Tulum – As mentioned before this hotel has a gorgeous white, chic, tropical vibe on the beach. If you want an en suite, you’ll spend a little more than $200/night so I’ve put it in both categories.
  • Hotel Habitas Tulum – For gorgeous beachfront glamping, but not necessarily cheap, if a boho luxury tent on the beach is your thing, look no further.
  • Tago Tulum – Beautiful ocean views, these rooms are beautiful. If having a TV is important, they have them. They have their own restaurant, great location close to lots of restaurants and beach amenities.
  • Le Zebra – If having a pool (particularly a swim up bar) is important to you, then this hotel is a great option. A beautiful beach and restaurant view, this hotel has an upscale beach club vibe. Some rooms have private plunge pools too.
  • The Beach Tulum – Also a beautiful area of the beach, this hotel has a pool and some rooms have plunge pools or jacuzzis. Excellent reviews. Crazy expensive.
  • Hotel La Valise – The decor is stunning and location is excellent. With only 9 rooms, it seems very intimate and quaint. Also has a beautiful pool. The reviews are incredible. If I were to revisit Tulum, I’d highly consider booking this hotel.
  • Be Tulum – A major favorite for good reason. This incredibly chic hotel is stunning and perfectly located. It has a pool and certain rooms have private plunge pools. A highly Instagrammable hotel with unbelievable style, I’d stay here in a heartbeat. Also on the southern end of the beach so it feels more secluded.
  • Nômade – Also a crowd favorite for bohemian style and atmosphere, gorgeous decor and perfect beachfront location. Beautiful breakfast and yoga onsite. Also at the far south end where it is a little quieter.
  • Casa Malca – For a funky, unique and contemporary art hotel with multiple great pools, consider this former home of Pablo Escobar, now converted into a luxury beach hotel. Built in the 1980’s for Escobar, the house sat vacant after his death in 1993. Purchased, renovated and opened with just 9 rooms in 2015 by a NYC art collector, the hotel has since been expanded to 42 rooms. Definitely a unique place to see at the southern end of the beach.
  • Encantada – This is the hotel I chose to stay at in Tulum and I haven’t regretted it for a second. I chose it for the quieter southern beach location, perfect views from the stylish cabanas, awesome reviews, fantastic included breakfast, and incredibly lovely attentive staff.

Encantada Tulum, beachfront hotels Tulum  tulum beach at Encantada

Wherever you decide to stay, the town and beach are right there. However having a beautiful and stylish beach cabana in Tulum certainly helps.

Encantada hotel in Tulum

Getting Around Tulum

The stretch of beach from southern Tulum beach (my favorite area) to the Mayan Ruins or Tulum pueblo is approximately 6 miles. Don’t expect to walk the beach all the way to the ruins (unless you’re really ambitious) or walk back and forth to the pueblo for cheap dinners. At night the road is very dark, sometimes pouring rain, with plenty of cars (speed bumps help keep their speeds down).

Rent a Car

If you consider renting a car from the airport, consider that parking will not be easy any time you want to visit a restaurant or beach, but would be great for visiting ruins or cenotes farther away. Inquire with your hotel about parking options during your stay.

Ride Bikes

Many people ride bikes and it’s not difficult. And I’m like, a really crappy bike rider. Most hotels provide them for free with a lock or will at least help you get one to rent. They are cruiser bikes without gears. So easy, a first grader can do it. Many even have baskets for your bag, camera, etc.

Yes, there is traffic, pedestrians, puddles, and bumps to watch for, but during the day it’s a breeze. Most cars seem to be very respectful of bikers. If you find yourself in a tight spot, just pull off to the side and let cars go by. Parking on the side of the road anywhere you go is easy. Bikes were our preferred way of getting everywhere along the beach road. I even braved a tropical downpour in the dark on my bike coming back from dinner at Casa Malca one night in a long skirt! My cell phone light provided a less than optimal headlight.

getting to Matcha mama by bike in tulum

Take Taxis

For longer distances, like when we went to the super market for the ATM or up to Azulik’s restaurant, Kin Toh, for dinner, we hailed a taxi right along the street within minutes of waiting outside our hotel. The price was usually around 100-150 pesos ($5-$9 US) to get from one end of the beach to the other, which is pretty steep when you go round trip on top of dinner. We didn’t try haggling though.

What to do in Tulum

Besides the obvious activities of lounging at the beach and eating ALL OF THE FOOD, there are a few things in the area of Tulum that you shouldn’t miss.

hammock at Encantada in tulum

Mayan Ruins

Of course Mexico is full of history and the Yucatan peninsula is no exception. And of course you have to visit the Mayan ruins.There are a number of sites to visit, however these are three of the most popular:

Tulum Ruins

The famous Tulum ruins are right there, perched above the beach, just a few miles from Tulum town. It’s definitely possible to ride your bike a few miles from Tulum or take a taxi as we did. I think the taxi cost was pretty high though, at around $10 US each way. If you have a rental car, parking will set you back 160 pesos ($9-ish) which is still cheaper than a taxi.

The Tulum ruins entrance fee is 70 pesos (or $4) and you have to pay extra to be able to use video equipment, and apparently they take that pretty seriously. I suggest arriving to the ruins early to beat the crowds. 8 o’clock is opening time, although we noticed there was an optional early entry for a much larger entrance fee. You can also hire a guide by the ticket booth for another hefty (but perhaps negotiable) price tag.

Mayan Ruins of tulum Mayan ruins beach tulum

We had the taxi drop us off at a lovely beach called Sante Fe for sunrise right by the ruins then we walked up the road to the ruins when they opened. Bring your swimsuit for the beach and cash for food if you want.

santa fe beach, tulum sunrise

Chichen Itza

Considered the most important Mayan site in the Yucatan peninsula, these pyramids are about a 1.5 hour drive from Tulum, so you could either rent a car, hire a taxi for the day, or take a tour. This could easily be combined with visiting a couple cenotes in the area too! Read this Complete Guide to Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza ruins, Tulum

Source: Pixabay


Less excavated than Chichen Itza, Coba has more of an overgrown jungle feel to it. In the future, it may prove to be a massive site. Apparently there are over 5000 mounds that have yet to be dug up. And because it’s more remote, far less tourists visit Coba. It’s also one of the few ruins that you’re still allowed to climb up to catch an amazing view.

Coba ruins, Tulum

Source: Pixabay

Visit the Best Cenotes Near Tulum

There are so many cenotes in the area, it’s rather overwhelming. Prior to my trip, I researched and saved the names of the ones I most wanted to see. Some are within just a few minutes of Tulum, and many others are hours away. We chose to hire a taxi (arranged by our hotel) to pick us up and take us to three cenotes about 2 hours from Tulum. This cost us roughly $170 US for the entire day.

We passed through the colonial city of Valladolid which looks really cool. If we’d had more time, I would have loved to walk around or at least grab lunch here. Our cenote hopping was an all day event but we could customize our itinerary and tell our driver what we wanted to see or where to stop. He didn’t speak a bit of English, so it gave me an opportunity to use my practically nonexistent Spanish skills.

This is a list of what I consider to be some of the cooler cenotes in order of distance from Tulum.

Gran Cenote: Less than 10 minutes out of Tulum town, this cenote is beautiful for swimming and snorkeling, but does get crowded.
Dos Ojos: About 20-30 minutes from Tulum, this pair of cenotes is quite popular but the crystal clear beautiful water is perfect for snorkeling and the extremely deep cave system is popular for diving trips.
Sac Actun: This one has great reviews on TripAdvisor. Unique cave formations and it’s right by Dos Ojos so you might as well visit both of them.
Suytun: This is not the best cenote for swimming as the water is a bit shallow, but the massive stalactite and the concrete platform in the middle with light coming in from a hole in the ceiling makes for some stunning lighting and dramatic shots. This one is about 1.5 hours from Tulum.

Suytun cenote TulumSuytun cenote, tulum

Hubiku: Almost two hours from Tulum, this cenote is only about half an hour from Suytun so it’s worth a visit for a swim. There is also a tequila museum, restaurants, and gift shops. Kind of a tourist trap.

hubiku cenote, tulum cenotes Hubiku cenote, cenote near tulum

Ik Kil: This is one of the most photographed cenotes in the Yucatan, so prepare for crowds unless you can get there early. With an approximate 2 hour drive, we didn’t beat the crowds. But I still really enjoyed it. The cool clear water was lovely. There are changing rooms, restaurants, and a gift shop. It’s very touristy.

tulum cenote, ik kil cenote

There are so many cenotes, it would take you weeks – months – to see them all. I feel guilty only listing a few. My advice would be to take one day to visit a couple farther cenotes as well as ruins, and then another day to visit the cenotes close to Tulum.

Visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

A UNESCO Heritage site since 1987, the biosphere is the largest protected reserve in the Caribbean. If you continue down the Tulum road south, you will come to the entrance to the protected area and leave the paved road behind. There is a small fee to enter and the bumpy dirt road turns into a long, skinny stretch of road with the ocean on one side and the lagoon on the other. At least that was what I read. All I could see was foliage on either side.

riding bikes in Tulum

We attempted to ride our bikes, which honestly was a blast. We were dodging potholes, hitting mud puddles, and wondering just what in the hell we were doing and where we were going. It turns out, we weren’t going anywhere. After about an hour of riding down this whiplash-inducing road, and not seeing water on either side, we decided to turn around and come back.

Now that I’ve researched, I realize the road goes on for almost 30 miles and comes to a tiny fishing village called Punta Allen. You can either take a collectivo taxi ride which takes up to 4 hours, in which you’d want to stay overnight, or you can do a full day or half day tour with a group and take a boat. This option is more expensive but they take care of the logistics. This looks like a great tour option with excellent reviews. From reading about other people’s experience with attempting to drive there, I’d suggest avoiding that option. It takes about 3 hours because you have to go so slow, although there are beautiful beaches to stop off at along the way.

Tulum beach drone shot

There is another entrance to the biosphere but it doesn’t involve the long dirt road. Highway 307 from Tulum pueblo actually goes to ruins called Muyil that you can either drive to or catch the bus. From here you can follow a path to the lagoon and hire a boat guide to take you on a tour. Apparently the prices are fixed, non-negotiable, and ridiculously high. But you are rewarded with a fabulous boat tour through the mangroves as well as a float through the canals. Along this main highway on the way to the biosphere is also the Kaan Luum Lagoon. It is a beautiful, calm turquoise lagoon with a long dock perfect for swimming or snorkeling.

Where to Eat in Tulum

There is practically no wrong place to eat in Tulum. Almost everything is amazing (and expensive).

For Cheap Eats in Tulum

In Tulum Pueblo, Taqueria Honorio, Antojitos La Chiapaneca, and El Camello are popular taco joints for cheap, traditional tacos and local food. On the beach, La Eufemia is the perfect funky taco joint to get your feet in the sand. Just don’t forget to get up and add your toppings by the kitchen like we did.

For Breakfast in Tulum

Tunich and Azafran are very highly rated for breakfast (or lunch). PaQuino Coffee Shop is the place in town to go for coffee. Campanella Cremerie is the place to go for gelato and delicious treats like waffles. If you’re staying on the beach, your hotel likely serves breakfast. But if you want to enjoy a funky spot for breakfast cooked in an Airstream, head to Safari.

breakfast at Encantada TulumSafari restaurant Tulum

The Best Restaurants in Tulum

You can’t mention “best restaurant in Tulum” without someone mentioning Hartwood. Anyone who’s a foodie should probably make reservations ahead so they don’t miss the experience like we did. Strangely, the Trip Advisor reviews are mixed, but it’s still considered the hottest spot to get dinner. Other hot spots include ARCA, Gitano’s, Casa Jaguar (awesome setting for drinks too), Posada Margherita, Casa Malca’s restaurant, Philosophy which is an awesome setting, and soooo many more. Other great spots that seem to be crowd favorites: Mateo’s, Ziggy’s, Le Zebra, Raw Love, Charly’s Vegan Tacos, and Loco Tulum.

Raw Love Tulum vegan restaurant

The Most Instagrammable Restaurants in Tulum

Literally everything in Tulum is the most Instagrammable thing in the world. It’s like someone’s Boho Pinterest board exploded all over the jungle. Some of the restaurants and cafes in particular are out-of-this-world-photogenic.

Match Mama is the cutest little smoothie shop. They have delicious smoothies, smoothie bowls, matcha lattes, and other beautifully displayed snacks. The best part are the swings for seats, thatched roof, and colorful signs.

Matcha mama tulum Matchamama Tulum

Raw Love is a vegan, raw restaurant tucked into a quiet little refuge of awesomeness. You can see the sign for it by a white teepee along the playa road, then cross the road towards the beach and follow a sandy walkway or ask someone. All the food is amazing, whether you’re there for breakfast, lunch, or just a smoothie bowl snack. And whether you’re vegan or not, it’s amazing to kick back and lounge in hammocks to eat. You HAVE to have the raw pad thai. It changed my life.

Raw Love, Tulum Raw love Tulum vegan restaurant Raw Love Tulum hammockRaw Love vegan pad thai

Kin Toh is definitely at the top of the budget, but if you’re wanting to splurge, there is no better place for incredible Instagram photos. This is the posh treetop restaurant at the hotel that’s become an Instagram sensation itself, Azulik. It’s truly out of this world. There are no words. I highly recommend making your reservation for early enough that you can see it in the daylight. Then come about 30-60 minutes early to wander around and take pictures. They are very welcoming. You can make a reservation HERE.

Kin Toh restaurant at Azulik, TulumKin Toh restaurant at Azulik, TulumKin Toh restaurant at Azulik, Tulum

Posada Margherita is a rustic chic Italian Reststaurant, but also a hotel and adorable boutique shop. It has a fun vibe and highly rated food.

Philosophy has become super hip and the entire hotel (especially the entrance) is rad for photos. And the fact that it was one of Pablo Escobar’s homes makes it that much more intriguing.

Papaya Playa Project is a creative commune that includes eclectic hotel rooms, restaurants, and a beach club. They have some crazy unique treehouse style cabanas to rent too.

Coco Tulum’s white beach swings and string lights are stunning with the turquoise sea as a backdrop.

Nômade is a hotel but they have two holistic, fresh restaurants. Dining on the beach seated on pillows or cushions, it almost has a Moroccan vibe.

Bolas de Postre I Scream Bar is right be Casa Jaguar. It features the most bizarre “ceiling” made from parts of turquoise vehicles. At least I think that’s what they are. They have vegan ice cream and are a popular late night bar too. Out front is the most adorable turquoise tuk tuk, although I think that thing moves around because I’ve seen pictures of it with different backdrops.

I scream bar, Tulumturquoise tuk tuk in Tulum

Nightlife in Tulum

I wouldn’t know, because I go to bed at about 9pm. But I hear Papaya Playa Project is the place to go for a party on the beach. If dancing to a DJ on the beach barefoot sounds like a good time, I think this is your place. Casa Jaguar is popular on Thursday nights for music (or so called “Jungle Parties”) and Gitano for dancing on Fridays and Saturdays.

Internet in Tulum

The cell service in Tulum is very spotty and sometimes nonexistent. Most hotels have internet but the Wifi is often questionable. There were times when ours barely worked at all. But you’re in paradise, so it’s a nonissue.

Shopping in Tulum

There are so many adorable boutique shops along the beach strip. Most are very expensive. I bought one cute little bohemian looking coverup for like $120 US. Who knows if I’ll ever even wear it. If you want to spend some money on unique, one of a kind, handmade local items, there is no shortage in Tulum of places to blow your budget. Some standouts are Bendito Tulum, Josa Tulum, La Troupe, Wanderlust, Hoki Poki Kana, Mr. Blackbird, and KM33. For drool worthy sunglasses for the price of your rent, visit Spectacle Room.

Or you could shop ahead for a fraction of the price. Click below to shop these Tulum boho looks:


The Truth About Tulum

Although Tulum maintains a quaintness and eco-chic hippy vibe different from the rest of the Yucatan, there is a dark side to the development of this little beach paradise. After my trip, I did a lot of reading. I’ve been disheartened to learn how much this area has changed so quickly. In less than two decades, it has gone from an affordable little enclave of beach huts and a few restaurants to one of the fastest growing cities in Latin American.

Tulum is special because it sits on top of the world’s largest interconnected underwater cave system in the world. This important archeologic site is where prehistoric animal and human remains from over 12,000 years ago have been discovered. Its now considered the most important submerged archeologic site in the world.

And tourism is affecting it. As I said, Tulum is one of the fastest growing cities in Latin America. The infrastructure of this small region cannot keep up with the record influx of tourism. Water has been tested and determined to be contaminated with sewage. The lack of effective means of disposal of garbage has resulted in contaminated ground water.

Tulum garbage

And that’s not all. Now that Tulum is a hot spot and traveling there is “in,” real estate has dramatically increased in value. This makes it a target for takeovers. Dozens of local hotel owners who have had modest beach cabanas or boutique hotels for decades have been forcibly evicted from their hotels in the last 5 years with the support of what seems to be corrupt law, confusing uncertainties about land claims and ownership that go back decades, and an elaborate fraudulent system.

I don’t want to dissuade anyone from traveling to Tulum. This area has a magic and vibe unlike anywhere else. I simply want my Tulum blog post to give you a realistic perspective. I suggest you check in with your hotel via email prior to your arrival to make sure everything is ok. With the eviction drama over the last couple years, you never know if your hotel could be victim.

Help to preserve the ecosystem of Tulum by having as little impact as possible. When you book a hotel, ask how they deal with garbage or where they get their power and water. Bring your own straw with you (seriously). It’s the least we can do to preserve this whimsical area. Here is a great article and stunning trailer for a documentary on Tulum called The Dark Side of Tulum. For a great guide to wellness retreats in Tulum, visit Soul Seed Travel. 

Tulum Travel Guide: What to do in Tulum, Mexico

You may also enjoy Colombia Itinerary: 2 Weeks in Colombia

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42 thoughts on “A Tulum Travel Guide and Tulum Itinerary

  1. Unta

    Oh wow!! Jessica, although I’m following you on IG and I’ve seen some of these photos I’m in love again. I want to pack my thing right now and visit some places by the sea.

  2. Shannon

    I have always wanted to visit Tulum, but wow your post just made that urge so much stronger! And the maps will definitely come in handy. Pinning for my future trip!

    1. Nicky Giles

      This post is everything I was looking for! I have been trying to find the perfect hotel for our quick visit to Tulum and Encantada Tulum is dreamy :)!
      Have you preferred the upper or lower ocean view?
      Thank you!

      1. Jessica Carpenter Post author

        Ahhh yay! We had a lower room, but I don’t think you can go wrong. I loved being able to walk from the lower straight out to the ocean. But I think you’ll be happy either way. Ahh this makes me think back to the breakfasts each morning. So amazing. Haha. If you can remember, please let me know how your trip goes! And thank you with all my heart. Your comment means the world to me!

  3. April

    Thanks so much for the great details! I’ve been thinking of visiting this part of Mexico for a while now and I’m thinking this year is finally the year. Beautiful photos!

  4. Annie Soul

    Wow, you really gave me everything I need to know about Tulum. Its defo a really useful guide, I am glad you included food and cycling, two of my holiday likes!

    1. Jessica Carpenter Post author

      Thank you Sasha! Edited the part about Tunich. Good catch. I found the nightly hotel prices via Booking but they are likely closer to low season prices, unfortunately. Thanks for taking the time to read!

  5. Viola

    Your photography is amazing! And those cenotes wow! I’m been hearing more and more about Tulum lately! Officially added to my list!

  6. Kemi

    This is extremely thorough!! I’ve pinned it for deeper study, like a research paper lol. I’ve seen a lot of Tulum in the past month so it might be a sign :0)

    1. Jessica Carpenter Post author

      Thanks Kemi! I just saw your comment. I’m so glad you’ll find it useful. It’s pretty much everything I wish I had/knew before going to Tulum. Haha. You’d better go!

  7. Natalie

    What an incredibly thoughtful and honest post! This was exactly what I was looking for and any question I had, you seemed to answer in the next paragraph…so thorough! And then to see that the next suggested article is your itinerary for Colombia, I am just blown away…that is my next destination! Although it was a desired destination but not at the top of my list, I am looking at going to Tulum because I am a bridesmaid in a wedding in Cancun, and I figured I should make the trip since I have to fly through Cancun airport anyway.

    Thank you so much for sharing such detailed information and being so honest. You definitely have a new subscriber.


    1. Jessica Carpenter Post author

      Natalie, your comment means so much to me! This is ultimately why love doing this, to offer people the most honest and comprehensive information as possible. Yes I think if you’re in Cancun, you might as well make the trip down there. If I was to go again, I’d spend some time in Valladolid or Merida. I hope you love Colombia! And thank you so much for subscribing. Honestly, you’re comment means the world to me.

  8. Johanna

    Amazing guide! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    A little nervous because we pre-paid for a car rental hoping it would be convinent. where can I read more about the police stoppings? I’m traveling with my boyfriend and would hate to have all our money stolen from the cops.

    1. Jessica Carpenter Post author

      Thank you so much Johanna! I sooo appreciate your comment! I think you’ll be fine with the car rental. I’ve known two people to be pulled over, and although it probably happens occasionally, I doubt it’s common. But maybe I’m wrong. One person I know preplanned to pretend like they lost their wallet. When the cop asked for their drivers license, they panicked searching for their wallet and said they left it at the gas station. I would just hide the majority of your cash and then leave like $5 in your wallet as a payoff so it genuinely looks like you don’t have more. It’s ridiculous to even suggest you have to do such a thing, but better to be safe than sorry. Good luck!

  9. Arthur Russel

    Yes, it is necessary to take care of the ecosystems of Tulum, the pollution is a product of a bad ecological conscience that leads to many of these problems, let’s help preserve this paradise.

  10. Diamond

    Thank you so much for your incredible and comprehensive guide! It’s seriously awesome, has all the info I need for my trip to Tulum.


  11. Jhoei

    I love the photos and the tourist destinations you’ve been too. I’ll put this in my list for my next travel plan with my family.

  12. Nicolas M.

    Awesome article! I’ve been in Tulum once but was looking for more options and this really helped me a lot, thank for sharing and for your time!!!


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