traveling to tulum mexico

Traveling to Tulum in 2021: The Ultimate Tulum Travel Guide


Making your tulum travel plans?!

If you’ve never visited Tulum (or even Mexico), the thought of traveling to Tulum, and Tulum travel planning might be overwhelming — but by the end of this article, you will be a Tulum pro! How do I know?!

I live in Mexico, not far from Tulum actually! I spent about three months living between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, so I know the Tulum pueblo magico (magic town) well — and I’m going to tell you all my Tulum travel tips.

As one of the places high atop many a Mexico bucket list, Tulum is fast becoming one of the best Mexico travel destinations. Located on the Caribbean Sea, Tulum is one of the best beach towns in Mexico, with amazing Mayan ruins, swimmable cenotes, beautiful beaches, and more.

In short, it’s easy to see why everyone wants to travel to Tulum — this boho beach paradise has something for everyone. However, with so many amazing things to do in Tulum, how do you choose?! You’re in the right place to find out because by the end of this article, you’ll have the lowdown on Tulum travel.

Ready to dive in? Let’s get started with the state of Tulum travel during Covid, and then get into everything you need to know about Tulum, including where to stay, play, tour, eat and drink.

traveling to tulum mexico

Traveling to Tulum During Covid-19

Is Tulum open for travel right now?

Yes — Tulum is open right now. In fact, Tulum, and Mexico in general, never really closed. However, there have been measures in place since March 2020, like mandatory masks indoors and outdoors, temperature checks, mandatory use of hand sanitizer, capacity restrictions, etc., which are still enforced.

🏝 Is Tulum Open for Travel Right Now? Your complete guide to Tulum travel during Covid, which is updated monthly.

However, there are no real Tulum travel restrictions, and no quarantine period to travel to Mexico. For those in the U.S. dying to scratch their wanderlust itch, and just a handful of countries allowing this type of entry, Mexico is one of the best countries for travel right now.

Tulum Travel Disclaimer

Legally, yes; Tulum is open to travelers. Ethically, well, that’s a question for each individual person. For anyone who chooses to travel to Tulum right now, please do so respectfully, safely, responsibly, and in accordance with all Mexican laws.

With that out of the way, let’s get into everything you need to know about traveling to Tulum like a boss.

traveling to tulum mexico

Where can I get a Rapid Covid Test in Tulum?

You can get a rapid Covid test in Tulum at the places listed below. Note: This page will continue to be updated as more Tulum Covid testing locations are added, so those traveling to Tulum right now will have current info!

1. Colibri Boutique Hotels

This includes the following Tulum resorts: La Zebra, El Pez Tulum, Mezzanine Tulum Hotel and Hotel Mi Amor, and appointments are suggested. Rapid Covid Tests at a Colibri Tulum hotel costs $35USD — though you’ll want to verify on the Colibri website.

2. Cancun Airport Covid Testing

Authorities recommend using this only as a last resort, as testing is limited and on a first come, first served basis. ✈️ Note: There is no Tulum Airport, so you must use Cancun Airport. Rapid Covid Tests at Cancun Airport cost about $15USD — though you’ll want to verify on the Cancun Airport website.

3. Costamed Tulum Covid Testing Centers

This is a chain of medical centers, with locations throughout Quintana Roo state. Due to a high volume of tests being administered, Costamed recommends making an appointment. Rapid Antigen Tests at Costamed cost about $50USD — though you’ll want to verify on the Costamed website).

You can schedule your appointment online, or by calling the Tulum location at (+52) 984-124-0830. Tulum Costamed is located at Calle 3 Sur s/n-Lote 8, Villas Tulum, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., near the Starbucks and Super Aki grocery store on the main road in Tulum Town (downtown).

traveling to tulum mexico

Is Tulum Safe for Travel?

The short answer to Is it safe to travel to Tulum? — is yes — for most travelers, it is safe in Tulum. Aside from hurricanes, drinking too much and sunburns, Tulum crime rates are pretty low, and both Tulum solo travel and group travel are considered safe.

Longer answer: Safety is a tricky subject, not just in Tulum, but everywhere, and that’s because safety is a feeling, not a fact. However, as a general rule, Tulum and the Yucatan Peninsula are considered quite safe for visitors.

As someone who’s been living and traveling alone in Mexico for years, I know my opinion may be skewed, so I reached out to other female bloggers who have done some Mexico solo travel, to get their takes. Head to 20 Best Solo Travel Mexico Destinations to Visit to read about Tulum solo travel.

Though Tulum is considered safe, you’ll still want to follow the 10 General Travel Safety Tips below to err on the side of caution. These safety measures are the same ones you’d follow when traveling anywhere on Earth, and they should suffice in Tulum, Mexico.

10 General Travel Safety Tips
  1. This should be a no brainer since you’re traveling during a pandemic, but get Travel Insurance!
    • Safety Wing: Perfect for general travel coverage, and digital nomad who travel for extended periods of time.
    • World Nomads: Perfect for those who want to do adventurous activities while traveling.
  2. Don’t walk home alone at night if you can help it; take a taxi or ride your bike in Tulum.
  3. Always listen to your intuition because your intuition is always right.
  4. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place immediately. If you feel you’re in danger, don’t worry about making a kind, nice, or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away ASAP.
  5. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  6. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  7. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things.
  8. Speaking of bar neighbors, don’t ever accept drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended near someone you don’t know.
  9. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  10. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to make a small transaction like for street tacos 🌮
Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the FREE STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In Tulum, that’s the Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen.

After you’ve registered, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home, in the event of an emergency while abroad.

traveling to tulum mexico

Mexico Travel Insurance for Tulum

Want an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Smart choice!

Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health during travel. If Mexico and Tulum travel safety are on your mind, get a free quote from the two companies listed below — two of the biggest names in travel insurance.

  • Safety Wing: Perfect for general travel coverage, and digital nomad who travel for extended periods of time.
  • World Nomads: Perfect for those who want to do adventurous activities while traveling.
traveling to tulum mexico

Traveling to Tulum FAQ

Is Tulum expensive?

This answer depends on where you’re comparing Tulum to; however, by Mexican standards, yes, Tulum is expensive because you can visit other beach towns in Mexico for much less. The good news that traveling to Tulum budget travel is 100% doable — so really, Tulum is as expensive as you make it.

🤑 Looking to visit Tulum and not break the bank? Head to this article for all my pro tips on traveling to Tulum for less, Tulum On A Budget: 10 Ways to Make Your Trip Affordable.

Tulum has everything from budget hostels, like Mayan Monkey and Selina Tulum, to $2,000+ per night beachfront eco-villas at Azulik Tulum and Papaya Playa Project, so there’s room for all travel budgets. Similarly, you can find great Tulum cheap eats and street tacos for 50¢, and also upscale dining.

Since the peso is much weaker than the U.S. dollar and the euro, you can expect to get about $18 pesos per $1USD. In Tulum, many places are cash only, so see if your bank partners with any Mexican banks to waive ATM fees, and make sure to bring a “no foreign transaction fee” credit card.

mexico podcast: Tulum on a budget

traveling to tulum mexico

Do I need to know Spanish to visit Tulum?

Tulum is 50/50 — at the more upscale places on Tulum Beach, everyone will speak English. However, in Tulum Town (Downtown), where more locals live, you’ll find there is less English spoken. Either way, you’ll only help yourself by brushing up on your basic Spanish before visiting Tulum, Mexico.

👩‍🏫 Want to learn Spanish fast? Rocket Spanish has an accelerated program that will have you confident, and conversational, in no time.

Having some knowledge of the local language is generally seen as a sign of respect and courtesy. Knowing everyday niceties like please and thank you will really go a long way while traveling to Tulum (or anywhere on Earth, really).

For your convenience, the infographic below ⤵ has all the basic Spanish words and phrases you’ll need. Go ahead and save it to your phone as an image, so that you’ll have access to it even when you’re off-WiFi.

traveling to tulum mexico

Do I need a visa for Mexico?

No — U.S. passport holders don’t need a visa to travel to Mexico. This is only one of the reasons to visit Mexico, as in general, Mexico is one of the best travel destinations for Americans!

When you arrive in Mexico and go through the Immigration line, you’ll receive a 180-day (6 month) FMM tourist card. This is a small piece of paper that you need to hold on to so you can give it back to Immigration at the airport when you leave the country. 

There is no charge for the FMM, but if you lose it, there’s a $600 peso ($30USD) fine to replace it. Besides the fine, you’ll need to get to the airport an extra hour early to do the lost visa paperwork and pay; so bottom line: Don’t lose your FMM!

What’s the best time to visit Tulum?

The best time of year to visit Tulum so you’ll get the best weather is during fall and winter. The cooler months of November to March is the best time to go to Tulum Mexico.

This is also technically the busy season in Tulum, though because of Coronavirus, you may be able to get some great Tulum travel deals on flights and accommodations. For now, you many be able to stretch your dollar further, especially in Tulum’s busiest month of December.

Located in the tropics, the weather is hot year-round, however, there’s much less humidity during the fall/winter months of November to March. You’ll also have less (if any) rain, the mosquitoes will be at bay, and Atlantic Hurricane Season will be officially over — it runs June 1-November 1.

Tulum Weather: Yearly Average temperatures

traveling to tulum mexico

What do I pack for Tulum?

When planning what to take to Tulum and the Yucatan Peninsula, know this area had a tropical climate. As you can see by the average yearly Tulum weather chart above, this part of Mexico is hot (and humid 😥) for most of the year, so definitely pack a Water-To-Go Filter Bottle.

🧳 Need more Tulum packing tips? Head to this article, Packing List for Mexico: Outfit Ideas & FREE Printable Download.

Mosquitoes are also an issue, so don’t forget your eco-friendly bug spray, and bring reef-safe sunscreen so you practice responsible tourism in Mexico. If you’re planning to drink a lot, these Anti-Hangover Meds are a lifesaver (thank me later!).

FREE Printable Packing List for Mexico

Wondering exactly what to pack for Tulum and all of Mexico? Download the FREE printable packing list for Mexico below ⤵ This multi-page Mexico packing checklist covers everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico.

traveling to tulum mexico

What do I wear in Tulum?

As far as how to dress in Tulum — anything goes — you can dress as casual or as extra as you’d like. Check out the outfits below ⤵ to give you an idea of Tulum fashion. If you need more tips on what to wear in Tulum, head here for Tulum outfits inspo.

For Tulum outfit ideas, think flowy, tropical, breathable, cotton, and light-colored clothing; bonus points for anything that doesn’t show sweat! Besides all your summer-wear, you may use a light cardigan at night and comfy sweats to sleep in, but Tulum is the place for sundresses, sun hats and bathing suits.

traveling to tulum mexico

How Do I Get to Tulum?

Where is Tulum?

Tulum is in Quintana Roo state, located in the Yucatan Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico. It is about 75 miles south of Cancun, and 40 miles south of Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya.

Tulum is not far from other great Yucatan destinations, like Bacalar Lagoon, the “Maldives of Mexico,” about 130 miles south; the pueblo magico (magic town) of Valladolid, 65 miles east, and the beautiful Colonial city of Merida, located 160 miles east of Tulum.

Tulum Map

traveling to tulum mexico

What’s the Closest Airport to Tulum?

Wondering, Can you fly into Tulum Mexico? Sadly, no. Though the Mexican government says they have plans to open a Tulum Airport in 2023.

As there’s no Tulum Airport for now, you’ll fly into Cancun International Airport (code: CUN). It is the closest airport near Tulum, and located about 75-miles (120km) north of Tulum. The drive is about 1.5-hours, on Carretera Cancun-Chetumal (Highway 307), which goes straight to Tulum.

💸 Tulum Travel Tip: Take out some cash at a Cancun Airport ATM! Cash is king in Mexico and Tulum, where many businesses are cash only.

From Cancun Airport, you can hire a private shuttle, shared shuttle, rent a car, or take the ADO bus to Tulum. Keep scrolling for info on all three options ⤵ or head to this article for a more thorough guide, Cancun to Tulum: The 6 Best Transportation Options.

traveling to tulum mexico

Transportation from Cancun to Tulum

You basically have four good options for how to get from Cancun to Tulum. From the Cancun Airport, you can do the following:

Cancun to Tulum private transfer service
🚐💨 Head here to read Cancun Airport Transportation reviews, the best airport transfer from Cancun to Tulum!

Cancun Airport to Tulum Shuttle

The Cancun Airport shuttle to Tulum is by far the easiest, fastest, most stress-free and hassle-free way to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum — with door to door service! If you’re traveling with a group, this option can end up being quite economical and so much faster than the bus.

During these strange travel times, the private shuttle is also the best way to be socially distant while traveling from Cancun to Tulum. As mentioned, it’s economical for groups, but those doing Mexico solo travel in Tulum might want to opt for the shared shuttle ⤵

Cancun to Tulum shared Shuttle

Is there Uber in Cancun? Uber in Tulum?

Wondering if you can take Uber from Cancun to Tulum? Unfortunately, no, at this time there’s no Uber in Tulum, and really, not anywhere in Quintana Roo state. For a thorough look at your options on how to get around in Tulum, head to this article, Is There Uber in Tulum Mexico?

This also means there’s no Uber in Tulum itself, though there are plenty of taxis. 🚕💨 Note: When taking a taxi in Mexico, you negotiate and agree on the fare before entering the taxi, as most don’t have meters.

Cancun Car Rental

If you’re not taking the shuttle from Cancun to Tulum — the most convenient way to travel from Cancun to Tulum would be in a rental car. Discover Cars is a great option, with several Cancun Airport rental car options. They are the Mexico car rental company I both recommend, and use!

Find Your Rental Car

The Cancun Airport is the best place to rent a car because all the big name companies have locations there — and you only want to use a reputable company.

It is safe to drive in Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, and the drive from Cancun to Tulum is also safe. As you’ll be driving in another country, take a moment to read through these 10 Useful Mexico Driving Tips in this article, Renting A Car in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know.

If you’re just planning to stay in Tulum, skip the rental car! However, if you want to take a Tulum day trip or two and explore the surrounding areas, like Bacalar Lagoon, Valladolid, Akumal Bay to snorkel with the turtles, Playa del Carmen, and Coba Ruins, then rent a car!

ADO Bus from Cancun to Tulum

The largest bus company in Mexico is ADO, and you can take one straight from Cancun Airport to the main bus station in Downtown Tulum. Prices will vary, should generally be less than $300 pesos ($15USD) for a one-way ticket, which you can buy online below ⤵

If you’re considering the bus, know this is a luxury class bus with big reclining seats, AC, outlets to charge your phone and a bathroom. Mexico’s buses are great, comfy and inexpensive, and in fact, if you’re traveling to Tulum on a budget, the bus is the cheapest way to get from Cancun to Tulum.

Once you arrive in Downtown Tulum, walk outside and grab a taxi to your accommodation, or if it’s close by, you can walk. If you’re taking a taxi, note that you must agree on the fare before entering the taxi. Keep in mind there’s no Uber in Tulum, but there are always taxis waiting outside of the bus station.

Now that you know how to get to Tulum from Cancun Airport, let’s get to know the town’s main areas so you can decide where to stay in Tulum.

traveling to tulum mexico

Where to Stay in Tulum: Best Neighborhoods in Tulum

Tulum Neighborhoods: Downtown, Aldea Zama & Tulum Beach

Tulum is a small town; about five miles from one end to the other.

It is basically divided into Tulum Town (AKA Downtown), Aldea Zama and Tulum Beach. There’s only one road that goes through downtown, and one road, called the Tulum Beach Road, that goes up and down the beach, ending at Boca Paila beach area and Sian Ka’an UNESCO World Heritage Reserve.

Downtown is on the north side of town, Tulum Beach is all the way south, and Aldea Zama is located between the two. There are three distinct areas within downtown: La Veleta on the southwestern side, and Colonia Huracanes and Villas Tulum to the northeast.

Use the map of Tulum below ⤵ so you can visualize the town layout. Then, keep scrolling to understand each Tulum neighborhood, and the pros and cons of staying in each one.

Three best neighborhoods in Tulum Mexico.
TRAVELING TO TULUM MEXICO

Tulum Town (Downtown)

  • Pro: The least expensive neighborhood
  • Con: The least pretty neighborhood

Tulum Town (AKA Tulum Pueblo or Downtown Tulum) is the place to stay if you’re traveling to Tulum on a budget. This is a lively area with great cheap eats, cute shops and a unique charm. There are quite a few budget hotel and hostel options in Tulum Town, and some of the best Airbnbs in Tulum.

It is, however, not the prettiest place to stay out of Tulum’s three neighborhoods. That’s not to say Tulum Town is ugly, just that it’s not the Tulum you’ve seen all over Insta.

Staying in and eating in Tulum Town is a great way to save money if you’re traveling to Tulum on a budget.
traveling to tulum mexico

Aldea Zama

  • Pros: Luxurious yet affordable; Modern amenities; Best WiFi
  • Con: Has a bit of a “suburban” or residential feel to it

On a personal note, when friends, family and followers ask me where to stay in Tulum, I always suggest Aldea Zama. Check out my top picks for the best Tulum Airbnb/VRBO rentals below ⤵, most of which are located in Aldea Zama.

There are a few reasons why I think it’s the best neighborhood in Tulum, including its location between the beach and downtown. Also, Aldea Zama is the newest area of Tulum, and newer construction means newer, modern amenities — like high speed WiFi.

As mentioned, Tulum as a whole doesn’t have great WiFi… and yes, this even applies to the fanciest of 5 Star resort hotels on the beach. Since Aldea Zama is more residential, you’ll often get better WiFi and a very nice place for about 25% the cost of a Tulum beach resort.

📸 Tulum Travel Tip: You can still go to the beachfront resorts and take your Instagram worthy Tulum photos — even if you’re not a guest of the resort.

Is there Uber in Tulum, Mexico? No — but biking is the most popular way to get around Tulum, with bike rentals available in Tulum Town for about $10USD per day. The ride from Aldea Zama to Tulum Beach is about 10 minutes.

Tulum Beach

  • Pros: Gorgeous resorts; Staying right on the beach; Walkable location
  • Cons: Expensive; Electricity restrictions; WiFi isn’t great

Tulum Beach is the Tulum you’ve seen in photos, and where you’ll find all the beautiful beach resorts, large-scale art installations, high end restaurants, cool bars, and all the Instagram worthy places in Tulum. The Zona Hotelera (Tulum Hotel Zone) is also where you’ll find all the best Tulum beach resorts.

As you can imagine, these beach resorts don’t come cheap, but if you want to splurge, or you’re traveling with a large group, Tulum Beach is the place. Check out the linked article above ⤴ which features the 10 best Tulum beach house rentals.

Beautiful Papaya Playa Project is one of the best Tulum Beach resorts! (Photo: Jônatas Tinoco via Unsplash)

The beach resorts and hotels are gorgeous, but there are a few cons to staying in them you should be aware of:

  • The WiFi on Tulum Beach is well… not great, even at the most luxurious of Tulum resorts.
  • Tulum beach hotels try to lower their carbon footprint by only offering AC and electricity in the rooms from sundown to sun-up. You’ll want to check individual resort policies, but the vast majority do this, regardless of how much your room costs.
  • The beach is the main party area, so light sleepers will want to double check that you’re not staying anywhere loud where you won’t get a good night’s sleep and also bring noise-canceling earplugs.

If you’re looking for a nice balance of comfort, luxury and savings, these Aldea Zama Tulum Airbnbs are better options… but if it’s your dream to stay in a Tulum beach resortthen just go for it!

blonde man in a nest at azulik tulum beach resort | traveling to tulum mexico | best hotels in tulum
Azulik Tulum Hotel is at the top of many people’s Tulum bucket list places to stay! (Photo: Austin Distel via Unsplash)
traveling to tulum mexico

Best Tulum Beach Hotels

As they say, Location, location, location! When it comes to Tulum, there simply is no better location than staying right on Tulum Beach. Below is a list of the best hotels in Tulum located on the beach, but if you’re in a big group head here, Tulum Beach House Rentals: 10 Best Beachfront Tulum Villas.

Azulik Tulum Resort: As far as Tulum beach hotels go, Azulik Tulum is the one that started all the hype. This resort is the gold standard for Tulum’s boho chic vibes.

Casa Malca Tulum: The infamous Tulum Pablo Escobar house was indeed once owned by Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar. This beachfront mansion-turned-resort is the brainchild of NYC art dealer, Lio Malca, and as you’d imagine the whole place is basically a work of art 👨‍🎨

Nomade Tulum: Nômade provides a holistic jungle sanctuary on Tulum Beach. There are Tulum treehouse rooms, luxury suites and beachfront Tulum glamping tents to choose from at Nomade Resort, which aims for a reconnection to nature.

Coco Tulum Beach Club: While staying at a Tulum beach resort doesn’t come cheap, the Coco Tulum Beach Club Hotel and Coco Tulum Zen Zone are known as some of the nicest less-pricey beachside resorts. Enjoy their famous white swings, at one of the most instagrammable beach bars in Tulum!

coco tulum white beach swings

Be Tulum Resort & Spa: If you’re looking for the perfect combo of luxury and privacy, Be Tulum is the place. Here, you’ll find exclusive suites nestled between the jungle and the sea, which each have their own private pool. Combined with their on-site spa, Be Tulum Hotel is the ultimate luxury escape.

Papaya Playa Project: This resort combines all things Tulum in one place for its guests. At Papaya Playa Project you can take yoga class in the morning, lay in a hammock on the beach all day, take a disco nap in your oceanfront bungalow, and hear a famous DJ spin live music at night (note: bring earplugs).

La Zebra Tulum: This beautiful hotel is part of the Colibri Boutique Hotels group, and they allow guests to enjoy the facilities at all of their properties. If you opt for a room at La Zebra, you can also enjoy El Pez Tulum, Mezzanine Tulum Hotel and Hotel Mi Amor, the best adults only Tulum hotel.

Ahau Tulum Resort: If you were wondering where the Instagram worthy Tulum man sculpture by South African artist Daniel Popper was located — he’s at Ahau Tulum. The Instafamous Ven a la Luz (Come to the Light) wooden sculpture is the entrance to the Ahau Tulum Hotel and Raw Love Cafe.

The wooden Tulum sculpture welcomes you as the the entrance to Ahau Tulum Resort, and is one of the most Instagrammable spots in Tulum.
traveling to tulum mexico

Best Tulum Airbnb & VRBO Rentals

  • Tulum has gorgeous and affordable Airbnbs in Aldea Zama and Downtown Tulum.
  • There are also some beautiful Tulum beach house Airbnb options, perfect for groups.
  • For Tulum solo travel and those wanting a unique experience, consider a Tulum glamping treehouse, many of which are located on beautiful Tulum Beach.

🚴‍♀️ Mexico Tulum Tips: Some Airbnbs offer complimentary bike rentals, so be on the lookout for those — This post has several options of $99 and under Tulum Airbnb/VRBO, some of which include a free bike.

However, even if you can’t find a Tulum Airbnb that includes a bike, you can rent one in Downtown Tulum for about $200 pesos ($10USD) per day, and save some money by not having to take taxis. Reminder: There’s no Uber in Tulum, and biking is one of the best ways to get around Tulum.

traveling to tulum mexico

Best Things to Do in Tulum

There are so many places things to see in Tulum! If you’re wondering how many days in Tulum do I need, it really depends on you and your travel style. If you’re just sticking to town and not venturing to the Tulum off the beaten path, this Tulum itinerary can help you plan an epic weekend in Tulum.

Tulum Beach Clubs

No visit is complete without checking out some of the amazing Tulum beach clubs, located on the best beaches in Tulum — Playa Paraiso, Playa Pescadores, Playa Ruinas and Las Palmas. They are all unique and stand out in their own ways, but among the best beach clubs in Tulum are:

Tulum has some epic beach clubs, like this one at Casa Malca. ▶︎ Book your stay at Casa Malca

Tulum beach clubs often cost about $1,000-2,000 pesos ($50-100USD) for a day pass. This is actually your food/beverage “minimum spend,” and also grants you access to the beach club and facilities for the day. Note: Not all Tulum beach clubs apply the entry cost to your food and drink tab!

A “minimum spend” basically means you’re pre-paying your $50-100 tab, so you can think of the entrance cost as a down payment on food and drinks. If you spend more than what you paid to enter, you’ll need to pay that balance at the Tulum beach clubs you’ve visited.

🏝 Tulum Happy Hour: Hit up these Tulum Beach Clubs during Happy Hour to save a few bucks.

Tulum Ruins is an ancient Mayan city that overlooks the Caribbean Sea, and among of the best Mayan Ruins in Mexico.
traveling to tulum mexico

Mayan Ruins Near Tulum

Tulum is an amazing mix of posh hotels, instagrammable art along the beach, boho chic beach clubs with oceanfront swings, gorgeous cenotes, amazing restaurants and cafes, fun bars and more. One of the best things to do in Tulum is visit the Tulum Ruins, located on the northern end of the beach.

In total, there are about 100 public Mayan archeological sites throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. While most people don’t make it to all of them, there are some noteworthy Tulum pyramids you can get to in two hours or less. Keep scrolling to see the four most visited Mayan sites near Tulum.

Tulum Ruins

If you head to the Tulum Beach Road, and turn left, you’ll end up at the Archeological Zone of Tulum-Mayan Port City Ruins, AKA the Tulum Ruins. This smaller site is very conveniently located, and most Tulum travelers will visit these beautiful ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

Are Tulum Ruins open?

Yes — As of May 24, 2021, the Tulum Ruins are open. The Tulum Archeological Zone is open daily, from 9am-5pm, with the last ticket sold at 3:30pm. There’s a maximum capacity of groups no larger than 10, and a total of 3,000 people per day — so arrive early to guarantee your admission.

As Covid measures in Tulum are still in place, you’ll need to get a temperature check at the entrance and be under 99.5°F (37.5°C). You must wear a mask all times and practice social distance during while visiting Tulum Ruins.

Chichen Itza Ruins

As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, seeing Chichen Itza is on many travel bucket lists. Located about two hours from Tulum, you can drive there with your rental car, take the ADO bus from Downtown Tulum, or opt for this Chichen Itzá, Cenote and Valladolid Tour.

🗿Tulum Travel Tip: You can not climb the pyramids at Chichen Itza.

chichen itza, a mayan pyramid and wonder of the world - day trips from Merida

Coba Mayan Ruins

Coba is unique in that it’s more of a whole Mayan city, versus a Mayan pyramid site. It is located deep in the jungle, about an hour from Tulum. If you’re having to choose Chichen Itza vs Coba, many opt for Coba to avoid the crowds at Chichen Itza and because you can climb Coba’s pyramids.

🦟 Tulum Travel Tip: When visiting Coba, don’t forget your eco-friendly bug spray.

Ek Balam Mayan Ruins

This site has a unique look, unlike the others on this list — and as it’s slightly off the beaten path, you may have the whole place to yourself! It is located near Valladolid, one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico and a pueblo magico (magic town).

Mayan Ruins Tours

The easiest way to see all of the Tulum Mayan pyramids and archeological sites? On a group tour with a Tulum guide! In fact, group tours provide an easy way for solo travelers to meet other travelers. Check out your options below for the best Tulum tours to see the pyramids and Mayan ruins near Tulum.

traveling to tulum mexico

Tulum Instagram Spots

Raw Love Tulum

Perhaps the most famous of Tulum’s large art pieces, the giant Ven a la Luz (Come Into the Light) wooden man sculpture by South African artist Daniel Popper is the entrance to the Ahau Tulum Resort and Raw Love Cafe.

Follow That Dream Sign

Located on Tulum’s Beach Road in front of the Lolita Lolita shop and across the street from Kaya Tulum, this instafamous Follow That Dream Tulum street sign is one of the most popular photo spots in Tulum.

Azulik Hotel & SFER IK Museum

There are so many instaworthy spots in Azulik Tulum — starting with the Sfer Ik Museum, and continuing all the way through to the nest tables at Kin Toh Restaurant.

Raw Love Tulum
Follow That Dream
Matcha Mama Tulum

Matcha Mama Cafe

Home to the famous I Love Tulum So Matcha sign on a surfboard, hit up this popular spot on Tulum Beach for both photos and a refreshing matcha smoothie. For many visiting Tulum Mexico, no visit is complete without a photo on these famous Tulum swings.

Casa Malca Couch Swing

Once owned by Pablo Escobar, this hotel is tropical sexy all the way. Don’t miss the hanging couch, black and white Keith Haring bar and Moroccan-style chandelier room in Casa Malca Hotel.

Coco Tulum Beach Swings

There’s so many beach clubs with swings to check out in Tulum, but none more famous than the boho chic white swings at Coco Tulum Hotel.

Tulum Cenotes

The natural jungle pools, called cenotes in Tulum, are among the best places for Tulum photo ops. Learn all about the Tulum cenotes just below ⤵

There are four types of cenotes, and you can experience all the different types at Cenotes Casa Tortugas Tulum.
traveling to tulum mexico

Best Cenotes in Tulum

What is a cenote?

To make a long story short, cenotes (pronounced sen-no-tays) are basically underwater sinkholes containing crystal-clear, freshwater. They are only found in a few places on Earth, with the largest concentration in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where there are about 6,000 cenotes.

We can see and swim in them because the limestone once covering the water has collapsed and/or eroded throughout Earth’s existence, exposing the water beneath. Cenotes have crystal-clear freshwater, which stays at about 75°F (24°C) year-round.

6 Best Tulum Cenotes in Tulum

Tulum has so many cenotes to see within just minutes of downtown. The six listed below are located just off Highway 109, all within 25 minutes or less of Downtown Tulum and Aldea Zama. You could ride your bike, hire a taxi or drive your rental car — but don’t attempt to walk to these Tulum cenotes.

Tulum Cenote FAQ
  1. Cost: Cenotes have entry fees, though they are usually minimal. The more popular ones that provide amenities like restrooms, on-site restaurants, etc., should still cost no more than $350 pesos ($17USD) to enter. Most are closer in price to about $75-200 pesos ($4-10USD).
  1. Cash Only: Bring cash to cover both your entry and food. Most cenotes are in rural areas, and won’t have WiFi or the ability to take credit cards.
  1. Accessibility: Different cenotes have different levels of accessibility. Many will have well-maintained stairs with handrails, especially the more popular ones. Some have make-shift stairs, and some have ladders.
  1. Water shoes: Water shoes really help you enjoy your cenote time! As cenotes are natural pools, most have slippery rocks, muddy ground, etc. Water shoes also help you not slip in general, especially when walking down any staircase entryways. (I have sadly seen this a lot 👀)
  1. Life Jackets: I have never been to a cenote that didn’t provide or rent life jackets; but if you can’t swim, you might want to do additional research on the cenote(s) you’re visiting. If you aren’t comfortable swimming, consider the Adventure in Shallow Cenotes Tour.
  1. Sunscreens and lotions: Don’t apply sunscreen, lotion, insect repellent — anything — before getting in a cenote. Many require you to rinse off before entering, so even putting anything on will be a waste. However, when you get out for the day, this one by Badger Anti-Bug Sunscreen Cream is an eco-friendly sunscreen with insect protection, which comes in handy at cenotes.
  2. Cenote Photos: Want those people-less Instagrammable cenote photos? Go on a weekday, and arrive early! You’ll want to bring one of these waterproof phone holders that go around your neck or a waterproof fanny pack.

Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera are the two most instagrammable cenotes in Tulum. Gran Cenote, meaning “big cenote,” is a larger site with several cenotes that meander along the jungle floor, connected to one another by wooden walkways.

Cenote Calavera

Cenote Calavera, meaning “skull cenote,” has three holes you can jump in to access the water below. This cool natural phenomenon is super popular, so try and arrive early to beat the crowds.

Cenote Calavera
Gran Cenote
Cenote Zacil-Ha

Cenote Zacil-Ha

This is an open, swimming pool-style cenote. Cenote Zacil-Ha has plenty of nice onsite amenities like covered/shaded areas, bathrooms and snacks for sale.

Cenote Tankah & Cenote Car Wash

These two are right next to one another, and make a great combo trip. Cenote Tankah is well known as the only Tulum cenote that has a zipline, perfect for adventure-seekers! Cenote Car Wash has a much more chill, lagoon vibe.

Cenote Santa Cruz Tulum

This one is just stunning, and also very conducive to hosting visitors with onsite bathrooms, shaded palapas, grassy areas to relax in, and more.

Tulum Cenotes Tours

traveling to tulum mexico

Best Restaurants in Tulum

Tulum has a nice mix of casual-fine dining, and authentic Mexican food street eats. If you’re looking for cheap places to eat in Tulum, they are up next after the Tulum restaurants!

The recommendations below will help you make sure you experience both while traveling to Tulum — because while fancy food is great and all — Did you even really travel to Mexico if you didn’t eat way too many street tacos in Mexico!? (Hint: No!)

While tacos and Mexico go together like milk and cookies, tacos aren’t actually a Yucatan food. While in Tulum, make sure you sample some traditional Yucatcan cuisine. This includes cochinita pibil (slow cooked pork), lechon (pork with crispy skin), and agua fresca (fruit water).

RELATED ARTICLE 🍷🍽 Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear

Tulum Fine Dining ($$$-$$$$)

Hartwood Tulum

The “wood” in Hartwood is no lie (check out the photo above ⤴). This place is all about wood-grilled everything. Opened in 2009 by wife-husband duo, Mya Henry and Eric Werner, Hartwood’s menu changes daily, as they focus on freshness and seasonality in their solar-powered eco-kitchen.

Gitano Tulum

Meaning “gypsy” in Spanish, Gitano is part restaurant, part lounge — and the place to go for your Tulum Friday night. The menu is innovative and fresh, so head there for small tapas plates and creative mezcal cocktails, but stick around after the meal to party in Gitano’s secret garden setting.

Arca Tulum

Looking for a chef-driven restaurant? Look no further than Arca, led by Mexican/American Chef Jose Luis Hinostroza. He once worked at what is considered the best restaurant in the world, Noma. In 2015, Hinostroza brought his skill to Tulum, and opened this Tulum foodie favorite.

Casa Jaguar Tulum

This quintessential boho chic Tulum spot is rustic elegance all the way. Enjoy fresh ceviche and grilled items, and then wash them down with Casa Jaguar’s innovative cocktails.

🍷 Tulum Travel Tip: Make a reservation for all places, especially if you want to dine on a weekend.

Matcha Mama is one of the most photographed cafes in Tulum, Mexico | traveling to tulum mexico, yucatan peninsula
Matcha Mama Tulum is one of the most photographed and best cafes in Tulum.
traveling to tulum mexico

Best Cheap Eats in Tulum: Tulum Beach ($$)

Match Mama Tulum

Among the most instagrammable Tulum places, Matcha Mama also serves up smoothies, acai bowls, “nice cream” (vegan ice cream) and other healthy fare. Head here to take a photo on their famous and photogenic swings, next to the I Love Tulum So Matcha surfboard sign.

The Real Coconut

Commonly known as one of the best vegan restaurants in Tulum, it’s also located right on the beach and has some amazing views of the Caribbean Sea.

Clan-Destino Tulum

Known for having the best burgers in Tulum, Clan-Destino restaurant also has Cenote Clan-Destino you can jump in after eating. This is the only Tulum restaurant with a cenote!

I Scream Bar Tulum

I Scream is as much a feast for the eyes, as a feast for the stomach. Enjoy tacos and vegan “nice” cream by day, and one of the best Tulum bars by night.

After enjoying a mojito, jump into the cenote at Clan-Destino Restaurant for a swim! (Photo: Tripadvisor)

Best Cheap Eats in Downtown Tulum ($-$$)

Taqueria Honorio

This is where the locals go to eat the best tacos in Tulum. This is a no-frills restaurant, and it’s all about the food. Try the cochinita pibil and lechon, and wash it all down with an agua fresca (fruit water) — like the locals do. It is only open until 3pm, so head to Taqueria Honorio for the best lunch in Tulum.

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

While not authentic to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico and tacos al pastor are synonymous. Try this Mexican food staple at Antojitos La Chiapaneca, a late night favorite in Tulum Town.

Ki’Bok Tulum

An adorable coffee shop, and arguably the best cafe in Tulum. Enjoy local Mexican coffee and traditional breakfast and brunch items, like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, as well as pastries, sandwiches and more.

Burrito Amor

The place for the best burritos in Tulum, with meat, seafood, vegan options, and breakfast burritos in the morning.

El Camelo Jr.

Known for their fresh seafood plates and ceviches, El Camelo Jr. is a popular Tulum institution. There may be a wait, but it’s worth it.

Tacos al pastor at Antojitos La Chiapaneca in Downtown Tulum.
traveling to tulum mexico

Best Bars in Tulum

Batey Tulum

The best bar in Downtown Tulum. Really, there aren’t all that many great bars in Downtown Tulum, but Batey’s would still be the coolest even if there were. Head to Batey Bar at night to hear live music and sip on one of their famous mojitos.

Papaya Playa Project

If you’re looking to party, dance, see and be seen, Saturday nights at Papaya Playa Project is what you need in your life. They throw big parties with great DJs each week, and also host the best Tulum Full Moon Party on the Saturday night closest to the full moon.

Gitano Tulum

As far as the best cocktail bars in Tulum goes, there’s really only one place to indulge, and that’s Gitano. Now, said cocktails don’t come cheap, but it’s worth it to even have just one so you can see this gorgeous restaurant/bar — especially on Friday nights, the best night to go to Gitano Tulum.

Ziggy Beach Club

One of the best low key beach bars, Ziggy’s is a locals favorite with a great Happy Hour. Chill out on one of their beachfront hammocks and sip on a tropical adult beverage. 🥂 Tulum Travel Tip: Check out all the best Tulum Happy Hours, which typically take place from 4pm-6pm.

I Scream Bar

In a town full of instagrammable places and visual eye candy, I Scream Bar gives everywhere else a run for their money. This place is super fun, super cool to look at, and also, they serve Mexico tacos, so win-win-win.

Mateo’s Mexican Grill

Mateo’s is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Tulum! Head up to the top floor deck and enjoy some Happy Hour 2-4-1 drinks as you watch the sun set into the Tulum jungle. 

Batey bar in downtown Tulum | traveling to tulum mexico, yucatan peninsula
The VW Bug parked outside of Batey bar in Downtown Tulum, known for having the best mojitos in Tulum. (Photo by Rob Cartledge via Flickr)

Final Thoughts: Traveling to Tulum Mexico

Tulum was once a sleepy beach town that provided a quiet alternative to Cancun and Playa del Carmen to the north. It was a quiet heaven for backpackers and hippie types, who set up tents on the beach, slept under the stars and bathed in the Caribbean Sea.

If you’ve seen photos or videos of Tulum, you know those days are over, and Tulum is a full on party and tourism Mecca in Mexico. That’s not to say it’s now pretty — it is — but like most Instagram famous places, many build it up in their mind, only to be let down 😕

Is Tulum worth visiting?

While it is admittedly not my favorite Mexico beach town, Tulum is a unique Mexico destination that everyone should check out at least once, if only to form your own opinion of it.

The reality is, as Tulum gets more famous and Instafamous, it starts to become less and less special because more and more people have already been there, done that. It also gets more expensive and more crowded, and some of the things that made it famous to begin with, have waned.

If you understand what you’re signing up for — high price tags by Mexico standards, rustic boho vibes, lots of other tourists — and you don’t mind those things, you’ll enjoy your trip to Tulum. If you’re looking to lay on a beautiful Caribbean beach, take photos and swim in the cenotes, then Tulum is for you.

Like all places on Earth, the key to enjoying Tulum is managing your expectations of it: Think Instagram vs. Reality. If you understand the Youtube Tulum and Insta Tulum you’ve seen online is a heavily doctored version of the town, you won’t be among those people who get let down by Tulum.

Have questions about traveling to Tulum?

I’d love to hear from you! If there was anything not covered in this article, please join the conversation in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to get you the info you need.

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15 Comments

  1. We cannot wait to get back to Mexico. Tulum is on our list — this is such a great and detailed guide. Pinning it for later!

  2. This is such a great guide! We just got back from here, and I would have loved to have known some of these tips (which cenotes to visit, etc.) You really covered just about everything you would need to know to visit!

  3. I’ve never been to Tulum but would definitely love to visit someday! Thanks so much for putting this guide together! Saving it so I can pull it up if we get to go someday! It looks like such a beautiful place to explore (+ I love warm weather/beaches).

  4. Every time I’m in the area I head to the Riviera Maya. I’m definitely committing to Tulum next time!

  5. I haven’t been to Tulum before so this is a really helpful guide for when I plan my future trip there. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I’ve been to Tulum once, a LONG time ago. I look forward to going back. There is so much that I didn’t do when last there. I would love to visit some cenotes. Love the travel details you provide and will find them very helpful when I go. Thanks.

  7. I haven’t visited Tulum since 2006 (and 2000 before that) so needless to say it has changed a LOT since I was there. It was a sleepy little town where you’d hardly see another tourist when I visited. I’d absolutely love to go back again and see it now. It looks so pretty, and of course the beaches and cenotes are absolutely spectacular! Thanks so much for all this info – I’ve saved this guide for when I can get back there again 🙂

    1. I live in the Yucatan & have seen the evolution happen… seems to change a lot year to year, so I bet it’s a different world since your last visit. When you re-visit, I’d love to hear your perspective on the changes.

  8. This is a comprehensive guide. I have had Tulum on my radar for a little while. My first venture to Mexico was Puerto Vallarta. I look forward to exploring more of Mexico.

  9. Thank you for sharing this info about an FMM tourist card! I’ve never been to Mexico but it’s good to know that I don’t need a visa to cross the border.

  10. Wow! This guide is beyond complete. In fact, I’m going to share this with my husband as he’s planning a trip to Tulum.

  11. This makes me want to hop on a plane! Tulum is one of those places that I would’ve loved to have seen before it got insta-famous, but it still looks like a good place for a pitstop, and maybe a beachside resort for a day or two!

  12. Very helpful guide – Tulum is on my list of places to go in Mexico. I like how you said to manage your expectations – so important!

  13. Hi. I’m in Cancún now and I’d like to go to Tulum to the follow that dream sign. I’m thinking about taking the bus from cancún to tulum. But, how do I get from the bus station in tulum to the lolita restaurant? Is there a bus or can I walk?

    1. Hi Oana: Once you arrive to the bus station in Downtown Tulum, there will be taxis waiting outside and you can take one to the beach, or you can walk — but it will take about 45 minutes if you walk. It’s only about 10 minutes away by taxi, and should cost around $200 pesos. You can ask to be dropped off at the sign or Lolita Lolita… but if the driver doesn’t know where they are, just get dropped off when you get to the beach & pop into any store or cafe on the beach & someone can direct you to the sign. It’s easy to find & quite famous, so you won’t have a problem finding it.