tulum itinerary

Tulum Itinerary: How to Spend 3, 4 or 5 Days in Tulum [2021]

Planning for 3 days, 4 days or 5 days in Tulum, Mexico?

You’ve come to the right place for the ultimate Tulum itinerary! This article has all the best things to do in Tulum, as well as plenty of off the beaten path Tulum things to see and explore.

If you’re wondering How many days in Tulum will I need? — know the boho beach paradise of Tulum does make for a great shorter trip. As a pueblo, or small town, you’re about to see how you can cover a lot of ground in just a few days on your Tulum trip.

Located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, right on the Caribbean Sea, you’re probably headed to Tulum for some beach time. Tulum Beach is certainly on the itinerary, as well as some beautiful Yucatan lagoons, and the Tulum cenotes (natural jungle pools).

You’ll also visit the famous Tulum Ruins, a Mayan archeological site right on the beach, and for those with time, even other nearby ruins. Travelers with five days in Tulum will also get to discover the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, for an epic Tulum off the beaten path experience.

Ready to discover your options for how to spend 3 days in Tulum, 4 days in Tulum and 5 days in Tulum?

Let’s get to it — starting with the Tulum FAQ section below. In it, you’ll learn everything you need to know for your Tulum vacation in Yucatan, Mexico, followed by the perfect Tulum itinerary (or jump straight there with this link).

Tulum Itinerary

Can You Travel to Tulum Right Now?

You might be wondering if this is a good time to book your Tulum trip. While many things are open in Tulum, you’ll want to check out the article linked below, which is updated monthly, as rules change. It will also go over the regulations for Mexico travel during Covid.

3 Days in Tulum Itinerary

Day 1: Tulum Ruins & Tulum Beach

Tulum Instagram Spots

Tulum is among the most Instagram worthy Mexico travel destinations, so you’ll likely want some photos at all the iconic spots. Head to Tulum Beach strip in the morning — the earlier the better — both for better lighting and so you’ll encounter less people.

Start with a photo at the famous Follow The Dream sign, located outside of the Lolita Lolita shop. Next, head to Casa Malca, the mansion-turned-hotel once owned by Pablo Escobar. Just outside the lobby, you’ll find their famous hanging couch at Casa Malca.

🏕 Want to try glamping in Mexico? Check out Tulum Glamping: 11 Boho Glampsites & Tulum Treehouse Hotels.

From there, make your way to Azulik Tulum, one of the most Instagrammable Tulum resorts. You can take photos on the property, but only with your phone camera. There’s the adjoining SFER IK Museum, which costs $200 pesos ($10USD) to enter, but makes for great photos.

📸 Let a PRO handle your photos on the Photoshoot in Tulum InstaSpots Tour!

The Ven a la Luz (Come to the Light) sculpture is perhaps the most recognizable of all Tulum photo ops. Located at the entrance to Raw Love Cafe and Ahau Tulum Resort, this giant wooden man sculpture by South African artist Daniel Popper, is one of the most popular Tulum photos.

The Ven a la Luz Tulum sculpture is one of the most photographed places in town.

Brunch in Tulum Beach

If you want one final Instagram worthy Tulum photo, head to Match Mama. This thatched-roof cafe has the Instagrammable swings next to the I Love Tulum So Matcha sign on a surfboard. They have smoothies, elixirs, kombucha, acai bowls and some small bites to eat.

After a long morning of photos, you may want to just sit down for a relaxing Tulum brunch. Tunich is perfect for a jungle brunch, with its extensive menu of egg dishes, pancakes, quinoa bowls, salads, tacos, smoothies, juices, coffee, tea drinks, and even more.

The Templo del Viento (Wind Temple) at Tulum Ruins.

Tulum Mayan Ruins

After eating, head to Tulum Ruins, an important Mayan archaeological site. These beachfront ruins overlook the beautiful Caribbean Sea, and are among the must do in Tulum attractions. The site is small and gets crowded, so the earlier you visit the better.

After touring the ruins themselves, take the staircase down to the beach beneath the site. It’s super beautiful and worth checking out, even if only to jump in the sea and cool down. However, there’s not really amenities, so you may want to head to a Tulum beach club.

Best Tulum Beach Clubs

Famous for its boho Tulum beach clubs, you’ll want to check out at least one of them while in town on your Tulum vacay. They all charge to get in, but that is your “minimum spend,” and will be applied to your food and drink tab.

In other words, you pay $1,000-2,000 pesos ($50-100USD) to enter the beach club. You’ll then have access to their pool and beach area facilities, including showers, bathrooms, etc., and your $50-100USD credit will go towards your food and drinks.

The famous hanging couch at Casa Malca, a mansion-turned-resort once owned by Pablo Escobar, located on Tulum Beach. (Photo: Expedia)

If this price seems steep, it is; but hey, you’re on your dream Tulum vacation! 🏖 For some of the best beach clubs in Tulum, check out:

There’s also Coco Tulum, the beachfront bar with the Instagrammable Tulum swings, and Ziggy’s Beach Tulum. These two restaurant/bars won’t have a full service waitstaff like you’ll get at beach clubs — but they also don’t have a “minimum spend” entry cost.

However, since you’re on the beach in Tulum Mexico, drinks still average about $200 pesos ($10USD). To keep costs down, check out these great Happy Hour bars in Tulum, Mexico.

The boho chic beach club at Nomade Tulum. (Photo: Expedia)

Free Tulum Beaches

All beaches in Mexico are technically free. When you pay to go to a Tulum beach club, it’s so you have access to service staff, beach chairs, bathrooms, etc. However, if you don’t need anything but the sun and sand, skip the beach clubs.

To keep costs as low as possible, head to a grocery store, fill a cooler with ice, drinks and snacks, grab your towel, and head to the best beaches in Tulum on your own. These include Playa Pescadores, Playa Santa Fe, Playa Las Palmas and Playa Paraiso — and will cost you $0.

After some beach time, head to Mateo’s Mexican Grill for happy hour drinks from 5pm-7pm on their rooftop deck. This is one of the best places to see the sunset in Tulum, as you listen to a live band or DJ. 🍹 For a list of additional Tulum Happy Hour bars, head here.

If you don’t need anything besides the beach to have a good time, jump on your bike and head to Playa Santa Fe Tulum.

Tulum Itinerary

Day 2: Tulum Cenotes

Besides the beach, the Tulum cenotes are a must-visit. You have a few options on how to visit: drive your rental car, take a taxi (the best way is to hire a taxi for the day and visit a few cenotes), or join a group Tulum cenote tour — which will take you to hidden cenotes!

To go by rental car or taxi, you’ll head north on Highway 109 from Tulum Town. On this road, you’ll have several cenotes to visit, including many of the best cenotes in Tulum and famous Instagram worthy cenotes — like Cenote Suytun.

Cenote Calavera

From Tulum Town, Calavera Cenote is the first one you’ll pass. It makes a great first stop because this cenote is very popular and also quite small. If you get here early enough to beat the crowds, you can get some really nice photos of Cenote Calavera.

Gran Cenote

A bit further down Highway 109, you’re at Gran Cenote, meaning big cenote. This is a large site, with a few cenotes connected to one another by a series of wooden walkways. It is another one of the Instagram famous Tulum cenotes, so expect bigger crowds.

Cenote Calavera in Tulum

Cenote Santa Cruz

Keep heading down the road until you get to Santa Cruz Cenote. This is what’s called an open cenote, so it looks like a natural swimming pool. It isn’t as popular for Tulum cenote photos, so it will be a lot more relaxed than the last two.

Cenote Zacil-Ha

This is another open, or swimming pool style cenote, but much more popular than Cenote Santa Cruz. If you’re getting hungry again, Zacil-Ha Cenote has an on-site restaurant.

Woman in yellow dress twirling around at Coba, the Best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan, located in Tulum, Mexico

📸 Let a PRO handle your photos on the Cenotes & Underwater Photography Tour

Cenote Car Wash

This one goes by two names, Cenote Aktun Ha and Car Wash Cenote, but they refer to the same place. Cenote Car Wash is super chill, and has a relaxed lagoon vibe.

Cenote Tankah

Located right next to Cenote Car Wash, Cenote Tankah is popular as the only Tulum cenote with a zipline. This one is very popular and also well maintained, so except to share the water with a bunch of other visitors.

Gran Cenote in Tulum

Dinner & Drinks in Tulum Town

After freshening up, head back to Tulum Town for dinner at Burrito Amor for the best burritos in Tulum. They have meat, seafood and vegan options, so everyone will love this outdoor place for delicious cheap eats in Tulum.

After a yummy burrito, check out Batey Bar, one of the best bars in Tulum. They have live music and a festive atmosphere most nights, but are best known for their amazing mojitos. If you’re hungry after Batey, walk over to Antojitos La Chiapaneca for late night street tacos.

Batey’s Tulum in Downtown is known for having the best mojitos in Tulum.
Tulum Itinerary

Day 3: Tulum Town & Kaan Luum Lagoon

Breakfast in Tulum Town

Start your day with some local Mexican coffee and breakfast at Ki’Bok, among the best cafe Tulum options. It is located just off the main road in Tulum Town, and has great pastries, fruit/yogurt plates, omelets and Mexican breakfast favorites, like chilaquiles.

👩‍🎨 Love street art? Book the Tulum Murals Tour to see the street art in Tulum Town!

Another great option if you want tacos for breakfast is Taqueria Honorio, a locals’ favorite. This a no-frills spot, known for authentic tacos, quesadillas, tortas (sandwiches) and agua fresca (fruit water), is only open for breakfast and lunch.

Shopping in Tulum Town

For the best Tulum shopping, skip the pricey shops on the beach and head to the locals’ run shops in Tulum Town. At these boutiques, you’ll find everything from colorful leather sandals to handmade Mayan hammocks.

Among the best places to shop in Tulum, don’t miss these:

  • Mixik
  • La Troupe
  • Pura Vida Tulum
  • MexicArte
  • Kaahal Home
Shopping for handicrafts, souvenirs and locally-made art in Tulum Town.

Kaan Luum Lagoon

After shopping, jump in your rental car or grab a taxi for the 20 minute drive to Kaan Luum Lagoon. This is one of the best hidden gems in Tulum, and more popular with locals than tourists.

In Kaan Luum Lagoon, you can lather yourself up in the mud on the bottom for a bañya maya, or Mayan mud bath — which some claim has healing properties. There’s not much to do at Kaan Luum besides swim and relax, and no shaded areas, so wear your sun hat at all times.

🧴 Note: Sunscreen and lotion are prohibited in Kaan Luum Lagoon. For now, there’s no distinction between regular and eco-friendly sunscreen, and you’ll see signs forbidding sunscreen entirely. Many opt for an SPF swim shirt (rash guard) to visit the lagoon, and to practice sustainable tourism in Mexico.

After some time at the lagoon, you might be hungry again. If so, stop at El Camello Jr. on the way back to Tulum Town. This is one of the best Tulum restaurants for ceviche and fresh seafood. It is popular with locals, so there might be a wait, but it usually moves quickly.

Laguna Kaan Luum in Tulum, Mexico

4 Days in Tulum Itinerary

Day 4: Coba Ruins, Valladolid & Cenote Zaci

Coba Pyramid & Mayan Ruins

The Tulum Ruins are a great option with only three days in Tulum, but for those who have more time, you’ll want to visit another site as well. Coba Mayan Ruins, located about 45-minutes from Tulum, is more of a Mayan city than a Mexico ruins site.

Climbing the 120 steps to the top of the Ixmoja Coba Pyramid. At 140-feet (42m), it’s the tallest pyramid in Yucatan.

When you arrive, you can rent a bike to explore the whole site and ride through the Mayan jungle. You can also walk if you’d like, just hitting the main structures and ruins at the site. However you explore, make sure to visit Ixmoja Pyramid.

Part of the Nohoch Mul Group of buildings, and sometimes even called Nohoch Mul Pyramid, this is the largest pyramid in Yucatan. Unlike at Tulum Ruins, you can climb Ixmoja Pyramid and all the structures at Coba — so for those wanting to climb Mayan pyramids, this is the place. 

Tulum to Coba Tours 

Valladolid, Mexico: Pueblo Mexico

About 45-minutes from Coba, you’ll be in Valladolid, Yucatan, a great town to explore and have lunch. Tulum and Valladolid are both pueblos mágicos, or magical towns. Wondering, What are pueblos magicos? They are especially interesting and beautiful towns, that are also welcoming to visitors.

Head to the Zocalo, or Town Square, to see the Iglesia de San Servacio Valladolid church in Parque Principal (Main Park). There’s also the Calzada de los Frailes, the prettiest street in Valladolid, with cute cafes, boutique shops and colorful colonial architecture.

At the end of the Calzada de los Frailes (AKA Calle de los Frailes), there’s the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena. This 16th Century Fransiscan Convent is one of the oldest in the entire Yucatan Peninsula, and located next to the large sign with the Valladolid letters.

Convento de San Bernardino de Siena and the Valladolid sign.

Best Restaurants in Valladolid

On Calle de los Frailes, you can grab a casual bite to eat at El Jardín de los Frailes, known for their quesadillas. For a more upscale meal, check out La Casona de Valladolid or Ix Cat Ik, a foodie favorite for authentic Yucatan food made by hand the old school way.

Cenote Zaci

Located just a few blocks from downtown, Cenote Zaci is one of the best cenotes in Yucatan, Mexico. It makes for the perfect place to cool down after a long day of exploring in this large cenote, popular with locals and visitors alike.

You can also eat there at the onsite restaurant, which if you do, your entrance will be free. If you’re not eating there, Cenote Zaci entrance is $30 pesos ($1.50USD).

natural swimming pool with waterfall - day trips from Merida
Cenote Zaci is one of the most beautiful and best cenotes in Mexico!

5 Days in Tulum Itinerary

Day 5: Sian Ka’an Biosphere & Muyil Ruins

Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, recognized for its outstanding natural beauty and unique ecosystem. At Sian Ka’an, you’ll see dolphins, manatees, turtles and birds out in the wild, and you can swim through its beautiful blue lagoon waters.

What is a Biosphere Reserve? Biosphere reserves are learning places for sustainable development. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. —UNESCO

As it’s quite literally off the beaten path in Tulum — as in you have to drive off-road to even get there — the easiest way to visit Sian Ka’an is on a tour. There are boat tours and float tours (see below ⤵), where you put on a life jacket and float through the water, which is an amazing experience.

Muyil Mayan Ruins

Many tours combine a visit to Sian Ka’an with seeing Chunyaxché, or the Muyil Ruins. Though not far from Tulum Ruins, Muyil looks very different. Here, you’ll see what is known as Peten architecture, steep walled pyramids similar to those at the Tikal Mayan Ruins in Guatemala.

Sian Ka’an Tours in Tulum

Dinner & Drinks on Tulum Beach

After a nice shower, make your way to Tulum Beach for a farewell dinner and drinks. To keep it budget friendly, opt for I Scream Bar for tacos, drinks and vegan “nice” cream. You can stay there and hang around, as the party will continue to pick up as the night goes on.

For those wanting to splurge on dinner, choose from Arca Tulum, Hartwood and Gitano, among the best restaurants in Tulum. There’s also Kin Toh Azulik Tulum restaurant, one of the best restaurants Tulum Beach has, with their famous Nest Tables overlooking the jungle. Note: Make reservations for these!

Kin Toh Restaurant at Azulik Tulum Hotel. (Photo: Austin Distel/Unsplash)
tulum itinerary

Where is Tulum, Mexico Located?

Tulum is a Mexico pueblo magico (magical town) in the Yucatan Peninsula, located in southeastern Mexico. It is about 1.5 hours south of Cancun, and 45-minutes south of Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya. All three cities, as well as Tulum, are in Quintana Roo state.

Is there an Airport in Tulum, Mexico? 

There is no Tulum airport, so you’ll use Cancun International Airport (code: CUN). The Cancun to Tulum distance is about 75 miles (120km). From Cancun Airport to Tulum you have a few options: rental car, private transportation, or the ADO bus — with info below for each ⤵  

Flights to Tulum

How to get to Tulum from Cancun

Car Rental Tulum Mexico

If you’re planning to rent a car in Tulum, it’s easiest to get it from the Cancun Airport. From there, you’ll take just one toll road — Carretera Cancun-Chetumal (Highway 307) — with a 1.5-2 hour Cancun to Tulum drive time. Car rentals cost from $25-45USD per day.

Cancun to Tulum Shuttle Transfer Service

This is a nice option because your private transportation service will be waiting for you at the airport to take you to Tulum. If you’re sharing, you might have to wait, but it will often be less of a wait than for the bus. Cancun to Tulum shuttle time is about two hours.

ADO Tulum Bus

Taking the ADO bus is the least expensive option, at about $40USD round-trip. It is the largest bus company in Mexico and you can take a direct ADO bus from Cancun Airport to Tulum. These buses are large and comfortable, with recliner seats, AC and power outlets at all seats.

🚌💨Tulum Travel Tip: Book a ticket for at least one hour after you land. Remember that you’ll have to get off the plane, (possibly) get your luggage, go through Customs, and then head to the bus terminal.

Follow That Dream to Tulum, Mexico — where you’ll see this famous sign on the Tulum Beach Road.
Tulum Itinerary for Yucatan

Is Tulum Expensive?

When comparing Tulum to other beach towns in Mexico, yes, Tulum is on the expensive side. However, budget Tulum travel is possible by saving money here and there, as mentioned with taking the ADO bus from Cancun to Tulum.

Another tip is to stay in Tulum Town (AKA Downtown Tulum) instead of staying on the beach. In fact, eating, drinking and shopping will all cost less in downtown than on Tulum beach, as it’s less touristy. 🏡 Need a place? Check out these 11 Gorgeous Tulum VRBO Options at Under $99 Per Night.

For an unforgettable experience, there’s no Tulum hotel better than the Azulik Tulum Resort! (Photo: Expedia)

Where to Stay in Tulum, Mexico

Best Tulum Beachfront Hotels

While they certainly don’t always come cheap, Tulum hotels on the beach are the way to go for most travelers. Staying on the beach in the Tulum Hotel Zone means you’re in the middle of all the action and within walking distance of everything you’d need.

Here are some of the best hotels Tulum Beach has to offer, and at several price points:

Best Neighborhoods in Tulum

Tulum Beach

If you discovered Tulum on social media or YouTube, what you’ve likely seen is Tulum Beach. This is where you’ll find all the beautiful large-scale art installations, beachfront eco-resorts like Alaya Tulum, high end restaurants, cool bars, and all the Instagram worthy places in Tulum.

Tulum Town (Downtown)

Tulum Town is also called Tulum Pueblo, and it’s the downtown area where many Tulum locals live. It has a charm all it’s own, but this is not the Tulum you’ve seen on Instagram — that’s Tulum Beach. However, you can always stay in Tulum Town to save some money, and spend most of your time at the beach.

Aldea Zama

The Aldea Zama neighborhood is located between Tulum Town and Tulum Beach. It has a great central location, newer construction apartment buildings with nice amenities, and you can often find great deals for the VRBO & Airbnb Tulum Mexico options in Aldea Zama.

This Tulum map should give you a better idea of the town’s layout.
Tulum Itinerary

What’s the Best Time to Visit Tulum?

The Tulum dry season lasts from November to April, but this is also the high season, so expect higher price tags and bigger crowds. Located in the tropics, it will likely rain daily from about May to October, and in fact, June 1-November 1 is Hurricane Season and Tulum is susceptible.

Tulum Weather & Temperatures

As mentioned, Tulum has a tropical climate, so plan for hot weather all year long. Tulum temperatures average about 83-87°F in the fall/winter and 93-97°F in spring/summer, though summers are very humid and it will often feel 5-10°F hotter than the number reads.

What to Pack for Tulum, Mexico

You now know Tulum is hot, so don’t forget your Water-To-Go refillable water bottle. This not only keeps you hydrated, but filters your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico! You’ll also want mosquito-repelling sunscreen, some Frizz Ease for your hair, and anti-hangover pills, if you plan to party 🥂

As far as what to wear in Tulum, anything goes! You’ll see everything from boho hippie style to decked out Instagram influencers. If you need a visual, head here for some Tulum outfit inspo — or just think flowy sundresses, cute sandals, a sunhat and sunglasses.

Getting Around in Tulum

Since Tulum is on the smaller side, you’ll only want to rent a car if you’re doing all the Tulum day trips on this itinerary. If you’re not, it’s easier to rent a bike from one of the bike shops in Tulum Town, or use taxis to get around.

🚕💨 There’s no Uber in Tulum

Keep in mind that there’s no rideshare apps like Lyft or Uber in Tulum — though there are plenty of cabs, day and night. In Mexico, you need to agree on the price before entering the taxi, as there aren’t meters, and you’ll need to have pesos to pay the driver.

Tulum Itinerary

Final Thoughts: Itinerary for Tulum, Mexico

We’ve reached the end of this Tulum travel itinerary, and now you’re basically a Tulum travel pro! Hopefully, you now have a mental picture of this Yucatan beach town in Mexico. As it’s a small-sized pueblo, you can certainly cover a lot of ground with just four, five or even 3 days in Tulum.

7 Days in Tulum (Or More!)

For your second trip or a longer 7-10 day itinerary, you can do a few more day trip Tulum options and venture to nearby places in Yucatan. These include Akumal Beach, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Cozumel Island, Bacalar Lagoon, Holbox Island, and even Cancun.

Is Tulum worth visiting?

Believe it or not, Tulum used to be a sleepy town. In the last decade or so, it’s become one of the top Mexico vacation destinations. Tulum is worth visiting for those who love beaches, jungles and boho vibes — but also understand this is a popular place with large crowds and high price tags.

Tulum, Mexico Podcast

Have questions about planning a trip to Tulum, Mexico?

Have additional questions about your Tulum itinerary? 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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  1. This is such a great guide! Kin Toh Restaurant looks amazing! What’s the best time to visit the cenotes to avoid the crowds?

    1. Hi Linnea: Thanks for writing! The earlier the better for the cenotes, most are open by 8-9am… or you can always do the popular ones early and some off the beaten path ones later in the day.

  2. It’s hard to imagine Tulum as a sleepy little town…it’s really blown up in popularity with the help of Instagram and attractions like the Ven a la Luz art installation. It really is a beautiful spot!

    1. Hey Erin: It actually wan’t even get on anyone’s radar until about 10 years ago, as everyone stuck to cancun & playa del carmen, just north of tulum.

  3. This is such a helpful guide!! I really want to visit Tulum–those cenotes look amazing!

  4. That’s such a helpful guide. Tulum is indeed worth exploring. I got stuck at Ven a la Luz Tulum sculpture.

  5. Wow the photos are simply spectacular. The oceangreen water is calling me. Thanks for sharing budget tips too

  6. I’m planning a trip to Mexico & Tulum is definitely on my list. Your tips & suggestions will be very useful! I’m saving this for later!

  7. Charu Goyal says:

    Such a nice post Shelley. I have always wanted to visit Tulum so I will save this for when it is possible for me to travel internationally.

  8. I haven’t had the chance to visit Tulum quite yet but this definitely looks like a great itinerary to follow along with. I’m hoping to book a trip here soon so thanks for the tips!

  9. This is the ultimate local’s guide to Tulum, Mexico. Such great info to create a 3-, 4- or 5-day itinerary.

  10. Tulum is so beautiful! We were down there a few months ago and we did a lot…and yet it sounds like there’s so much more to do! We went to a cenote, but I’d love to visit Gran Cenote next time.

  11. Tulum is on my travel bucket list so I’m definitely saving this for future use!! <3 It looks like such a beautiful place to visit + explore–thanks for all the tips on saving money too!

  12. Tulum is so beautiful. Would defintely take the 5 day itinerary, since I would love to explore all the ruins!

  13. This is an amazing guide! I loved reading it. I will be referring back to it when I finally go to Tulum. I especially would love to go to the Kaan Luum Lagoon! Thank you.

  14. Tulum is high on my travel bucket list, I really want to see all the Cenotes! Thanks so much for this detailed guide, lots of helpful information and great photos!

  15. I have been to Tulum in February and it was the perfect time to go. Only had a day to explore as we were on an excursion from a cruise, but it was beautiful. The water is the color of a jolly rancher!