travel guide

The Ultimate Tulum Travel Guide

Welcome to the Ultimate Tulum Travel Guide! Below you’ll find everything you’ll need to know before traveling to Tulum, the restaurants to check out, hotels to stay in, and so much more!

Tulum is a small town on the Yucatan Peninsula about two hours south of Cancun. From the moment you turn onto the beach road Tulum exudes magic. It’s best known for its beaches, cenotes, yoga, eco-friendly hotels, and healthy lifestyle options. You’ll spend your days here relaxing on the beach, bicycling everywhere, and daily excursions to ancient ruins and spiritual cenotes.

We spent five days in Tulum and that was the perfect amount of time to see and do everything on our list. In this Tulum travel guide, you’ll learn the best restaurants, bars, hotels, and cenotes to make your Tulum trip extra special and easy breezy!

How to get to Tulum?

First off, fly in to Cancun Airport. Then, we recommend renting a car to get to Tulum. It’s only a 2-hour drive from the airport and it’s literally just a straight highway the entire way down. Most hotels offer free parking and if you want to adventure out of the Tulum beach road it’s best to have your own car. On the road, be aware of the “TOPES” signs! Topes essentially means “bumps” and they are all over the highway.

#2 You could hire private transportation to and from the airport then take taxis everywhere but be aware that Tulum does not have Uber and taxis only take pesos.

H O T E L S

Rosa Del Viento ($$)

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Located on the far south end of the beach road, this quiet resort screams ‘jungle vibe’. There are hammocks all over the property, the staff is nice and welcoming, and the beach is nice & quiet so you can catch up on all the R&R needed!

  • Only accepts Visa & MC

Casa Malca ($$$)

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Pablo Escobar’s former mansion turned beach art hotel is unlike any of the other bohemian resorts you see in Tulum. Since the owner of the hotel Leo Malca is an art auction freak, this entire hotel is crawling with art. When you first open the unmarked gates you’ll see the most dramatic entrance. The hanging white curtains are actually wedding dresses and they are f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s.

Insider tip: There is a spiral staircase that leads up to an amazing viewpoint which gives you a 360 degree view above Tulum and you can look down on the wedding dresses / grand entrance (see pictures below).

Nomade ($$$$)

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I’ve never seen a more beautiful beachside resort! The vibe of this hotel is nothing short of the ordinary. From the teepees on the beach to the gorgeous pool to the lush landscaping all throughout the property. The beachside restaurant La Popular is great if you want to chill beachside and they also have a Moroccan themed restaurant called Macondo.

Coco Tulum ($$$)

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The iconic swing set that you’ve probably seen in every Tulum picture is located at Coco Tulum. We were lucky enough to find this place empty around 10am on a Friday and the staff let us do our thing while they set the beach club up. We didn’t stay longer than 10 minutes but were told there was a $50 minimum to sit at the beach club for the day.

E X C U R S I O N S

Chichen Itza ($$)

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If you’re going back and forth on whether to visit the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza – this is me yelling at you to DO IT! This place is magical and you feel the energy as soon as you walk through those gates and (into the sweltering heat). It’s one of the Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was fully functioning in the year 600 AD. Talk about a throwback!

FUN FACT: The term Chichen Itza means ‘The Mouth At the Well of Itza’. It is believed Itza means ‘water magicians’, deriving from the Mayan Itz for ‘magic’ and á for ‘water’.

#2 If you clap at the base of the pyramid the echo produces sounds similar to that of a Quetzal bird. It’s pretty wild.

INSIDER TIP: It costs 80 pesos to park in the parking lot. You can park for free on the street but it’s a narrow street and cars have been known to get hit here. Pay the 80 pesos for the peace of mind. Also, it costs 400 pesos for the entrance. 

Tulum Ruins ($)

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Previously known as Zama, meaning “City of Dawn”, the Tulum ruins are another Mayan treasure located in Tulum. It’s about 20 minutes from the beach road (dependant on how far down the road you’re staying) and easy to find.

Did you know that the Maya built these ruins as a walled city to protect against invaders? It’s all very Game of Thrones if you ask me! My favorite part about this place is that it’s perched above a cliff looking over the ocean – it all feels very mystical. There is beach access but it was closed during our visit because of the large amounts of seaweed.

INSIDER TIP: Park in the parking lot at the gate – they accept US cash. There are tons of tour guides that want to sell you a guided tour, so just be aware of that. The ruins are about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the actual entrance. It costs about 75 pesos for entrance.

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C E N O T E S

Not many people know much about Cenotes so a little background info. Cenotes are created when limestone bedrock is eroded by rain and caves in, creating a hole in the earth that fills in with water over the decades, either via collected rainwater or through underground rivers. They are very sacred and were a major part of life to the Mayans – for both practical and spiritual reasons.

There are approximately 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula and only 2400 have been discovered so far. The top 5 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula are:

  1. Grand Cenote
  2. Dos Ojos
  3. Ik Kil
  4. Segrado Cenote
  5. Zaci

Grand Cenote ($)

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One of the most famous Cenotes in Tulum and by far my favorite place in this Tulum travl guide. This refreshing cenote is great for diving and snorkeling. The water is so clear and cold, it’s the perfect way to cool off during a humid day. Don’t be fooled by the name there are actually a couple of cenotes all intertwined that make up this Grand Cenote.

INSIDER TIP #1 : Get there RRRIGHT when they open. We arrived 40 mins before they opened to be the first in line and by the time they opened there were 100 people behind us!

INSIDER TIP #2 : Go to the “SECOND ENTRANCE”. The photos above were taken at the second entrance. We literally ran to the second entrance in order to get shots of the empty cenote like you see above. Below is the first cenote you see when you walk in so people don’t tend to go to the 2nd entrance right away. Costs about 180 pesos to enter (snorkeling gear is extra), hours are 8-5, and parking is FREE. Also, please note they make everyone shower before getting in to preserve the beauty of this place.

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Dos Ojos ($)

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Dos Ojos is one of the largest underwater cave systems. It’s located just south of Playa Del Carmen and about 40 minutes from Tulum. The visibility of this cenote is amazing making one of the most extravagant diving and snorkeling sites. It costs about 200 entrance and there are a couple of smaller cenotes on the premises. We were lucky enough to enjoy at Cenote Nicte-Ha for a private event (pictured above).

INSIDER TIP: Costs 200 pesos for entrance and it’s open 8-5. You will pay and park at the gate and then drive to the cenote while doing so you will pass a couple of others which you are free to explore.

R E S T A U R A N T S & B A R S

Gitano ($$$)

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Hip restaurant on the beach road with delicious cocktails and a club like feel after 10pm. It’s pretty pricey, like be prepared to pay $15 USD for a cocktail but the atmosphere is worth it! Hands down my favorite bar in this Tulum travel guide. They accept all major credit cards here too.

Camaradere ($$$)

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The newest hot spot in town opened in early April and is taking the Tulum restaurant scene by storm! The interior is so decadent from the full live wall behind the bar to the DJ spinning on a private beach in the back. We highly recommend coming here for happy hour. They accept all major credit cards.

Hartwood ($$$$)

The most talked about restaurant in Tulum. A former bookstore, this restaurant has a seasonal menu that’s always changing. You most definitely will need reservations to get into this highly rated restaurant.

C A S U A L D I N I N G

Charly’s Vegan Tacos ($$)

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If something is healthy it can’t be delicious, right? This place proves that saying WRONG. Charley’s vegan tacos is a must when visiting. Super casual atmosphere and do note they only accept pesos. By far my favorite restaurant in this Tulum travel guide.

Matcha Mama ($$)

If you go to Tulum and don’t go to Matcha Mama then you’re doing something wrong. The most delicious coffee, matcha, and Acai bowls. Prepare to wait a bit because it can get busy during peak coffee times.

Raw Love ($$)

Acai bowls, coffee, and smoothies on the beach. Need I say more?

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Fresco’s ($$)

Many of the restaurants in Tulum don’t open before 8 AM. My husband and I are early birds so we rode bicycles to Fresco’s in the morning since they open at 7am. A cute little spot where all the tables are on sand and you can get delicious smoothies for a reasonable price. They accept MC and Visa.

Celia ($$)

One of the best tacos we had in Tulum and very reasonably priced! They accept cards and US cash.

A R T

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Art is one of the major reasons Tulum is so magical and probably my favorite part of this Tulum travel guide. There are installations all over the beach road and you may miss something if you’re not paying attention. Also, be sure to look at all the road signs when driving because some of them have cute inspirational sayings that will make your day!

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Tulum S H O P P I N G

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Yeva Don ($$$)

Linen heaven and in the most beautiful courtyard I ever did see. It’s a must visit for all shoppers.

Hombre ($$)

Men’s only store with a super chic aesthetic.

Tuluminati ($$$)

Hat’s galore, just check out my decision making face above. Did I get the hat or not?!

I hope you saved some useful tips from this Tulum travel guide to take with you down to the jungle! For more of our travel guides head here!

XO

Courtney

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4 Comments

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  • Reply FastPam@thelifebus

    I will be there n Feb 2020, look forward to checking out your recommendations! We always stay at the Encantada! All the hotels there are fabulous!

    July 9, 2019 at 11:09 am
  • Reply Courtney Delfino

    that’s amazing! You are going to just love it there!

    July 9, 2019 at 3:41 pm
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