Looking for an in-depth Tulum Travel Guide? Well, look no further because, in this guide, you’ll find everything you’ll need to know before traveling to Tulum, the best restaurants in Tulum, Tulum travel tips, hotels to stay in, and so much more.
Tulum Mexico is a small town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is roughly two hours south of Cancun and from the moment you turn onto the beach road, Tulum exudes this bohemian magical energy. It’s best known for its beaches, cenotes, yoga, eco-friendly hotels, and healthy restaurant options. You’ll spend your days here relaxing on the beach, bicycling everywhere, and on 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!
How to Get to Tulum
First off, you’ll want to fly to Cancun International Airport. Then, I recommend renting a car to get to Tulum. It’s only a 2-hour drive from the airport and it’s literally one straight highway the entire way down. Most hotels offer free parking and if you want to adventure out of Tulum beach road it’s best to have your own car since Tulum does not have uber. If you choose to drive to Tulum, be aware of the “TOPES” signs. Topes translates to “bumps” and they are all over the highway. Finally, you could also hire private transportation to and from the airport and then take taxis everywhere but be aware that the Tulum beach zone does not have Uber, and taxis only take pesos.
Best Things to Do in Tulum
Chichen Itza ($$)
If you’re going back and forth on whether to visit the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza – this is me telling you to DO IT! It’s the perfect day trip from either Tulum or Riviera Maya. This place is iconic and you feel the energy as soon as you walk through those gates. 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’. It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was fully functioning in the year 600 AD. Finally, we booked a day tour through Viator and it even included a visit to a cenote. Beware of the heat, especially during the summer months.
Insider tip: If you clap at the base of the pyramid the echo produces sounds similar to that of a Quetzal bird. It’s super cool to try it yourself!
Insider tip #2: 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 peace of mind.
To learn more about visiting Chichen Itza and to buy tickets click here.
Tulum Ruins ($)
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! Previously known as Zama, meaning “City of Dawn”, the Tulum ruins are another Mayan treasure located in Tulum. The ruins are perched above a cliff looking over the ocean. There is beach access but it was closed during our visit because of the large amounts of seaweed however, normally you are allowed to swim here. Plan to spend at least an hour here. Finally, it’s roughly 25 minutes from the beach road (depending on how far down the road you’re staying).
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 and it costs 75 pesos to enter.
Visit Tulum Town
Many people don’t realize this but the main town of Tulum is not on the beach road. It’s located a bit inland and has amazing restaurants, bars, and nightlife. You can easily grab a taxi from the beach road and it’s roughly 20 minutes away.
Tulum Travel Guide: Best Cenotes
Not many people know 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:
- Grand Cenote
- Dos Ojos
- Ik Kil
- Segrado Cenote
Grand Cenote ($)
One of the most famous Cenotes in Tulum and by far my favorite place in this Tulum guide. This refreshing cenote is great for diving and snorkeling. The water is so clear and cold, so it’s the perfect way to cool off during a humid day and to snorkel. Don’t be fooled by the name there are actually a couple of cenotes all intertwined that make up this Grand Cenote.
- Get there RIGHT 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!
- Go to the “SECOND ENTRANCE” after you enter (located on the right side). It is usually empty first thing in the morning since most people head to the main entrance (located on the left side).
- It costs about 180 pesos to enter (snorkeling gear is extra), hours are 8 am-5 pm, and parking is FREE.
- Every person needs to shower before getting in to preserve the beauty of this place.
Dos Ojos ($)
Dos Ojos is one of the largest underwater cave systems. It’s located just south of Playa Del Carmen and is 40 minutes from Tulum. The visibility of this cenote is amazing making it one of the most extravagant diving and snorkeling sites.
- It costs 200 pesos to enter and there are a couple of smaller cenotes on the premises.
- Check out the Cenote Nicte-Ha (pictured above) it’s a lesser-known cenote in Tulum so it tends to be much quieter and you may even have it to yourself when visiting.
- You can pay at the gate and then drive to the cenote you want to explore since there are so many cenotes you can explore here.
Best Hotels in Tulum
While all opinions and recommendations are always my own, my content on this blog post may contain affiliate links for hotels I’ve traveled to, tours I’ve completed, and products I recommend. This means I get a small commission if you book a stay or purchase a product after clicking one of these links. As always, I am so thankful for your support and will continue to share the best properties, things to do, and items I love!
Dos Ceibas Tulum Feel Good ($$) is located on the far south end of the beach road, this quiet resort screams a ‘jungle vibe’. This Tulum beach hotel features hammocks all over the property, the staff is nice and welcoming, and the beach is quiet so you can catch up on all the R&R needed! The hotel restaurant is located directly on the beach. We personally stayed here and would highly recommend it! Do note, that this resort does not have a pool but with the ocean so warm who needs one? Book your stay here.
Casa Malca ($$$): Pablo Escobar’s former mansion turned beach art hotel is unlike any of the other bohemian hotels you will see in Tulum. The entire hotel is crawling with art as well as underground pools and bars that Pablo Escobar used to relax in. When you first open the unmarked gates you’ll see the most dramatic entrance in which this hotel is best known: the hanging white curtains that are in fact wedding dresses. Along with that, you’ll find multiple art sculptures surrounding the property. Book your stay here.
Insider tip: There is a spiral staircase that leads up to an amazing viewpoint which gives you a 360-degree view above Tulum beaches as well as a bird’s eye view of the wedding dress installation (see pictures above).
Nomade ($$$$): Nomade Tulum is such a vibe! This hotel is nothing short of the ordinary. From the teepees on the beach and the lush landscaping throughout the property, it’s easy to escape reality here. Make sure to check out the beachside restaurant La Popular and their most notable restaurant – Maconda is set in the prettiest Moroccan theme. Book your stay here.
Coco Tulum ($$): 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 10 am 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 so know that before you go! Book your stay here.
Restaurants in Tulum
Gitano Tulum is the most notable restaurant on the beach road with delicious cocktails and a club-like feel after 10 pm. It’s pretty pricey, be prepared to pay $15 USD for a cocktail but the atmosphere is worth it! The vibe here is unmatched and it was hands down my favorite restaurant in Tulum.
ITZIK Tulum ($$$)
The newest hot spot in town opened in early April 2019 ITZIK Tulum is taking the Tulum restaurant scene by storm! The interior is so decadent from the full live wall behind the bar to the DJ spinning on a private beach in the back. The food was decadent and we highly recommend coming here for happy hour while the sun is setting!
The most talked-about restaurant in Tulum. A former bookstore, this restaurant has a seasonal menu that’s always changing. You most definitely will need reservations to get into this highly rated restaurant but it is well worth it. Make your reservations for earlier in the night because they tend to sell out of certain dishes early.
Casual Dining in Tulum
Charly’s Vegan Tacos ($$)
If something is healthy it can’t be delicious, right? This place proves that saying is WRONG. Charley’s vegan tacos are a must when visiting Tulum. Super casual atmosphere is budget-friendly, and the food is DELICIOUS. They only accept pesos so make sure to have some on deck so you don’t miss out on this spot.
Matcha Mama ($$)
If you go to Tulum and don’t go to Matcha Mama then you’re doing something wrong. The most Instagram-worthy spot in Tulum with delicious coffee, matcha drinks, and Acai bowls. Prepare to wait during peak coffee times especially if you want to enjoy your smoothie on those swings.
Raw Love ($$)
Affordable acai bowls, coffee, and smoothies on the beach. Need I say more?
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 7 am. A cute little spot where all the tables are on sand and you can get delicious smoothies the size of your head for a reasonable price.
One of the best tacos we had in Tulum and very reasonably priced! It’s a small place located right on the beach road. They do accept credit cards.
What to Pack for Tulum, Mexico
The entire city of Tulum has such a neutral background so you can either wear whites/neutrals to blend in or opt for bright colors to stand out. The choice is yours and yours alone but below I’m sharing some must-pack items for your trip:
- Bathing suits! If you overpack anything in your suitcase let it be this. Being that Tulum is full of beautiful beaches, activities, and cenotes you’ll always want to have bathing suits handy! I always find great suits at Summersalt, Cupshe, + Revolve.
- Chic sandals for dinner + a sturdy pair of flip-flops. These Olukai Sandals are my go-to and have lasted me years!
- Sunscreen: This GOOP SUNSCREEN BRUSH is perfect for traveling because it adds SPF to your face all while not messing up your makeup. It’s my new holy grail product and you need to add this one to your packing list! Also, my daily moisturizer with SPF is incredible for traveling + every day!
- A wide-brim sun hat: I love this one from Brixton I have it in multiple colors.
- Shorts: Abercrombie has the best shorts for all sizes and shapes. Check my favorite pairs that have lasted many seasons here. I also love my Levi cut-offs they’re so classic and never go out of style.
- Basics: I always find the best basics at either Free People & Abercrombie. It’s nice to have some neutral tees handy during your stay.
- Flowy Dresses: These really come in handy when the temperatures are high in the spring/summer. My favorite white dress for photos is linked here, here + here.
- Workout sets: I love getting mine from Lululemon because they last forever. If you’re on a budget, Amazon has some amazing Lululemon dupes that you can shop here.
Art Sculptures in Tulum
Art is one of the major reasons Tulum is so magical and probably my favorite part of traveling to Tulum. There are art installations all over the beach road and you may miss something if you’re not paying attention. Be sure to look at all the road signs when driving because some of them have cute inspirational sayings that will make your day! For more art and IG-worthy spots in Tulum check out my Best Photo Spots in Tulum.
Tulum Travel Guide: Shopping in Tulum
Tulum is a haven for small businesses. All of the shops in Tulum are artisan made. My favorite shops are listed below:
Yeva Don ($$$) – Linen heaven and in the most beautiful courtyard I ever did see. It’s a must-visit!
Hombre ($$) – Men’s only store with a super chic beachy vibe.
Tuluminati ($$$) – The ultimate hat store that sells bohemian fedoras and so much more!
Thank you for reading my “Ultimate Tulum Travel Guide”. I hope you saved some useful tips to take with you down to the jungle! For more in-depth packing help – your girl has you covered with this What to Bring to Mexico: a packing guide.
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[email protected] says
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!
Courtney Delfino says
that’s amazing! You are going to just love it there!
Tulum looks amazing, I’d love to go there someday!
Belinda Santiago says
Amazing! What month did you or what months are the best months to visit?
Courtney Delfino says
We went in early May and there was quite a lot of seaweed. I would say June-September would be ideal