Tulum is a stunning, unforgettable area on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The Quintana Roo town is famous for its white sandy beaches and ancient Mayan ruins. There has been an influx of tourism in the last few years, with Tulum becoming one of the top destinations along the Caribbean.
This ultimate guide will show you all of the unique things to do in Tulum and what to explore while you’re visiting this beautiful Caribbean gem.
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How to get to Tulum
The centre of Tulum is about 120 kilometres away from Cancun Airport. This international airport is Mexico’s second busiest and is serviced by 60 airlines, so it’s always easy to find a flight. If you’re flying in from North America or Europe, you’ll likely land at Terminal 3 or 4.
The easiest way to reach Tulum from Cancun is to catch a taxi. You can book one for 400 pesos at any of the stands inside the airport. There’s also the option of a shared shuttle with other travellers. This will take a little longer, but it usually works out cheaper. Remember that your accommodation can also organise airport transfers for you. This is a good choice if you’re staying somewhere that is out of the way or not well-known to taxi drivers.
If you want to stick with the cheaper alternative of public transport, you can catch the ADO bus to Playa del Carmen. This is the main transportation terminal in the area. It’s roughly 60 kilometres north of Tulum, so you’ll have to catch a second bus to get all the way into town.
What to expect in Tulum
Since Tulum is in Mexico, the official and most commonly spoken language is Spanish. While it is helpful to learn a few Spanish greetings to be polite, most people working in the tourism industry can speak basic English. You might also hear the indigenous Yucatec people speaking Mayan to one another.
Tulum and its surrounding areas use Mexican peso as currency. A lot of bars and restaurants, particularly the smaller ones, only accept cash. However, larger international businesses in Tulum will accept credit cards.
While it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to carry large sums of money around, having pesos on you will make your trip much easier. A lot of places also accept USD, but paying in pesos will be more affordable. For the best rates, exchange or withdraw money at ATMs or HSBC banks rather than at the airport.
It’s appropriate to tip 10 to 20 pesos per drink at bars, or 10 to 15 per cent of the final bill at a restaurant. If you only have USD on hand, leave a one dollar bill. This also applies to maids and porters carrying your luggage. Small tips are always greatly appreciated by the workers. As usual, tip according to what you are comfortable with and how you felt about the service you received.
Since Tulum has received such a large tourism boost recently, you should expect price increases at hotels, bars and restaurants.
How to get around Tulum
Renting a car in Cancun is one of the best options for getting around Tulum, particularly if you’re going to be travelling throughout Quintana Roo. It’s quick and easy, and you can usually find a weekly rental for under 200 USD. If you’re not comfortable driving on the right side of the road or would prefer not to rent a car, there are plenty of other methods to get around.
Taxis are an easy way to get to and from attractions. You can find them outside hotels or at the bus terminal. There’s generally a fixed fare of 95 to 100 pesos if you’re headed to the beach. Buses aren’t an option for getting around Tulum and are only used for travelling to nearby towns.
Depending on the location of your accommodation, it should be easy to walk or ride a bike to the beach. You can rent a bicycle with Ola Bike for about 10 USD per day and even get it delivered to your hotel.
The best time to visit Tulum
The high season in Tulum is December to April. March and April are ideal months to visit, with the warmest weather and the least amount of rain. Remember that there will be a lot of tourists during the holidays in December. If you’re visiting during these peak times, be prepared for the town to be extra busy. That being said, the weather will be so wonderful that you probably won’t mind this. Make sure to book hotels and any restaurants you want to visit well in advance to avoid missing out.
Unfortunately, the summer months from May to August are both rainy and humid. September and October are considered the low season, as they are typically the wettest months of the year. There’s also the likelihood of a hurricane, which is the last thing you want during your beach getaway. If you can only travel during the last half of the year, the weather will start to pick up around mid to late November.
Things to do in Tulum
One of the top Tulum activities is a visit to Cenote Dos Ojos. For those wondering, cenotes (pronounced cey-no-tays) are sinkholes created by collapsed limestone, which exposes the water underneath the ground. The Yucatan Peninsula is notorious for these stunning swimming holes. Dos Ojos is one of the largest and most famous cenotes in the world, and the underwater cave system is an ideal spot for snorkelling and diving. The natural light in the caves provides great visibility, and the water is a warm 25 degrees Celsius year-round. The site is open every day from eight a.m. to five p.m. and only costs 200 pesos to enter.
Some other notable cenotes to visit include Gran Cenote, Cenote Naharon, and Escondido Cenote. All of these Tulum caves are breathtakingly beautiful, so you can’t go wrong. There’s also Cenotes Tankah, a group of open, freshwater lagoons surrounded by a secluded forest. It’s a perfect place to spend half a day, with zip-lining and canoeing also available. Lastly, don’t forget to see the 80-metre deep cenote at the Laguna Kaan Luum.
For things to do in Tulum on a budget, you’ll enjoy spending your days unwinding at the beach. The crystal clear blue water and fine white sand make it a picture-perfect experience. Playa Paraiso (which fittingly translates to Paradise Beach) is a public area adjacent to many great restaurants. You’ll find plenty of people practicing yoga here, although the shoreline stretches for so long that it’ll never feel overcrowded. Another serene spot is Las Palmas Beach. It’s also public but a little more hidden than Paraiso, meaning you can often find your own area away from the crowds.
Places to visit in Tulum
With so many incredible places to see, you’ll never be left wondering what to do in Tulum.
A place you must visit is the Tulum Ruins. Sitting atop a 12-metre cliff are the remains of a Mayan walled city from the 13th and 15th centuries. The compound sits within the larger Parque Nacional de Tulum next to a beautiful nature reserve. The best time to visit is during sunrise, as it’s packed with tourists by 10 o’clock. Not only is it quieter at dawn, but the ruins are conveniently located right by the sea. Watching the sun rise over the Caribbean is a serene experience you won’t soon forget. When you’re done exploring and the ruins start getting busier, you can have a relaxing swim at the secluded Tulum beach known as Playa Ruinas.
Another impressive place to explore is the Sian Ka’an Biological Reserve. It’s difficult to describe this UNESCO World Heritage Site in only one paragraph, as it is home to an incredibly diverse range of ecosystems. Explore the mangroves via boat and get up close to the manatees, turtles and dolphins, as well as some interesting bird species. Jaguars, pumas and ocelots also roam the tropical forests.
Don’t just head straight to the beach and forget about the centre of Tulum. Why not explore the town itself and meet some of the locals? The prices at restaurants and bars are actually cheaper in town than what you’ll find near the beach. Along the main road, you’ll find a lot of boutique shops. Head into Mixik or Casa Hernández Gallery to pick up a unique souvenir for yourself or your loved ones back home.
What to eat in Tulum
Being in Tulum is the perfect excuse to eat as much authentic Mexican food as possible. While you can’t go past the delicious and affordable street tacos, we have some recommendations for dishes to try at many of Tulum’s top-notch restaurants.
Start the day indulging in some chilaquiles at Restaurant Piedra Escondida. It’s the ideal Mexican brunch dish, made with tortilla chips, chicken, eggs, cream, beans and salsa. Get a taste of huevos motuleños (another Yucatan dish with eggs and tortillas) at La Tuxtlequita in the centre of Tulum. Try the ceviche at Chamico’s, a dish made from raw fish with lemon and lime, cilantro, chopped onions and peppers. El Sudaca is a budget-friendly (and cash-only) restaurant in town where you can enjoy some authentic empanadas. They’re only 40 pesos each, and there are many vegetarian and vegan options available too.
Where to stay in Tulum
Tulum can be divided up into three main areas: Tulum town, the northern ruins, and the southern beach road. If you haven’t yet decided where you’d like to stay, we’ve got you covered with a suggestion for each area.
Mango Tulum Hotel is a chic accommodation option for those on a budget. Although it’s located within the centre of the main town, the hotel is surrounded by lush green trees and has a homey feel. It’s the ideal place to stay if you want to be close to many Tulum attractions. The triple and king rooms are white and minimalist, and there’s a quaint pool if you decide to stay in for the morning.
El Paraiso Hotel is around the corner from the ruins on the Riviera Maya. The space was designed in harmony with the surrounding environment while still offering modern comforts. The decor is colourful and eclectic, and organic eco products are provided. The staff are incredibly attentive as you sit back and enjoy a fresh coconut plucked from the palm trees.
Coco Tulum is a relaxed yet stylish hotel found along the southern stretch of the beach road. You’ll have access to a private beach club, plus a zen zone with yoga classes and a temazcal sweat lodge. Stay in one of the beachfront cabanas, see 360-degree views from the tower rooms, or book out their spacious suite.
Tours to do in Tulum
Tours are a way to help you have the perfect day in Tulum and experience everything you can in this magical place.
Head into the jungle and embark on the Selva Maya Eco Adventure. Spend your morning zip-lining, rappelling down a pyramid, walking across hanging bridges, and snorkelling in cenotes. For lunch, you’ll be treated with pulled pork tacos and a cold beer or soda. Really, what better way to conclude a tour?
If you’re interested in non-touristy things to do in Tulum or only have the time to see one cenote, take a tour of Sistema Sac Actun. You’ll need to pay for a private guide, but this equals a much more personal experience. You’ll find far fewer tourists here than at other popular cenotes in Tulum. If you don’t want to snorkel, it’s still a beautiful place to swim and relax.
Day trips from Tulum
For a day trip out of Tulum, consider a visit to Chichen Itza. The pre-Columbian city is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and the largest Mayan archaeological site. The early mornings and afternoons are the ideal times to visit, so it’s best to rent a car to time your trip well. It takes about two hours to get there from Tulum and costs foreigners 237 pesos to enter.
You could also check out the nearby towns in Quintana Roo, including Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Chetumal, or take a ferry to the island of Cozumel.
Tulum is truly the ultimate holiday destination for a mix of relaxation and culture. It’s the best spot to learn about Mayan history, then spend the rest of your time unwinding by the glorious Caribbean beaches.
Recommend budget tours in Tulum
- Sian Ka’An and Muyil Archaeological Site Tour from Tulum
- Selva Maya Eco Adventure Park: Ziplining, Hanging Bridges, Rappelling and Cenotes
- Turtle Snorkeling and Magical Cenote Tour in Tulum
- Chichen Itza Day Trip from Tulum Including Cenote and Lunch
- Tulum Ruins Tour
- Tulum Adventure (archeological zone-Atv-ziplines-cenote-lunch-drinks-rappel)
- Tulum Ruins Archaeological Tour from Cozumel
- 2 cenote divings (including one deep diving) for advanced divers in Tulum
- Cenote Diving for First-Time Divers and for Refresher Dives in Tulum
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