This sleepy beach and jungle village on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast is famous for the 700-year-old Mayan ruins that tower over turquoise seas and white sands below. Today Tulum has become an international destination for those that love beautiful beaches, a bit of adventure, and prefer sustainable ecolodges over big box beach resorts. Let’s visit Tulum!
Visiting Tulum? Here’s What To Do
There’s really so much to do, this place could keep you busy for days. Here’s a list of our must-see’s when visiting Tulum.
Visiting Tulum? Summon Your Inner-Explorer
Just north of the Hotel Zone and a short bike ride from Tulum Pueblo, you’ll find the ruins of the city of Tulum. This place was once a Mayan port and lookout, and with the sea and sand stretching out endlessly below, we’re guessing these Mayans had the best view in the empire. Entry is about $2, and although the parking lot is about a mile away, there is a shuttle that costs only .50. Or if you have a bicycle, you can ride up to the front gate.
Cenotes are underwater caves and sinkholes that the Mayans held sacred. There are actually more here on the Yucatan Peninsula than any other place on earth, and they are a must when visiting Tulum. Pick your flavor and swim, snorkel, or dive through these mysterious caverns of crystal-clear fresh water.
Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve
Just south of Tulum, this UNESCO World Heritage Bio Reserve is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. The Reserve is considered one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth, and is must-see for nature lovers of all ages. Find the Arco Maya gate at the southern end of the Hotel Zone and pay about $2.50 for entry, or book one of many guided tours.
Visiting Tulum? Get Some Beach Time
There’s no wonder these powdery, white-sand beaches consistently rank as some of the world’s best. And what better way to enjoy them than from a comfortable lounge-chair with an ice-cold beverage of choice? And even the most beautiful stretches, in front of the fanciest hotels, can be accessed easier than you might think. Password? Just tell the guard that you’re going to the restaurant, find a beach-front seat, and enjoy!
Our personal favorite stretch of Tulum beach is on the Ruins end of the Hotel Zone and sits back under a grove of giant, shady palms. Great service, food, and fantastic massages. We’ll be back!
This is where all the cool kids hang out, at least we assume so, since they were already at capacity at 3:30pm on a Sunday. Judging by the lineup, this is where you’ll find some of the world’s best DJs and producers.
Rosa del Viento
This small, rustic-chic ecolodge sits at the edge of the Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve and we found it just delightful. Friendly service and good food, and imagine that: beautiful beaches!
Visiting Tulum? Road Trip Anyone?
Located between Playa and Tulum, this ‘Land of turtles’ is home to one of our favorite beaches in Mexico. Spend the day relaxing on the quiet beach or rent some snorkel gear from the dive shop for a swim with the sea turtles, fish, and stingray. Take a look at the video from our day at the beach.
Playa del Carmen
A quick 50-minute drive north of Tulum and you’ll arrive in the cool and funky beachtown of Playa del Carmen. Once a small fishing village, Playa has grown into one of Mexico’s favorite tourist destinations. This is your spot for great shopping and nightlife. Check out our Playa del Carmen travel guide.
These ruins are unique because, unlike the ruins of Tulum or most of Mexico, you can still climb the ancient pyramid of Coba! Just a 45-minute drive into the jungles, an adventure to Coba is definitely worth considering when in Tulum.
Visiting Tulum? Summon Your Inner-Explorer
Getting to Tulum
Getting to Tulum: FLY
Tulum’s nearest major airport is Cancun International Airport, about 2 hours away. If planned in advance, you can find reasonable direct flights to Cancun from most major hubs in North America including New York for $135, Miami for $129, Toronto for $209, or Mexico City for $61 with our favorite flight search site, Skyscanner.
Tulum Flight Deals
Getting to Tulum: BUS
Technically you can take a bus from the US to Tulum. However, it’s an extremely long ride. From Brownsville, Texas it’s a grueling 21.5 hours and costs about $200.
Airport to Tulum
You can fly into Cancun International Airport, which is located about 81 miles from Tulum. How will you get to Tulum?
From Cancun International Airport:
The ADO Bus Company services the entire Riviera Maya. The buses are clean, air-conditioned, and some even play movies. Look for the ADO ticket window outside the arrivals area of all three terminals. An important note: You’ll actually need two tickets to get from Cancun to Tulum. The first ticket(about $9.50) will get you as far as Playa del Carmen ADO, where you’ll need to purchase a second ticket(about $4) to complete your trip to Tulum. Between 2 hours of drive time, and waiting for transfers, expect over 3 hours travel time from Cancun to Tulum by bus.
A taxi from Cancun International Airport to Tulum should cost around $30, however, the price seems to vary greatly, depending on who you talk to. When leaving the customs area, be prepared for several taxi drivers offering their services (sometimes aggressively). A taxi should take about 2 hours from Cancun to Tulum. If you MUST take a taxi, be prepared to negotiate the price before getting in.
If planning any day trips, car rental may be a good option. All the popular rental companies are represented at Cancun International Airport.. Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, you can find some great deals on rentals if you plan in advance. Note that Google maps works like a charm in the area. We use T-Mobile and have no problems at all.
Shared Van or Shuttle
If staying with an all-inclusive resort, make sure to check if they offer complementary airport transfer. If not, you can reserve a shuttle online for about $100 one way.
Getting around in Tulum
Walkscore.com gives Tulum a score of 92, calling it a “Walkers Paradise.” We also found this to be true, however, you should know that Tulum is basically separated into three parts, so make sure that you stay in the area you’ll be spending much of your time.
Or, rent a bike!! We actually stayed at an Airbnb that came with 2 bikes and can’t imagine staying in Tulum without them. Nice bike paths connect the town of Tulum (Tulum Pueblo) to the ruins and the Hotel Zone, and it became apparent that this is the most popular form of transportation in the area.
Your best bet is to bicycle around town, but second best is taxi. Just keep in mind that although most experiences with Tulum’s taxi drivers have been great, there are a few shady gators out there. Just make sure you know the fare before agreeing to ride. Also, always pay in peso. The drivers will gladly take USD, but don’t expect favorable exchange rates.
Where To Stay in Tulum:
Where To Stay in Tulum: HOTELS
With prices ranging from $35-$500/night, from budget to luxury, you’re sure to find the right hotel in Tulum. We’ve found some great hotel deals using Priceline’s sister site, Agoda.com.
Tulum Hotel Deals
Where To Stay in Tulum: HOSTELS
With 38 hostels in Tulum, you’re sure to find a hostel that fits your need, although it’s always wise to book ahead. Prices range between $8-$30/night, depending on your choice of private or ensuite room. Hostelworld always has great deals, especially in Tulum:
Tulum Hostel Deals
Where To Stay in Tulum: AIRBNB
We love using Airbnb. From private rooms to entire homes, Airbnb is represented in all parts of Tulum and the average Airbnb price is only $108/night. If you’re a first timer to Airbnb, use our coupon for $35 off your first night’s stay.
Where To Stay in Tulum: NEIGHBORHOODS
Choosing a neighborhood is an important part of trip planning that should not be overlooked! The two main areas to choose from: Tulum Pueblo or Tulum Zona Hotelera
The first thing you should know is that the town of Tulum is almost 3 miles from the beach. There are plenty of shops, great restaurants, and places to stay. Most importantly, everything is much cheaper in town. If you choose Tulum Pueblo, it’s highly recommended to rent a bike.
Tulum Zona Hotelera
Unlike the expansive, towering resort complexes of Cancun and throughout the Riviera Maya, the Hotel Zone of Tulum takes a different approach. Expect sustainable eco-lodges built with palms and bamboo that are carved right into their environment. Here you get the unforgettable, world-class white sand beaches and turquoise waters that attract celebrities and the wealthy from around the world.
Tulum Travel Tips:
Tulum travel tips: Money
Mexico’s national currency is the Peso and is currently exchanging at 19MXN to $1USD. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines are readily available. Note that USD is also widely excepted in Tulum, but expect less than satisfactory exchange rates.
Tulum travel tips: Tipping
Only tip if a service charge(propina) hasn’t been already added to your bill. For good service, tip 15% at a restaurant, $1 per drink at a bar, and only tip your taxi driver if they provide exceptional service.
Tulum travel tips: Insurance
Traveling through Tulum is exciting and safe, but you never know when some good travel insurance could come in handy. World Nomads offers the best coverage in the business, is affordable, and is quick to act should something go wrong. For more info, check out our recent World Nomads blog post.