Tulum, Mexico, located south of Cancun – on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula – is the jewel of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. With a population of only 30,000, this tiny, boho beach town hosts roughly 300,000 travelers each year from across the globe.
If you’ve been to Tulum, it’s not hard to see why. The sleepy yet authentic seaside haven has incredible beaches, yoga retreats, awe-inspiring cenotes to swim in, and incredible cuisine and cocktails. The laid-back enclave also plays host to a variety of local and international artists and art installations. For those travelers looking for a bit more energy – the destination also has a wide variety of boutique shopping and nightlife.
Finally, the Tulum Ruins are wonderful to visit if you’re interested in history. These sea-side ruins date back to the 13th century and once served as ports for the Mayan empire.
This guide is the ultimate overview of Tulum, including the most-see spots and tips and tricks.
What to Expect
Tulum, Mexico is located on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula. It is approximately 2 hours south of Cancun (130km | 81 miles) and 1 hour south of Playa del Carmen (65km | 40 miles).
10 years ago Tulum was a super sleepy beach town, home to off the grid tourists and nomads. Today, it has experienced an explosion of growth and hosts everyone from digital nomads to high-end travelers
Language: Spanish, the national language of Mexico, is spoken by locals. Most locals or individuals working in the Tourism industry will also speak conversational English
Currency: The Mexican Peso is Tulum’s local currency.
Credit Cards, Cash, and Banks: Most of the more upscale restaurants, hotels, bars, and attractions will take Visa and Mastercard. American Express is only accepted in some locations. With that said, many places (especially some of the more delicious coffee spots and food stands) will only accept cash. US Dollars are accepted, but you’ll likely be paying an unfavorable exchange rate. ATMs are located across Tulum and easy to access.
Safety: Tulum Town and Tulum Beach are incredibly safe for travelers. You are fine to walk around at night, just be aware of your surroundings.
Visa policy: Citizens of 65 countries do not require a visa to enter Mexico as tourists, visitors in transit, or business visitors. Tourists and business visitors can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days.
Area Layout: Tulum is divided up into 2 main areas – Tulum Town (pueblo) and Tulum Beach (the beach and hotel zone). The two areas are 5 miles apart, or a 10 minute cab or 25 minute bike ride from each other. The restaurant and hotel prices are much higher in Tulum Beach than in Tulum Town.
Internet / Wifi Speeds: The average wifi speed in Tulum is 11 mpbs, and for reference the minimum requirements for effective video calls is 8 Mbps download / 1.5 Mbps upload. The reliability of this varies depending on the setup at the premises you’re at.
Climate: The average high temperatures in Tulum remain about 85 °F (30°C) throughout the year. The rainiest time of the year is between June and October, while the busiest season for tourism is in the dry period between December and April.
The ocean temperature is roughly 26 °C (79 °F) to 29 °C (84 °F) year round, which makes it perfect for swimming whenever you visit.
How to get to Tulum
Tulum, Mexico does not have a local airport, so visitors will need to fly into either Cancun Airport or Cozumel. If you’re flying into Cozumel, after landing you’ll need to grab a taxi to the ferry terminal to take the ferry to Playa del Carmen. From there, you’ll need to either walk to the ADO bus station to take the bus to Tulum or take a Taxi.
If you are flying into Cancun, there are three popular ways to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum:
- ADO public bus
- Taxi or Private transfer service
- Renting a car
ADO Public Bus
There is no direct bus between Cancun and Tulum. You will have to take a bus to Playa del Carmen(1 hour), followed by another bus to Tulum Town (50 minutes). This should cost you around 228 Pesos ($10 US Dollars).
Taxi or Private Transfer
A taxi (sometimes referred to as private transfer) is your best bet if you have multiple people in your group. When you land in Cancun, head outside the airport and there will be tons of stands and drivers scattered around who can walk you through the process of booking a taxi. Almost all will take you directly to your hotel or Airbnb, and they’ll even stop for snacks along the way if you ask nicely. 🙂
The one-way price is roughly $75 – $100, and the price for a round trip ranges from USD$135-$200.
Rent a Car
Renting a car is a super popular option. Having your own vehicle allows you more freedom to plan a variety of day trips from Tulum, including exploring cenotes and getting to and from the Tulum Ruins. Note that during the popular season, the rental car agencies will fill up fast – so try and book a car ahead of time. Rentals can come super cheap depending on the type of vehicle you’re looking for. We were able to snag one for $10/day from Alamo.
Driving in Mexico is pretty similar to driving in the US, so American drivers shouldn’t have many problems. The drive into Tulum is a straight shot down the highway — you can’t miss it.
Getting Around in Tulum
Getting around Tulum is relatively easy. Tulum Town is walkable, but getting from Tulum Town to Tulum Beach is 5 miles and would be very cumbersome to do in the heat.
Taxis in Tulum Town and Tulum Beach are super easy to find and cost-effective. Remember that Taxi’s typically don’t have meters, so be sure to agree on a price before setting off.
Anywhere within Tulum Town: $1.50 USD (25 – 30 MXN)
Tulum Town to Tulum’s Public Beach: $5 USD (90 MXN)
Tulum Town to Tulum Beach (Hotel Zone): $6 – $10 USD (120 – 150 MXN)
You can also rent a bike for roughly $7.00 USD (150 MXN) per day. Note that many hotels and Airbnbs will have free bikes available.
Some long term visitors will also choose to rent scooters, which go for $200 / month (3,000 MXN). We would not recommend that for tourists as scooters can be difficult to navigate on the tiny Tulum roads and the rate of scooter theft is high.
What to do in Tulum
There’s so much to do in Tulum, but these are the highlights:
The Beach – Tulum’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the World. If you’re not staying at a hotel with beach access, there are two ways to visit Tulum’s beaches. First, you can go to Tulum’s Public Beach, which has some great views and local vendors with drinks and snacks. Second, you can visit one of Tulum’s many day Beach Clubs or pay a day fee for use of a Hotel’s beach facilities. Our personal favorite option is to visit a hotel that allows day-visitors, because you’ll often get access to beach chairs, the hotel bar, and their pool.
The top 5 beaches in Tulum are: Playa Ruinas, Playa Paraíso, Las Palmas Public Beach, Akumal Beach, Sian Ka’an Beach (Secret Beach).
Tulum Town – This area of Tulum is known for being more authentic, and has plenty to offer. The main street has tons of shops, restaurants, and bars. You’ll also see plenty of street vendors selling acos, churros and Mexican street corn. El Camello Jr., a local spot famous for its incredible ceviche, is located in Tulum Town.
Rent a Bike – Many visitors will rent a bike to get around in Tulum, you can get daily or weekly rentals. More adventurous tourists will rent scooters, but note they can be scary to drive on the highway and scooter theft is high in Tulum.
Cenotes – My favorite thing to do on the Yucatan peninsula is visit the cenotes. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes with clear blue water, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving! The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has an estimated 12,000 cenotes, many of which are easily accessible from Tulum.
Grand Cenote is the one nearest to Tulum. It is filled with small fish, turtles, and caverns with stalactites and stalagmites formations. Grand Cenote is open from 8:10 am to 4:45 pm and the entry fee is 180 MXN ($8 USD), and you can pay extra for snorkeling gear or guided tours.
Cenote Dos Ojos, which means ‘two eyes’, has two swimming holes with caves that connect to them. This is another popular cenote in the area and is super popular – so try to arrive early. Cenote Aktun-Ha (also known as Cenote Car Wash) has clear deep blue water and is surrounded by green junge.
Finally, Cenote Suytun is one of the most iconic cenotes in Tulum because of the breathtaking views. The cenote itself has this gorgeous walkway to the center of the water, and has incredible light coming down from the top.
Tulum Ruins – These ancient 13th century Mayan ruins are located right on the coast line and make for a wonderful morning or afternoon of exploring.
Chichén Itza – Chichen Itza, a UNESCO WORLD Heritage site, is the biggest and most popular ruin in Mexico. It was named a 7th Wonder of the World in 2007. For history buffs, this is a perfect day trip. It is approximately 2 hours away from Cancun and Tulum, and 3 hours from Playa del Carmen. Most travelers will make the journey via private Taxi, rental car, or one of the many day tours you can schedule.
Akumal Beach – This area, made up of 5 beaches, is located about 25 minutes north of Tulum and has some of the most stunning beaches in the World (even for Tulum!). The area consists of relatively undeveloped beaches, and it is common to see and swim with sea turtles, sting rays, and other colorful fish. You can spend your time swimming, snorkeling, or sun bathing.
Shopping – Whether you’re looking for that perfect straw hat, a linen beach coverup, or a new pair of sunglasses – Tulum has you covered. Tulum Beach is full of high-end, bougie stores with expensive local designer shops. Tulum Town is more budget-friendly, and has more authentic local items.
Visit I Scream Bar + The Blue Tuk Tuk – This quirky little spot is famous in Tulum. In addition to the iconic Blue Tuk Tuk that you’ve undoubtedly seen in your Instagram feed, the establishment serves ice cream, cocktails, and food. At night it turns into a mini party spot and it isn’t uncommon to see people enjoying drinks to kick-off a night out.
Vist Azulik – Azulik is a mix of a hotel and an art gallery / installation. It is a shinning example of the artistic and creative culture of Tulum.
It is the vision of Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, owner and CEO of the luxurious Tulum Azulik retreat where the gallery is located, who called Peggy Guggenheim’s great-grandson to serve as director.
Visit Casa Malca – Pablo Escobar’s Art + Beach Estate in Tulum, Mexico – Narcos fans who love white sand beaches, clear blue waters and art have found heaven. Welcome to Casa Malca, Pablo Escobar’s former Tulum pad turned luxury art hotel!
The dreamer behind this paradise is Lio Malca, born in Colombia, gallery owner and art collector who now resides in New York City. Malca discovered the evocative property in 2012 and bought it shortly afterward from its original owner (who had been returned after Escobar’s death).
Where to Eat + Drink in Tulum
If you didn’t know, Tulum is a top foodie destination.
El Camello Jr – Originally founded by a local group of fishermen, El Camello Jr is now one of the best and possibly most authentic places to eat in Tulum Town. If you’re staying near Tulum Beach, this spot is worth the taxi ride into the puebla. The spot is known for their incredible ceviche and fish tacos.
Gitano – If you’re looking for a trendy, upscale spot that reminds you of LA – head to Gitano. The lush outdoor lounge decorated with a canopy of twinkling outdoor lights gives off a magical vibe. You’ll find everything from creative cocktails to truffle mushroom tacos and basil guacamole on the menu. Oh, and Mezcal. Lots of Mezcal.
Posada Margarita – This ocean-side Italian restaurant in Tulum Beach is a must-visit. The ambiance and decor are incredible.
Antojitos La Chiapaneca – This place serves locals and tourists alike in Tulum Pueblo. Super simple, delicious and authentic tacos.
Chamico’s – This low-key, daytime spot is located 25-miles north of Tulum right on the beach. When you arrive, grab a plastic lawn chair, order some fresh caught fish, and sip your icy Corona.
Nightlife + Bars in Tulum
The Papaya Playa Project – Possibly one of Tulum’s best-known beachfront destinations, the Papaya Playa Project has a legendary reputation and combines the two great attractions of Tulum: the beach and the bar. With parties held there on most weekends and monthly full moon parties that attract large crowds even in the offseason, it is an unforgettable party experience in Tulum and one you will want to return to again and again.
Gitano – In addition to great ambiance, this restaurant has a bar you can sit at. They have a wide variety of cocktails and mezcal. If you’re looking for upscale LA vibes, this is the spot.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Deciding where to stay in Tulum can be hard, but you really can’t go wrong with any option. As we mentioned above, you’ll have to decide whether you’d rather stay in Tulum Town or Tulum Beach.
Tulum Town is generally cheaper ($150/night) and plays host to a wider variety of accommodations (hostels, Airbnb, hotels, etc). Tulum Beach has the obvious benefit of being located right on the beach and in the heart of the Hotel Zone, but it can be ridiculously expensive (think: over $450/night, and “eco” accommodations which are code for no TV, no A/C, and limited WiFi). Some great hotel options on Tulum Beach include: Ahau, Be Tulum, Coco Tulum, Luv Tulum, Nomade & Papaya Playa Project
AIRBNB: Tulum has a ton of Airbnb options at all price ranges. We’ve seen everything from single rooms rented out in people’s homes to luxury houses with private pools and chefs, the options are really limitless. Because of the rapid growth in Tulum, there are a variety of condo complexes that have popped up all around the jungle. Travelers can typically snag a great condo with A/C, TV, plenty of space, a parking spot, and a pool for $150 or less per night. If you go this route – it is super easy to get to the beach. Taxis are very easy to find, and you can get to the beach in 15 minutes for for $7 one-way.