How to Get There
Tulum is located on the south eastern tip of Mexico with the Caribbean sea to its right. To get there, you fly into Cancun which is typically about a 4 hour flight and then drive about 90 minutes – 2 hours before arriving in Tulum.
You can either book a private airport transfer which will take you directly to from the airport to your hotel or if you want to have some added flexibility (and feel comfortable!) there are plenty of car rental options at the airport.
We opted for the car rental route for a few reasons. 1. we were staying in an Air BnB so we knew parking etc wouldn’t be an issue. 2. It would be easy to run errands (groceries etc.) if we needed to 3. For sight seeing or excursions that were further away it was more economical to have a car. Make sure to negotiate at the airport for your rates!
Where To Stay
The best time to visit Tulum is between December to April so you avoid the super hot, muggy and often humid season. High season is January, February, July, August, and late December.
The decision on where to stay in Tulum comes to down to either Pueblo (the town) or the Beach.
Pueblo is the town or their downtown. Lots of local restaurants, bars, nightlife, shopping and affordable hotels. Pueblo, however, is far from the beach (nearest one is about 5km).
The beach is made up of 4 areas – Beach Town (most affordable beach area), North Zone (quiet, romantic, near the ruins), Middle Zone (restaurants, beach clubs, nightlife) and South Zone (family friendly, wide sandy beach)
We stayed in an area called Aldea Zama which is in between the center of Pueblo and the beach. It’s a new luxury, suburban area with mostly homes and Air BnB vs hotels. There is a ton of construction taking place right now which means in a year from reading this post, it will likely have changed completely. There were definitely some hotel options (see below) but the villa that we booked through Air BnB was perfect for our group.
The area also has quaint “squares” with restaurants and bars and during the day it is sprinkled with cafes, lunch spots and wellness centers.
Outside of where we stayed we spent a-lot of time in the the Beach Town and the Middle Zone. We also strolled through Pueblo during one of the days since it was close to us and took in some of the local restaurants and shopping. Pueblo definitely has a more low key vibe.
Naay Tulum – in a tree filled area 1 km from the jungle and ancient Mayan ruins. Breakfast and parking are free. Rooftop outdoor pools for adults and kids are flanked by a sundeck, and feature jungle views. Spa, cafe, lounge and restaurant on site.
Kimpton Aluna – airy, upscale hotel in a leafy area is 5 km from Pescadores Beach and 7 km from the Gran Cenote limestone cavern. Parking and beach club access is complimentary. There’s an open-air restaurant and a cozy lounge. Other amenities include a spa, and an outdoor pool with a poolside bar.
Orchid House – on a leafy side street, this serene hotel is 4 km from Las Palmas Beach and 6 km from the Tulum Archaeological Zone. Amenities include an outdoor pool, an open-air restaurant and a cocktail bar.
Mamazul Tulum – luxury villa with 6 bedrooms and 6 private bathrooms, a private rooftop with an open kitchen and swimming pool.
Mezzanine – Next to Las Palmas Beach on the Caribbean Sea, this chic hotel in thatched-roof buildings is 2 km from the Mayan ruins at Tulum, and 8 km from swimming at the Gran Cenote cavern. Amenities include an open-air beachfront Thai restaurant, a bar, an outdoor pool and a spa. Part of the Colibri group of hotels.
Mi Amor – Set on a rocky cliff amid tropical forest and next to the Caribbean Sea, this boutique hotel is 1 km from Paradise Beach. A la carte breakfast and parking are complimentary. Amenities include a cocktail bar, French/Italian restaurant plus a terrace, infinity pool, beach access and a spa. Part of the Colibri group of hotels.
Beach Tulum – Surrounded by palm trees in a whitewashed building facing the beach, this adults-only hotel is 7 km from the Tulum Archaeological Zone and 8 km from the center of Tulum. Features private plunge pools, direct beach access, and patios with sofas and hammocks. Amenities include 2 restaurants, an open-air bar and a gym, as well as 2 outdoor pools, a hot tub and a private beach area.
Cabanas La Luna – Overlooking the Caribbean Sea in the Yucatán Peninsula, this modest beachfront hotel is 7 km from the Mayan city ruins at the Zona Arqueológica de Tulum. Continental breakfast and parking are complimentary. Additional amenities include beach sunloungers and bike rentals, as well as a quirky, Middle Eastern-style restaurant/bar with sea views.
La Valise – Set in an early 20th-century building, this trendy boutique hotel is 3 km from the hilltop Chapultepec Castle and 4 km from the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Be Tulum – Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, this airy, exotic boutique hotel set on a beach is 2 km from the Sistema Ox Bel Ha cave system, and 9 km from the ruins at Zona Arqueológica de Tulum.
Amenities include 3 restaurants, including a beachfront eatery, an acclaimed restaurant, rustic beach bar, outdoor pool and beach access, as well as a relaxed spa offering yoga and meditation.
Casa Malca – an airy whitewashed property with Mayan accents, this chic all-suite hotel on the beach is 10 km from the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, and 11 km from the Calypso Dive Center. There’s a woodsy-chic restaurant serving local fare, as well as a hip bar, 2 outdoor pools and landscaped tropical gardens. Other amenities include an indoor pool, and a rooftop terrace with sunloungers. A private beach has thatched-roof cabanas.
Things to Do
There’s so much to do in Tulum and something for everyone whether you’re looking to just relax and unwind or take in some adventure. Two of my favourite memories from the trip was spending a few hours exploring Cenotes and renting a yacht/boat with our entire group.
Cenotes to Visit: Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera, Cenotes Dos Ojos, Cenote Zacil Ha, Cenote Azul, Casa Cenote, Cenote Car Wash, Cenote Sac Atun, Cenote Suytun
Most locations will give you a locker, life jacket and goggles. Be sure to bring your own towel and if you want, water shoes. Not all cenotes are the same. Some are better for diving/snorkeling, some are above ground, some are underground. It’s best to look into them before going and figure out which suit your needs and interests. Either way it will be an unforgettable experience.
Mayan Ruins to Visit (20-40 mins from Tulum) – Archaeological Zone of Muyil (20 mins), Archaeological Site of Ek Balam (40 mins), Tulum Archaeological Zone (16 minutes)m Archaeological Site of Xel-Há (19 minutes)
Tulum is the home of many Mayan ruin sites which showcase the history and story of the Mayan civilization. The Mayans were mathematicians, astronomers, scientists, and so much more.
We rented a boat for the day and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience! We worked with Yacht Experiences who were incredible from the planning process and the service we got on the boat. They truly take care of everything! You can start your adventure at various times during the day and for various lengths of time. We went for 6 hours in the afternoon and it almost didn’t feel like enough time!
Sunset Drinks at Azulik
If there is ONE thing you do during your trip to Tulum, it has to be sunset drinks at Azulik. Not only is the property just drop dead gorgeous but the experience you’ll have on their rooftop is nothing like I’ve ever seen. 360 views of the entire jungle, private nests to take in the land around you, beds made of net so you feel like you’re floating! Definitely something I’ll remember forever.
Almost every hotel has their own spa in Tulum and its a city known for it attention on health and wellness. We didn’t get to experience the spas in Tulum but we did look into a few. There are so many types of spas to experience but we definitely wanted an experience that was unique to Tulum. This could be Mayan wellness rituals, mud baths or even just experiencing traditional services out on the beach or in the jungle!
Beach Clubs/Day Parties
No trip to Tulum would be complete without booking yourself into a Beach Club or day party. You get to indulge in drinks and food right on the beach and take in the vibes of some of the world’s greatest DJs. There’s often a minimum spend involved especially if you’re a larger group and want to have your own dedicated section. Its also very easy to spend over your minimum spend once you get to the party so keep that in mind when thinking about costs and overall spend. We went to Tantra on a Thursday so it wasn’t as busy as a Friday or Saturday would be but we had a great time especially because we could go off and wander on the beach if we wanted to.
Where to Eat
I’d have to say that this was probably the most disappointing part of my trip for me – not that there wasn’t world class, amazing food to be experienced but sadly, I didn’t have anything that was super memorable.
After doing some research (clearly I’m ready to go back again!) here are some restaurants that kept coming up on various blogs and “Top” lists.
Kitchen Table (north end)
The Mexican Dining Experience (north end)
Nü (South Zone), an upscale, open-air restaurant in the jungle, just a 5-minute walk from Be Tulum
Arca (Middle Zone)
Heartwood (Middle Zone)
Meze (Middle Zone)
- Cash: highly recommend bringing pesos when you visit Tulum. Alot of restaurants, bars and excursions will often only accept cash and the conversion they give you on USD cash is not worth it. ATMs are often broken or out of cash so its better to have more than less. We also expeerienced restaurants only accepting one credit card for the whole table and you’ll often get charged a 3% surcharge.
- Tipping: Tipping is part of the custom, and 10 to 15% is the standard rate. But first, check bill for the word “propina” (meaning tip) to see if it has already been added to the bill. If so, add the necessary amount to bring the propina total up to 10 to 15%. Tipping in pesos is best.
- Bug Spray: Just bring it, trust me.
- Style: Tulum is super chill and relaxed when it comes to its vibe and overall style. At night you might see a variety of fashion but “beach chic” was really what we noticed. So keep those heels at home!
- Transportation: we took taxis whenever we weren’t driving which is the most convenient way to get around. Negotiate with the drivers because the often will just give you whatever rate they want. If you’re able to pre-book taxis, even better.
If you’ve been to Tulum I’d love to hear YOUR recommendations and tips! and if you haven’t visited, I hope this guide helps to plan your trip. Feel free to reach out with questions any time!