Tulum, Quintana Roo has quickly become a tourist favorite on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and for good reason. It is a safe, clean, and sustainable city with vibrant Mayan roots and an inherent bohemian flare. Located on the Caribbean Sea, Tulum is famous for its peaceful turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. Below you’ll find my picks for the best things to do in Tulum, fun day trips, best beaches and great restaurants.
Tulum is ideal for families seeking comfort, backpackers seeking adventure, and couples seeking luxury and romance. With so many beautiful places and things to do in Mexico, make sure Tulum is on your list.
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Once you have settled on a getaway to Tulum, chances are you have started to build your itinerary. While a quick google search can help you find all of the top attractions in Tulum, there truly is a science to having a better vacation experience. Here is everything you need to know to plan the perfect day in Tulum.
Our Favorite Things to do in Tulum
How to Spend the Perfect Day in Tulum
With so many things to do in Tulum, it can be hard to weed out what is an absolute necessity for your itinerary. Of course, you’ll want to spend as much time soaking up the sun in the Mayan breeze as you can. But when you’re not lounging the day away in the sand, here are some our favorite activities to pass the time.
Unesco World Heritage Site, Ruins & Marine Reserves
Visit the Tulum Ruins
You simply can’t visit Tulum without making the trek over to the Tulum Ruins. After all, it’s the historical backbone of the town. The entrance fee is only $4 USD unless you want to spring for a guided tour and you can spend all day roaming around the ancient ruins, enjoy a picnic on the grounds, or splashing around in the iconic “Playa Ruinas” at the bottom of the cliff.
Plan for at least an hour to visit the Tulum ruins archaeological site.
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sian Ka’an
Sian Ka’an is a Biosphere Reserve and the name Sian Ka’an is a Mayan phrase, meaning The sky’s birthplace. Sian Ka’an is a nesting area for turtles, sea and marshland birds. There is also a coral reef with 84 species of coral!
Laguna Kaan Luum
Laguna Kaan Luum is a stunning marine reserve to visit if you’re looking for a little more action and wildlife than you will find on the beaches of Tulum. Here you can go standup paddle boarding, scuba diving, free diving snorkeling, kayaking, or rent a catamaran- the choice is yours. Despite its active nature, you might be surprised to find that it’s actually quite tranquil.
If you want to escape the crowds, come here to spend your day exploring- lots of locals frequent with their families so you might even make a new friend.
Best Cenotes in Tulum
If you are looking for adventures in Tulum, then I recommend visiting a nearby cenote.
If you’re not familiar with a cenote (pronounced Sa-No-Tay), they’re large sinkholes that occur naturally in the limestone rock in this part of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
They can be open-air pits and or caved-in caverns. There is a vast network of underground rivers throughout the peninsula. There are dozens of freshwater cenotes from Cancun to Tulum in the Riviera.
Cenotes are beautiful swim holes with warm water (in the mid-70’s) that are one of best things to do in Tulum and truly a unique experience.
Gran Cenote is one of the most popular cenotes in Tulum thanks to it’s gorgeous collections of caves, and open-air areas. It’s great for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, and has a decent population of turtle inhabitants. That being said, it is really well known so you might find yourself bothered by the crowds if you’re looking for an ultra-natural experience.
The Gran Cenote entrance fee is 500 MXN (or $25 USD, they accept dollars), and it includes a life jacket and snorkeling equipment.
Gran Cenote is located at Quintana Roo 109, 77796 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
If you want a much more laid-back, peaceful cenote experience, check out cenote carwash. It’s much cheaper to get into, it’s easily accessible and it’s still great for swimming and diving. There’s plenty of local wildlife living in this cenote from tropical fish to turtles but beware of the one crocodile who lives here. He’s small and honestly harmless, but you should always be mindful not to cause too much disturbance.
This cenote is very close to the center of Tulum, which is just about 12 minutes away via the Quintana Roo 109 highway. It’s right next to Cenote Zacil Ha, which I also recommend visiting, and quite close to Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera.
Cenote Carwash entrance fee is 50 pesos per person (about $2.50 USD) and $200 pesos for divers.
Cenote Carwash is located in Calle Carretera Federal 109, Tulum, 77710, Mexico.
Best Cenotes Near Tulum
Cenote Dos Ojos and Casa Cenote
Cenote Dos Ojos and Casa Cenote are fun things to do and not far from the town of Tulum. These cenotes near Tulum are well worth a visit. If you are anything like me, once you visit one cenote, you’ll want to explore as many as you can.
Cenote Dos Ojoys (Two Eyes Cenote in English) is located south of Akumal and between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico, but closer to Tulum.
The entrance fee for Dos Ojos is 200 pesos or about $14 US dollars. You can rent snorkeling equipment for around an additional 100 pesos.
Rent a bike in Tulum
Renting a bike will make your trip to Tulum 1000x better, we promise. Whether you rent a bike just for a day or for the entire duration of your stay, you won’t regret it.
A car is definitely not necessary in Tulum since everything is central to the beach road or clustered in town. Unless you rent a car for day trips or a larger Yucatan vacation, you will not need one.
Both the laid-back bohemian vibes of town and the narrow roads are meant to keep Tulum highly walkable, but the beach road is LONG.
If you want to travel back and forth between the hotel zone and town, or you simply want to see everything the beach road has to offer, rent a bike. They are cheaper than taxis, contribute to the Tulum vibe and will keep you from breaking too much of a sweat trying to walk in the blazing afternoon sun.
Coba Day Trip
A great day trip from Tulum is to the Coba ruins. If you have a rental car, it is an easy drive. Otherwise, you can hire a tour guide such as XX to visit the ancient Mayan ruins.
The beach road can be separated into two separate areas. On the left of Ave. Tulum is Playa Paraiso, which is a public access beach that is frequented mostly by locals and tourists staying in town. Even though it is public it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Tulum.
On the right, is the hotel strip of beaches which are all privately owned by the resorts. Of course, you can travel via the sand/water from hotel front to hotel front, but you will need to stay in one of the hotels to secure access in the first place.
Alternatively, many hotels will allow you to stay on their beach if you purchase food/drink from their restaurant (some have a minimum spend) and others have private beach clubs you can purchase admission to.
Playa Ruinas is absolutely picturesque. The beach is located under the dramatic cliffs of the famous Ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum.
Another option is Las Palmas Public Beach. This beach is one of the more secluded ones in Tulum, but you’ll still get the occasional vendor trying to sell you souvenirs. Bring your own water, snacks, towels, and sunscreen and enjoy the white sand and crystal clear water.
One thing to note is that Tulum beaches can have seaweed, depending on the time of year you visit.
Shopping on the Beach Road
The beach road in Tulum is one of the most incredible places to shop for bohemian décor, luxury resort wear, handcrafted accessories, and local artworks. While the town center does have a number of cute boutiques, the beach road has a much wider selection of independent shops with a lesser focus on “souvenirs”.
There are also some great Mexican markets where you can find local produce, cheese, spices, Mexican candy, and much more!
Best Restaurants in Tulum
Eating is one of my favorite activities in Tulum or anywhere in Mexico. Below are some of my personal favorite restaurants. Look for Yucatan cuisine and specialties on menus. One thing you must do in Tulum is try Cochinita Pibil; one of the most famous dishes on the Yucatan peninsula—a dish of smoky, slow-roasted pork marinated in a special blend of spices.
Best Restaurants in Town
Burritos at Burrito Amour
If you want an easy, affordable lunch that’s worth an Instagram post, head to Burrito Amour. Cheap eats can be hard to find in Tulum, but this restaurant is a great place to start. Their food is quick, simple, and ultra-cute. Burritos wrapped in banana leaves? yes please!
Mojitos at Batey
When it comes to Nightlife in Tulum, Batey is the ultimate choice in town. Not only do they have live music every night of the week and a lively atmosphere, but they also serve up the best mojitos in Tulum.
You can any type of mojito you can dream of, from traditional to local flavors of guava and passion fruit, and they all come with a fresh sugar cane for stirring- and that’s not even the best part! Batey has converted an old VW beetle into a sugar cane mill, where they freshly squeeze the syrup for sweetening your drink.
This is THE place to go if you want authentic, farm-to-table Mexican flavors. Tucked away in the jungle, this treehouse-style restaurant is high-style with extremely sophisticated cuisine. That being said, they book up almost a week in advance so be sure to get your reservation in early.
Breakfast at Del Cielo
Need a reliable brunch spot? Del Cielo is Tulum center’s trendiest place for fresh mex breakfasts. You’ll be able to take advantage of iconic Tulum open-air dining, and a colorful menu of smoothie bowls, heuvos rancheros, chilaquiles, and avocado toast. It is one of the best places for an authentic Mexican breakfast. What are you waiting for?
Best Tulum Restaurants at the Beach
Dinner in the dark at Safari
In Tulum, it gets dark early, but Safari has found a way to make dining in the dark a coveted experience. They’ve reinvested in campfire food to highlight local Yucatan cuisine and five-star culinary excellence. You may have had octopus, but you’ve certainly never had fire-grilled octopus like this before.
Macondo at Nomade
Though we can’t imagine ever growing tired of the fresh Mexican cuisine, Macondo at Nomade is the perfect restaurant for when you feel like switching things up. For lunch of dinner, sit cross-legged on bohemian poufs by the beach and chow down on some of the best Moroccan food around.
Charley’s Vegan Tacos
Eating at Charley’s vegan tacos is an absolute MUST, whether you eat a plant-based diet or not. Tulum is known to be a vegan-food haven, but Charley’s is the cream of the crop. From meaty mushrooms to delicately crafted chorizo alternatives, you won’t be able to get enough. Plus, they are served up from a highly instagrammable taco truck, so be sure to bring your camera.
Best time to Visit Tulum
Tulum is warm year-round. Rather than being mindful of temperatures, you may want to plan your vacation around the rainy season and tourist high seasons. For most people, this means booking a trip between October and December. By this time, Hurricane season has passed, though October has been known to be a little rainier than other months. January to March is Tulum’s tourist peak, so avoid traveling during these months if you don’t fancy a big crowd.
4 Fun Facts about Tulum
- The town’s name, Tulum, means wall. It was named in reference to the Mayan archeological site, also known as the Tulum ruins, which are Tulum’s biggest tourist attraction.
- Tulum is one of the most popular Archeological Sites in Mexico, Only Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza have more visitors each year.
- Tulum used to be called Zama, which means “sunrise” or “city of dawn” because it was built racing the sunrise.
- Tulum was considered to be a very important hub for land and sea trade between central and south America.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Tulum Budget Hotel: Tubo Tulum
While this one won’t work for the claustrophobic traveler, this hostel is absolutely the coolest way to stay in Tulum on a budget. In this trendy hostel, you can stay in a simple, concrete tube in a jungle-like setting. You’ll have access to hammocks in a private courtyard and lounge area, Wi-Fi, gated security, and free breakfast. This hostel is made for taking interesting travel photos, and it will only set you back about $25 per night. Oh, and there are a couple of puppies who live on site so you can get your daily serotonin fix.
Best Tulum Boutique Hotel: Casa Malca
This luxurious boutique hotel comes with an ultra-rich history. Casa Malca was previously Pablo Escobar’s private mansion. It is covered top to bottom with personal art collections, turning the entire hotel into a new-age art museum. One of the most incredible art installations on site are the 20-foot curtains made of traditional Mayan wedding dresses.
Our Favorite Luxury Hotel: Be Tulum
For a double-dose of bohemian Tulum-style luxury, book a stay at Be Tulum. Natural design, private pools, waterfront balconies and giant dream catchers will sweep you away. They also have villas for larger families requiring more independence and a high-end wellness spa.
Best Tulum All Inclusive: Playaakun Eco-Luxury Beach Retreat
Here’s a fun twist on an all-inclusive. Playaakun offers all the amenities of an all-inclusive (and more) such a housekeeper, meals/ snacks and drinks prepared by a master chef, and full-time staff available to assist you, but in a boutique-style accommodation. The kicker? This villa only has eight rooms and can be bought out by your group, so you can have a totally private, all-inclusive experience.
For hotel reviews check TripAdvisor.
Best Tulum Eco Resort: Azulik (adults-only)
Azulik is a luxury Eco-resort like you have never seen before. The entire hotel is built to mimic a treehouse, and is comprised of natural-material art installations. Guest rooms are open-air with private plunge pools and the hotel is constantly frequented by celebrities and models. They also boast the best spa in Tulum, a rotating art gallery, and an iconic tree-top restaurant with private dining nests and hammocks. Just a heads up; their beach is the only clothing-optional beach in Tulum so arrive expecting a little bit of nudity on the shores.
How to Get to Tulum:
To get to Tulum, you will need to fly into a major city. The most popular choice for international travelers is through Cancun International Airport, but you can also catch smaller domestic flights into Playa del Carmen. From there, you have a few separate options, all of which will take around two hours of land travel:
How to Get to Tulum from Cancun:
The first way to get from Cancun to Tulum is to take an ADO bus. These buses are like Mexico’s version of Greyhound in the USA. They are comfortable, air-conditioned, and can get you from point A to point B safely and affordably. If you are leaving from Cancun, you will need to first take the bus to Playa Del Carmen and “transfer” to Tulum. This “transfer” usually doesn’t involve switching buses though, just waiting for a new set of passengers, so be sure to stay on board or ask for clarification.
You can also take a Colectivo, which is a white shuttle van. They do not have a set schedule, so don’t expect them to adhere to a departure time, instead, they will leave when they have filled up with 10 or so passengers heading from Cancun to Tulum. Even though they are shared transportation, they will drop your off anywhere you want. Private shuttles are available but are usually pretty pricey. Check to see with your hotel if they are affiliated with any companies for a discount.
Lastly, you can always rent a car and drive. This usually costs about $25-45 USD per day with full insurance, but be mindful of hidden costs and consider whether this is worth the investment for your entire trip.