Why Go To Tulum?
I went to Tulum for the 2nd time for my bestie’s bachelorette party this past April. It was just as magical, if not more, than when I first went with Kimmo back in 2016. I highly recommend it for either a trip with your girls or a romantic getaway with your significant other.
I like to think of Tulum as the Bali of Mexico, but much smaller (although truth be told, I’ve never been to Bali, so take that with a grain of salt). Think of a little hippie beach town filled with bohemian, eco-friendly hotels and vegan options galore. Although Tulum is probably one of the more expensive areas of Mexico, it still won’t break the bank. If you’re looking for an unpretentious vibe, where you can dress down, find your chi, and leave the makeup off, then add Tulum to your bucket list. Nearby Cancun and Tulum are more for party-goers, while Tulum is more for recharging your soul.
How to Get There & Getting Around
The closest international airport to Tulum is the Cancun airport, so you’ll most likely want to fly into there. From the airport it’s about a 1 hour and 45 minute drive. I recommend renting a car so you do some exploring along the way or take day trips in nearby cities. Just make sure you get maximum insurance coverage on your rental because car rental companies there can be shady, and I’m speaking from experience there.
There is only one main road in Tulum, so it’s quite small. There are 2 main areas of Tulum: Downtown (aka Tulum Town) or along the beach (hotel area). If you’re staying along the beach, I recommend renting a bicycle to explore all the sites along the beach. Just be careful when it starts to get dark because the roads aren’t lit. The beach isn’t that close to the downtown area, so if you plan on staying in an Airbnb around downtown or the outskirts (in the jungle), then a car or taxi is the best way to get around. Although there is Uber in Cancun, there is no Uber in Tulum.
Best Places to Stay
Both times I’ve been to Tulum, I stayed in an Airbnb. For the bachelorette party, there were 8 of us, and we stayed at this dreamy Airbnb. We had our own pool and yoga shala. We had planned to have yoga sessions in the morning, because my other bestie teaches yoga, but that was a bit over ambitious after a night of drinking. But, we did have a lovely private dinner catered in the shala. The location was in the middle of the jungle where roads were not developed yet, so it was a bit difficult for taxis to find, but our Airbnb host was super helpful and provided us contacts to taxis who knew exactly where the Airbnb was.
If you’re willing to spend more, I highly recommend getting a hotel along the beach. That is where all the action is, and you won’t need a car since you can walk or bike around the long strip of the beach where all the beach clubs, boutiques, and tons of restaurants are. Although I haven’t stayed in any of these, here are a few that I looked into with highly rated reviews:
- Be Tulum
- Casa Malca
- Coco Hacidena
- Coco Tulum
- El Pez
- Nest Tulum
Activities & Historical Sites
- Cenotes – Tulum is most known for its beautiful cenotes (natural sinkholes) and there are tons of them to see. Some of the most popular ones are Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos, but those can be really crowded. If you ask some of the locals or staff, they can tell you tons of others like Calavera, Cristal and Escondido. There’s usually a small cost to swim in it, and most have life vests you can rent if you need. Don’t forget to bring a towel!
- Tulum Ruins – These Mayan ruins are a site to see, and there’s actually a nice beach at the bottom you can hang out at, but be forewarned that this is super touristy and the lines can be quite long. The entrance fee is about 65 pesos.
- Azulik – You’ve probably seen pictures of this architectural masterpiece. It really is worth it to see, and I recommend going during sunset. You cannot just walk in though, and there can be a line to get in, so get there when it opens to the public (times change, so call ahead). When I went, they opened up at 4pm to the public and we had to pay a $30 entrance fee, but that price included $25 towards food and drinks. Worth it! Oh and the octopus taco was bomb diggity!
- Casa Malca – This is one of Pablo Escobar’s old mansions, turned into a boutique hotel. There is this beautiful backdrop made of old wedding dresses. There’s also interesting artwork all around the property. When I called to see if we could just walk in, they told us no, but we did any way, and were let in when we said we were going to get get lunch there. Food is over priced and nothing great though, so maybe just grab some drinks.
- Chichen Itza – These Mayan pyramids are about 2 hours away from Tulum. They are actually in a different state, so if you’re driving there yourself, make sure it’s ok to take your car rental there. We decided to do a private tour through www.mexicokantours.com which I recommend. Our tour guide was super knowledgeable and fun! We also stopped by Cenote Yokdzonot and the town of Valladolid. The whole thing took about 8 hours, but a great way to do all the touristy stuff in one day, and then reserve the rest of the trip for exploring Tulum.
- Valladolid – We stopped by this colorful and old Spanish colonial little town during our tour. The city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. Walk around the plaza and explore all the nooks and crannies. It’s a great spot to grab lunch.
- Swim with Turtles in Akumal Beach – This beach is about 30 minutes away from Tulum, and is swimming with sea turtles! It can be a bit crowded, but I actually found that more locals hang out there. You can rent snorkeling gear there or bring your own. I saw at least 3 turtles while I was snorkeling.
Things I didn’t get to do but plan to in the future:
- Water Parks – There are tons of great ones like Xel-Ha and Xplor where you can do things like zip-lining, amphibious vehicles driving, explore cenotes, etc.
- Yoga – Tulum is a haven for Yogis. There are tons of yoga retreat centers all over Tulum.
- Spa Day – Tulum is known for Temazcal, which is a sweat lodge, or Mexico’s version of a sauna. This is something wonderful to try and I think my Finns would appreciate this. Tulum is also known for their Mayan Clay Spas, which is something unique to try. Here are a few Wellness Spas that are well known: Holistika, Leaf Luxury Spa, Yaan Wellness, and Mayan Clay Spa.
- Swim in Lagoon Kaan Luum
- Climb Coba Pyramids
- Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
- Day trip to Cozumel
Best Places to Eat
- Antojitos la Chiapaneca – Al pastor tacos. Need I say more?
- Posada Margherita – Italian food in Tulum? I know that sounds weird, but it’s amazing, and a must! Plus the place is on the beach and is adorable.
- Campanella Cremerie – Best place for ice cream
- La Habichuela – Ok this one is in Cancun, not Tulum, but if you’re flying through there, it’s worth stopping by. Their Caribbean and Mayan menu definitely delivers.
- Private Catered Dinner – There are tons of chefs who host private dinners, or if you have an Airbnb like we did, can come cook at your place. Our Airbnb host recommended www.chefpedrobermudez.com and he was fantastic. Very professional, reasonably priced, and probably our best meal in Tulum.
Places I didn’t get to try but wanted to:
- Hartwood – Ok so both times I went to Tulum, I tried to eat here, but couldn’t get a ressie. They only take ressies the month before, so if you’re going in April, email for reservations on March 1st. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this place.
- Chamicos – A bit of a drive from the main area, but I hear it is amazing for their fish (prepared whole, or the ceviche).
- Casa Jaguar
- Kitchen Table
Best Beach Clubs
Most beach clubs require you to either pay a day entrance fee, or get a table with a minimum. It’s not that expensive, and I think it’s worth it to be able to have a place to hang out on the beach, since there aren’t really any public beaches in Tulum.
- Habitas – This place is a dream! They have a DJ on Sundays playing relaxing deep house style music, so my girlfriends and I got a table here on the beach. They also have an infinity pool which is a plus, because the beach can have too much seaweed at times. The food and service is great, and we enjoyed just hanging here for hours.
- Papaya Playa Project – This place is fun during the day and night. They’ve got tons of places to hang in front of the beach, but it is on the pricier side.
Here are a few others that were on my list, but we didn’t have enough time to check out.
- Coco Tulum
- La Zebra
- Tata Tulum
If you’re looking to go have drinks and dancing, below are the go to places that typically have DJs on these nights. My favorite spot is the full moon party at Papaya Playa Project on Saturdays. There is always a top notch DJ, with Burning Man type vibes and lots of dancing.
- Thursdays – Gitano
- Fridays – Casa Jaguar
- Saturdays – Papaya Playa Project. There is a $30 entrance fee, and then has a prepaid model to buy drinks. You get a wristband and then you basically have to fill it up (they accept credit cards) and then when you go to the bar, you pay with your wristband credits. So be careful, because you lose whatever you don’t use that same night.
Hope this little guide helped you. I definitely plan on going back to Tulum, so when I do, I’ll make sure to update this again. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below.