Latest update: 12 May 2023
Tulum in Mexico is a true beach destination with just enough sights to entertain you for a few days. Not too far from Tulum, there is also a lot to see. Going to the beach in Tulum may already feel like a day trip if you are staying in the center (there is a distance of 4 kilometers between them!). But there is much more to see. Check out the Tulum tips.
Tip 1: The Tulum Ruins
The ruins of Tulum are directly by the sea, which makes for beautiful pictures. It reminds me of Bali, where the Pura Luhur Ulu Watu temple in Ulu Watu is also beautifully placed nearby the water. Like in Bali, I am more impressed by the rough nature than the ruins themselves. The ruins of Tulum are not so much known for their complexity but for their location. Right by the sea, among palm trees. Wow! The tour buses arrive around half past 9, so make sure you’ve seen most of it before that time. Expect to spend an hour visiting without breaks. You can enter from 8 o’clock onwards. Or, go to the ruins about an hour before closing time, it’s also nice and quiet then.
The ruins are easy to reach by colectivo or by bike. You can rent a bike for 100 pesos per 24 hours in the center.
Buy an admission ticket at the counter just before the gates. Everyone will try selling you tickets before that on the premises, but you’ll likely pay too much.
Take a walk with me:
Tip 2: The Gran(d) Cenote
The Gran Cenote, or Grand Cenote, is four kilometers outside Tulum. I am still trying to figure out what the correct name is. In the Yucatán region of Mexico, there are no less than 3,000 cenotes. The phenomenon can best be described, albeit disrespectfully, as a hole in the ground: a kind of cave filled with water. Although some cenotes are also dry. Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans. They made offerings here, including human sacrifices, because cenotes were believed to be the entrance to the underworld.
You can visit the Grand Cenote. It is fully geared towards tourists, and you can rent snorkeling gear (perhaps smart to buy an Easybreath snorkeling mask yourself). Some small fish and an occasional turtle are swimming in the clear water. Make sure you go early in the morning to have the place to yourself (somewhat). You can easily get there by bike!
Tip 3: Tulum Playa for beach, beach clubs, hotspots, and more
The Tulum beach is only limitedly publicly accessible. Usually, you can only access the beach through a restaurant or hotel. That means paying an entrance fee or spending a minimum amount to use the facilities. That’s fine, but do check how high that amount is. Everything you don’t spend, you’ll have to top up.
Ziggy’s is an excellent place for a sunset cocktail. Order a portion of guacamole with it, and you’ll never want to leave.
I also have a great time at Be Tulum. I spend a whole day at the beach. You must spend $60 (2019) per person to use the facilities. The food is fantastic, the beach is so beautiful, and the hotel rooms look enviable with their private garden and swimming pool. And if you’re lucky, you can spot dolphins just off the coast!
Another recommendation is Raw Love Tulum for a delicious breakfast. It is set in a beautiful garden and so relaxed that you lose track of time. And that’s a good thing because the kitchen could be faster. Fortunately, the staff will tell you this immediately upon arrival and we’re OK with waiting on our smoothie bowl for a bit. The name says it all: Raw Love Tulum serves no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, et cetera.
La Zebra and Nomade are also worth a visit. Nomade is a very Instagram-worthy place with its Oriental decor and jungle-surrounded restaurant. It is also a hotel, by the way. An expensive hotel and very pretty. Maybe if I ever win the lottery… You can join the yoga classes and sound healings for free as a hotel guest. La Zebra is a much more expensive hotel, but you can also just enjoy the cocktails and the food. That better suits my budget!
Tip 4: Explore Tulum Pueblo
Tulum Pueblo has been spruced up a lot in recent years. At the beginning of 2018, it was still a major ruin; at the end of 2019, the sidewalks were beautifully laid out, and many restaurants had also undergone a makeover.
According to the travel guides, the must-eats in the main street are El Camello and Barracuda, but secretly I’m not impressed. Fine restaurants, but I eat okay and don’t fully understand the enthusiasm. Maybe I just chose the wrong thing from the menu?
I was pleasantly surprised by a delicious lunch at La Coqueta (at the intersection of the large supermarket and the beach). Sometimes the places not in the travel guides are much more fun!
Another restaurant tip in the center of Tulum: Nao. Eat some Japanese and drink the most delicious cocktails. The interior is dark, and the huge painting of a koi carp is imposing.
In the main street of Tulum Pueblo are many really cheap places where you can eat tacos. The rule of thumb is: the brighter the light, the better the food. La Chiapaneca serves perhaps the cheapest tacos in Tulum. It is always hectic, and within twenty minutes, you leave satisfied. The speed is a good thing because it is terribly hot inside. It’s like an assembly line here, so don’t expect a romantic dinner.
Tip 5: Do the Tulum Taco Tour
Via Airbnb, you can join Victoria on a Taco Tour. Victoria is a Mexican who has lived in the United States for a long time, so her English is perfect. She takes you to three taco places, depending on which ones are open. Victoria explains a lot about the ingredients of the tacos, but also about the different preparations and how it is different everywhere in Mexico. It’s a simple tour: you walk from taco cog to taco stand, eat your taco and move on. You have to pay for the tacos yourself.
Tip 6: Partying in Tulum
Still up for a party in Tulum? Then check whether Papaya Playa Project or jungle club Zamna Tulum has something on their calendar. World-famous DJs regularly play here (be prepared for expensive drinks and taxis). Or go to Batey in the center. This cozy mojito bar regularly has live music and other performances.
Tip 7: Day trip to Akumal
Akumal is a popular day trip destination from both Tulum and Playa del Carmen. You can snorkel with turtles! Just be careful not to be ripped off by overpriced tour providers. You can have a drink in a tree house in Akumal and snorkel in a wonderfully cooling lagoon.
Read more about things to do in Akumal, Mexico.
Tip 8: The crocodile of Casa Cenote
The same colectivo that drives to Akumal and Playa del Carmen also passes by Casa Cenote. Or Cenote Manatí, which turns out to be the same place. The colectivo drops me off along the highway, and I walk to Casa Cenote. That takes me just fifteen minutes, it’s not far.
I rent a snorkel, fins and a life jacket. The latter is a bit too much if you ask me, as the swim is not that long. But better be safe than sorry! I snorkel along a corridor of mangroves over the various divers. Hundreds of small fish and a crocodile hide in the mangroves. I was shocked when I suddenly spotted it on my left side. He or she should be harmless, but still! I swim on, and when I meet him or her again later in a different place, my heart beats faster again – from fear. Can you spot it in the first photo?
Tip 9: More Mayan Ruins
From Tulum, you can visit the highlights of the Mexican east coast relatively easily. Many people visit the famous Mayan ruins Chichén Itza and Cobá from Tulum. However, some travel time is involved, so I visit with a rental van and look for day trips closer to my temporary Tulum home.
More Mexico inspiration?
Helpful links for your Mexico trip
- Travel guides. I love the practical travel guides from Lonely Planet, buy them at Bol.com or Amazon.
- Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
- Travel documentation. Make sure you have the right documentation to travel to Mexico. iVisa can help you out.
- Bus. Book bus trips in Mexico with Busbud or 12Go.
- Accommodation. All-time favorite: Booking.com. Find hostels via Hostelworld.
- Money. Your bank cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. ‘Free’ walking tours are available at GuruWalk. And for bike tours, try Baja Bikes.
- Attractions and museums. Get a 5% discount on museums and attractions at Tiqets with the coupon code KIMOPREIS22.
- Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? You have many options! For the Dutch, try ANWB vakanties, Tui or Sawadee, or maybe you can find a sweet deal at Vakantie Discounter or D-reizen?
Or: try a yoga retreat in Mexico!
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