Tulum, Mexico: A Travel Guide

Last Updated on 24 Apr 2024 by Fiona Perisone

When it comes to discovering new cities to visit in Mexico, Tulum is rapidly becoming a popular holiday destination. Not far from Cancun is Tulum - a rather small town on the Mexican Caribbean coast with many of the amenities and attractions of Cancun, but with a very different vibe! Here, locals and tourists share the same space, and there isn't a clear boundary between the "tourist front" and the town proper. It's a great destination for a relaxing Caribbean vacation! Below, we'll tell you everything you'll need to know to plan a rejuvenating getaway in Tulum.

Best Time To Visit Tulum, Mexico

The best weather in Tulum is from November to March. However, this also means these months have the largest crowds and the highest price tags. Once you get into summer and early fall, the weather is hot and humid, with dense mosquitoes. Late May through September are the hottest and rainiest months. So, the best time to visit Tulum is from March to May, when the weather is still nice, but the prices have come down from the peak tourism months.

Top Attractions In Tulum

Tulum Mayan Ruins

Chichen Itza Ruins Mexico

Image Source: Unsplash

Also referred to as the Mayan Archaeological Site or the Chichen Itza Ruins, this is one of the most iconic locations on the Caribbean coast. The famous ruins are a surprisingly well-preserved location of Mayan ruins. Tulum was once an ancient Mayan city, and two important buildings still stand - El Castillo (the Castle) and El Templo Dios del Viento (the Temple of the Descending God, or Diving God).

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Image Source: Tripadvisor

The Sian Ka'an biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to a wealth of wildlife. You'll see colorful fish, pods of dolphins and manatees, vibrant bird colonies, tropical canals, rainforests, and coral reefs. There are many ways to explore the wildlife reserve; one of the most popular is a boat tour.

Coba Mayan Ruins

Coba Mayan Ruins

Image Source: Unsplash

Tulum is a treasure of ancient Mayan culture. Even if you already plan to visit the Tulum Ruins, you should still plan on exploring the ruins at Coba. There are many building groups in these ruins as if a complete Mayan city was preserved. You'll see pyramids and many large, carved stone tablets. It's often less crowded than the Tulum Ruins, and the pyramid here at Coba is the largest Mayan pyramid on the peninsula - and you can climb to the top!

Kaan Luum Lagoon

Kaan Luum Lagoon

Image Source: Tripadvisor

A twenty-minute drive will take you to the Kaan Luum Lagoon, a true hidden gem of Tulum. It's a beautiful location, with no added storefronts or attractions to mar the view. Simply swim and relax. Or, dive down to the bottom for a Mayan mud bath! Some claim it has healing properties. Take note that sunscreen and tanning lotions are prohibited at the lagoon.

Punta Laguna

punta laguna tulum

Image Source: Tripadvisor

Found en route to the Coba ruins, there is a beautiful area called Punta Laguna, filled with amazing wildlife. Managed by local families, they will take you around to see spider monkeys and other animals that live there.

Celestun Biosphere Reserve

Celestun Biosphere Reserve

While not in Tulum itself, this reserve warrants a day trip! It is one of the most beautiful places in the Yucatan peninsula and perhaps the best place worldwide for birding. The sheer amount of flamingos has distinguished it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can tour it via canoe.

Things To Do In Tulum

Tulum beach

Enjoy Beaches

There are beach clubs, beach resorts, and public beaches. Technically, all the beaches in Mexico are free. What you pay for when you go to a beach club or beach resort is access to bathrooms, beach chairs, and various service staff. You can visit Tulum beaches for free or pay extra for these amenities. The free beaches are:

  • Playa Pescadores

  • Playa Santa Fe

  • Playa Las Palmas

  • Playa Paraiso

One of the highlights of the Tulum beaches is that they are shallow, and the current isn't particularly strong. This means you can walk and swim in them without worry, unlike the strong beaches in Cancun. However, they are still incredibly beautiful, with clear, turquoise waters.

Gran Cenote

Explore Cenotes

Cenotes are natural pits resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock. Once that rock collapsed, it exposed the groundwater underneath. There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula, and a huge concentration of them can be found on the coastline of the Riviera Maya. Cenotes are popular as swimming pools and as a destination for scuba divers. Some of the popular cenotes are:

  • Gran Cenote (incredibly crystal clear waters!)

  • Cenote Cristal

  • Casa Cenote (boasts a tunnel through mangrove trees)

  • Cenote Escondido

  • Dos Ojos Cenote (perfect for a scuba dive)

  • Cenote Carwash (named because people used to wash their cars in it!)

Swim With Sea Turtles

Swim With Sea Turtles

Akumal beach is a half-hour stroll from Tulum. The beach is beautiful on its own, but what makes it amazing is that sea turtles frequent there and often hang out close to the shore. Other destinations might have "sea turtle experiences" available for cost, but here's a completely free opportunity.

Dine in Tulum Mexico

Eat And Drink Well

Downtown Tulum (aka Tulum Pueblo or Tulum Centro) is home to some fantastic restaurants and bars. Tulum has a unique feel in that tourists and locals share the same space, and you really get a sense of what life in Tulum is like. Many of the bars have live music and dancing most evenings. There are many vegan options.

Scuba diving Tulum

Scuba Diving

The beaches in Tulum are shallow and calm, which takes some of the fun out of many water sports. However, it makes it a great location for exploratory scuba diving and underwater cave diving! The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is found nearby, and it's quite the experience to explore its marine life by scuba diving.

Where To Stay While Visiting Tulum

There are three main neighborhoods in Tulum where you can find lodging - Tulum Town, Tulum Beach, and Aldea Zama. Among those three locations, there are many all-inclusive resort selections. Some are romantic, "adults-only" resorts, and others are great for a family-friendly getaway. Boutique hotels are a great choice for honeymooners. There are many beach houses with fantastic views and beachfront access. One of the most interesting ways to spend a night in Tulum is by "glamping" - glamorous camping. There are many glamping options, from beachside tents to treehouses in the jungle!

Where Is Tulum, Mexico, Located?

Tulum is located in southeast Mexico, on the easternmost edge of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo. For reference, it's about two hours south of Cancun and 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Tulum is located on the coast of the Riviera Maya and borders the Caribbean Sea.

How To Get To Tulum, Mexico

There is no airport in Tulum. However, Mexico is slated to get one opened in 2023, so cross your fingers! Currently, the closest international airport is the Cancun International Airport. From there, you have many options for traveling the two hours between Tulum and Cancun.

  • Cancun Airport Transportation - This is the airport's private shuttle service and is the easiest and fasted way to get from Cancun to Tulum. It is, however, one of the most expensive ways.

  • Rental Car - Admittedly, it can be daunting to attempt driving around Mexico yourself if you're unfamiliar. However, renting a car is a good option if you're planning on day trips to destinations around Tulum.

  • ADO Bus - Buses from the Cancun airport to Tulum leave five times a day, and it's an expensive way to get there. You will be tied to their schedule, on the other hand.

Transportation Within Tulum

If you've opted to rent a car, you will find that parking spots are hard to come by and sometimes quite expensive. It's also difficult to drive within Tulum, especially on Tulum's beach road. You'll want to leave your car in a lot near your hotel and only move it when you need to. Thankfully, Tulum is a pretty small town! You can get to many places on foot, and bikes are readily accessible to rent or lend. Tulum taxis are often congregated around the hotels, and while it's easy to take one to start your day's adventure, public transportation back to the hotels is not as reliable.

You can take hotel shuttles, group shuttles (may stop at numerous hotels), or a private shuttle to get from the airport to your Tulum accommodation.

Golden Tips

Bug Spray

Bring strong bug spray. You'll likely be spending some time in dense jungles, and even during the best weather, the mosquitoes are a nuisance.

Rental Car

If you plan to rent a car, do your research! The rental fee is typically only $25 USD a day, but you'll be required to buy Mexican car insurance - and there are scams.

Stay In Town If You Are On A Budget

If you are traveling on a budget, staying in town is much cheaper than staying on the beach. Hotel accommodation on the beach can cost hundreds of dollars per night, whereas, in town, it is much cheaper.

Stick To Pesos

Many businesses do accept US dollars, but pesos are incredibly more convenient. You may be paying a premium for the same product or service by using dollars.