This Tulum travel guide includes everything you need to know before planning your upcoming trip to this beautiful and culturally rich Mexican beach town. Tulum is an excellent travel destination for a vacation, a solo getaway, or even a weekend add-on to a more extended trip. Digital nomads and remote workers will also find Tulum to be a perfect spot to work, relax and reset, connect with other travelers, and enjoy the beautiful weather as they spend time outdoors. Regardless of the reason for your visit, you’ve come to the right place for all of the need-to-know details about planning a trip to Tulum.
Included in this travel guide, you will find information about:
How to Get to Tulum
Tulum does not have an airport. The best option is to fly into Cancun and then take a shuttle or taxi to Tulum.
Tulum is located along the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, about an hour’s drive south of Playa del Carmen, making it a little more than a two-hour drive from the Cancun airport. While this may not be ideal for travel time, flying into Cancun International Airport (CUN) and arranging transportation to Tulum is the best way to get there.
Depending on where you stay, your hotel may offer a private transfer to and from the airport. If this is the case, I highly recommend utilizing this service (even if you have to pay an extra fee). If this is not an option, you’ll have to schedule a taxi or shuttle yourself. I recommend doing your research beforehand and scheduling a ride in advance with a reputable company to relieve any stress at the airport upon arrival.
For anyone who has not flown into Cancun before, be warned that the Airport is hectic with swarms of salespeople (mostly from rental car companies or taxi agencies) eager to harass tourists for their business. While many of them are with reputable companies, landing in a foreign country and immediately being bombarded can be overwhelming, so have a plan before you land.
Click HERE to book your transportation in advance through the official Cancun airport website. Be sure to review their safety tips as well to ensure you are accepting a ride from a legitimate company.
Click HERE to book your transportation on the ADO Bus. This is a safe, affordable bus option for those arriving in Cancun and traveling to Tulum. The price per passenger starts from USD 12.
While Mexico has many American rental car companies that allow you to reserve a rental easily, I do not recommend driving to Tulum in a rental car. During my last trip to Tulum, my friend and I (naively) decided to rent a car in Cancun, and we drove ourselves. It was only after the fact that I learned how dangerous this could have been. We rented through Alamo (which I highly recommend; the workers were very helpful), and the man helping me gave me a list of emergency numbers to call in case we were pulled over, harassed, or had any other kind of trouble with the police. Sadly, law enforcement in this area is very corrupt and frequently pulls over tourists (sometimes even arresting and detaining them), telling them they have broken the law and must pay money to be released.
Best Time to Visit
Like many destinations along the Caribbean coast of the Riviera Maya, Tulum has a warm tropical climate during much of the year, so this is a great place to visit just about any time.
The rainy season in Tulum lasts from June until October, meaning there are fewer tourists and better travel deals during this time. Although there is more rainfall during this season, this doesn’t mean it will rain all day, every day. You can expect popup showers and an overall muggier feel in the air if you visit Tulum during this time, but you will also be able to enjoy hotter temperatures. The high season is from November through the end of May, meaning that Tulum is typically busier and more expensive during these months. There is less rainfall and lower humidity, but temperatures will be slightly cooler during this time (though still very warm and enjoyable!).
If your schedule allows you to plan your visit any time of the year, I recommend traveling to Tulum during the shoulder season: May-June, or August-September. During this time, you will experience better luck with the weather but will also benefit from fewer crowds of tourists. You might even snag a travel deal or two with discounted rates on flights, accommodations, and excursions!
For more information about Tulum weather throughout the year, click HERE.
How to Get Around
With a variety of transportation options, getting around Tulum is pretty easy for most travelers. The main attractions are all fairly close in proximity, and most tours and excursions that may be a bit farther out of town typically provide transportation.
If you are navigating the town without a guide, your options include walking, renting a car, taking the bus, renting a scooter or bike, or taking a taxi, although I recommend utilizing a taxi service for any trip that is not within walking distance. Driving a rental car around town yourself is not recommended, as driving conditions are very hectic and can be very unsafe for tourists. Renting a bike or scooter (or even just walking) is a great way to get around for shorter trips; just make sure you check your route to ensure safety before heading out. If there is a bike path, you can assume walking or biking is safe; I just do not recommend biking on roads where there is vehicle traffic. Taking the bus is an affordable way to get around Tulum, although it is more inconvenient and time-consuming, and taxis are very affordable too, which is why I recommend just sticking with taxis.
When booking transportation, I always recommend researching in advance to ensure the company you are using is legitimate. Another great way to ensure safety is to ask the concierge at your hotel or your Airbnb host for a recommendation. Hotels may even provide private transportation for guests staying at the property.
Top Things to Do
1. Ancient Mayan Ruins
The Mayan people built this ancient civilization in the thirteenth century, around 1200 AD, and occupied it for over 300 years. The ancient Mayan city, situated on the coast of the Caribbean sea on Mexico’s yucatán peninsula, was a hub for international trade. The Mayan people later abandoned the area as a result of the Spanish invasion of the Americas. To learn more about the history of this ancient archaeological site, click HERE.
You can take a guided tour of the ruins or wander around without a guide (which is what I did). The entrance fee is about 4 USD per person, with tour tickets being an additional cost.
The Tulum ruins are a very popular spot among tourists (and a must-see attraction if it is your first time visiting Tulum), so anticipate there being quite a few other people there when you go. To avoid the crowds, I highly recommend planning to visit the historic site early in the day or even as soon as it opens.
This location is actually in Tulum, so it is very easy and convenient to visit, and you only need a couple of hours to explore everything the ruins have to offer. If you are planning to be in Tulum for more than a couple of days, you can take a day trip to see some of the other ruins near Tulum.
Chichen Itza, which is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, is an impressive Mayan archeological site featuring the Chichen Itza Pyramid (also known as El Castillo). It is about two and a half hours out of Tulum, and you can either take a guided tour or public transportation to get there. The entrance fee is about USD 25. To plan your trip or reserve your tickets, click HERE.
Another popular spot is the Coba Ruins. Featuring ancient pyramids and more Mayan ruins, this site is another great location to explore the history of Tulum. Coba is unique because you can still climb some of the structures (which is not allowed at the other two locations). It is only about a 45-minute drive from Tulum, making for an easy day trip. Click HERE to learn more about Coba’s history and read helpful information for planning your visit.
2. Tulum Beach
No trip to Tulum is complete without spending some time in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea at Tulum Beach. This beautiful beach stretches about six miles from the Mayan ruins on the north end to the Hotel Zone and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on the south side. Whether you choose to stay at a beachfront property and enjoy the quiet serenity provided by its private access or make a day out of a visit to one of the public beach access points, you should definitely make this beach destination a priority during your stay in Tulum. Just off the main road of the beach strip, you will find a wide array of beach clubs, many of which offer daytime as well as evening entertainment. For a complete guide to Tulum’s best beach clubs, including everything you’ll want to know before planning your visit, click HERE.
3. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Sian Ka’an is a 1.3 million-acre biosphere reserve located in Tulum, Mexico. This amazing tourist destination was established in 1986, and just a year later, in 1987, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to an expansive array of lush tropical vegetation, the Mesoamerican Reef, and hundreds of species of animals (including dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, monkeys, crocodiles, big cats, and so much more!), it is easy to spend an entire day exploring the reserve. Many activities are available, including snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, boating, and even birdwatching! Although you can visit without taking a tour, I recommend doing so in order to get the most out of your trip. Tour guides have extensive knowledge of the area and will prove to be valuable resources during your exploration.
For a more comprehensive guide to planning your visit to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, click HERE.
4. Tulum Cenotes
Cenotes are essentially naturally occurring caves formed from sinkholes that are permanently filled with groundwater. Historically, the Tulum cenotes served as a freshwater source for the people of the ancient Mayan cities in Tulum. Today, they are a popular tourist destination for swimming, exploring, and snorkeling. The Yucatan Peninsula boasts quite a few impressive cenotes to choose from, including Gran Cenote, Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Calavera, and Cenote Zacil-Ha (though there are many more). I would highly recommend placing a visit to a cenote high up on your Tulum bucket list!
5. Tulum Beach Zone
The Beach Zone has everything from beach clubs and delicious restaurants to luxury and boutique shopping. This is also the area where many of the unique, upscale boutique hotels are located. The main road runs right along the beach, with many hotels, restaurants, and clubs on the side between the road and Tulum beach. This area is very walkable, making it easy to stroll along the beach road and browse all of the unique shops on the beach strip. If you are staying in the Hotel Zone, this area is very close, as it is really all connected. Even if you are staying in Tulum Town or Aldea Zama, the Beach Zone is just a short taxi ride away and is absolutely worth visiting. If this is your first time visiting this area, be aware that the Beach Zone and the Hotel Zone are the most expensive parts of Tulum; while there are some amazing dining options and gorgeous boutiques, expect them to be relatively pricey.
Where to Stay
If you are planning to stay in Tulum, there are three main areas to choose from: Tulum town ($), the Beach Zone ($$$), and Aldea Zama ($$).
Tulum town, also known as Tulum pueblo, is the downtown area. It’s an excellent place to stay for budget travelers, as accommodations can be very inexpensive. There are also many restaurants in the area, and you would only be about 3-5 miles away from the beach. It is worth noting that a stay in this area will likely require some kind of transportation (unless walking around downtown), although a short taxi ride should be sufficient to get to most places.
The Beach Zone, also known as the Hotel Zone, is likely what many people think of when they imagine the Tulum experience. This area has everything from beautiful boutique hotels and unique shopping to open-air dining and lively beach clubs. The best part? Everything is within walking distance along the main beach road. The downside of staying in this part of town is that it can be exponentially more expensive than any other area in Tulum.
Aldea Zama is a new development located between the Beach Zone and Tulum town featuring luxury apartments and condominiums. I would recommend this area to anyone traveling with children or as a family. It is a safe location with plenty of dining options nearby and is just a short distance from the beach. Pricing is more affordable than the Hotel Zone but more expensive than downtown Tulum. While the area certainly is nice, it does feel like a new development, so if you are hoping to connect with nature and experience the unique feel of Tulum, this may not be the best place to stay.
Tulum has so many fantastic accommodations with options ranging in pricing to accommodate both budget and luxury travelers. While there are larger chain hotel brands in the area, many unique Airbnbs and beautiful local boutique hotels are worth checking out.
For a more in-depth breakdown of the different areas in Tulum, click HERE.
A few recommendations…
We’ve compiled a list of some of Tulum’s most popular, highly-rated boutique hotels. To view the entire list (including photos and pricing!), check out our post on The Best Boutique Hotels in Tulum.
- The Beach Hotel Tulum
- Mi Amor
- Ahau Tulum
- Villa Pescadores
- Le Zebra
- La Valise Tulum
- Casa Ganesh
- Muaré Tulum
- Casa Malca
- Aldea Canzul
- Kanan Tulum
- Tago Tulum
- Habitas Tulum
- Encantada Tulum
- Nest Tulum
- Ma’xanab Hotel Tulum
- Papaya Playa Project
For a detailed list of Airbnb recommendations (including photos & pricing!), check out our post featuring 10 Amazing Airbnbs in Tulum, Mexico (2023).
Best Places to Eat
Tulum is known for having some amazing places to eat, from high-end dining options to authentic local cuisine. We’ve compiled a list of some of the top restaurants in Tulum that would make great additions to your weekend itinerary.
Vegan options: 🥕
|Restaurant||Cuisine||Price Range||Dining Style|
|Burrito Amor||Mexican, healthy 🥕||$||Casual|
|Casa Jaguar||Mexican, contemporary 🥕||$$$||Elegant|
|Matcha Mama||Healthy food, smoothies, juices 🥕||$$||Casual|
|Cenzontle||Mexican-inspired, contemporary 🥕||$$$||Elegant|
|Encanto Cantina||Mexican 🥕||$$||Casual|
|Arca||Mexican-inspired, contemporary 🥕||$$$||Elegant|
|Hartwood||Mexican, seafood 🥕||$$$$||Elegant|
|Taqueria Honorio||Tacos, authentic Mexican||$||Casual|
|Kitchen Table||Contemporary, seafood 🥕||$$$||Elegant|
|Campanella Cremerie||Gelato 🥕||$||Casual|
|Antojitos La Chiapaneca||Authentic Mexican||$||Casual|
|Loco Tulum||Mediterranean 🥕||$$$||Elegant|
|Gitano||Mexican, contemporary 🥕||$$$||Elegant|
|El Camello Jr.||Authentic Mexican||$||Casual|
|RosaNegra||Latin American 🥕||$$$||Elegant|
|Safari Comedor Zama||Mexican 🥕||$$||Casual|
There are a few things that I wish I knew before traveling to Tulum (or really Mexico in general). Tulum is a beautiful travel destination full of history and culture; just keep these things in mind when planning your trip!
- Do not drink tap water! Only consume bottled water. Also, be mindful of restaurants serving iced drinks or agua fresca and be aware of where the water comes from. If tap water is used to make your drink, you could end up sick.
- Bring pesos. Some places you may visit will likely only accept cash, though hotels, beach clubs, and most restaurants should also accept credit cards. Having some pesos on you will also be convenient for tipping, although many service workers are happy to accept US dollars. To get the best exchange rate, visit your bank in the US to get pesos before leaving the country. Also, if you pay in pesos whenever possible rather than USD, you’ll spend less money due to the exchange rate.
- Be prepared to communicate with non-English speakers (and be kind!). Many of the people you will encounter in Tulum will speak little English or only Spanish. If you do not speak Spanish, it isn’t quite as easy to communicate with locals as in more popular tourist destinations such as Cancun. In my experience, most locals were incredibly kind (even if they weren’t quite sure what we were saying) and more than willing to communicate via Google Translate.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Like anywhere else, be cautious about where you are and what is happening around you. For the most part, I felt pretty safe during my stay in Tulum. There were definitely a few instances where it was good to be more cautious (mainly when driving- which is why I do not recommend renting a car), but overall, I felt safe in most places.
- Be aware of military and police presence. As I mentioned previously, the police can be very corrupt in Mexico, so it is good to always be cautious (especially when driving- again, I do not recommend doing this). I was also not expecting to see such a military presence in Tulum. I was very surprised the first time I saw a military vehicle full of armed soldiers driving down the road in town. It is worth noting that I didn’t witness anything happen (and after the initial surprise, I did not feel unsafe), but it is certainly something to be aware of.
- Utilize a grocery delivery service for water and snacks. If you are staying in a place that doesn’t provide bottled drinking water, I highly recommend having some delivered to your hotel so you’ll have plenty of water during your stay. Bringing a case of water bottles back to your hotel can be heavy and inconvenient, especially if you are relying on public transportation. I used Rappi, a grocery delivery service, to have plenty of water and even some snacks delivered to my Airbnb, and I highly recommend doing this (it’s super affordable too).
- Be aware that there are pharmacies on every corner. This isn’t necessarily specific to Tulum, but many other areas in Mexico as well, but there are pharmacies all over the place. These are not traditional American pharmacies either; they offer quite a variety of items that are not legal in the United States (among other countries). Be warned; if you purchase something, you will likely run into trouble at customs if you attempt to smuggle anything illegally back into the States.