15 Best Things to do in Tulum, Mexico
April 24, 2021
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Not going to lie, when I sat down to write this guide the only thing that came to mind was eating. I swear I have spent 90% of all of my trips to Tulum eating and drinking, and I’m not mad about it. But can you really blame me? That said, there are actually so many amazing things to do in Tulum, Mexico.
What was once a sleepy backpacker town, has quickly changed to a busy city with it’s rise in popularity. Tulum is now a trendy hotspot for American tourists, but it still holds on to much of its original charm. With the rise in tourism, there are now so many things to do in Tulum, from swimming in crystal blue cenotes and visiting Mayan Ruins, to dining on everything from street tacos to five star meals on the beach.
How to Get to Tulum from Cancun
The closest airport is the Cancun International Airport, which is located approximately an hour and a half away. You have a number of options to get to Tulum from Cancun Airport, including by bus, private car service, or taxi. The easiest and fastest is definitely by car, but the ADO bus is a super easy option if you’re traveling to Tulum on a budget. A one-way ticket from the airport on the ADO bus costs just $14 USD (288 MXN pesos) and takes about two hours. I have put together a full guide on how to get to Tulum from Cancun airport.
You’ll find direct flights to Cancun from cities all over the US, as well as from Central America. I found that it is super easy to find affordable direct flights from New York, Miami, Chicago and more, on airlines such as JetBlue, Delta, and United. Direct flights from NYC to Cancun are just under four hours, while flights from Miami are under two hours.
How to Get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
Getting around the Yucatan Peninsula is quite easy, and can be super cheap if you plan to travel by the local buses. There are also colectivos for the more adventurous type, that are even cheaper! There are direct buses from Playa del Carmen to Tulum on ADO bus that take about an hour and cost anywhere from $3-6 USD. There are easy, comfortable, and drop you off right in the center of town. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, you can hop on a colectivo between the two cities for as little as $2 USD. Colectivos are shared minivans that are an extremely common mode of transportation for locals. And then of course, there are always private taxis and transfers.
Tips for Visiting Tulum, Mexico
- Currency: Mexican Pesos, cash is preferred at most places
- Official Language: Spanish, many people will speak English as well
- Visit during the low or shoulder seasons for cheaper prices on hotels and activities
- Do not drink the tap water in Tulum or anywhere else in Mexico. Ice is fine in most restaurants.
- Stay in the town if you’re visiting Tulum on a budget
What to Pack for Tulum
Packing for your trip is relatively easy, as you’ll be probably spending a good amount of time on the beach and in the water (hello cenote adventures). However you’ll also want to bring some nicer outfits, as Tulum has quite the dinner and bar scene that I’m sure you’ll want to partake in. Here are a few items you shouldn’t forget:
- Bikinis and cover ups for lots of time on the beach and at cenotes
- Travel beach towel or sarong
- Sunscreen (I love the BioClarity vegan sunscreen)
- Bug spray for the relentless mosquitos
- Hat for protection from the sun
- Casual shorts
- Maxi dresses or skirts for evenings out in Tulum
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of good walking shoes for visiting the ruins and walking around town
- 1 pair of nicer sandals
- Passport for non-Mexican citizens
- Light jacket for the evenings if you’re visiting during winter
- Camera (bring along an underwater camera or GoPro for the cenotes)
Is Tulum Budget Friendly?
One thing that I hear from so many travelers is how expensive Tulum is, and more specifically how expensive it has become. And they’re not wrong. Within just a year I saw taxi prices from the town to the beach go from $5 USD to $15, the beach clubs all implemented pricey minimums, and the beachfront hotel prices sky rocket. But, despite everything that I just said, I still think that Tulum is a budget-friendly destination if done right.
So what does doing it right entail? Luckily there are so many things to do in Tulum on a budget. You can eat a plate full for tacos for a couple of dollars, bike to nearby cenotes, and enjoy the best beachfront happy hour deals. The first thing that I would recommend if you’re visiting Tulum on a budget would be to stay in Tulum town, instead of on the beach. You can get a whole lot more bang for your buck in the town, plus you’ll be closer to many activities and budget dining options. Now that is not to say that staying on the beach isn’t a magical experience in itself, it will just be more expensive
15 Best Things to do in Tulum, Mexico
Explore the Cenotes
The cenotes of Mexico had to be my very first item on this list because a visit to any cenote is seriously one of the best things to do in Tulum, Mexico. Just in the Yucatan Peninsula you can find an estimated 6,000 cenotes. So no, I don’t expect you to visit them all, but there are a few that you don’t want to miss. I recommend adding at least two of the cenotes below to your Tulum itinerary:
- Gran Cenote
- Cenote Choo Ha
- Cenote Azul (a good option if you’re heading to Playa del Carmen as well)
- Cenote Oxman
- Cenote Calavera
These crystal clear cenotes are known for snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming.
Visit the Coba Mayan Ruins
Visiting the Coba Mayan Ruins from Tulum is one of my favorite day trips, and one of the most popular things to do when visiting Tulum, Mexico. Coba can be reached from Tulum in just under an hour. While there are plenty of tours that will take you, I definitely recommend hiring a driver for the day or renting a car if you feel comfortable driving. This will give you more flexibility to arrive early and beat the crowds. Plus, you’ll be able to pop over for a swim at some of my favorite cenotes, like cenote Choo Ha, afterwards.
Cost: 75 pesos
Hours: 8:00AM-5:00PM daily
Take a Cooking Class
If it wasn’t already obvious, eating is a huge priority for me when traveling, especially in Tulum! Another way to enjoy the incredible cuisine is by cooking it yourself. I highly recommend booking an evening at Lily’s Home, an experience that I found on AirBnb. Classes are a bit pricey at $80 USD/person, but they are absolutely worth every penny. The food that you’ll cook during this class is seriously so good. And who knew that making homemade tortillas could be so easy! Plus, there is some mezcal and grasshoppers thrown into the mix to spice things up.
Eat at Every Restaurant
So this is an impossible bucket list item, but really do eat at as many amazing restaurants as you can. I have visited Tulum four times at this point, but on my most recent four day trip I made a list of 35 restaurants that I wanted to eat at. This was particularly ambitious because breakfast was included at my hotel (Turquoise Petit hotel). Nevertheless, I managed to make it to 25 different spots on my list of restaurants in Tulum, and I feel pretty good about that.
What I love about dining in Tulum, and why I consider it one of the best things to do in Tulum, is because there is much a massive variety. You can eat the most delicious tacos from a street cart for next to nothing, or a fancy latte and smoothie bowl from a cafe. You can even find upscale restaurants with next-level food presentation.
Visit the famous Tulum Instagram Spots
Tulum, Mexico is quite literally an Instagram influencer and travel blogger’s dream. I swear every inch of this beach town is photo-worthy. And I have thousands of photos to show for it. Here are just a few photo spots to add to your list of things to do in Tulum:
- Escultura Ven a la Luz
- Matcha Mama
- Follow That Dream Sign
- Azulik (and the Azulik Uh May exhibit)
- Gran Cenote (or really any cenote for that matter)
But honestly these are just a start. I encourage you to explore and find your own unique spots to photograph. Note, many hotels and beach clubs have strict camera policies.
Enjoy Beachfront Cocktails
Whether you’re staying in Tulum town or Tulum Beach, beachfront cocktails are absolutely a must. Cocktails on the beach can be pricey, with prices comparable with that of a New York City bar at $15-20 USD per drink. One way to drink on a budget is to take advantage of week day specials and happy hours. For example, the Mulberry Project does 2 for 1 cocktails all day on Tuesdays.
Visit the Tulum Ruins
If you’ve already read some of my other blog posts on Tulum, then you might know that I don’t love the Tulum Ruins. However, I think my experience was tainted by the crowds and heat on the day that I visited. I would recommend visiting in the early morning or late afternoon/evening instead for a better experience.
The beach in front of the ruins is also one of the best, especially if you’re not staying at a beachfront property already.
Discover the Holistika Art Walk
Most of the trendy zen spots are located in on the more jungle-y beach side, but Holistika in Tulum Pueblo is an exception to that. From soundbaths and yoga classes to a cafe with matcha lattes and vegan dishes, Holistika is your trendy zen escape in town. Wander through the property to discover their awesome art walk of jungle artwork and sculptures.
Go for a Bike Ride
Biking is my absolute favorite way to get around the city. Walking is possible, but streets often lack proper sidewalks unless you’re in the middle of town. Of course, nothing beats a beach walk with your toes in the sand. Taxis are also readily available but they can be pricey due to the traffic in the city. If you’re adventuring locally, biking is the best (and most fun option) for getting around efficiently. Plus, it makes a great photo prop!
Spend the Day at a Beach Club
Many beach clubs do require a minimum spend, so I recommend allocating a day to chill and enjoy the beachfront food and drinks. There are a wide range of options to loud DJs and dancing, to much chiller vibes. I won’t even pretend to be the expert on the best beach clubs, so I’ll let you do some separate research here!
Tip: Visit during the week for cheaper (or waived) minimums. And if you’re just looking to snap some photos, come in the early morning!
Take a Day Trip to Valladolid
Valladolid has been on my must-visit list for years, and I finally made it there on my most recent trip to Mexico. I was determined to visit Cenote Oxman (one of the best things to do in Tulum) and combined this with lunch in this colorful town. Valladolid is about 1.5 hours away by car, but absolutely worth the visit. If you have the time, I’d recommend spending a night or two. You can check out my full Cenote Oxman guide here with travel details.
Some people also combine this with a trip to Chichen Itza as well, since they are in the same direction.
Take a Yoga Class
One of my favorite things to do in Tulum is to take a yoga class. From jungle vibes to beachfront studios, there are plenty of options. Sanara has an awesome beachfront option, but my favorite is definitely the dome studio at Azulik pictured below. Classes typically cost between $15-20 USD, similar to what you’d expect to pay in the US for a class.
Enjoy a Fancy Meal
As much as I love my street tacos, Tulum also have some amazing upscale dining experiences. These meals come with a hefty price tag, but they are well worth it! Here are a few of the popular spots:
Where to Stay in Tulum
The first thing to note is that accomodation in the town versus on the beach are going to be much more affordable. I personally always stay in the town, but of course the beach area is a great option as well if you’re willing to splurge!
Budget: Amorcito Corazon Hotel y Hostel
Located in Tulum town, Amorcito is a great option for travelers on a budget, especially solo travelers. There is a downstairs common area and a rooftop with a small pool. Dorm beds start at $16 USD/night, while private rooms start at $50 USD/night. Breakfast is included in the price of the room.
Budget: Mama’s Home Hostel
Mama’s Home hostel is another great option if you’re traveling solo and looking for a more social atmosphere. Dorm beds start at $16 per night and private rooms start around $65/night. Great for solo traveler dorm beds, but I would recommend one of the mid-range options or an airbnb if you’re looking for a private room.
Mid-Range: Turquoise Petit
I recently spent 5 nights at Turquoise Petit and couldn’t recommend it more! Seriously, I have zero complaints about this adorable hotel. At about $75 per night, it is a great mid-range option in La Valeta in Tulum Town. The rooms are small but cute, there are two pools, the best jungle vibes, and free breakfast. They also have free filtered water, complimentary bikes, and great security. Plus the staff is super sweet!
Mid-Range: Una Vida
Una Vida is a great, moderately priced accommodation option in Tulum. Located in Tulum center, Una Vida has a large, Instagrammable pool, minimilist decor, and a great location for exploring the city. Prices start around $90 USD/night, but can get pricier during the busier season.
Luxury: Be Tulum
Be Tulum is one of the top hotels in Tulum, but with it comes a steep price tag. A night at Be Tulum averages close to $1,000 USD/night, for what will definitely be an unforgettable experience.
Everything about Nomade is perfect, from the decor to their various restaurants. Not to mention, your room will be only steps from the beach! Rooms typically range from between $300 USD – $700 USD per night. One of my favorite restaurants, Macondo, is located at Nomade. I recommend visiting whether you stay here or not.
Getting Around Tulum
Getting Around Tulum By Bike
My favorite way to get around Tulum is by bike. Over the years there has been more and more traffic, so biking can often be the fastest way to get from place to place. If you’re staying in Tulum Town or Aldea Zama, I recommend biking to Tulum Beach when possible to avoid pricey taxis.
Many hotels, including Turquoise Petit, where I stayed on my most recent trip, include complimentary bikes. Otherwise, there are plenty of spots around town where you can rent a bike for a few bucks a day.
Tulum by Taxi
Taxis are readily available throughout Tulum at any time. It is important to always agree on a price before your ride. While some drivers may accept US dollars, I recommend always paying in Mexican pesos. You can expect to pay 300 pesos ($15 USD) to get between Tulum Town and Tulum Beach.
Walking Around Tulum
Depending on where you are staying, walking is a great way to get around Tulum, at least for the area that you’re staying in. What I mean by this is that if you’re staying in Tulum town, you can easily reach tons of restaurants and bars on foot. However, if you are trying to reach the cenotes you’ll want to find a faster method of transportation.
Taking Colectivos in Tulum
Colectivos are shared vans that drive back and forth along specific routes. They are by far the cheapest way to get around the city or the neighboring cities.You typically pay between 20-40 pesos ($1-2 USD) per person.
Traveling to Tulum, Mexico? Here are some other articles to check out:
- Tulum Itinerary
- Tulum on a Budget
- Breakfast in Tulum
- Restaurants in Tulum: Comprehensive Guide
- Tulum Solo Travel Guide
- Best Tulum Instagram Spots