Tulum on a Budget: A Guide to Tulum, Mexico

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So, you want to explore Tulum on a budget? Tulum, Mexico is one of those cities that has been flooding everyone’s Instagram and Pinterest feeds these past few years. When most people think of Tulum they envision beachfront private villas, sandy white beaches, and lavish restaurants. While it does absolutely have all of those things and more, this hip town in Riviera Maya also has hostels, public transportation, and 50 cent tacos!

When I booked my first spontaneous solo trip down to Tulum in 2018 the main questions that I got were, “Isn’t Tulum expensive?,” “How much did you spend?,” or even the more upfront statement of, “You must have spent a shit ton of money!”. Well let me just say it now, my trip to Tulum was not expensive by the average vacation standard. I’ve returned to Tulum twice more since then, in 2019 and most recently in 2021. While prices do continue to go up, it is absolutely still possible to visit Tulum on a budget. Keep reading to find out just how to explore Tulum on a budget!

Exploring Tulum on a budget, visiting mexico guide

How to Visit Tulum on a Budget

The great thing about Tulum is that it is not super expensive to get to from most parts of the US! You can often find direct flights from New York, Los Angeles, and Miami in the $200 range and flights from Washington D.C. and San Francisco in the $300 range. Please note that many of these flights are fly and return on weekdays as roundtrip weekend flights tend to be more expensive due to a higher demand.

Once you arrive at Cancun International Airport you will need to make the journey to Tulum. Luckily, it’s super easy to get to Tulum from Cancun Airport. As I was traveling in Tulum on a budget I chose to travel by ADO bus. A ticket to Tulum costs just $14 USD and takes approximately 2 hours. A private van or taxi service will be more expensive, however perhaps more convenient for those traveling in a group of two or more people.

Where to Stay in Tulum on a Budget

The first thing to understand about Tulum is that it is broken up into two main parts: Tulum Beach and Tulum Town. More recently there has been development in Aldea Zama as well, a third area to stay in Tulum. Staying in Tulum Beach usually means staying at a beachfront property. While this is obviously the ideal for many, these properties are significantly more expensive. For this reason, I have personally always stayed in Tulum Town, otherwise known as Tulum Pueblo.

In Tulum Beach the hotels are typically priced at $200+/night, but there are plenty that are easily $1000+/night. These rates seem to just be going up and up over the years. That said, it is still possible to snag a good deal during the off-season.

I have stayed in a number of places in Tulum Town that range from super budget to mid-range and more luxury. I will highlight these below, as well as a few of other budget-friendly Tulum hotels that come highly recommended by travel friends.

Amorcito Corazon Hotel y Hostel

I absolutely loved this hostel! The rooms were clean, the staff was super friendly, and the common areas were perfect. The property has both a downstairs common area and a rooftop with a small pool. While I did meet some awesome people while staying here, this is most definitely not a party hostel. It a great option for anyone visiting Tulum on a budget.

Dorm beds start at $16/night. There are private rooms available as well starting at $50/night. Breakfast is included in the price of the room or bed. Additionally, there are discounted bikes for rent on the property.

Find out more about Amorcito Corazon Hotel y Hostel.

Best hostels for visiting tulum on a budget

Mama’s Home Hostel

Mama’s Home hostel is a great option if you’re traveling to Tulum on a budget and are looking for a more social atmosphere. The night that I stayed here I was welcomed with an evening of free pina coladas! While this hostel is more social than Amorcito, it still enforces an 11pm quiet policy to ensure that those who need it can get a good night’s sleep! Rooms are basic but sufficient.

Dorm beds start at $16 per night and private rooms start around $65/night.

Mama's home hostel, Best hostels for tulum on a budget

Turquoise Petit

On my most recent trip to Tulum in 2021 I spent 5 nights at Turquoise Petit. I was working remote, so I wanted to make sure that I had a spot that was comfortable, quiet, and cute. For this reason, and for current safety reasons, I was looking for a place with a private room versus a dorm room for this trip.

I absolutely loved my time at Turquoise Petit. With rooms starting at $70 USD per night it is a great mid-range hotel option for visiting Tulum on a budget. There are two pools, complimentary breakfast, filtered water, and bike rentals, and the best jungle vibes. It is located in La Valeta, so you’ll be close to tons of restaurants and bars.

Find out more about booking a night at Turquoise Petit.

Not sure what to pack for your trip to Mexico? Fellow travel blogger, Lesley, shares her comprehensive packing list!

Getting around Tulum on a Budget

There are a few different options for getting around Tulum on a budget. These typically include biking, taking taxis, or riding on the local collectivo.

Exploring Tulum by Bike

Biking around Tulum is probably my favorite way to get around and a great option if you are visiting Tulum on a budget. Staying in the city center means biking 30-45 minutes to reach the beach resorts and restaurants in the hotel zone. There is a bike path along the main road (109) which allowed me to feel relatively safe while getting around. Once you hit the beach road the traffic is much slower.

Explore Tulum Beach by bike, getting around on a budget

Tulum by Taxi

Fortunately, taxis are also readily available if you aren’t looking to get a bit of extra cardio in! Taxis from the center to the beach road typically cost 300 MXN ($15 USD), depending on the exact destinations. If you are traveling in a couple or group then this may even be a cheaper option for your Tulum budget.

Tulum by Collectivo

These are the cheapest option for anyone traveling to Tulum on a budget. You can get from the city center to the beach for as cheap as 50 cents! These are also a good option for getting to some of the nearby cenotes. However, you will need to flag down a van on one of the designated routes. You can get more specific information at your accommodation. One thing to note is that if the van is full then you’ll have to wait until the next available, which could definitely add to your travel time!

Best things to do in Tulum on a Budget

Most likely you only have a few days in Tulum, in which case you’ll want to maximize seeing exactly what Tulum itself has to offer. If you have some more time then I recommend heading to some of the neighboring areas as well, such as Mahahual and Valladolid, where you’ll find my favorite cenote, Cenote Oxman.

Visit Gran Cenote

I chose to visit Gran Cenote while in Tulum because it is the most famous of the cenotes in the area (aka the one that I was seeing all over Instagram). If I had more time I would have liked to spend some time exploring some of the other cenotes such as Dos Ojos and Carwash.

Cost of Entry Ticket: $15 USD

Exploring tulum - a visit to the grand cenote

Explore the Tulum Mayan Ruins

So I am going to just go ahead and say it, I was not all that impressed by the Mayan ruins in Tulum! Perhaps if I had gone right when they opened I would have found the experience more enjoyable. However, after a hot bike ride over I was rewarded with what felt like a Disney World experience.. in a bad way. The ruins were filled with hundreds of tourists, especially families with young kids. Overall, I’m glad that I went but I don’t feel that it is a must-see while in town! If you have more time then I’d recommend heading to Coba. A trip to Coba will allow you to visit Cenote Choo and the nearby Azulik Uh May exhibit, which is one of best Instagram spots in Tulum.

Take a Yoga Class

While the yoga classes in Tulum aren’t the most budget friendly, my yoga class was definitely a highlight of my trip. Class prices typically start at $10, depending on the studio. I took an 8am morning group class at the Azulik Resort and loved it! The studio was by far one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever practiced in.

Morning yoga class at Azulik in Tulum, Mexico

Enjoy the Beaches

While in Tulum you have a few different beach options. There are both public and private beaches, however you’ll figure out quickly that the private beaches are better maintained from the “seaweed issue”.

If you are looking for a no-frills public beach then I recommend checking out the beach just to the right of Azulik. Here you’ll be able to layout your towel and enjoy a beautiful sandy beach.

Another option is to enjoy one of the private beaches. Every hotel is going to be different. Some will allow you to use their facilities after making any sort of purchase (drink, meal, etc), while others have a minimum. For example, the facilities at Habitas are available to non-guests who spend a minimum of $50 each at the restaurant or bar. In this case, the facilities include a beachfront pool, hammocks, and a gorgeous private beach.

I found the policies to differ a bit from day to day. For example, one day we were allowed to spend the afternoon on the day beds after purchasing a meal at one restaurant, whereas the next day they claimed the beds to be for hotel guests only. Maybe you just need to look like you belong, haha!

Spending time on the beaches in Tulum, Mexico

Dining in Tulum on a Budget

The food in Tulum was an absolute highlight for me! I feel like the majority of my time (and money) is spent moving from one restaurant to the next! For the most part I found that the food in Tulum city center was budget-friendly, whereas the food on Tulum Beach was moderately priced to very expensive. I recently completed a guide to 28 restaurants in Tulum, where you’ll find tons of budget-friendly options.

Antojitos la Chiapaneca

Looking for a no-frills taco spot? Antojitos la Chiapaneca is your spot! This restaurant offers a variety of tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and empanadas! The tacos are less than 50 cents a piece so it’s hard to run up too high of a tab here! Conveniently located just two blocks from Amorcito Hotel y Hostel on the main trip. I’ve eaten at this spot at least 10 times over the years.

Dining in Tulum on a budget, tacos at antojito la chiapaneca

El Asadero

Located in Tulum city center, this restaurant is known for its excellent steaks! I, however, went to El Asadero for the tacos! This cozy restaurant had all the elements of an upscale eatery, without the high prices. With a selection of $1 tacos and $2 quesadillas I was very content! This is an excellent option for dining in Tulum on a budget!

Macondo (Nomade)

Okay, so this restaurant isn’t exactly budget friendly but it was my absolute favorite! Dishes here are typically in the $10-15 range, so coming from New York you shouldn’t be too overwhelmed. The decor at Macondo, Nomade’s vegetarian restaurant, is just amazing! Not to mention, it is a great place to shoot some photos!

Lunch at Macondo at Nomade resort in Tulum, Mexico

“Best Tacos in Tulum” Stand $

Now I didn’t give this place it’s name, but when I saw it come up on Google Maps, I knew that I had to try. I was staying just two blocks down the road at Petit Turquoise hotel, so it was an easy dinner choice. I got the impression that it is just about always busy. Even on a Monday night there was a constant flow of customers.

The owner of the stand was super friendly and served up two large tacos, some grilled veggies on the plate, and a fresh watermelon juice for 60 MXN ($3 USD). The tacos themselves are flavorful, but they’ve also got an array of sauces from mild to spicy to add on top. There are a few tables, but many people take it to go. I don’t usually eat a ton of chicken in Tulum, as it is a less popular meat. However, with the popularity of this spot it felt like a safe choice.

If you’re visiting Mexico, here are some other posts that might be helpful:

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22 Comments

  1. April 18, 2018 / 10:37 pm

    I definitely did think of Tulum as more of a luxury travel destination, so it’s great to know it can be done on a budget. I would probably opt for the hostel’s private rooms, as I find that’s the perfect combo of privacy, socializing and saving money!

  2. Sophie
    April 19, 2018 / 12:09 am

    I’ve been dying to hit Tulum, and I go to Mexico often, but because I normally visit family and stay away from tourist destinations I’ve never had the chance to go. The ruins are the highlight for me though, so I’ll probably just show up at the butt crack of dawn to avoid crowds. Thanks for all the recommendations though, they are going into my planning board!

  3. April 19, 2018 / 12:26 am

    Wow, Tulum is definitely affordable. I love that the yoga class was one of the most expensive things on the trip! I’ll definitely be referring back to this post for my future Tulum travel plans.

  4. April 19, 2018 / 12:37 am

    This post is so helpful! Thank you. I thought about going to Tulum next year, so this is just the perfect post for me ☺️

  5. April 19, 2018 / 4:50 am

    Your photos are amazing!! And Azulik Studio looks like my kind of vibe, Tulum looks so nice! I can’t believe how expensive it is to fly to Mexico (from where I am, it’s very, very expensive). Definitely keeping an eye out for cheaper flights in the future!

  6. April 19, 2018 / 8:11 am

    Your photos are gorgeous! Thank you for this guide, it’s been very helpful and it’s great to know Tulum can be done on a budget ☺️

  7. April 19, 2018 / 3:24 pm

    I am all about traveling on a budget and Tulum looks amazing, love your pictures~= Especially the one in your suit..so lovely!

    Valerie

  8. April 19, 2018 / 4:02 pm

    Oh wow these photos are just beautiful. Do you use a filter? The patterns and colours make me happy 🙂 Ive pinned this so i can refer to it when I eventually get to Mexico! One day….

  9. Angela
    April 20, 2018 / 2:35 am

    Your pictures are so beautiful. Tulum was really instagrammable! I hope I could go there. Your post was incredibly great complete info! thanks for sharing!

  10. Carly Heyward
    April 20, 2018 / 1:15 pm

    I feel like I’ve never heard of Tulum until like a year ago, and I hear so many people talking about it! Is it the new Bali? It certainly looks like a lot of fun, and the food looks incredible. Thanks for posting prices! I think I’ll try and make it down!

  11. yara
    June 4, 2018 / 7:43 am

    GIRL I NEED YOUR TROUSERS !!!!
    WHERE ARE THEY FROM??

    LOVELY POST!!
    I CANT WAIT TO BE THERE IN SEPTEMBER

    @yara.patricio

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      June 4, 2018 / 4:18 pm

      Thanks love! They are from Zara and so so comfy!

  12. Angela
    July 11, 2018 / 4:29 pm

    Thank you so much! I am traveling to Tulum with a friend next month and this was insanely helpful! How did you get to the Gran Cenote? Did you take a taxi or collectivo? Thinking it’s too far by bicycle!

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      July 12, 2018 / 4:01 pm

      I actually did bike from the center to the Gran Cenote. It wasn’t too long of a drive, however I wasn’t the most pleasant ride on the side of the road. A taxi shouldn’t be too expensive at all! Not sure about the collectivo situation on that road but I’m sure any hostel/hotel attendant could point you in the right direction! Enjoy!

      • Angela
        July 16, 2018 / 12:48 pm

        Thank you so much for getting back to me! This is really helpful! A couple more questions if that’s okay – did you take ADO bus service for transportation? Also, I’m really excited to also go to Azulik for yoga! However, I couldn’t find a schedule on their website and e-mailed them but have yet to hear. How were you able to figure out class times? I can’t thank you enough!

        • tavernatravels
          Author
          July 17, 2018 / 2:42 pm

          Yes, I took ADO and it was super easy and cheap. I definitely recommend. As for the yoga class, my friend somehow found out the schedule but from what I understand it runs daily at 8am. We just showed up 15 mins before, no need to reserve! You could also check out the 9am class at Sandra hotel and eat at the Real Coconut afterwards!

          • angela
            July 17, 2018 / 3:47 pm

            you’re the best!!!!! thank you thank you!

          • tavernatravels
            Author
            July 19, 2018 / 1:14 pm

            Enjoy!!!

  13. April 6, 2020 / 3:02 pm

    Wow, I live in Mexico and have been to Tulum so many times but didn’t realize classes at Azulik were that affordable! That’s definitely going to be on the top of my list next time I go 🙂

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      April 11, 2020 / 10:54 am

      Omg yes definitely go! It’s such a great class!

  14. Cole
    December 2, 2020 / 10:23 am

    I think I might make this trip over Christmas. It appears that it’s open for business and that the city is following guidelines.

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      December 6, 2020 / 3:48 pm

      So exciting!

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