Tip: Stay and dine in the city center for cheaper price

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Tulum on a budget? Let’s do it!

Tulum is a popular city in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. What was once a sleepy, bohemian town is now one of Mexico’s most popular and most expensive destinations. Tulum, Mexico is one of those cities that has been flooding everyone’s Instagram and Pinterest feeds these past few years.

And while the city has undeniably gotten way more expensive over the years, there are still ways to visit on a budget. 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!

Keep reading to find out just how to explore Tulum on a budget! But first, if you’re limited on time I’ve pulled a few of the top-rated tours in the area.

Top-5 popular tours in Tulum

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. To find the cheapest flight options from your city, you can use this search form below:

At the moment Cancun International Airport is still the closest airport to Tulum (1.5-2 hours by car), but this will change soon with new flights going into Tulum’s brand new airport.

Luckily, it’s super easy to get to Tulum from Cancun Airport. The easiest and fastest is definitely by car, but if you’re traveling to Tulum on a budget you can join a group shuttle with Daytrip for as little at $18 USD.

Regardless of the transportation you chose, plan to budget at least $20-40 USD per person each way.

Prepare for your trip to Tulum

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: the beach and not the beach. Tulum Beach, or the Hotel Zone, is by far the most expensive place to stay. It is difficult to find any lodging under $250 per night, with plenty of hotels that are easily $1000+/night. That said, it is still possible to snag a good deal during the off-season.

In recent years there has been a lot of development and construction, especially in the town center, Aldea Zama, and La Valeta. 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 stay in the town, either in the center or in La Valeta.

Pool at Turquoise Hotel
Pool at Turquoise Hotel
Hotel breakfast vibes
Hotel breakfast vibes

I have stayed in a number of places in Tulum 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.

Photo credit: Hostelworld

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 other places I’ve stayed in Tulum, 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.

Check rates and availability

Photo credit: Booking.com

Una Vida

Una Vida is a more luxury accommodation option in Tulum town that still offers great rates. Located in the town center, Una Vida has a large, very Instagrammable pool, minimalist decor, and a great location for exploring the city.

Prices start around $200 USD/night.

Check rates and availability

Turquoise Tulum Hotel

I spent 5 nights at Turquoise Tulum Hotel in 2021 and loved it. I was working remote, so I wanted to make sure that I had a spot that was comfortable, quiet, and cute. It is located in La Valeta, so you’ll be close to tons of restaurants and bars.The hotel has since expanded but reviews are still good!

Check rates and availability

Photo credit: Booking.com

Era Hotel & Spa Tulum

Luxury on a budget, with rooms often below $100 USD. Located in the heart of La Valeta neighborhood. A 4-star hotel with a restaurant on site.

Check rates and availability

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 20-45 minutes to reach the beach resorts and restaurants in the hotel zone, depending on where you’re staying and your final destination.

Follow that Dream sign in Tulum, Mexico
Follow that Dream sign in Tulum, Mexico
girl on a bike in Tulum
Biking is the best way to get around Tulum 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! The short answer, however, is that taxis in Tulum are expensive. On my first visit to Tulum a taxi between the beach and the town was around $5 USD. During COVID times that shot up to around $15 USD. Now you can expect to pay $50+ USD for the short ride.

My biggest advice is to find a single taxi driver that you trust for all of your rides, to ensure both safety and a fair price. I met my taxi driver Juan back in 2019 and have used him as a driver for every trip since. His WhatsApp contact is: +52 984 137 7794.

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 super cheap. 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.

Explore lesser-known cenotes

There are so many cenotes in and near to Tulum to visit. They are typically a super budget-friendly and fun thing to do.

The most famous cenotes in Tulum include Gran Cenote and Calavera. I originally 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). It is absolutely beautiful but the ticket price is a bit steep at $25 USD.

As an alternative, you can visit lesser known cenotes like Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal. We spent the morning at Cenote Escondido as a group when I visited Tulum in 2024 for my bachelorette weekend.

Cenote Escondido wasn’t crowded at all, there is a fun rope swing, and the entrance fee is only around $8.50 USD, which is a fraction of the cost of the Gran Cenote entrance fee.

Gran Cenote
Gran Cenote
Cenote Escondido
Cenote Escondido

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 are usually around $15+, depending on the studio.

Here are some of the beautiful studios in Tulum for yoga:

Enjoy the Free Beaches (or Beach Clubs)

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”, and the public beaches are becoming few and far between.

My best advice is to find a restaurant on the beach that doesn’t have a minimum. Some of these restaurants will allow you to use their facilities after making any sort of purchase (drink, meal, etc), while others have a minimum.

  • Posada Margherita: laid out here as recent at 2024 with no minimum. Ordered a few beers and were able to use the beach chairs for a couple of hours.
  • Ziggys: $70 minimum per person, but all of this goes towards food and drinks (which are delicious)
  • Habitas: When I visited a few years back I had a required minimum spend of $50 (per person) 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.

Cocktails from Ziggy's beach club
Cocktails from Ziggy’s beach club
Beachfront ceviche from Ziggy's
Beachfront ceviche from Ziggy’s

Explore the local ruins

There a number of famous ruins that can be visited as a day trip from Tulum, such as Chichen Itza or Coba ruins. While these are both definitely still possible, a cheaper and more budget-friendly spot to visit is Tulum’s very own ruins.

The ruins are located right on the beach in Tulum, and cost only around $6 USD to visit. You even have the option of visiting by bike (which is what I did) to cut down on any transportation costs.

I would avoid visiting during the middle of the day, as the sun can be very strong with little to no shade.

tulum ruins
Tulum ruins (one of the best things to do in Tulum on a budget)

Visit Kaan Luum Lagoon

Just a few minutes down the road from town is Kaan Luum Lagoon. This is a great beach alternative if you’re looking to swim and lay out. It can get pretty busy on the weekends, but the week days tend to be relatively empty.

The fee to enter Kaan Luum Lagoon is 300 pesos ($17.50) for foreigners. While it’s not the cheapest entrance fee, it’s still a more affordable option than a beach club with minimums.

Dock at Kaan Luum
Dock at Kaan Luum
Fun interactive sculptures at Kaan Luum
Fun interactive sculptures at Kaan Luum

You may also like…

15 Things to do in Tulum

Dining in Tulum on a Budget

The food in Tulum is an absolute highlight for me! I feel like the majority of my time (and money) is spent moving from one restaurant to the next, enjoying all of that delicious Mexican cuisine!

For the most part I have found that the food in Tulum city center is way more budget-friendly than any restaurants on the beach. There used to be a handful of affordable dining options on the beach, but those are few and far between at this point.

Here are my favorite restaurants and bars in Tulum on a budget:

  • Antojitos la Chiapaneca – forever my favorite, this no-frills local restaurant offers cheap, delicious tacos, quesadillas, and tortas. Located along the main road in Tulum Center.
  • El Sabor de Las Cazuelas – a small roadside taco stand. Make sure to get the pastor!
  • Burrito Amor – this place is actually known for their burritos, and it is a bit fancier than the other options on the list, but the food is affordable and delicious!
  • Corner Stand – a few shops in from the corner of Avenida Satellite and the main road, right next to the Money Exchange, you’ll find a stand serving Cuban specials. Everything on the menu is cheap, delicious, and filling! 
  • Los Aguachiles – local ceviche and aguachiles, located right between the Centro and La Valeta neighborhoods.
  • La Pizzine – a great restaurant for a fun, but still casual, night out in Tulum. Pizzas are delicious and start at $6 USD for a cheese pizza pie.
Antojitos la Chiapaneca
Antojitos la Chiapaneca
Los Aguachiles
Los Aguachiles

TRAVEL TIPS

🏘️Book your accommodation

Booking.com will help you to book accommodation in advance and check availability

✈️Book your flight in advance

To find the cheapest flight options, you can use WayAway and find the most suitable option for you

🧾Get your tickets and tours

with Viator and GetYourGuide to get the most out of your journey

Here are some other articles to help you plan your trip to Tulum:

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