A picturesque view of the ancient Tulum ruins in Mexico, located by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The ruins are surrounded by lush greenery and white sand beaches under a partly cloudy sky.

Is Tulum Worth the Hype? The Ultimate Travel Guide For 2024

You’ve heard the buzz, seen the Instagram posts – but is Tulum really all it’s cracked up to be?

The answer is a resounding YES, but with a caveat: Tulum offers a unique blend of experiences, and to make the most of it, you need to know how to unlock its magic.

This Tulum travel guide is your key to crafting an unforgettable adventure, whether you’re a foodie, history lover, or simply seeking sun-soaked bliss.

A couple stands in front of the "Ven a la Luz" sculpture in Tulum, Mexico, an intricate wooden structure depicting a large figure with open arms, set in a lush, green area with a stone wall in the background.
A beautiful moment captured at the iconic “Ven a la Luz” sculpture in Tulum, Mexico. This stunning artwork is a popular attraction, symbolizing a connection with nature and an invitation to explore the beauty within.

Where in the World is Tulum?

Nestled along the sun-drenched Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Tulum beckons with a captivating blend of ancient history and natural beauty.

Just 81 miles (130 km) south of the bustling tourist hub of Cancun, Tulum offers a more laid-back, bohemian vibe.

The name “Tulum” means “wall” in Mayan, referring to the ancient city’s defensive walls.

Why does everyone go to Tulum?

Tulum’s multifaceted appeal caters to various interests, from history buffs and nature enthusiasts to those seeking wellness retreats and luxury experiences.

What is the best month to visit Tulum?

The best time to visit Tulum is during the dry season, from November to April, when the weather is pleasant and there is less rainfall.

It’s best to avoid visiting Tulum during the hurricane season, which typically runs from June to November.

Additionally, peak season (December to February) can be crowded and more expensive.

Why is Tulum so trendy?

Tulum’s popularity has surged due to its captivating scenery, Instagram-worthy spots, focus on sustainability, and its appeal to a diverse range of travelers.

Is Tulum known for partying?

While Tulum offers a more relaxed atmosphere than Cancun, it has a growing nightlife scene, with beach clubs and bars hosting parties and events.

What is the famous street in Tulum?

Tulum’s beach road, lined with hotels, restaurants, and shops, is a central hub for visitors.

Another popular area for shopping is Avenida Tulum, the main street in the downtown.

What famous mansion is in Tulum?

Casa Malca, a former mansion owned by Pablo Escobar, has been transformed into a luxury hotel and is a popular landmark in Tulum.

Aeropuerto Internacional Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Tulum, Mexico with a clear blue sky in the background.
The entrance of Aeropuerto Internacional Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Tulum, Mexico, showcasing its modern architecture and solar-paneled roof. Image credit: Viator

Your Path to Paradise: Getting to Tulum

In December 2023, Tulum welcomed its very own international airport, making your journey to paradise even easier.

Located just 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Tulum’s heart, the airport offers various transportation options:

  • Private Transfer: The most convenient choice, ensuring a seamless door-to-door experience. Expect to pay around $100.
  • Taxi: Readily available outside the terminal, but be sure to negotiate the fare in pesos before hopping in.
  • ADO Bus: The budget-friendly option, taking you to Tulum Centro (downtown) for around $11. From there, a quick taxi ride will get you to your hotel.
  • Rental Car: If you crave the freedom to explore at your own pace, consider renting a car. Just remember, parking at the beach can be tricky.

Note: You can buy ADO bus tickets at the airport terminal or through the ADO app (Google Play and App Store). The bus stop is located outside the airport terminal.

A busy highway in Quintana Roo, Mexico with a sign indicating directions to Cancun. Various vehicles, including a red pickup truck, are traveling in both directions.
Traffic moves along a highway in Quintana Roo, Mexico, with a sign pointing towards Cancun.

While Tulum now has its own airport, Cancun International still offers a wider range of direct flight options from the United States and other locations.

Here’s how to make the 73-mile (118 km) journey to Tulum:

  • ADO Bus: The most popular choice for its comfort and affordability, with tickets costing around $13.50 USD.
  • Private Transfer: Splurge on a private ride for a faster, more luxurious experience.
  • Rental Car: Hit the open road and explore the Yucatan Peninsula at your leisure.

Note: ADO buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, and have space for luggage. The journey takes about 2 hours.

The ADO bus runs frequently but check the schedule on ADO website or app as service may not be 24/7.

If you’re starting in Playa del Carmen, the journey to Tulum is a breeze:

  • Colectivo: These shared minibuses are the most budget-friendly option, costing around 45-100 pesos (roughly $2-5 USD) for the 1-1.5 hour journey.
  • ADO Bus: A slightly pricier but more comfortable alternative.
  • Private Taxi: Offers the ultimate convenience, but at a higher cost.
  • Rental Car: Ideal for those who want to explore beyond Tulum’s borders.
Highway toll booth on the Mérida-Cancún route in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, with traffic cones directing vehicles and a blue sky with scattered clouds overhead.
Approaching the toll booth on the Mérida-Cancún highway in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, under a beautiful blue sky.

Once you’ve arrived in Tulum, navigating the town and its surroundings is easy and enjoyable with these options:

  • Taxi: Plentiful and comfortable, but can be pricey.
  • Bike: A popular and eco-friendly way to explore, with rentals readily available.
  • Colectivo: Cheap and authentic, favored by locals for getting around town and to nearby beaches.
  • On Foot: Perfect for shorter distances within Tulum Pueblo and the beach road.
  • Car: Essential for venturing beyond Tulum to explore cenotes, ruins, and other attractions.
Two people sitting on the edge of Cenote Car Wash in Tulum, Mexico, with clear turquoise water and surrounding trees with green leaves.
Relaxing at Cenote Car Wash in Tulum, Mexico. The serene turquoise waters and lush greenery make it a perfect spot for a peaceful dip.

Unveiling Tulum’s Treasures: What to Do

Tulum is a treasure trove of experiences, where ancient history meets natural wonders and vibrant culture. Here’s how to make the most of your time:

  1. Journey Through Time at Mayan Ruins:
    • Tulum Ruins: Perched dramatically on seaside cliffs, this ancient walled city offers a glimpse into Mayan life with well-preserved temples and the iconic El Castillo pyramid.
    • Coba Ruins: Embark on a jungle adventure to climb the towering Nohoch Mul pyramid for breathtaking views.
  2. Dive into Mystical Cenotes:
    • Discover Tulum’s hidden underwater gems – crystal-clear natural pools perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and even diving.
    • Explore popular options like Gran Cenote, Laguna de Kaan Luum, Cenotes Sac Actún, Dos Ojos, Casa Cenote, Cenote Zacil-Ha, and Cenote Tankach-Ha. Each offers a unique underwater experience.
  3. Bask on Tulum’s Beaches:
    • Sink your toes into the powdery white sand of Playa Paraiso, Playa Delfines, and other stunning beaches along the Boca Paila road.
    • Snorkel alongside sea turtles in the tranquil waters of Akumal Bay.
    • Unwind in style at a beach club like Papaya Playa Project.
  4. Experience Nature’s Wonders at Sian Ka’an:
  5. Wander Tulum Town:
    • As the sun sets, Tulum Pueblo comes alive with shopping, dining, and nightlife.
    • Discover unique art installations like Escultura Ven a la Luz and immerse yourself in the interactive exhibits at Mystika Immersive.
  6. Savor Tulum’s Culinary Scene:
    • Embark on a gastronomic adventure, sampling Tulum’s diverse flavors and innovative dishes.
    • Indulge in the ever-changing menu at Hartwood, experience the jungle-chic vibes at Gitano, savor modern Mexican cuisine at Arca, or enjoy a taste of Italy at Posada Margherita.
    • Don’t miss the local favorite: fish tacos at Taqueria Honorio.

Tulum offers a diverse range of dining options, from affordable local eateries to high-end restaurants. Prices can vary depending on your choices.

Bonus Tip: Many hotels and beach clubs host weekly taco and mezcal tastings – a delicious way to experience local culture.

Beachside restaurant with tiki huts at sunset in Tulum, Mexico.
A serene evening at a beachside restaurant in Tulum, Mexico, where guests are enjoying drinks and dinner under tiki huts with a beautiful ocean sunset in the background.

Day Trips from Tulum: Uncover Hidden Gems

Don’t let Tulum’s allure keep you from venturing beyond its borders! These day trips will add incredible depth to your adventure:

  • Chichen Itza: A must-visit for history buffs! This Mayan metropolis is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Prepare to be awestruck by the towering El Castillo pyramid and other architectural marvels.
  • Valladolid: Step back in time in this charming colonial town. Stroll through vibrant streets, explore hidden cenotes, and savor authentic Yucatecan cuisine.
  • Cozumel: If underwater adventures call your name, hop on a ferry to Cozumel. This island paradise boasts world-class snorkeling and diving, with vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life.
  • Bacalar Lagoon: Prepare to be mesmerized by the “Lagoon of Seven Colors.” This freshwater paradise offers stunning hues of blue and green, perfect for swimming, kayaking, and simply soaking up the beauty.
Aerial view of the turquoise water and surrounding vegetation at Los Rapidos in Bacalar, Mexico.
The stunning turquoise waters of Los Rapidos in Bacalar, Mexico, offer a breathtaking natural escape.

Where to Stay in Tulum: Find Your Perfect Oasis

Tulum offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit every taste and budget, from eco-chic cabanas to luxurious beachfront resorts.

Here’s a breakdown of the main areas to consider:

  • Tulum Beach (Hotel Zone): The epicenter of Tulum’s trendy scene, this beachfront stretch boasts upscale hotels, stylish beach clubs, and a vibrant atmosphere. If you crave luxury and don’t mind splurging, this is your spot.
  • Tulum Pueblo (Town): For budget-conscious travelers seeking authentic local vibes, Tulum Pueblo is the place to be. You’ll find affordable hotels, hostels, and a wide array of restaurants serving delicious, budget-friendly cuisine.
  • Aldea Zama: This up-and-coming area strikes a balance between the beach and town, offering a mix of accommodations and a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s ideal for those who want easy access to both worlds.
Woman relaxing on a lounge chair on a balcony overlooking the ocean at a hotel in Tulum, Mexico.
Enjoying the breathtaking ocean view from a tranquil balcony at a hotel in Tulum, Mexico. Perfect spot for relaxation and taking in the natural beauty of the beach.

Craft Your Ideal Tulum Itinerary: A Blueprint for Adventure

Whether you have three days, five days, or a week (or more!), here’s how to make the most of your time in Tulum.

3-Day Tulum Itinerary: A Whirlwind of Wonders

This itinerary is perfect for those short on time but eager to experience the essence of Tulum.

  • Day 1:
    • Morning: Start your day with a visit to the iconic Tulum Ruins. Explore the ancient structures perched on the cliffs overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea.
    • Afternoon: Cool off with a refreshing swim in the Gran Cenote, a stunning underground cavern with crystal-clear water perfect for snorkeling.
    • Evening: Enjoy a delicious meal at Hartwood, savoring their farm-to-table cuisine under the stars.
  • Day 2:
    • Morning: Rent a bike and explore Tulum‘s vibrant town center, Tulum Pueblo. Browse local shops, admire street art, and grab a bite to eat at a cozy cafe.
    • Afternoon: Spend a relaxing afternoon on the beach at Playa Paraiso, soaking up the sun and enjoying the gentle waves.
    • Evening: Treat yourself to a memorable dinner at Gitano, known for its jungle-chic ambiance and creative dishes.
  • Day 3:
    • Morning: Venture to the mystical Dos Ojos cenote for an unforgettable snorkeling or diving experience.
    • Afternoon: Take a leisurely stroll or bike ride along Tulum’s beach road, stopping at various beach clubs for drinks and snacks.
    • Evening: Enjoy a farewell dinner at Arca, where innovative cuisine and a lively atmosphere create a perfect ending to your Tulum adventure.
A group of people standing in front of the pyramid of El Castillo at Chichen Itza in Mexico under a partly cloudy sky.
Visitors admire the grandeur of El Castillo, the iconic pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico. This stunning ancient structure, also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, is a testament to the advanced engineering and architectural skills of the Mayan civilization.

5-Day Tulum Itinerary: Delve Deeper into the Magic

With five days, you’ll have more time to explore Tulum’s surroundings and indulge in unique experiences.

  • Days 1-3: Follow the 3-day itinerary above.
  • Day 4:
    • Day Trip: Embark on a day trip to the majestic Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
    • Evening: Return to Tulum and unwind with a relaxing massage or spa treatment.
  • Day 5:
    • Morning: Visit Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a vast ecological wonderland teeming with wildlife. Take a boat tour through the mangroves and spot crocodiles, manatees, and a variety of bird species.
    • Afternoon: Return to Tulum and enjoy a final dinner at one of your favorite restaurants, reminiscing about your incredible Tulum adventure.
A male frigatebird with an inflated bright red throat pouch sitting in a nest next to a smaller black and white bird, surrounded by twigs and branches in Sian Ka'an, Mexico.
A male frigatebird displays his vibrant red throat pouch next to a smaller bird in their nest, captured in the natural beauty of Sian Ka’an, Mexico. Image credit: Viator

7+ Day Tulum Itinerary: Embrace the Bohemian Spirit

With a week or more in Tulum, you can truly immerse yourself in the bohemian lifestyle and explore the region’s diverse offerings.

A man sitting cross-legged in front of a traditional stone Temazcal structure in Tulum, Mexico, preparing for a Temazcal ceremony.
A serene moment before a Temazcal Ceremony in Tulum, Mexico. The traditional stone structure and ceremonial elements reflect the rich cultural heritage of the region. Image credit: Viator

With these tips and suggestions, you’re now well-equipped to embark on an unforgettable Tulum adventure!

FAQ: Tulum, Quintana Roo Travel Guide

Is Tulum and Quintana Roo the same?

No, Tulum is a town located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Quintana Roo encompasses a larger area that includes other popular destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Is Tulum, Mexico, cheap to visit?

Tulum can be expensive, especially if you opt for upscale accommodations and dining. However, it’s possible to find budget-friendly options for lodging, food, and activities.

Is Tulum expensive to eat?

Dining in Tulum can be expensive, particularly at upscale restaurants along the beach road. However, plenty of affordable options exist in Tulum town and at local eateries.

Is it safe in Tulum right now?

Like many parts of Mexico, Tulum has been affected by organized crime. However, tourist areas are generally safe, and authorities have implemented measures to ensure visitor safety.

Can you drink Tulum water?

It’s not recommended to drink tap water in Tulum.

Is Tulum a hippie town?

Tulum has a bohemian and eco-conscious vibe, attracting travelers seeking a laid-back and alternative lifestyle.

Can you visit Tulum cenotes on your own?

Yes, many cenotes in the Tulum area can be visited independently, while others may require a guided tour.

How many days do you need in Tulum?

A minimum of 3-4 days is recommended to explore Tulum’s main attractions, including the ruins, cenotes, and beaches. However, you could easily spend a week or more enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and exploring the surrounding areas.

How many days do you need in Cancun and Tulum?

To fully explore both Cancun and Tulum on your Mexican itinerary, we recommend to allocate at least 5-7 days, with 2-3 days for each destination.

Is Tulum better than Cancun?

It depends on your preference. Tulum offers a more laid-back and eco-conscious atmosphere, while Cancun is known for its all-inclusive resorts and bustling nightlife.

Is Costa Rica or Tulum better?

Both destinations offer unique experiences. Costa Rica is known for its lush rainforests, diverse wildlife, and adventure activities, while Tulum attracts visitors with its beautiful beaches, cenotes, and Mayan ruins.

Is Tulum or Cabo better?

It depends on your preferences. Tulum is known for its Mayan ruins, cenotes, and eco-chic vibe, while Cabo offers a more resort-oriented experience with beautiful beaches and diverse water activities. Tulum is generally more affordable and has a bohemian feel, while Cabo is known for its luxury resorts and lively nightlife.

Are most places in Tulum cash only?

While many establishments in Tulum accept credit cards, it’s always advisable to carry some cash, especially for smaller vendors and local markets.

What money is used in Tulum?

The official currency in Tulum is the Mexican Peso (MXN). However, US dollars are widely accepted in tourist areas.

Which time zone is Tulum compared to major US cities?

Tulum is in the Eastern Standard Time (EST) zone, which is the same as New York City. It’s one hour ahead of Chicago and two hours ahead of Los Angeles.

Family Travel Planning Resources

✈️ Peace of Mind on Your Adventures 

We never leave home without SafetyWing travel insurance. It’s comprehensive, affordable, and a total lifesaver for unexpected situations!

🏨 Scoring the Best Deals 

We’re all about comparing prices on Booking.com or Agoda.com (when traveling to Asia). That way, we always snag the perfect hotel or vacation rental for our crew, without breaking the bank!

🌍 Activities for Everyone 

Viator is our go-to for discovering awesome activities everyone will love. They have something for every interest and age, so no one’s left out!

🎒 Our Must-Have Travel Essentials 

Check out our Amazon Influencer Store for our tried-and-true travel essentials. These are the goodies we always bring along to make our trips comfy and enjoyable.

💰 Managing Finances While Globetrotting 

Wise is our secret weapon for easy currency exchange and international transfers. It’s super convenient, secure, and always has great rates!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rob and Taiss

Hi! We’re Rob and Taiss. We set off to live a life in as many places as possible. To actually live in locations around the world long enough to get to know the locals, the culture, and the food, not just a taste of it.