Tulum’s pristine coastline located on 1,000-year-old Mayan ruins, complete with crystal-clear cenotes, hotels that emulate treehouses, contemporary restaurants, and bohemian boutique shops has made this once sleepy beach town completely erupt.
The perfect Tulum itinerary includes swimming in the ocean, exploring ancient Mayan ruins and a refreshing dip in a beautiful cenote, topped off with a margarita and fresh tacos at sunset.
The main street of Tulum is lined with beach clubs, which is where everyone spends their day; carefully dividing their time between swimming in the ocean and taking dips in the pool. While it’s great to have options on where to spend your day, it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. These beach clubs are part of hotel accommodations, so if you’re not spending the day at your hotel you’ll need to pay a fee to relax on a lounge chair at most places; with prices varying depending on the star of the hotel/club.
My friend and I opted to spend our day at Be Tulum. It had the Tulum “vibe” I wanted to experience, albeit quite expensive for what you get. We paid $60USD ($84AUD) for access to the lounge chairs and lunch. I couldn’t go all the way to Tulum and not have the ~authentic~ experience…
After begrudgingly pulling ourselves away from Be Tulum to see what else Tulum had on offer, we stumbled across some beautiful boutique stores. If creamy linens, stylish bikinis and beautiful hand-crafted jewellery and trinkets pique your interest, then you’ll love perusing the shops here.
Some notable mentions include;
- Caravana Tulum
- Arte Sano
- Lolita Lolita
- The Jungle Stores
We watched the sunset whilst eating delicious pizza on the beach at Posada Margherita.
The second day in Tulum was spent swimming in Cenote Azul. We went early in the morning to beat the crowds and it felt like we were swimming in our own green oasis. The water was so clear we could see the fish swimming around us! The entry fee was 120 pesos ($8AUD). There are closer cenotes to Tulum town centre, but this cenote is a great option if you’re driving back to Cancun Airport and want to break up your drive from Tulum, or just aren’t ready to admit the holiday is almost over!
We spent the afternoon reading books in the hammocks at our hotel. Then enjoyed an amazing, Mexican meal at GITANO Tulum for dinner; opting for the Mushroom Camote for the main meal. It is a must to have an accompanying beverage whilst here; there is a whole cocktail menu dedicated to the Mexican spirit- Mezcal. We then topped off the night in the best possible way, treating ourselves to an ice-cream from Campanella Cremerie.
Best cenotes and beaches to visit
Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit all the beautiful cenotes and beaches I had wanted to whilst in Tulum. Here’s a few I had on my list and hope to visit one day:
- Cenote Ik Kil
- Gran Cenote
- Cenote Dos Ojos
- Cenote Caracol
- Playa Parasio
- Playa Ruinas
- Xel-Ha Park
- Akumal Beach (where you can snorkel with turtles)
Whilst in Tulum a lot of people visit the Tulum Ruins. We chose not to due to time restraints and visited Chichén Itzá instead. However, I would recommend getting to at least one ancient ruin whilst in Mexico and the Tulum Ruins look like a great option if you have enough time.
Necessities to pack
- Bug spray
- Hat + sunglasses
- Swimming costumes
- Beach coverups
- Insulated water bottle that will keep filtered water cool at the beach
- A couple of nicer night-time outfits if you plan on going to dinners (Tulum is quite an upmarket dining experience)
Where to stay
Majority of the hotels and activities in Tulum are located along the beach road, so this is where you’ll want to stay.
If you want the ultimate high-end experience and money is no object, book Be Tulum or Nômade. For the authentic Tulum treehouse experience stay at Hotel Origen Tulum. For more affordable options, consider NEST or Amansala.
Best time to visit
Tulum’s rainiest months are June, September, and October. October-December is generally the best time to visit, as hurricane season has ended and the weather is warm but not unbearably hot. I visited in November and it was very hot- I could not imagine it any warmer! January through to March is the busiest period for tourists, as well as the hottest weather, so I would avoid this time if you’re not a fan of heat or crowds.
Getting around in Tulum
It’s about a 25-minute drive from Tulum town to the centre of the beach area, and 1.5 hours drive from Cancun airport to Tulum.
If you’re staying in the heart of Tulum, you shouldn’t need a car during your stay. A lot of tourists choose to bike around the town as their mode of transport; I couldn’t figure out if it was just for fun, it was good for the planet or was a great way to off-set all of the tacos they’d been eating!
There are also plenty of taxis around should you need to get somewhere a bike or your legs can’t get you. We had a car to get us to and from Cancun airport.
Final Thoughts on Tulum
I feel it’s important to note that Tulum is an expensive town to visit- far exceeding the cost of any other Mexican city I visited! If the idea of having to pay to sit on a beach is not your vibe then maybe Tulum is not the right destination for you.
I also couldn’t help but shake the feeling that whilst Tulum is beautiful and relaxing, Instagram has over-hyped the destination which took away from the authenticity of the place. I enjoyed my time here, but I also felt that I could have had a very similar experience by flying 1-hour to Byron Bay in the north of Australia’s New South Wales instead of flying 20 hours to Mexico…
My final opinion is that I enjoyed my time in Tulum and I was glad I went to suss out what all the hype was about, but I definitely won’t be rushing back and I loved every other Mexican city I visited so much more!