Everything you need to know about visiting Tulum

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Mexico’s Riviera Maya has every reason to be sought after. 365 days of sun, sand, and sea makes it a desirable holiday destination during the North American winter months.

Located on the eastern coast of Mexico in the beautiful state of Quintana Roo, Tulum is only 3 hours south of Cancun. To us, four days in this boho, the backpacker-friendly town seemed like a good idea for Thanksgiving break.

It turns out that more travelers are visiting Tulum, but the tourism industry here hasn’t kept pace with this growth. Here are a few things to know before you chase the turquoise beaches and tranquility on this side of Mexico.

Traveling to Tulum during Covid-19

Mexico is currently open to travelers. They do not require a negative PCR test report for incoming visitors to the country. Some hotels require guests to fill out health questionnaires. There are health screenings at the airport too. It is best to travel only if you are vaccinated. Make sure to carry your vaccination card with you.

Are you planning to return from Mexico to the United States? You will require a negative Covid-19 test taken within one day before your departing flight. 

Tulum beach and ruins
Tulum is an endless delight!

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Best time to visit Tulum

Tulum experiences tropical weather pretty much all year round. The temperature hovers around 80-85F for the most part.

January-April is the busiest time of the year as many American and Canadian visitors make their way to avoid the harsh winter season. May-October is the hottest time of the year, and September-October can be unpredictable due to hurricane season. November-December is the best time to go to Tulum as the weather is ideal and the crowds are relatively fewer. 

How to get from Cancun to Tulum?

There are no airports in Tulum Mexico. Cancun is the largest airport near Tulum and is a 3-hour drive away from the town. Most international flights fly into Cancun.

For airport transfers, you can opt for Ado buses, private taxis, or rental cars. There are no direct buses from Cancun to Tulum, and one has to change buses in Playa del Carmen. In Tulum, the Ado bus stops at the Tulum ruins and at the main bus station which is in the pueblo, or Tulum town.

We bought tickets for our Ado bus on the spot from Cancun airport, and it was quite easy to find the Ado bus booth in the parking area. There’s a bus departing from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen frequently. Ado bus timetables are available on the official Ado bus website (in Spanish). 

You could also book advance tickets on the Cancun Airport website or Busbud (a ticket aggregator), or buy them in person as we did. Fares are reasonable. You should expect to pay about $20 to get to Tulum from Cancun. 

A town intersection in Tulum
Tulum is a vibrant beach town.

Best area to stay in Tulum

Tulum is a small town. The locals refer to its beach area as playa and the town as pueblo. Access to the beach makes a stay in the playa region naturally more expensive. Worth it? You bet!

While the playa and the pueblo region are only a short drive away from each other, there are pros and cons to staying on each side:

  • Staying on the playa gives you better access to the beach, but makes the meals more expensive. 
  • The pueblo, on the other hand, is slightly far from the beach but has several inexpensive restaurants and street food carts making it cheaper for a long-term stay.

Since we were in Tulum for just four days, we preferred to stay in the playa to be close to the beach.

Tulum’s playa is a strip of beach with a driving road separating it from the jungle. Beach-facing cabanas and cottages in the playa are more expensive than those in the jungle.

Looking for a budget stay in the playa region can be tricky, but we managed to save $80 a night by choosing to stay in a jungle cabana instead of a beach-facing one.

So, if you’re looking to stay in Tulum for a longer stay, say for a month, it makes sense to stay in Tulum town. If you’re visiting for two, four, or seven days, then it makes sense to stay by the beach.  

Best things to do in Tulum

Visit Tulum Ruins

Located on the coast, on 12-meter tall cliffs, the Tulum ruins are one of the best-preserved archeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. They are by far one of the top attractions in Tulum. The walled historic site served as a port for the Mayan city of Coba which is further inland. 

The most important structures at the site include the El Castillo pyramid, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God. It’s best to take a guided tour to see the ruins. 

Devote some time to admiring the breathtaking scenery from the site. Make sure to apply sunscreen, wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring a hat. Travelers also have access to the spectacular Playa Ruinas beach with fine white sands. 

  • Entrance fee: 85 pesos
  • Opening Times: 8 AM to 4 PM. 
A photo of Tulum ruins
Tulum ruins are among the top attractions in the town.

Swim in a cenote

Quintana Roo is blessed with several cenotes or swimming holes. Cenotes are large sinkholes filled with ground or rainwater. Even if you don’t swim, it is worth a visit to see one of these naturally stunning sights. You can swim, snorkel, dive or even walk through a cenote. 

Choose between the popular cave cenote Dos Ojos, or the open-air Gran Cenote that is connected by walking paths, the turquoise Cenote Azul, or the lesser-known cenotes like Cenote Manati or Cenote Calavera. 

Most popular cenotes have an entry fee and provide changing areas. Some cenotes have restaurants and locker facilities too. 

Explore Street Art

If you enjoy taking photographs of colorful murals, Tulum is the place to visit! A local art collective called Tinsah is responsible for much of the public art you might encounter if you walk around Tulum town. 

The best way to discover murals is by biking around the town. You could also walk or take collectivos or shared vans. 

A photo of souvenirs being sold in Tulum town
Shop in Tulum town for the best bargains on souvenirs

Shop on Tulum’s Main Street

If you’re staying at Playa Tulum, it can be tempting to pick up souvenirs from beachside stores and boutiques. A better option instead, is to shop on Tulum’s main street where you will find a variety of handmade souvenirs at much more reasonable prices. 

Visit Coba Ruins

Located 47 miles northwest of Tulum, the Coba ruins offer an unfiltered, rare glimpse into the world of Mayans since much of it has not been excavated. Here you can climb multiple stone highways, see the Nohoch Mul Pyramid that you can climb and explore and see stone slabs with drawings depicting Mayan culture and life. Due to the pandemic, it may be possible that climbing the pyramid is not permitted. 

Coba ruins are open daily, but it’s best to make your way in the morning before the site gets busy.

  • Coba Entrance Fee: 70 pesos per person
  • Coba Parking Fee: 50 pesos per car
  • Hours Open: 8 AM – 5 PM

Plan a day trip to Chichen Itza

Perhaps the most visited archaeological site in the Yucatan State is the pre-Columbian city of Chichen Itza. The architectural style of the structures in this city indicates the presence of a diverse Maya population. At its peak, it must have been home to about 35,000 people. There are a total of 26 Mayan ruins at the site, and the grand Chichen Itza Pyramid or the El Castillo is the most visited building here. 

Chichen Itza is a 2-hour drive away from Tulum so it is best to plan a day trip to see this Unesco World Heritage site. You could also take an ADO bus from the Tulum town center, though it takes a little bit longer to get there by bus. The best way to explore and learn about this magnificent site is through a tour with a Mayan guide. They’ll be the first set of guides you’ll meet at the entrance. There is also ample parking space at the site.  

  • Chichen Itza Entrance Fee: 533 pesos per adult / 80 pesos for 3-12 year olds
  • Hours Open: 8 AM – 5 PM

Due to the pandemic, Chichen Itza receives only 3,000 visitors per day, and the last entry is at 4:00 pm

Waves hitting the shore in Tulum
Best Tulum Beach? All of them!

Hit the beaches

The best things in life are free! Enjoy endless warm, blue waters, sunny days and powdery white sands on the shores of the beaches in Tulum. Take a pick from one of the beaches mentioned in the next section.

Best Beaches in Tulum

Playa Paraiso

A beautiful white sand beach, Playa Paraiso is located north of Tulum’s hotel zone area. Parking outside the beach is first come first serve, and there are daybeds available for rent. You could also walk 15 minutes from Tulum ruins to reach this beach. 

Playa Ruinas

Set against the backdrop of impressive Tulum ruins, Playa Ruinas is a great spot to relax after exploring the archeological site. Try to get here early as tourists start arriving by mid-morning and the beach can get busy. You can also spot iguanas here! 

A dramatic photo of Playa Ruina and Tulum ruins
Playa Ruina is a spectacular beach in Tulum

Playa Akumal

Located 30 minutes north of Tulum town, this picturesque beach is a great option for a half-day trip. You could swim with turtles and stingrays here, under the guidance of experienced instructors. A variety of fishes are also visible. 

Tortillas with spicy sauces and toppings
Take your pick from street food to fine dining in Tulum.

Best food in Tulum

Tourism has only begun to boom in Tulum, and the restaurants in the playa are starting to cater to a global palette. The region is rich in local produce and as vegetarians, we thoroughly enjoyed the quality of fresh food, both in playa and the pueblo area. 

We found a surprising number of delicious local restaurants in the town that were highly inexpensive compared to the ones in playa. Check out our list of some of the restaurants serving great vegetarian-friendly fare in Tulum

In general here are some tips for eating out in Tulum:

  • Many restaurants on the playa don’t publish their menu prices online, so walk around, check out prices and then make a choice.
  • It is cheaper to eat in the town side of Tulum in comparison to the beach side.
  • If you’re visiting Tulum for a short time like us, avoid drinking tap water. Most restaurants offer bottled water or filtered water and some hotels include bottled water in their rooms too. 
  • While some restaurants in the beach area accept credit cards, it is wise to keep pesos on hand.
The sun setting over the waves in Tulum
Sunset on the beach in Tulum

How to get around in Tulum

There are six ways to travel in and around Tulum:

  • Bikes
  • Bicycles
  • Rental cars
  • Ado buses
  • Collectivos
  • Taxis. 

Not all modes of transport are available on every route. The approximate costs for some of these modes of transport as of November 2016 are:

  • Motorbikes: 480 pesos per day
  • Bicycles: 100 pesos per day
  • Car rental: Depends on pick-up and drop-off location and the chosen car rental agency. Could be around $45 a day, as quoted by our hotel.
  • Taxis: The government has issued rate cards that all taxi drivers carry, but be prepared to bargain. On average, we paid 70-80 pesos from Tulum town to our hotel on the beach strip and vice versa. 

We chose to use taxis to get around and walked on the beach to get to nearby restaurants. 

For day trips, depending on distances, you can avail any of the above-mentioned transport modes to get to ruins, small towns, or cenotes. 

Along with those, there’s also the option of Ado buses and collectivos (shared vans) that ply on certain routes. Both Ado buses and collectivos can be accessed from Tulum town. If you’re looking to buy tickets for Ado buses in Tulum town, head to an OXXO convenience store, or the bus station in the town center. 

After testing the waters on the first couple of days, we managed to strike a good deal with a taxi driver to take us to the ruins and a cenote on a day and drop us at the airport on our last day. After all, growing up in a country that loves negotiating has its perks 😉

Beach loungers by the sea in Tulum
There are several 5 star hotels in Tulum. Most of the beach facing hotels have comfortable louging facilities.

Best hotels in Tulum

Alaya Tulum: Located on the beach side in Tulum’s hotel zone on Playa Tulum, Alaya Tulum features beautiful, clean rooms. The rooms are styled in a rustic-chic fashion with unique furnishings. Each room has a private terrace too. There is a restaurant, bar on-site, and sunbeds for lounging on the beach. Room categories range from double rooms to villas and suites. 

Cabanas Tulum: Located on one of the nicest beach areas in Tulum. The rooms include hammocks and private terraces and some of them have hot tubs as well. Their restaurant also includes a family-friendly menu. Guests have particularly loved the service and location of this property. 

Coco Tulum: With minimalistic well-designed beach-facing rooms, a beach bar, and a restaurant, Coco Tulum is a favorite for couples. The hotel has a vibrant vibe and is close to many clubs and beach bars. Guests particularly enjoyed the exceptional service and rooms at Coco Tulum. 

Traveling to Tulum FAQs

 Money Matters

  • Carry pesos or USD. Credit/debit cards are accepted in very few places.
  • If you are withdrawing money from an ATM, try finding one that is inside a bank. The Tulum playa has several standalone ATM booths but it’s always safer to withdraw from the banks in Tulum pueblo (eg: Scotia Bank) as it is less likely that the booths in those banks will be compromised. Remember that your bank may charge a fee for using your credit/debit card in a foreign bank.


  • The nearest supermarket to Playa Tulum is Chedraui. Another supermarket is San Francisco de Asis which is in town, only a few feet away from Chedraui.
  • If you plan on visiting a cenote or snorkeling on protected beaches, be sure to buy biodegradable sunscreen.
  • Various stalls sell local handicrafts and products near the Tulum ruins and in the playa region – but souvenirs are cheaper in the small shops in town. Shop in town for the best bargains.
A view of a modern burrito cafe in Mexico
Modern cafes and restaurants are among the best places in Tulum.

Is Tulum Safe for Travel?

Safety in Tulum was never a concern, at least for the time we were around. Police vans and guards are monitoring the playa and pueblo areas for everyone’s safety. We walked around in the evening in both the playa and pueblo areas and didn’t face any trouble.

Many people are concerned about renting a car in Mexico, and though we didn’t rent one during this trip, we recently returned to Mexico and rented a car to explore the Yucatan region and it was a perfectly safe and smooth experience. We found two posts by Peanuts & Pretzels to be helpful guides for driving and renting a car in Mexico.

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Follow Supriya:

As a kid, Supriya had to be brought back to reality from her daydreaming excursions. A digital marketer by profession, she enjoys reading, writing, and photography. Her wanderlust list changes each week, but she's strongly eyeing countries in South America and the Middle East as destinations for her journeys :)

25 Responses

  1. Stefan
    | Reply

    Heading over to Mexico next year and Tulum added to the planning list of places to check out. Excellent post with some invaluable tips 🙂

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Muchas gracias Stefan. Hope you have a wonderful time in Mexico. Do look up Izamal and Valladolid – those are on my wishlist 🙂

  2. Kelly @ TastingPage
    | Reply

    I thought Tulum was so beautiful. I agree that there are so many great things right nearby, including great food. Thanks for all the info for my next visit!

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      The food..sigh! 🙂 I would go back for a tamarind margarita in a heartbeat!

  3. Shannon
    | Reply

    It always amazes me how much you can save just by staying with doors and windows on the “wrong” side! I always do this, and then the extra money that I save goes towards my next trip.

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      True that Shannon!Saving on certain aspects can stretch a travel budget so much 🙂

  4. Elena
    | Reply

    Great practical tips (with emphasis on practical). I often find that this is exactly what is missing in an endless stream of generic destination guides. They all praise a place, provide a list of things to do/landmarks to visit, but lack useful information (i.e. transportation, money matters, etc…). Sorry, that you haven’t tried a bicycle. Personally, it’s my favorite mode of transportation. Maybe you underrating your riding skills?

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Haha – maybe 🙂 I used to ride a bicycle as a kid, but never ended up riding as an adult. But it’s never too late – I really want to learn. Balancing scares me though. Just have to get over the fear. Happy you found these tips helpful – I’d been tired of reading about fancy cafes, restaurants, bars but nobody spelt this basic info out. So thought of sharing 🙂

  5. Indrani
    | Reply

    Hope to get to Tulum some day. Seems like a great place to holiday. Saving up this info for future use.

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      You’d like it Indrani – it’s perfect for a short break. Even though Mexico has loads to offer 🙂

  6. Sophie
    | Reply

    Mexico sounds and looks amazing! I can’t wait to visit one day and try all the food!!


    • Bharat
      | Reply

      You’d love it Sophie, get your tickets booked soon!

      PS: we are penning a blog on the different places we ate around in Tulum, so keep an eye out 😉

  7. Sonali Chauhan
    | Reply

    Nice post about the Tulum Mexico. It looks really wonderful, I wish to visit at Tulum & enjoy food, beaches & most beautiful destinations.

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Glad it was helpful Sonali. It’s a little paradise tucked quite away from Cancun- make sure to visit it soon 🙂

  8. priya
    | Reply

    We visited the ruin in Tulum a few years ago and never stopped at the town or the beach. I’m kicking myself every time I see post or pictures of Tulum!

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Ah, bummer! Were you guys staying at Playa Del Carmen? Now you know that it warrants a second visit- specially with all the delicious food around 😉

  9. Alejandra
    | Reply

    My family and I are going to Tulum in two weeks and we didn’t know anything! But your post is been a huge help for us 🙂

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Hi Alejandra, so glad that you found our post helpful! Have a great time in Tulum and don’t forget to share a picture with us 🙂

  10. Liz Smith
    | Reply

    Hi Supriya –

    Great guide for visiting Tulum & thanks for linking to our blog posts (on Peanuts or Pretzels) about driving in Mexico and Renting a car in Mexico. We learned a lot — because it can definitely be confusing. So really happy to share with others because the Yucatan and Tulum is an AMAZING place to visit. We really loved it, and renting a car is a great way to have the freedom to explore and enjoy it. We’re hoping to go back soon! 🙂

    Happy Travels!
    Liz (Peanuts or Pretzels)

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Hey Liz,

      Thanks for the appreciation. Your posts were super helpful and this is why we thought it might be a great idea to pass it along to our readers too 🙂

      We did not end up renting a car this time owing to a very short trip which was mostly devoted to R&R 😉 but definitely doing that when we plan our next journey to Mexico! Happy travels.

  11. Emma Brown
    | Reply

    Too bad you couldn’t try snorkeling or diving in the cenotes. It’s really worth it. Hope you will have a second chance.

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Hi Emma, we missed out on Nicte Ha but had a chance to snorkel in Dos Ojos. However it was very crowded 🙁

  12. Brandy
    | Reply

    I came across your blog while looking for links for my guests that come to see us here in Tulum. You have captured the basics of navigating the area very well! The only comment I can share is that you are fine to drink the glasses of water here. All of the restaurants serve filtered water from large garafons and even the ice is made from filtered water. In fact every household drinks from filtered garrafons – even the poorest homes do.

    Choosing a glass of water helps spare the plastic congestion that is plaguing tourist destinations like ours and the world at large…. ❤️ If concerned, you can always ask for the reassurance from your waiter that the flass of water does indeed come from a garrafon.

    • Supriya
      | Reply

      Hey Brandy, glad you found our post useful.
      Thanks for sharing your view- little did we knew about it. We try to be Eco-friendly as much as we can. What we meant here was to avoid drinking tap water (which can be fine in many places). Moreover our B&B provided bottled water every day so we never ventured into asking this question.
      Will take notes for our next trip 🙂

  13. […] no difficulty in adapting to their tangy salsas, hot jalapenos, and fulfilling quesadillas. And in Tulum, one of the most beautiful beachside towns in the Yucatan peninsula, we were spoilt for choice with […]

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