Not long ago, in the 1990s, Tulum was just a small and quiet fishing village in the Yucatan Peninsula, but now, it is considered one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. Tulum is a beach destination that features luxurious hotels and beach clubs with infinity pools and Bali-style swings. Tulum has a different vibe compared to other destinations in Yucatan and it is also known as “the Bali of Mexico”.
If you are wondering whether to visit Tulum or what to do there, you are in the right place. In this post, I share what you need to know before travelling to Tulum, how to get there, when is the best time to visit and the best things to do in Tulum.
You have probably heard mixed opinions about Tulum, some people love it and believe it is a piece of paradise, while others dislike Tulum and tell you otherwise.
To begin with, I am going to answer some of the most frequent questions about Tulum.
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Is Tulum overrated?
In my opinion, yes, Tulum is overrated, especially on social media. The town has a lot of room for improvement. While there are some nice hotels, restaurants and beautiful beaches, some parts of the town can look dodgy or undeveloped.
Tulum has undergone significant development in recent years, with many luxurious hotels and beach clubs springing up along its stunning coastline. While this has brought in more visitors and boosted the local economy, some feel that Tulum has lost some of its authenticity and charm.
Additionally, the high prices of accommodations, food, and activities can make Tulum less accessible for budget travellers. However, for those willing to spend, Tulum offers a unique blend of breathtaking natural beauty and high-end amenities that make for a memorable holiday experience.
Is Tulum Worth Visiting?
The answer is definitely yes. Tulum is a popular tourist destination for a reason. Tulum is situated on a beautiful stretch of the Caribbean coast, and the surrounding area offers a wealth of natural and cultural attractions, such as stunning beaches, cenotes, Mayan ruins, and eco-parks.
Tulum is also known for its unique blend of laid-back bohemian vibes, unique glamping sites and luxury hotels and resorts, which make Tulum a great choice for your holiday.
That being said, as with any popular tourist destination, Tulum can be crowded and touristy, which may detract from the experience for some travellers. This means if you're looking for a more secluded, off-the-beaten-path destination, you may want to look elsewhere.
Tulum Vs Cancun
Choosing between Tulum and Cancun depends on personal preferences and your travel style. If you enjoy a quieter atmosphere and spending time in nature, Tulum might be the better choice for you. Tulum is known for its eco-tourism, and laid-back bohemian vibe, with a focus on wellness and yoga.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a more lively and party atmosphere, Cancun may be the better choice. Cancun is known for its luxury all-inclusive resorts, vibrant nightlife, and easy access to popular day trips in the Yucatan region.
Both destinations have their own unique charm and offer different experiences to visitors. So, why not visit both, you can easily stay a few days in Tulum and a few days in Cancun. This is what we did during our trip to Mexico.
You can also read: Best Things to Do in Cancun
Tulum Vs Playa Del Carmen
Comparing Tulum and Playa del Carmen also depends on personal preferences.
As I explained earlier, Tulum is known for its more secluded and laid-back vibe, with a focus on eco-tourism, relaxation, and nature. Tulum has a more limited selection of resorts and hotels, with many boutique hotels and glamping sites to choose from.
In contrast, Playa del Carmen is a larger and more developed city that is better suited for travellers who want a bustling and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Playa del Carmen offers a wide variety of hotels, resorts, and activities, with many options for nightlife, shopping, and entertainment. Playa del Carmen's beaches are popular and more crowded, but the town also has a vibrant cultural scene with a range of international cuisine. In Playa del Carmen, you can easily take a day trip to Cozumel Island, which is one of the best places for scuba diving in Yucatan.
Tulum and Playa del Carmen are home to some of the most unique cenotes in Mexico, perfect for diving and swimming.
Again, based on what you are looking for, you should choose your destination. Personally, I enjoyed Playa Del Carmen since there are more things to do, especially if you are looking for more diving experiences.
Is Tulum Safe to Travel to?
You are also probably wondering if Tulum is a safe place to visit. In general, Tulum is safe for tourists, and like any other destination, has its safe and less safe areas. It is always a good idea to research your destination and where to stay before your trip.
As with any destination, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and to take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. It is wise to keep your valuables secure and to follow the same personal safety guidelines that you would follow in other places.
How to Get to Tulum
Tulum is located approximately 130 km from Cancun and 65 km from Playa del Carmen. The closest airport is Cancun International Airport, which is located about 90 minutes away by car.
The most convenient way to get to Tulum is to rent a car and drive, which will take approximately 1.5 hours from Cancun and 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen.
For finding the best car rental deal you can check RentalCars or DiscoverCars.
The drive is straightforward and takes you along the scenic Caribbean coast, with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. However, driving in Mexico comes with some risks that I explained in another post, which talks about how we were robbed by a police officer in Yucatan.
If driving is not an option, you can also take the local bus, called ADO, from the airport, Cancun or Playa del Carmen to Tulum. These buses are affordable, very clean and comfortable, and they run frequently throughout the day. The journey from Cancun to Tulum takes approximately 2 hours, while the journey from Playa del Carmen to Tulum takes about 45 minutes. Keep in mind that bus schedules can vary depending on the season, so it's a good idea to check the schedule in advance and plan accordingly.
If you prefer not to drive or take public transportation, you may want to consider booking private transportation in advance to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum. There are several transportation options available, including regular vans, luxury SUVs, large vans, handicapped-accessible vehicles, and even limousines. Private transportation services typically offer personalized pick-up and drop-off at your desired location, with experienced drivers who are familiar with the local roads and traffic. Prices for private transportation to Tulum vary depending on the type of vehicle and level of service, but the starting price is typically around $100. By booking private transportation in advance, you can ensure a comfortable and hassle-free journey to your destination, allowing you to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Book Private Airport Shuttle To Tulum
Money in Tulum
When travelling in Tulum, it's a good idea to carry some cash, especially Mexican pesos. While many touristy places may accept credit cards, most local shops prefer cash payments.
Some places may also accept US dollars, but the exchange rate may not be favourable, which might result in higher prices for goods and services. If you want to avoid any inconveniences or extra expenses, I highly recommend carrying pesos, which are easily obtainable at ATMs and currency exchange bureaus throughout the town.
By having some cash on hand, you can transact more efficiently and enjoy all that Tulum has to offer without any unexpected surprises.
Best Time to Visit Tulum
The high season in Tulum is from December until the end of April, the weather is quite nice, warm and dry, but the prices are, as you would expect, higher. May to November is considered hurricane season, which is why there are not many tourists around and the price of hotels are at the lowest.
If you want to avoid the crowds and high season prices, you should visit Tulum in November. This month typically offers pleasant weather and fewer visitors, allowing you to enjoy the town's attractions and activities at a more relaxed pace. Keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable, so it's always a good idea to check the forecast before planning your trip.
How to Get Around Tulum
Tulum is a small town that is easy to navigate on foot or by bike. With the beach just a few kilometres away, cycling is a great option for those who want to save money and explore the town at their own pace. There are numerous bike rental shops in the area, and many hotels and accommodations offer bikes to guests as well.
It is important to note that if you plan on having a few drinks, it is best to take a taxi to avoid any safety risks. Driving is also an option, but the roads can be busy and parking can be limited in some areas.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Tulum offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. For those who want to be close to the beach, there are many beachfront hotels and eco-resorts with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.
The Best Beachfront Hotels in Tulum
Hotel Ma'xanab Tulum is one of the best beachfront hotels in Tulum, located just a few steps from South Tulum Beach. This 5-star hotel offers free bikes, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre.
Mezzanine a Colibri Boutique Hotel is one of the most luxurious adult-only hotels in Tulum, offering celebrity treatment with world-class service. It is right on the playa with direct access to the beach.
Kai Tulum is another lovely hotel right on the beach, offering a cosy and relaxing stay. This pet-friendly hotel is located just 0.7 miles from Tulum Archeological Site.
In addition, the town centre has a range of affordable guesthouses, and boutique hotels with easy access to restaurants, bars, and local shops.
The Hotels in Tulum’s Town
Hotel Bardo, situated in the heart of Tulum, is one of the best adults-only hotels in the area, offering a comfortable and romantic stay. It features an outdoor swimming pool and free bikes.
CASA CHIIT by Mi casa es tu casa is a modern-style 3-bedroom villa with three swimming pools. It offers free bikes and free parking.
Sonido del mar Hotel Boutique & Yoga Loft with an outdoor pool and a kitchen is another great place to stay in Tulum. It is located 3.1 miles from Tulum’s archaeological site and 0.8 miles from Tulum Bus Station.
For a more secluded and private experience, there are also many jungle lodges and villas located a bit further away from the town and beach.
Best Places to Stay in Tulum’s Jungle
Naajal Boutique Hotel - Magic & Jungle offers an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a garden and a spa and wellness centre. This 4-star hotel is surrounded by lush jungles which makes it a perfect place for cycling.
Cachito de Cielo Luxury Jungle Lodge is a cosy tropical-style accommodation, located in the heart of the breathtaking jungle surrounding the Gran Cenote biosphere in Tulum.
The Yellow Nest Tulum is a 5-star accommodation with a unique style, offering celebrity treatment. It features free bikes, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a garden.
Best Tours and Excursions in Tulum
Tulum offers a range of fascinating tours and activities for visitors to explore its natural beauty, culture, and history. From snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea to exploring ancient Mayan ruins, there is something for everyone.
To make the most of your trip, you can book tours through popular travel platforms such as Viator and GetYourGuide, which offer a variety of options and reliable services for travellers. Here are some of my favourite tours:
Kayaking and Snorkeling Experience through Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve: this adventure allows you to experience the reserve from both above and below the surface, ensuring you don't miss any of the highlights. During the tour, an experienced guide will share educational insights into the reserve and its wildlife.
Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Valladolid Tour gives you the opportunity to visit one of the seven New Wonders of the World, the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and explore Valladolid, a charming Mexican town in the heart of Yucatan. During the tour, you will try some local food.
Tulum Local Walking Food Tour is a walking tour led by a knowledgeable local guide, offering an unforgettable experience for foodies. During the tour, as you walk through the vibrant streets of Tulum, your bilingual guide will share their insights into the history and culture of the town's cuisine. You will escape the touristy areas of town and indulge in a variety of traditional dishes and popular snacks, including tacos, tamales, and traditional desserts.