It takes exactly one hour and about forty-six minutes to fall in-love with Tulum, Mexico. That’s how long your drive from the Cancun airport will be, plus the two minutes it takes to land in Tulum and look around. Mix the perfect amount of Mayan energy, with the exotic exploration of cenotes and pristine beaches for days. There’s an ease that takes over in Tulum and has you wanting to stay forever. That’s why Tulum is one of the most coveted destinations right now. This travel guide features our top Tulum travel tips to help you plan the perfect stay in this hot spot on Mexico’s East coast.
Tulum Travel Tips
Getting to Tulum
Getting to Tulum is simple. There isn’t an airport in Tulum. Instead, fly directly into Cancun from any direction, and rent a car, hire a taxi, a personal shuttle or take the ADO public buses that leave on the hour, to Tulum. Search flights to Tulum.
I opted for the ADO public bus which was a modest $USD7 and it dropped me in the centre of town at the bus station. The bus from Cancun to Tulum takes about two hours. The bus is air-conditioned and there is WiFi on board. This bus travels through Playa del Carmen too, on its way to Tulum, in case you have this destination on your list as well.
I recommend renting a car or being prepared to take taxis often if you are staying in town and not on the beach. I made fast friends with a woman named Rita who serendipitously picked me up at the bus station to take me to my hotel when I first arrived. She was fair and reliable, and I called on her for rides during my entire stay.
Renting a bicycle in Tulum during your stay is also a great way to get around, there are many bicycle rental companies and many of the hotels offer bikes for their guests. Bike riding around Tulum is common and there are bike paths on the main stretch of beach in Tulum, otherwise the roads are narrow and it is very important to stay to the right while on bicycle for your safety. Expect to pay around $USD8-10 per day.
The Best Boutique Hotels in Tulum
There are a number os stunning boutique hotels in Tulum from eco-escapes to luxury, exclusive stays. These are a few of the best places to stay in Tulum for couples, groups or luxury travellers.
I started my month in Tulum with a stay at Habitas Tulum; it was the absolute perfect way to drop in. Habitas is one of Tulum’s newest boho luxury properties with close proximity to the Tulum Ruins. The property is a seamless design of jungle and luxury, it is approachable, chic and intimate.
The guest rooms at Habitas are fashioned with palapa and canvas, this design takes glamping to the next level. Whether you have an ocean-view Ocean Room or a cozy jungle-tucked Jungle Room, you will experience simple luxury and intentional design including an outdoor rain shower and bathroom, covered front porches and private terraces, king-size bed, hardwood floors, air conditioning and high-speed wireless internet. There is a quintessential jungle feeling here, the lack of real walls and open space invites you to connect to the jungle and I loved this part of my stay at Habitas.
My favourite thing about Habitas is the communal space, the expansive and centrally located courtyard gathering space with hanging lanterns and chairs for lounging, the dining area with low tables and pillows for gathering before and after meals, the poolside bar with hammock swings, the infinity pool with hardwood deck and lounge beds and the pristine beachfront that you can enjoy as if you were on a private island. Habitas Tulum is tucked away from the sounds of Tulum in a way that you feel like you have the space to yourself, the façade is unassuming, and the hammock-sprinkled property begs you to become part of the chill vibe as soon as you step foot inside the gate.
Take advantage of the rooftop sound healing sessions offered throughout the week by local medicine men, and the weekly acro yoga that happens on the beach or by the pool. The spa is an incredible space with an eclectic offering of both locally inspired treatments and modern luxuries. In addition, Eduardo Castillo, one of the owners, is an internationally recognised musician and he curates the music program at Habitas which includes concerts under the stars.
A stay at Hotel Jashita Tulum is for you if you love the feel of exclusive international luxury. My stay here was full of beautiful surprises and it will always be one of my favourite places in Tulum. The Italian owners have designed the property with home, and their travels all over the world, in mind. There are 15 Superior Deluxe Suites, two of which have two king size beds for families to share the space, two Honeymoon Suites, a Master Suite with two bedrooms and an ultimate luxury Penthouse.
Every suite at Jashita includes a private pool and terrace, mine was overlooking the Adult Pool area and the perfect spot for a dip after lounging on the beach. The property of Jashita is positon on Soliman Bay, one of the most protected bays of the Riviera Maya and one of the best areas to stay in Tulum, tucked away from the main area of Tulum and the noise as a result. Jashita has a remote, cozy feel and I loved this privacy and chance for some deep breaths.
Luxury feels good at Jashita, the Italian linens that tuck you in at night, and the marble under your feet doesn’t go unnoticed during your stay, it is indulgent, especially in the Mexican jungle.
I loved the separation of the Adult Pool from the Family Pool, and I loved how private the beach front lounging was. There are a few “secret” spots to explore while you stay at Jashita, the first is the Jasmine Penthouse pool which is open to the public when the Penthouse Suite isn’t being rented. From this pool you have a 365 degree view of the jungle and the bay, it is a spectacular place to be. Similarly above the outdoor dining area is another lookout spot for cocktails and daytime lounging.
I enjoyed an incredibly thoughtful massage at the Jashita Spa during my stay, the intimate space was set with candles, incense and tropical flowers when I arrived. The open-air room welcomed a breeze from the jungle that was the perfect accompaniment to my treatment. I was asked to choose my favourite essential oil for my Aromatherapy Massage and I left blissed out for hours afterwards. The spa treatments include signature “rituals” like Cleopatra inspired by the goddess with a scrub, milk bath and massage, Luuk which is inspired by the Mayan medicine which is incredibly healing. This treatment includes acupressure on the head, face and neck and ends with a massage. The Mayan Cacao ritual which includes the use of cacao in a scrub, mud-massage and smooth alcarite butter.
With all of this, which I loved, my very favourite part of my stay at Jashita was the handmade pasta dinner at Pandano, the property’s restaurant. The pasta was so lovingly made by Italian-trained hands that it tasted like I was in Italy. Fresh fish is caught and prepared daily for fish lovers wanting locally caught fish and the menu includes many other International and local specialties.
Looking for a low-key, beachy, breath of fresh air? Zamas is the place for you. This well-established property is on the main road and beach of Tulum among the many other properties sharing this paradise. All rooms have quick access to the ocean and are modest, colourful and filled with Mexican casual decor. I could hear the waves of the ocean from my bed and each morning I was greeted with Mother Nature’s wake-up call with sunshine flooding into my room. This hotel is located within walking distance to many local establishments for eating and shopping while you stay. One of my favourite local shops in town is across the street from Zamas and sells quality Mexican handcrafted items from blankets and shirts, dresses and other fashionable things to pottery and tiles.
My favourite part about Zamas is the art that is incorporated into the décor and sprinkled all over the property. Sculptors, painters, street artists, and other local artisans have left their mark at Zamas and this adds to the whimsical, casual experience. The open-air dining room serves traditional Mexican fare by day and hosts a movie night by night.
Sanará is beautiful. Another property tucked in along the main stretch of beach and road in Tulum. Sanará means “you will heal” in Spanish, and the healing vibes of this property can be felt as soon as you arrive. This hotel features an incredible light-filled beach front yoga studio with daily classes, a world-class Wellness Centre that includes many Mayan and Ayurvedic healing treatments, and one of my very favourite restaurants in Tulum, The Real Coconut with a thoughtful menu of vegan, vegetarian and locally sourced organic foods. Everything about the stay is medicine. There will be house made gluten-free chocolate cookies waiting for you in your room when you check in, along with cocoa turtles each night for turn down, and the rain shower in the open-designed bathroom is decadent.
Every drop of Sanará looks and feels like the pages of a magazine. There are 19 suites, rooms and private villas on property. My suite was situated in the newly designed Jungle Compound and included a secluded courtyard with private pool, my own balcony deck and a luxurious room with separate seating area and kitchenette. Just above me was a rooftop perch perfect for sunrise and sunset meditation. This property prides itself on being eco-friendly and socially conscious. Every attempt is made to keep this promise.
My very favourite part of my stay at Sanará was the people who create the experience during your stay. From every smiling face at The Real Coconut and front desk, to the yoga teachers and Rubi who manages the boutique and Wellness Centre, I smiled the whole time and felt very taken care of.
Be sure to take advantage of the daily yoga program, practicing in the light-filled studio is a coveted experience for locals and visitors alike. The Real Coconut is not to be missed, you’ll be hooked for every meal, easily. Reserve a bed on the beach during your stay and soak in the luxury and ease. If seeing Tulum by water is on your list, take a walk in either direction along the beach to see the stretch of town and properties from the water – this is a beautiful experience at sunset and you can stop along the way for snacks, drinks, and even dinner.
Things to Do in Tulum
Excursions in Tulum
There is no shortage of excursions in Tulum with water activities that should be top of your list of things to do in Tulum. Fishing, snorkelling, diving, scuba, SUP, surfing, it is endless and the locals have made big business being your happy guide for all of these adventures. You can easily find many outfits ready to take you on an adventure at your whim.
It is impossible not to explore the Cenotes while you are visiting Tulum. “Cenote” is a Mayan word meaning “well,” and these wells are part of a massive underground network of rivers and caves that remain, for the most part, unexplored. These secret underground caverns are formed when limestone earth caves in, leaving a sinkhole in the earth that creates a pool of incredibly clear turquoise water. Exploring these cenotes is a grand adventure and many beautiful cenotes can be found in any direction from and within Tulum.
Depending on the type of adventure you are hoping for, the best cenotes in Tulum (or nearby) are Cenote Dos Ojos, which is the deepest known cave passage in the state and it has a resident population of bats, it is the perfect way to have an unforgettable experience cave diving Tulum style. Gran Cenote is just a few miles from Tulum and it is one of the most popular to visit. You can snorkel and scuba dive here as well. Cenote Escondido is a great cenote to visit if you’d like to sunbathe, swim, jump from the surrounding rocks or snorkel. Cenote Jardín de Edén is best visited during the week when the crowds are smaller, this cenote has an established area for shaded seating and it is a great cenote for sunbathing, lounging and turtle watching. Ik Kil is one of the most photographed cenotes near Tulum, you’ve likely seen it on Instagram and it is incredibly beautiful but very crowded so you’ll have to be okay with sharing the view with lots of other visitors. Cenote entrance fees start at 150 pesos (about $AUD10) and you’ll pay more for diving at some. The medicinal quality of the water is an added bonus to the lush surroundings, and diving and wildlife you’ll see.
Mayan Ruins Near Tulum
Visiting the Mayan ruins near Tulum is a must-do. The Tulum Ruins, are located on the beach in Tulum and this makes this spot even more breathtaking. These ruins date back to the 13th century and are one of the most iconic archaeological sites to see in Tulum. If checking a Seven Wonder off your list is appealing, you can visit Chichén Itzá, which is about 2 hours from Tulum. This 24 metre high pyramid with a 6 m temple on top is an impressive sight, and it is best to visit first thing in the morning or right before the complex closes to avoid the sun. Cobá is just 45 minutes from Tulum, the ancient city gives you a glimpse of times past and the iconic stairs make a great photo opportunity. Both Xel-Há and Muyil are about 20 minutes from Tulum and they are notable ruins to gain more experience with the Mayan culture and history. Muyil is a great alternative to Chichén Itzá if you want to stay closer to Tulum, you can hike and the ruins are incredibly photogenic.
If visiting a Biosphere Reserve is on your list when you are in Tulum, you should not miss a trip to see the unique Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean with many options to tour and see the incredible wildlife, ruins, and natural habitat and ecosystem of this carefully and lovingly preserved landmark.
Where to Eat in Tulum
Thanks to the increase in popularity of Tulum as a coveted vacation destination, the food scene has gotten incredibly compelling over the years and now Tulum boasts many award-winning cafes and restaurants. There is no shortage of beautifully designed, al fresco dining options in Tulum and I was happy to discover that there is also an abundance of choices in this innovation for vegetarians. In fact, many chefs at the recommendations on my list believe in slow food, and farm to table and mindful consumption, along with an impeccable dining experience. Here are a few of the best restaurants in Tulum for the health-conscious or foodie traveller.
Only open for dinner, Arca was a stand out for me because of it’s incredibly beautiful space and delicious vegetarian options. The menu is meat-forward for the carnivores, but I found plenty that I loved including several appetisers like Roasted Peppers Tartar, and the Watermelon Salad with goat cheese which was absolute perfection on the hot night that I dined here. Arca opens at 6pm Tuesday through Sunday and they take reservations from 6am to 7pm, otherwise you can likely find a seat in the expansive candle-lit space.
Raw Love was on my list way before I arrived in Tulum. I had seen cute photos of this popular spot on Instagram and heard from several vegan and vegetarian friends that it was a top favourite. Located on the Ahau Tulum property, it is a commitment to dine at Raw Love and one that I made more times than I can count during my month-long stay in Tulum. The menu is full of gourmet raw vegan food, lots of gluten-free options and superfoods, Acai bowls, healing shots and elixirs as well as decadent desserts that taste too good to be healthy. I actually tried every dessert on the menu and loved everything I tasted. Raw Love is open for breakfast and lunch, it is a great place to have a low-key and healthy dining experience and you don’t need a reservation.
I love The Real Coconut and I had several meals here when I stayed at Sanará, first of all because of the vegetarian and vegan menu, but also because of the ease of being there. This restaurant is gluten, grain, refined sugar and dairy free with a “food as medicine” philosophy. I feasted on coconut flour quesadillas with vegan cheese, vegan pancakes and the most incredible smoothies, juices and shots. The gluten-free chocolate cookies from my room check-in are made with plantain flour and I was officially addicted to them. The Real Coconut has a dining room almost as pretty as the food, but together they offer one of the best places to snap a perfect foodie photograph for Instagram. Open from 7:30am until 10pm you can dine at The Real Coconut all day long, and no reservation is necessary.
Philosophy, located in Casa Malca, is one of my very favourite restaurants in Tulum. The menu reflects the artistic approach of this exclusive hotel and every single dish is a work of art. Be sure to order the beet salad and sip on one of the handcrafted cocktails. I love grabbing one of the outdoor tables with a perfect view of the Caribbean. Be prepared to be wowed by the grand entrance which includes a larger-than-life curtain made of vintage Mexican wedding dresses, it is the perfect welcome to the whimsy of this hotel and a must-see while in Tulum. Open at 8am every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s best to make a reservation before you arrive.
Google the Tulum food scene and you’ll see Hartwood at the top of every list, for good reason. Fully sustainable, and “off the grid” as they say, they operate the entire restaurant using solar power and focused on leaving zero carbon footprint. Locally sourced fish, meats and fruits and vegetables are used daily and the menu is new every day. The Hartwood table is one of the most coveted in Tulum and as a result you can expect a line to get in, it’s best to try to make a reservation or show up at 3pm to make a reservation for later that night. Hartwood is only open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and don’t plan on visiting during the month of October, they take this month off before high season.
Located in Jashita Hotel, and on my list mostly for the handmade pasta which they make daily. The menu is eclectic and international with local specialties as well, and a daily fish special is prepared over the grill each day. Jashita is off-the-beaten-path and well-worth the trip for something sophisticated and quiet and the pasta is so authentic it will have you dreaming of Italy. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, no reservation needed.
Also on the most Instagrammed list, Matcha Mama is an adorable café with swing set seats and a surfboard welcome. The standout here is the daily handmade vegan ice cream. Definitely have the coconut ice cream, you will not be sorry.
Newly re-established, Eden is located on the main road within walking distance from a handful of popular boutique hotels along the beach. The dining space surrounds a pool on a wooden deck with a platform for live music which happens often. Cozy nooks, tucked-in tables and areas for lounging make this the perfect place for a romantic cocktail before dinner or a late night stop and dance after dinner. The menu is creative and inspired by seasonal ingredients and freshly caught, local fish. Open nightly from 6pm until 11pm, no reservations needed but definitely look to see if they are hosting a special event or live music before you go.
This was my very favourite local taco place, located away from the touristy parts of Tulum in the downtown area. Don’t be put off by the façade or the ambience, it is very local, family-owned and the best authentic Mexican food I’ve had in a long time.
The incredibly delicious, both in décor and menu, restaurant located at Habitas. This special spot is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the perfect reason to check out this boho property. No reservations needed.
Another local, authentic Mexican place located in downtown Tulum and away from the beach and boutique hotels. I loved the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and the coconut tortillas are a must-have!
One of my favorite places for a happy hour or late night cocktail, and really beautiful small bites that feel and taste equally exciting as the Mezcal cocktails. Open daily for dinner beginning at 6pm with live music and dinner and dancing throughout the week, you can make a reservation online or pop in on a whim.
The Best Shopping in Tulum
Tulum is a shopper’s paradise, with local boutiques lining the streets and tucked in here and there, both on the main hotel/beach road and in town for more of a local flavor. I loved window shopping and did more of this than actually purchasing because the price tags reflect the popularity of this paradise. I did however fall madly in-love with these shops which are well-worth the trip.
Italian-owned by Francesca, every item in this shop was once locally sourced and now Francesca adds beautifully authentic Italian items from her home country too. I wanted to buy one of everything in this little shop which can be found down an alley of shops, all worth a look, off the main beach road in Tulum. To find this boutique look for the Mur Mur restaurant, the alley is behind this restaurant in a new area called “La Placita Shopping Center.”
For the ultimate Tulum shopping experience and truly authentic Tulum designs, you must visit Caravana. Located on the main road in Tulum you cannot miss it, ask anyone and they will point you in the right direction, and you will want to take your time and enjoy the experience.
This boutique is filled with so many pretty things and textures; from crystals and gem stones set in beautiful metals to woven shoes and bags.
I loved this boutique because of the French feel. Also located on the main beach road, this shop is full of incredible textiles including fine linens, home décor and beautifully handmade clothes.
I have fallen in love with Tulum. The town is a beautiful mix of old and new, with distinct Mayan culture and plenty of things to do and see, or instead enjoy the beauty of doing nothing at all. I hope these Tulum travel tips inspire you to visit this magical place and fall head over heels too.
Pat Bailey is a certified Bhakti Yoga Teacher, published poet, writer and entrepreneur with a passion for exploring the globe. Pat is also the founder of The Hell Yes Life, where she has created her own branding academy helping to elevate brands and students through authentic and intuitive coaching.