Tulum Mexico: Travel Guide

Tulum itself is a charm like no other―it’s a breath-taking melange of unspoilt nature and historical wonders. I, too, was smitten by its refreshing vibes.

Let me take you down memory lane of our unforgettable time good and bad in hopes that you’ll enjoy Tulum but be aware of what to expect before visiting.

Getting there:

Tulum is a coastal town on the eastern part of the Yucatán Peninsula. The nearest city with an airport is Cancun. We booked our flight through Google Flight, but you can also find great deals on apps like Sky Scanner or Hopper.

Before our flight, we already booked a car from Advantage Rent A Car through Expedia, thinking it was the best option.  We arrived at Cancun Airport at 7 AM but wasted three hours making multiple phone calls with Advantage and Expedia. At around 10 AM, we finally got a hold of our shuttle service. It was a lesson learned for us not to book with Advantage and make prior arrangements with a reliable brand name rental company.

Transportation

  • If you want to travel like a local, hop on the ADO bus that takes five daily trips from Cancun Airport to Tulum center―12:05 AM, 11:05 AM, 12:25 PM, 3:15 PM, and 7:45 PM.
  • There are also shared airport shuttles that generally carry up to 12 passengers. Another option is hiring a private driver. This is probably the priciest option, so better practice your haggling skills!
  • Rental car prices have hidden charges that might ruin your budget. For instance, the rental rate listed on Expedia was just $4/day for a total quoted price of $36. But once you arrive, you’ll be shocked by the whopping insurance costs and other extra fees that would sum up to a total of $246!
  • Don’t rent from any of the off brand rental companies that are not at the actual airport and require a shuttle because their shuttles don’t pick up at regular times and change at random.
  • If you try to use your personal insurance coverage to save on the overall rental prices, they will charge you a $15,000 deposit.

Avoid Scammers

  • Do not speak to any of the well-dressed men and women that are standing at booths near the airport exit. These people are targeting you to sell you timeshare scams. To read about ways to avoid scams abroad and find out what happened to us, click here.
  • Have your money exchanged at your hotel, which is much cheaper than at the airport. If you’re staying at an Airbnb, google an exchange rate establishment and call for their rates before to avoid being ripped off.

From Cancun to Tulum, we spent around two hours traveling the 130 highway. There aren’t many scenic views along the way, besides armed law enforcement officers with huge weaponry randomly posted throughout.  I guess they’re there to make us feel safe, but it’s a little startling to see.

Where to Stay:

We stayed at Dreams All Inclusive Tulum Resort. The place is highly recommended for those looking for a private beach, convenient amenities, and nightly entertainment. Read more about our stay at Dreams All Inclusive Tulum Resort.

Travel tips

  • Don’t forget to bring a strong bug repellent because there are seriously lots of mosquitoes lingering all over Tulum. Even with the repellent, I had these flying creatures left me with huge bumps that lasted for many days. Yikes! After some research, check out Coqui Coqui mosquito repellant.
  • The Tulum weather can get very hot and humid, hence always stay hydrated and bring your most reliable hat, sunglasses, and your scene-stealer bag to carry all your essentials!

More affordable accommodations

For a budget-friendly Riviera Maya trip, you’ll have lots of affordable accommodations to choose from in Tulum. Hostels like Hostel Che Tulum, The Weary Traveler Hostel, and El Jardin de Frida are great options if you’re a solo traveler on a tight budget. Tulum hotels such as Posada Yum Kin Hotel Tulum, Maison Tulum, and Elements Tulum Boutique are other notable choices that offer mid-price range lodging.

What to do:

Petite may it look, but Tulum is loaded with impressive attractions that are worth the visit. Best that you rent a car because parking prices are relatively minimal or even free.

Take a walk around the Tulum Ruins

Without a hint of doubt, the Tulum Ruins is a famed attraction in the town, with its history dating back to 564 A. D. Built to be a Mayan fortress, the place is perched atop towering rock formations brimming with palm trees.

Brace for the crowd of tourists wanting to take a picture-perfect snap! Open every day, the entrance fee costs 70 pesos, with other extra fees for cameras and tour guides. To save money, skip the guided tours and wander on your own. Plus, you can take a plunge into the beach and see the beautiful Tulum ruins from afar.

Witness the Gran Cenote

The cenote is open daily, from 10 AM to 5 PM, with an entrance rate at 180 pesos. When you enter Gran Cenote, you’re asked to shower to wash off any sunscreen or bug repellent- only biodegradable sunscreen is allowed in cenotes. There are accessible bathrooms, showers and for rent life jackets and snorkeling equipment. You’ll also find an attached restaurant that provides a buffet-style spread of yumminess.

These beautiful hanging vines will surely leave your mouth open! The Gran Cenote is a mesmerizing sinkhole between Tulum and Coba, fringed with limestone. Rejuvenate your skin by immersing yourself in this minerally rich water. I literally felt baby soft to touch when I came out.

Be one with nature at Xel-ha Park

Xel-ha Water Park is one magical sanctuary in Tulum bursting with relaxing ambiance and exciting activities. Go snorkeling together with hundreds of marine species or pump up your adrenaline with outdoor adventures like Trepachanga, Salpichanga  Zip-lines, and Chuc Kay’s Flight. Then, immerse yourself with the soothing waters and sound of the Xel-ha Cave.

Re-live the Mayan history at Chichen Itza

Another must-visit spot in the Yucatan Peninsula is the Chichen Itza―one of the world’s new seven wonders. This lofty archaeological site is one of a kind as it  features the unique Mayan architecture. For 242 pesos, you’ll be able to see this impressive, historical Mayan complex.

Visit the magical Suytun Cenote

This mystical underground cavern with an illuminating ray of light draws more tourists in the morning. We visited Suytun Cenote after 3 PM after the tour busses have departed, and we got the entire enthralling scenery all to ourselves. Entrance fee is 70 pesos, and they are open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Explore Yucatan and go shopping

But of course, I love shopping as much as traveling! The array of local boutique vendors in Tulum is just impressive. Tulum Beach Road has a huge selection of fashionable souvenirs like sundresses, hand-made crafts, and even sustainable garments. Prices here range from mid to high, so better prepare your budget ahead.

Head to Playa Paraiso

Photo by Spencer Watson on Unsplash

There are lots of beaches in Tulum but one of the best beaches in town is Playa Paraiso. This paradise-like attraction is a public beach, which means you get to enjoy its immaculate white sand and azure waters for free!

Experience a mud bath at Laguna de Kaan Luum

Photo by dronepicr on Flicker

Mud bath, anyone? Experience a rather unique bath at Laguna de Kaan Luum. According to locals, bathing in the mud-producing cenote is a healing activity. Entrance fee is just 50 pesos.

Where to Eat:

Experience fine dining in Kin Toh

This Mayan-Mexican restaurant is a gastronomic delight for travellers wanting to experience fine dining inside a nest-like spot. Incorporating local ingredients into each international cuisine, we totally had a great night at the place.

Travel tip: You can enter the Kin Toh premises without booking their $600/ night rooms. Just enter the restaurant and tell them that you’re going to the bar. And ta-da, you’ll have access to this scenic place for beautiful pictures!

Kin Toh Lounge Nets

Get your burrito fix at Burrito Amor

Don’t dare miss the tastiest tacos and burritos in town. This touristy food spot at the south of Tulum’s central town exudes hipster vibes. Plus, it’s vegan-friendly and the prices are reasonable.

Revel in seafood madness at El Camello Jr.

Photo by City Foodsters on Flickr

Craving for some fresh seafood? El Camello is not just one of the most popular restaurants in Tulum for nothing. Chill ambiance, convenient location, and good food selection―all in one setting. The long queues and higher prices are truly worth it.

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