I just got back from my second trip to Tulum, Mexico and got to stay at beachfront hotels in Tulum, visited the Cenotes, swam with the turtles, and navigated a sophisticated food and cocktail scene in an area mostly devoid of megaresorts. I love Tulum so much because, by day, Tulum white sandy beach has the idyllic, beach vibe that I love, with yoga, raw vegan bowls, and hipsters aplenty. By night, you can follow the party trail to a host of chic bars and restaurants with amazing music! Since I have been twice, I thought I would share The Ultimate Tulum Travel Guide to help you prepare for your visit and plan your Tulum itinerary. I've broken it down: what you need to know and what pack, Tulum hotels – where to stay in Tulum (finding luxurious & affordable beachfront hotels in Tulum), what to do in Tulum (day trips & night time parties), where to eat(trendy & local spots), and tips on visiting the Cenote in Tulum.
QUICK SHOP: TRAVEL MUST-HAVES:
Tulum is divided into two areas: the town (pueblo) and the beach (playa). They are about 3 miles apart. Tulum Beach is the stretch of businesses and hotels along the beach with one main road running down the entire length (that's where we stayed and all the trendy spots are). Tulum town is off the beach, more budget-friendly, with more local Mexican authenticity.
I love Tulum so so much and I don’t want to dissuade anyone from traveling to Tulum which is why I think it's important to talk about this issue: Tourism is destroying the ecosystem. I only recently learned about this in the documentary on Tulum called The Dark Side of Tulum. The intention of this documentary is to not only create awareness, but to establish real environmental change, present real solutions, and feature the stakeholders who are making a difference. I highly recommend we all support this so we can protect magical Tulum!
Due to the above, there's an overabundance of Sargassum seaweed scattered throughout the Tulum shore. I say this only because I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone expecting to have Caribbean turquoise, clean waters to swim in. There are parts of the beach that are clear though!
It's a tropical country so of course, mosquitos exist. How much of a problem they are depends on several factors: how delicious you are, time of year, how close your room is to the sea/jungle, and time of day! I am all about using natural products, but when it comes to bugs, bring out the 100% DEET! I am super susceptible to bugs!
Try and stay inside between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., because that is when they come out the most to eat! Mosquitoes come out at sunset and after dark. Most of the hotels are beach front but a lot of the restaurants are on the jungle side of the beach road, so definitely spray that Deet around your legs and ankles! In addition to mosquitoes, watch out for ants and sand bugs while laying on the beach! Be sure to lay on the day beds with a towel and you should be fine!
The short answer is yes. I have been twice and felt that the little beach town is super safe. It felt safe to walk at night (we used our phone as flashlights). I wouldn't recommend biking at night just because there are no street lights. While Tulum is safe, but it isn’t as safe to leave your belongings unattended...
With that said, despite what you probably heard about Mexico being dangerous, violence against tourists, however, is practically nonexistent in Tulum. But if you are traveling to Mexico, I suggest you check the US Department of State’s website for advisories in particular areas and read up on the current situation.
Just be smart and lock your stuff up and if you feel that something is wrong, listen to your gut! Better safe than sorry!
A lot of you who followed along on Instagram stories wondered what happened that we had to switch our second hotel...
DO NOT STAY at ARENABLUE! In short, this "4-star" hotel is in reality, a 1.5-star at best. The whole property is NOT kept well. The entire place is a scam and someone also STOLE a lot of money from our room. The manager, Monica, was very defensive and not sensitive to my friend who had more than $1K stolen from her. She actually tried to turn it around and say that her friends (as in Christina and I) stole from her! That was laughable. The owner was also there but didn't even offer any kind words or help. We had a 4-hour ordeal with cops involve but in the end, nothing got resolved. We no longer felt safe and asked to get refunded for the three nights we didn't stay. We are still having to deal with them to refund us. TOTAL SCAM. DO NOT STAY HERE AND SPREAD THE NEWS ABOUT HOW HORRIBLE THIS PLACE IS! Scroll below for the list of recommendations on where to stay in Tulum!
I will do a separate post on packing tips and what's in my beach bag but other than your usual beauty products don't forget these items when packing for Tulum:
I brought a lot of flowy dress and wore sneakers and sandals! No heels required.
AMAZON VACATION OUTFIT
Which airport do you fly into for Tulum? Cancun International Airport is the nearest airport to Tulum. If you are arriving by airplane, you will have to fly into Cancun. The drive is approximately 1.5 hours to Tulum, or a little more if the traffic is bad. From Playa Del Carmen, the drive is approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, south. The drive is pretty straight down the double lane coastal highway. PRO TIP: Before leaving the airport make sure you exchange money into pesos. Doing this ahead of time will save you the inconvenience of having to go out of your way searching for a place to exchange cash, and you'll get a better rate. Typical exchange rate per $1 dollar is 17 to 22 pesos.
I recommend getting a private transfer as it's my preferred way of traveling directly from the Cancun airport to Tulum. There are dozens of companies that are highly rated. Pre-booked transfers cost about $120 USD but then you have a car waiting for you as you get through customs. Transfers include a private A/C van – no one will share the van with you. Click here to compare prices and read what other travelers have to say on TripAdvisor. Our friends also used Happy Transfer and recommend them as well!
I highly suggest choosing a beachfront hotel Tulum. And by that, I don’t mean booking a resort, but direct access to the beach in Tulum is important.
Mi Amor Tulum
If you want to know where to stay in Tulum, this is definitely perfect for couples. We wanted to splurge on a high-end hotel for a couple of nights so we booked the Sea Front Room With Refreshing Plunge Pool! Hands down one of the best properties in Tulum to stay at. Keep in mind they don’t have direct access to the beach at their property but instead a beautiful pool & day beds on top of rocks at oceanfront - which is truly a spectacular view. You can go use the public beach which is just down the road but we didn't mind because we knew the rest of our trip would be beachfront.
3-star Adults-only beachfront hotel
After we left Arenablue, I booked this hotel last minute through Hotels.com. They were very accommodating (a relief from our prior experience), and set up an extra bed (for $50/night) since there were three of us. We were in the beachfront, Horizon Room, which also has a hot tub on the roof (the hot tub doesn't actually turn on so it's just lukewarm water). We did enjoy a few dips in it though! NOTE: WIFI is NOT GOOD HERE. This is a small hotel with only seven rooms, so if you're looking for a large resort experience this is not for you. However, if you're looking for a quiet getaway with friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere, this is the place! Def a good place to note as for where to stay in Tulum!
3.5-star beachfront hotel with restaurant, near Tulum Beach
My first trip to Tulum, we stayed here the last three nights of the trip (we were in an AirBnB the first two). It has an excellent location midway down the beach, right along the coast with a clean beach, and is easily walkable to anywhere on the beachfront (10-minute drive to town). The hotel has beautiful, beach-chic rooms with excellent organic toiletries, plenty of towels and comfy beds. It also includes a delicious, free breakfast, but with limited options. Posada Margarita next door was a wonderful spot for food & drinks (more on that below)!
4-star Adults-only beachfront hotel with outdoor pool, near Tulum Beach
Tata is a relaxed and well-kept hotel near the Northern end of Tulum Beach – which means there isn't so much foot traffic that adds to the relaxing atmosphere. This is perfect for a honeymoon or if you want to be in a more quiet part of Tulum Beach. So many amazing 5 star reviews on their food, service, and overall stay.
Tulum is great for rest and rejuvenation and photo ops, but for those of you who enjoy having a full itinerary, there is plenty to do! What to do in Tulum, Mexico, at night? Below I've listed a few recommendations that should have something for everyone.
What to Do in Tulum Travel Guide: Casa Malca
Visiting Cenotes Tulum
IK Lab Gallery at Azulik Hotel
What to do: Shopping in Tulum town
Now that I've told you where to stay in Tulum, let's talk about food. The restaurant and bar scene in Tulum is AMAZING. Note its not Mexican. Everything is super trendy on Tulum beach. I love a good authentic Mexican cuisine too so I listed my must-have eats: Al Pastor. There are too many good places to count but I tried to condense the best ones to this list.
Moro at Habitas Posada Magharita: Best Pasta in Tulum
La Riviera Costeña - Al Pastor
What to Do in Tulum: Drinks at Kin Toh
Hope you found these tips on where to stay in Tulum, what to do, things to know helpful!.Comment below if you have any other suggestions or questions! Have fun in Tulum, Mexico and drink a couple of margaritas for me!