Over the past year or so, Tulum has exploded. On Instagram, it’s hard to avoid pictures of travellers and influencers enjoying their holiday in Tulum. There’s really no difference in reality.
Why is it so popular? Tulum boasts some beautiful beaches with soft white sand and refreshingly blue water. The combination of the bohemian and luxury vibe is what attracts a lot of travellers, people just have to see what the fuss is about.
Overall it’s a pretty expensive place compared to other destinations in Mexico, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit if you’re on a budget. Tulum Town still offers a cheap local feel, but if you are looking for luxury, for sure head to the beach area.
Running parallel to the beach you’ll be spoilt for choice with luxury hotels, restaurants and beach clubs. All of which are beautifully designed and create an irresistibly bohemian vibe.
What to do in Tulum
You can easily spend your days lazing on the beach, sipping a cocktail in a beach club, but if you’re up for some exploring, there’s plenty to do.
Tulum has its own set of ruins, right in the centre of it all, overlooking the waves crashing against the cliffs below. It’s quite a backdrop! There are also numerous cenotes dotted around the surrounding areas ready to be explored.
Top tours in and around Tulum
Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here is a selection of our favourite tours in Tulum:
Tulum’s location makes it a great place to visit lots of cenotes. If you don’t already know, cenotes are essentially a sinkhole that results from the collapse of the bedrock exposing groundwater. And they’re beautiful!
Tulum has a selection of cave cenotes and open-air ones, giving you a variety of options to visit, but here are our top three:
The Gran Cenote is a series of small caves connecting to a larger cenote, perfect for exploring with a snorkel. The water is as clear as it can get, glistening against the cave walls.
The best thing about the cenote is that you’ll be swimming amongst fish as well as turtles that love to bask in the sun on the cenote rocks.
Entrance to the cenote is 180 MXN ($9).
Another great cenote for both swimmers and divers is Cenote Calavera. The cenote has both a jumping platform and a swing, taking your visit to a whole new level of fun.
Calavera actually translates to skull. The reason for this is when the sunlight streams into the cenote, it gives the appearance of a skull from the water.
Now imagine yourself jumping through these tight holes into the cenote.
Entrance to Calavera is 100 MXN ($5).
Cenote Dos Ojos
If you are a diver, head to Cenote Dos Ojos! You’ll get to explore an underwater world that’s missed by everyone else floating on top of the water.
The cenote has a vast cave system that is just waiting to be explored. It covers over 80 km, with some zones going down to 120 meters.
The general entry fee to this cenote is 350 MXN ($17.50). If you do want to scuba dive, there are lots of companies available with the entrance fee already included.
Can’t get enough of visiting the cenotes? The three cenotes we shared above are our top picks, but there are many more.
It’s also a fun way to spend the day and get some exercise in. The cute pastel bikes with baskets have also become quite a thing on Instagram.
Tulum is a great place to cycle around due to it being relatively flat and having cycle paths that run along the main road. However, when you get to the beach area, you’ll need to cycle along the road which can get quite bumpy.
How much does hiring a bicycle cost in Tulum?
You can hire a bike for around 100 MXN ($5) – 150 MXN ($7.50) a day. Or if you’re lucky, your accommodation may include bikes for free.
There are a number of bike rental places along the main road, but a highly recommended shop is Ola Bike Tulum. Their bikes are good quality and you can reserve them online to avoid disappointment for 150 MXN ($7.50).
Eating food next to a cenote surely makes the food taste better right? Even if it doesn’t, Clan-Destino Bar provides a great environment and even better burgers.
Set along the beach strip, once you walk into the restaurant, you’ll immediately feel like you’ve escaped the craziness of Tulum. Take your seat next to the cenote, enjoy your food and once you’re satisfied, you can take a dip in the cenote.
TIP: Our compact Tulum guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Tulum!
#5 Indulge in luxury at one of Tulum’s beach clubs
Tulum has become renowned worldwide for its beach clubs, allowing you to be completely surrounded by luxury for the day.
The beach clubs have managed to get the balance between luxury and rustic just right, giving the clubs a tropical beach feel. You’ll find huge sunbeds sprawling out onto the sand, hammocks swinging between the trees and fully-stocked bars with swim-up pools.
You’ll feel like you’ve entered paradise!
By night, these beach clubs turn into some of the best parties hosted by famous DJs from across the world.
How to pick the right beach club
The entry cost to these beach clubs varies hugely depending on what one you pick. A lot of the beach clubs allow you to spend your entry fee on consumption. For example, if entry is $30, you can spend this on food and drinks and have access to the beach club. Prices range from $20 to a couple of hundred dollars for the day.
It’s a quirky beach-style bar that has no minimum spend. Drink prices are relatively cheap compared to the rest of Tulum, and they sell some really great tacos.
You can enjoy your drink and tacos in the bar or on one of the many sun loungers and bean bags that sprawl onto the beach.
There’s often live music and a great atmosphere all day long, especially during sunset.
#8 Visit Chichen Itza, one of the new 7 Wonders of the World
Want to tick off one of the new 7 Wonders of the World? Well, you can!
Chichen Itza receives over 2.5 million visitors every year, each one eager to explore the Mayan complex dating back to 600 AD. There’s a total of 26 Mayan ruins, with El Castillo taking centre stage as the main pyramid of the complex.
Although Chichen Itza isn’t right on the doorstep of Tulum, it’s still an ideal destination to visit Chichen Itza from as a day trip. The best option would be to join this day tour from Tulum which is now discounted for a rate of only $32.50 (normally $50).
Expect a super fun day of 12 hours which includes:
skip-the-line ticket for Chichen Itza
a visit to Valladolid
a visit to a sacred cenote
During the day, you will also get a free buffet meal and you will be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who can tell you everything you want to know about the Mayan history.
Where’s the best place to visit Chichen Itza from?
If you’re planning on visiting multiple destinations along the east coast of Mexico, you will get more chances to visit Chichen Itza.
The drive from Tulum to Chichen Itza is only 2 hours and with the discounted rate of $32.50, it’s one of the best places along the Mexican east coast to visit Chichen Itza from.
See here the distances and rates of the best tours from 3 main destinations along the Riviera Maya:
Note that the Chichen Itza entrance fee of $30 is not included in the tour price.
Pro-tip: If you’re doing the visit independently, take the time to explore some of the nearby cenotes. Cenote Ik-kil is an 8-minute drive from Chichen Itza and is a stunning underground pool of water surrounded by hanging vines and vegetation.
#9 Take a day trip to Coba ruins
If Tulum’s ruins don’t satisfy your craving for Mayan ruins, then you can also head to Coba ruins, only 45 minutes from Tulum.
These ruins aren’t as busy as some of the others in Mexico, making them even more enjoyable to visit. Set amongst the jungle, you can explore the large network of stone streets which connect the pyramids and structures within the site.
A big draw of Coba used to be that you were able to climb the pyramids, something you can’t do at others such as Chichen Itza.
Entrance into Coba costs just 75 pesos.
COVID-Update: Unfortunately, due to COVID, climbing the pyramids is currently suspended.
#10 Visit Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve
Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean, made up of thousands of species of flora and fauna. It’s only a 20-minute drive or a 60-minute bus journey from Tulum, making it perfect for a day trip.
Within the Sian Ka’an reserve, you’ll find a diverse range of nature including jungle, freshwater marshes, lagoons, Mayan-built canals and access to the barrier reef in the Caribbean sea. Essentially, there’s plenty to explore!
The reserve celebrates sustainable tourism, allowing you to explore the area whilst minimising the damage tourism can have on this type of place.
There are a number of tours available to help you get the most out of the reserve, from boat trips to snorkelling. You can find information about the tours available on the Sian Ka’an website.
There are two entrances to the reserve. If you enter via the Muyil entrance, the fee is 45 MXN ($2.30) or 50 MXN ($2.55) at Sian Ka’an Boardwalk.
#11 Rejuvenate yourself at Holistika
Tulum is a city that screams health and self-care, with plenty of places to do yoga, and more healthy cafes and restaurants than you can eat at.
Holistika encompasses everything you need to look after both your body and mind. Their facilities are specifically designed to help you relax and maximise tranquility.
You can spend your time in the beautiful shalas, lounging around the pool, rejuvenating with a massage or exploring the art walk. Some of the activities you can take part in include yoga, temazcal, sonic experiences and cacao ceremonies.
If you feel it’s time to treat yourself, Holistika is the perfect place to do this.
#12 Go shopping in Tulum’s boutiques
If you’re looking to update your wardrobe or join the beach-style fashion that’s visible everywhere in Tulum, you are at the right place. You can easily spend hours hopping between the boutiques that line the beach road of Tulum.
There are some really interesting and unique pieces in the shops, but this definitely comes at a price. Expect western prices or higher!