Over the past two years or so, Tulum has exploded in popularity. Instagram is flooded with pictures of travellers and influencers enjoying their holidays in Tulum, and the fame translates into bigger crowds and soaring prices.
Why is this town so popular? Tulum boasts some beautiful beaches with soft white sand and refreshingly blue water. And the unique combination of bohemian and luxury vibes is what attracts a lot of travellers. People just have to see what the fuss is about.
Overall Tulum is 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. 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.
If you’re visiting Tulum soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this bohemian beach town in Mexico.
You can easily spend your days lazing on the beach, sipping a cocktail in a beach club and swimming. 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.
Another reason why so many people are attracted to this beach town is the nightlife. If you’re looking for exclusive beach parties, this is the place. Although less common, cheap bars and street parties are also found here.
How long should you spend in Tulum?
Some people visit Tulum for a few days as part of their Mexico itinerary, others make it their holiday destinationm and others never leave.
We recommend a minimum of 2 days in Tulum. This gives you enough time to visit Tulum ruins, splash about in some cenotes and relax on the beach.
Tulum isn’t for everyone, and as the word spreads about this town, it’s only going to become busier and busier. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if you’re excited by Tulum’s exclusive vibes, or would rather visit the less-discovered destinations along the Caribbean coast.
Where to stay in Tulum
Location #1: Tulum Town — live cheaply alongside the locals
If you’re a traveller on a budget or prefer a more authentic vibe, then staying in Tulum Town is probably the best choice for you.
In Tulum Town, you’ll be surrounded by locals and as a result, Mexican food at great prices. There’s an abundant amount of street food and local restaurants that are budget-friendly and delicious.
There are still plenty of places to party in Tulum town, with parties flooding out onto the street as the night goes on. You’ll also find that drink prices are a lot cheaper compared to the beach.
A large majority of the hostels can be found in Tulum Town, inviting the younger, backpacker crowd. There are also plenty of well-priced homestays, Airbnbs and hotels in this area.
The town is also the most convenient place if you’re arriving by bus because the station is located within the town.
Getting around in Tulum Town
The downside: Tulum Town isn’t located directly on the beach. To get to the beach, you’ll have to either hop in a colectivo for 15 MXN ($0.75), ride a bike for around 30 minutes or get a 10-minute taxi ride.
The problem with taxis is that they charge extortionate fees for the short distance due to the popularity of the area. You’ll be looking at around 150 MXN ($7.50) – 200 MXN ($10.50) for this short journey.
Location #2: Beach Area — luxury boutique hotels and beach clubs
Tulum’s beach area is separated into two sections, public and private.
No matter where you pick to stay along the beach, you’ll be paying much higher prices than in Tulum Town.
Tulum private beach
You’ll find the private beaches to the south of Tulum, lined with luxury boutique hotels, expensive restaurants and popular beach clubs.
It’s no wonder this area is so popular. The beach is stunning with its perfect white sand, baby blue water and luxury beach clubs. This is the Tulum you’ve seen on your Instagram feed.
If you want to stay here, it’s worth checking if your hotel has beach access. If not, you’ll have to pay to enter one of the beach clubs/hotels before you can lay your towel on the sand. Prices start at around $20.
Expect to pay from $100/night to stay in one of the hotels here.
Tulum public beach
The public beach area is set to the north of Tulum and as the name suggests, you’re able to access this part of the beach for free.
Instead of the boutique hotels found in the private part, here there are a number of large resorts. Prices start at around $120 per night.
The beach is slightly rockier here and not as picture-perfect as down south, but you won’t catch us complaining.
The majority of nightlife can be found on the private beach, so if you’re looking for some peace and quiet you may be better off here. However, the downside to this, is you’ll have to travel to the party.
Where to eat in Tulum
Tulum has a great food scene, from cheap street eats and local restaurants to beautifully designed restaurants run by some of the world’s top chefs.
Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find it in Tulum.
Loco Tulum — treat yourself to some fancy Mediterranean food
If you’re not travelling on a budget and want to indulge in some perfectly prepared food by a top chef, then head to Loco Tulum.
The restaurant’s seasonal menus bring the Mediterranean to Mexico in a way that will absolutely wow you.
Navito Tulum — the best seafood tacos and ceviche
It’s easy to just walk straight past this little local restaurant, but make sure you pay a visit. Nativo Tulum proves Tulum restaurants are not only for travellers with a big budget. Located in Tulum Town, it serves up some of the best Mexican seafood dishes for a really low price. The ceviche and marlin tacos are a must-try here!
Burrito Amor — healthy(ish) burritos
Once you visit Burrito Amor, you’re guaranteed to go back at least one more time during your stay in Tulum. The couple who own the restaurant started it with the aim of creating healthy but delicious food. And they got it right! In addition to burritos, they have coffee, fresh juices and smoothies.
If you’re staying in Tulum Town, then exploring the area can be done easily by foot. No matter where you’re staying in the town, you’re likely to still be surrounded by great local restaurants and supermarkets.
Walking around is a great way to explore the town, plus it’s free and you can burn off some of the tacos you’ve been eating.
Walking from Tulum Town to the beach area is possible, but you’re looking at least an hour’s walk. This may be fine for some people, but do remember it’s likely to be sunny and hot.
Wherever you are in Tulum, you’ll easily be able to flag down a taxi. They’re a convenient way to reach some of the surrounding sites such as cenotes and Mayan ruins.
The taxis have definitely taken advantage of the area’s recent growth in popularity, as well as the distance between the town and the beach.
By this, we mean that taxis are pretty expensive! The 10-minute trip between the town and the beach will cost you around 150 MXN ($7.50) – 200 MXN ($10.50), and that’s during the day. At night they like to increase the prices even more and if it’s raining, you may as well say goodbye to your budget. If you want to save your budget, a colectivo will be a better option.
Always make sure to haggle before getting in the taxi because they’re more than likely to start with an extortionate and unreasonable price.
A popular way to get around Tulum is by bike. It’s actually one of THE things to do whilst in town.
If you’re in Tulum Town then this can be a convenient way to reach the beach area, but do keep in mind it’s about a 5 km cycle and it’s bound to be a sweaty one. You’ll have definitely earnt some tacos by the end of the day!
Biking around Tulum has been made easy by the relatively flat and well-paved sidewalk that runs along the main road.
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.
Colectivos, the local public transport, are white minivans. They’re by far your cheapest way to get around Tulum. A ride only costs 15 MXN ($0.75).
Getting from the town to the beach by colectivo is a relatively easy task, all you have to do is find a nearby bus stop or flag one down from the road.
Getting back from the beach area is another story. Unless you’re a local, the colectivos don’t really like to pick you up and instead prefer to reserve seats for the Tulum residents instead. This means you’re forced to get a taxi instead.
You can also use colectivos to get to a number of Tulum’s cenotes, as well as the ruins.
If you’re planning on just spending your time in Tulum and not exploring the surrounding areas, then you probably won’t need to hire a car.
But if you want to explore lots of Tulum’s cenotes and enjoy a day trip to Coba ruins, then renting a car could be a good idea. A car allows you to explore the area at your own convenience and can work out cheaper than a tour or a taxi.
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Tulum. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Tulum. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Tulum.
Our favourite places to stay in Tulum
Hotel Casa Santiago Tulum – Treating yourself
There are too many great things to mention about Casa Santiago. It’s an eco-sustainable hotel with a refreshing pool and sun-loungers, perfect for relaxing around. An added bonus, all rooms offer balconies with pool views.
The star of the show though? The staff! They’re always there to help you out. Whether it’s answering a question, or helping you to organise a tour in Tulum.
Put on your complimentary bathrobe and enjoy the tranquility of this hotel. Every aspect of the hotel is so beautifully and intricately designed that you can’t help but be relaxed here. The decor is truly stunning with splashes of turquoise all around you.
There’s not one, but two pools to take a refreshing dip in after you’ve enjoyed your complimentary breakfast. And at the end of the day, the modern and spacious rooms are the perfect place to retire to at the end of the day.
The creative murals that you’ll find throughout the entire hotel, give La Palmita a vibrant and artistic feel. Wherever you look, you’ll feel inspired.
The beds are massive and incredibly comfortable, offering a great night’s sleep after a busy day in Tulum. You can also chill on your own private balcony or the big roof terrace. Plonk yourself in one of the many hammocks and enjoy the sunset.
Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Aleksandra is a writer and editor who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. She’s worked and studied in four countries (and counting) and picked up a new hobby in each of them. She’s a big fan of long train journeys so you can count on her to take the scenic route, finding a few hidden gems along the way.