Planning a trip to Tulum? This Tulum travel guide provides you with everything you need to know about this oasis. Situated on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, two hours south of Cancun, lies this exotic and spiritual destination; a true escape from reality that is admittedly quite different from the rest of Mexico. Once a hidden gem, Tulum is now a hot tourist destination, and after visiting, we completely understand why! Rather than massive, all-inclusive resorts, Tulum is abounding with boutique properties and bohemian designs. It maintains the gorgeous white, sandy beaches and warm, turquoise water you expect in Mexico, but offers even more – cenotes, Mayan Ruins, yoga retreats, culture, wild nightlife, etc., all built among the beach and within the jungle. Between the locals, accommodations, food, nightlife, and excursions, Tulum is the perfect spot for a relaxing, culture-filled, accessible vacation destination. We can’t wait to share everything you need to know – from travel tips and currency, to where to eat and what to do – in our Tulum travel guide!
WHEN TO VISIT
Getting To Tulum
The closest airport to Tulum is the Cancun international airport, located about 1.5 – 2 hours away by car. Once you arrive at the airport there are three main transportation options:
Rent a car
A great, cost-effective option if you are not planning on drinking much. (If you plan to drink like it is your 21st birthday, maybe not the best option)
Hire a private driver
This can be coordinated in advance or when you get to the Cancun airport. Typically private drivers cost less than taxis.
Take a taxi
As soon as you exit the Cancun airport you will be bombarded by taxi drivers and private drivers. Negotiate with them to get the best price (we paid $80 total for our van to Tulum).
Once in Tulum we highly recommend using a private driver to take you around. Surprisingly, we learned that a private driver was about half the cost of using taxis while in Tulum. Taxis tend to be extremely overpriced and difficult to come by. Now, if you don’t have a driver in advance, not-to-worry! There’s always plenty of private drivers at the airport waiting to be hired! Another extremely popular means of transportation in Tulum is biking. Bikes are everywhere and pretty easy to rent. Your hotel might even lend you bikes during your stay!
What To Expect
Where To Stay
Tulum is a relatively small town, but it is divided into two main areas – Tulum Town and Tulum Beach. Deciding which area to stay in is truly based on preference. While there are benefits to staying in town – like larger and more affordable AirBnB’s, more shops and restaurants, there are also disadvantages, such as distance and cab fairs to the clubs, nightlight, and beach.
The main town is where the banks, shops, cafes and the small nightlife district is located, and is the first part of Tulum you will see when you arrive. In town, you can expect comparably more chill, local, and affordable vibes, with authentic local food and cafes and an abundance of culture. However, there is no direct access to the beach and taxis can be very expensive.
This beautiful Caribbean beach is where those looking to relax and unwind will head. It offers more chic, upscale restaurants and clubs, with beautiful resorts, stunning white sand beaches, and large price tags. It is comparably more glamorous, bohemian, and expensive than the town.
Both areas are charming destinations and unique experiences, but they are distinctly different and about 20 – 45 minutes apart by car or bike, give or take. We recommend doing your research before you go to decide where you plan to spend most of your free time, and choosing a hotel in that area.
Located in a perfect location, right on the beach, next door to Taboo and Tatra beach clubs, and within walking distance to essentially every fun bar, restaurant, or beach club. Tulum in general is not cheap, but we felt like we got one heck of a bargain staying at the Dune Boutique Hotel.
All in all, we give this quaint, boutique hotel an 8/10 and 100% plan to stay here again! We paid around $300 per person for 3 nights, sleeping two people per king size bedroom. The rooms themselves are the only reason The reason we aren’t giving this 10/10 is due to some minor room issues. The AC was made up of small window unit, the rooms itself were small with minimal storage, and the toilets often did not flush. However, the resort itself was GORGEOUS, with an ocean-side pool, free beach chairs and cabanas, a delicious restaurant on the beach, a massive free breakfast, and impeccable service.
This adults-only, 5-star hotel is located in the town of Tulum. It offers chic and earthy room and intimate vibes. You can expect an on-site restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor pool and bar.
Hotel Tiki Tiki
This is our favorite, affordable, yet luxurious spot in the town of Tulum (well more like the jungle). Inspired by Miami Beach Art Deco, this quaint, boutique hotel offers a world famous swimming pool in a gorgeous oasis, located a quick 10 minute drive from the beach.
Ecological luxury beachfront resort, designed for the environmentally conscious traveler seeking a luxurious getaway. You can expect daily yoga lessons and sunrise meditation, eco-conscious cabanas and huts on the oceanfront, and incredibly attentive staff amid the lush Mayan jungle and the crystalline Caribbean Sea on the pristine white-sand of Mexico’s most coveted destination.
Located on the Tulum beach, this spot features a private beach, spa services and a Mexican-Italian fusion restaurant. It is the perfect resort for those who want to get out and about, either to enjoy the beach and outdoors, or to explore the local culture of Tulum. While they do not offer AC (like many Tulum hotels), they make up for it in sn loungers, beach umbrellas, spa services ,delicious food, and endless opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, or witnessing the wildlife of the Sian-Ka’an biosphere.
Delek Tulum is our top recommendation if you are visiting to party! Located right in the party zone, this spot has a commendable focus on sustainability and gorgeous facilities. You can expect beachfront rooms, an onsite restaurant and bar, room service and more
Papaya Playa Project
Known for their epic beach parties and instagramable features (think: unique architecture and rooftop pools), this is one of the most popular hotels to stay at in Tulum. As part of the Design Hotels group, known for their collection of boutique, luxury hotels around the world, the Papaya Playa Project looks like it’s right out of the pages of a magazine. Between the beautiful beachfront guest houses that are nestled in the jungle, the private room-top pools, their impressive focus on sustainability—and of course—the amazing nightlife, you can stop your search here if you’re looking for the quintessential place to stay in Tulum.
Things To Do
Tulum is known for its incredible food and lively nightlife, most of which are found in the hotel zone. Honestly, the food scene in Tulum is one of our favorite parts of the destination, as it offers a pretty significant selection of restaurants and cuisines to choose from. However,be prepared to pay NYC prices at most places, and always try to book reservations as far in advance as possible. In regards to nightlife, there is an endless list of places to party! But do your research in advance because Tulum’s top 5 nightlife spots take turns hosting the biggest parties. Here’s our restaurant and nightlife recommendations:
Papaya Playa Project
10/10 for nightlife! This beach club hosts wild parties with big name DJs and dancing late into the night. The sustainable boutique hotel has an artsy decor, blended right into the jungle, and retains its connection to nature through every aspect. It is one of the coolest places I have ever been – do not let the no cellphone policy scare you away!
Rosa Negra Tulum
10/10 for a club-like dinner! This luxury, eco-chic restaurant offers incredible food and service, out of this world cocktails, and a live DJ that will get you dancing on your chairs in no time! A must-not-miss while in Tulum.
We stumbled upon this adorable, jungle restaurant and beach club while wandering down the beach one day and absolutely loved it. Great spot to stop for brunch, drinks, or a relaxing day on the beach.
Tantra Beach Club
Tantra is a restaurant and beach club in Tulum with a bohemian but sophisticated style. Located in the chicest area of the Hotel Zone. Get ready to spend a pretty penny, but just know that it is 1000% worth the experience.
Taboo Beach Club
Taboo is a beach club, rated as one of the best restaurants in Tulum which adopts Mediterranean food as a lifestyle. This beautiful space is quite unique – a meeting point between simplicity and sophistication. While prices also run high here, it is worth it for the drinks an atmosphere.
A laid back, luxurious (but not-so-flashy) resort offering impeccable authentic Mexican flavors, with menus that evolve from day to night. Be sure to check out salsa night on Sundays!
- Know basic Spanish! Or, have a friend that can speak basic Spanish. If you don’t, make sure to have your translator app handy if needed.
- Bring bug spray. We got attacked with bug bites every night we went out. Some hotels provide, but good to have some in case not.
- When booking accommodations, MAKE SURE the room has air conditioning. AC is not the norm in Tulum.
- If you decide to stay in town, rather than the beach, make sure you hire a private driver for easy transportation. Cabs can be hard to get and tend to get pricey.
- Many houses come with private chefs!
- Many people will actually divide their hotel time between staying at the beach and staying in town in order to experience the best of both worlds and make their vacation a bit more affordable overall.
- Bathrooms throughout the Yucatán will kindly ask that you throw your toilet paper away in the trash can versus in the toilet
Overall Tulum Review: worth every penny! Tulum has become a hot spot for nightlife, incredible restaurants, insanely fun clubs, and boho chic shopping. At the same time, Tulum retains so much culture and is built within nature.
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