Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Nellie Huang
Heading to boho Tulum? I”ve visited Tulum countless times in the last 15 years and currently live near Tulum. Here’s my comprehensive Tulum travel guide.
15 years ago, when I visited Tulum for the first time, I was smitten. Tulum was a sleepy beach town then, with just a handful of hostels and wooden beach huts. The tumbling turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea would lap up against white sugary powder sand, backdropped by the wild, untamed jungle. It felt like a backpacker’s dream come true.
Fast forward to today, Tulum has transformed into a hip, trendy destination where bourgeoisie beach clubs stand alongside eclectic art galleries and eco-chic boutique hotels. There are more vegan cafes and smoothie bars than taco carts, more upscale hotels than simple beach shacks. Tulum is now one of the fastest growing towns in Mexico.
Thankfully, all is not lost. Unlike neighboring Playa del Carmen and Cancun, Tulum still retains a jungly setting, with large swathes of wilderness surrounding it. Besides the vast Si’an Kaan Reserve that encircles Tulum, there’s a multitude of interesting spots to explore in and around Tulum: mysterious cenotes, secluded lagoons, and Mayan ruins that have been tumbled and shaped by time.
Table of Contents
- 2023 Travel Guide to Tulum
- Tulum Beach vs Tulum Town
- Mexico City Travel Guide: Practical Resources
- How to Get Around Tulum
- Best Time to Visit Tulum
- Tulum Travel Requirements
- How Many Days in Tulum?
- Is Tulum Expensive?
- Is Tulum Safe to Visit?
- Who is Tulum Suitable for?
- How’s Wifi in Tulum?
- Where to Stay in Tulum
- Tulum's Environmental Issues
- Where to Eat in Tulum
- Things to do in Tulum
- Day Trips from Tulum
- Do a Mayan Cooking Class
- Swim with Turtles in Xcacel + Akumal
- Explore the Coba Ruins + Cenotes Nearby
- Explore Valladolid
- Nightlife in Tulum
- What to Pack for Tulum
- Is it Worth Visiting Tulum?
2023 Travel Guide to Tulum
Tulum has a certain appeal to it, whether you’re a spiritual yogi, digital nomad, honeymooner, or shoestring backpacker. I’ve compiled this detailed Tulum travel guide with that in mind, incorporating Tulum travel tips for different kinds of travelers, as well as unique experiences and places to stay.
Let’s first start with the basics:
⏰ Set your timezone to Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5).
💰 Withdraw Mexican Peso at the ATM (Current exchange rate US$1=20 MXN). US dollars are accepted in most places, but you’ll be overpaying.
🎫 Most travelers do NOT need a Mexico visa. Check here if you need a visa.
🏥 Insure your Tulum trip with Safety Wing, a global travel insurance company.
📱 Get a Mexico eSIM on Airalo to get cheap internet data.
🔌 Bring Type A (two-prong) and Type B (three-prong) electric sockets — the same as the United States. Get this universal travel adaptor if you don’t use those plugs.
How to Get to Tulum
Tulum doesn’t have an airport yet, but the new airport is currently under construction. It’s said to be completed in November 2023, along with the Mayan Train. For now, Cancun airport is the closest airport to Tulum and it’s only a 1.5-hour hour drive away (or 73 miles/ 118 km away).
Flying into Cancun from the US is really affordable. You can fly from New York to Cancun for as little as $300 return (4.5-hour flight). Flights from Los Angeles to Cancun are slightly more expensive around US$350 return (4.5-hour flight).
Flying from Europe to Mexico is also affordable, especially from London and Madrid. We took a direct, one-way flight from Madrid to Cancun on Iberojet for just $350. You can get really cheap deals off season.
Cancun to Tulum Transportations
Tulum is just a 1.5-hour drive from Cancun airport; read our guide on how to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum.
If you want to be free of the stress of getting a cab, I recommend booking a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportations. They are reliable, responsive, and provide door-to-door service. If you’re traveling with family or a group of friends, you can easily split the cost: US$110 one-way.
Shared shuttle services to Tulum are a good option for solo travelers who don’t want to spend a lot yet seek a convenient service. You can pre-book your ride in a shared shuttle vehicle for 740 MXN (US$37) per person one-way. Whenever I travel alone, I always book a seat in a shared shuttle with Cancun Shuttles.
Taking a bus is the cheapest option. ADO has regular departures from Cancun Airport to Tulum throughout the day. I’ve traveled in ADO buses many times and can safely say the bus company is top notch. Their buses are clean, safe, and air-conditioned. Book your bus tickets here for 340 MXN (US$17) each way.
Tulum Beach vs Tulum Town
Tulum is split into two main areas: Tulum Beach and Tulum Pueblo (town); and it takes approximately 10 minutes to get from one area to the other. There are two main roads that link the beach and town – Avenida Coba and Avenida Kukulcan – both of which you can easily navigate on bicycle or car.
Tulum Beach faces the Caribbean Sea and is lined with chic boutique hotels, artsy resorts, and rustic beach shacks. A dusty beach road runs parallel to the beach (which you can easily navigate on foot or bicycle). Most things to do in Tulum are near the town, but there are also plenty of interesting spots at the beach.
While Tulum Beach has become overpriced (with pretentious vibes), Tulum Pueblo has largely remained local with taquerias and artisan shops lining the main avenue. The town might not be the most attractive place, but it is definitely much more budget-friendly than the beach. For those who want to keep it real, I definitely recommend spending some time in Tulum town.
Mexico City Travel Guide: Practical Resources
- ✈️ Book affordable flights to Mexico City on Skyscanner for $100+
- 🏥 Insure your trip with Safety Wing, a global travel insurance company.
- >🛏️ Read our guide on the best places to stay in Mexico City
- 🚗 Rent a car in Mexico City on Discover Cars
- 🚌 Reserve bus tickets from Mexico City on Bookaway for the best rates
- 📷 Book your day tours from Mexico City on Viator or GetYourGuide
- 🧳 Pack a quick dry towel, dry bag, and waterproof phone holder
📱 Get an eSIM on Airalo to get cheap internet data
How to Get Around Tulum
Renting a Car
Most of the best things to do in Tulum are outside of town, so I recommend renting a car. Traffic along the beach road can be bad at times, but having a car allows you to do several day trips from Tulum on your own.
Driving in Tulum is convenient and it’s relatively affordable; the average price ranges from 600-800 MXN (US$30-40) per day, including insurance and taxes. I always use DiscoverCars.com for car rentals worldwide, as they’ve consistently given me the cheaper rates and best services. Search for car rentals in Tulum here!
Catching the Colectivo
Budget travelers can also catch colectivos (shared minibus or minivan-like vehicles). The colectivo fares are cheap (less than US$1), and you just need to flag them down along when you see one. Be sure to have Mexican pesos in hand to pay the fare.
Tak e the taxi
Sadly, Uber isn’t available in Tulum. Taxis are everywhere though, and prices are affordable. They are the white cars with red numbers, and you can easily flag them down on the main road. It usually costs around 120 pesos from Tulum town to the beach, ruins and nearby cenotes each way (per car).
Renting a Bike
Tulum is big on bikes, and they’re cheap to hire in town or from your resort. It’s the best way to move around if you’re staying on the beach, as the dusty beach road often gets clogged with traffic. You can rent one of the ubiquitous turquoise bikes for just 150 MXN (US$7) per day from Ola Bike on Avenida Coba.
If you’re not sure about safety and prefer doing it with a guide, this bike tour takes you through quiet roads, hidden paths and through the pueblo to a variety of natural, cultural, historic and culinary attractions that Tulum has to offer.
Best Time to Visit Tulum
The best time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula is during the dry season between December and April, when there is virtually no rain. I recommend visiting Tulum at the start of the season (November to early December) when prices are lower.
The wet season begins in the south in May and lasts until October. The Caribbean coast is also affected by the hurricane season, which runs from June to November. Try to avoid public holiday as surcharges are common around Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter.
The Yucatan Peninsula celebrates many Mexican holidays, including Carnaval in February, Semana Santa (Easter) in April , and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in October. But it does get really crowded in Tulum during these festivals.
Tulum Travel Requirements
- Mexico has no travel restrictions, and there’s no need for proof of vaccine or PCR tests on the plane. Anyone is welcomed to travel Tulum.
- However, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. These days, it is particularly important to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19. Read my travel insurance guide.
- Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.
How Many Days in Tulum?
Tulum is not a big town, but there are so many things to do in Tulum that I recommend spending 5 days to a week here. You’ll need time to explore the various cenotes in Tulum, chill out on the beach, and visit the museums and photogenic cafes. Plus, its outskirts is dotted with a smattering of eco parks, Mayan ruins, and wilderness reserves that would appeal to adventure lovers.
I also recommend combining a visit to Tulum with Valladolid and Merida for the ultimate immersion into Mayan culture. I’ve designed a special 10-day Yucatan road trip to combine all of them into one epic journey for those interested in exploring beyond the beaches.
Is Tulum Expensive?
Yes and no. Tulum Beach is one of the most expensive places in Mexico. Thanks to the deluge of visitors seeking upscale places, prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Beach hotels in Tulum go from $200-500 per night, while some restaurants charge a minimum consumption of $150 per person to dine in their rooftop nests!
Tulum town, in contrast, is still very much local and affordable. It’s all but just 10 minutes away, and yet you’ll find cheap taco stands that serve authentic tacos for just 15 MXN ($0.75), vegan burritos for $4-8, and seafood restaurants with get ceviche or grilled octopus for $10-15. There are also many Airbnbs and budget hotels that charge less than US$50/night.
Cash is still king in Mexico, so I suggest withdrawing cash at the airport or the many ATMs along the main road. While US Dollars are accepted, you won’t get the best exchange rate and will be overpaying.
Trouble in Paradise: Tulum's Sargasso Problem
- Since 2011, masses of sargassum seaweed have washed up on the Caribbean coastlines. Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula has been particularly affected by the ecological problems. Scientists chalk it up to increased runoff of agricultural inputs and sewage from the Amazon River in Brazil as well as warming water temperatures.
- In Mexico, sargassum seaweed season is generally between May and October each year, but it's often unpredictable. Hotels try to clean it up from the beaches, but sometimes it's so much that their efforts are futile. The seaweed is harmless, but it can start to rot and give off a foul smell.
- If you're concern about the sargassum affecting your Tulum trip, check this page for daily sargasso updates.
Is Tulum Safe to Visit?
With recent happenings, safety is understandably a concern for many visiting Tulum. In October 2021, two women were murdered in the crossfire when opposing gangs opened fire on a well-known sidewalk restaurant in Tulum. The recent spate of drug-related violence has continued in neighboring Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos.
It is important to know that these crimes are often targeted and involve drug cartels. Sadly, the cartels are a part of life in Mexico. In most places, it’s easy to steer clear of them. You’ll only deal with them if you’re looking to buy drugs. So avoid doing drugs, rave parties, and getting drunk.
Who is Tulum Suitable for?
Solo Travelers in Tulum
For the most part, Tulum is generally safe for solo travelers. If you want to meet people, staying in a hostel is the best way to connect with others. For a safe way to enjoy Tulum’s nightlife, book a spot in the Social Pub Crawl Tulum. You’ll have an instant group of friends, and there’ll be someone watching over you in case you have a little too much to drink!
Solo travelers should avoid walking alone at night. The Tulum beach road in particular is very dark at night, so try to walk in groups, bring a headlamp, or use your phone’s flashlight. Always be aware of your surroundings and your belongings. Never take a drink from a stranger or leave a drink unattended.
Honeymooners in Tulum
With its turquoise waters and lush jungle terrain, Tulum is the picture-perfect destination for a sexy, tropical honeymoon. There’s also a deluge of adults-only hotels, high-end restaurants, beach clubs, and spas perfect for those looking to splurge.
But Tulum is not for everyone. It’s not the kind of place to hole up in an all-inclusive resort; in fact many of the high-end eco hotel don’t have air-conditioning or even electricity! Tulum also has its fair share of mosquitoes, extreme heat, and high humidity.
On the other hand, Tulum is ideal for those have a sense of adventure and like outdoorsy activities like snorkeling and exploring ancient Mayan ruins. It’s great for those who like trying local food, learning about Mayan culture, and don’t mind making a fool themselves with their broken Spanish.
Family Travelers in Tulum
Family travelers should be aware that many hotels and beach clubs in Tulum do not allow kids. In a bid to look cool and sexy, these hotels have strict no-kids rules. Thankfully, all beaches in Mexico are public, so nobody can stop you (and your kids) from using the beach!
Besides the beach, there are actually many kid-friendly Tulum attractions. Read my guide on the best things to do in Tulum. Kids will love jumping into the cenotes (natural sinkholes), swimming in the shallow Kaan Luum lagoon, and taking a boat through Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
There are also many apartments in La Veleta and Aldea Zama areas that are great for families with kids. Airbnbs in these areas are surprisingly affordable; you can book a 1-bedroom condo for just US$40-80/night. Plus, many of these apartments are brand new condos with swimming pools and fully equipped kitchens.
How’s Wifi in Tulum?
Most hotels in Tulum offer WiFi, but don’t expect to find free WiFi on the streets or in the public spaces.
I recommend getting a SIM card with internet data to make sure you stay connected while in Tulum. Either buy an eSIM before traveling or a SIM card at the airport upon arrival. You can also get it at any OXXO shop in Mexico.
Read my guide on how to get a SIM card in Mexico.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Hotels in Tulum Beach are definitely much more expensive than those in Tulum Pueblo. If you really want to stay on the beach, prepare to fork out at least $200/night for the eco-chic hotels. Please make sure to book only responsible properties (my suggestions are below).
Budget travelers should base themselves in Tulum Pueblo, which is packed with backpackers hostels. There’s no shortage of modern, affordable apartments for digital nomads and families in La Veleta and Aldea Zamara areas.
Check out my complete guide on where to stay in Tulum.
There are the 5 best areas to stay in Tulum:
- Tulum Beach – best area for couples/honeymooners
- Tulum Pueblo – best area for budget travelers
- La Veleta – best area for families
- Aldea Zama – best area for digital nomads
Budget: Mamasan Treehouses & Cabins
The super stylish and rustic bungalows at the 4-star Mamasan Treehouses & Cabins are great for those on a budget. The adults-only property is a stone’s throw away from Tulum Beach, which you can get to in less than 2 minutes by foot.
In this secluded spot, you’ll stay in rattan cottages and sleep under mosquito nets, or cuddle with your loved one in a geodesic dome and stare at the stars by night. The rustic design and uber style decor makes this glamping at its best. Check rates here.
Midrange: Coco Hacienda
Escape into tropical foliage and get out into nature without ever leaving Tulum’s downtown. This cute hotel is on the edge of Tulum Centro and has a lush setting and gorgeous design of the Tulum beach hotels – at half the price.
The hotel is converted from a colonial hacienda, and the original features and architecture have been immaculately preserved. Though the interior is stunning, you’ll likely spend most of your time amongst the banana fronds and palm trees in the garden or chilling by one of the two outdoor pools. Check rates here.
Luxury: The Beach
If you’re looking to spoil yourself, this stunning eco-hotel impresses with lavish boho-chic decor and the beach is on your doorstep. Side note, yogis will love it here as there are free yoga classes in the morning!
We stayed at one of their divine thatched cottages – a plunge pool and hammocks come included! But don’t worry about missing out if you get a standard room, there are lots of pools hidden amongst the hotel’s gardens. Check rates here.
The most famous hotel in Tulum Beach has to be Azulik. This one-of-a-kind beach resort was a pioneer in creating Tulum-style architecture with nature-inspired design. The adults-only hotel features tree houses made from Mexican royal ebony, Khatalosh, and an open-concept providing views of the lush jungle and the Caribbean Sea.
The rooms are free of TV, phone or electricity so you can relax and reconnect with nature. Each tree house also has a unique Mayan mosaic bath tub, where you can have a bath in rich mineralized cenote’s water, considered sacred within Mayan culture. Azulik offers a magical, back-to-basic experience, at a hefty price of course. Check rates here.
Tulum's Environmental Issues
- Tulum is one of the fastest growing towns in Mexico, and it has come at a cost: the fragile environment and local community are suffering under mismanagement and exploitation of tourism.
- The existing infrastructure can't handle the growth and it shows. Roads are getting clogged with traffic and the beach/town are seeing an overflowing amount of waste. Many of the "eco-friendly hotels" are even draining their waste into the beautiful cenotes!
- Take these into consideration when you're visiting Tulum. Stay at responsible hotels, support local businesses, reduce your plastic waste, and be respectful of the environment.
Where to Eat in Tulum
Tulum has spiritual, holistic vibes that attract many health freaks and hippies. There are plenty of raw food cafes and breakfast bars in Tulum that serve up delicious acai bowls, smoothies, and vegan food.
In Tulum town, there is still a surprisingly good selection of street tacos and cheap local food. The restaurants here are much more authentic and cheaper than near the beach. I also prefer the local Mexican atmosphere in town to the pretentious vibes on the beach.
- Avenida Satelite – In the evening, you’ll find the street lined with food carts selling tacos, marquesitas (crepe) and burritos at the best prices!
- Antojitos la Chiapaneca – This popular joint is a local’s favorite, and is known to have the best tacos in town! It’s located along the highway, Avenida Tulum.
- Burrito Amor – A personal favorite, this hip yet casual spot serves up the best burritos I’ve ever had and deliciously spicy sauces made in-house.
- La Hoja Verde – If you’re a vegetarian, I highly recommend this place for cheap vegan options.
- Raw Love Cafe – Known for their gorgeous smoothie bowls that not only look good but also taste good. Their vegan chocolate cakes are the best cakes I’ve ever had!
- Matcha Mama – A photogenic spot with Matcha-based smoothies, kombuchas, and juices. They’ve got these swings that make for great shots.
- Restaurante Estrada – Best spot for affordable seafood; the grilled octopus is a must-try!
- El Camello – Another popular joint for seafood, this place is the go-to for the best ceviche in town.
Things to do in Tulum
For such a small town, Tulum sure packs a punch: the town is surrounded by natural pools, lagoons, and Mayan sites. Nearby wilderness areas like the Sian Ka’an Reserve beckon nature lovers and more adventurous souls.
Read my super detailed list of 30 cool things to do in Tulum, ranging from outdoorsy activities to spiritual experiences. Here’s a short list of them:
Explore the Archaeological Zone Tulum
The the Tulum Archaeological Zone is often the main reason that brings travelers to the Riviera Maya. This ancient site may not be as impressive as those of other Mayan ruins, but it has the rare advantage of a waterfront location. It sits high above the turquoise Caribbean Sea, with different shades of blue as its backdrop.
🎟️ Entry: 85 MXN (US$4.25); Gates open at 8 AM, but the lines can be long so I recommend arriving an hour earlier. You can also join a guided tour.
Hit the Beach
Tulum beaches are some of the best in the Riviera Maya. Beaches in Tulum are gloriously wide, with powdery fine sand and spearmint turquoise water (and even pretty big waves sometimes). They’re not usually overcrowded like in Playa del Carmen or taken up by massive all-inclusive resorts like in Cancun.
According to Mexican law, all beaches in Mexico are public; but many of beach hotels in Tulum dominate the coastline and charge exorbitant fees. Most beach clubs require a min consumption of US$25-50 per person on food/drinks. It’s ridiculous how overpriced Tulum beach has become, so I suggest bringing your own mat and snacks and heading to one of these free public beaches instead.
Best Free Beaches in Tulum
- Playa Paraiso — clear water, powder sand, palm trees, and simple beach bars.
- Playa Pescadores — a fisherman’s favorite with awesome views of the Tulum Ruins.
- Playa Las Palmas — an exceptionally quiet beach with no restaurants or vendors.
- Santa Fe Beach — public beach north of Playa Paraiso.
- La Zebra Beach Club — our favorite beach club; entry is US$30 per person but it’s a family-friendly place and food is always good!
Swim in Cenotes
When a deadly asteroid slammed into the sea floor off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago, it created over 6,000 fresh water sinkholes called cenotes. The ancient Mayans used cenotes as sacred wells and performed spiritual rituals here. Today, these cenotes are open to the public for exploring, swimming, and scuba diving.
The most popular cenote in Tulum (also my favorite) is the Gran Cenote, a gorgeous sinkhole partly open to the sky and partly under a cave. What makes this cenote stand out from the rest is what lies beneath: you can snorkel amidst stalagmites and stalactites that run for miles underwater. Entry is 500 MXN (US$25) and includes use of snorkeling gear and life vest.
The best way to see several cenotes in one day is renting a car. But if you don’t intend to drive, I recommend booking a day tour so to make the most of your time.
⚠️ Please do not use any sunscreen, insect repellant, or beauty product in the cenotes. All these products pollute the water and can produce algae blooms.
Best Cenotes in Tulum
- Gran Cenote — the most popular cenote in Tulum; Entry: 500 MXN (US$25)
- Cenote Calavera — great for cliff jumping; Entry: 250 MXN (US$12.5)
- Dos Ojos Cenote – great snorkeling and scuba diving; Entry: 350 MXN (US$17.5)
- Cenote Carwash – open-air cenote once used for washing cars; Entry: 200 MXN (US$10)
- Cenote Yax-Kin – uncrowded cenote great for kids; Entry: 150 MXN (US$7.5)
Chill at Kaan Luum Lagoon
Just a 15-minute drive from Tulum pueblo is one of the best kept secrets of Tulum. Kaan Luum is a stunning circular lagoon with shimmering waters that alternate between baby blue and dark indigo. This little-known spot has shallow swimming areas (great for those traveling with kids!), sparkling clean waters and mud that’s known to have healing powers.
Come before 12pm – mid day seems to be the time when locals pour in – and you’ll have the place to yourself! Swing on the rainbow-colored hammocks and climb the lookout tower to get a picture-perfect view from above – it’s a slice of Tulum that you’ll want to keep to yourself.
🎟️ Entry: 300 MXN (US$15), 100 MXN ($5) for kids under 12, and extra 100 MXN (US$5) for drones.
Day Trips from Tulum
Tulum makes the perfect base for exploring the area, with a variety of day trip options ranging from pristine islands to colonial towns and protected nature reserves. Plus, most of them are less than two hour’s drive away. Read my guide to the best day trips from Tulum.
Float in Sian Ka’an Reserve + Muyil Ruins
- Time from Tulum: 20 minutes
- How to: Rent a car or book a day tour
- Cost: 65 MXN (US$3.25) for Muyil entrance, 50 MXN ($2.5) for the trail, and 1,000 MXN ($50) for the boat ride.
On the edge of Tulum lies the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a vast wilderness area. In the language of the Mayan people, Sian Ka’an means ‘Origin of the Sky’. The 1.3 million-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site is made up of a wide array of ecosystems, ranging from tropical forests to mangroves and marshes.
In my opinion, this is the absolute best Tulum day trip, but it does come at a price. To get to Sian Ka’an, you will first need to get to the Muyil Ruins. The archaeological site itself is not big, but it is much less visited than other Maya ruins and you’ll have the place to yourself. The largest intact structure is called the Castillo (or castle), and it is behind this pyramid where you’ll find the trail to the Sian Ka’an dock.
The easiest way to visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is on a boat trip through its ancient canals dug out by the Mayans centuries ago. A 2-hour boat tour with a Mayan local costs a fixed price of 1,000 MXN (US$50) per person. The speed boat will whisk you through two lagoons before dropping you in one of the ancient canals for a relaxing 40-minute drift along crystal clear waters.
Do a Mayan Cooking Class
- Time from Tulum: 20 minutes
- How to: Book an Airbnb experience
- Cost: Starting from 2400 MXN (US$120) for a day tour
Not many people know that Tulum actually lies in the heart of the Zona Maya. There’s a substantial Mayan population in Tulum, and many of them still speak their native tongue. Consider booking a full-day Maya village tour to visit local communities who will share their customs and lifestyle with you.
And if you’re interested in delving deeper, take a crash course in Maya ancestral cuisine. My friend did this Airbnb experience and absolutely lovedlearning all about Mayan ingredients (such as achiote spice) and making staples like tamales from scratch. She got to visit a local market with the Mayan family and also got to talk to them and learn more about the Mayan identity.
Swim with Turtles in Xcacel + Akumal
- Time from Tulum: 25 minutes
- How to: Rent a car or book a day tour
- Cost: 81 MXN (US$4) for entry to Xcacel; 500 MXN (US$25) for Akumal snorkeling trip.
One of the highlights of Tulum for me is the Xcacel-Xcacelito sea turtle sanctuary. Every year, around 200,000 white and loggerhead turtle hatchlings are released here. Their annual nesting and spawning season runs from May to November.
Just 5 minutes further north of Xcacel is the quiet beach town of Akumal, where you can actually swim with turtles just off the beach. All year round, loggerhead and green sea turtles can be seen swimming and feeding in the bay. As it’s protected by the reef, Akumal Bay boasts calm waters and plenty of sea grass that keep the turtles coming.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to go snorkeling on your own (trust me, we tried) at Akumal. It’s mandatory to join a snorkel tour to see the turtles and it costs around 500 MXN (US$25) per person. Sightings of turtles are almost always guaranteed.
Explore the Coba Ruins + Cenotes Nearby
- Time from Tulum: 45 minutes
- How to: Rent a car or book a day tour
- Cost: 120 MXN (US$6) per person; bicycle rental is 40 MXN ($2) and tricycle rental is 120-190 MXN ($5-10) depending on route.
Located a short 45-minute drive inland from Tulum is another set of impressive Mayan ruins: Coba archaeological zone. Being relatively unknown, this site receives far fewer tourists than Chichen Itza and has pyramids that can be climbed. Towering over the thick foliage, Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the entire state of Quintana Roo.
Only partially complete in its excavation, Coba remains a rugged structure that peaks above the emerald trees to reveal the true remoteness of its setting. Scientists believe that more than 90 percent of the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan remain hidden.
Right next to Coba ruins is a trio of cenotes that you can easily check out after visiting the Coba ruins. Entry to each of them costs 100 MXN (US$5).
- Cenote Choo-Ha — a small cave cenote with a small opening and stalactites everywhere
- Cenote Tankach-Ha — a mid-sized cenote with deep water from 14ft to 114ft
- Cenote Multun–Ha — a covered cave with the deepst water
At a 1.5-hour drive from Tulum (and 50 minutes from Coba), Valladolid is the most underrated Tulum day trip and perfect for culture vultures. Despite being the closest town to Chichen Itza, Valladolid is surprisingly quiet and laidback.
Listed as one of Mexico’s pueblo magico (magical towns), Valladolid is lined with cobblestoned streets, pastel colored houses and old colonial buildings converted into art galleries or indie boutiques. Start by strolling along the Calzada de los Frailes, the most photogenic street in Valladolid. Be sure to stop at Idilio Folklore Cervecero, a stylish restaurant that offers a small museum and beer tasting sessions.
Don’t be fooled by the small size of Valladolid. There are actually many things to do in Valladolid; I suggest staying for the night and exploring the cenotes and Mayan ruins nearby. Check out our Valladolid travel guide.
Nightlife in Tulum
Tulum isn’t the kinda place to go for raves or all-night-long parties; the nightlife is more subdued and sexy, with Cafe del Mar style music and DJ sessions on the beach.
Papaya Playa Project is one of best places in Tulum to chill out with sand between your toes. The beach club features famous DJs and great music – and it stays open until 3-4 AM. Gitano is another sexy spot for mezcal cocktails under the stars. Set under a thatched canopy in a stylish jungle-like venue, Gitano attracts a more laidback and mature crowd.
One of the coolest things to do at night is to go mezcal tasting. Mezcal is an alcoholic beverage similar to tequila but it’s got a smoky taste that I love. Airbnb has this interesting mezcal tasting dinner party experience that you can book and enjoy in a private jungle home in Tulum. It includes a 3-course dinner cooked on the fire paired with tastings of five artisanal mezcals.
What to Pack for Tulum
Any trip to Tulum will involve lots of time in the water, so definitely pack reef safe sunscreen (cenotes won’t allow you to use this but you’ll need it for the beach)! You’ll need mosquito repellant for the bugs in the jungle and cenotes. A dry bag would be good to keep your valuables dry and safe; KEEN footwear or normal sandals are also really useful for jumping in and climbing out of cenotes.
- SPF 70 Reef Safe Sunscreen
- Mosquito repellent
- Snorkel mask and fins
- UPF50+ rash guard swim shirt
- Dry bag
- Quick-dry towels
- KEEN covered sandals
- GoPro for waterproof photos/videos
- Quick-dry t-shirts
Is it Worth Visiting Tulum?
Tulum has become a hugely popular tourist destination for good reason: the jungle-meets-beach setting is unrivaled and the array of activities in the area just keeps people coming back for more.
I hope this power-packed Tulum travel guide has helped you plan out your Tulum trip. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below.
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- 30 Cool Things to Do in Tulum
- 20 Best Day Trips from Tulum
- Where to Stay in Tulum 2022 Guide
- How to Get from Cancun to Tulum
- 30 Fun Things to Do in Cancun
- 10-Day Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary
- 35 Fun Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!
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