The Ultimate Tulum Travel Guide: Is Tulum Worth Visiting? [2024]

· Your complete guide to everything you need to know for your Tulum Mexico vacation in 2024, including how to get there, where to eat, what to do, and more! ·

Dec, 20, 2022
drone shot view of tulum beach and mayan ruins

If you’ve been looking into going on an awesome Mexico beach vacation, you’ve probably stumbled across the magical destination of Tulum. Tulum used to be completely off of travelers’ radars, but in the past 15 years, tourism has absolutely exploded! Located just under two hours from Cancun, Tulum is a very accessible beach destination that should definitely be on your bucket list.

Tulum is not just one of the best day trips from Cancun. This former small town has blossomed into one of the top destinations in the Riviera Maya.

Keep reading if you’re looking for some of the best beaches in Mexico, stunning ancient ruins, gorgeous bohemian boutique hotels, and complete relaxation in a tropical paradise.

This post contains affiliate links through which we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own.

Our Tulum Vlog shows EPIC Cenote shots, Angel getting her nose pierced by a local piercer, and surprising Angel’s family back home!

Best Things to Do in Tulum

Tulum is unique due to its blend of natural and cultural wonders that coexist alongside its modern, boho vibe. There are endless things that we could recommend that you do, but no Tulum trip is long enough to see and do everything that this town has to offer. To plan the perfect Tulum trip, try to at least check out each of these top things to do.

1. Go Swimming in Cenotes

Cenotes (Say-no-tays) are underground, fresh-water-filled natural sinkholes. Some of them are like watering holes and aren’t connected to anything, and others are made up of vast networks of interconnected caves that stretch for miles. Mexico has the vast majority of the world’s cenotes with over 6,000 scattered all over the country, and the majority of those are concentrated on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Each cenote is unique, and some are better than others, but they’re almost all worth a visit. For more information on visiting cenotes, check out the post I wrote about the best Cenotes to visit in Mexico.

Tulum is widely considered one of the two best bases in Mexico for a cenote hopping trip, as there are some really fantastic ones all within an hour drive of Tulum town. We highly recommend visiting Cenote Calavera, the Gran Cenote, and Cenotes Casa Tortuga.

2. Go to the Best Beach Clubs in Tulum

Tulum has a vibe that is unlike any other place in Mexico. While Mexico is filled with incredible white sand beaches and stellar resorts, we personally don’t think anywhere manages beach clubs as well as Tulum.

Tulum is very small-business oriented; by that I mean almost everything is a boutique, and almost nothing belongs to a chain. The main road through Tulum Beach is lined by luxury hotel after luxury hotel, and many of the beach clubs along the main beach of Tulum belong to these luxury boutique hotels.

The advantage of this is that you don’t need to stay in an all-inclusive, Cancun-style resort to have a luxury experience. You can stay wherever you like in the Tulum area and visit any beach club on any given day as long as you’re willing to agree to a consumption minimum.

Prepare for Minimum Consumption Requirements

Many of the clubs will tell you that you need to spend at least $25 or $50 per person for the day to use the beach club facilities, and if you don’t spend that amount, you’ll be charged the balance. While Tulum does have a public beach, it isn’t nearly as nice as the beach areas with turquoise waters around the boutique hotels.

If you do some negotiating, often you can get the minimum amount lowered.

If you do a little bit of negotiating, you can often get them to drop the minimum amount, especially when you aren’t visiting during high season. We visited during low season and the clubs were desperate for customers, so we got to visit most of the best beach clubs without a minimum expenditure. While having Mexican pesos on hand is always a good idea, most of these clubs accept major credit cards.

Some of the most popular beach clubs to visit on Playa Paraiso are Coco, Ziggy’s, and La Zebra. These beach bars are all great places to visit, with spectacular ocean views and access.

3. Visit the Tulum Ruins

Something that really sets the Tulum Ruins apart from many of the other archeological sites in Mexico is the sheer size of the site and its remarkable levels of preservation. While the Tulum Ruins are not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they are still the most important archaeological site in the whole area.

From the top of one area of the ruins, you get an amazing view of the Caribbean, and it’s totally worth the slight climb!

One of the highlights of visiting the Tulum Ruins is how cheap they are compared to many of the other ruins in Mexico. For example, Chichen Itza charges over $25 to enter, while the Tulum Ruins only charges about $4.

Beware of the scammers on your way in, as they are plentiful! Tour guide after tour guide will offer to give you a tour, people will offer to let you take pictures with monkeys and iguanas, and “artisans” will be selling goods that are quite possibly made in China.

Just understand that nothing will be free here, and you’ll also get much better prices on everything if you’re not in such a touristy area. If you really enjoy the Tulum Ruins and feel like seeing one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is only a couple of hours away by bus, too!

If you feel like seeing one of the Wonders of The World, Chichen Itza is only a few hours away.

4. Experience the Tulum Nightlife

Tulum has awesome nightlife, both in the hotel zone and in Tulum Pueblo. While the town doesn’t have very many clubs, there are a lot of great bars to check out all up and down the main street. We think that the nightlife in the town feels much more relaxed, and out in the hotel zone is where it is a bit wilder.

In either area, there is a good chance that you will encounter live music, either of Mexican or international variety. There are also really great happy hours all throughout the town and the beach area, and you can really save money by hitting some of the best deals at these places’ happy hours to get your margaritas and mezcalitas 2 for 1!

Tourists drinking Caipirinhas on Ilha Grande at night

5. Take all the Necessary Tulum Instagram Pictures

Tulum is one of the most Instagrammable places in Mexico, if not the most. The influx of young, free-spirited travelers has led to a unique style in all of Tulum, and countless eye-catching places have popped up as a result.

One thing that a lot of people feel the need to do when they visit Tulum is visit the slew of places that are constantly trending on Instagram and take their pictures there. The most famous of these places is probably the big sculpture of a man made out of a tree, but there are so many others that you’d probably like to check out, like swings dangling over the water, palm trees lining the road, and a sign that says stay present (which is literally our motto).

6. Check out Sfer Ik Museum at Azulik

Sfer Ik is a very popular multidisciplinary museum located near the hotel zone that uses its proceeds to fund local social development projects in areas like education and the environment. The museum is very small and only runs a couple of exhibitions at a time but is worth a quick visit during your Tulum trip!

The whole Azulik resort has a no-shoes policy, so you will be required to take off your shoes before you can enter. While you’re there, you can head to the rooftop restaurant and bar, Kin Toh. If you plan on visiting the restaurant, be prepared that there is a smart casual dress code and reservations are strongly suggested.

Like most of Tulum, the restaurant is not cheap, but it is widely considered to have some of the finest food in Tulum. They serve a unique fusion of cuisines, and a foodie would definitely enjoy it!

7. Eat or Drink on a Swing

This is something that Tulum very quickly became famous for. Around the town and the hotel zone, you can find several great restaurants and bars that have swings as seats. This makes for a very relaxing atmosphere while you’re sipping a happy hour cocktail or chowing down on a good Mexican meal.

One of the best places to do this is Matcha Mama, which is a famous place for acai bowls and smoothies. You’ll literally find places all over the town with these seats, and they’re a really cool experience!

If you’re in the mood for a drink, we recommend trying a Mezcalita – A margarita made with mezcal instead of tequila. You can get these all over town, but one great place for them is La Malquerida.

8. Visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a nature reserve located just to the south of Tulum. The name translates to “Gate of Paradise” and is regarded as one of the most serene places to visit in the Yucatán Peninsula. You can take a guided tour from Tulum to the reserve, and many visitors choose to go on boat tours from Punta Allen once they get there.

Jaguar laying on a log in the jungle in Belize

How to Get to Tulum

Getting to Tulum is very straightforward, but a little bit of coordination goes a long way. Currently, the closest airport to Tulum is Cancun International Airport (CUN). This is one of the busiest airports in all of Mexico, which means that there are a ton of international direct flights all over the world.

The only busier airport in all of Mexico is in Mexico City. If you’re coming from anywhere in North America, Europe, or Latin America, odds are you’ll only have one layover, if any.

In recent years, local authorities have approved plans to open a new airport within Tulum itself. While this airport will be incredibly convenient, there is a good chance it will not open until 2024 or later.

Book a Private Shuttle from Cancun Airport to Tulum

Once you arrive at the Cancun airport, there are three main ways to get to Tulum, and my recommended method depends on how many people are in your group.

Firstly, you could arrange private transportation to pick you up at the airport and transport you two hours south to Tulum. This option is probably the most expensive of them, and if you’re sticking to a budget, this is only a sensible choice if you have a large group.

When we have traveled alone, we have never booked private transportation. However, one time on a trip with seven other people, we booked a private shuttle and had a great experience.

Never Take a Taxi from Cancun Airport to Tulum

Of all the Tulum travel tips that I could provide, there is one that is the most important: you never, ever want to take a taxi from the Cancun airport to Tulum. While taking a taxi may seem like the easiest way to get from Cancun to Tulum, you will get price gouged.

I negotiated with the dispatcher in Spanish for 3 hours – literally – and he finally brought the price down 45% to an almost reasonable amount.

For the 45-minute ride from the airport to Playa del Carmen, he initially tried to charge us $110. I got it down to $60, but I still wasn’t happy about it. Don’t feel bad about negotiating, because it doesn’t mean any less money for your taxi driver.

We asked the driver, and he said he makes about $10 plus tips on the ride, and that whatever you pay the dispatcher has no effect on what he makes. The dispatcher keeps almost every penny of that!

Take the ADO Bus from Cancun Airport to Tulum (Direct or via Playa del Carmen)

Secondly, you could take an ADO bus all the way to Tulum. The buses in Mexico are wonderful, and the price really isn’t too bad, either. They’re fully air-conditioned, the seats are very comfortable, and there are even movies playing on little TV screens the whole way.

They are advertised as first-class buses, and they meet the mark. This option is perfectly safe and comfortable – in fact, ADO buses are our favorite way to get between cities in Mexico.

The only thing is that you need to buy your ticket before you exit the airport, depending on which terminal you arrive in. We exited the airport while waiting for friends that were arriving at a different terminal, and we realized that once you exit without a bus ticket, your only option is to take a taxi. As I said before, you really, really don’t want to be stuck taking a taxi.

Taking a direct ADO bus from the Cancun Airport is the best way to get to Tulum. Just don’t exit the airport without a ticket, depending on the terminal you land in.

Direct bus from Cancun Airport to Tulum

The direct bus route from Cancun International Airport to Tulum runs 6 times per day, starting at 10:50am and ending at 9:25pm and leaving roughly every hour and a half. The bus will drop you off at either the ADO bus station at the Tulum Ruins or the ADO bus station in the city center, depending on which option you chose when you purchased your ticket.

If there isn’t a convenient option when you arrive and you don’t want to wait, you could also take an ADO bus from the airport to Playa del Carmen, and then buy a ticket for the next bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

This route is only about 15 minutes longer in addition to any time between when the next bus leaves and could wind up getting you to Tulum a couple of hours sooner. We’ve gotten to and from Tulum both of these ways, and both are perfectly fine and easy.

I’d recommend taking the first bus out of Cancun, whether it is to Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

Rent a Car and Drive from Cancun Airport to Tulum

Your third and final option to get from the Cancun airport to Tulum is via rental car. Rental cars are a tricky subject in Mexico, as some members of the police are known for being corrupt and occasionally extorting tourists for cash. While the Mexican government is trying to deal with this, it is a tall task.

If you get a ticket, justly or not, your travel insurance will not cover it! I always recommend booking a private driver instead of renting a car, but I recommend reading my post on driving in Mexico if you do opt to rent a car.

How to Get Around Tulum Safely


Is There Uber in Tulum?

While most of Mexico has Uber, ridesharing apps remain illegal in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (where Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are).

You will not be able to call a Lyft, Uber, or Didi at any time.

Are Taxis in Tulum Safe?

Since there is no Uber in Tulum, you may need to resort to taxis to get between areas in Tulum. Taxis in Tulum are generally very safe, but it is important to either make sure that they use the meter or that you agree on a price before the ride begins.

Is Driving in Tulum Safe?

Many travelers opt for car rentals instead of hiring a driver or relying on taxis while in Tulum. Driving in Tulum can be hazardous, both because of poorly paved roads and corrupt police officers. The beach road is usually in bad shape after hurricane season, and driving can be treacherous.

Bike Rentals in Tulum

One great way to get around Tulum is by bicycle. If you want to rent a bike, there are bike rental places all over the area, and many hotels and Airbnbs include free bike rental with your booking. Beware that the distance between the town and the beach is moderately far and requires a bit of fitness to traverse on a bike.

Colectivos in Tulum

Colectivos are shared private vans that operate on common commuter routes in Mexico. There is a colectivo that connects Tulum Town with Tulum Beach, and it is a fraction of the cost of a taxi. Payment must be made in cash in Mexican pesos.

Is Tulum Safe to Visit?

Tulum is one of the most popular places for Americans to visit in Mexico. But is it safe?

The entire state of Quintana Roo deals with ebbs and flows of violence. After all, with so many tourists passing through, and with such a long coastline, this is very valuable territory for organized crime groups. Still, Tulum is pretty safe.

We have been to Tulum several times, and each experience is all positive. As with any tourist destination, you will encounter peddlers, but the risk of being a victim of a crime is pretty low. The risks rise if you are out partying too late into the night, as most reports of violence in Tulum stem from night clubs and bars after dark.

As long as you take basic precautions and obey all local laws, Tulum is a very safe place to visit in Mexico.

Where to Stay in Tulum

When you look at traveling to Tulum, you’ll very quickly notice that you have two very different choices for where to stay: the town center and the beach zone. Tulum is divided, as the town itself sits a few kilometers off of the beach and is totally separate from the beachy hotel zone.

Both areas are awesome, and you’ll definitely wind up visiting each one during your stay, but picking where to set up camp is a fairly involved decision to make. Either area could be the perfect place for you, depending on what you plan to do.

Staying in town is cheaper, but you are far away from the beach.

Staying in Tulum Town

Staying in the town is almost always cheaper and places you very close to a bunch of restaurants and stores, but leaves you a 30-minute bike ride or 15-minute taxi ride from the best beaches. Most of the budget hotels are located in and around Tulum town, and there are very few affordable options closer to the water.

Staying in Tulum Beach

Staying in the hotel zone is costly, as the beachfront hotel prices are usually very steep. Many of these small hotels operate like inclusive resorts, and guests pay a premium for the deluxe amenities, like a gym, room service, and a hot tub. Most of the top yoga retreats are hosted in beachfront hotels, which is part of what makes them so expensive.

Staying in the hotel zone is very expensive, but you are directly on the beach.

Neither place is better than the other across the board. The boutique hotels in the hotel zone are beautiful and would be a great place to stay if you don’t mind paying their high prices or being detached from the town.

There are plenty of local restaurants in the area, too, so you won’t really be needing anything if you stay there. However, I’d really only recommend staying near the beach if you’re looking predominantly for a beach vacation.

Better to Stay in Tulum Town or Beach?

If your Tulum itinerary is going to include checking out some of the other great things to do in the area, like some ancient Mayan ruins and the Grand Cenote, I recommend staying in the town.

This applies to most people on their first trip to Tulum. Many of our favorite restaurants and favorite places to shop are located within the town, and the central location makes exploring the surrounding area much easier, as the cenotes and ruins will be half as far away.

We have stayed in both areas, and we have had great experiences with both.

The Best Restaurants in Tulum

1. Prieto for Breakfast or Coffee

$$$ | Healthy Food

This place is awesome. I am a cold brew fiend, and they serve strong, high-quality cold brew in a glass decanter. While my fondest memory of the place is their coffee, their breakfast food is also fantastic!

The acai bowls were incredible, their salmon and lox bagel was great, and we have not had a single bad thing in the several times we’ve visited. It’s located right in the middle of town and is a surefire great place to grab a bite to eat.



2. Aldo’s for Premium Gelato

$$ | Dessert

Aldo’s serves some of the best gelato we’ve ever had outside of Italy. They have several locations throughout Mexico’s Caribbean coast, and we’ve been to the ones in Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Every flavor we’ve had is just fantastic, and you really can’t go wrong.

They manage to make the perfect creamy gelato, and there is no better way to cool off from a hot Tulum day than some Aldo’s gelato before taking a dip in an outdoor pool.


Multiple Locations

3. Matcha Mama for Smoothie Bowls

$$ | Açai Bowls

I have a mixed opinion on this one and am mostly only recommending it because of its popularity. Matcha Mama is a cute place with a couple of locations in Tulum that serves smoothies and smoothie bowls.

Don’t get me wrong; the bowls here were great. It’s just that they’re super expensive and the portions are small. They aren’t any better than the ones served at Prieto.

Matcha Mama is one of the most Instagrammed spots in all of Tulum and has swings to eat on. But I’d say that you’re going and paying for the vibe, not necessarily the quality of the food.



4. Del Cielo for Breakfast or Brunch in Tulum Town

$$ | Healthy Food

Del Cielo is a popular breakfast spot located right in the heart of Tulum Pueblo. Visitors always rave about the food, and for good reason! Del Cielo uses very fresh ingredients, and its menu offers many delicious options. The prices at Del Cielo are pretty pricey, but it is still worth visiting at least once.



5. La Malquerida for a Meal in Town

$ | Mexican

This place is nothing too special, but it offers consistently good Mexican food. We have been here a handful of times now and have enjoyed each time. The outdoor tables have swing seats, too, which is a great added bonus! You really can’t go wrong with anything here, and they do have a happy hour special that provides some cheap eats and affordable drinks.



The Best Time to Visit Tulum

As a beach town, Tulum experiences a wide range of weather patterns throughout the year. The best time to visit Tulum is when you will experience the best weather. This is right before or after the rainy season.

The rainy season in Tulum runs from June through October, and it is best to visit outside of these months.

Another important factor to consider is sargassum seaweed. Sargassum is an ugly breed of seaweed that washes up on the shores of Mexico’s Caribbean coast every year. This tends to appear between April and September each year.

We recommend visiting in late October or March.

For the best weather and the prettiest beaches, I recommend visiting Tulum in late October or in March. The summer is the warmest, but there is more rain and seaweed all over the beaches. In November, you can still enjoy a warm day on the beach and get a tan.

Is Tulum Worth Visiting?

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Mexico, it’s fair to say that Tulum has built a strong reputation for itself. Really though, is Tulum worth visiting? I think the answer to this question heavily depends on what you want to do while you’re in Mexico.

If you want pristine beaches, great food, parties, and trendy cenotes, the Tulum is likely the place for you. There really is no better place for this, as Tulum absolutely smokes Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and the Oaxaca beaches in these categories.

If you want a more laid-back environment, though, that still has cenotes, great food, and fun activities, I recommend checking out either Valladolid or Merida. For more information on these cities, be sure to read my Valladolid travel guide and Merida travel guide.

colurful tulum sign

Our Final Tips for Visiting Tulum

Negotiate Everything

Firstly, be sure to negotiate everything, all the time. You should negotiate with taxi drivers, minimum consumption charges, and even prices in stores. While it may not sound like common sense to many foreigners, that is just how Mexico works. If you’re in a restaurant, a high-end boutique, a grocery store, or a convenience store, don’t try to barter. If you’re anywhere else, it can’t hurt to try!

Bring Plenty of Cash

Secondly, bring plenty of cash. The taxis between the two main areas get pretty pricey after a while. We almost got stranded in the hotel zone without enough cash for a taxi.

Most places will take cards. But with the need to rely on cash-only taxes, you’re better off having plenty of cash on hand. There are ATMs located both in Tulum Town and in Tulum Beach, but the exchange rates tend to be pretty poor.

That’s all we have for you about Tulum! Hopefully this ultimate Tulum travel guide helps you to plan the perfect Tulum trip. If you have any questions, drop a comment below!


Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.

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Meet The Author - Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.