Tulum is on the Yucatán Peninsula, in Mexico. It is one of the earliest resorts in Mexico, offering a place of worship and solitude for the Mayan Kings, clergy and Gods in early times. The tropical beach backdrop is the main attraction of this picturesque, much-visited small ruin on the shore of the Caribbean Sea. Shortly after your arrival, you will understand why early Mayans picked this beautiful place to relax.
Be prepared for LOTS of people and tour groups at the archaeological site. To avoid the crowds, it is best to stay overnight and visit the ruins early in the morning before the buses arrive, or later in the afternoon. Morning is recommended since you can catch spectacular vistas when the sun is rising over the Caribbean.
From Cancun International Airport
You can catch an ADO bus to Tulum directly three times a day: 2:10PM, 7:45PM and 8:45PM. Ticket prices are about $15 USD. The ride will take about 2 hours.
You can also take the ADO bus to Playa del Carmen with departures nearly every hour for about $12 USD. Once in Playa del Carmen you transfer to a second bus to Tulum for an additional $5 USD.
Rental cars are priced reasonably and are the easiest way to get around the Tulum area. Shop around rates upon arrival, and feel free to haggle. Check with your credit card company to see if they automatically insure you, most do so you don't have to pay the additional insurance that the rental agency often tries to insist you purchase. It is a very easy drive to Tulum. To get there you take the only highway south from Cancun Airport straight down past Playa del Carmen, Akumal, etc. About 90 minutes from the airport you will arrive in Tulum.
Many of the hotels in Tulum offer a pick-up service from the Cancun International Airport for an addition $80 to $120 USD depending on the hotel.
You can also take a taxi from the airport from $145 USD.
Buses from Cancun run quite regularly. There is also an ADO bus direct from Cancun Airport.
Buses from Playa Del Carmen run hourly or so. Bus station is at southern end of Fifth Avenue near Playacar. ADO Bus stops at Xcaret and Xel-ha en route to Tulum. Mayab bus stops more frequently en route to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen.
To visit the ruins, get off the bus at the first Tulum stop at the intersection with the access road to the ruins. It's an easy one mile or so flat walk to the ruins from the intersection.
An alternative to the buses is to catch a "collectivo" van. In Playa Del Carmen you can find these on Calle 2 towards Avenida 20. One-way trip costs 40 pesos.
If you drive yourself to the ruins before opening time, it may be a bit confusing as to where to go and what to do. As soon as you park, a man on a bicycle should find you and charge you for parking (50 pesos). You must go through a sort of half open-air mall (which is empty before 8AM). From there you can either sign up with a tour guide (US$20 per person?), pay for a shuttle ride to the ruins (20 pesos), or walk a mile along a road to the ruins. The guides are reported to be better story tellers than actual experts on Mayan culture. The walk is on level ground and passes quickly as you admire the jungle and abandoned shops along the way. If you can walk it, do it and save a few bucks! As you approach a stone wall, to the left will be a brown wooden building where you can purchase your ticket into the ruins (51 pesos, an additional 35 pesos if they see that you have a video camera). From there, head along a stone path through the jungle and into the ruins...
What most folks really need to know, and only manage to figure out once there, is the fact that there are really three different areas all referred to as TULUM only minutes away from each other, not close enough though to walk to and from.
Tulum Pueblo sits split by highway 307 running South-North. "El Pueblo", as referred to by locals, is home to most workers of the tourist industry and where many of the stores, supermarkets, two bus stations, inns, hostels and small hotels are found. This section of town has a definite feel of existing mostly to cater to the Tulum ruins. Tulum pueblo is indeed a destination for shopping, great restaurants, a modest night life, studying the language at Instituto Chac-Mool Spanish School, booking tours, banking, shopping for food, local vegetables, fruits, cafes, and local flavor. Do not miss it.
Tulum Playa nests along the coastline that leads into the Sian Ka'an Biosphere [Ecological Reserve], the Caribbean white sandy beaches to the east, an impressive mangrove & wetland reserve to the south. Tulum Playa embraces many of the fancier, ecological, boutique and spa hotels, and it has a decent to excellent selection of restaurants and night spots. There are also a number of affordable beach front cabana-type lodging locations. Walk the beach and simply step in and inquire about accommodations and rates. You will be surprised and delighted.
It should be noted most of these establishments are Eco-friendly and do not provide electricity past midnight. Toilet paper can not be flushed and it is asked that water and other resources be used sparingly. The hotels in Tulum aim to keep Tulum as it is and stop the ecological problems that have already taken hold in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
If you are staying on the beach and trying to save money, it is wise to stock up on food and drinks in the pueblo. There are not too many restaurant options on the beach, and the ones that are operational are comparatively quite expensive.
Taxis have a near monopoly on transport to and from the playa. Buses come from time to time, but hitchhiking can also get you where you need to go.
Tulum Ruinas is the archaeological site where the Maya ruins of Tulum stand. It is conformed by a-mile-long road leading into the ruins from highway 307. The road is flanked by several restaurants, a commercial area geared to one-day visitors, a huge parking lot, a small bus station that operates part-time and a handful of middle range hotels.
Tulum is mostly known for its ruins, which strike an impressive image next to the sea, but were constructed during a time period of Maya culture that was waning. The site is notable for a small cenote (albeit dry during Jan 2009), beautiful beach below the ruin laden cliffs and some well preserved stellae in only one of its structures. After visiting other ruins in the area such as Coba, Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, Tulum's main claim is the sea-side setting. It is best visited on a clear, bright day or at sunrise. Bring your swimming suit. At the time of writing, one of the best sections was closed to visitors and covered with plastic bottles and other refuse.
A standard to telephoto zoom lens does well if you must photograph during times of peak tourism. This strategy will keep people out of your shots of the ruins. Tripods are allowed only with a permit that is exclusively available in Mexico City for a $500 fee. A monopod may be a possibility.
- Taxis are an inexpensive way to get around but for the most part, Tulum 'Pueblo' is so small that walking is a simple, though often dusty, option. Taxis from 'Pueblo' to the coast is ~70-90 pesos. It is advisable to either take a taxi or rent a bike when traveling between the 'Pueblo' and the beach, as the walk is rather long, dusty and unattractive.
- Bikes are available for rent from Iguana Bikes in Tulum 'Pueblo.' 150-250 pesos for 24 hours. Bikes are a convenient way to get around town and to/from cenotes and the beach. Please be careful when riding a bike on the highway. Bring a headlamp/flashlight if biking at night.
- There seems to be a public bus which leaves Tulum Pueblo around 9AM and 12noon and goes to the beach and ruins, and returns from there at 12:15PM and 5PM. Not sure about ticket prices but they should be around 5 pesos one way.
- Tulum archaeological site
- Muyil archaeological site
- Grand Cenote
- Cenote Calaveras
- Dos Ojos Cenote - 100 pesos for entrance only (good if you bring your own equipment and are ready to walk 3km to the cenote). 300 pesos for a guide, ride to the cenote, snorkel equipment, lamp, and wetsuit if you want. Set aside around 2 or 3 hours total.
- Sian Ka'an Biosphere - The reserve features acres upon acres of pristine mangrove swamp and wetlands. Just past the information center pull into the dirt lot on the left and walk out to the beach. There are a few fishermen that dock here and are willing to take you on a tour that is much cheaper than the organized tours offered in the area. The fishermen will take you on an hour to two hour boat tour of the reserve anyt time of day. Near sunset is a great option. They will often work for hire for 100 to 200 pesos or 10 to 20USD.
- Coba ruins - Be sure to visit the Coba ruins. They are not in as pristine shape as the Tulum Ruins, however they feature "el castillo" the tallest of the Mayan ruins that juts up above the treetops in the jungle. You can still climb el castillo in Coba and the sight from the top is spectacular. A fun and efficient way of exploring the ruins is renting a bike ($35 pesos); just go to the rental place inside the ruins. You can also rent bikes to get around Coba. Coba is only a 30 minute drive west of tulum on the main road off 307. Just follow the signs to Coba!
- Tulum Sports Festival. Is a sports event held annually at Tulum Beach and is open registration. Fun and sports for everyone with live music, beach volleyball, paddle boards, kayaks, swimming, kite boarding and more. A great weekend of fun activities to celebrate the beauty of the beach and wind. There's something for everyone!
- Extreme Control - the beaches of Tulum in Playa Paraiso, certified instructors, all levels, full facilities and rentals.
- Ocean Pro Kite - kiteboarding school located on Tulum beach. It provides kitesurf lessons following the most professional and safest method of teaching, known as IKO (International Kitesurfing Organisation). From a one-hour lesson to "ready to go" packages.
- Snorkel. Great guided snorkel tours from the public beach near the ruins, cost was 200 pesos each in Nov 2009. Lasted about two hours.
- You can also take your own self-guided tour of the reefs right off the beach from the Hotel Zone. Tulum sits on the second largest barrier reef in the world. Be sure to take a tour yourself, or a guided tour of this fantastic reef system. You will be sure to see over 30 species of fish and some spectacular Coral as well. If you must take a guided tour, the cheapest in the area is located at Zamas Hotel. Zamas is located about 10 establishments in from the beginning of the hotel zone.
- Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park. Offering unique jungle adventures to suit everyone, Hidden Worlds is situated on the most extensive system of underwater caves and caverns on Earth. The park is home to some of the most incredible cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula, as featured in the critically acclaimed 2001 IMAX movie Journey Into Amazing Caves and the 2007 BBC Planet Earth series.
- Maya Spa. Holistic spa specializing in Mayan treatments.
- See also: Cenotes of the Yucatán
In much of the Yucatan, rainwater collects in a system of underground caves and tunnels. Where these tunnels reach the surface is known as a cenote (pronounced seh-NOH-teh). Cenotes usually allow swimming and diving, and rent related equipment. They are fresh water and are often quite cold (24 °C).
- Casa Cenote, in TanKah III Bay is a magic spot. Here the Cenote goes underground some 100 yards before the beach, only to emerge as an 'underwater' water spring about 20 yards of the beach, right in the ocean. Must see. Tanka III Bay is just over 7 kilometers (5 miles) north of the intersection to the ruins. Take a cab. Great places to eat and stay or scuba too.
- El Gran Cenote. Admission: 80 pesos.
- Infinity 2 diving, No. 4 Street Orion Norte Between Av. Tulum and Polar, ☎ +52 (1) 984 143 2089. British owned dive shop specializing in cenote diving.
If staying for more than just a couple of days, you may want to experience taking some Spanish lessons at the beach or at the Spanish school.
- Pink Iguana is offering lessons to corporate clients only.
- Instituto Chac-Mool Tulum. Also, in Tulum is Instituto Chac-Mool Spanish School offering Spanish immersion classes year round. Classes may be as private lessons or studying with a peer group that the school arranges based on your starting level of Spanish.
Markets catering mainly to the bus loads of tourists are situated on the road leading to the entrance of the archaeological site.
There are also markets in town on 307 in the main stretch of town. Many cater to tourists however be sure to give them a look anyway. There are a lot of beautiful hand crafted Mexican pottery and fabrics. If you turn off of 307 and vere into town away from the main strip you can discover tons of tiny establishments and get a feel for the truly sleepy town of Tulum.
- Check out Mezzanine on the cliffs (only 40 feet high but nice) overlooking Playa Paraiso. Superb Thai food and great ambiance and a super view. They even make decent drinks too and have good shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
- For the budget minded, try Pollo Bronco in Tulum 'Pueblo'. Pollo Bronco and Pollo Asada both offer chicken that is roasted to perfection that can be ordered by the 1/4, 1/2, and whole.
- It should be noted that most of the restaurants in town are infinitely cheaper than those at the resorts. Most places, with the exception of the Italian and Japanese restaurants feature entrees for well under 100 pesos, or 10USD. Don Cafetos features authentic Mexican and is one of the most popular restaurants on the strip. There are countless little cafes and establishments to get a great bite to eat for cheap.
- Off the downtown, a few meters ahead on the left of the street entering Villas Tulum is Non Solo Pizza that sell inexpensive pizzas, pies, tarts, breads, cakes etc. (around 20 Pesos). All are freshly baked by the courteous (also English-speaking) lady herself who sells those over the counter. Very simple, homely, tasty unlike the greasy branded template pizzas!
- If you are staying on the beach, it is wise to stock up on food and drinks in the pueblo. There are not too many restaurant options on the beach, and the ones that are operational are quite expensive.
- If you want non perishable items, grab some snacks to supplement your meals at the Super San Francisco Food Mart. You can buy a cooler here which is great for having cold drinks on the beach each day. Just pick up ice in the morning and the cooler will stay cold until night time. This supermarket however is run by locals and hardly anyone speaks English, so if you don't know Spanish, be prepared to shop around to find what you need.
- Oscar & Lalo Restaurant, Bar & Grill (Oscar y Lalo), Carretera Federal 307 (Playa Del Carmen-Tulum KM. 241), ☎ +52 984 115-9965. “Oscar & Lalo Restaurant - Bar - Grill Welcomes you! We have been serving excellent Specialty Seafood, Mexican and Yucatecan Cuisine since 1984. Have a look at our site, browse our menu, and discover that Oscar & Lalos is your dining destination in the Riviera Maya. Come and enjoy our beautiful tropical Jungle Garden, have a glass of wine or your favorite cocktail, and taste the delicious fresh Seafood, Mexican and Yucatecan Cuisine that has made us the pride of the Riviera Maya!
- El Camello (On the main road in the southern outskirts of the pueblo). "The Camel" has great (and cheap) seafood! Unpretentious but packed with locals as well as tourists. Take a cab to get there unless you are in the southern part of town.
- Cetli, Polar at Orion. 5-10PM. Probably the best food in town. The food is somewhat expensive (but well worth the price!), keeping locals away, and unfortunately few tourists notice this excellent restaurant, since it's not on the main strip. The place is owned by its young chef, Claudia, trained in Mexico City's premier culinary academy.
- El Camello Jr (on the east side of the main road in the southern outskirts of town). Great (and cheap) seafood. This place was crowded (mainly by locals) every time we visited (March 2012).
Also try a few other cool spots in Tulum that offer fun drink specials with a hip tropical flair:
- Curandero offers live music and djs in a trendy atmosphere.
- Teetotum offers weekend rooftop movies, a cool lounge and drink specials, try the Razzleberry Daiquiri!
- Ak'iin offers weekend parties with live music or djs, no cover and drink specials on a beautiful stretch of beach.
The sleeping options have a poor price-performance ratio. In the zona hotelera (at the beach) really simple rundown cabanas with shared bath and without seaview are sold for 550 pesos.
- Cabanas Copal Offers shared rooms with communal bathrooms for 20 US dollars a night. You can also get a room with private bath for 75 US dollars and upwards based on the quality of the room and proximity to oceanfront.
- Casa del Sol. Hostel. - 3 blocks south of the ADO bus station, off the main avenue. Rustic hostel with huge rooftop terrace and common areas with shared kitchen. Breakfast is provided. Dorm rooms, doubles, and singles 120 pesos and up. Most of the double rooms are in Mayan style palapas. Garden atmosphere. Great for rainy season.
- iTour Mexico, Avenida Coba Crucero Avenida Tulum, Col. Centro C.P., ☎ +52 984 80 25 593. iTour Mexico is located at Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. It offers 6 air-conditioned rooms with cable television, Internet, and shower with bath. Some of its offered activities include kiteboarding school and rental, car and bike rental, and massage service. Best rates on official website start at USD 35.00.
- Lobo Inn Recommended only if you are in a real budget (they offer beds for 130 pesos; private double 450 as Feb 2012). Otherwise look for different options; they offer cramped, smelly dorms with equally smelly and cramped bathrooms with cockroaches. However, they offer free use of rather old bikes.
- Mayab Center offers unique yurt palapa accommodations right on a secluded beach just .5 km inside of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, located at the far end of the Tulum beach area. They have built the small retreat center with high eco-standards- composting toilets, grey water treatment system and low impact structures. Breakfast is included in nightly yurt rental, which is as low as $70 US (double occupancy) in the summer months. http://www.mayabtulum.com/
- Playa Condesa Offers private cabanas on the waterfront starting at 200 pesos. Located near Diamante K, but considerably cheaper. About 3 kilometers from the ruins.
- Posada los Mapaches Hostel, ☎ +52 984 871 2700. Bed and Breakfast hostel with new deals for groups, shared bathrooms, delicious breakfast, nice bikes to get around, cozy cabins for maximum 4 or 5 people. Nice place with garden and hammocks. Located on the main highway in front the entrance to Tulum Archaeological site.
- The Weary Traveler Hostel. 1 block south of the ADO bus station. Relaxed hostel with outdoor communal area and kitchen. Breakfast (DIY), water, cooking facilities, beach shuttle bus and internet provided. A nice place for young people that wants to party. All rooms are facing out to the common area, so lots of noise at night until 11PM. Also not the cleanest place and bed bugs are a common thing. Private rooms in a better state, now situated in a separate building about 200m from the main one, also quieter since avoiding the loud music from the bar at night. Dorm room single beds: 150 pesos with Fan and 175 with A/C. Dorm room double beds: 325 pesos. (200 pesos deposit for blankets, or give your ID as a deposit). Discounts available for stays longer than one night, up to 20% off a 5 night stay.
- Hostel Maya (next to ADO bus station). basic room with fan, wifi comes and goes, no air conditioning, cockroaches, exceptionally rude management but the price is right 200 pesos.
- Exclusive Traveler Club, toll-free: 1-877-226-7495. Catalonia Royal Tulum is one of the properties part of the Exclusive Traveler Club. It is just 25km from Playa del Carmen and Tulums archaeological site, and 85 km south of Cancun International airport, in Quintana Roo State, Mexico. All guest rooms and suites offer brand premium amenities.
- Zamas Hotel. ZAMAS' thatch roof bungalows are right next to the beach. The hotel is 10 minutes from Mayan Ruins, Cenotes (fresh water pools), Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and deep-water sportfishing. Snorkeling is available in the ZAMAS cove.
- Hemingway Eco Resort Features 8 rooms on a secluded section of beach about a mile down the road from EcoTulum Resorts. The beach is pristine and the sea is a bit calmer here offering snorkeling right off the beach. Stop by the restaurant for some of the best Italian food out there!
- Azulik Villas. Is a series of beachside villas sea-fronting, rustique built specially designed for honeymooners and couple seeking a romantic retreat in the wilderness. It has many relaxation alternatives like different types of massages, esthetic treatments (body and facial scrubs), reiki, the temazcal (copal sweat lodge- is based on traditional healing methods used by indigenous Mexicans to purify the soul and body) and the chamber of flotation. It is clothing optional.
- The Diamante K features cabañas ranging in quality from 2 all the way up to 5 stars on a private beach front. An interesting feature of the Diamante K is the hanging beds in the cabañas. A restaurant is on site, and you can relax in a hammock and just soak up the tranquility. Electricity is supplied by a generator and hence is switched off after around midnight. Candles are supplied in the cabañas.
- Tankah Inn Bead and Breakfast. Offers 5 neatly furnished rooms, all with ultra silent A/C and ocean view, a great upstairs airy restaurant and terrace, free breakfast, wireless internet, great ambiance, quiet and quaint. Situated on beautiful Tankah III Bay, only seven minutes from the ruins and just 200 yards from world famous Casa Cenote (sink-hole).
- Cabanas La Luna. Is a magical collection of romantic eco boutique ocean front cabañas, hidden away on the beach near Tulum. Just sit back, unwind and enjoy the Caribbean experience at Cabanas La luna!
- EcoTrotters Tulum Page. Check out eco hotels, spas resorts and lodges. Share your reviews!
- Om Tulum Hotel Cabanas & Beach Club, ☎ +52 1-984-157-7903. Carretera Tulum-Punta Alen, KM. 9.5 Tulum, Quintana Roo Mexico 77780.Minimalist in design, the private cabanas are quiet, beach-inspired, and furnished with the following common features; Deck/ balcony – opens up to a garden panorama a Private toilet and bath.
- Playa Azul Tulum. Playa Azul Tulum Hotel is a group of cabañas located between the jungle and the Caribbean sea in one of the most wonderful beaches of Tulum Mexico.
- Teetotum Hotel. Teetotum is a boutique hotel situated between Tulum town and the beach offering: king sized beds, a/c, ipod docks, continental breakfast, free bicycle use, free high speed wi-fi and a restaurant open from 8AM-11PM daily.
- Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa. Dreams Tulum is on one of the most unique beaches in the Riviera Maya surrounded by lush tropical acres, sugary white sand, two beach-adjacent pools, and magnificent colonial architecture. Five minutes from Tulum, it is one of the only resorts in the Riviera Maya where you can view (several miles away) the ancient ruins of Tulum from the beach.Services offered (all-inclusive) include the Explorer's Club, a top notch kids activity center with mini climbing wall, mini stage, games room and more. Luxury Spa. 5 Star PADI Dive Center on site offering daily Tulum area diving and snorkeling excursions to local reefs and cenotes as well as all levels of scuba diving courses. Access to off-site golf.
- Ocho Tulum or Suenos Tulum - You truly cannot experience Tulum staying in an all inclusive. Try staying at a hotel along the beach or even in the pueblo. Two upscale resorts with rustic but elegant rooms would be Ocho Tulum or Suenos Tulum.
- Hechizo Restaurant - Featured in Food and Wine magazine. Only open during the high season. Reservations must be made prior.
- CLICK-C@RIBE - At the entrance of Tulum. State of the art internet technology at $14 pesos por hora.
- TUCAN-KIN - Airport Shuttle firstname.lastname@example.org / 984 134 75 35.
Note: You may encounter problems if you try to make phone calls from the beach. Payphones are sparse and often broken, and they are all owned by one company. These phones require you to purchase a special proprietary card of at least 100 pesos, and the cards cannot be used at regular payphones. A better alternative is to use a normal payphone in the pueblo, or use a Mexican cellphone (There is reception on the beach, but make sure to recharge in the pueblo beforehand).
- Playa del Carmen
- Costa Maya
- Sian-Kahn Ecological Reserve vast and empty, find a sea kayak and explore the lagoon side
- Xcaret Eco-archaeological park in the Riviera Maya