Mexico

11 Best things to do in Tulum – The Ultimate Guide

A couple standing in front of a statue of a woman, enjoying one of the best things to do in Tulum.

Tulum was on our bucket list for a long time before we first visited; honestly, it wasn’t love at first sight for us. It was way busier and touristier than we expected, and we were disappointed initially. But we decided to give it a chance, and through exploring and finding the gems that Tulum has to offer, we started to develop a love and fascination for this place. We think exploring outside the tourist center and immersing in Tulum’s natural beauty is crucial. In this blog post, we share the 11 best things to do in Tulum from our experience, which helped us see it in another light.

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Best time to visit Tulum

During the hot and humid months of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico hurricane season, Tulum seaweed, or “Sargassum” in Spanish, is becoming an increasingly annoying problem. We experienced it ourselves, and it ruined the beach experience. So, if you want to enjoy Tulum’s white sand beaches and turquoise water and avoid the seaweed, we highly recommend visiting between November and March

How to get to Tulum

Tulum has no airport until today (we heard a new Tulum Airport will open in March 2024), so the best way to get there is to fly to Cancun and drive about 1.5 hours from the Airport to Tulum. If you want a rental car for your trip to Mexico, you can pick it up at the airport and drive it yourself. We recommend Discover Cars for the best car rental prices in Mexico.

Otherwise, you can book a shuttle via Get Transfer for around 100 USD.

11 Best things to do in Tulum

Playa Santa Fe

Playa Santa Fe is the public beach of Tulum and the one that is easily accessible (read Travel Tips regarding general beach access). It’s a stunning white stretch with turquoise water, lots of palm trees, and the best place to enjoy a beach day in Tulum. We love to bring a picnic to the beach, but there are a few restaurant options if you prefer. 

Tulum Ruins

Right after Playa Santa Fe, you find the Tulum Ruins, probably the most popular of the best things to do in Tulum. The ruins of Tulum are one of the most visited archaeological zones in Mexico, for good reason: it’s stunning. The ruins sit on seaside cliffs, high above turquoise waters. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans, and the ruins are among the best-preserved Mayan sites today. They are open from  8 am to 5 pm, and the entrance fee is 90 pesos (around 4-5 dollars)

Gran Cenote

In our opinion, the best things to do in Tulum is explore the many Cenotes around the city. We love natural places, and cenotes have a special kind of magic. They are natural underground water reservoirs, mainly in Yucatán (the southernmost part of Mexico). Each of them is unique, and Tulum has so many. In this blog post, we listed the favorites that we visited.

Gran Cenote is the most popular one we visited. We loved how turquoise the water was and that we got to swim with cute little turtles. So even though it can get busy, it’s one of the best things to do in Tulum. We recommend going early in the morning when it opens at 8 am. The entrance fee here is higher than in other Cenotes we recommend; it’s 500 pesos (around 27 USD).

Cenote Cristal and Escondido

Some of the lesser-known Cenotes in Tulum are Cenote Cristal and Escondido. They are located just across the road from each other, and you can pay only one entrance fee at Cenote Cristal and then visit both. The entrance fee for both is 150 pesos (around 8 USD).

Cenote Cristal is a great place to swim and relax. The cenote has a jumping board and a few wooden decks to sunbathe after your refreshing swim. Cenote Escondido is perfect for those who love adventure. There are cords from which you can swing and jump in the water, and it’s excellent for snorkeling/diving.

Cenote Corazon del Paraiso

One of our favorite places in Tulum is this hidden gem called Cenote Corazon del Paraiso. A beautiful heart-shaped cenote surrounded by lush green vegetation. A tranquil place to swim and relax. It opens at 9 am, and the entrance fee is 150 pesos (8 USD). The cenote has a jumping platform, wooden decks to relax, and crystal-clear water. This place can’t be missed as one of the best things to do in Tulum.

Laguna de Kaan Luum

If we had to choose one of the best things to do in Tulum, we would select Laguna Kaan Luum. This place is truly a gem with it’s turquoise water, hammocks to chill and laid back vibes. This lagoon is actually a giant, open cenote. We preferred to come here to swim and relax over the beach (which had to do with the seaweed problems mentioned before.) The lagoon opens at 9 am until 4 pm and the entrance fee is 300 pesos (15 USD). We recommend bringing drinks and snack and enjoying this place for a whole morning or afternoon.

Cenote Angelita

Cenote Angelita is one of the must-visit Cenotes for Divers. We did our Apnea Course there with Freedive Tulum and highly recommend James for those who want to learn more about Freediving. He is amazing, and Tulum is one of the best places to learn in the world. Cenote Angelita is also great for Scuba Diving. We haven’t scuba-dived in the cenotes yet, but we can imagine it’s a unique experience to dive through all the amazing underground caves. 

Note: The photos below were taken in Cenote Chukum in Valladolid, Yucatan.

Azulik Museum SFER IK

 The most memorable and one of the best things to do in Tulum is to visit one of the two Azulik Museums called SFER IK. One of the two exhibition spaces for contemporary art is in Tulum at the Azulik Hotel in the beach area, and the other one is around 45 min from Tulum in Francisco Uh May. The second is the one we visited, and we highly recommend it. It’s further out but much bigger and worth a visit. The opening hours are from 10 am to 6 pm, and the entrance fee is 400 pesos (23 USD). Please note that tripods are not allowed, and if you bring a professional camera, there is an additional fee of 20 USD. The whole experience is barefoot, so that you will remove your shoes at the entrance. We have never seen a more special architecture and love all the natural elements. It is a truly fascinating place to visit.

Yoga & Temazcal at Holistika

One of our favorite places in Tulum is Holistika. As soon as you enter this place, you feel like you are transported into another very peaceful world. Holistika is a beautiful retreat center that hosts guests but is also open to the public. They have a lovely garden restaurant called Tierra that we think is a must when in Tulum. The food is extraordinary, and the setting is so beautiful.

Besides that, they offer all kinds of Yoga classes, from Hatha, Vinyasa, and Kundalini all the way to Acro Yoga. And they offer ceremonies like Temazcal, a type of sweat lodge to cleanse body & mind, as well as cacao ceremonies and sound healing. This place can’t be missed if you want to experience the best things to do in Tulum.

Fancy Drinks & Dinner at Nomade 

The restaurants in the beach area are not cheap, or sometimes even quite overpriced, for what you get. We had some experiences that we wouldn’t recommend. But one place we really love if you want to splurge on a special dinner night and sunset drinks at the beach is Macando. It offers delicious Morrocan food and is part of one of Tulum’s most beautiful beach hotels, Nomade. It’s a popular spot, so we recommend making a reservation. If you can come early, you can watch the sunset at the hotel’s beach and enjoy a nice drink.

Day Trip Cenote Azul & Akumal Beach

Suppose you want to explore a bit further out of Tulum and make a day trip. In that case, we recommend visiting Cenote Azul, a magnificent Cenote with blue water, and combining your visit with the nearby Akumal Beach, a famous place for snorkeling and swimming with green sea turtles. It’s a 40-minute drive from Tulum to the Cenote, and Akumal Beach is on your way back. For Akumal Beach, you need to pay an entrance fee in cash of 120 pesos (7 USD)

Where to eat in Tulum

One thing we love about Tulum is the many fantastic food options and how vegan-friendly the town is. Here are our favorite places to eat:

Raw Love Tulum

One of our favorites in Tulum for breakfast, smoothie bowls, and juices is RAW Love. They have two locations, one in town and one at the beach.

Co.ConAmor

Co.ConAmor is a lovely garden restaurant with a vegan/vegetarian menu. It is one of our favorite places for dinner; it is quiet and has fantastic food.

Burrito Amor

The most popular place for Burritos in Tulum is Burrito Amor. They have other Mexican food too and very nice vibes in the evenings. If you come late, expect to wait a bit for a table (Vegan Burrito available).

La Vegan Taqueria

Fully vegan Taco restaurant La Vegan Taqueria offers a great selection of different tacos – an excellent place for dinner.

El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra

Local vegetarian restaurant El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra has a charming owner offering vegan burgers, Enchiladas, Tacos, Quesadillas, and fantastic homemade desserts.

El Bajon Vegano

A small Vegan Restaurant and shop, El Bajon Vegano offers a great variety of vegan Tacos; they are affordable and super delicious.

La Hoja Verde

A lovely & delicious vegan restaurant for breakfast and lunch, La Hoja Verde offers Burgers, Tacos, Pancakes, Vegan Omelette, bowls, and much more.

Perro no Come Perro

Mexico is very famous for its street food, and eating Tacos in the streets is a must-try experience. Obviously, for vegans, that’s always difficult, as many dishes are with meat, but not in Tulum. Perro no Come Perro is a fully vegan Taco stand. It’s cheap, super delicious, and so fun.

Matcha Mama

Matcha Mama is a cute little smoothie bowl restaurant with swings in the beach area. If you spend your morning strolling around the beach and boutiques, it’s a perfect place for a break.

Tierra

Holistika’s garden restaurant Tierra is a must-try for breakfast or lunch. It’s a lovely ambiance, and the food is fantastic.

Where to stay in Tulum

Generally, there are three areas where you can stay in Tulum.

Beach Area

The beach area of Tulum is the most expensive one, which hosts all the stunning luxury hotels like La Valise, Nomade or Ma’xanab with beach access. If you can splurge on your holiday, it’s definitely a fantastic experience to wake up close to the beach.

Tulum Center

Tulum Center is the hustling and bustling part of Tulum, with most restaurants and shops and many affordable hotels like La Tulumena, Casa Agape, or Kin Ha Tulum, as well as many Airbnb options. What’s nice is that you can walk to go out in the evenings so if you eat out most of the time it’s best to stay around here. But it can also be noisy. 

La Veleta

Our favorite area to stay in Tulum is La Veleta. It’s a newer neighborhood with many lovely boutique hotels like Holistika, Copal Tulum, TerraNova, and a great selection of modern Airbnbs. Holistika is great for yoga classes and excellent food, and Gypsea Market is where to buy groceries, and it’s quieter and greener. A scooter or car is a must if you stay here because it’s a bit further out from the center and the best things to do in Tulum.

How to get around in Tulum

Tulum is more extensive than many think, and if you want to explore and do all the best things to do in Tulum it is necessary to have some mobility. There are different options with different advantages:

Rent a Bike

During our first visit to Tulum, we initially rented bikes because they were the most budget-friendly option, and we love biking. It was a lot of fun. But we realized they are mainly great for exploring the center and beach area, and some places are more spread out and too far to reach with a bike. Also, bikes tend to be in terrible condition from our experience.

Rent a Scooter

Our personal fave is renting a scooter. It gives you all the freedom to explore, is cheaper than a car rental, and is a lot of fun. We rented our scooter from Dive and Snorkel Tulum (yes, they also rent dive gear).

Rent a Car

A rental car is the most convenient way to explore Tulum, especially if you want to explore further. The beach area can be annoying with a car as there is a lot of traffic and parking is expensive. We had a rental car during our second visit to Tulum, and we always booked them via Discover Cars for the best price.

Tavel Budet for Tulum

The cost of traveling in Mexico can vary a lot. In Tulum, the choice of accommodation makes the most significant difference depending on your preference. Here is an overview of our costs to help you plan your Travel Budget for Tulum.

  • Accomodation: 80-100 USD per night for two people 
  • Shuttle from the Airport: 100 USD
  • Scooter Rental: 30 USD per Day
  • Food per day: 50-60 USD per Day for two people
  • All the entrance fees are listed in the best things to do in Tulum

Travel tips

Beach access in Tulum

Before we visited Tulum, we didn’t know that the whole beach of the Tulum Beach area, where all the hotels are, is not easy to access as most accesses go through hotels and are “private.” If you struggle to find a way to the beach, try the places below. We listed the best beach entrances for you here:

  • Posada Margherita: The Italian Restaurant has a cute entrance full of pots and plants. We entered the beach there a lot, and they never said anything. Sometimes, we had coffee or juice there at the beach, which was lovely.
  • Raw Love Beach: One of the most common and easy accesses to the beach is at Raw Love, one of our favorite restaurants for juice or breakfast.

Internet Access

For the best Internet connection in Tulum, we recommend getting a local SIM card. The most convenient option for travelers is the eSim Card (digital SIM card) from Airalo. You can download and install a digital data pack and get connected anywhere in the world as soon as you land, so there is no need to waste time looking for a local plastic SIM card. 

Money

In most places in Tulum, you can pay with a credit card, but sometimes it’s good to have cash, especially for street food or market shopping. We recommend to get cash at Santander Bank as it has the lowest fees.

Environment

Unfortunately, Tulum is struggling with plastic pollution in many places. That’s why we recommend being mindful about what you consume and preferably shop at local markets or zero-waste shops. Our favorite is Co.ConAmor – La Tienda

Conclusion

Tulum can be a quiet, overwhelming place at first, but we also believe it has much to offer and shouldn’t be missed when traveling the south of Mexico. We combined our trip with visiting close by Playa Carmen (which we liked a lot less than Tulum), Bacalar (our favorite place), Valladolid, and Holbox Island (a barefoot paradise we loved). Indeed, the best things to do in Tulum are enjoying the fantastic food options, the many Cenotes close by, and the culture and art scene.

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