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The Ultimate Tulum Guide

Planning a trip to Tulum? Then this Tulum guide is going to help you navigate this crazy Mexican town.

Where do I even start with introducing Tulum? Well, you will either love it, or hate it. Over the past few years Tulum has changed a lot, mostly thanks to an influx of boujie North Americans happy to spend upwards to $500 a night to sleep in a hut on the beach… But it is what it is, and I’m not here to judge, just to inform.

What I will say though is I love to visit Tulum for a few night with a group of friends and stay in a nice place. It’s not somewhere I’d personally spend more than 3-4 nights and I would’t go there alone. I have been there several times solo and haven’t enjoyed it at all.

We have a word for the die hard lovers of Tulum, the Tuluminate. You can catch them posing for their instagram shot wearing the Tulum uniform (please see my instgram shot here hahah). 

Anyway, lower your expectations, raise your budget, and don’t forget to pack your cutest outfits!

The Ultimate Packing List For Mexico Adventures in Mexico | The Best Boutique Hotels in Tulum

Did You Get Insurance Yet?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything!

The Insurance companies I personally recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover.

Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here where I go into detail about the companies. 

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Tulum Beach Clubs You Need To Visit For All Budgets

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Top 10 Things to do In Tulum

The Best Public Beaches In Tulum Mexico

1. Relax on the beach

I like to go to Tulum because the beaches are truly out of this world. As much as I love living in Playa del Carmen, we don’t have the best beaches. That award goes to Tulum. If you want to know the best public beaches in Tulum, read this.

2. Visit The Ruins

You can’t come to Tulum and not visit Tulum Ruins right? I’m not going to lie, out of all of the Mayan Ruins I’ve visited, Tulum is my least favorite. It’s a bit like Mayan Disneyland. BUT wow, it is the most beautiful and therefore you must go. Read this to get the full guide to help you make the most of your visit. 

3. Go Cenote Hopping

You need to rent a can and visit as many cenotes as you can while you are visiting Tulum. It really is a must-do in Tulum, for good reason! Cenotes are magical places and it’s the best way to cool off during the hot weather. If you don’t rent a car then visit these two easy ones to get to by local bus. If you do dent a car then visiting Cenote Calavera is a must, as is Gran Cenote

4. Join the Tuluminati at the beach clubs

Have you ever been to Tulum if you didn’t spend at least one day wearing something white and gold and posing for Instagram pictures on a beach bed? As much as I dislike the whole Tuluminati vibe 99% of the time. It is fun to play dress up every now and again and drink margaritas all day! Read this post to find out the best beach clubs in Tulum.

5. Eat all the food

Did someone say burritos? Firstly, I will hurt anyone who tries to tell me that burritos are Mexican (they are a Tex Mex food). However, I’m obsessed with the Burritos from Burrito Amor in Tulum. Basically. I go to Tulum to eat and lie on the beach. Tulum has some of the best chefs in Mexico. But you will pay for it! Eating out in Tulum isn’t cheap. I’m too lazy to write up all my Favorite Tulum restaurants, so go read this on my friends blog, Foodie Flashpacker!

6. Explore Coba

Coba is like the antidote to Tulum’s ruins. You can rent a bike and bike around the ruins, which is a lot of fun. You used to be able to climb to the top of the pyramid, but apparently, they stoped that now (sad face). But it’s still a lot of fun there. The only issue is getting there and back if you don’t have a car.  Read this for more information.

7. Float down the river in Sian Ka’an

Sian Ka’an is one of my favorite day trips in the Riviera Maya. Its also a pain in the backside to get to if you don’t take a tour. Read this to learn more about doing it solo.

8. Party in the Jungle

I can’t believe I’m putting this. But just because it’s not my idea of a good time, doesn’t mean it’s not one of the top things to do in Tulum. The parties are mostly underground events and you find out about them via word of mouth while in Tulum. But I will say, be careful. Think about who is running these parties. Remember where you are. A friend of a friend was shot in the leg at a party not so long ago from a stray bullet. Two men were killed. 

9. Go Diving in a Cenote

Think it’s fun swimming in a cenote? Then you need to try diving in one! You need to be a certified open-water diver as a minimum. I highly recommend diving with K & K Diving based in Playa. They will take you to any of the cenotes in Tulum.

10. Go to One of the parks

The Riviera Maya has a lot of big theme parks. If you have the time try and go to one of them. Personally I think they are more fun if you go with a friend or in a group. Here are my favorites in order: Xenses, Xplor, and Xcaret.

Adventures in Mexico | The Best Boutique Hotels in Tulum

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 

Best Tulum ToursClick here to check out the top Tulum tours
Best Tulum Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Tulum
Best Tulum Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Tulum

Food in Tulum

As expensive as it is to eat in Tulum, the food is also pretty amazing!

I have had some of my best meals in Mexico in Tulum (the rest are in Cozumel).

You can get most international cuisine in Tulum as well as Mexican food.

If you want cheap eats, eat on the street of one of the taco places in Tulum town. The recommendations I’m adding below are not really budget eats apart from the first one!

Also, these are just a few places I’ve eaten that I liked, for a full foodie guide to Tulum head over to my friend Foodie Flashpackers blog to see his where to eat in Tulum guide!

Burrito Amor

Its pretty hard to find good burritos in Mexico, as despite the common misconception, burritos are not Mexican food. They are Tex Mex. Anyway, whatever, burrito amore have the best burritos and they even have veggie and vegan options.

Mi Amor

Tulum Guide,tulum,tulum travel

The restaurant inside Hotel Mi Amore is where I have had one of the best meals of my life. Serving Mediterranean inspired food you can’t go wrong ordering anything off their menu. I recommend ordering the prawns (just look at them)!

La Zebra

Tulum Guide,tulum,tulum travel

The food in La Zebra is Mexican inspired and very good. But it’s made it on to my list because of it’s chefs kitchen. I was invited a few years ago and it was a truly spectacular evening I will not soon forget. It’s a bit pricy, but worth every penny.

Mezzanine

I know it may seem a bit weird me to recommend you visit a Thai restaurant while in Tulum, but it’s sooooo good. I couldn’t not recommend it. Plus the view from their terrace is spectacular, so try and get there in time for sunset.

Tulum Money Saving Tips

I don’t think the words money saving and Tulum really go together. Its expensive, by Mexico standards, in Tulum. I feel like every time I go there it gets more expensive.

So I’m going to do my very best to give you a few tips to help you save money in Tulum, but I’m not a miracle worker.

Don’t stay on the beach road

If you want to save yourself a few hundred $$ a night, stay in Tulum town for a fraction of the price you would pay on the beach. A few places even give you free access to a beach club, which is worth looking into.

Rent a bike

One way to avoid expensive taxis is to rent a bike for your time in Tulum. There are lots of cycle lanes so its relatively safe, until you get on to the beach road, then it’s survival of the fittest haha.

If you are going to rent a car, rent from a local company

As I’ve already mentioned the easiest way around Tulum is by renting a car. That said the rental car companies are notorious for ripping off tourists. So either rent of Fiesta or one of the local guys who have cars for rent. It’s pretty much the same companies operating in Playa del Carmen as Tulum, so for more information read this.

Don’t eat on the beach

It’s the same rules for every tourist destination. The closer you are the beach, the more expensive the food becomes. If you want to save money in Tulum, don’t eat on the beach.

Make sure your accommodation has a kitchen

If you are coming from the USA of Europe then you may think the food in Tulum isn’t so expensive. But if you have arrived here from another Latin American country, or somewhere else in Mexico, brace yourself for the Tulum prices. The cheapest way to eat is to go to the supermarket and then cook for yourself.

Visit the lesser known cenotes

There is a stark difference in the price of some cenotes. Somewhere like dos ojos is quadruple the cost of some of the smaller lesser known cenotes. 

Learn Some Spanish

It’s an instant way to save a lot of money. I took this course ran by my friends at Heart of Travel.

 

QUICK TIP: Book your tours, rental cars, and transfers through my local contact

I’ve been working with Turismo Channel in Playa del Carmen for years and they are who I send all my family and friends to when they visit the Riviera Maya. I really can recommend them enough for tours, private airport transfers, and rental cars. Vanessa and Oliver are personal friends of mine and I have 100% faith that you will have a wonderful time with them.

You can check out their tours by clicking here and using the following discount codes when booking online to save $$$ clairecaroff (car rental), claire10off (for 10% off group tours), claireprivate (for a discount on private tours).

You can also send her a WhatsApp message quoting the above codes to receive the discount.

Adventures in Mexico | The Best Boutique Hotels in Tulum

Tulum Packing Advice

Tulum has a certain dress code. You can choose to comply, or you can where what ever the hell you like. Your choice!

Aside from your fashion choices know that Tulum is hot AF 80% of the year. The rest of the time it’s just hot. Pack plenty of light clothes and swimwear. 

Quick Tip: View my full Mexico packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Mexico Essentials shopping list here.

Where to Stay in Tulum

I have written a lot of articles (3 in total) about accommodation in Tulum. I will link them below. Take a read to get to know the different areas of Tulum before you book anything. Unless you are staying on the beach road I would advise you to rent a car or scooter to get around.

Where to stay in Tulum

The Best Hostels in Tulum Mexico

The Best Boutique Hotels in Tulum

Here are a few hotels I recommend in case you are too lazy to read my other posts 😉

Hotels and Hostels in Tulum

Jashita Hotel

Dreams Tulum Resort +Spa

Mi Amor (Adults Only)

Elements Tulum Boutique Hotel

Be Tulum

Nomade Tulum

Hotel Bambu Gran Palas

Chill Inn

Tubo Tulum

Where to stay in Tulum | How to choose the best accommodation for your trip

Map of Accommodation in Tulum

How to get to Tulum (and how to get around Tulum)

Most people arrive into Tulum via Cancun Airport. I’ve written a detailed guide of how to travel from Cancun to Tulum here. Please note, there is currently no airport in Tulum or Playa del Carmen, the closest one is Cancun.

If you want to get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen then read this detailed guide.

With regards to traveling around Tulum once you arrive my advice is to rent a car. I personally always drive there from Playa del Carmen because with out having a car you are at the mercy of the taxi drivers who will charge the same amount I pay to get to Cancun airport just to get from Tulum town to the beach… it’s criminal, it really is. 

Plus having a car means you can zip around to all of the amazing cenotes and mayan ruins in Tulum.

Anyway, yeah rent a car in Tulum. If you are solo, then maybe a scooter, but only if you are confident on one. I know too many people who have had accidents on them in Tulum. Finally rent a bike (bici) its a cheap and easy way to get around, plus you can burn off all those tacos!

If you absolutely must take a taxi always try and flag one down, don’t get in to a parked one. And remember to confirm the price before you get in. If you already know the price then tell the driver and make sure you see him/ her agree. If not close the door and find another one!

Tulum Safety Advice

Is Tulum safe. In general, yes. But you do need to issue a lot of caution, and it should go without saying that doing drugs or just looking for drugs in Tulum is going to get you in direct contact with people that will put your safety at risk.

I wrote a very very detailed and truthful blog post about safety in Playa del Carmen and the majority of what I wrote in that also applies to Tulum.

There isn’t much petty crime in Tulum. You have to be pretty unlucky to get pickpocketed or have your bag taken when eating dinner. But here are some things to avoid if you want to stay safe in Tulum:

  • Don’t go looking for drugs
  • Don’t go looking for drugs
  • Don’t go looking for drugs
  • And don’t go to illegal jungle parties. 

Tulum Travel Guide planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Tulum?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Tulum which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Tulum on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Tulum?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major Mexican tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Tulum?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide

If you are traveling to Cancun you can use GoCity and save up to 55% of the initial cost of entrance tickets to various museums, tours, and attractions!

If you are traveling to Playa del Carmen then I recommend booking through my friend Vanessa at Turismo Channel. You can check out their tours by clicking here and using the following discount codes for the best prices clairecaroff (car rental), claire10off (for 10% off group tours), claireprivate (for a discount on private tours). You can also send her a WhatsApp message quoting the above codes to receive the discount.

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack

The Best Time To Visit Tulum

Like the rest of the Riviera Maya Tulum is pretty much hot and humid all year around.

The summer can be unbearable, because of the humidity. Winter is much nicer, its hot during the day, cools down a bit at night. And the humidity doesn’t make you look like you just got out of the shower 5 minutes after you left your house.

Mid November through to mid January is high season. So be prepared to pay double sometimes even triple the normal cost. September and October normally have the worst weather. Oh and don’t forget hurricane season!

If you asked me the perfect time to visit Tulum, I’d probably say January to March as this is when it’s not too hot, and the prices are more reasonable.

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What to Read in Mexico

Where would we be without the trusty Lonely Planet Mexico book?!? It really is the best all-around guide to Mexico. The only issue I ever have with these books is that often the information can be outdated, but if you want to really explore Mexico, not just the tourist trail version of Mexico then get this book on your Kindle. It’s oftern free if you have a kindle unlimited subscription.

It’s all about the food here in Mexico. Especially in Oaxaca, thought of as the culinary heart of Mexico. This Mexican cookbook is the first true introduction to Oaxacan cuisine by a native family, each dish articulates their story, from Oaxaca to the streets of Los Angeles and beyond.

The book showcases Mexican “soul food” serving up 140 authentic, yet accessible recipes using some of the purest pre-Hispanic and indigenous ingredients available. 

As much as I don’t want to perpetuate Mexico’s reputation as a county full of cartels, drugs, and danger. It can’t really be ignored, and I know many people are interested in learning more. So I’ve included Midnight in Mexico on my list of books to read. It’s a true crime book written by a Mexican-American journalist and migration lawyer. It’s about as close to the truth as you can get. Being. journalist here in Mexico is one of the most dangerous arrears you can have. But Corchado is known for never shying away from the truth reporting on government corruption, murders, and the drug cartels of Mexico. In 2007, Corchado received a tip that he could be their next target, he had twenty-four hours to find out if the threat was true…

Are you even alive if you don’t know who Frida Kahlo is? If you are a Friday fan then this is the perfect fictional accompaniment to your Mexican vacation. Especially if you will be visiting Mexico City.

Using several of Frida’s notebooks as inspiration acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this touching fictional account of her life.  Through the book, you are taken on a magical ride through this imagined life of Freida 

An old, but a goodie! This one is for all of you lovers of romance novels! It’s described as:

“A novel of passion, food, and magic, Like Water For Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.”

Forbidden love, family obligations, and seduction by food… what more could you ask for in a novel!

I must confess, my friend Mexico Cassie wrote this book. That doesn’t mean it’s not a bloody brilliant guide to moving to Mexico, because it is. As someone who moved to Mexico there was so much of this book that resonated with me, even though I moved here myself, without a family. 

She goes in to great detail about the visa application process and some other notoriously tricky things like trying to buy a car or find a good school for your kids. 

If you are considering a move to Merida, or anywhere in Mexico actually this is a great read!

Check out My travel books

Tulum Guide,tulum,tulum travel

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Tulum Guide,tulum,tulum travel

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