The Complete Tulum Travel Guide

Tulum Beach at Sunrise

Once a quiet backpacker and artist town, Tulum is now a top tourist destination in Mexico. Now, after visiting, I can see why it couldn’t stay a secret. I’m excited to share this complete Tulum travel guide including the best time to go to Tulum and everything to do!

Tulum is just south of Cancún in Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo. You’ve probably seen pictures of Tulum on social media, it’s certainly decked out with insta-worthy photo-ops everywhere you look. But it’s much more than just catchy signs and expensive beach clubs. After seeing and reading so much about Tulum, I had to visit and conclude for myself if it had more to offer than pretty pictures. I’m happy to report it lived up to the hype! Tulum is one of Mexico’s most beautiful Caribbean beach towns complete with white sand beaches, turquoise water, and home to some of the last built Mayan ruins. 

When planning my trip, I had so many questions: Where should I stay in Tulum? How do I get to Tulum? This Tulum Travel Guide will cover those questions and more. Already booked your Tulum Trip and looking for more information? Make sure to check out my post on 10 Things to Know BEFORE Going to Tulum to best prepare.

Interested in getting some more inspiration for future trips? Check out these posts below:

Best Time to Visit Tulum

The best time to visit Tulum is generally around November and December based on weather and crowd levels. November and December are considered shoulder season – this means right before peak season starting in January. However, New Years Eve is a popular holiday in Tulum, so expect sold out hotels and booked up restaurants along the beach during this time.

We visited Tulum over New Years to optimize my PTO schedule but I wish we had gone earlier in the month. The crowds at night along the beach were overwhelming and prices were much higher than I anticipated. Still, we had a great time, we just went back to the hotel earlier to avoid the nighttime crowds (I’m practically a grandma, I know).

Ultimately, determining the best time to visit Tulum will depend on what is most important to you across three different factors: crowds, budget, and weather. May to October are the hottest months and highest chances of hurricane and rain. But with the oppressive heat comes cheap deals and much less people.

Tulum Coco Beach Club

Weather in Tulum in November & December

Tulum’s weather in November and December is pleasant but not as dry as peak season months. You can expect temperatures to range between mid 70s and low 80s. It rains on average about 8 days out of the month and humidity is around the 60-70% mark. From my experience, the rain is mild and passes quickly (usually leading to a nice rainbow). 

Weather in Tulum January Through March

January through March is considered peak season in Tulum. This means crowds and prices are at their highest levels but the weather is at it’s best. January and February, specifically, are Tulum’s driest months and have the lowest humidity levels (just under 60%).  The temperatures get to around 83 degrees Fahrenheit for the high and the low is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit at night. 

How to Get to Tulum

There are no major airports in Tulum so you will have to fly to Cancún International Airport and transfer to Tulum. The drive from Cancun to Tulum is about 1 hour and 50 minutes, though it will take longer if you choose to take a bus. You have a few options to get from Cancun to Tulum – renting a car, private transfer, or bus. You can also check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service. 

You can find various private transfer options online like this one from Viator. The prices vary depending on group size but I’ve seen them as cheap as $56 USD. Private transfers are great for groups and if you want to be dropped off at a specific location like your hotel. 

The bus is the cheapest option, going as low as $15 USD to get to Tulum. The bus only goes to the ADO bus station, though, so depending on where you are staying, you may need to get a taxi once you are in Tulum. The bus also forces you to plan around it’s schedule. You can check out more information regarding the bus to Tulum on Cancun Airport’s website.

Renting a Car in Cancun

Renting a car in Cancun is the most expensive option but is also the most efficient option and allows for some stops along the way to Tulum. This is what we did and it worked well for us. If you google “renting a car in Mexico” you may see horror stories of car scams, corruption, etc. We did not experience any of that except for an increased price than what I reserved online. 

**Rental car prices you see online are misleading** Insurance is typically not shown in the online reservation portals but is required by law in Mexico and will jack up the rental fee to almost double the price. I read about this beforehand and was expecting it. We rented a full size vehicle from Mex Rent-A-Car for 5 days and it cost around $350 USD. Other than that, we always drove cautiously, parked legally in Tulum (make sure your hotel has parking) and had no issues with the rental car.

**Make sure to reserve your car ahead of time. It’s very possible for the rental facilities to run out of cars. Also, prices sky rocket the longer you wait to make a reservation. 

Where Should You Stay in Tulum?

Tulum Map Ultimate Guide to the Best Beach Clubs

Tulum used to be composed of two main options for lodging – the pricier beachfront properties or the cheaper, more local vibe in Tulum town. Now, however, Tulum continues to expand and you can break up the map into a few more sections: town of Tulum, Tulum Beach south, Tulum Beach north, and Aldea Zama. There are new hotels and apartment complexes being built so it seems Tulum will only continue to expand in the coming years. Deciding on where to stay depends on what you want to do most of in Tulum, what your budget is, and how you plan to get around. 

Tulum Town

Pros: has the cheapest options for lodging – new hotels, hostels, and AirBnBs. Also has a more authentic feel – busy Main Street, local bars and restaurants, and shops. You’ll find the cheapest food options here, too. Many hotels offer bike rentals to get around. 

Cons: furthest from the beach, not as aesthetically pleasing as the beach area

We stayed at Casa Agape Boutique Hotel in Tulum Town. This was perfect for us – clean, pretty room, free filtered water every day, free parking, rooftop bar and restaurant, and it was tucked away on a back street so we didn’t deal with too much noise (aside from a bar across the street but closing the windows blocked the sound). Casa Agape also partners with Diamente K – their sister property – to give you access to their beach club located in the northern portion of Tulum’s beach. We ended up only going to Diamente for breakfast one morning (which was great) but they have a rocky beach and we wanted more sand.

Aldea Zama

I ddin’t really explore Aldea Zama very much – it’s mostly residential but it’s slightly closer to the beach than the center of Town. This is also the newest section of Tulum so a lot of the hotels are recently opened. Aldea Zama is great if you want to be between the town and beach with no worries about loud crowds. 

Staying in Tulum Beach

Staying near the beach is always going to be more expensive, it’s no different in Tulum. Something to be aware of though – a lot of the hotels on the beach are eco-friendly meaning less air conditioning, building materials and plumbing may not be as robust, etc. Some hotels have gotten a bad reputation for advertising as eco-friendly but not actually putting any sustainable practices into play. Keep this mind when booking a hotel – try to do some research to understand the impact. 

Also important to note that there are hotels along the beachside of the road and the jungle side. The jungle side will sometimes have more private rooms and villas but can also have more mosquitos depending on the time of year. 

North Tulum Beach

Pros: quiet, more private, much less traffic, beachfront properties

Cons: not much to do around this area so you’ll end up heading to southern part anyway, beaches are much rockier, sometimes with no sand at all

Best for: The northern hotel zone of Tulum beach is perfect for anyone looking to be as close to the action of Tulum Beach without staying in it and still getting a beachfront view. Also, if you don’t want to worry about loud beach clubs keeping you up at night, this is the place for you.

South Tulum Beach

Pros: closest to the “action”, all the best restaurants/shops/beach clubs, nicest beaches, home to all the famous photo ops (matcha mama, follow your dreams sign, etc)

Cons: busiest section with lots of traffic during rush hour, more beach clubs that turn into night clubs so can get loud at night depending on which hotel you stay at (read reviews), most expensive options often with not as many amenities 

Best for: someone wanting to stay closest to the action and budget isn’t a concern

Getting Around in Tulum

Bumper to Bumper traffic on the Beach Road in Tulum

There are a few options to get around in Tulum: taxi, rental car, scooter, bike riding, or walking. Determining which option works best for you depends on where you’re staying, what you’d like to do while in Tulum, and what your budget is. 

If you plan to explore outside of Tulum like we did, renting a car is your best option even though it may be the most expensive option. We wanted to explore further away cenotes and the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá so paying for the car made sense to us. You can also book a tour to the further out destinations if you don’t want to hassle with a car!

Parking in Tulum

Parking in Tulum is not very difficult but it can get expensive. Many hotels have some parking spaces for guests but definitely do not assume this. Parking on the beach road can be tough – it’s very possible to get towed if you park in the wrong spot. However, if you get to the beach before 9am you will have a decent number of options. Some beach clubs (like La Zebra) have free parking with their beach club which requires a minimum spend of about $25 per person. Other lots cost about $15-$20 USD for the day.

Renting Bikes and Scooters in Tulum

Bikes and scooters are perfect if you’re staying in the town or Aldea Zama and plan on going short distances. Many hotels and hostels will have bike rentals. Just be aware that the beach road is narrow and gets very busy – there is no sidewalk for a good portion of it, too. Walking is the easiest option if staying around the beach – but this will require a taxi or tour guide if you want to explore outside of Tulum. The walk to town is about an hour so this is not suggested if staying in the town.

Tulum Follow That Dream Sign

Is Tulum Safe?

The question “Is Tulum safe” is unfortunately a popular question to ask. Mexico can sometimes have a bad reputation for corruption and crime even though many destinations are just as safe or safer than many US cities. While I was in Tulum, I never felt unsafe. I saw police officials while driving and felt a little uneasy only because they carry large guns and I’m not accustomed to seeing that very often in the states. Other than that, I felt completely relaxed and welcomed in Mexico. We walked around at night, drove to Chichen Itza and a few cenotes, and never had any issues. In fact, a sweet Mexican woman could tell we were tourists looking for a specific Cenote – she stopped us and had us follow her on motorbike in the correct direction without any hesitation. 

As with any destination, you should always practice travel safety. That includes:

  • Being aware of your surroundings
  • Not keeping all of your cash in one place and don’t flash your money around carelessly
  • Listen to your gut if you feel uncomfortable in a situation or location

How Many Days Do You Need for Tulum?

You can easily spend a week in Tulum with all there is to see and do. We spent 5 days, including travel days, exploring and relaxing which felt like a good amount of time but I was still sad to leave. In order to decide how many days you need in Tulum, read over the top things to do in Tulum and pick your favorites. Then determine how much time you need to cover those things. 

If you’re just looking for a few beach days, maybe check out the Tulum ruins, a Cenote or two, and enjoy some great meals, then you’d only need a long weekend. 

Top Things to Do in Tulum

One of the main reasons for Tulum’s popularity, other than being aesthetically beautiful, is because there’s so much to see and do. Between the Tulum Mayan Ruins, freshwater cenotes, and wellness spas, there’s something for everyone. The tops things to do in Tulum:

Tulum Coco Beach Club
Coco Limited Beach Club has a bar with a view
Tulum beach club coco limited
Coco Limited Beach Club

If you’re looking for the ultimate beach day experience, Tulum has you covered. Make sure to check out the ultimate guide to the best beach clubs in Tulum here. The beach clubs are great for food and drink service, beds with umbrellas, and access to restrooms. Some clubs are livelier with DJs and dancing (like Taboo), some are smaller and more relaxed (like Coco Limited). Either way, you can’t really go wrong. Just be prepared to pay minimums for beds and higher menu prices than what you’d traditionally expect in Mexico. 

Visit the Tulum Mayan Ruins

Archeological Zone of Tulum is home to some of the last built Mayan ruins in Mexico. The ruins date back to the 13th century and are a popular tourist destination. Make sure to go early to beat any crowds. 

Explore the Many Cenotes

Tulum Cenote Oxman
Tulum Suytun Cenote

Mexico is home to some of the most interesting freshwater cenotes in North America, and luckily Tulum has many gorgeous ones nearby to explore. One of the most easily accessible cenotes is Gran Cenote – just a 10 minute taxi ride from Tulum Town. There are many more options if you’re willing to drive. Pictured above are Cenote Oxman and Cenote Suytun. Cenote Suytun can sometimes flood so the water covers the platform. You’ll have to pay a fee to enter most cenotes and make sure you’re not wearing any lotion or products that would harm the ecosystem. Most cenotes will have a shower to use before getting into the water. 

Take a drive to Chichén Itzá

Chichen Itza from Tulum
Chichen Itza is just a 2 hour drive from Tulum

Chichen Itza is one of the most well known Mayan ruins in Mexico. Its large pyramid and surround town ruins draws lots of tourists from all over. Chichen Itza is about a 2 hour drive from Tulum but you go by a few cenotes which makes this a worth while day trip. Make sure to arrive before 11am to beat any tours if you book on your own. 

Check out the Best Restaurants in Tulum

When you think of Mexican food you probably envision lots of tacos, salsa, guacamole, and margaritas. While Tulum has all of those options, it’s also a major foodie town. There are lots of healthy, vegan options and lots of new restaurants with super interesting menus. I’ve highlighted some of the best restaurants in Tulum below:

For breakfast – Fresco’s or the restaurant at Diamente K’s had a beautiful view and great food

Favorite Dinner in Tulum: Atila – hands down one of the best meals I’ve had. I’d also suggest Kitchen Table even though I didn’t get to go there, it looks amazing.

Visit Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve is a UNESCO world heritage site and its name means “gateway to heaven”. It’s home to diverse floral and fauna, lagoons, mangroves, beaches and more. Sian Ka’an Biosphere has guided tours and experiences if you’re interested.

Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

With all of the cenotes nearby, there are lots of options to go scuba diving into the underwater river system. I’m personally terrified of scuba diving (maybe one day I’ll face this fear) so I can’t speak for the experience but it has lots of great reviews! 

Visit a Wellness Spa or Yoga Studio

Tulum is a popular destination for wellness and yoga retreats so it’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in focusing on your spiritual, physical, or mental wellbeing.  Wellness spas in Tulum have everything from yoga and fitness classes, massages, sound baths, guided meditations, facials, etc. They’ve covered every base!

Check Out the Local Art Scene

Art Installation in Tulum

There is art everywhere you look in Tulum especially along the beach road – from painted wall murals, street signs with uplifting messages, or massive art installations. Azulik hotel also has an on site art center that is very popular and looks fascinating – a mix of natural and modern architecture.

Tulum Packing List Must-Haves

Next, what do you need to pack for Tulum? Depending on the time of year you are visiting, there are a few things you definitely do not want to be without while in Tulum. We’ll cover all the necessities below.

Deet or bug spray – this is especially important during the summer months. Mosquitos are worse near the jungle and you can get dengue fever from a mosquito bite so it’s best to be prepared. This is less of a concern during the winter months; I didn’t have any problems with mosquitos in Tulum in December. 

Reef safe sunscreen, sunglasses  & hat – you’re at the beach after all. The sun is HOT, especially if you decide to go inland more and visit Chichen Itza. 

Pesos – you’ll most likely get the best exchange rate coming from home. We didn’t exchange money before arriving and stopped at an ATM on the way to Tulum which worked fine as well. Pesos will be needed at some of the cenotes and are best for souvenir shopping.

Light jacket for at night. Temp’s can go to the low 60s at night with a cool breeze.

Comfortable walking shoes – the beach road is pretty dirty and if it’s raining, you’ll wish you had a little coverage. Or you can embrace the beach life and any rain by going barefoot! Although I wouldn’t recommend that. 

There you have it! The ultimate Tulum Travel Guide – everything you need to know for a beautiful trip to Mexico’s gem beach town. Planning a trip to Tulum? Let me know if you have any questions!

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