If you are visiting Tulum and not sure what to see and do, this itinerary will show you the beauty of this region. Tulum is home to the best beaches, tasty food, friendly people and endless adventures. Visiting Tulum with its spectacular Caribbean sea was definitely one of many things I had on my list when going to Mexico.
If you are travelling to Tulum for 5 days or more, you will have plenty of things to do. Our Tulum itinerary will mention ancient Mayan ruins, best beaches, swimming with turtles in Akumal, meeting friendly locals to visiting extraordinary underground cenotes. Ready to explore the true paradise of Mexico?
Tulum is situated along the east coast of Mexico in Yucatan province in the state of Quintana Roo, just 130 km south of Cancun and lies on the Caribbean coast. Tulum has a laid back atmosphere filled with eco-friendly boutiques and hotels. It is a place full of tasty acai bowls, bohemian restaurants, and how can we even forget: a long stretch of powdery white beach with heavenly turquoise waters. In a few words: Tulum is a great place for everyone and for every type of vacation; whether its holidays or honeymoon.
HOW TO GET TO TULUM
There are several ways how to get to Tulum. Depending on your budget and location of your hotel. Most of the travelers will arrive at Cancun International airport. If you are staying in resorts, most of them will be able to organize a hotel transfer for you. If not, you can rent a car, take a bus or a taxi.
FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN
We stayed in BluBay Esmeralda Resort in Playa del Carmen. So if you want to travel to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, it will take you around 1 hour by car.
If you are planning a trip to ISLA MUJERES, make sure to check our guide on HOW GET TO ISLA MUJERES and things to do.
GETTING AROUND TULUM
RENT A CAR
If you would like to see as many sites as possible including a trip to Chitzen, then renting a car will be the budget-friendly option. Not to mention that you will be very flexible. We rented a car for 3 days (as we stayed in Playa del Carmen) and have no problems with driving on Mexican streets. We also felt very safe and would definitely recommend it.
Bike rentals are available from MXN 80 a day. There are many hotels which have bikes to rent, simply ask at the reception. Renting a bike is a great way to travel around Tulum. As many sites can be reached by bike. Some of the Cenotes such as the most popular Grand Cenote are easily reached by bike from Tulum.
TAXIS OR TOURS
Taking tours is another option of how you can easily travel around Tulum. Most of the sights such as Tulum ruins and beaches nearby you can explore on foot or by bike. But if you would like to drive further, and don’t feel like driving on your own, check some tours. Have a look at this awesome full-day tour to Chitzen Itza with a stop at Ik Kil Cenote and the cute town Valladolid. Going around with taxis is another way, but this one is very pricey and tourists are often overcharged.
WHAT TO DO IN TULUM
We crafted this Tulum travel guide to help you to get ready for your vacation. To see the places mentioned, we recommend you to stay at least 5 days in Tulum.
For more inspiration, check this short teaser video from our trip on youtube. It is a short video with our best moments from Mexico, including Tulum, beaches, cenotes, ruins, and an awesome trip to Isla Mujeres.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED IN TULUM?
How many days you want to spend in Tulum depends absolutely on you. We can definitely imagine spending the whole vacation in Tulum. However, if you are staying somewhere else (like in Playa del Carmen or Cancun), and would like to see the most important things, 3 days in Tulum would be enough. However, the most popular itinerary for Tulum is 5 days. And with this itinerary, you will see the best of Tulum and be able to make trips to Chitzen Itza and other Mayan temples.
EL PUEBLO DOWNTOWN
If you travel to Tulum, then you need to decide whether you want to stay at Tulum Beach or in Tulum Pueblo. Pueblo (village) is a small beach town and located around 24 minutes from Tulum Beach. There are many cute shops with souvenirs, restaurants, and hotels. This area is more affordable than Tulum Beach/Zona Hotelera.
TULUM MAYAN RUINS
If you are travelling to Tulum and haven’t seen ruins, it is like you haven’t even been there. Tulum in the Yucatec language means “wall”. What is really interesting about Tulum, is that it was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayan civilization.
Tulum was built in the 13th century or also known as the Mayan post-classic period. Tulum was the only Mayan city built on the coast and one of the few cities which were protected by a wall. As there are mostly ruins around, you can definitely let your imagination go wild and visualize how Mayans lived here. The exhibition provides a lot of interesting information.
Tulum, with precious ruins and amazing views, is a beautiful place that left us completely breathless. As you can see, you need to include it in your Tulum itinerary. Wherever you walk, you will see the stunning view on the turquoise blue water with a company of cute and curious lizards. There is also a viewing platform where you can take gorgeous photos.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 35-40 (video cameras extra 30 pesos) PARKING FEES: MXN 30
OPENING TIMES: 8 AM- 5 PM – EVERY DAY
When we got to the parking lot, a very friendly guide stopped us and offered us tickets for 30 USD each, which included the entrance to Tulum ruins, parking and a boat trip which included snorkeling with sea turtles. I think we paid a bit too much, but we had a good time. Back in the day, we got ripped off quite a lot, especially in Cuba. Later, when we traveled the whole Southeast Asia and South America and we could use our “tourist knowledge” from Cuba and Mexico. We are not an easy target anymore! But we had our decent share of being taken advantage of.
Next to the Tulum ruins, you can find a beautiful beach called Playa Ruinas which will be one of the highlights in your itinerary. Most of the time of the year you are able to swim here. We were absolutely stunned by the beautiful view on the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, when we were visiting (Nov. 2016), Playa Ruinas was closed down due to the breeding of sea turtles. But at least I took some nice pictures of this paradise beach.
After wandering around the Tulum ruins, we went to the beach down the street close to the ruins. It should take you around 15 minutes to get from Tulum ruins to Playa Paraiso. Playa Paraiso is a wide stretch of pure white sand and understandably, its called a paradise beach.
You can organize a snorkeling tour from Playa Paraiso. The boat will take you a bit further from the shore. You can snorkel with turtles and admire the “Castelo” from the Caribbean sea.
If you want to discover as much as you can while visiting Tulum, make sure to head to Akumal. Akumal translated in the Mayan language as “Land of Turtles” and it couldn’t be truer. Akumal is a small village and the gateway to a perfect beach and to meet the locals (turtles). The snorkeling with sea turtles was another highlight and has to be added to your Tulum itinerary.
You are only allowed to snorkel in specific areas with a guide. The snorkeling tour with a guide is between US$ 30-40 per person. Akumal is located ca. 30 minutes by car from Tulum.
Just 4 km south of Akumal you can stop at Playa Xcacel-Xcacelito. This place is totally off the beaten track and you won’t see many tourists here. The last stretch of the road is not well maintained, but you can easily make it with your rental car.
What is special about this place is that many turtles come here to lay eggs. Make sure to bring with you a snorkeling mask. The snorkeling here is amazing and just a few meters offshore you can see many corals and tropical fish.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 25 = US$1.25
Money from the entrance fee goes to an organization called Flora, Fauna & Culture that protects sea turtles.
EXTRA TIP: Next to the Playa Xcacel-Xcacelito, there is also a cenote Xcacel-Xcacelito which is for free and worth a visit.
TRIP TO CHITZEN ITZA
What trip to Mexico would be complete without visiting one of the New Seven Wonders of the World? Chitzen Itza is not located in the Tulum area but in the northern part of Yucatan. However, it is only a 2-3 hours drive from Tulum and needs to be in your itinerary. The name Chitzen Itza in the Mayan language means “At the mouth of the well of the Itza”.
Chitzen Itza used to be one of the largest Maya cities ever built. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most famous temple is El Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan which takes most of the attraction as it is one of the best-preserved buildings. Make sure to walk around the whole complex.
We also recommend you take a guide who will tell you more in detail about the site with a lot of interesting facts and stories. Most of the sites are ruins and we learned a lot about Mayan culture here. It is still a mystery what happened to Mayan civilization and why they actually abandoned Chitzen Itza. In the complex, there is also a movie room where you watch a documentary about Mayan history/mythology.
You can’t climb to the top of Chizten Itza anymore as it was banned several years ago.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 232 = US$ 12
Since you can’t climb to the top of Chitzen Itza, you can definitely get that Indiana Jones feeling at Coba. Coba is on the way to Chitzen Itza and takes only 45 minutes from Tulum by car.
Can you imagine that Coba used to have 50.000 inhabitants? Coba used to be a very important center connecting the largest network of stone paths of the ancient Mayan civilization.
Once you get to the parking lot of Coba, you can either walk around the complex, take a bike or a cart. We went for a walk as it is a very nice area to wander around.
The main temple of Coba called Ixmoja is the one that you still can climb. This pyramid is 42 meters (137 feet) high with over 120 steps. The pyramid doesn’t look that tall on this photo. But wait until you will start the ascend. It’s tougher than it looks. However, the view on the green jungle is rewarding.
There are also other ruins and archeological sites in Coba including a very nice walk, so allow at least 3 hours to see it all.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 75 = US$4
EXTRA TIP: We don’t recommend to combine Chitzen Itza with Coba as you would need to rush and probably wouldn’t enjoy your time. On the other hand, you can combine a day trip to Coba by exploring nearby cenotes such as Choo-Ha, Cenote Tamcach-Ha or Cenote Multum-Ha. Have a look at this tour which takes you to Tulum, Coba and cenote.
CENOTES OF TULUM
If you like to spend your entire itinerary exploring just Cenotes around Tulum, you can. There are so many Cenotes to choose from.
WHAT ARE CENOTES?
Cenotes are sinkholes that contain groundwater. There are some which you are not allowed to enter, as they are scared and holy places to Mayan people. Also, the water in cenotes are filled with freshwater and might be often cold. This can be also refreshing especially on a hot day. Some Cenotes can be found outside in the jungle, some of them are connected to the salt water and there are even cenotes located inside of caves. That is to say, every cenote is different and special.
DID YOU KNOW?
All cenotes in the Rivera Maya are connected with each other.
CLAN – DESTINO
Clan-Destino is the closets cenote you can visit from Tulum. It is located very close to Tulum beach near the Hotel Zone. What is special about this cenote is that there are a restaurant and bar. It is not the prettiest Cenote but definitely worth a visit.
Grand Cenote is the most famous cenote in the area and needs to be in your Tulum itinerary. If you would like to visit Grand Cenote, then make sure to come in the morning to avoid the crowds.
HOW TO GET TO GRAND CENOTE?
We would definitely recommend hiring a bike as it takes only 20 minutes from Tulum. You can either take a taxi to get to Grand Cenote or hire a car. We hired a car and drove from Playa del Carmen.
BEFORE YOU VISIT, BE AWARE:
- Everyone needs to take a shower and soak their hair before you go into the water. This is to make sure you wash of mosquito repellent and other creams from your skin. Like this, you will help protect the ecosystem and the animals living there.
- Tripods are not permitted
- Drones are not permitted
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 180 – US$ 10
OPENING TIMES: 8.10 AM – 4.45 PM. Please be aware that the last entry is at 4:15 PM.
IK KIL CENOTE
Ik Kil Cenote is one of our favorite cenotes. It is only 3 km from Chitzen Itza and around 2 hours by car from Tulum.
There are showers and different platforms where you can view Ik Kil. We also enjoyed the jumping platform where you can jump from 4 meters. We recommend coming here in the morning. In the afternoon, the sun slowly comes down and you won’t be able to admire the beautiful color of the water. Also, without the sun you will be colder inside the water.
This Cenote is a very special place because it is surrounded by nature. Make sure to bring your snorkeling mask to admire the underwater world, tree trunks, and leaves on the ground.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 50 = US$ 2.50
CENOTE EL PIT
Did you know that you can also dive in Cenotes? Not all of them, but in Cenote El Pit you can scuba dive. It is the deepest cenote in the area of Tulum and only advanced divers can go. It is a very fascinating way to explore a cenote from a different angle. Diving in cenotes around Tulum is definitely something that we will include in our next itinerary.
DOS OJOS CENOTE
Dos Ojos Cenote is one of the most famous cenotes in the world. In Spanish, Dos Ojos means Two eyes as this cenote has two ways where the water comes in. This cenote is also popular for diving. You can choose an easy dive that is suitable for beginners or a more advanced cave dive.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 200 MXN = US$ 10.50
Check Sarah’s beautiful inspirational blog with so many fantastic locations all around the world.
TAK BE HA CENOTE
Tak Be Ha is located next to Dos Ojos Cenote. It is still considered as a hidden gem and if you would like to have this gorgeous place almost to yourself, then make sure to go there.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 300 = US$ 15.50
CENOTE CALAVERA (SKULL)
Cenote Calavera belongs to one of the most Instagram-able places with a picturesque ladder and clear waters. Altogether there are three sinkholes. I wouldn’t dare to jump through the small hole, but you can give it a go. This cenote is only 15 minutes bike ride from Tulum.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 100 = US$ 5
Cenote Labnaha is a very special Cenote and can be only visited with a tour that costs US$ 45. This cenote is located underground surrounded by limestone. What makes this Cenote special is a light coming through the cave, making it look very magical and extraterrestrial.
There are so many cenotes in the Tulum area and if you would need more inspiration, check this lovely guide by Maartje and Rox to the best cenotes in Tulum.
WHERE TO STAY IN TULUM?
Tulum is very popular and more or less like a mecca full of tourists. That is why there are many places you can choose from. However, some of them are very expensive. Depending on your budget you can either stay in Tulum beach or in Pueblo Downtown.
CHECK ALL HOTELS IN TULUM
HOTELS IN TULUM BEACH
The biggest advantage of staying in Tulum Beach is that you will have a gorgeous view on the sea. However, these hotels are more pricey.
OUR FAVOURITE PICKS: LUXURY
THE BEACH TULUM: With a 9.4 rating on the booking has beautiful rooms with a view on the ocean and is located just 7 km from Tulum Ruins.
UNA VIDA: Absolutely beautiful designed villas with a bohemian style and jungle vibe.
IKAL TULUM: Located on Playa Paraiso just 1.2 km from Tulum Ruins and has beautiful rooms. Check it out, but it is so expensive.
COCO TULUM: Located in Zona Hotelera has a private beach and a spa. Tulum ruins are just 3 km away.
AZULIK: There is a certain hype about this hotel and we can understand why. It looks amazing. However, in the past year, it received quite a negative response from people who stayed there. You are welcomed to read their reviews here and make your own decision.
OUR FAVOURITE PICKS NEAR THE BEACH: BUDGET
Hotels that are located away from the beach are more affordable. And if you want to hire a bike, you can reach everything easily.
HOSTEL BAMBU GRAN PALAS: This is the place we are going to stay next. They have nice bamboo rooms with lovely decor for US$ 39. Located just 100 meters from South Tulum Beach and 10 km from Tulum Ruins. It also looks like there is a cenote nearby.
CASA OJO DE TIGRE: This is a very beautiful and affordable place for US$ 37 per night and has a swimming pool. Playa Paraiso is just 2.9 km away.
CASA ABANICO: This place has very nice and colorful rooms with a Mexican vibe located in Tulum town. Tulum ruins and just 10 minutes away by a car.
THE MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE RESTAURANTS IN TULUM
Let’s finish our itinerary with one of the best restaurants in Tulum. If you haven’t seen any photo yet with the Matcha Mama sign, then you are crazy. This cute restaurant has the most instagramable front in Tulum. And almost everyone wants to take a photo with the cute swing and the macha mama sign; I love you so Matcha. Make sure to check them on Instagram.
I SCREAM BAR
This is a very cute ice cream bar with vegan ice cream and many flavors to choose from. They have a very interesting interior of a bar with blue cars hanging in the air. Check them out here.
RAW LOVE TULUM
This is such a great place for breakfast, make sure to try their famous acai bowls. They have also one of the most amazing entrances of all time. Check out their Instagram to see what I mean. On top of everything, you can chill at hammocks surrounded by green palm trees.
MACONDO AT NOMADE
This picturesque restaurant has a cute Moroccan vibe and serves lots of vegan and vegetarian meals. I was told that the only downside in Macondo is that, they don’t allow taking many photos in the restaurant, especially not with your camera. Hopefully, it is not true.
EXTRA TIP: MOST OF THE RESTAURANTS, BARS, AND SHOPS DO NOT ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS. So bring enough Pesos with you.
For more foodie inspiration on best restaurants in Tulum, make sure to read the lovely blog by Taylor.
BEST TIME TO VISIT TULUM
The best time to visit Tulum is definitely between November to April. You will have mostly sunny days, it is less humid and with a lower chance of rain.
The least favorable time to visit Tulum is between September and October. These months have a lot of rain, but also hotels have more affordable prices. Also, there are not as many tourists as in the dry months.
IS TULUM SAFE?
Tulum is absolutely safe. Tulum is like a tourist mecca and nowadays it might have a Cali/ Australian vibe. The whole area of Quintana Roo is one of the safest regions for tourists in Mexico. If you are travelling to Mexico, make sure to read our guide on safety in Mexico with our tips.
In Mexico, they use Mexican Peso. In some places, you might be allowed to pay in USD. However, you might be losing some money on the exchange rate. So we would not recommend it, and get cash from ATM in Mexican pesos.
If you are travelling to Tulum we are wishing a lot of fun. We hope that our Tulum travel guide will help to plan your vacation. Let us know if you have any questions.
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