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I’m a budget traveller at heart and I can’t quite bring myself to spend hundreds on one thing when I could find lots of cheap things to do when travelling. On our trip to Tulum, I wasn’t concerned about visiting the luxury resorts in Tulum, or the expensive restaurants in Tulum, Mexico. I wanted some sun, sea, and great tacos. Luckily, that’s pretty easy to find in Tulum and all of those are just some of the great cheap and free things to do in Tulum. If you’re backpacking in Tulum and looking for budget things to do in Tulum, then check out this list below (as well as some of my other Tulum posts!).
Free & cheap things to do in Tulum
You might be wondering “is Tulum expensive?” Well yeah, it kinda is. We were surprised to find that many places were charging more than similar places in Vancouver. And Vancouver isn’t known for being cheap either. However, that’s not to say you can’t find cheap things to do or cheap restaurants in Tulum. It is possible. Stay clear of the expensive restaurants and beach clubs and get more for your money with these cool things to do in Tulum.
Rent a bicycle for getting around
The easiest, and by far the cheapest way of getting around Tulum is to rent a bicycle. We rented from iBike Tulum which was closest to our Tulum hotel. It cost $200MXN a day but one taxi will cost you at least $100MXN and this meant we could go where ever we wanted when we wanted. We used it to get to the Tulum beaches from our hotel, to the ruins, some of the best cenotes in Tulum and into town.
TOP TIP: If you’re planning on renting a bicycle in Tulum, pack bike lights or a head torch from home. It gets super dark and there aren’t many street lights once you’re off the main road in town. We brought our bike lights and it was nice to have that extra security when cycling from the beach back to the hotel after sunset.
Go swimming in the sea
If you’re planning a trip to Tulum, the chances are you want to spend at least one day by the beach and go swimming in the sea! Tulum’s waters are nice and warm, but cool enough that they’re still refreshing, and so it’s hard not to resist getting in.
While Tulum does have a seaweed problem, it wasn’t an issue when we were there and they’re trying to do everything possible to reduce it. The chances are you won’t notice it much, especially if you’re staying in a resort. You can check the Tulum sargassum forecast here.
Explore Tulum’s cenotes
There are so many cenotes in Mexico and some of the best happen to be around Tulum. While they aren’t the cheapest thing to do in Tulum, they’re super fun and you can make it cheaper by riding your bike there and therefore not having to pay for a taxi.
We visited a couple of cenotes just outside of the town; Cenote Calavera and Gran Cenote, Tulum. It’s such a fun way to spend a morning and there are so many beautiful cenotes near Tulum to explore! Of the two, Cenote Calavera is my must do in Tulum.
Book a cenote tour if you want to visit several without worrying about getting a taxi or collectivo.
- Cenote & cave tour by bike
- 4 cenote tour from Tulum – see some of the best cenotes near Tulum on this tour
Explore the Tulum jungle and sleep in a jungle hut
While the beach resorts in Tulum are super pricey, a cheaper part of Tulum to stay in is the jungle. The jungle offers you a bit of peace and quiet and it’s a pretty cool place to stay in Tulum anyway. There are lots of jungle huts in Tulum that have opened recently and they look gorgeous. Here are a few of the best ones (see more below) and some great options for Airbnb in Tulum:
- Posada del Sol
- Las Palmas Maya
- 6- Attic Palapa EcoCabin – Airbnb
- Lumapi Jungle Eco lodge – Airbnb
- Cosy Jungle Hideaway – Airbnb
Take a day trip to Coba
One of the most popular cheaper day trips from Tulum is to head out to Coba. You can do this on your own (usually cheaper) by getting an ADO bus from Tulum to Coba, or by hiring a car. Alternatively, you can book on to a tour which may end up being cheaper if you’re travelling to Tulum solo and can’t split car rental with anyone.
Coba is a great day trip from Tulum as it’s full of fun things to do near Tulum. There are some impressive Mayan Ruins and what makes the Coba Ruins so great is that they’re still quieter than Chichen Itza. There are also some great cenotes near Coba to check out too.
Eat at Burrito Amor
Wondering what to do in Tulum for lunch? Burrito Amor was one of our favourite cheap places to eat in Tulum. We went here after swimming in cenotes all morning and it was delicious. They have great veggie and vegan options as well as meat burritos too and at under $100MXN (around $5 US), they’re super cheap too!
They also do breakfast burritos and the restaurant itself is just a cool place to hang out. Easily one of the best restaurants in Tulum.
Spend the day at Playa Paraiso
Playa Paraiso is Tulum’s public beach which means you don’t have to pay to enter a beach club as you do on the southern part of the beach road in Tulum.
Playa Paraiso is where we spent most of our time as we had entrance to Villa Pescadores beach club through our hotel in Tulum town. However, this is one area of the beach where you can just rock up with an umbrella and/or a towel and relax on the sand without having to spend a dime. It’s easily one of the best free things to do in Tulum! That alone makes it the best beach in Tulum in my view.
The water here was clean and warm, the beach beautiful and you’re also close to the Tulum Ruins so it’s one of the ideal beaches of Tulum to lounge at after a morning at the ruins.
Wander the Tulum ruins
The Tulum ruins are one of the top attractions in Tulum. While lounging on the beach and topping up your tan is probably what you came to Tulum for, it’s nice to add a little culture to your visit to Tulum and learn about the Ancient Mayan culture.
The ruins do get busy so it’s best to visit the Tulum ruins around opening time. It’s also good to go in the morning before it gets too hot as walking around the ruins in the midday heat is not going to be fun.
An adult ticket to the Tulum Ruins costs 70 pesos (around $3.70US).
Take a mud bath in Laguna de Kaan Luum
Laguna de Kaan Luum is an open cenote near Tulum that’s famous for the colour of the water. It’s great for swimming in and you can also take a mud bath in the mud from the shores of the cenote which is up there for unique adventures in Tulum. It’s believed the mud has health and beauty benefits so if you’re after a cheaper spa experience in Tulum then go to this laguna for $100MXN.
Head out to the Muyil Ruins
The Muyil Ruins tend to be a bit quieter than the Tulum ruins since they’re a bit out of the way and a lot of people don’t even know they exist. It’s ideal if you’re looking for things off the beaten path in Tulum and they’re cheaper too, at 45 pesos for an entrance ticket.
The Muyil settlement spans 38 hectares of jungle and was one of the earliest settlements on the Caribbean Coast. It’s believed there are still lots of buildings that haven’t yet been excavated and there’s a lagoon nearby which adds another nice aspect to visiting the Muyil Ruins.
Go window shopping at Tulum boutiques
While you can spend lots of money on the Tulum boutiques if you so wish, window shopping can be just as fun. Along the beach road, there are lots and lots of boutique shops selling all types of clothes and home accessories. Some of the best shops in Tulum are here but there are also a few cheaper shops in downtown Tulum too.
Wander down the road one afternoon and see what you find!
Eat tacos at Taqueria la Eufemia
One of the best beach clubs is Taqueria La Eufemia. Home to some of the best tacos in Tulum it’s a favourite beach club among locals and gringos. The tacos are under $1! and there’s cheap beer so it’s easily one of the best beach clubs in Tulum. It has a fun atmosphere, the view of the ocean is incredible and it’s a great place to hang out all day.
Enjoy 2 for 1 cocktails and sunset at Mateo’s Treehouse
If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy the sunset with a drink in hand head to Mateo’s Treehouse. The beach bar on the roof of Mateo’s has sunset views of the beach on one side and the jungle on the other. Plus, between 6-8 pm it’s 2 for 1 on cocktails which is perfect for budget travellers in Tulum and one of the best places in Tulum to watch the sun set.
Happy hour ice cream at I Scream Bar
These ice creams are like nothing else and most of the flavours contain alcohol. With that in mind, I Scream Bar is actually one of the top places to go if you’re looking for things to do in Tulum at night and a goto for nightlife in Tulum.
There are so many different flavours of raw and vegan ice cream from seasonal fruit flavours, Mezcal, rum, vegan and raw ice cream. Besides ice cream, you can also get fresh coconuts, drinks, and other delicious dishes are served too. It’s some of the best food in Tulum.
Wednesday night means free mezcal for women from 10 pm to midnight and it’s happy hour every day from 6-8 pm! How’s that for some Tulum nightlife?
Discover Mexican wildlife at Sian Ka’an
Sian Ka’an means ‘Origin of the Sky’ and it’s about an hour away from Tulum, so perfect for a day trip. The biosphere reserve has tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, as well as a large marine section intersected by a barrier reef. There are more than 300 species of birds, as well as animals.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery after spending several days at the beach, the wildlife at Sian Ka’an is sure to impress you! It’s one of the top things to do in Tulum.
Where to stay in Tulum
There are so many choices when it comes to Tulum accommodation and, when booking a hotel for our stay, I found it really difficult to decide. In the end, our hotel, Aluna Hotel, was great! It was situated in between the town and the beaches in a quiet area which is currently under development. And one big bonus is that we could use the beach club of its sister hotel too. I think it’s usually more expensive to stay here, but since we visited in low season (October) the rates were reasonable. Here are a few of the other places I would’ve chosen too, all of which are reasonably priced, unlike some!
Hotels in Tulum town centre
- Tulum Rocks: This hostel has 4-bed rooms as a dormitory or private and includes a buffet breakfast. It’s in the perfect location for Tulum’s cheaper bars and restaurants.
- Secret Garden Tulum hotel: You’ll really feel like you’re in a secret garden at this hotel. There’s a beautiful outdoor area with tropical plants and each room is decorated with handmade ornaments.
- Prana Boutique Hotel: This hotel in Tulum is pet-friendly and has a sun terrace and an on-site bar. There’s free parking available as well as bikes for guest use. Some rooms also have a patio or terrace.
- Xscape Tulum: Xscape Tulum has an outdoor pool and is in a great location for exploring the town of Tulum.
Tulum beach hotels
- Diamante K: Diamante K has a restaurant, private beach area (which is beautiful!), and can offer support booking tours. It’s on the beach area, but slightly off the main drag which means it’s more peaceful and, I think, a lot more picturesque on one of the prettiest beaches in Tulum.
- Coco Tulum: This beach hotel in Tulum has a spa, private beach and a Mexican-Italian fusion restaurant onsite. Every room has a view of the sea or jungle too.
- Hotels & Cabanas Zacil Kin Tulum: 500m from the Tulum Ruins, this hotel has its own private beach area on Playa Pescadores (which is gorgeous) and has an onsite restaurant and bar.
How to get to Tulum
There is no Tulum airport and the closest airport to Tulum is Cancun International Airport. The only other airport in the state of Quintana Roo is Chetumal.
Cancun Airport is well served by flights all over the world. You can usually find cheap flights to Cancun (especially from Vancouver and other cities in North America).
Best Tulum Tours
I’ve included some of the top Tulum tours for the activities in Tulum mentioned above throughout the article. If you want to see what other tours in Tulum are available then check out GetYourGuide for locally run tours all over the world.