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The ultimate Tulum travel guide (on a budget)

The ultimate Tulum travel guide (on a budget)

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Are you planning to travel to Tulum and want to make sure you don’t miss any of the best things to do in Tulum? Consider this your ultimate Tulum travel guide! While I did an (almost) excessive amount of research before travelling to Tulum, there were a few things I wish I’d know before or things we did that I hadn’t seen anyone else mention. We didn’t spend a fortune in Tulum and, despite what most people will have you believe, it is possible to visit Tulum on a budget. If you don’t stay in luxury, Tulum 5 star hotels, or eat only at the restaurants in Tulum in the beach zone, you can save a lot of money. And that’s not to say you won’t be staying somewhere nice, or eating good food: it’s Mexico after all! If you’re looking for advice and tips on how to travel to Tulum on a budget then look no further!

the ultimate travel guide to tulum mexico

About Tulum, Mexico

Tulum is a beautiful beach town on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It’s in the province of Quintana Roo and is famous for clear white sand and turquoise, warm waters (although in recent years there has been a seaweed problem).

In Tulum, you’ll find beaches, Mayan ruins, gorgeous Tulum cenotes, and fantastic food. There are luxury beach resorts in Tulum and more budget-friendly hotels and hostels too. You can eat at expensive Tulum beach restaurants or eat with the locals at some of the best restaurants in Tulum.

Where is Tulum?

Tulum is in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It’s on the Caribbean side of Mexico so the water tends to be calm and warm.

Tulum is about 2 hours south of Cancun, and Cancun is the closest airport to Tulum.

Is it safe to go to Tulum?

Tulum is generally considered one of the safest places to travel to in Mexico. However, you should still use common sense when travelling in Tulum; don’t wander around at night with all your high-value items on show, keep an eye on personal belongings at the beach etc.

While walking around the town in the evenings we were offered drugs a number of times (which we obviously said no to). Just something to be aware of.

You’ll also notice a lot of police wandering around Tulum Pueblo, and a lot of the hotels have security guards at the entrances.

Is Tulum expensive?

Tulum is not cheap. While much of Mexico is going to be cheaper than the US, UK and Canada for example, Tulum isn’t really one of those places. We found that a lot of the prices in restaurants in Tulum were similar to places in Vancouver. However, if you make an effort to eat at the cheaper restaurants in Tulum city, you’ll find prices drastically cheaper than along the beach.

When it comes to the cost of accommodation in Tulum, the hotels along the beach are a lot more expensive than downtown. Downtown is where you’ll find the cheaper hostels and hotels (that are still nice!). There’s also the newer area of Aldea Zama which offers luxury hotels and Airbnbs at a lower cost.

When is the best time to visit Tulum?

Low season in Tulum is from about May-mid-December and often means much lower prices. If you’re travelling to Tulum on a budget it’s the best time to go to Tulum. But, while there are still plenty of travellers, you may find that some of the more popular restaurants have yet to open.


How to get to Tulum

tulum ruins

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 and you can usually find cheap flights to Cancun (especially from Vancouver and other cities in North America).

I always use Skyscanner to book my flights as it’s super easy to search for the best prices. I have a load of tips on how I find cheap flights here which may help you when getting to Tulum.

How to get from Cancun to Tulum

Getting from Cancun to Tulum is easy as it’s a very popular journey to make. Many people staying in Cancun will also do a day trip to Tulum from Cancun to Tulum, in particular, to see the ruins in Tulum.

One of the easiest ways to get to Tulum from Cancun is to book an airport transfer. This can often be arranged through your hotel or hostel or you can book with transfer companies such as Happy Shuttle Cancun.

If you’re renting a car in Mexico, it’ll take about 2 hours to drive between Cancun Airport and Tulum. It’s basically just one road the entire way so it’s easy to follow.

You can also get a bus from Cancun airport to Tulum. I recommend Ado since you can book in advance online to make sure you’ve got a seat on the bus from Cancun to Tulum and back.

Getting around Tulum

getting around tulum

Depending on where your accommodation is, and what your plans are, you’re going to want to consider how to get around Tulum. If you’re staying in the town you’re likely going to want to visit Tulum beach at some point. And, if you’re staying at the beach, you may want to head into the town to try some authentic, cheaper Mexican food and visit the cenotes.

One of the best ways of getting around Tulum is to hire a bicycle. You’ll find that some Airbnbs in Tulum will include use of a bicycle for free, the same with hostels and hotels. If not, I highly recommend renting a bike for your stay in Tulum. We rented from iBike Tulum and cycled our bikes to the beach, the town and the cenotes.

TOP TULUM TIPS: If you plan to hire a bike, bring bike lights from home! We cycled back from restaurants in the dark and there’s very little street lighting. I was SO glad I’d thought to pack some lights!

Another option is to use taxis to get around Tulum. While this is useful if you’re going out somewhere for dinner, the cost of them does add up. You also run the issue of possibly being overcharged as a tourist.

If you’re staying in the centre of Tulum, the restaurants and bars are very easy to walk between. You can, of course, also walk to the beach. But that’s going to take at least an hour which means less time on the beach!

Where to stay in Tulum

aluna hotel tulum pool

Choosing where to stay in Tulum ultimately comes down to the type of holiday you’re looking for. If you want to live in luxury in Tulum and just go from hotel room to the beach, then one of the luxury Tulum resorts by the beach will be the place for you. If you’re looking to visit but don’t want to spend lots of money then Tulum centre is where to stay.

I have a full post on where to stay in Tulum, including Tulum beach hotels vs Tulum town, and my pick of the best Tulum hotels here.

Here are 5 suggestions for the best places to stay in Tulum that span from budget Tulum accommodation to luxury;

  • Be Tulum: Situated on the beach and has jungle vibes running throughout with gorgeous room design. One of the top hotels in Tulum.
  • Punta Piedra Posada: Great budget-friendly beach accommodation in Tulum.
  • Secret Garden Tulum Hotel: Hotel in downtown Tulum with a gorgeous, peaceful garden area & a great room price!
  • Aluna Hotel: Affordable luxury with a beautiful pool and the added benefit of being able to use the sister hotel’s beach club.
  • Rancho Tranquillo: Great hostel downtown which includes breakfast and is ideal for solo travellers in Tulum.

Best things to do in Tulum, Mexico

One of the great things about Tulum is that it isn’t just a beach destination. Sure, the beach is the main draw, but there are lots of other things to do in Tulum. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Tulum, here’s where to get started with my choice of the top 5 things to do in Tulum. And, read this post for more things to do!

Explore the cenotes near Tulum

cenote calavera near tulum

This part of Mexico is FULL of beautiful cenotes which are natural water holes. Some of the best cenotes in Mexico can be found just a short cycle or drive away from Tulum and they’re simply not to be missed. It’s definitely one of the top Tulum activities and one of my favourite things to do during our Tulum vacation.

See my pick of the best cenotes near Tulum here 

Relax on the beach

tulum beach

You surely didn’t book a trip to Tulum without intending to relax on the beach, did you? The beach in Tulum is what the destination is famous for and so spending a day (or more) relaxing by the ocean is a must-do in Tulum.

Our hotel included access to the Villa Pescadores beach bar, but there are plenty of other Tulum beach bars you can use along the main hotel zone too. Or, if you’ve booked a beach hotel then you don’t even need to think about it!

Personally I think the best beaches in Tulum are those at the northern end. Playa Pescadores is where we spent our beach days and it also has public beach access which isn’t as easy to find in the southern areas.

Eat all the tacos

villa pescadores beach bar tacos tulum

This is probably one of the things I was most excited for when it came to planning our Tulum vacation. I just LOVE a good taco. You’ll find them on the menu basically everywhere, but I highly recommend checking out Taqueria Honorio and Antojitos La Chipaneca for authentic Mexican tacos in Tulum on a budget.

Tulum Ruins

tulum ruins

The Tulum Mayan Ruins are what remains of the ancient Maya town of Tulum and the earliest date found in the ruins is A.D. 564! They’re set high on the coast and look out to the beautiful blue waters below. They’re not Tulum pyramids as such, but they are impressive and undoubtedly one of the top Tulum attractions. Exploring the Tulum ruins is a great way to learn more about the history of this area and I’d recommend checking it out.

This book is great for giving yourself a Tulum ruins self-guided tour. Alternatively, you can book a tour guide for the Tulum ruins, or just wander around.

Embrace the hippy/boho side of Tulum

matcha mama tulum

Chances are you’re visiting Tulum because you were drawn in by the pictures all over Instagram of the beaches and hippie looking shops and restaurants. If not, I’m surprised (as that’s what drew me to the place initially). Most of the Tulum shopping is along the beach road, as are the fancier restaurants.

In reality, we didn’t visit many of the restaurants and bars along the hotel zone in Tulum (mostly due to the expense of them!), but if you want to explore that side then you should definitely embrace it. And, even if you don’t visit many of these places, you can’t help but spot people who’ve clearly dressed for the occasion or are getting a photoshoot done. Just embrace that side of Tulum and join in – you’ll have fun!

See more of the top things to do in Tulum and ideas on where to go in Tulum.

Best places to eat and drink in Tulum

burrito amor tulum restaurant

With so many choices when it comes to where to eat in Tulum you’re truly spoilt for choice. The more expensive restaurants can be found in the beach area and these are going to cost you a lot in most cases. They’re also the Tulum restaurants that do more of the vegan dishes and fancier looking meals. If you’re after acai, matcha, and artsy looking tacos then the beach zone is the place to be.

However, if you’re looking for cheap eats in Tulum and authentic Mexican food, then explore the restaurants in Tulum centre. Here you’ll find tacos for less than $1, great fresh fish restaurants and more. They’re some of the top restaurants in Tulum too.

Read this post for my pick of the best restaurants in this Tulum guide to eating on a budget