Tulum was one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken. There was so much to do and so much to see in the area that we were always blissfully occupied with some sort of enjoyable activity, and we had the time of our lives doing yoga on the beach at sunrise, exploring ancient ruins, swimming alongside turtles and fish in cenotes, watching thunderstorms over the jungle and meeting some of the nicest people in the world. If you’re looking for somewhere luxurious, healthy, eco-conscious, and completely unique, Tulum is the perfect place for you to visit!
When to Visit
February-May is relaxed, and not crowded, not too hot yet
June-September busier, hotter, and more expensive
October-January, slower, bluest waters, less expensive
Tulum doesn’t have its own airport, so visitors have to fly into Cancún International Airport and either take a shuttle or drive the 1 hour and 45 minutes to Tulum. Some hotels and resorts will pick you up from the airport as part of your stay, but we rented a car so we drove down and enjoyed the view. Be aware that if you have a rental car cops may try to pull you over and extort you, and although we thankfully didn’t have this issue, we met a few people who did and ended up having to pay “on the spot fines” to the police. if this happens to you, and they give you the choice between paying them and getting a ticket, ask for the ticket and they will likely give up and let you leave. I don’t mean to scare you, because we drove our rental car for the entire week we were there all over the Yucatán and never had any problems, but it’s definitely something to be aware of in case it happens so you can handle it properly.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the over-water bungalows of Zamna, a sometimes concert venue located inside of a cenote, but we also visited Azulik to eat in their giant treehouse restaurant that overlooks the jungle and seats guest in birdnest-like tables, and I can say that we wish we would’ve spent at least one night there, because it was gorgeous! They also had a really cool luxury boutique attached that people had to be barefoot to enter called Zak Ik, which is worth a visit in its own right. Another beautiful resort we discovered by visiting their restaurant and beach was Sanará Resort, that’s attached to The Real Coconut beach-side restaurant. We stayed here our second visit to Tulum and absolutely loved it! All of these places are absolutely stunning, luxurious resorts that have everything guests could need.
Where to Eat:
Tulum has more fresh, organic, and healthy options when it comes to eating of any of the places we’ve visited so far. Everywhere we turned there were signs for organic, gluten free, vegan, and local fare, and we ate some of the best food we’ve ever had during our time in Tulum. We loved eating light, local foods and feeling satisfied without feeling overly full like we do when we eat heavy foods. In no particular order my favorite restaurants in were:
Kin Toh: Giant treehouse made of reclaimed wood in the jungle with birdnest tables overlooking the jungle and the Caribbean Sea. I recommend getting reservations.
The Real Coconut: Home of gluten free, sugar-free, and gross stuff free cooking, The Real Coconut but Daniella Hunter was one of my favorite places in Tulum, not only because the food was out of this world delicious, but because they had some of the best beach front property in Tulum, along with some of the best views. The Real Coconut is a part of Sanará hotel.
Rosa Negra: A chic restaurant with a boho vibe, Rosa Negra, which means Black Rose in Spanish, had inventive cocktails, a peaceful yet fun vibe, and an expansive menu suitable for any diet.
The Kitchen Table: We watched a passionate thunderstorm play out over the jungle here and took shelter from the rain under the thatched roof of this small, eco-friendly restaurant. This place had the freshest fish we ate in all of Tulum, and I loved that everything they prepared was picked or caught fresh each morning. Read more about how this restaurant prepares luxury Mayan dishes with only a fire, a single electrical outlet and recipes passed down for generations in the linked post.
Matcha Mama: Smoothies, Açai bowls, juices, kombucha and more, all gluten free with lots of vegan and organic options, perfect for breakfast or a light lunch.
Check out my guide to 20 of the very best places to eat in Tulum, here.
Although Tulum is small compared to some vacation destinations, there is so much to do in the area that a week here just wasn’t enough to do everything we wanted. One of my favorite things to do in Tulum was to visit cenotes, which are basically giant natural pools of water perfect for swimming, snorkeling, floating in, or even scuba diving. They’re safer to swim in than the Caribbean Sea because there’s no risk of being pulled out by a current or running into unfriendly sea creatures. We explored Dos Ojos Cenote, Gran Cenote, Cenote Chooha, and Ponderosa Cenote, but Gran Cenote was by far my favorite cenote, because it was actually two cenotes connected by a cave system that was easy and so much fun to snorkel through, plus there were lots of turtles, fish, and even a few friendly iguanas swimming around!
Snorkeling & Swimming in the sea or cenotes was one of our favorite activities in Tulum, because the water was almost as clear and blue as it is here in Michigan, and there was no shortage of great places to swim. Pro-Tip: If you’re unfamiliar with swimming in salt water like we were, be sure to rinse off completely as soon as you get out of the water or else you’ll become really itchy and uncomfortable as the salt dries out your skin.
Exploring the Ruins of Tulum in Parque Nacional of Tulum was another one of the highlights of our trip. I’ve always loved ancient history, and I love architecture and being outdoors, so seeing something that combines all of these things in such a beautiful and unique way that I can never resit visiting ruins.
It was so interesting to walk down the hotel zone of Tulum along the water looking at all of the unique shops in the area that sold locally made goods like basket bags, shoes, dresses, and even jewelry and sunhats.
Yoga workshops and other alternative healing and exercise events were offered daily around town either privately, or in groups, and there were even some free yoga classes we attended on the beach at sunrise. Look for signs around town promoting local events, or events held by hotels and shops that are open to the public, they’ll be all over the place.
Tulum’s beaches were very different from the way beaches work where I’m from, so it took a little getting used to. There are two main public beaches that are free to anyone, but the views aren’t great and they’re typically crowded. We discovered beach clubs while we were in Tulum, which are privately owned stretches of beach, typically owned by restaurants or hotels, that require a “minimum consumption” aka a minimum purchase to enjoy. Guests of beach clubs can sit on chaises lounges or beach chairs, sometimes with umbrellas or their own cabanas and use the beach for the day if they pay the minimum consumption amount. Our favorite beach club was at Sanará Hotel, because eating at The Real Coconut counted as part of our minimum consumption, meaning that when we sat on the beach sipping cold drinks and eating our lunch, the cost of our meal counted towards our minimum consumption. Make sense?
What to Pack
Tulum is obviously a tropical destination so be sure to pack everything you’d need for the beach like swimsuit, sunscreen, hats, sandals, a snorkel and mask (it’s cheaper and more hygienic to bring your own from home, trust me), sun protective clothing, tennis shoes and ankle socks for exploring the ruins and walking around town, and comfortable, loose clothing. Most women I saw out and about were wearing flowy maxi dresses, or yoga clothing, so the dress there was very casual. Tourists usually wore sundresses and jean shorts with crop tops, but I too wore maxi dresses, my swimsuit or yoga apparel and I was very comfortable the entire time. None of the restaurants in Tulum have strict dress codes, but many won’t allow guests to wear just a swimsuit, so plan accordingly when dining out. You can check out what I wore to the beach here.
Day Trips from Tulum
Chichen Itza Pyramid
Playa del Carmen
Farewell, fellow adventurers!
Follow Me for More: @AnnieFairfax
See More by Annie Fairfax
Baden-Baden | Bay Harbor | Bay View | Berlin | Beverly Hills | Black Forest | Carmel | Chicago | Cincinnati | Colmar | Disneyland | Edinburgh | Glasgow | Grand Rapids | Greenland | Hakone | Harbor Springs| Heidelberg | Holland | Indianapolis | Irvine | Isle of Skye | Kurokawa Onsen | Kyoto | Laguna Beach | Loch Ness | London | Los Angeles | Mackinac Island | Mexico City | Nara | New Orleans | New York City | Niagara Falls | Nikko | Northern Michigan | Osaka | Petoskey | Querétaro | Riviera Maya | Rome | Tokyo | Tokyo DisneySea | Toronto | Traverse City | Tucson | Tulum | Vatican City | Venice | Warsaw | West Hollywood |