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 enjoyable activity. 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 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 a 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 if it happens so you can handle it properly.
Where to Stay
Tulum has so many wonderful places to stay; you can’t go wrong! Stay in the over-water bungalows of Zamna, a sometimes concert venue located inside of a cenote.
Azulik hotel has its giant treehouse restaurant that overlooks the jungle and where guests are seated by staff at 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, worth a visit in its own right.
We discovered another beautiful resort by visiting their restaurant and beach was Sanará Resort, which’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.
If you’re looking for a stunning vacation rental, check out Piece-of-Art-Loft that fits up to 6 people in 2 bedrooms with 4 beds and 2.5 baths. It’s an architectural work of art, it has a private rooftop pool, and best of all, it’s only $250 per night!
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 beachfront property in Tulum, along with some of the best views. The Real Coconut is a part of the 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.
What to Do in Tulum
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 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. Still, 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. 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 saltwater 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 resist 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. 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 open to the public; they’ll be all over the place.
Tulum’s beaches were very different from how 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. While we were in Tulum, we discovered beach clubs, 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 loungers, 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 for a Trip to Tulum
Tulum is obviously a tropical destination, so be sure to pack everything you’d need for the beach like a 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 also wore maxi dresses, swimsuits, 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!
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Mary Linnert says
You really have such great tips on where to stay, the activities to do and sites to see. You’ve truly captured this place beautifully. Would love to go there. Adding this place to my list now! Thanks!
Beth Shallenberger says
Whoa! I’ve never heard of this place before! It’s on my list now!
Tulum is absolutely magical! At night, we were so far from city lights that the sky looked like it was painted with stars and galaxies. During the day the sun was so warm and the swimming, shopping, food, and culture, were all phenomenal. Don’t even get me started on the sunsets and sunrises – I have dreams about them!
so beautiful and thanks for all the info
Mallory Rosser says
The tip on the rental car/police situation is so helpful. I’m glad you posted it. Tulum looks like an amazing place and is now on my list of destinations!
Ricki Dworkin says
You should definitely check out the Rosewood Mayakoba resort. Fantastic hotel with excellent service.
Brittany Isaacs says
Love your experience and photos shared. It looks like a beautiful place to visit that I had not considered before. Thanks 😊
Ashonte Laing says
Tulum is definitely on my bucket list! Your review was so helpful! Thanks for the beautiful pics and sound advice!
Looks much more relaxed that the Cancun area. Adding Tulum to my list!
Trudy Bell says
I need to look at Tulum for our next warm weather vacation – looks FABULOUS!
Renee Fasanella says
This was great….. trying to find a tropical honeymoon….. Tulum is now on the list because of your guide!
Who knew there was so much to do in Tulum?! Definitely saving this for future trips