The Insider’s Tulum Travel Guide: What to Know Before You Visit Tulum

Tulum Beach

Planning your visit to Tulum? Lucky you. This Tulum travel guide will walk you through everything you need to know before your trip. 

Tulum is a beautiful town in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo. Perhaps most famous for the ruins of structures that the Mayans built there some 820 years ago and for its reputation as a boho chic hangout on the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s a popular destination for travelers. 

It’s not hard to see why.  Tulum boasts impressive beaches, cenotes, tropical locations, and fantastic cuisine. 

This Tulum vacation guide will show you just that. 

Find out everything you need to know before you travel to this tropical destination.

How to Plan a Visit to Tulum: Before You Go

It can be daunting planning a trip to a foreign country. We’ve done all of the research for you so you can sit back and dream of your beach getaway. Here are a few things to know and consider while planning your trip.

Best Time to Visit Tulum, Mexico

November and December offer the best weather for your Tulum vacation. By then, hurricane season and summer tourists are long gone. So you get to enjoy a cool 83°F (28°C) breeze on an uncrowded beach.

Read Next: The Best Time to Visit Tulum

Handy Resources for Getting to Tulum

Tulum is 9,966 miles (1,555 km) from Mexico City and 81 miles (131 km) from the resort town of Cancun.

By Air

The closest airport to Tulum is Cancun International Airport, 73 miles (118 km) away. If you plan on flying in, this is the airport where you’ll land.

  • Skyscanner – This is a great resource to use. The site searches and compares prices, so you get the best deals. We still recommend looking at individual airline websites for flight purchases.
  • Expedia.com- This is another good website for flight comparisons. You can also look for places to stay and add car rentals for more accurate potential prices. 
  • Google Flights- This is a great resource to help plan a trip to Tulum, Mexico. Track certain flights and flight dates and get notified when prices drop.

By Road

After you land at Cancun International Airport, you’ll need to take a two-hour ride into Tulum. 

  • ADO Bus- This bus service often transports passengers from Cancun International Airport to Tulum. Passengers can buy their tickets ahead of time on the website or app.
  • Car- If you feel confident driving in Mexico, you can rent a car and go to Tulum yourself. It is a straight road down Federal Highway 307 and will take less than two hours.
  • Private transport- Shuttles and minivans are popular modes of transportation. It’s fast, can be bought online, and you pay per service, not distance.

Where to Stay in Tulum on Your Visit

Tulum has terrific hotels and boutiques to stay at with fantastic jungle and ocean views.

High-End: Hotel Ma’xanab Tulum

Hotel Ma'xanab Tulum

This luxury 5-star hotel is right in the city center. It has a fitness center, swimming pool, and a restaurant.

Rooms are spacious and air-conditioned. Choose between a jungle, ocean, or garden view. Each room also has free Wi-Fi, a private bathroom, and a patio or terrace.

Mid-Range: Hotel Boutique TerraNova

Hotel Boutique TerraNova

This boutique hotel is just 3 miles (6km) from the Tulum Archeological Sites and just 1 mile (2.1 km) from the Tulum bus station. 

Live in luxury at this hotel with a pool, restaurant, and bar on site.  Prices are about $200 in the off-season and gradually become more expensive.

Budget: Maka Hotel Boutique

Maka Hotel Boutique

This budget hotel sure doesn’t feel like one. Prices start from $53, and the hotel provides above and beyond services. It has an outdoor pool, bar, nightclub, and garden.

Each room is air-conditioned and has free Wi-Fi. It’s in a great location, and free parking is available.

Packing for Your Tulum Trip

Pack light and breezy clothes to stay cool during your Tulum visit. You should also pack comfortable shoes and sun protection.

Hurricane season starts in June and carries on until October. The months of September and October have the most rain. Pack an umbrella and raincoat, so you don’t get soaking wet. 

Travel Insurance

You never know when emergencies might happen, so travel insurance is essential. World Nomads will cover anything from unexpected injuries during cenote exploring to lost baggage.

Suggested Guidebooks

  • Lonely Planet- You can purchase the Tulum guidebooks or read a few articles online. These travel guide books have been a trusted source for travelers since 1972 and are regularly updated with the newest information. 
  • Fodor’s Travel- This guide to Tulum, Mexico, is available on Kindle or paperback for your convenience

Read More of Our Tulum Travel Guides

Tulum Visitor Guide: What to Do During Your Tulum Trip

Tulum has tons of fun things to do. Here are a few exciting activities and trips.

Top 10 Things to Do in Tulum

Here are the top 10 things every tourist should see and do while they’re in Tulum:

  1. Tulum archaeological zone
  2. Go cenote hopping
  3. Visit the beach
  4. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
  5. Snorkeling or surfing
  6. Xel-Ha Park
  7. Attend an open-air club night
  8. Zipline & ATV through the jungle
  9. Tulum Tower
  10.  Eat some local food

Read more about fun things to do in Tulum.

Suggested Tulum Trip Itineraries

Pick one of these trip itineraries if you only have a few days in town.

One Day in Tulum

Tulum Ruins

If you only have one day to explore the town, visit the ancient Tulum Ruins. You will not be disappointed by their beauty.

Be sure to grab a bite to eat at the many restaurants or street vendors along the way.

Then, make a trip to Gran Cenote. Afterward, cool off with some cocktails at your hotel. 

Two Days in Tulum

Sian Kaan Tulum

After your exciting day visiting the Mayan Ruins, continue your exploration of Tulum history and culture. 

Take a bike ride through downtown Tulum and along the beach. You’ll find so many fun, hidden places you would’ve missed otherwise.

Then, visit the UNESCO guarded Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to see the region’s thousands of fauna and flora. Here is one of the only places you’ll see the protected Yucatan Black Howler Monkey. The beaches here are incredible too, and much quieter than on Tulum’s main strip. 

Tulum is very lively at night, so pop in at one of the town’s many bars and clubs.

Hidden Tulum – Tulum Off the Beaten Path

Laguna Muyil Tulum

Here are a few hidden treasures of the Mexican town most Tulum travel blogs won’t tell you about:

  • Cenote Zacil-Ha
  • Laguna Kaan Luum
  • Ancient Pyramids at Coba (these are a little way out of Tulum but worth the trip)
  • Muyil Ruins

Dishes to Try in Tulum

Tulum food
  • Ceviche – Tulum is on the east coast of the Caribbean Sea. It would be a shame not to eat some of this fresh seafood dish marinated in lime juice and fragrant garnishing.
  • Panuchos– This refried tortilla stuffed with beans, meats, and fresh garnishes is a Yucatecan specialty.
  • Yucatecan Antojitos – the best antojitos or street foods to try are Sopes, Marquesitas and Salbutes.

Top Drinks in Tulum 

Ahau Tulum
  • Horchata – This is a traditional non-alcoholic Mexican drink made from rice.
  • Margarita- This cocktail, with origins in Puebla, Mexico, is a refreshing drink to enjoy on the beach.
  • Mexican Cerveza- Who doesn’t love an ice-cold beer on a hot day? Mexican beers have a light body and mild taste.

Tulum Travel Guide: Things to Know Before You Go to Mexico

Here are a few helpful tips to know before traveling to the Mayan walled town of Tulum.

Tips for Traveling to Tulum

  • Most hotels and restaurants do not accept credit cards. Some tourist spots will accept American Dollars, but Mexican Pesos are much more economical. 
  • Free Wi-Fi is almost everywhere, while cell phone signals can be challenging to get.
  • Be careful crossing roads or using crosswalks. Passengers do not have the right of way in Tulum.

Tipping In Tulum

It is customary to tip in Tulum, although not mandatory. A tip of 10-20% of the bill shows appreciation for excellent service.

Interesting Facts

  • Tulum translates to ‘wall’ in Spanish, but it was initially named Zama in the Mayan language. Zama translates to ‘Dawn.’
  • Tulum has been a city inhabited by the Maya since the 6th century. However, the 13th and 15th centuries were when its civility flourished.
  • Tulum is the most visited state in Quintana Roo and the third most visited site in Mexico.

Handy Phrases for Traveling to Tulum

People in Mexico speak Spanish, so knowing a few Spanish phrases while traveling to Tulum is helpful.

EnglishSpanishPronunciation
HelloHolaThe ‘h’ is silent: óla
GoodbyeAdiosa-djós
Thank youGraciasgrá-sjas
Can you take me to …Puede llevarme a …Pweh-de ye-var-meh ah
Where is the bathroom?¿Dónde está el baño?dón-de es-tá el ba-nyo?
I need a DoctorNecesito un doctor ne-ce-si-to un dok-tór

Time Zones 

Tulum is on Eastern Standard Time UTC/GMT -5. For reference, it is the same time as New York. 

Electricity + Adapters

The standard voltage is 127 V with a frequency of 60 Hz. 

Mexico uses Type A & B plugs just like the US, Japan, Canada, and Central America.

Health

  • Do not cook or drink Tulum’s tap water. Use bottled or filtered water instead. This personal LifeStraw is a water filter straw that doesn’t take up much space.
  • Avoid food poisoning by steering clear of tepid foods and drinks. 
  • There is a small hospital in Tulum if you get sick. For tourists, the best option is Costamed.

Transport

The best way to get around Tulum is by taxi. You can also rent a car in Cancun and Playa del Carmen and drive in and around Tulum. 

Although, that might not be needed. Most attractions like the beaches and ruins are within walking distance. You can also rent a bicycle to get around and save a few Pesos.

Safety

As a tourist, Tulum is generally safe for you to travel. However, you should still stay vigilant since you don’t know the area well.

As a tourist, you might be susceptible to pickpocketing. Solo travelers should avoid going out alone at night.

Costs and Budgeting

  • Expect to pay around $100-$433 per day as a solo traveler in Tulum, Mexico. Couples should expect to spend about $200-$723 per day. 
  • If you’re on a budget, stay in downtown Tulum and rent a bicycle instead of taking taxis.
  • The cheapest time to visit is January to the beginning of March and again mid-August to mid-December.

Tulum Map

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