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My Tulum Travel Guide for a Perfect Caribbean Vacation

A former walled city from the time of the Mayan empire, a Caribbean paradise. Tulum has become a haven for travel junkies from all over the world … how can you not fall in love with Tulum? In my Tulum travel guide, you’ll find everything you need for a perfect stay. From the most fun things to do in Tulum to the best places to stay in Tulum. Let’s get to it!

Tulum, located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, holds one of the best-preserved ancient Mayan cities on the Caribbean coast.  In recent years, the town has also become a hub for ecotourism, thanks to gems such as the surviving local practices of the ancient Mayas to the beautiful Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. So you can imagine the wide variety of things to do in Tulum!

For us, Tulum was a boho-glam dream, with its numerous boutiques, sandy white beaches, and rich ancient heritage. We had no issue finding the coolest things to do in Tulum, and many revolved about just enjoying the scene. This is a place to bask in the beauty of nature and the ghosts of a grand culture that dates back hundreds of years.  

Life in Tulum
Life in Tulum

Here’s my takeaway from our week in this tropical paradise, plus my favorite things to do in Tulum!

Some Things To Bring…

Tulum is a small town and in the beach area there is only one narrow street and streetlights are not the norm! As such, you’ll find that walking from place to place to be one of the first things to do in Tulum. So to take advantage of the wonders of Tulum’s best hangout spots, remember to bring a flashlight for your nights out dining and drinking

Beautiful as Tulum might be, it’s still right in the tropic and surrounded by the jungle: many things to do in Tulum are steps away from the jungle.  In fact, all the best restaurants are located right in the jungle. Because of this, it’s vital that you bring mosquito spray.

Willingly or not, Tulum takes its retreat spot vibe so seriously that Wi-Fi connection is pretty poor in most hotels. Prepare for an Internet detox in this wonderland. Think of it as a blessing and a unique point among things to do in Tulum!

Traveling – How to Get to Tulum?

Before getting to the juicy part about things to do in Tulum, it’s essential to make it easy for travelers to arrive!

Tourist favorite beach city Cancun is 1.5 to 2 hours away from Tulum, depending on weather and traffic. Because of this, the easiest way to reach the town is by arriving to Cancun by plane first, which should be easy as most airports in the area will fly there. 

There are two main ways to travel to Tulum from the Cancun airport: through a taxi or a shared shuttle. The latter is best to order in advance due to time and costs, and then you’ll be seconds away from all the amazing things to do in Tulum.

Living – Best Places to Stay in Tulum

Once you’ve reached Tulum, the best option is to stay on the beach side of the town, which is where the best boutique hotels are, plus most things to do in Tulum. Considering the number of lovely boutique hotels by the beach, this area is heaven for travelers who make the most of their trips when surrounded by gorgeous design!

Viento De Mar – The Place for Relaxed  Hampton Beach Vibes

Hotel Viento De Mar is located in the cozy spot where the jungle meets the beach, and it’s a hotel taken straight out of a dream! This is a place to relax in impossibly comfy sunbeds, all while surrounded by Hamptons-inspired design. When it’s time to get some shut-eye, enjoy one of Viento de Mar’s all-white simplistic rooms. Even their organic bathroom products are amazing. Staying here was undoubtedly one of my favorite things to do in Tulum! 

Hotel Viento De Mar Tulum
Hotel Viento De Mar Tulum

Coco Tulum – The Hip Beach Club & B&W Boutique Hotel

Another beachfront hotel, the Coco Tulum accommodations are beautiful cabanas in the sand instead of actual hotel rooms. Don’t be tricked by the hotel’s rustic exterior.  The décor inside each room is in minimalist B&W, providing a very modern take on the beach cabana trope without losing any of the charm. Quickly enough, enjoying the local beautiful hotels was one of my favorite things to do in Tulum.

This hotel also has its own beach club with a bar, plus hammocks and weekly music parties to really get lost in the Caribbean’s infinite shades of blue. A 5-minute walk from Viento De Mar, this became our favorite late lunch and after beach spot. As it happens with beachy destinations, one of the unmissable things to do in Tulum is visiting beach clubs!

Coco Tulum
My Favorite Spot @ Coco Tulum

Would you like to stay at  Coco Tulum. THEN BOOK IT HERE!

La Zebra – The Luxury Oasis with Afro-Caribbean Vibes

A recently-renovated small luxury hotel, the beautiful and beach chic La Zebra offers bungalows with huge balconies facing the Caribbean.  All with modern design inspired in the region’s strong Afro-Caribbean culture, making a visit to his hotel one of my favorite things to do in Tulum.

La Zebra’s in-house restaurant offers amazing food and drinks, all to the beat of sweet jams provided by local DJs – a party that was a truly enjoyable bit among cool things to do in Tulum! Here you get true 5 star luxury in all aspects, rooms, food, service, in the beautiful Tulum setting and here the wifi was actually working quite well!

The Afro-Caribbean inspired La Zebra Hote
The Afro-Caribbean inspired La Zebra Hotel

Would you like to stay at La Zebra. THEN BOOK IT HERE!

Azulik – A Place Like No Other

With a facade that will make you think of a tropical castle from a movie, the Azulik Eco Resort & Maya Spa offers a completely different twist among things to do in Tulum. 

Azulik’s a hotel, yes, but it’s an eco-friendly one also providing a broad array of spa treatments and a strong connection to the region’s Mayan culture. Feel transported to a time long gone by in this place lit by candlelight.  Enjoy great food and drinks, even if the beach is not as beautiful in the other Tulum hotels above. Still, since relaxing is one of the top things to do in Tulum, it’s a fair tradeoff!

Best places to stay in Tulum
Bird Nest? No – Eco Friendly Azulik – A Hotel Like No other!

Would you like to stay at Azulik. THEN BOOK IT HERE!

Now, while we didn’t stay in spa hotel Nomade or gorgeous boutique hotel Be Tulum, these two also looked breathtaking, and visiting should be on your list of things to do in Tulum.  I am sure  they  provide an amazing experience to wellness-centered and boho chic travelers! 

Best Restaurants in Tulum 

The Tulum geography combines two very different sceneries.  The beach, which is the best area to stay in when visiting, and the jungle, which is the top spot for eateries. Some of the best restaurants in Tulum are located on the jungle side of the narrow street along the beach.  Most of which are smaller places with incredible food and various culinary focuses and a gastronomic tour is a must on your list of things to do in Tulum.

Harwood – The Most Famous & Best Restaurant in Tulum

Hartwood, perhaps the best-known restaurant in Tulum, is a mindful eatery that changes its menu daily. It all depends on what the sea and ground provide during the day, therefore using the freshest organic ingredients. This solar-powered place is perfect for foodies who trust the Earth’s wisdom to hand out incredible foodstuffs!

Hartwood is one of the most popular restaurants so make sure to book a table well in advance, meaning months before your trip. It’s worth it, and a visit should certainly be on your list of things to do in Tulum.

Hartwood
Poplular Hartwood

Casa Banana – Heaven for Meat Lovers

If, on the other hand, you’re craving for a fine steak during your time in Tulum, the answer is simple: Casa Banana. Although the restaurant is dedicated to Argentine barbecues and their iconic wood-fired ovens, this doesn’t mean Casa Banana shies away from the delicious ingredients of the Yucatan region, giving them a twist for a different style of cooking. In all, this is the place to gulp down a perfect bife with a cocktail or two and the relaxed atmosphere and service is great!

Casa Banana – Meat Paradise
Casa Banana – Meat Paradise

Mur Mur – The Place to Eat for all Fashionistas

If Mexican food is your thing, you cannot miss the regional fusions of MurMur.  A restaurant in which world-famous chef Diego Hernández Baquedano leads a kitchen that combines Yucatan and Baja California flavors. Also focused on sustainability, this restaurant changes its menu seasonally to offer customers the best dishes when they’re most delicious. Here you eat among fashion boutiques and shops in a very cosy and cool environment

Cool Concept Restaurant – Mur Mur
Cool Concept Restaurant – Mur Mur

Gitano – The Jungle Eatery with the Best Drinks in Tulum

After a long day at the beach and once the sun sets down, Gitano should certainly be one of the next things to do in Tulum for you. This bar and grill, which fully embraces its jungle ambiance for an edgier look, serves delicious and modern versions of local dishes as well as some international favorites, besides being a sweet spot to dance the night away after a relaxing day soaking up the Tulum sun.

Gitano’s auteur cocktails are not only amazing but they also give traditional Mexican drinks a twist – and trying their mezcal drinks is a must among things to do in Tulum!

Gitano – The Jungle Late Nighter
Gitano – The Jungle Late Nighter

Some other great ones…

Other great restaurants to try out in Tulum include seafood spot extraordinaire Casa Jaguar, Yucatan food place Arca and Maria del Mar Hotel’s MINA, a Mexican-Argentine fusion eatery to cater to those who love both cuisines.  Eating delicious natural food was one of my favorite things to do in Tulum!

The Tulum vibe is something special, sort of relaxed boho-glam. If you are in for the party, the beach side of Tulum is not the place to be. You can for sure dance the night away at Gitano but it is more a low-key hangout than a frenetic part. All the coolest things to do in Tulum are more related to looking within and connecting with nature.

As the people we met said, Playa (Playa del Carmen) is the place for party dwellers. Tulum is the place to calm down, charging batteries and enjoy some true boutique luxury. The list of things to do in Tulum is always topped by relaxation!

6 Things to do in Tulum 

Although the total population of Tulum is less than 20,000 people, this hidden little corner in the Riviera Maya is filled with wonders, and it’s also close to some of the most fascinating spots in the region. So if you get tired of the beach life here are 6 things to do in Tulum that for sure will make your stay here even more interesting!

1. Yoga & Mindfulness

With its perfect location between the jungle and the Caribbean sea, plus its vast pre-hispanic history and Mayan heritage, it’s no wonder that Tulum has turned into a go-to destination for travelers who long to feel connected to the Earth and its many blessings. There are shalas everywhere – yoga is one of the most popular things to do in Tulum!

Azulik Eco-Resort & Maya Spa provides, as a whole, an experience like no other, with plenty of things to do in Tulum.  It mixes eco-conscious traveling with ancient pre-hispanic traditions while on the edge of the iconic Mayan site. Among many other rich experiences, they have an amazing and very different yoga shala. The wooden Azulik Dome, resembling a bird’s nest, which is a place so mindfully created for spirituality that it was built using Sacred Geometry, providing an even deeper connection with the practice.

Azulik – Perfect Place for Morning Yoga
Azulik – Perfect Place for Morning Yoga

Playa Canek, a darling eco-centered boutique hotel with a spa, also has its own yoga shala, although much smaller in size and more low key. In this studio, the hotel holds special yoga and spiritual retreats, so be sure to check what’s currently happening at the front desk. Connecting with the world around me in this natural heaven was certainly among my favorite things to do in Tulum.

Still, there are many other available options for yogis visiting Tulum, including the positively gorgeous Holistika Tulum shala and the Yäan Wellness Energy Spa, a Traveller Magazine-awarded secret spot in the Caribbean. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Tulum for those looking for places to look within.

2.  Shopping in the many Cute Design Boutiques

In the main beach road, just behind some of the most iconic hotels and restaurants, the Boca Paila street is filled with lovely boutiques.  Catering to those who are forever searching one-of-a-kind items, from clothing items created by local fashion designers to accessories of all kinds (including hats and jewelry. Here you can also find the most gorgeous home decor to bring a little Tulum back to your place. Shopping aficionados will find this to be one of their favorite things to do in Tulum!

One of many Boutiques in Tulum
One of many Boutiques in Tulum

3. Step into the Life of the Mayas

If you ride a bike for 20 minutes alongside the public beach, you’ll reach the Mayan ruin, one of the most popular things to do in Tulum. A place considered one of the best-preserved coastal cities from this ancient culture.

This site is not only filled with hundreds of years worth of stories from a once-great empire, but it also offers unique and breathtaking views of the entire Tulum coastline. This is one of the most visually impressive things to do in Tulum.

Things to do in Tulum
Mayan Ruins

4. Visit one of the Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza!

While not exactly one of the things to do in Tulum, it’s an unmissable chance. Less than a three-hour ride from Tulum stands perhaps the most imposing pre-hispanic site in the Americas: Chichen Itza. Once the focal points of one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen. 

This is a must-see for visitors within the Riviera Maya: a glimpse into a time long before European settlers, from a culture that still lives on. It’s not exactly among the things to do in Tulum, but you can’t not climb this wonder if you’re so close! Read all about our Chichen Itza experience in our post-Chichen Itza – The Ancient Magical Wonder of the World.

The Majestic Chichen Itza

5. Get some Village Vibes

The Tulum village, while not necessarily the nicest place around, is worth a visit, if only to get the gist of what local life is like in this earthly paradise. Of course, one of the things to do in Tulum should be actually getting to know the village!

6. Enjoy the Natural Wonders @ Sian Ka’an

Finally, right next to Tulum there’s a hidden treat for those travelers who’ve reached the area looking for natural wonders: Sian Ka’an (“Origin of the Sky” in the Mayan people’s language). A biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site that provides a habitat to over 300 species of birds, lizards and altogether a very rich flora and fauna. A little hidden, perhaps, but easily one of the most impressive things to do in Tulum!

If you are a beach dweller, like boutique hotel and great restaurant, Tulum will be your paradise that you will like to return to over and over again and find even more things to do in Tulum!

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  1. Pingback: My Hotel Review: The Best Tulum Boutique Hotels – Travel with a Silver Lining

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