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.
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 activities, 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.
Get Your Guide gives you so many opportunities to discover Tulum. BOOK A DAY TRIP OR A GUIDED TOUR HERE.
Here’s my Tulum travel guide from our week in this tropical paradise!
Tulum Travel Guide: 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! 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 the Wi-Fi connection is pretty poor in most of the best places to stay in Tulum. Prepare for an Internet detox when reading this Tulum travel guide. Think of it as a blessing in disguise!
Tulum Travel Guide – How to Get Here?
Before getting to the juicy part about things to do in Tulum, it’s essential to make it easy for travelers to arrive. So, of course, that’s where my Tulum travel guide begins!
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 local activities.
Relax when you arrive to the airport and book a transfer in advanced. BOOK A PRIVATE AIRPORT TRANSFER FOR A SMOOTH ARRIVAL to the best places to stay in Tulum.
Living – Best Places to Stay in Tulum
Once you’ve reached Tulum, this Tulum travel guide recommends you to stay on the beach side of the town. This is where the best places to stay in Tulum 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 a 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, one of the loveliest places on this Tulum travel guide. 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. This is one of the best places to stay in Tulum, and coming was undoubtedly one of my favorite things to do in 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: this is one of the best places to stay in Tulum. 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 the fave late lunch and after beach spot of this Tulum travel guide. As it happens with beachy destinations, one of the unmissable activities is visiting beach clubs!
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.
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 truly enjoyable! 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. Undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in Tulum!
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 in this Tulum travel guide.
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 one of the best places to stay in Tulum, 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!
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 are rated among the best places to stay 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.
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.
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!
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
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!
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 is a highlight of town!
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 local activities 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. Relaxation is a major local selling point!
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 Tulum activities that will make your stay here 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 popular here!
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.
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.
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 local activities 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!
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. 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.
A guided tour of the ruins in Tulum is likely to sell out, make sure to BOOK AN AFTERNOON TOUR HERE.
4. Visit one of the Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza!
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.
If you have the opportunity then Chichen Itza is a must see. PICK THE TOUR OR EXPERIENCE THAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS, HAVE A LOOK AT ALL THE TOURS OF CHICHEN ITZA HERE.
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 sights.
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!
Travel with a Silver Lining Beyond the Tulum Travel Guide
Tulum is a place I can highly recommend to put on your bucket list. Do you want inspiration or support when booking your trip here? Have a look at my other Tulum blog post below:
- 5 AMAZING RESTAURANTS IN TULUM
- TOP 4 TULUM BOUTIQUE HOTELS FOR DESIGN LOVERS
- TULUM – OUR LOVELY BOHO GLAM ESCAPE
- For more on this beautiful Latin American country, check out my FAVORITE INSTAGRAM SPOTS IN MEXICO
- MY TOP THREE POSTS: 18 Instagram Spots in Lisbon, My Amalfi Coast Photography Guide and the Top 10 Hipster Restaurants in Moscow!
- Go beyond my Tulum travel guide to read about THE BEST BOUTIQUE HOTELS I VISITED IN 2018– and our dreamy lodgings in SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA!
After the Tulum Travel Guide: Booking & Info
- GET THE BEST FLIGHT DEALS ON MOMONDO, RIGHT HERE. IF YOU DON’T HAVE THIS AMAZING ALL-IN-ONE TRAVEL APP YET, CLICK HERE!
- FIND MORE INCREDIBLE PLACES TO STAY IN TULUM ON BOOKING.COM, BY CLICKING HERE
- FOR A SMOOTH ARRIVAL BOOK A PRIVATE TRANSFER FROM THE AIRPORT TO YOUR HOTEL
I always want to make sure I get the most out of my trip and I like to plan in advance. If you are like me, then look at the offers at Get Your Guide. They have lots of great tours and I always use them when traveling. You can book all their tours online HERE. If you want a personalised tour to discover all of Tulum then check out this TULUM DISCOVERY PRIVATE TOUR! See also the full Activity Guide of Tulum below!
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