I’ve been getting lots of messages from people asking me for advice on what to do in Tulum, so I figured I’d combine it all into a post!
I absolutely loved Tulum. Yes it’s full of tourists, yes it’s by no means off the beaten path, and yes it’s pricey, but do you know why it’s all of these things? Because it’s awesome and gorgeous, and an all around amazing place to visit. Also, it’s full of tourists but not at all in the way that Cancun or Puerto Vallarta are. It just has a chill, low-key vibe, and while it’s not exactly an authentic Mexican experience it is, in my opinion, a must visit.
Tulum is basically two strips, with a road connecting the two. You have one long road that makes up the town of Tulum and one long road along the beach where you’ll find the best hotels and restaurants. They run parallel, and connecting them is another road that has a few restaurants and accommodations along it. Obviously the dream is to stay at one of the $700/night beach bungalows along the beach road, but if you’re on more of a backpacker budget, you’ll likely be staying in town (note: you can find accommodations for less than $700 along the beach road as well- my point is just that it’s much pricier down there).
The beach road, like I said, is lined with nice hotels (but not the tacky resort kind like you’ll find in Cancun. I’m talking really gorgeous, eco-conscious spots of heaven), healthy and delicious restaurants, and high-ish end boutiques).
The town road is a mix of restaurants, tourist stalls, accommodations, and then services like banks, pharmacies, a massive grocery store, etc. It’s often described as just a dusty strip, but I really liked it! Obviously, the beach road is more the Tulum vibe you see all over Instagram, but the town is cool too, and there are lots of great spots.
I stayed in a total of four different accommodations in Tulum because I kept extending my trip (5 days turned into 2 weeks, and I could have stayed longer!). When I first got there, my friend and I did an AirBnB (reasonably priced and some great options), and then I stayed in a few different hostels. The best by far was Mama’s Home. It fills up fast though, so book in advance if you’re going the hostel route.
Tulum is cool because it suits both a backpacker budget and a high-end luxury travel budget, so regardless of the kind of trip you want, you’ll find a great place to stay.
I absolutely LOVED the cenotes- they were totally one of the trip highlights for me! I’ve never seen such crystal clear water, and I just found them fascinating. There are tons of cenotes around Tulum and the whole Mayan Riviera, but the ones we went to were Gran Cenote and Cenote Tankach-Ha. I recommend doing both because they’re very different. Gran Cenote is an easy cab ride from Tulum and is all above ground (though there is an above ground cave you can swim under), while Cenote Tankach-Ha is a bit further outside of the town, and it’s underground and just soo cool!! We rented a car (more on that below) to get to this one, but I think you can also go with a tour.
RESTAURANTS + CAFES
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff: Food. There are so many amazing places to eat in Tulum, and you’ll find everything from $1 street tacos to fab seafood restaurants. As with the accommodations, you’ll generally find cheaper, more casual places in town and higher end places along the beach road.
In town, I loved..
Hoja Verde: A vegetarian restaurant where I went almost every day to drink smoothies and get work done (their internet is great). The Tio Bob chocolatey smoothie changed me as a person.
Namaste Casa de Te: One of the most beautiful cafes ever. Beautiful setting, amazing teas, and such a peaceful atmosphere. They are really passionate about tea and will explain their menu and share lots of cool tea info. I had an iced chamomile and lavender tea with coconut milk, and it was amazing!
Del Cielo: Popular breakfast spot on the town road. It serves delicious healthy meals and sells natural beauty and body products.
Ki’bok Coffee: I can’t remember the name of the street this place is on, but there are a bunch of cool restaurants on the same street. The coffee here is SO GOOD! It’s full of tourists on their laptops living the digital nomad dream.
All of the places above are not really budget spots- you’re going to be paying US/Canadian prices for the majority of spots in the town/beach road because it is such a touristy destination. However, you can still get some really awesome budget-friendly street food. As with everywhere, I went in Mexico, I was obsessed with the street tacos and coco paletas.
Along the beach road, I loved…
Raw Love: Pretty sure going here was my main motivation for visiting Tulum and it did not disappoint!! This beautiful outdoor raw cafe is on the property of one of the beachfront resorts, and it was somehow even more amazing than I imagined. There are no words to describe their raw desserts.
Posada Margherita: Beautiful beautiful Italian restaurant along the beach road. I’m running out of adjectives to describe how amazing all of the spots in Tulum are, but this place is just soo…well, beautiful! And the food is delicious, and yeah just go.
Mateos: Nothing particularly amazing about the food here, but you can go up to the top level and get great views of the sunset!
Heartwood: I didn’t actually make it here because you need to make resos well in advance, but if you’re planning a trip to Tulum, make a reservation!! The food is supposed to be amazing.
These are just a few of the many amazing food spots!
There is a public beach you can go to, and it’s gorgeous, but I actually only went here once during my whole trip! Other than that I would go to the beaches of the beach resorts. Basically, you can go onto any of the resorts (again, they’re not resorts like you think of in Cancun) and as long as you buy a drink or whatever at their restaurant, you can hang out on the beach. I loved getting food at Raw Love and then staying on their beach.
As if Tulum weren’t Insta-worthy enough already, all of the tourists get around town on these cute little city bikes. There are bike rental places, and some of the accommodations include free bikes. You can also walk of course, and taxis are really cheap as well.
Some friends and I rented a car one day so we could see some things outside of town, and it’s soo cheap! Right off the town road, on the road that takes you down to the beach, you’ll find a strip of car rental places. Don’t pay the initial price! We went into the first place, they gave us a price, and then we said we were just going to check out the other places to compare, and they instantly dropped down the price to like a quarter of the original.
A note on haggling in Mexico: As a general rule, from my experience and from what I heard from other tourists and expats, haggling is not really a thing in Mexico. The car rental place was really the only time a price was significantly dropped. For the most part, the prices are what they are, they’re not trying to screw you over, and if you try to bargain they’ll generally just say no.
Hmm there’s probably lots that I’m missing, so message me if you have any questions. On this trip, I also visited Mexico City (amazing place!!! I could live there), Puerto Vallarta (skip!), Sayulita (LOVED! Similar vibe to Tulum, though on the Pacific so you’re not getting the white sand beaches), San Miguel de Allende (beautiful), Isla Mujeres (very touristy, but beautiful. Consider nearby Isla Holbox if you want less touristy but same beauty), Bacalar (another skip in my opinion), and Puerto Escondido (cool! But preferred Tulum and Sayulita- but a lot of people are obsessed so worth considering). Send me a message if you want more info on any of these places.
I absolutely fell in love with Mexico in the 2 months I spent there. Such an amazing amazing country. The food, the people, the culture, the beaches, the towns, everything is just so good!!! Go! Just book your ticket and go.