G U I D E T O T U L U M
Okay so close your eyes and picture this… white sand beneath your toes, the sound of singing bowls, om’s and Tibet drums beating softly with the sound of the waves, the smell of burning sage, and an endless jungle that sets in to the sky & the sea, the taste of all sorts of spices filling up your senses and the feeling of the golden sun beaming on you...
Now back to reality. Before I get into the important stuff, I recommend you go check out my Instagram & Youtube as a visual reference for everything you are about to read!
Tulum is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo & is about a 1.5 hour drive from Cancun airport (which is the one you’d fly in to). Tulum is different from other parts of Mexico because of its unique architecture and design (It has a very “organic,” laid back wooden look) and is essentially one of the most “instagram’able” locations i’ve ever visited. Anyway, If you’re planning a trip or have previously researched Tulum, then you probably have a few of the following questions in mind:
- No cell service? If you’ve been researching Tulum, then you’ve probably noticed that most places note this in their description. … & its true, there is no cell service. But don’t stress, there is wifi almost everywhere and everyone uses Whatsapp to communicate!
- There is electricity. Many or most of the spots in Tulum are Solar powered though and therefore don’t allow heated electronics (hair dryers, straighteners, etc). So don’t bother bringing those! But charing your phone or laptop wont be an issue.
- Is there lots of seaweed? If you happen to have heard about Tulum’s seaweed problem, then it’s safe to say that it’s all cleared up now. The water is blue & clear and there was barely any seaweed on the beach when we went! so no there’s not!
- And last but not least, if you’re planning on travelling to Mexico, then you’re probably asking yourself “is it safe?” Answer is yes. Despite what people say about Mexico, Tulum Beach did feel very safe overall. It is a resort town built for tourists (many parts of it are still under construction but everyone was friendly and at no point did we feel unsafe). However, always be aware and if you do plan to go out, many people warned us that drink spiking happens more often than you’d think –so just be careful and don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re not in control of what you’re doing. Otherwise, Tulum isn’t too much of a party town, & is more of a peaceful getaway, with just the right amount of fun! 🙂
- Currency? They take both USD & Pesos, but you’re better off exchanging some Pesos while you’re there because they will try to scam you with the exchange rate!
- Expensive? Generally, yes. But just like anywhere you can make do depending on what you’re budget it. If you follow this guide & use my tips, you’ll save a lot! Our trip cost approx $1000 for 4 jam-packed days but we could have probably cut back if we knew some things in advance!
How long to go for?
We went for a short and sweet trip from Thursday-Sunday and tried to fit in the most that we could in to those 3.5 days and it was do-able! I would definitely recommend staying for at least 5-7 if you can but its definitely possible to see all the main attractions in 3 days as long as you wake up early and stay on track!
Where to stay?
Tulum Beach. You will notice that some hotels are located in the city center while others are located on the beach. Whatever your budget, I suggest trying to find something on the beach! You will be close to everything and will subtract the need for having to cab everywhere all the time. Below are a few of my recommendations for places to stay:
- If you’re looking for a more affordable option, we stayed at Casa Coyote Tulum and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a comfortable yet simple place to stay minus the resort amenities! This small hotel is attached to an outdoor Mediterranean restaurant called LOCO (which kind of serves as the lobby/entrance) and is located on Tulum Beach, only a few minutes walking distance from many of Tulum’s highest end beach front resorts, however its still secluded enough from the nightlife area, making it a peaceful spot! (it’s about a 10 minute bike ride to most shops/restaurants and approximately 30 minutes to the other end of Tulum Beach. The rooms are part of several separate buildings which are all connected by a courtyard and are designed very uniquely! I guess you can say they fit the “Tulum vibe” which made the experience authentic. Most importantly the staff is incredibly helpful and welcoming which made it feel safe and made it much easier for us to familiarize ourselves with the town in such a short time!
- Right behind this hotel is another called Casa Xaman which seemed almost identical (so if the first one is booked up check it out as a second option!)
High End (all three are a must-see even for a quick visit/a photo!)
If you’re looking for more of a resort type experience without having to go elsewhere to find activities, you definetely have lots to choose from! Every resort situated on the beach is beautiful in its own way & you really can’t go wrong with any! Of the ones we visited, my top three choices would probably be:
- All three are very unique and perfectly capture the Tulum experience. Azulik is a little more secluded as it is located on the other side of Tulum beach (one end to another is about 30min by bike). It doesn’t have the white sandy beach front that the other two resorts have, but the design of the resort itself and the grounds make it an experience in of its own! If you are looking for a more family friendly, yet stylish beach front hotel, Be Tulum , Nest & Nomade (which is my top pick), are situated right next to each other, have incredible designs and amenities (Yoga, meditation, sound and energy healing, pool, scenic restaurants, white sandy beach and more that we probably didn’t even get to discover!). Casa Malca is famously known as Pablo Escobar’s mansion that is now rebought and redesigned by an American artist –it literally feels like an outdoor modern museum of art! So if you enjoy travelling more boujee (It is very pricey) then this is your spot to stay. It is located right next door to Nomade & the other two so wherever you decide to stay, you can visit the other and see it for yourself!
How to get around?
From the airport:
- we used a company called SuperShuttle (their stand is located right prior to exiting the airport). We looked up a lot of reviews before deciding on this one and their pricing seemed the most reasonable. It was 120 USD pp both ways for a full shuttle that had wifi and AC & the driver was super nice and gave us the option o stop wherever we’d like along the way! (for those in need of an iced coffee after a long flight)*
- I would recommend for anyone travelling to use their services HOWEVER on our return, the driver showed up 40 MINUTES LATE. We were really stressed out and were on the verge of putting our luggage in to another cab (which would have charged us 100 USD one way for a small car without wifi). Thankfully the driver showed up but we had to run like maniacs to our gate to not miss our flight so, just a heads up to make sure to book your return cab 30 min earlier then you would normally and to let them know from the start that you need them to be on time. Also make sure to let them know that you will be staying in Tulum and won’t be able to phone them as there is no cell service (but if you can, then do try to ask someone from your hotel to phone a day or two before your return day to confirm just in case –Casa Coyote manager did this for us even though he said they didn’t pick up.
- Taking a taxi will cost you 200 Pesos (10USD) to get just about anywhere from end to end despite the distance, so what we did was rented bikes (the norm is about 10USD per day but we found a spot that only charged us 5USD (its located to the right, across from Ahau Tulum (where the big open heart sculpture is, next to a little open bar and doesn’t really have an official name –bring your iD!). The bikes were definitely not in very good condition, but they did the trick of getting us around! (we had to stop and get the chain fixed a couple times but there are enough friendly locals on the streets to help you out if you ever need! We also told the place when we returned the bikes and they ended up not charging us for any of the other days!
- Biking / walking the streets generally feels safe, especially in the morning when there aren’t too many cars but note that there isn’t any sidewalk so you have to be careful. Traffic starts to pick up around 10am but there are enough bikers/walkers that the cars drive slow enough. The roads aren’t in good condition though and have a lot of bumps so be prepared for a bumpy ride! At night it can get really dark in some areas (pitch dark) and with night traffic and no sidewalk I would say your best bet is to get around by taxi.
Where to eat?
Breakfast/lunch (all health conscious spots)
- Raw Love
- Matcha Mama
- Sanara Beach front restaurant
Here’s a list of my favourites from the ones we tried out but there are SO many beautiful dinner spots and experiences that you for sure won’t be short of finding one.
- Nomad beach front restaurant –very relaxed and romantic dining experience –LOVED.
- Casa Jaguar (although we didn’t eat here, every single person recommended it to us so it must be really good!)
- Kin Toh –Azulik hotels’ restaurant (we didn’t eat here but we checked it out and the setting is absolutely stunning). We had breakfast at their other hotel restaurant and the food wasn’t anything special…
- Rosa Negra fun spot for a late night dinner, really good tacos and amazing service! (shoutout to Mauricio he was our amazing waiter!)
What to do?
For the active traveller
Yoga Whether you’re a yogi or not, I definitely recommend you try it out for the experience while you’re in Tulum! Almost every hotel has daily yoga classes (prices range from 10-20USD.
- Azulik -the experience and the setting of the class was A DREAM. I would tell you more but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for you….. If you follow me on Instagram then you probably saw how stunning it was! (*pay when you get there because online it’s 20USD but we only payed 10 in person!)
- Sanara was probably one of the best yoga classes I’ve ever done. Overlooking the water in a stunning glass studio, It was a lot more challenging than the class at Azulik and the instructor was very attentive to the needs of each person in the class
- Ahau –another beautiful studio overlooking the beach! This is also where you’ll find Tulum’s infamous open heart sculpture and some of the best acas bowls….
- Yoga Dicha Tulum is a spot that was recommended to me but we didn’t have time to check it out!
Meditation / Sound & Energy healing
another must do!
- Azulik –go to the entrabce of the spa and ask for the welcoming energy healing!
- Nomad –they have an incredible meditation tent and sound healing maze… (see my Instagram stories)
- Sanara –Some yoga classes incorporate sound and meditation in to them
- Ahau –5pm Fire dance every night!
PS: the smell that you’ll notice in Tulum comes from a scent called Copal, which is an essence that comes from a tree. It’s similar to Sage but unique to this part of Mexico! If you like it as much as I did, make sure to have you taxi driver stop in Tulum town at a spot called “POOL MARKET” –this this where you’ll find the rocks and insence sticks to take home as a souvenir! (they cost 5USD a pack)
Tulum’s outdoor GYM!
It’s connected to Ahau so you’ll find through Ahau’s the open heart sculpture! (right next to raw love –perfect combo!
- These are natural freshwater swimming holes where a cave ceiling has collapsed! The water is really clear as it is filtered by the earth and you can find turtles in many of them! The following are the top ones that I researched and was recoemnded. Look them up and choose one depending on what you have time for. Make sure to arrive at the opening so youre there before the rest of the crowd (Most open at 9am).
- Casa Tortuga
- Cenotes dos ojos
- Caleta Tankah
- Grand Cenote. –This is the only one we had time to experience. It was 300 pesos (15USD) to cab there from Casa Cayote (entrance was 150pesos I believe…) and overall it took 2 hours total for the experience. There were tons of baby turtles (& bats) but the caves were beautiful to swim in! It got crowded quickly because we went later than we had planned so don’t make that mistake. Make sure to bring towels and extra money for locker sand snorkel masks (unless you bring your own!)
Tulum National Park
- Located at the very start of Tulum beach (really close to Azulik!) this is where you’ll find Tulum’s pyramid ruins.
For the lazy traveller
- Your best bet it to go beach front hopping from one resort to another – they are all extremely beautiful and located next to one another.
- Beach bars – There are quite a few! (We didn’t check out many because the resorts we visited had everything we wanted).. But if you’re looking for music and more fun here are two spots to check out:
- Papaya Playa
- Taboo however note that places like this naturally overcharge because they make their money on the subbeds, so I wouldn’t recommend them unless you are in a group and would easily add up the “minimum spend” to be honest… pro tip is to bring your own speaker and spread out on the white sand!
Although Tulum is a spot where you’ll want to wake up early, every night there is a spot that’s popping! (just ask around and most people will direct you to the same place!). A few that we got to check out were:
- Gitano –picture a bar/club in a massive outdoor garden setting! With authentic designs, and seating, although we only went in for a few minutes to check it out, this spot was really cool. BUT, very expensive –There was no ocver but if we read the menu correctly, then a shot of tequila was 18USD…. LOL (Casa Cayote on the other hand has 1$ shots! Haha).
- Papaya Playa –This spot was pricey to get in (33USD pp) but it was so worth it! They had a makeup artist on site doing tribal face paint and a beach dancing area as well as tables set up on stone steps making it interesting. Think Burning man vibes… (giving creds to Idan for that reference).
Ps: if you’ve come this far, you deserve a pro tip: bring bug spray! (& sunscreen). The lush forests & hot humid weather make for a mosquito hub spot!