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Tulum: Our tips for beaches, cenotes and restaurants

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Tulum in Mexico is the prime example of what we would call a hype. On our travels we have never had the feeling that tourism in one place is so dominated by “Instagram hotspots” as in Tulum. Lists of the best photo spots, the most photogenic smoothie bowls and the “most instagrammable” cocktails are circulating on the internet. The fact that Tulum has undergone such a development in terms of tourism naturally has both advantages and disadvantages. Small spoiler: the advantages (still) outweigh the disadvantages.

In our blog article we show you what to expect on a vacation in Tulum. And of course we reveal our best tips for your trip. At the end of the article you will find a map, in which we have drawn all the highlights for you.

1. Tulum on the Riviera Maya: This awaits you Let’s start with what Tulum is all about: the paradisiacal Caribbean beaches. The sand on the coast is wonderfully light, fine and soft – ahh. You just want to walk around barefoot all day long.

Speaking of the beach. Which brings us to the next important point: Tulum is divided in two. It consists of Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach. Tulum Pueblo is the name of the town center. This is located inland, about five kilometers from the beach. Here are the cheaper accommodations and restaurants. The main road going north (Playa del Carmen) and south (Bacalar) also passes through this centre. Idyllic looks different – the town center is not a jewel. Tulum Beach describes the hotel zone along the coast, which consists solely of one long street. This is where the upscale hotels, shops and restaurants are located.

The accommodations and boutiques in Tulum Beach look like strapped out of a boho-hippie Instagram feed. Excessive emphasis is placed on aesthetics here. (Too) often one forgets that one is actually in Mexico. Tulum has developed into the in-destination of “high society” and you can see that in the price level: A dress for 500 U.S. dollar? Dinner for 140 U.S. dollar? Stay for 600 U.S. dollar? Everything included! Of course, these examples are not representative of all of Tulum. But it is certain that the price level is really high, especially in Tulum Beach.

Also good to know: There is a Maya site in Tulum, which is known for its stunning location right on the coast. So if you plan little time for culture, you can at least dive into the history of Mexico in Tulum without having to drive far. But we have to be honest: Compared to other sites, the ruins of Tulum are rather unspectacular – apart from the location on the beach.

How long should I stay in Tulum? Tulum was the first stop on our 3 week road trip through Yucatán. And in retrospect, we would head straight back to Tulum first. Why? Tulum is very touristy. Especially when you are in Mexico for the first time – like us – you have your doubts. And you put them off immediately in Tulum, we can assure you of that.

We ourselves were 4 nights in Tulum. For us personally, this period was ideal. We’re definitely not the type of person you meet at the beach all day. Since we did a lot, we could easily fill the three full days. There wasn’t much time to laze on the beach. So if you really want to switch off for a few days and but also want to go on excursions, then it is best to stay longer in Tulum.

The best travel time for Tulum Although you can visit Mexico and Tulum all year round, the months from November/December to April/May are considered the ideal travel time. During this period there is a dry season. The humidity is then not quite as high, it rains little and the temperatures are pleasantly warm.

The counterpart to the dry season is the rainy season, which runs from May/June to October. Significantly more precipitation falls during this period. Hurricane season also occurs during the rainy season, with the highest chance of a hurricane occurring between August and October. But don’t worry: Dramatic hurricanes are rare on the Yucatán Peninsula.

We ourselves were in the Yucatán between late November and mid-December. Our trip showed once again that the weather doesn’t always stick to the climate forecasts. We had a few rainy days. One or two heavy downpours also fell in Tulum. What we want to say: You are never on the safe side with the weather in the tropics.

2. Beaches in Tulum Tulum is blessed with miles of coastline. The beaches you can choose from are correspondingly long. The sand is very light and soft, and the sea is azure blue when the sun is shining. Although one hotel follows the next in some sections, there are no hotel bunkers and the beach doesn’t really seem overcrowded.

If you stay in one of the hotels in Tulum Beach, then you will you probably spend most of the time at the hotel beach. If you are coming from Tulum Pueblo, then you have two options: Either you just look for a nice spot (with a bit of luck in the shade of a tree) or you treat yourself to a lounger in one of the beach clubs. Coco Tulum or Ziggy’s Beach Club, for example, are very well-known and popular.

Since we’re not the type of person to laze on the beach all day anyway, we have it made us comfortable for a few hours directly on the beach. Our two beach favorites were the following:

Playa Paraíso This stretch of beach translates as “paradise beach” and is quite a way north (though still south of the Tulum ruins). Playa Paraíso is a quite wide, long sandy beach, which is relatively undeveloped. If you walk north along the beach (to Playa Maya or Playa Santa Fe), you can even catch a glimpse of the ruins of Tulum in the distance.

It’s a bit difficult to find public access. We ourselves (illegally) gained access by walking through a campsite. But there is also an access between Playa Paraíso and Playa Maya, where there are even a few parking spaces. We simply parked our car along the main street.

Beach next to Azulik Hotel We originally just wanted to take a look at the unusual eco-hotel called Azulik and unexpectedly ended up at a really nice one stretch of beach. The beach resembles a bay and is very comfortable. There isn’t a lot to do, but if you want to enjoy a few hours on the beach in peace, this is the place for you. The access is quite hidden directly on the main road at the level of Punta Piedra.

Important: Seagrass along the Riviera Maya in Mexico If you’re thinking of going to Mexico, you’ve probably already stumbled across the seaweed theme. Until a few years ago, this problem was not really an issue in the region. Unfortunately, the situation has worsened dramatically in the last one to two years.

Explanation: What is seaweed and where does it come from? Seaweed (also Sargassum or “Seaweed” in English) is a genus of brown algae. In principle, seaweed washing up on the beaches of Mexico is not unusual, especially in the warmer summer months. In the last year or two, however, the situation has spiraled out of control. In some months, tons of seaweed were washed up on the shore every day . Swimming in the sea was (and is) sometimes hardly possible because the seaweed carpets make it impossible to get through.

Of course the question arises, how did such a tragedy come about (and still does)? During our trip to Mexico, we never missed an opportunity to ask local people about it. The answer is all the more sobering: it has not been fully clarified. That the problem is due to climate change or at least to environmental sins is beyond question. The warmer the water, the sooner the seaweed can apparently multiply.

We also did our own research. The American food industry appears to be partly to blame. Excess fertilizers and toxic substances are washed into surrounding rivers and end up in the Gulf of Mexico. There is an excess of nutrients and nitrates, which contributes to the proliferation of seaweed. We are not experts, but we assume that the magnitude of the disaster is the result of many different factors.

Does seaweed interfere with a beach vacation? Although the situation is dramatic, we would like to calm things down a bit: Seaweed is (fortunately) not washed up all the time. During our trip (November and December ) only high mountains of dry seagrass and very narrow strips of seagrass reminded of the problem in Tulum – as you can see on the photos. We had no problem going swimming in the sea. Only the stench was a bit disturbing, because seaweed smells very unpleasant.

However, we have read completely different reports, because in some months the situation must have been really intense. Visually alone, of course, it makes a difference whether you are looking at an azure blue sea or almost only see carpets of algae in front of you. If you book a hotel on the beach, we recommend that you ask the hotel directly. The more expensive the hotel, the greater the chance that the beach is regularly cleared of seaweed.

If you’d like to know how a specific one beach, then we have another tip for you. Daily updates and photos from different beaches along the Riviera Maya are posted in this Facebook group: Facebook group “Sargasso Seaweed Updates Riviera Maya”.

3. Cenotes near Tulum The mysterious subterranean freshwater pools can be found throughout the Yucatán . Cenotes (or cenotes) are limestone caves filled with crystal clear water. Those around Tulum are very easy to reach and are therefore real magnets for visitors. If you want to visit one or the other cenote, we recommend that you get there first thing in the morning. In the afternoon there are many Cenotes hopelessly overcrowded. If you do want to come in the afternoon, then consider that many cenotes are already closed at 15 or 17 Close clock.

Gran Cenote The Gran Cenote (often also called Grand Cenote) is something of a classic among the cenotes around Tulum. We were there in the afternoon – our mistake! At this time, the facility resembles an amusement park. There were countless people on site and the noise level was correspondingly high.

Before you can climb the stairs down to the cenote, you have to take a full shower (even your hair has to be wet). This serves to protect flora and fauna and is also checked on site by two watchers. The water is crystal clear and wonderfully refreshing. However, diving is not possible, the water is far too shallow for that. On a large meadow you can rest after swimming and soak up some sun.

In view of the many people, it is a miracle that we managed to take a photo without any people at all. Our tip: Come in the morning, then you can enjoy this beautiful place in peace. Do not miss: In a separate area you can watch turtles.

Information about visiting the Gran Cenote Address: On the Tulum to Cobá road ( on the right), about 5 kilometers outside of Tulum
Arrival: From Tulum Pueblo by car (approx. 5 minutes) or by bike (approx. 15 minutes), free parking is availableEntry: 300 pesos per person; Snorkeling equipment and lockers cost extra (all were taken during our visit)

Cenote Carwash A slightly different cenote, but well worth seeing is Cenote Carwash (rarely called Cenote Aktun Ha). To a layperson, the cenote looks more like a small lake. It is not a classic cave-like cenote and therefore not as spectacular as other cenotes. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s wonderful to swim in. Apparently there is even a small (apparently harmless) crocodile living here, but we didn’t see it.

Information about visiting Cenote Carwash Address: On the Tulum to Cobá road (on the left ), about 8 kilometers outside of Tulum
Getting there: From Tulum Pueblo by car (approx. 10 minutes) or by bike (approx. 20 minutes), free parking is available

Entry: 100 Pesos per person

Cenote Calavera The third cenote we visited is called Cenote Calavera. Of all the above, it is the least suitable for swimming and snorkeling. The reason: it is very dark downstairs and hundreds bats are buzzing all over the cave. In addition, the water – at least during our visit – wasn’t really clear.

The cenote offers something special for this: With a bit of courage you can go into a small hole jump in the ground and land a few meters below in the basin of the cenote. The cenote is also very popular with divers. We were there first thing in the morning at 9 and were the only visitors together with another couple.

Information on visiting Cenote Calavera Address: On the Tulum to Cobá road (on the right side), about 2 kilometers outside of Tulum

How to get there: From Tulum Pueblo by car (approx. 5 minutes) or by bike (approx. 15 minutes), free parking is available
Entry: 250 Pesos per person

4. Mayan Sites in Tulum and Surroundings Maya Ruins of Tulum No Mayan site in the Yucatán can match this spectacular clifftop location keep up. In our opinion, a visit to the ruins of Tulum should not be missed. Architecturally, there are more impressive ruins in the Yucatán. But that doesn’t matter, because the focus here is definitely on the extraordinary scenery.

The visit to the ruins takes place along a kind of circular route. We recommend you to plan about 1.5 hours for it. You can go swimming down at the beach, so don’t forget your bathing suit if you want to. What you should know: Due to the proximity of the ruins to Tulum on the one hand, but above all to Playa del Carmen, they are a tourist magnet par excellence. So getting up early is the order of the day.

Tips for visiting the Mayan site from Tulum to avoid the crowds
Come early! The site opens at 8 a.m. – we were there just before 8 a.m. At this time of day, the area is reasonably quiet, at least for a short time. From about It’s getting crowded! Don’t come on Sunday! Mexicans have free entry on this day of the week and you can expect Sunday to be even busier than other days. Information on visiting the Mayan site of Tulum Entry: 90 pesos

Getting there: approx. 11 minutes by car from Tulum Pueblo or depending on the location 5-30 Minutes from Tulum BeachParking: approx. 100 Pesos (You have to park a bit away from the ticket office and the rest of the way – approx. 5-10 Minutes – walk. Attention: Apparently excessive prices are now being charged for parking. 100 Pesos are a good guide. It shouldn’t cost much more.)

Cobá Ruins If you prefer to visit a more remote ruin site from Tulum, then we recommend Cobá. These Mayan ruins are located inland and surrounded by jungle.

It’s a shame: until recently you could climb the highest pyramid (“Nohoch Mul”). This is up to date (as of November 2021) no longer allowed. The whole thing was a bit adventurous because the ruins are very steep. We would even say that climbing the Nohoch Mul Pyramid in Cobá was the most dizzying of our Yucatán trip.

In case it might be allowed to climb the pyramid again someday , a great distant view over the jungle awaits you at the top. Be careful when descending, because you tend to look down too often and this can quickly throw you off balance. Sideways or backwards you are more sure-footed and for safety there is also a rope, that you can hold on to. Double caution is required when it rains (as was the case with us), because the stones are then very slippery.

The terrain of the ruins of Cobá is very extensive, which is why very few people explore foot. Therefore, shortly after the entrance, there is the option of either renting you a bike or letting a driver guide you on a cycle rickshaw. We chose the latter. Will be paid afterwards. The advantage of the cycle rickshaw variant: You don’t have to worry about orientation, because the driver naturally knows where to go and will automatically take you to the highlights.

It’s definitely not worth seeing only the great pyramid but also the small ruins. For your visit you should plan at least two hours on site . We took the rickshaw for a good 1.5 hours and ended up exploring the ruins near the entrance on foot. Cobá may not be an insider tip, but the rush of visitors is fairly limited, especially compared to the ruins of Tulum.

Information on visiting the ruins of Cobá Entry: 90 pesos Transport on site: preferably with a cycle rickshaw and driver (140 Pesos per hour) or by bike (both rental stations just after the entrance)Arrival: approx. 60 minutes by car from Tulum Pueblo, alternatively by bus (ADO)Parking: 45 Pesos (There is a large parking lot with barriers at the entrance.)

5. Restaurants and cafés in Tulum: Our tips With the large selection of restaurants and cafes in Tulum, it’s easy to lose track. The good news: there is something for every taste and every budget. Since Tulum is very popular with expats, you will also find plenty of options apart from Mexican cuisine.

Matcha Mama The small hut right on the main street of Tulum Beach has developed into a Instagram hotspot in recent years . We only became aware of this when – while we were enjoying our Açai Bowl – we witnessed several (sometimes questionable) photo shoots within a very short time.

Nevertheless, Matcha Mama is worth a visit. Freshly squeezed juices, smoothies and of course smoothie bowls are served here. Since everything is freshly prepared, it takes a little longer than usual, but that doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, space is very limited. There are only six swings in total and a few stools that you can sit on.

Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila (= Beach Road), Kilometer 8.2

Prices: Açai Bowl approx. 200 Pesos, Green Smoothie approx. 80 Pesos

Hartwood Hartwood is currently one of the trendiest restaurants in all of Tulum. This means people are queuing up to eat here and without a reservation you have little chance of getting a seat. Why the restaurant has experienced such incredible hype is not entirely clear to us after our visit.

The food is delicious, no question. We ate very well. However, the price level is really excessive. The two of us have about 90 Paid in euros (including tip). But we still looked at the money quite a bit and, for example, only shared a starter and a main course with a side dish. Unfortunately, there is no classic menu. Instead, the waiter brings a large board and explains the daily specials. Unfortunately, there are only a few vegetarian dishes, mostly fish and meat dishes. Our summary: The food is really delicious, but whether it’s worth the money, we’ll put it there.

Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila (= Beach Road), km 7.6 Prices: Cocktails approx. 200 pesos, meals between 350 and 700 pesos s

Del Cielo Del Cielo is a fairly hyped breakfast spot in Tulum Pueblo. The menu is very extensive: everything is offered from avocado toast to porridge and granola. The dishes were delicious. There are plenty of fresh smoothies and juices to drink, as well as good coffee. Del Cielo was quite busy when we visited, so we found the atmosphere a bit too hectic and the noise level a little too loud. It’s almost too dim inside for us personally, but it’s very nice to sit outside in the inner courtyard.

Address : Avenida Satélite Sur 5, 77780 Tulum (Tulum Pueblo)

Prices: Superbowl (vegan with coconut yoghurt) 200 Pesos

El Asadero The El Asadero is actually a popular steak restaurant, but there was also enough choice for us as vegetarians. It was recommended to us by our hotel staff. The prices are fair, the ambience is more international, and the staff is very friendly. We are greeted with nachos with five different dips. Conclusion: Very solid and definitely recommendable.

Address: Avenida Satélite Norte, 77780 Tulum (Tulum Pueblo)Prices: approx. 250 Pesos for 2 dishes and 2 Corona

6. Staying the night in Tulum: Our tips We spent a total of four nights at the Hotel Biwa Tulum. It is in Tulum Pueblo and therefore not on the beach. (We’ll get to the pros and cons of Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach in a moment.) We would have imagined the Biwa Tulum to be a bit smaller, but we still felt very comfortable. The rooms are huge (even though we had a standard double room) and the bed is very comfortable.

The Roof terrace is great. Breakfast is also served there, which we personally found in need of improvement. The selection was quite modest, so on the third day we ended up at the nearby Art Club. The employees in the entire house were all the more friendly and extremely accommodating. There is also a pool in the inner courtyard, which we didn’t test. You can also borrow free bicycles . Overall: Very good value for money and ideally located if you want to stay in Tulum Pueblo.

Here you can book the hotel: Biwa Tulum

Where to stay: Tulum Pueblo or Tulum Beach? Most hotels are either in Tulum Pueblo (ie in town) or along located down the street in Tulum Beach. Of course, the question arises as to where is the best place to stay. Let’s summarize the advantages and disadvantages.

Staying in Tulum Pueblo ( Downtown) Downtown Tulum isn’t a gem, but we’re very comfortable felt. It consists of a large main street with quite a lot of traffic and a few side streets laid out in a checkerboard pattern. Tulum Pueblo is definitely the more authentic area to stay in.

The price level of accommodation in the city center is lower. That’s not to say there aren’t nice hotels here, but the value for money is better and you usually get more for your money. The restaurants are also generally cheaper.

The fact that you are here in the town center has both advantages and disadvantages in our opinion. The biggest disadvantage is of course that you have about 10 by car (or 10-20 minutes by bike) from the beach. So a quick leisurely stroll from your room to the beach in the evening is not an option.

If you are traveling by car, then you should know that the parking situation in Tulum Beach is a catastrophe, since you are now almost no longer allowed to park on the street just like that. That used to be the case, but now you can find the traffic sign with the crossed-out “E” almost everywhere, which means something like “no parking”. Unfortunately, we were mostly on the road by car and often regretted it very much. You’ll probably be faster by bike in the end.

Tulum Beach Tulum Beach consists, so to speak, solely of a long road that stretches for several kilometers the coast meanders. However, one should not imagine the road to be too romantic, because there is unexpectedly much traffic and the road condition is catastrophic in some sections.

The biggest advantage of Tulum Beach is of course that you are here located near the beach. You don’t have to think about what to pack for your beach day during the day because you’re not far from your room anyway. So if beach vacation is your focus, you had better choose Tulum Beach.

The main downside of Tulum Beach is the price level. Some of the hotels are extremely overpriced. This means that you have to dig deep into your pocket for a certain standard. Incidentally, the same applies to the restaurants, although in our opinion the price difference for accommodation is more striking.

We would also like to add that Tulum Beach is really very touristy and the entire street with all its shops and restaurants is purely geared towards tourism. Anyway, even if you’re staying in Tulum Beach, it makes sense that you borrow a bike.

Conclusion: Where to stay? If you you can and want to afford or if you are coming to Tulum for a beach holiday, then choose Tulum Beach. If you’d rather live in an authentic area and don’t want to break the bank, Tulum Pueblo is a better choice.

7. Transport in Tulum If you don’t want to spend the whole time in your hotel, then you can hardly avoid a means of transport. Many excursion destinations can only be reached by bike and/or car. In addition, Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach are quite a distance from each other.

Bike Many hotels offer free bike rental for their guests. Otherwise there are also some shops where you can borrow bikes. The price for one day is approximately 100 pesos. You can cycle to many places from both Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach, including the Tulum Ruins and some cenotes. The advantage of riding a bike is that you don’t have to worry about parking (this is especially true at Tulum Beach).

Automobile We ourselves were traveling the whole time by car, which we picked up immediately after our arrival at the airport in Cancún. For further destinations the car is the best choice – for example, you can easily reach distant destinations like Cobá. The car is also ideal for heading to the cenotes.

Nevertheless, we would definitely only recommend a car as the only means of transport if you are going on a real road trip through the Yucatán right away and therefore have it with you anyway. The reason: The parking situation on some sections of Tulum Beach Road is more than problematic. Most of the car parks belong to hotels, where of course only hotel guests are allowed to park. There are a few larger paid parking lots, but they’re outrageously expensive (and other than that, sadly, there aren’t many). Parking along the street is forbidden almost everywhere (you can recognize the parking ban by the traffic sign with the crossed-out “E”).

Taxi Of course, you can get from A to B very comfortably by taxi. The prices are fair: depending on how far away your destination is, you pay about for the distance between Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Beach until 150 pesos. Important: The price will be negotiated before the trip.

Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever been to Tulum? If yes, what was your impression? Do you have any other tips for Tulum – then we look forward to your comments. Many Thanks!