Tulum Travel Guide: 4 Days in Tulum

What to do in Tulum? We had heard nothing about this place until we arrived in Mexico!

It turns out that there are many exciting things to do Tulum and it is seriously idyllic! Cycling around is the best way to find explore and see as much of this beautiful town as possible.

We spent 4 days in Tulum and have put together a short guide to show you the best activities, hotels, beaches and how to get there!

Check out our mini Tulum travel guide below:

Activities in Tulum

We can guarantee that you will not be bored. Whether you are a beach bum or an avid explorer, here is our list of top things to do in Tulum to get you started!

Cycling around Tulum – Just explore!

Tulum is quite small. Equip yourself with a map, a bike, plenty of water and set off on an adventure.

Our hostel included free bikes, however there are plenty of places to hire them. We saw on the map a section where there was a thin strip of land separating the sea and a lagoon. This looked like it would be spectacular to see so off we went!

What to do in Tulum? Tulum biking!
What to do in Tulum? Grab a bike and explore

Our route around Tulum

We cycled 15km along the coast and back. This was away from the main roads so was very easy and safe. Along the way there are many beautiful hotels, boutiques and restaurants. There seemed to be a bit of an “LA vibe” around as there were many health-conscious places to eat, yoga retreats and bikini boot camp resorts! Or if you just wanted to break up your cycle, plenty of boutique cafes and super food smoothie bars.

After 15km we entered the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. This is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean.

This was free to enter on a bike and the road got very bumpy. After about 20 minutes into the reserve there was small path on the right. This led to an expansive and beautiful lagoon. The lagoon is home to a vast array of wildlife including manatees! We didn’t get to see any but there was the option of a boat excursion to go and find them. You can also take organised tours around the reserve in search of the thousand plus species of flora and fauna.

Casa Malca

On the way back, we visited the well renowned Casa Malca (and almost ran over a snake!). This had been recommended to us by a number of people and we were not let down.

The entrance to the lobby had 10ft curtains made of bridal gowns and large windows looking straight out on to the white sand beach.

We took a stroll around the hotel taking in all its quirks. Apparently, this hotel was owned by Pablo Escobar, and is now owned by his family which is why it’s a top spot for tourists to seek out.

However, you won’t find it without a map and a keen eye. Its not signposted as such; the sign is a train crossing sign and it sits between Rosa del Viento and Nomade. Just knock on the door and a lady will let you come in and take a look!

What to see in Tulum
Casa Malca Tulum

To finish off the day we stopped at one of the trendy smoothie places (Jungle Rooftop Bar). We enjoyed one of the best smoothies we have ever had while having a well-earned rest!

The Grand Cenote

On any ‘What to do in Tulum’ list you will find Cenotes. There are many to choose from, but we decided to head to the biggest, aptly name ‘The Grand Cenote’.

What is the Grand Cenote?

Much of the land in Mexico is made of limestone. This often collapses leaving behind open pools and underground cave systems of fresh water called cenotes. Many of these are now open for public entry for swimming, and some of them even offer cave diving for the more adventurous. There are plenty to choose from, but we chose the Grand Cenote as it was renowned to be particularly beautiful. So, we grabbed our bikes again and set off early to avoid the crowds.

It definitely lived up to our expectations! The water was crystal clear with small fish and terrapins swimming around. We spent an hour exploring and testing our lungs by diving deep and swimming under rock arches before leaving.

We do recommend getting there early. Entry is also free on Sundays for locals, so it’s naturally busier then. We found having less people made this a much more enjoyable and relaxing experience!

 

How much to visit the Grand Cenote?

We paid 180 Mexican pesos each for entry, 30 pesos for the locker and 80 pesos for snorkels (an absolute must have).

For more cenotes, take a look at this guide to cenotes in Cancun .

What to do in Tulum? Grand Cenote
What to do in Tulum? Swimming in crystal clear waters at The Grand Cenote

Visiting Tulum Ruins

Top on everyone’s list is visiting Tulum ruins!

The ruins are on the coast overlooking the Mayan beach. Some buildings are still well intact including the palace at the centre and temples. On many of them you can still see the decorations and the carvings. Its intriguing to imagine what life would have been like living somewhere like this!

Tulum ruins

Tulum Ruins Hours

Again, get here early because this really does get busy! The ruins open at 8am, aim to arrive at 8am at the very latest!

They are open all day until 5pm, but it can get very hot during summer so an early morning visit is best.

Tulum Ruins Entrance Fee

This cost 70 Mexican pesos for entry. We considered a guided tour, however the signposts throughout were enough for us. Each building also has an information board with all you need to know, so we enjoyed exploring at our own pace.

However, if you are a history buff and you really interested in learning Tulum ruins history, we highly recommend speaking with one of the guides and organising a Tulum ruins tour! We saw lots if groups going around and being entertained.

 

Best Beaches in Tulum

The beaches were exactly as you might expect. White sand and clear blue water. Most mornings were spent doing activities and the afternoons spent relaxing on the beach. Here is our list of the best beaches in Tulum and where to find them:

Best beaches in Tulum
What to do in Tulum? Santa Fe beach, Tulum

Mayan Beach

Also known as Playa Ruinas – this  beach can be accessed via the Mayan Ruins (near the wind temple).

The beach is beautiful, albeit quite touristy but after spending a few hours walking around the ruins is the perfect way to cool off. Bear in mind that at different times of year there can be a lot of seaweed so check in advance!

Santa Fe

Santa Fe beach can be found 5 minutes south of the Mayan Ruins.

Like all the beaches it has powdery white soft sand, beautiful turquoise sea and plenty of space to sunbathe. To find it just follow the signs for the public beach.

If you are staying at Lucky Traveller Hostel, this is where they have free (all inclusive) drinks on the beach and volleyball.

There are washroom facilities etc but you need to pay.

Playa Paraiso

This beach lives up to its name – Paradise Beach. If you come here early in the morning it is very popular with yoga lovers practising their moves as the sun rise.

As the day goes on, the beach will get busier, but due to its size you will always get plenty of space to yourself. You can finish the day at one of the nearby restaurants.

Best Beaches Near Tulum

If you are happy to travel a little further out of the centre then we recommend checking out these two beaches:

Akumal Beach

This might be your more typical commercial beach but it is still stunning. The benefit, is that it is perfect for families as everything you need is there. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and sun loungers to rent. Essentially, this place has everything you need for a full day at the beach!

You can drive here or get a taxi in half an hour from Tulum centre.

Secret Beach

We love to explore further afield which is why we ended up cycling many kilometres into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.

You will have to cycle for an hour, but Secret Beach will more than likely be empty with perfect white sand and crystal clear and calm water. Perhaps take a picnic and enjoy a romantic afternoon.

Tulum travel guide

Gay Tulum, Mexico

As a gay couple we had to ask ‘is Tulum gay friendly?’. The simple answer is yes.

We have been to Cancun, Playa Del Carmen (see gay guide to Playa Del Carmen), Cozumel (see travel guide to Cozumel) and Tulum along the coast and felt very welcome as a gay couple with no problems. This is in part due to the vast number of tourists and their reliance on the tourism industry.

Gay Bars in Tulum

Tulum does not have a huge party scene like Playa Del Carmen or Cancun (the biggest party scene). However Tulum does have one gay bar called Fruity Cocktail Bar. We have not been but you can check out their Facebook page here.

Tulum Gay Beach

There is no gay beach in Tulum (but of course you are welcome at any beach).

The nearest ‘official’ gay beach can be found in the north end of Playa Del Carmen – see details here.

Where to stay in Tulum?

This depends on your budget. There are endless boutique hotels and all-inclusive resorts along the coast, as well as mentioned above yoga retreats etc. However, for us as long-term travellers, we needed to be a little more budget conscious. And so we chose Lucky Traveller Hostel – the first all-inclusive hostel in the world. However, here are some options for all budgets:

Lucky Traveller All Inclusive Hostel – Budget

For £30 each per night we had a private room with an en suite and air conditioning. And best of all -all meals and unlimited drinks included. Yes, this even included alcohol!

The hostel had a pool, a basic fitness area, a real movie theatre, large lounge area and free bikes to use, perfect for cycling around Tulum. It was ideally located opposite the Mayan ruins, less than 10-minute cycle to the beach, 30-minute cycle to the grand cenote and 20-minute cycle to the centre of Tulum. The all-inclusive even stretched to the beach. There was a little shack where a hostel worker served snacks and drinks whilst you are working on your tan.

Lucky Traveller was great value for money and we would definitely recommend it if travelling on a budget!

TATA Tulum – Mid-High End

TATA Tulum is a luxurious adults-only beachfront hotel in the centre of Tulum.

The property has 7 towers each with 3 levels and many different room types including Garden View, Ocean Front Deluxe or even a Jungle view!

Colibri Boutique Hotels – High End

The Colibri Boutique Hotels have a total of 4 hotels in Tulum, all of which are stunning.

These include La Zebra, Mi Amor, Mezzanine and El Pez. Each one has won awards from Tripadvisor and you can expect nothing but the best.

We stayed in the fifth hotel in Nicaragua, Little Corn Island and have nothing but good things to say about this hotel group. If you are planning a honeymoon or a special occasion. Any one of these is the place to stay.

What to see in Tulum

How to get to Tulum, Mexico

Tulum is easily accessible given it has become such a popular tourist destination. Here are your options for getting to Tulum from around Mexico:

How to get to Tulum from Cancun

There are three different options to choose from:

Shuttle from Cancun Airport to Tulum

This is the cheapest option and very straightforward. We suggest using Hoppa as they search for the cheapest deals from different companies.

For a shared shuttle you can expect to pay $30 per person one way. A private shuttle for 3 people will cost around $100 so if there are a few of you, this may be the best option.

Travel time should be around 95 minutes.

Taxi from Cancun Airport to Tulum

You can just get a taxi on arrival and the price should still be around $100 for 1-4 people. However, if you want to avoid haggling perhaps just book a shuttle in advance.

Travel time should be around 95 minutes.

Bus from Cancun to Tulum

The main bus company is called the ADO bus. We used this a lot to move around in Mexico and found them easy to use.

For this journey you would need to change at Playa Del Carmen and get on a second bus. This is not ideal after a long flight but can work out to be the cheapest option.

Check the ADO website online for the best prices

How to get to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen

For this journey we suggest that you just use the ADO bus. You could also haggle with a taxi driver but the bus is perfectly comfortable and cheap.

If you want to go really cheap you can jump on a local ‘Chicken bus’ for a few dollars but not with any luggage – you will struggle with this option if you do not speak Spanish.

What to do in Tulum?
What to do in Tulum? Follow that dream – great advice on the road in Tulum

We didn’t know much about Tulum before we arrived, but we are very glad we went! It seems to be becoming more and more popular so make sure to get yourself down there before it gets too touristy!

The rest of the Riviera Maya and Cancun has plenty to offer. Make sure you check out:

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This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. julie smith

    very good description guys, and helpful to holidaymakers and travellers alike.

  2. Denny George

    The place sounds like an absolute beach paradise, and I’m immediately adding swimming in a Cenote to my bucket list.

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      You must! Could not believe how clear it was and that they had terrapins in!

  3. Fairuz

    You guys are adorable 🙂 and Tulum looks incredible. I’m sure 4 days there went by very quickly. Swimming in the Grand Cenote must be quite an experience (who can resist that crystal clear water?). It’s great that in Tulum there’s plenty of options as far as accommodations go. Like you guys, I also have to be conscious about my budget, and it sounds like Lucky Traveller Hostel is great value for money.

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      Thanks Fairuz! Lucky was a good find and really good location. Could have spent all day in the Cenotote, was seriously relaxing!

  4. Postcard Stories

    What a great adventure! And the color of the water… I believe the views while snorkeling were wonderful.

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      They really are – we also dived in Cozumel which is coming out soon!

  5. Eric Gamble

    This is awesome guys. Darcee & I are trying to get down there this coming fall and I am bookmarking this post to remind me of all the cool things. Obviously it is on our bucket list to see the mayan ruins but I have it on my bucket list to swim in the cenotes too! So it looks like you found the best way to do it. It looks like the best bet to make this all happen is Lucky Traveller since they offer a central location, great amenities (FREE FOOD & BOOZE..hell Yeah!) and best of all, the bikes to get you around! Love the price point too!
    Very cool that you found Casa Malca too!

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      Casa Malca was hard to find, we had the help of some other travellers. Would recommend lucky, we were really impressed!

  6. WhodoIdo

    I need to go back to Mexico! We were in Mexico years ago and only got the chance to see the ruins in Tulum. Seriously looks like paradise there, clear warm water, turquoise waters and soft white sand. We’ve snorkelled in the cenote but would love to dive there. We didn’t manage to scuba dive last time as it was a little pricey. Great to know that there’s many boutique hotels around Tulum, however I’m liking the sound of the Lucky Traveller Hostel. An all inclusive hostel! Amazing!

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      It made life so easy, not to have to think about food or how much it costs, just help yourself 🙂

  7. Ella

    Tulum is definitely on my bucket-list! Until I’d read this post, I didn’t know there were Mayan ruins in Tulum and thought of it just as a ‘chill on the beach’ destination. Definitely looks like there’s a lot to do and explore. You’re right about it getting more popular. I’d honestly never heard of it until like a week ago and now this is the 4th account of a trip to Tulum I have seen – that’s right, in just 1 week!

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      I know, once you start searching for something it always keep coming up! Must be a sign for you to go!

  8. Cristina

    I’d love to visit Mexico and those waters look so blue! Cycling is a great way to explore too

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      For us, cycling is the best, its cheap, easy going and you get a tan!

  9. Barry

    I’ve never been to Tulum but it looks like a hip sort of place. Must admit I’m a fan of beaches and the beaches there look great! Will have to check it out one day.

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      Definitively – we already want to go back!

  10. Karen

    An excellent review, just makes me want to be there.

  11. Chris Blachut

    An all-inclusive hostel?! No way. How was the food? Was it good enough that you didn’t feel tempted to eat elsewhere, or a bit tiresome by the end?
    Thanks for the info. As an ex-hostel owner myself, I’m super intrigued. Gotta check this out.

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      It was surprisingly good actually. Enough to choose from and enough to eat healthily!

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