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:
- 1 Activities in Tulum
- 2 Cycling around Tulum – Just explore!
- 3 The Grand Cenote
- 4 Visiting Tulum Ruins
- 5 Best Beaches in Tulum
- 6 Best Beaches Near Tulum
- 7 Gay Tulum, Mexico
- 8 Where to stay in Tulum?
- 9 How to get to Tulum, Mexico
- 10 How to get to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen
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!
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.
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!
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 .
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 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:
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Like this post? Don’t forget to pin it for later!
Note: This post has affiliate links. You won’t get charged any extra for using the link but we will receive a small commission for each referral. Please note, all opinions are still our own. You are not obligated to use the link but we appreciate it if you do. Thanks.