A lot of different elements come into play when planning the best vacation, and I’ve found that doing a little research beforehand can go a long way in making sure that your trip is 100% everything you want it to be. Here I’m rounding up my favorite tips for how to have the best Tulum trip!
find an affordable flight:
First things first! Get started off on the right foot by finding an affordable flight out of your city. Peak season in Tulum is technically December through April, so you still might have some luck finding cheap flights during the summer months. I booked my flight a little over a week in advance for only $201, taxes included, through American Airlines. Just keep an eye out for good deals!
get a great home base:
In Tulum, the hotel scene is all about small, boutique hotels. Most of the places keep in tune with Tulum’s rustic beach flair, so if you’re into that, you’ll love it. Note that a lot of the hotels are eco-friendly or completely green, which means limited electric amenities (no mini-fridge) and sometimes limited A/C. Pick a spot that fits your budget, but also your style; this is the one area I semi-splurged in, and it was worth it because staying at Piedra Escondida set the mood for the rest of my trip! Here are my top choices:
- Posada Yum Kin – super affordable // free breakfast // not on the beach so you’ll need taxis or bikes
- Playa Esperanza – affordable to mid range // bungalow style // beachside but away from the lively party scene // outdoor bathrooms
- Piedra Escondida – mid range // free breakfast // private beach // nighttime AC // incredible staff
- Cabañas Tulum – mid range // bungalow style // spacious beach // 24/7 AC
- La Zebra – splurge worthy // beautiful property with restaurant and bar // central location and pretty beachfront
- Ana y Jose – central beach strip location // modern ocean view rooms // upscale spa environment
decide how you’ll get there:
There are a few different ways to get to Tulum from the Cancun airport, so I definitely recommend getting cost estimates before you go, so that you have a base to negotiate from. I took the ADO bus from the airport all the way to Tulum for only $8. The trip takes about 2 hours and makes a stop in Playa del Carmen, but the bus is air-conditioned and super comfortable. From the bus station in Tulum you can grab a taxi for $4-7 to the beach strip. As an added bonus, the currency exchange spot right outside the bus station offers a much better exchange rate than the airport. Here are a few transportation cost estimates to get you started:
make time for the beach:
One of the best parts about Tulum is the fantastic beach. White sand and turquoise waters are all around you, so block off a part of each day to spend time just relaxing on the beach. I bought a book just before my trip and spent some pretty glorious hours reading and sipping margaritas right by the ocean. My hotel had a wonderful private beach, so I spent a good amount of time there, but there are plenty of hotels and restaurants that open up their prime beach property to paying customers. Some great spots to relax and drink your worries away include:
- Playa Paraiso – affordable // lots of space // beds for rent
- Ziggy Beach Club – good food // varied seating and beds // live music some nights
- La Zebra – mid to expensive drinks // fantastic beach // good atmosphere
- Mia – big beach space // variety of shaded/unshaded areas // food is a bit pricey
- Gitano Beach – same owners as the restaurant // semi private beach area // loungers, beds, and tables
go the road less-traveled:
There are plenty of touristy things to do in Tulum, but going the less-traveled route means smaller crowds and better prices. If you visit Dos Ojos Cenote Park, make sure you also see the less popular cenotes! You may even find yourself completely alone, like I did. The Coba ruins are also beautiful and less frequented by tourists than the Tulum ruins or Chichen Itza. If you have time, explore the Sian Ka’an biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you’ll find Mayan ruins, a beautiful lagoon, and a large variety of flora and fauna. Make sure to purchase bio-degradable sunscreen and bug spray, because it’s required at most Tulum attractions in order to protect the environment.
explore the food:
Tulum’s history and its proximity to the ocean make for some pretty magnificent cuisine. If you like seafood, you’re in the right place. Ceviche is a pretty safe bet anywhere you go, but don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone! On my last day, I had super delicious, but also super cheap tacos in the town center. Tip: If you see locals eating there, it’s probably authentic and it’s probably cheap! Here are my top must-try spots:
- Tacos La Chiapaneca – considered one of the best taco spots in tulum // very affordable
- Burrito Amor – fast casual // affordable, filling, and health conscious options // great atmosphere
- Mateo’s Bar and Grill – inexpensive local options // 2 X 1 happy hour // live music some nights
- ARCA – beautiful atmosphere in the jungle // creative dishes and great service
- Posada Margherita – delicious handmade pasta // beachside shabby chic // instagram famous
- Cenzontle – romantic candlelit atmosphere // mexican fusion cuisine // jungleside
- Rosa Negra – large, welcoming bohemian space // seafood and steak oriented // big late night (fun) club crowd
- Casa Banana – open air jungle space // great cocktails and argentinian cuisine // a bit trendy, sometimes there’s a wait
- Gitano Tulum – trendy jungle lounge // great people watching and unique food and drink offerings
- Mezzanine – this is technically a hotel but they have a fantastic restaurant/deck for sunset drinks
make a general itinerary:
Before I left, I made a general itinerary of what I wanted to do or see each day. Even if I didn’t stick to it exactly, it helped me realistically plan what I could fit into a day. I would recommend planning 1-2 attractions (ruins, cenotes, etc.), 1-2 places to eat, and some beach time. This should optimize your time without wearing you out. Keep in mind travel times to and from attractions that are further away, and don’t forget to factor in the sometimes unbearable heat.
leave time for a surprise adventure:
After you’ve made your itinerary, leave a chunk of time unplanned for each day. You never know when an exciting opportunity might come up. My unplanned chunk of time ended up turning into one of the best days of my trip! This unplanned period will also give you a little bit of wiggle room or, worst case scenario, some extra beach time.
Tulum is chock-full of activities and things to see, no matter what kind of traveler you are. However, Tulum’s biggest draws are its beautiful beaches, the fascinating history, and its incredible food. With a little research and negotiating power under your belt, you’ll be beach bumming it in no time and having the best Tulum trip. Happy Travels!
// this post was updated august 2021