Everyone and their mom has been to Tulum lately! It’s definitely the “it” place of the last couple years, like Chefchaouen. We actually flew into Cancun and were coming here to explore Merida and the Yucatan but since Tulum was so close, I talked Ben into going for a couple days to recover from jetlag before we headed to Merida. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. We stayed just two and half days so I can’t tell you too much but will give a few tips for Tulum based on what I did do there.
Tips for Tulum & Intro to the Town
Tulum is a beach town on the Carribean coast, so you can expect perfect clear turquoise water, white sand, and the most amazing picturesque views. What used to be a small fishing town is now a tourist hotspot and not just touristy like Cancun, but kind of like a “cool kids” place where it seems rich bohemian vibe people (mostly American and Canadian) come to hang out. It’s not big high rise resorts but instead perfectly designed boho-chic eco places serving match and kombucha (two things I still haven’t tried). They are all the cutest thatched roof and upcycled properties with shops selling stunning homewares, dream-catchers, and dresses.
Getting Around Tulum
Getting around is either by car or bike – but no Uber here. We had a rental car. This made it easy to go from town, where we were staying, to the beach 10 minutes away but parking was a pain. There is basically one main road there that has everything on it. One side is the beach and the other is all jungle vibes. You can only park at the place you are going to actually eat at and there is security at all the lots but each one only has like 3 spaces. There are people on bicycles on the road and it does have a little “traffic”.
You can look for rental cars with this link if you want. It’s who we booked through – a site that compares all the big companies. I literally hate searching for rental cars online!
Getting a local SIM card in Tulum/Mexico
We like to have local sim cards when we travel, even though I also traveled with a WiFi device. The best signal is meant to be from TelCel, so that’s what we got. You have to go to a phone shop to buy the SIM then you can recharge it at OXXO and loads of other shops. You DO need to register the SIM once you get it or after about 10 days, they will deactivate it.
It was $8 for the SIM itself which comes with 100 MB. To add credit we did a plan that was 500 pesos ($27) for 1500 MB data and unlimited call and text for a month. If you are from the UK with a “Three” SIM card, you can just use your own phone in Mexico. Not sure if USA plans allow this.
Where to stay in Tulum
When I started looking for hotels on the beach, I gave up when I saw that most were over $300 and were “eco” meaning no TV, no AC, and some no WiFi. We had heard the food and drinks were expensive so decided to save on accommodation and Airbnb in town. We had a rental car and it was just 10 minutes to the beach – in the end, this worked out really well and I highly recommend doing this.
We paid $30/night for our place which was a one bedroom apartment with parking, A/C, WiFi, and a security guy. I’ll share some photos so you can see, but I highly recommend this apartment. When we were at lunch at Le Zebra, the first place we tried, they had some beach huts that looked cute and similar to the upscale ones you’d get in Goa (like Anahata). I asked the waiter at the restaurant how much they were per night and he said $600 USD.
By the way, Airbnb is offering $40 off a booking of $75 or more right now – if you set up a new account with this link. It’s a referral link which also gives me Airbnb credit. You can set up your own referral link, too – you don’t have to be a blogger! Almost all Airbnb’s in Tulum are in town, not at the beach. Here is the exact Airbnb we stayed at.
My friend from Goa, Natti (Tia’s mom) just built a beautiful house in Tulum town called Casa Purusha that she is renting on Airbnb. It’s literally stunning. It’s a 4 bedroom (two kings, two queens) with four bathrooms so if you’re a group or want a big place, I highly recommend it. You can ride a bike to the beach here in 10 minutes, so no need for a rental car which is nice. They also offer optional things like yoga, personal chef, cleaner, etc. It’s currently priced at $170 a night (although it’s off-season and will be higher in peak season) which for Tulum, is cheap as chips, plus she’s a friend and I can vouch it’s a kick-ass place. Click here to see more photos and information on her Airbnb listing.
Budgeting in Tulum
I mean, Tulum is awesome but the rates are wild compared to even 10 minutes away in town. For example, a little taco shack known for cheap food sold one small bottle of water for 50 pesos ($2.60). In town, we went to the most famous taco place and got two bottles of water and six tacos for 90 pesos ($4.70 for our whole meal). You just have to accept when you go that you’ll spend a lot. A meal out with a starter, two mains, and a few drinks was usually 1000 pesos or more ($50-60). I would budget in drinking at lunch, lol.
We ate all our meals our at restaurants, had booze, did stand up paddleboard ($40 for two of us for 30 minutes), and didn’t shop AT ALL and still spend like $400 in 2.5 days there. Add in the rental car and Airbnb which were booked ahead and it was more – but luckily our Airbnb was so cheap it offset the cost.
I’m sure if you stay a while you would find cheaper places on the beach to eat. I wasn’t looking for cheap places, to be honest. When it comes to food I don’t know what a budget is haha I will also just go to the best places and order what I want! It’s a terrible habit but what to do? If you want to stay a while, I would suggest getting an Airbnb and cooking and also having some meals out in town rather than all at the beach, which are more expensive.
Shopping in Tulum
The shopping looks amazing here. I didn’t do any because it was too expensive – tragic! As you go down the main beach road (which seems to be never-ending) you will pass maybe 50 incredible shops. I popped into a few but each dress I liked was $400 or even $800 dollars so I quickly realized I was wasting my time since I wasn’t going to pay that much.
The stuff was SO cute, though, and there were a lot of rich tourists there buying it. The homewares were amazing – lots of curated stuff from around Mexico. I noticed as I drove from Tulum on the highway to Merida there were wholesale shops that were selling a lot of the same things at crazy cheaper prices though.
Cenotes in Tulum
There are tons of beautiful cenotes in this area of Mexico which is from when the meteor hit that killed all the dinosaurs! They are basically caves filled up with beautiful fresh water that you can go swim in. The most famous is the Grand Cenote and we were short on time, so just went here. If you have a lot of time then you can literally just look for cenotes on Google Maps and go to random ones.
It was $20 for two tickets to the Grand Cenote.
The Tulum Ruins are the “thing to do” in Tulum. They are Mayan ruins that overlook the sea, and it truly is breathtaking. While Chichen Itza is where you see the big pyramid and where they played the ball game (where the loser was sacrificed), it’s unique to see the ruins in such a beautiful place. Definitely GO EARLY. We were jetlagged and got there around 830 am which was perfect. They open at 8 am. We were the first ones in the parking lot. We spend two hours here and when we left it was packed.
It was $5 for parking and $7.50 for two tickets for the Tulum ruins.
Eating in Tulum
I was chatting with a few bloggers who are based in Tulum and they gave me all their best recommendations. We only had like 5 meals to eat out (4 worth mentioning), so I had to make them count! Here’s where we ate in Tulum:
This is a hotel and restaruant and it was fill of people; it kind of reminded me of Spring Break. We had lunch here… the best beef tacos I had in Mexico! I loved these. I also had a couple jalepeno margaritas which were heavenly. It was nice to chill here and we stayed until sunset.
Safari was recommended to me as good, not too expensive tacos. They were good. I loved the fish ones even more than the pork ones – but try both. It’s a light meal, just two small tacos so you might want to order some guac or something else with it.
Dunes Hotel Restaurant
We came here for breakfast one morning and I had my first ever chilaquiles – there were many many chilaquiles after this fantastic day! This was such a chill place, cheaper than most around it, and had open beds to lay out at. There’s also a dude there with SUP you can rent out so we took a couple out. Great breakfast spot! We stayed for lunch and had some beers. They did cheat us on the bill saying tip wasn’t included but the bill had 20% tip already added, which is kind of a common thing they do there so just look at the bill and see or you’ll tip twice. I’m cool with over-tipping if it’s awesome service but if someone is ripping me off for more tip, I’d rather not (obvi!).
Antojitos la Chaipaneca (in town)
I saw online that these were the best tacos in town and they were 9 pesos a piece. After the beach prices, that seemed actually impossible. We decided to try it out because it was described as a “local place with plastic chairs”. Sounded like Goa! They were DELISH. They make everything really fast and you can mix and match 1 taco, quesadilla, salbutes, or whatever you fancy. The tacos al pastor are famous here (the pork from the kebab machine).
My Instagram pal, @organichappiness lives there and gave me tons of other places to eat at which I’ll share for you here – we just didn’t have time. For really nice amazing food (but pricey) check out Kitchen Table Tulum, Be Tulum, and Hartwood Tulum. You’ll want reservations for both.
For healthy veg and raw food options, check out Sanara Tulum and Go Raw Love Tulum and Matcha Mama (which looked so cute).
Burrito Amor was in town and meant to be the best burrito but it’s kind of got a hipster vibe. Nomade Hotel is really famous and I would have tried it but I read it’s vegan – and I needed beef! But I follow them on Instagram and it looks like the absolute most beautiful place ever. In that sense, so does one hotel/restaurant called Azulik.
We actually walked into Posada Margarita for breakfast and ended up leaving because I hadn’t realized it was healthy veg-only stuff. For breakfast, I’m more into chilaquiles! This place is really popular, though.
For nightlife, check out Casa Jaguar (dinner and bar), Gitano (for mezcal), and Habita Tulum (like a club).
Overall, Tulum is a fantastic town. I loved the vibe, it was beautiful, the food was delicious, and it has so much natural wonder around it. The only downside is it’s so packed with tourists (it is a small town that a lot of people want to visit) and it’s pricey if you are here short-term or want to stay on the beach. I would definitely go again and think it’s a place my parents would even love to go visit!
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