Tulum, Mexico is a hidden gem. Located about 1.5 hours south of Cancun, Tulum leaves behind the all-inclusive resorts for unique boutique hotels, awesome plant-based food, gorgeous beaches, ancient ruins, and incredible cenotes. I’m a greedy traveler, so when I heard I could climb a ruin, snorkel with sea turtles, and jump into a bat cave all in one day I was sold. It truly is the perfect location to combine snorkeling, laying on the beach, and discovering history. If this sounds like your kind of vacation read on for tips on how to make the most out of Tulum. travel tips tulum.
Rent a mode of transportation.
If you want to see lots of ruins, rent a car. If you just want to enjoy the beach, rent a bike. We visited five different ruins and another 5 cenotes (more on that in another post!) all within a two-hour radius of Tulum. Renting a car was the best way to experience these as we got to choose when we wanted to go and how long we wanted to stay at each ruin.
We went with EasyWay Rental near the Cancun Airport and they were awesome. The roads and directions to ruins are pretty clearly marked, after one day we discovered that GPS was really a waste of time/mobile data. If beach going is more your thing, rent a bike. The main beach road has a ton of cute shops, restaurants, and boutique hotels. It is so much fun just to go up and down checking them all out.
Skip the tours.
I’m actually not an anti-tour person. Sometimes I really enjoy having a guide, especially when there is a lot of history to learn. It also is really nice to have everything taken care of you. However, if you follow tip one and rent a car, you can experience Tulum (and other areas) easily, safely, and save a ton of money!
Skipping the tours allows you to take your time and gives you the freedom of doing what you want, when you want to. At one of our favorite cenotes, Nicte-Ha, we heard a tour guide tell them they only had 20 minutes at the cenote. We easily spent 2 hours here and would have felt really disappointed with only 20 minutes! Most tours I saw were easily $100-200 USD, save yourself the money and experience Tulum on your own terms.
Note: if you want a guide at the ruins to learn the history, every ruin had the option for private guides at the front entrance, usually for around $60 USD. Not necessary, but a good option for the history buffs out there.
Visit the ruins in the morning.
Even in January Tulum gets hot. We went to various ruins at different times of day and I can definitely say morning was the best. Most open around 8 am. At this time it is relatively pleasant out, especially if you are able to climb to the top of the ruins. Added bonus, fewer people! I’ll be posting about my favorite ruins soon.
Swim in cenotes.
The beach is awesome and literally 50 shades of blue, but there is something really special about cenotes. Each cenote is a little different and has something unique to offer. Dos Ojos was a favorite of ours. Cenotes are a perfect way to cool down on a hot day and are also REALLY cheap. I think the most we spent on entrance was about $8 USD per person. A post on my favorite cenotes will be up soon!
Snorkel in Akumal.
Akumal is about a 20 minute drive from Tulum and has a bay where you can snorkel with sea turtles, sting rays and all sorts of fish. If you have your own snorkel gear/life jacket this is a free activity! If not, I recommend renting from Akumal Dive Shop–they also offer lockers where you can store your stuff. Don’t waste your money on a tour/guide. You may be hounded on your way to the bay and told that they are required. Ignore them. Akumal is a public beach, just make sure your respect any marine life you encounter!
Visit other hotels/restaurants along the beach.
Tulum is full of so many awesome boutique hotels and unique restaurants. We loved walking along the beach and stopping in different ones to get a drink/snack/meal, look around or even use their beach cabanas. Some, like Azulik, are for guests only, but we found most don’t mind if you hang out, especially if you are buying food. Experiencing the different vibes from each place was awesome. Some personal recommendations–Ahua and the attached Raw Love Cafe, Posado Margarita, and Coco Tulum. According to other travelers, Papaya Playa is great too, but you may need a reservation to enter the hotel area.
Tulum is an awesome vacation spot that offers something for everyone. Stay tuned for more details from our trip, including our full itinerary!
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