Tulum has perhaps been one of the towns in the Riviera Maya that has grown the most in terms of tourism in recent years. And well deservedly so, as it is an enchanting place. Along with San Andres Island in Colombia, San Pedro in Belize and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, it has been one of the Caribbean beaches that has left the greatest impact on me.
Every time I talk about Mexico I get a strange feeling in my stomach, like a desperate desire to return. I feel that I have so many places left to visit. Mexico has an immense amount of things to offer, you never finish getting to know everything you want to. It has everything. Landscapes, gastronomy, history, culture, music. Every corner of the country has something to offer and Tulum is one of those little jewels that you have to visit.
Maybe it is a little bit overshadowed by Playa del Carmen and Cancun with its All Inclusive, but the truth is that it has nothing to envy.
I guess Tulum attracts a different type of tourists than those who go to its famous neighbouring cities. Although in recent years the hotel industry has developed a lot and nowadays there are many All Inclusive options on offer.
Currency: Mexican Pesos. In several places you can pay with credit and debit cards, but as always, I recommend bringing some cash. I took dollars and was able to change them easily as there are many exchange houses in the area.
Geography: It is located in the Yucatan Peninsula, the part known as the Mayan Riviera. It has its coastline on the Caribbean Sea, in the southeast of Mexico.
Security: As in most of Mexico, if you move around the tourist areas it is difficult to experience any unsafe situation, but you should always be careful, especially at night and in the parts farther away from the centre.
What is the best time of the year to travel to Tulum?
The weather in the Riviera Maya is quite constant. Temperatures vary between 24 and 34°C all year round. Almost every day is sunny and hot, so I consider that the season of the year is not such an important factor when choosing a time to travel.
Perhaps the high and low seasons should be taken into account when choosing a date to visit this destination.
Although Tulum attracts tourists all year round, December through March is the high season for the entire Riviera Maya. This means that not only are the beaches and tourist attractions crowded, but also accommodation is a little more difficult to find and some prices are a little higher.
July and August are also high seasons, perhaps to a lesser extent than in Mexico’s winter, but still very busy. Please note that you should follow the official recommendations to avoid Covid-19 infection.
That said, if you avoid these months you can enjoy more peace and quiet and some cheaper prices.
What should you take on your trip?
As in any beach destination it is important to bring sunscreen and perhaps a hat and sunglasses.
I also recommend taking mainly summer clothes, and some warm clothes just in case.
To this I would add snorkelling gear. I bought one before travelling to the Galapagos Islands and I take it on all my trips because I found it very useful.
How to get to Tulum?
In my case, I arrived in Mexico by ferry from Belize. But the most common way is to arrive by plane and land at Cancun International Airport which is about 118 km away, once there take the Cancun airport transportation that will take you not only to Tulum, but to any destination you wish.
How to get to Tulum from Cancun
From the city of Cancun there are two main options to get to the magical town of Tulum. Here are the cheapest to the most expensive routes.
All prices are current as of July 2021, if you come from the future there may be some changes. Prices vary according to the transfer date and you will be able to book and check availability through the links I leave you in each description.
The first and cheapest option is to take an ADO bus, which is the best known transport company in the area.
The trip takes about two and a half hours and tickets cost between 10 and 18 dollars. The vehicles are extremely comfortable, with reclining seats and air conditioning. I recommend bringing a blanket or coat as the air is usually very strong.
In order to take this bus, you have to go to the ADO bus terminal. At the time of booking there is a map that shows you where this station is located.
The second option is to take a shuttle from Cancun to Tulum. Although this means of transport is a little more expensive than the Ado buses, the good thing about them is that they pick you up at the airport or at the hotel where you are staying. This saves you having to carry all your belongings to the bus station.
The trip takes two and a half hours and costs between 30 and 35 dollars.
The options for getting to Tulum from Playa del Carmen are the same as from Cancun as the route is the same with the difference that Playa del Carmen is much closer to Tulum, only 65 km away.
Where to stay in Tulum
The best place to stay in Tulum is definitely near the beach.
Although it is a small town and easily accessible on foot, if you stay near the beach you will not only have amazing scenery at your fingertips, but you will also be close to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, quaint restaurants and bars, tourist agencies for tours and the main road that connects Tulum with the rest of the Riviera Maya towns.
When I went there I stayed in a hostel which at the time was called Humble Bumble and I think it was one of the best hostel experiences I have ever had in my life.
It has a huge common space where I shared unforgettable moments with many travellers.
Besides the location is perfect because it is close to the beach, the bus terminal and the ruins.
Some time after I was there, the hostel was renamed Lucky Traveler and today its name is The FREE Hostel Inn Tulum.
It became a kind of All Inclusive hostel, something quite difficult to find. For me it’s the perfect combination because you get the friendly and social atmosphere of a hostel but with great amenities such as 24 hour food and drink.
It turns out that when you arrive at the hostel, they give you credits equal to the total amount of your reservation so you can buy food or drinks and book excursions, transport services or any other product or service offered by the hostel.
Below is a map so you can see where The FREE Hostel Inn Tulum is located and the accommodation offer in Tulum.
How to get around Tulum?
If you want to explore the town or the ruins, the best option is to walk or rent a bike. It is not a very extensive place so you can get around easily by these means.
If you plan to base yourself in Tulum and visit more distant places, I recommend renting a car, without a doubt.
Unless you intend to relax for several days in Tulum and only want to leave town once or twice to visit one of the neighbouring towns like Bacalar or Playa del Carmen, the best option is to travel with the Cancun transportation service, which is cheap and available at all times.
What to see and do in Tulum?
This section of the guide will be divided into four parts that I think are important when visiting the Riviera Maya.
They are perhaps the four types of attractions that make thousands of tourists travel to this area of Mexico.
On the one hand, there are obviously the white sandy beaches and sea in different shades of blue and turquoise, on the other hand there is the historical part with its Mayan ruins and cenotes and finally the parks with different themes such as Xcaret, Xel-Ha or Xplore.
If you are restless like me, and you want to visit as many attractions as possible, you can buy the “Go Cancun Pass” or the “Cancun Explorer Pass” which are passes that include the entrance to different activities in the area.