City Guide Tulum: A Bohemian Chic Beach Town

Tulum is a boho chic mecca where straw thatched roofs and whimsical jungle treehouses line the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s a place where the smell of frankincense fills the sticky humid air, and the taste of sweet guava and savory lime fills your glasses. Ancient stone temples sit on the rugged beachside cliffs, and more inland, massive sinkholes are hidden beneath the green jungle surface brimming with aquamarine fresh water.

In this post, I’ll give you some tips and ideas for your stay in Tulum. I’ve now been 4 times and it’s one of my favorite places on earth!

To Get there.

Fly into Cancun Airport, and book a shuttle service to pick you up. Cancun Limo is a reliable company and offers shuttles in addition to limos. We took a van from the airport. The trip takes anywhere from 1.75-3 hours to get to Tulum, this highly depends on traffic once you get to the beach strip.

To Stay.

It’s important to note that if you hunt for hotels in Tulum you might end up finding accommodations in the city center rather than right by the beach. While it’s cheaper and relatively close by taxi, it’s much easier to stay beachside if you’re looking for the boho chic, boutique hotel vibe you see in most travel photos. Also, I went once for New Year’s Eve and the traffic was horrendous trying to get to the beach from city center that it was like a parking lot. My advice is to splurge a bit if you can.

There are countless boutique hotels along the beachside and jungle side of a single road that stretches about 3 miles along this beach. In my opinion it’s hard to go wrong. Do note that even if hotels say they have wifi, it’s generally pretty weak.

Tip: Look for Air Conditioning when booking, not all hotels on this stretch have it

Stay at Papaya Playa Project

$$$ - Gorgeous Beachside Bungalows with that Boho Chic Vibe. Book Papaya Playa

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Stay at Cabanas Tulum

$$ - Beautiful rooms with a private beach and delicious breakfast Book Cabanas Tulum

Zamas

$ - Low key bungalows with not a lot of flair, but comfortable and affordable Book Zamas

To Do.

Visit the Tulum Ruins

Built as a fortress and inhabited as far back as 564 A.D., the Tulum Ruins are unique because they are coastal, overlooking spectacular white sand beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula. You can go on your own, or you can take a tour. Get your Guide has one where you can explore Tulum Ruins, Caves and Swim with Turtles.

On your own:
Entrance without a guide should be around 80 pesos or $3-4 USD
With a guide around 600 pesos or $30 USD

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Relax on the White Sand Beaches

There is a few mile stretch of beach bungalows and boutique hotels along the coastline. It’d incredibly different from somewhere like Cancun because there aren’t any high rises or all inclusive resorts. All of these hotels are very unique, artistic bungalows and have a quaint beach town vibe.

One of my favorite spots along the beach is Kanan (images below). It’s the most interesting design with an organic treehouse-like structure. There is a minimum spend to grab a spot here to bask in the sun, but the food is tasty and the drinks are too. Most places on the beach are either for hotel guests or have some kind of minimum food & drink option to grab a lounge chair.

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Head out on a catamaran snorkel tour

We took a day trip to go out on a catamaran to enjoy the sunshine and do a bit of snorkeling. We booked the tour with Riviera Elite, it’s pricey, but the trip was amazing. The boat was stocked with booze and delicious food like ceviche and fresh guacamole. This trip is a distance from Tulum, but if you’re up for an hour shuttle each way it’s a very fun experience.

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Go swimming in Some cenotes (there are many to choose from).

This is an absolute must for adventure goers. Cenotes are large fresh water holes that are very unique to this part of the world. They are incredibly beautiful and you can swim, repel, or even dive into them.

You can visit them on you own if you have a rental car, or book a tour. If you’re on your own, expect to pay between $5-$20 U.S. dollars to see them. Please don’t wear sunscreen or bug repellent in these miraculous sinkholes, it will help preserve them for future generations.

Repelling into Cenote Maya

Repelling into Cenote Maya

Inside Cenote Taak Bi Ha

Inside Cenote Taak Bi Ha


Below are a few tours you can book if you don’t have your own car.

Float through Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve

Go on on a lazy river adventure with Adventure Tour Center. This trip takes you to a well-protected reserve with gorgeous crystal clear water and ancient ruins.

If you’d rather spend a full day adventuring, book the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Eco Park Extreme. This tour takes you boating through lagoons, exploring ancient Mayan temples, zip-lining, and eating local cuisine.

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Shop the endless amount of boutique shops and stands along the strip.

Tulum has amazing boutiques to shop. Take a walk or a bike ride to shop the strip and see all the amazing artistic wonders that Tulum has to offer along the way. Like this iconic sculpture below.

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Get your yoga on…

well, anywhere really. There are countless classes!

Visit Ek Balam ruins

Ek Balam was part of a two part tour we did with Altournative that included repelling into a cenote. It's 2 hours northwest from Playa Del Carmen to these Mayan ruins. Ek Balam is smaller than the grand Chichén Itzá, but it's much less crowded and you can climb the main temple to see one of the best preserved stucco facades in Mesoamerica. Read more

There’s also a tour to Chichén Itzá & Cenote Maya: Full-Day Tour if you want to see some massive Mayan Temples. Just know the ruins will be much more crowded.

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To Eat.

There are too many great restaurants to count. There are a few that I’ve highlighted below that are hard to get reservations for (Hartwood, Gitano, Posada Margarita..), but don’t let that get you down. You can pretty much walk the strip and find a number of lesser known and just as amazing places that are cheaper and would be happy to have you. It’s easier to find these places by walking the street side than the beachside. Beware there are many potholes and no sidewalks.

Are you a foodie? You can go on a 3-hour tour local food tasting tour.

Breakfast at Ziggy’s

Try a beachside brunch at Ziggy’s. They have great fresh juices and smoothies. My favorite food dish is the chilachiles. Chilaquiles are a Mexican dish of tortilla chips covered in salsa and usually cotija cheese sprinkled on top. You can get them with red or green salsa, or both!

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Lunch at Nomade Tulum

Beachside seafood in a rustic chic setting. Nomade is a bit spendy but the food is good and the ambiance is spectacular. I preferred their tacos over the fish dishes.

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Dinner at Hartwood

Seafood and veggie dinner in an open air candlelit setting (This is my fave!). The best food I’ve had in Tulum! Book FAR in advance, like a month. No kidding.

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Dinner at Gitano

Great ambiance and disco vibes in this outdoor chic jungle, great for both dinner and Friday night dancing.

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Dinner at Posada Magherita

Rustic Italian shabby chic vintage restaurant on the beach.

Dinner at Casa Jaguar

Restaurant/cocktail bar with a moody ambiance, a flair for mixology, and an upscale latin vibe that can’t be beat.

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Dinner at Azulik

A massive boho chic wonderland of restaurant treehouses and bridges that will make your inner child come to life.

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These are the top restaurants but really there are countless amazing restaurants to choose from that are delish! Just cruise along the beach or road and you’ll be sure to find great food!

To Drink.

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Grab A Beer at Tulum Beer Company

A beautiful wooden bar among the jungle canopy that serves up micro brews.

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Mateos for Happy Hour

Sip fruity drinks high above the treeline for happy hour sunset at Mateo’s, a low key bar with great views. The last time I visited Tulum (2020) they were renovating, should be even better than I remember!

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Todos Santos

Restaurant/cocktail bar with a moody ambiance, a flair for mixology, and an upscale latin vibe that can’t be beat.

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Dancing at Gitano Friday night

Disco dance under the stars to a DJ in this classy restaurant that turns into a nightclub.

Party at Papaya Playa Saturday night

Papaya goes off on Saturdays on the beach with DJs, face paint, and deep house. If you want to party this is the place to be.

Do you have any other advice for visiting Tulum? Please leave it in the comments below.

 

Book Your Trip

These are some of my favorite sites for finding the best prices, places to stay, book tours, and more:

Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for the best hotel deals and easy change or cancellation, or VRBO as a great resource if you prefer a house, condo or apartment.

Find A Tour

Search Get Your Guide to book a variety of tours and activities

Book Your Flight

Browse Expedia for deals on flights, hotels, rental cars and more

Shop Comfortable Hiking & Athleisure

Shop Vuori for long-lasting comfortable hiking and workout apparel for men and women (my fave!)

Shop Travel Gear

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