Tips for Visiting Tulum, Mexico
I am interrupting the Iceland posts to share about Tulum, Mexico because I have a few friends that are going in the coming months and they need details.
We stayed at the Cabañas Tulum in a beachfront room, which meant that we could literally walk out onto the sand and down to the ocean in just a few steps. Oh man. I miss that place more and more as I write this. The staff was friendly and so helpful. The room was simple with lots of white and wood, my two favorite colors/textures. There was no TV but they did have wifi. Breakfast was included at the restaurant next door, Ziggy’s, and it was so, so good. Now the hotel has their own restaurant on site (Fresco’s). They do have a few discount options for booking so I’d encourage you to check those out on their website.
What I love about Tulum is that they only have boutique hotels so you won’t find any high-rise hotels. The hotels are along the beach, as well as several restaurants and bars, but behind the hotels on the other side of the street is the jungle. On the jungle side, you’ll find more restaurants and boutiques.
Our hotel provided a car service to and from the airport, which I coordinated with the hotel staff through email prior to our trip. You fly into the Cancun airport and the trip from there to our hotel was an hour and forty-five minutes. While there we got around via taxi and the hotel staff was always nice enough to call us a cab when we were ready to head into town or to an activity. I cannot remember if the bikes we used from the hotel were rented or if they were included in our stay. Anyway, we did bike up to the Tulum Ruins and into town a few times. It was not a short trip but was a pretty easy trek. This is coming from someone who does not bike frequently.
We ate at a few restaurants along the beach and also at one in town. It’s important to know that some of the restaurants are on the jungle side. On the map you’ll see Hartwood, for example, but as you walk down the beach looking for it you won’t find it, and that’s because you have to walk behind the hotels to the street. The restaurants along the beach and on the jungle side are expensive. Worth it, but definitely pricier than those in town. Also, it is important to note that most restaurants are cash only and it is best to pay in Mexican Pesos instead of American Dollars because it will be cheaper. I can’t remember much of what we ate so I can’t say that I have specific recommendations other than ceviche! You have to get ceviche at least once.
Beach | Jungle
Ziggy’s: Great breakfast. Delicious, fresh grapefruit juice! We also went there for dinner one night and it was amazing as well. Beach side.
Posada Margherita: Italian food. Very good pasta! Beach side.
Taqueria La Eufemia: A cheap option on the beach! Small, lively, and great tacos! We went here a few times.
La Zebra Beach Restaurant and Tequila Bar: We ate dinner here one night and it was wonderful to watch the sunset on the patio (pictured below). Beach side.
Hartwood: We did not get to go here, as it was closed for the season when we were there, BUT this is a place that is highly recommended by every blog I read. It is relatively expensive and the wait is long so get there early, but if you go, let me know! It is on the jungle side.
La Malquerida: Much cheaper than the beach restaurants! Very good! I got the ceviche, of course, and a margarita, of course. ha! Both were amazing!
Paletas (popsicles): While in town we did get a paleta but I do not remember the name of the place. It was fun to try an authentic, Mexican popsicle and on those hot days, it was a welcomed treat!
Town is pretty grungy. There were a few restaurants that I read about but once I saw them in person I couldn’t bring myself to eat there. For example, one place had chickens roaming around in a dirt-filled, fenced in area out back and the building looked pretty run down. While I’m all for adventure and trying new things, it looked a little too rough for me so we skipped those places and opted for something better kept up and in an area with other restaurants and more people. There are a few others in town that we wanted to try but didn’t get to that are on the same street as La Malquerida. I’d definitely try a few other places in town if I went back. No, when I go back. 😉
The hotel did provide us with a list of activities to do and the prices associated with those. We went rogue and decided on a few of our own so that we could save some money.
Sketch Cenote (image 1) and Gran Cenote (image 2)
I have labeled one the “sketch cenote” because it was definitely that. We wanted to visit the Gran Cenote and decided to set out on a bike ride to find it. We were headed in the right direction, we thought, when we stumbled upon a painted sign that read, “cenote”, so we pulled off and there was another couple there talking to a man about entering the cenote. Off to the side there were a few divers gearing up so we thought we had to be in the right place. We parked our bikes, paid the guy a few pesos, and we walked around a shack to a hole in the ground – literally – at which point we just knew we had been scammed. Turns out, we were actually at a cenote. Granted, a small one, but a cenote nonetheless and there were several divers headed down into the cave to explore. We ended up having a lot of fun jumping in over and over. There were only a few other people there so we had plenty of room to enjoy ourselves.
The Gran Cenote:
This one is actually the real deal. It is much more touristy, but it’s also very beautiful and much larger. You pay at the entrance, shower off, get a locker (you pay for it separately), and then head into the cenote to explore. This is probably the activity that I recommend most. I absolutely loved the cenotes and it’s something that you just have to experience for yourself. Below is a photo of the entrance, which you might notice is not flashy and could be easily missed.
Tulum has several cenotes and if you google it you’ll probably find a longer list. I knew about the Gran Cenote so that was the one I definitely wanted to visit but there are certainly plenty to see.
The Tulum Ruins are on the beach side so you can hop in a taxi or on a bike and ride down the street to visit those. We biked, and while it wasn’t a short trip and we did get drenched from a rain shower on the way back, it was worth it. You pay a few pesos to enter and you can walk around on your own or opt for a guided tour. We chose to go at our own pace. The view of the ocean from here is stunning!
The Coba Ruins do require a taxi to get to. They are a little trickier to navigate since it will seem as if you are just walking through the jungle, but when you arrive at the largest ruin, I recommend that you climb to the top. It is terrifying. There is one rope to hang onto that is attached to the ruins, but it’s not an easy climb. However, once you arrive at the top and can see nothing but a vast green jungle all around, you’ll realize that it was worth the climb.
Massages / Yoga: The hotel did provide us with one yoga mat and I never even used it for a yoga class. I did roll it out on the deck for a few poses. However, I deeply regret not getting a massage while there or even attending one yoga class. Tulum is a yogi’s paradise so if you’re into it, you must take a class.
Sunrises: The one thing that you must do is wake up early, go down to the beach, and watch the sunrise. The sunrises in Tulum are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It’s totally worth it to get up extra early and watch the sun make its way over the horizon line.
Bank: There is the Scotiabank and the HSBC bank. We used the Scotiabank. We got a taxi to take us into town to the bank where we exchanged our cash for pesos. They also have an ATM there if you don’t have cash. We did exchange a few dollars in the airport and the exchange rate is higher so I recommend that you wait and exchange money in Tulum. If necessary, you can always pay with American Dollars for your first taxi ride or your first meal, but your money will go further in Pesos. Currently, 1 USD equals 18.51 Mexican Pesos.
XE Currency Converter: This app is super helpful to have.
I also recommend to let your bank know that you’ll be traveling to Tulum so that your card won’t get flagged.
Tulum is not necessarily a place you vacation with kids. The beach is lined with boutique hotels and restaurants but there aren’t many (if any) kid-friendly activities. We did see a few kiddos at the Gran Cenote but did not see any staying along the beach.
Trip Advisor is great for reading restaurant reviews and it gave us some ideas of places to try that we hadn’t previously heard about.
Unless you plan to eat out every time you get hungry, I’d recommend taking snacks such as protein bars with you. There is a grocery store pretty close by to the beach that you can take a taxi to or bike to. You may want to go there to stock up on food for in between meals. We usually ate breakfast and dinner and skipped lunch, but if I went back, I’d be sure to pack snacks.
I hope this is helpful! If you have any other Tulum questions, let me know. Have a wonderful time! It’s truly a remarkable place and I’m already dreaming of my next trip!