Tulum: Beyond Beaches

When we dream about Tulum, we dream of sandy beaches, beautiful waters, and excellent food. Tulum is a bit of that a whole lot more.

As a small town along the coast, there’s a vast area of eco-friendly beach resorts catering to every beach lover’s dream. However, for those who travel by food and exploration, Tulum can be a paradise in a different way.

The following guide will take you through how to travel throughout Tulum, must-see sights, and food to keep your happy and nourished.


Get In / Get Out

For many people, getting into Tulum means flying into Cancun International Airport. Most folks tend to either stay in Cancun and take tours to Tulum, Valladolid, Merida, etc. To enjoy Tulum as much as possible, head straight to Tulum and stay within the town. There are two main ways to get to Tulum from the airport: rental car or by bus.

ADO Bus: We decided on taking the ADO bus as it was the easiest and most efficient way. To purchase a ticket, once you exit customs and baggage claim at Cancun International Airport, there will be a booth for ADO bus. The ADO bus is cash only meaning you should withdraw some cash at the nearby ATM before heading to the booth in the same area. After purchasing your tickets, the staff should direct you to where you need to go to board your bus. Depending on the time, you can find a direct bus from Cancun to Tulum. Otherwise, you can go from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen, then to Tulum.

Collectivos: Now that you’re in town, one of the best ways to get around is by Collectivo. A trip from Tulum Centro to Casa Cenote is only 35 pesos. It’s a bit tricky if you don’t know where the main stops are but they are pretty simple to find since the vans should say “Collectivo.” If you’re in Tulum Centro, you should find Collectivos parked towards the direction of Playa Del Carmen before Calle Alfa Sur and across the street to the left if you’re leaving from the ADO terminal bus stop.

Taxis: There were quite a few taxis around which made it easy to get around. However, prices are undoubtedly much higher, and it’s best to taxi if you have 2+ people. Some locations have a fixed taxi rate so negotiating is a little more difficult. Don’t be afraid to look around when you’re at touristy spots to see if there is a fixed rate placard usually right by the taxi lines.

Getting Around

In general, most folks rent a car for their travels. We traveled mostly by bus, collectivo, taxis, and walking. In Tulum, there is also the option to rent a bicycle which is also economical and efficient (though maybe not at night due to lack of lighting).


Things To Do

Explore Nature

Si'an Khan Biosphere Tour
Lifejackets on for the boat rides
Si'an Khan Biosphere Tour - Dolphin
Dolphin sighting

Si’an Khan Biosphere Tour | MexiKan Tours | TripAdvisor

Tulum is located near the Si’an Khan Biosphere which is a protected nature park where land meets the ocean.

I highly recommend booking with MexiKan tours where our tour guide, Hugo, gave a grand experience through the drive, boat rides, swimming, and town tour. He spoke both English and Spanish for our multilingual group which was very helpful. We got to see manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, swim in beautiful clear beaches, and enjoyed an excellent meal in Punta Allen. Hugo was also fantastic where he practiced what he preached. That is, being incredibly eco-conscious and ensuring that our interactions with both consumption and contact with sea and land life were minimal.

These tours can often negatively impact what nature has created, but MexiKan tours and Hugo took steps to educate and reduce impact. Also, we didn’t get the chance to snorkel since the waters were choppy. Know that there’s a chance you might not be able to snorkel, but you can do that in Cenotes.

 

Swimming in Cenotes

It’s hot, and if the beach is a further reach, cenotes or sinkholes offer a great alternative. Cenotes are great alternatives for non-swimmers. We brought our snorkels and rented life jackets which were very helpful. I recommend bringing your own snorkels which were awesome to see the underwater creatures.

 

Gran Cenote Turtle
Turtle sighting in Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote is a freshwater sinkhole. There was a clean bathroom, outdoor shower, and hammocks to lay on above. At the cenote, there is staff who rent out life jackets, snorkels, and lockers. There are more shallow areas where you can build confidence first then hang out at the deeper ends where there are ropes to hold on—perfect for none swimmers. We spotted a turtle and some fish swimming around here.

 

Casa Cenote in the early evening

Casa Cenote

We reached by collectivo from Tulum Centro heading towards Playa Del Carmen. You can tell the driver “Casa Cenote,” and they’ll drop you off at the highway exit. It’s a 15-minute walk to Casa Cenote. To get back, we walked back to the opposite side of the highway and stuck our hand out when collectivos passed to bring us back into Tulum Centro.

They have lockers and lifejackets for rent. This one is a mix of fresh and sea water with lots of wildlife. There is a baby crocodile named Panchito who lives here so if you’re not into potentially getting bit, avoid the rocks where it hangs out. This cenote connects to the ocean where there are a ton more sea life and scuba divers. If you have time, the beach. is reachable through a short walk across the entrance of the cenote.

 

Mayan Ruins

The Mayan people once thrived in Tulum, and there are a few stops that you can quickly reach from Tulum Centro to see it in real life.

Tulum Ruins rights on the beach

Tulum Ruins  | http://inah.gob.mx | Carretera Federal 307 Cancún – Chetumal Km 230, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Right on the beach, Tulum Mayan ruins was once a fort where the Mayan people lived and thrived. The location is a unique experience where you can see the ruins along the coast. There are also spectacular views of the ocean as you roam around learning about the history.

You can take a taxi for a fixed rate from Tulum Centro (~ 100 pesos) to drop you off via centro. Go early in the morning before the tours come to avoid big crowds. The ruins are also reachable via bike.

 

Coba Pyramid
Looking down from the top of Coba Pyramid
Coba Pyramid
View from the bottom

Cobahttp://inah.gob.mx | Km. 47, Carretera Federal Tulum 307, 77793 Cobá, Q.R., Mexico

With one of the tallest pyramids on the East Coast of Mexico, Coba is a big attraction for tourists. Also, you’re allowed to climb the tallest pyramid. If you are afraid of heights, this might not be the best activity but still worthwhile to peer from below.

Try to get here early to avoid large crowds. There are bikes for rent, or you can take a bike taxi inside for a fixed rate. It’s not too far in so if you’re able, walk it. There are also only bathrooms at the entrance, so go before you get inside.

To get here, we took a second class bus from Tulum Ado bus station. You can also book a first-class bus which only comes early in the morning. There are many departures throughout the day for Coba for second class. Once there, you should be dropped off either at the entrance or a little ways away which you can walk over.

To return to Tulum, collectivos are harder to come by. The larger buses that take you back to Tulum come around 3 PM. If you want to leave earlier, you can take a taxi for a fixed rate of 400 pesos from the entrance (there is a placard with the prices). If you have 2+ people, it’ll be worthwhile. Other folks have also booked a taxi and pay extra for them to stay and wait for you.

 

Parks

Tulum Sign
One of many Tulum signs

Parque Museo de la Cultura Maya  | 77780 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Right in the center of town by City Hall, there is a quaint park with the Tulum sign great for photo ops. There are also street food vendors at night (eat at your own risk).

 


Eat & Drink

Tulum Centro

We spent the majority of our time in Tulum Centro, so we have more recommendations here.

 

Panna e CioccolatoPanna e Cioccolatowww.pannaecioccolato.com.mx | Ave. Tulum 72, Centro Tulum, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico77780 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

On hot nights, a cold gelato will be calling your name. In town, there are two Panna e Cioccolato along the main road. There are your classics and other fun flavors like dragonfruit, spicy chocolate, and my favorite, mango.

 

Flor De Michoacan Paletas
Paletas

Flor De Michoacan

Located on the main road, there are paletas sold here. While very popular in Valladolid and Mérida, this is the one place in town that sells these delicious popsicles. Google maps will tell you this place is closed, but it’s actually open around the corner on the main road.

 

Antojitos La Chiapeneca
A sign from above
Al Pastor Tacos
Al Pastor Taco Heaven

Antojitos La Chiapeneca  | Av. Tulum, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Al pastor heaven in taco form. If you love al pastor, you must stop by this place to get some for an inexpensive price. Their menu is massive, but everyone comes by for the meat roasting on a giant stick out front.

El Carboncito Tacos
Al Pastor Tacos cooked by charcoal

El CarboncitoQ.R., Av. Tulum 7, Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Recommended by our guide from MexiKan tours, El Carboncito features al pastor tacos cooked with charcoal. These remind me of the flavors you can get from Los Tacos in Chelsea Market in NYC. However, I will say, I preferred Antojitos La Chapeneca. It’s slightly smokier, and the texture of the meat is chunkier as other versions are thinly sliced on.

 

Taqueria Honorio Tacos
True breakfast tacos of champions, Mayan style

Taqueria Honorio | Satélite Sur, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Traditional Mayan meat in taco form, these delectable tacos are not only rich in oil but also flavor. It’s unique compared to your typical al pastor taco thus worth the try. They make the meats early in the morning so they can run out by afternoon. They also serve delicious agua frescas including barley teas.

 

Seafood

 

El Camello Jr ceviche mixto
A mediano is massive

El Camello Jr.Carretera Chetumal-Cancun Locales 1 y 2 Lte 3 Mza 40, Centro, 77600 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Ceviche galore! El Camello Jr. is well known for their ceviche. Fair warning, we were overzealous and asked for a grande. Luckily, our waiter told us a grande was indeed more substantial and larger than the size of my head. Even with a mediano, it was too much food. I highly recommend getting small and then add more if you’re still hungry.

Los Aguachiles Steamed Fish Tacos
Steamed fish tacos
Los Aguachiles interiors
Interiors

Los AguachilesMZA 40 LTE 1, Chetumal-Cancun, Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Right next to El Camello Jr. is this friendly establishment. Known for their fish tacos, you must try the steamed fish taco which was the best on the menu. They also have everything else including tostadas, ceviche and more. The most surprising dish? The carrot cake. I ordered it on a whim since I’m always craving cake and it was incredible—warm and soft with cold vanilla ice cream on top. Go for the seafood, top it off with a delicious carrot cake and ice cream.

 

A mariachi band out front
Cute photo op across the street

El AsaderoAv. Satelite Nte. Mz 23 Lt.5 entre Sagitario y, Calle 2 Ote, Centro, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

If you’re sick of tacos, try this spot for a change. A steakhouse for quaint outdoor eating right across the street from lit up trees and a swing. I promise you, even if you don’t eat here, at least you’ll get a cute photo.

 

Drinks

 

Ki'bok Coffee ShopKi’bok Coffee Tulumwww.kibokcoffee.com | Centauro Sur MZ05 LT11 kibok AV.TULUM Y Calle Andromeda, Centro, 77710 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

One of the best coffee shops in town. I hadn’t paid much attention to coffee shops when I travel as I’d instead be running around and exploring. However, we stopped by here when we were picked up for our Si’an Khan tour. We ordered a regular chai almond latte, but the best one was the chai coffee almond lattes. It was robust and flavorful making me question why I ever drank chai tea lattes without coffee.

 

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Batey’s Mojito and Guarapo BarCalle Centauro Sur, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

For a mojito paradise and live music, head to Batey’s for a good night on the street where most folks would be drinking. A Tulum trip wouldn’t be without Batey’s. The night we went was Mexican night for the Latin Week Batey’s was hosting. It featured a great mariachi band (storytelling) with a wonderful singer and her band that told stories along the way of Mexican history. The waitress spoke perfect English so no worries on brushing up on Spanish here (but it’d still be good if you did).

 

Tulum Playa

Seared ahi tuna
Seared ahi tuna
Octopus
Octopus

Kitchen Tablekitchentabletulum.com | Carretera Tulum a Boca Paila, Km 1.5, Ruinas, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

This jungle kitchen is located right off the coast near the public beach. We came here on our first night to celebrate a special occasion. We ate octopus, shrimp, and delicious seared ahi tuna. They also have delicious cocktails here including a fun “diablo” cocktail that had chilies for taste and garnishes.

 

Origami GelatoPlaya Esperanza Hotel beach, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km 2.5 77780, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

On our first night, after dinner and before heading to Papaya Playa Project, we walked by this quaint little gelato shop. However, the mango gelato had me rolling on the ground—it was just so good. Fair warning, it’s a bit pricier here versus the gelato shops in Tulum Centro.

 

Mateos

Mateoswww.mateosmexicangrill.us | Carretera, Boca Paila km 5.2, Manzana 10 Lote 16, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

While we were waiting to head to Papaya Playa Project, we stopped by Mateos by chance since there was a great live band playing. People were enjoying their drinks and dinner while other folks were dancing the night away.

 

Papaya Playa Project

Papaya Playa Project | www.papayaplayaproject.com | Km 4.5 Carretera Tulum Boca Paila, 77780 Q.R., Mexico

Papaya Playa Project is most well known for their full moon parties. If you’re around on Saturday nights, this beach hotel also hosts beach club night parties where drinks served via tickets, and you can dance the night away. We stopped by for some drinks and hung around enjoying the ocean breeze. Be prepared for pricier drinks as you’re on the beach.

 


Where to Sleep

Tulum Centro Hotel

Posada Luna Del Sur |Tripadvisor

We decided to stay in Tulum Centro given it’s convenient location to the ADO bus stop and access to more inexpensive food. As much as we said we’d spend time on the beach, we’re just the type of travelers to roam around a lot. Staying here allowed us to go in and out of the town very efficiently (even for our taxi and tour drivers who would take shortcuts to drive straight to our hotel.

The room was massive, provides free water via water jug, free breakfast, AC and includes a rooftop area to relax. At night, they close the gate for security which is a nice touch. We didn’t stay in the hotel except to sleep.

Tulum Playa

We opted to not stay on the beach because of the higher prices and lack of AC. If you plan on a beach vacation, there are many places to explore which you can find via TripAdvisor and HotelTonight (get $25 off your next booking with code: LLUO23).

 


The Full Map

Everything is compiled on this map. Share what you’ve tried. As always, looking for new places to add to the list as well.

 


Resources used to plan this trip:

 


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