Tulum, Mexico, is becoming an uncovered hidden gem of travel right now. People are flocking there in droves faster than they can develop the area. I recently took a quick girls trip there and thought it was just as mysterious as all of the fantastic pictures I see. Tulum can be very affordable if you know how to do it. Here is my 3-day midrange travel guide to Tulum.
When to go
I went to Tulum at the end of January, and to me, it was a perfect time. I heard from other travelers that Tulum is extremely hot, sticky, has many mosquitoes, and I did not experience that. The temperatures were in the mid-70s and low 80s the whole time with comfortable, breezy air. The area was not too crowded either, and I did not have to stay in long lines to get into any restaurants or beach clubs.
Where is Tulum?
Tulum is located on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, right near the Caribbean. It’s about 90 minutes from Cancun, just past Playa del Carmen. Right now, Tulum isn’t as commercialized as Cancun or Playa del Carmen, so it has more of a bohemian jungle appeal. However, they are quickly building it up with residencies and hotels, so it probably won’t look the same in a few years!
How to Get There
Unfortunately, Tulum does not have an airport, but they are building one. The best way to get there is to fly into Cancun. We hired a driver from our hotel, and it was pretty affordable. Some people rent a car and drive themselves, it’s an easy straight drive, but you have to think about parking when in Tulum.
Where to Stay
Where to stay depends on what your goal is. If you want to be near the action, I would either stay in the hotel zone where the popular restaurants, clubs, and resorts are or a little further back right before you hit downtown Tulum. We stayed at the newly built Aloft Tulum, and it was a perfect location. Not only was it brand new, but it was a little cheaper to get taxis than if we stayed at a far Airbnb. We walked to a few desired places like a cenote or the Azulik resort (more on that later!).
Okay, it’s not a secret that taxis are more expensive in Tulum. There is no uber, so they have a monopoly on transportation. Because of this, they can charge what they want. I’ve heard from several friends how much they spent on taxis, so I knew I had to do my research. Here is where knowing a little Spanish comes in handy.
- Negotiate in spanish by saying Cuanto cuesta (how much does it cost)?, and you will get a better price than if you ask in english. Know the numbers in hundreds (cien)
- Always pay in pesos. You will be paying more if you use dollars
- Always know how far you will be going to help you negotiate based on distance.
On my first day there, the driver tried to charge me 25 dollars to go 3km. They try to use traffic and popularity as an excuse. Promptly walk away like you don’t need it, and they will come down.
You will see people riding bikes everywhere. They are easy to rent using a QR code, and some hotels have them out front for you. Be careful; not all of the roads are paved!
Renting a car is an option; there will be parking options closer to town. Parking gets trickier once you get into the hotel zone and the popular restaurants. In addition, you will not be able to use your insurance, so you have to use the rental companies.
What to do
Day 1- Beach Clubs
Taboo is one of the more popular places to go seen all over Instagram. It felt like a vegas party on the beach. We made a reservation beforehand, which is essential. They gave us an option of a table in the back or a day bed. We chose the table in the back for 2500 pesos ($121) each (for three of us), and we could use half of that towards food and drink. We felt like it was a good deal because we could eat well and have a good amount of drinks. With that table, you can also walk around the main areas.
The same parent company owns Rosa Negra, so it had the same vibe but nighttime. The best time to go is around 9 pm when they turn up! They have live music and a DJ. There is no paying for a table; you just order from the menu. They played good music, and it was a lot of fun with the sparklers and dancing on tables. Don’t forget to take a picture with the angel wings!
Day 2- Zen day at Azulik
Yoga in the morning
Azulik was above our accommodation budget, but we still wanted to experience the offerings. We scheduled a yoga class at 9:30 am and took a 30-minute walk to the resort. Azulik is like a sanctuary of nature that is a mesmerizing experience, and it feels like you are somewhere different once you step inside.
In between, we enjoyed walking and exploring the Tulum hotel zone when it was not busy. We saw the famous mother nature statue, stopped at instagrammable locations, and sat on the beach. I negotiated a $12 taxi back, and we walked to lunch close to our hotel at funky burrito.
Dinner at Kin Toh
We headed back to Azulik to their tree-top restaurant Kin Toh. I do not recommend wearing heels, you will be walking on wood structures, and I tripped in my flats. Kin Toh is another scenic view, especially with the tables outside in the nests. This was our night to splurge, and we spent about $68 per person ordering conservatively.
Day 3- Cenotes and Relaxation
Cenote Las Calveras
We walked to the cenote from our hotel since it was very close. It was a 30-minute walk to get there on a mostly paved sidewalk. The cenote costs 250 pesos to get in or $15. A tip, pesos are less of conversion than dollars (about $12), so use pesos. Locals run this cenote, and I loved the setup. There was just one area with a ladder and swing. It still makes for fun pictures, and you are giving back to the community.
Hotel and Food
We decided to stay close to our area the rest of the day, which had a lot to offer. Great restaurant options at affordable prices!
- Lunch- Taqueria Los Chachalacos. Great inexpensive tacos that were delicious.
- Dinner- Casa Sofia an italian fusion restaurant that seemed upscale but was affordable. I had a five course meal for $30.
We spent the time between lunch and dinner relaxing on the rooftop of the aloft. It has an infinity pool, cabanas, food, music, and drinks—a great way to wind down after our trip.
Tulum can be as expensive or as budget-friendly as you want it to be. My advice is to prioritize what you want to do and research beforehand. Make sure you have pesos, therefore paying better rates where possible. Try to travel with a smaller group, and be wise!