I can go on forever on my love for the beautifully rustic yet refined (and amazingly instagrammable) aesthetics of Tulum's tropical scenery, eco hotels, and restaurants, but that's not where my love stems from. My love for Tulum is due to its stunning beaches and gorgeous, crystal clear cenotes. I can see myself returning to this small part of the Yucatan again and again. I don't always return to destinations since there are so many on my list yet to check off, but I've now been to Tulum twice and I can loudly say that I'd be happy to come back again soon.
Fly into Cancun International Airport, then Tulum is about a 1.5-2 hour drive away. I think the best way is to drive there yourself, but if you would prefer you can hire a private car service or take a shuttle bus.
Rental Car Having a car was definitely a big plus, especially getting to cenotes, restaurants, or other attractions that are more than a 10 minute drive away. I rented from Avis since I did it last minute, but there are probably cheaper local companies that you can rent from. Make sure that if you can't drive manual, that the car that you rent is automatic.
Pesos There are ATMs in Cancun and throughout Tulum, but make sure to bring at least a few pesos in case the ATMs are out of order. I found that most restaurants in Tulum took credit cards, but places like outdoor market stalls, fruit stalls, and cenotes only accepted cash.
Bikes Once you get into Tulum, it's great to rent bikes in order to go around seeing the city. Plenty of hotels, restaurants, cafes, shopping centers are just a short bike ride away. Ask your hotel if they offer a bike rental service. Otherwise, you can rent from tourist shops which aren't difficult to find.
My favorite part of Tulum are the beautiful Cenotes, which are natural sinkholes. They're absolutely stunning and I could spend hours floating in them. Try to get there earlier when they open (usually between 8-9AM) to avoid the crowds and have a tranquil morning in the waters to yourself. Don't forget to pack a towel!
- Cenote Dos Ojos (literally translated, Cenote Two Eyes): There's a blue eye and a black eye, named for the colors of the waters. These cave waters run deep, and it is popular to go scuba diving from one to the other and discover a bat cave in between.
- Cenote Nicte Ha: My personal favorite cenote because of its crystal clear waters, lily pads, and cute fishes. I would suggesting snorkeling here because the underwater plant and fish life is really pretty. My friend Joanne and I spent hours entranced by the calm movements of the fish, the swaying of the pink roots of the lily pads, and the bubbles sprouting from the plants. It's in the same cenote park as the Cenote Dos Ojos (about a 5 minute drive).
- Cenote Cristal Not only are the waters crystal clear as the name suggest, there are beautiful tropical plants and palm trees on the edge of the waters adding to the serenity and beauty. There's also a great wooden platform that you can jump off of.
- Cenote Azul I hate to keep repeating this, but this cenote also boasts super crystal clear waters. There are also patches of higher rock formations that you can stand and rest on. Lots of fishes in this one too! This cenote is about 30 minutes north of Tulum.
Mayan Ruins Tulum This beautiful Mayan ruin is one of the only Mayan ones by the sea. Tulum was an important city back in the day and served as a key post for trade. On sunny days, the waters glow an unbelievable blue and turquoise. There is a beach portion in the site where you can dip into the ocean while you look above to the historic ruins. Note: the ruins are open from 8AM-5PM, but they stop letting people in around 4:30PM, so be sure to get there in time! I would say it takes about 1-2 hours to see the whole site, but budget more time if you like to explore in detail and spend time relaxing at the beach.
Chichen Itza If you have time, I suggest taking a day trip to one of the wonders of the world, Chichen Itza. It's about a 4-hour drive away and is stunning (though smaller than expected) in person. Make sure to also stop by Cenote Ik Kil, which is just a 10 minute drive away and is another one of my favorites. It's super refreshing to jump into the waters after a hot walk around the Chichen Itza.
Downtown Tulum Shopping Downtown Tulum is more inland than the strip of Tulum Beach that has all the hotels and restaurants. You can find lots of beautiful fabrics, bags, bracelets, keychains, and more that are true to the unique Mexican design. There is one main street (Avenida Tulum) that has all the markets and restaurants in the town that's hard to miss.
Yoga Health, wellness and sustainability are running themes in Tulum. There are yoga retreats that you can attend in Tulum. If you don't want to dedicate an entire trip to yoga and wellness, I would at least try to spend one morning at a yoga session. Your hotel may offer complimentary morning yoga every morning. Amansala Resort is especially known for their yoga classes (overlooking the beach!), bikini bootcamp, and yoga retreats.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Whether you scuba dive or snorkel in the cave cenotes or in the sea, Tulum is an excellent place for underwater activities. Tulum is also famous for having turtles come to nest on its beaches so it's likely to be able to see them when you snorkel.
Raw Food Tulum has a lot of great health food options, and this place scores near top of the list. You won't regret getting one of their amazing acai bowls which are incredibly fresh and tasty (as well as beautiful and perfect for Instagram!)
La Fonda Chiquita Good dining experience right off the rocky cliffs overlooking the water. It's more local and much less fancy than a lot of other places, but still very good. We had dinner overlooking the sunset. Quick tip: I realized I didn't really like the taste of the beef in Tulum & Cancun (let me know if you feel differently!) so I generally order items with seafood or chicken. Fish or shrimp tacos are amazing!
Nomade Tulum I absolutely loved the design of this restaurant (and the hotel that it's located in). We came here for brunch and sat in the cutest Moroccan-inspired place with beautiful rugs, cushions, and lights. The food itself was excellent. I would go back in a heartbeat!
Posada Margherita After meals and meals of Mexican food, it was good to switch it up with Italian food. The pasta here is incredibly fresh, and like I mentioned above, if you can get some seafood or their catch of the day, it'll be amazing. I also suggest going just before sunset and enjoying dinner directly on the beach under the twinkly string lights.
Casa Violeta This is the cutest place to grab food right on the sand with amazing views of the ocean.
The Real Coconut This restaurant is located in Sanara Hotel and as its name suggests, adds coconut to everything in their menu in unique ways, including coconut yogurt, tortilla chips, tacos, etc. It's focus on health and freshness.
Matcha Mama This place has amazing smoothies. I love their use of matcha, it's not overpowering but the perfect amount in each smoothie. It doesn't hurt that it's the cutest little outdoor stand with swings as seats. It's not the easiest to find on Google maps, just know that it's right next to La Onda (the restaurant that has the sign "Best Pizza on Earth").
Safari This outdoor place feels super unique and serves "campfire food", which is fitting since the food is cooked in an outdoor fire pit. The prices alone make this delicious place worth a visit.
Curandero Tulum A great place to go out at night, have great local live bands performing. Great potential for a night of dancing, good music, and great drinks. Get the mojitos!
Zazil-Kin Bar Great bar right on the beach, includes awesome happy hours, good food, and decently-priced cabanas
Casa Jaguar Not only is this a great restaurant, but it's the perfect place to grab drinks and chat the night away. It has the perfect rustic feel that Tulum is known for but oh-so chic.
Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar I love that they use real sugarcane juice in all of their cocktails. Don't miss out on their mojitos which they are famous for!
Papaya Playa Beach Club This is the perfect place to go on a Saturday night for some house and techno. They're also super popular for their full moon parties, which occurs about once a month on the Saturday during full moon. Just look out for roped out areas in the beach