A Honest Tulum Travel Guide
Okay, so depending on if you just stumbled on this article from the web or you already follow me, you may or may not know that I love Tulum. The mix of the jungle, the stunning beaches, the bohemian hippie vibe, the wellness scene, and the ability to find delicious healthy food at plenty of places is why it has my heart.
With this said, if you are considering traveling to Tulum, there are some things you should know before you go. You can then decide if Tulum is right for you.
Spoiler Alert: Not everything is magical. I just try to focus on the magic!
A Honest Travel Guide
Is Tulum Changing?
Yes. I didn’t do enough digging to see the exact year my husband and I first went to Tulum, but it’s been about 10 years. This past trip was our 4th time going and it’s changed a lot since our first time. Instagram has really made Tulum a big destination and along with growth came some loud partying beach clubs and a lot of development. So although the huge wellness focus in Tulum is still very present, there are beach clubs with young party goers now present as well. You may even get asked to buy drugs on the way to dinner depending on where you are (we did), and the local pharmacies now sell traditional prescription drugs galore to just buy at your leisure.
Before you say no thanks all together after hearing this, there are still so many magical places to go to and quieter stretches of the beach that you can be in and focus on instead.
When To Go
The best time to travel to Tulum: The first few weeks of November is always our favorite time to travel to Tulum. It’s generally quieter, usually less humid than usual, and the hotel prices are a bit more reasonable (reasonable for Tulum that is as – Tulum is pricey!). If you can, booking a hotel last minute in November can save you a chunk of money. You run the risk of losing out on a specific room, but due to the slower time, you’ll still find some availability.
How Far Is Tulum From Cancun Airport
You fly into Cancun and from here you’ll need transportation to get you to your hotel. It’s about 90 minutes to 2 hours from Cancun airport depending on who you get for a driver and what time/day of the week it is.
Car service to our beach hotel costed $135 +$20 tip EACH way. I’m always a bit sour about this cost, but I don’t trust a taxi from the airport, and I have not done enough research to find a nice, reliable car service outside of what our hotels set us up with. If, when I do, I’ll update it here.
Update: Carm Tours & Transfers was recommended to look into for airport transport
Where to Stay
I just wrote a full post in detail on the Best Places To Stay in Tulum Beach, so check that out if you are deciding on where to stay. Alaya, Sanara, Casa Violeta, Nomade, and Habitas are all great ones to check out. They are all on the best stretches of the beach and away from the bigger beach clubs (at the time I’m writing this anyways).
Tip: Pick a room towards the front of the beach if you can. Besides just wanting to see the ocean, the back of the hotel is going to have a lot more street noise and music depending on where you stay at. Of course some places are more secluded and this isn’t an issue.
Where to Eat
Dear Tulum. You have my heart with all of the healthy restaurant options.
Although you will still find more unhealthy places in Tulum, there is a huge part of Tulum that focuses on local, organic, sustainability, and carefully sourced food. If healthy food is a must for you when traveling, your heart will be happy here. With this said, just be aware that it usually comes with a higher price tag throughout.
Read my full post on the Best Healthy Restaurants In Tulum.
What To Do In Tulum
One of the best things to do here!
Be One With The Beach: Play in the ocean, lay out on a beach bed, and walk the beach every day. Long morning beach walks are the best.
Focus on Wellness: Tulum is a huge wellness destination. Depending on where you stay, you may never have to leave your hotel.
- Daily Yoga is offered at many of the hotels
- Spiritual Ceremonies like a Cacao Ceremony
- Sound Healing
- Guided Meditations and Workshops
- Massages: You can find hour beach massages starting at $45, but there are also many nice local spas if your hotel does not offer them.
- Animamente: I wanted to check this small healing center out, but never did.
Explore The Boutiques: All very pricey, but beautiful, local, handmade clothing, jewelry, housewares and more. I wish I had pulled the plug on a beautiful dress I was eyeing.
Swim in the Cenotes: My husband and I are not the adventurous type, but this is highly popular.
Explore the Tulum Ruins: We have not done this either, but it’s there for you if you want to.
Take a Cab To Town For A Day Trip: We love doing this once during our trip.
What To Know
It’s Expensive. I’ve heard the saying that Tulum is a place for “rich jet setting hippies.” It’s fitting. Tulum is not a budget vacation.
- If you are on a tight budget, but still want to explore Tulum, you can make it more budget friendly if you choose a place to stay off of the main beach area.
- Healthy food bills are going to add up when you are eating out for all of your meals. I give approximate food bill prices in my restaurant guide.
- There is a service tax added on to most bills that does not include the tip. It’s a separate tax they have.
- If you see “propina” (means tip) on your receipt, then they already included the gratuity in the bill as well (usually it’s 20%).
You can’t drink the water, so you have to pay for water everywhere, including restaurants. We probably spent around $15 a day on water. Anytime we bought a questionable water bottle at a local mart, we poured it into our filtering travel Berkey before drinking it. Regardless, don’t cheap out on drinking water. It’s hot and you’ll feel much better being hydrated. Be mindful of their water situation when eating out in regards to their drinks and washing produce. I pick and choose where I’ll get a salad.
You can’t flush anything down the toilet, including toilet paper. Yes, you read that right. Unless you are staying at somewhere like the Dreams Tulum Resort (which is nothing like the Tulum I’m talking about) or a condo nearby that has a better septic system, you have to place your toilet paper in the waste basket next to you. You get use to it.
The beach to town is about a $20 cab ride each way (it use to be $10). We like to go to town once during our stay to feel the local vibe, culture, and eat much more affordable food. I highly recommend Burrito Amor in town; it’s also in my Tulum restaurant guide.
You can rent bikes and scooters all over. My husband and I always walk everywhere since we don’t want to deal with the crazy drivers and figuring out where to park, but it’s a great way to get around quicker. Just be super careful, as the road is insane, bumpy, and tight. Even though the locals, trucks, and taxis are use to bikers, it’s still a crazy road.
It can get really humid and hot. The main beach road is super dusty and dirty, especially if there is rain. On these days it’s harder to walk the main street alongside all of the cute shops as it’s hard to breathe.
If you are sensitive to smells and chemicals like I am, a big downfall is the overwhelming smell of gasoline fumes on the busy main road, especially during the hot days. I usually cover my face with my shirt, dress, or coverup. It seems to be a bit better in the later afternoon when it’s cooler and there is less traffic. (at least in early November)
If you know a little Spanish, it will come in handy here. Although you don’t need to know Spanish to come, I find my now rusty Spanish extremely helpful every time.
Exchange for pesos before you come. Many of the nicer hotels take credit cards, but a good amount of places are cash only. They do have ATM machines, but sometimes they are broken and the fees can be crazy.
Everyone is going to spend differently, but in case this is helpful for someone: We brought $700 worth of pesos that we exchanged at our Chase bank a few days beforehand, $310 in cash for our hotel transfer (includes both ways and tip), and an extra $300 in cash incase we needed to exchange for more Pesos or needed tips, etc., and the rest we put on a credit card. This is for two people for a week.
Bring two credit cards just incase one card cuts you off for some reason since you are out of country. Better to be prepared.
When paying in cash/pesos at random places, give exact change when you can. Some places won’t bother giving you change.
What To Pack
Small Flashlight – It’s super dark at night and you’ll want this for walking either the beach or the street. Stay mindful when it gets dark out so that you don’t have a super long walk back to your hotel in the dark. Just like anywhere else, be watchful of your surroundings. My husband and I have not felt unsafe in Tulum as you hear sometimes, but we stay very aware of our surroundings. We also keep our passports and extra cash in our room safe.
Natural Bug Spray – Tulum is part jungle and it’s buggy. I actually have a scar right under my eye from a bug bite on one of my trips here. Of all places it had to bite me. Anyway, I clearly still returned to Tulum. I just now sleep with a light spray of bug spray at my ankles.
Sunscreen – Tulum’s sun is hot. Even if you don’t tend to burn elsewhere, you are going to want to apply sunscreen in Tulum. I didn’t apply it after being in the water for a long time and I burned the front of my body when I laid out. I ended up having to put on cheap aloe. Here’s some burnt picture proof.
Filtering Water Bottle – We found this very helpful when getting the cheap, questionable bottled water at the local marts.
Ladies– Light dresses, beach ware, little makeup, and your Boho jewelry.
Well, I hope this guide was helpful to you! As much as I wish Tulum was the old Tulum, I have not written it off since there is still SO much goodness there!!
Comment below if you have any questions or just want to say hi!
Thanks for being here with me! Xx Riane
Find me on the daily @herhealthystyle on Instagram
Find this post helpful? Pin, Share, & Save For Later:
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I am only featuring items I love. As an amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you so much for your support! See my full disclosure.