Tulum : What to Do, See, and Eat + Other Need to Knows
When considering places to celebrate my birthday, this year, there were a few contenders but Tulum really stuck out for some reason. I’m not sure if it was the countless Instagram posts or the allure of the jungle, but either way I knew I had to go! Unlike last year’s solo trip to Rome, I decided to bring in the big 3-5 with some of my closest girl friends, from the east to west coasts. We spent 5 days and 4 nights taking in all that Tulum had to offer. From exploring the ruins and cenotes to enjoying drinks at the local beach clubs and closing out the restaurants at night, each day was filled with new adventures!
So if you’re thinking of traveling to Tulum, which you should, here’s my take on everything you need to know to have an unforgettable experience in the magical jungles of Tulum.
Since there are no airports in Tulum, you’ll be flying into Cancun. After you arrive in Cancun, there’s a 90 minute shuttle ride from Cancun to Tulum. We booked a private shuttle that took us from the airport straight to out Airbnb, using E-Transfers.
Pro-Tip: Book your shuttle at least a week in advance and make sure you have cash to tip the driver.
Where We stayed
Instead of staying in the hotel-zone we opted opted for this two story beautifully designed penthouse right in the middle of the jungle, with a rooftop view of the Tulum ruins. Our Airbnb came equipped with all of the comforts of home and a little more. From our own private rooftop pool to a bar cart stocked will all kinds of mixers and bar gadgets to make your own signature craft cocktails. Although we felt a little secluded once we turned off of the main road, we were only a 10 minute ride from all the action. It was actually quite peaceful seeing the stars at night and being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the jungle ( and.. the hum of the AC lol)
What we did
When traveling with me, one thing there won’t be, is a shortage of things to do. Two months prior to the trip, the Virgo in me took over, and I created a itinerary for each day of the trip.
Tulum Ruins Archaeological Site
First up, was a trip to the Tulum Ruins to explore the remains of ancient Tulum and learn more about it’s history. Upon arrival, you’ll see a marketplace where you can buy local goods and souvenirs, like the cute straw visors that we all bought for $10 USD. (seen s little further down in the post)
Tips for the Ruins:
Don’t buy the skip the line ticket on TripAdvisor. There are hardly any lines and you’ll pay $3-4 vs $8. Also be sure to by your ticket at the entrance and not in the parking lot.
Rent a bike for under $15 and take a nice breezy ride down to the ruins, you’re legs will thank you.
Even if you rent a bike, its a lot of walking once you arrive at the entrance, so wear comfortable shoes.
As tempting as it may be, do not step over the ropes for the photo ops as there are guides and workers all around and will threaten to call “la policia (we learned this very quick)
If you’re traveling between April-August make sure to bring plenty of water !!
COCO Tulum Beach Club
After the ruins we decided it was time for some R&R at one of Tulum’s popular beach clubs, Coco Tulum Beach Club. The main draw here is their 2 for 1 drink specials and the photo ops on their infamous swings. Depending on the day and/or who you ask, there may be a 500 peso fee, for the beach club, but we didn’t have that issue.
The Gran Cenote
This magical sinkhole was a must on our itinerary and yes it’s as beautiful in person as it in pictures. You can easily stay here for hours floating around or snorkeling through the caves, and you may even see a baby turtle or two.
Tips for the Gran Cenote:
Admission to the Cenote is 180 pesos which basically equates to $10 USD. You can rent a locker for 50 pesos, but we just kept our stuff with us.
The best way to get to the Cenote is by taxi or rental car.
To avoid the crowds, it’s best to get there early in the morning (8:00am) or late afternoon.
The Gran Cenote is the closest to cenote to Tulum.
Be prepared to take a shower prior to getting in the water.
Once home to Pablo Escobar, this hotel, beach club, restaurant, and art gallery had all of the trappings for an afternoon full of photo ops, drinks, and art appreciation. At first sight, you may think you’re looking at long white curtains framing the swinging couches and chairs at the entrance, but with a closer look you’ll realize that they’re actually old wedding dresses sewn together. The overall vibe is very eccentric with a little hint of eeriness. You can expect to see art from the likes of Kaws. Keith Haing, and other contemporary artists.
Tips for Casa Malca
If you’re going to just for the photos, request that your taxi drop you off at the main entrance. If you go through the restaurant, they will request that each person in your group open a tab at the bar.
Be prepared to exercise some patience when it comes getting in all of your shots, a lot of people come just for the photos.
Private Yatch on the Carribean Sea
After a 30 min ride to Puerto Aventuras Marina, we spent the morning and afternoon aboard at 42 ft yacht, chartered by Riviera Elite. The crew was very friendly and served us freshly made guac, made to order drinks from the open bar, and took pictures of us both on the boat and in the water. Relaxing and having fun with my girls on the Caribbean Sea was the perfect way to bring in my birthday and definitely one of the highlights of the trip!
Where We Ate
Tunich - This was by far my favorite breakfast place! Nestled under a thatched roof, made of palm leaves, held up by trees, this restaurant draws you in with great food, fresh smoothies, friendly service and Wifi. And oh, the coffee is great too!
Del Cielo - The “Welcome Home Baby” sign got me in the door, but the fresh ingredients, fruit smoothies, plantain pancakes, and great service made us stay.
Taboo Tulum - Mediterranean themed beach-side, multi terrace restaurant, with a very fun vibe. The staff was very friendly and made it a point to make sure that we were enjoying ourselves. There’s also a DJ, later in the evening and the waiters put on a show when serving dishes like the salt crusted fish and the flambeed salmon
Gitano - The vibe is very jungle chic and the decor is great, but .. Yes there’s a but. Between the overwhelming scent of the incense that they burn to keep the bugs away and the pricey menu, you’re better off just coming here for drinks and the night life. But don’t get me wrong the food was great!
Mia - This was by far everyone’s favorite dinner. Although they’re known for their seafood the baby back ribs and the steak were the winners for us. The steak was sous vide and pretty much melted in my mouth. Oh yeah, the decor and ambiance is just as good as the food.
Pura Corazon - Low key casual restaurant known for its tacos and love themed decor. If you can make it here, before sunset, make your way up to their rooftop bar, Cielo Rose, and enjoy views of the pink sunset over the Tulum jungle.
Drinks and Night Life
What to Know Before you go
Tulum is separated into two main areas: Playa (the beach) and Pueblo (town)
The clearest, bluest waters are found at Playa Paraiso.
What stands between you and the crystal blue waters? Mounds and mounds of seaweed.
It is the jungle, so be prepared to battle the bugs and don’t be startled when you see grasshoppers with that have the wingspan of small birds.
It’s great to have cash on hand, but I suggest using your credit card at restaurants that accept them, as the credit card company will always use the same exchange rate. (ps. sometimes the Wifi goes out, so always carry cash with you)
US Dollars go much further, but if you need to exchange money your best option is at an actual bank ATM in Mexico. Do NOT exchange money at the airport in Cancun.
Many of the restaurants in Tulum are on Open Table, which definitely comes in handy when trying to go to more popular restaurants.
Uber hasn’t quite made its way down to Tulum so if you can get the phone number of your taxi driver, which most of them are down to give out, you’ll basically have your own personal driver.
THE HUMIDITY!!! Be prepared to sweat if your visiting in late spring through the end of summer. July-September are the hottest months. (but hey, cant help that I was born in August!)
The night life ends pretty early on Sundays, so keep that in mind when planning out your evenings.
Tulum is mostly powered by Solar, so there aren’t a lot of street lights along the main hotel road. (just in case you decide to go for a walk)
See more of my Tulum story highlights on IG!
If you have any additional questions about Tulum, feel free to drop me a line in the comments!
Happy Travels !