Tulum Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know in 2021

After living in Mexico for the past 3 months, I thought it was about time to break down some of the most asked questions that come up via Instagram and my Most Instagrammable Places in Tulum blog post.

This is a complete Tulum travel guide of everything you need to know when planning a trip to the most popular Mexican destinations. This blog post will give you the lay of the land and help you make the most out of your trip to Tulum with ideas on where to stay, what to eat, attractions and places to go, and more.

How to Get from Cancun to Tulum

Landing in Cancun International Airport (CUN) there are a few ways you can get to Tulum. The drive between Cancun to Tulum is roughly 118 kilometers (73 miles) and will roughly take you about 2 hours.

By bus: Taking the bus from Cancun to Tulum is definitely the most economical way to go (compared to a private shuttle/taxi) and will take you about 2.5 hours. If a bus is your prefered traveling method I would recommend looking into ADO bus.

The buses are in great condition with big comfy seats & they even have TVs so you can practice your Spanish with whatever Mexican movie is playing! On average a bus ticket from Cancun – Tulum will cost you around $200 pesos (approximately $10 USD/ one way). The ticket below was my trip from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, it cost me $3 USD for a 45 minute ride whereas a Taxi would cost me $60 USD.

By taxi/private van: It isn’t a cheap trip considering the other options, but if you’re arriving with a group splitting a private car isn’t so bad and it is definitely more comfortable. I’d recommend this one if you are traveling with several bags and/or with another person or more. (Around $100 USD). If you already know your return date you can book a return trip with a private shuttle. They will pick you up at your hotel in Tulum and drop you at the airport.

By rental car: The drive takes approximately 2 hours, depending on traffic. Renting a car in Mexico is fairly cheap and the drive to Tulum is very easy. It’s basically just a straight route on Highway 307. However, I would not recommend having a car Tulum if you are staying in the beach area, mostly because parking is very expensive and the hotel zone is always full of traffic. The plus side to having a car is the freedom to go on day trips to cenotes or ruins.

When we did rent a car we booked it through Sixt car rental. Initially, we only planned to have it for a week but we ended up keeping it and taking that same car on a month-long road trip through Mexico. More to come on that itinerary soon!

Tip: If you rent a car and are looking to discover nearly areas outside of Tulum, I would recommend spending a few days in Playa Del Carmen. This is where I’ve been living mainly while in Mexico. Reasons why I love PDC vs Tulum to come soon!

Where to Stay in Tulum

On the beach (hotel zone): The benefit about booking a stay in the hotel zone is that you are within walking distance or at least a quick bike ride away from the beach, great restaurants, dance parties and local shops. Most of the Instagrammable resorts you see flooding your IG newsfeed are located in the hotel zone.

This is the heartbeat of Tulum. The downfall is that it will come at a price. The hotels on the beach are very expensive and wifi in this area isn’t always reliable. You’ll often find yourself in a dead zone somewhere along the beach.

In Tulum town: The town is convenient for its grocery stores, bank, currency exchange, good restaurants, and nearby cenotes, etc. Most of the places are easy to get to with a quick bike or motorbike ride, but you can also catch a short taxi ride.

If you are looking to base yourself in Tulum long-term you’ll find a lot of the digital nomad community lives in town, not on the beach. As it’s more affordable, gets you a lot more for your money and allows you to rent an apartment long-term with a kitchen to cook your own meals. And the biggest perk, reliable wifi.

This was our 2 story villa in Aldea Zama, Tulum

Should I Tip in Mexico?

Yes, just like the rest of North America, it’s highly encouraged to tip. Just check your bill beforehand as some places will already include it on the bill and it can be easy to miss. It’s not so common unless you’re a large group but still something to take note of. It is customary to add 15-20% of the total of the bill for your tip.

Conversion Rate: $10 USD = $200 MXN (approximately).

If you hire a guide for a tour you should always tip the guide and even the driver if they pick you up for the excursion. The same rule applies if get a private car/ taxi for a day, who takes you to different locations and waits, you should also tip them.

And totally optional, but if I hire someone for a few hours or for the day and we stop to get food/ snacks, I always offer to get them something. Getting someone a Coke and a bag of chips isn’t really breaking my bank, but it may not be something they spend their money on.

Most Mexican workers earn a very small salary, so the tip helps them very much.

Hot Tip: Have a little cash with you, especially pesos for tipping. Depending on where you’re going, some of the smaller places and taxis don’t accept cards.

Where to Eat in Tulum

There are endless restaurants from the town to the hotel zone to satisfy every craving. From local dives to upscale international restaurants you’ll definitely find something. I’ve made a list of some of my favorite/ most recommended places.

I’m working on a long list of the best places to eat in Tulum. If you follow me on Instagram, this will include some favorites you may have seen featured on my stories.

Hot Tip: While Quintanaroo has banned single-use plastic, they do still have water bottles as it isn’t recommended to drink the water in Mexico – it isn’t filtered. To avoid buying endless plastic bottles I’d recommend packing a reusable water bottle and then buy large 5-10L of water to keep in your accommodation and just keep refilling. Also, be sure to pack a reusable shopping bag for groceries!

What to Do in Tulum?

Around Tulum there is so much to do, adventure is endless! Some of the top attractions include visiting the Mayan Ruins, discovering the underwater world of Cenotes, soaking up the sun on the beach, and ancient wellness rituals. Of course, we cannot forget that everywhere you look around Tulum is photo-worthy.

If quality content is what you’re after you’ll want to check out my Most Instagrammable Places in Tulum around Tulum blog post for a breakdown of the best spots, costs, and other important tips to note like the best time of day to shoot!

Archeological Zone of Tulum – Mayan Port City Ruins (Tulum Ruins)

Tulum’s original Maya name, Zamá translates as “place of the dawning sun.” The name is so fitting as it has the perfect view of the sunrise!

The earliest they open is 8am so we visited right away to beat the crowd. We were shocked to see that even by 10am there wasn’t that many people, a photographers dream! If there is one good thing to come out of this pandemic, it’s that it’s the best year to visit any popular landmarks.

The archaeological ruins of Tulum were built in the 13th-century and are one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites in Mexico, as well as one of the most photographed among tourists. However, if you have a car and want to discover more ruins, just 45 minutes inland you can find the Cobá archaeological site which has pyramid-shaped temples with views of the surrounding jungle. And located along the same route just 2 hours from Tulum, in Valladolid, you’ll find Chichen Izta, named one of the New 7 World Wonders.

Hot tip: If you’re going for content purposes, avoid going on the weekends as entrance to all archaeological sites is free on Sundays for Mexican citizens and foreign residents.

Important note: You used to be able to climb the pyramids, but that’s no longer the case.

Cenotes around Tulum

The Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum especially, is the perfect mix of white sand beaches, piercing turquoise water, and deep jungle greens. The Peninsula is best known for having the world’s largest collection of incredible caves and cenotes, pronounced “say-no-tey”. There are over 6000 cenotes in Mexico!

A cenote refers to an underground cave that contains permanent water. In other words, it is a natural sinkhole where the ceiling of the cave has collapsed. Cenotes are considered sacred, as ancient Mayans believed they were passages to the underworld. They now are the most visited attractions when visiting Mexico and are an excellent place to explore, swim, snorkel, or dive. A trip to Tulum isn’t complete without it!

Keep an eye out for my Best Cenote near Tulum Guide (coming soon) for all my favourite ones!

Mayan Healing Rituals

“Mayan traditional healing is a complex blend of mind, body, religion, ritual and science” – Marianna Appel Kunow. Healing is an important part of the Mayan culture and a tradition that lives on today in many therapeutic treatments.

Tulum is such a spiritual place you can find anything from eastern Chinese medicine practices like reiki to ancient Mayan ceremonies and guided hallucinogenic experiences. Many wellness centers and spas around Tulum offer spectacular services to fit every guest’s needs. From facials, wraps, massages, and bodywork to specialty Mayan treatments. Designed to energize and protect, Mayan rituals such as Temazcal ceremonies, Cacao Ceremonies, and Mayan Clay Baths are relaxing and therapeutic.

Temazcal is a Mexican-style sweat lodge that originated with the indigenous people of Mexico. During a ceremony, participants will enter a sweat lodge (picture an igloo-shaped hut). Once inside, hot volcanic rocks are placed in the center, and water is poured over the rocks to produce steam. To help the cleansing process they then add a bunch of herbs to the pile, typically sage and copal.

While every ritual is different, ceremonies typically last between 90 minutes- 2 hours. I’d recommend doing your research and finding a spa that respects the ancient traditions and not just a touristy activity.

This spa is the one that came very highly recommended to me by a follower. I have yet to visit and try a Temazcal ceremony but I will keep you posted on my experience!

Cacao Ceremonies are one of the oldest holistic healing practices used by indigenous cultures all over the world. These types of healing ceremonies work with rebalancing energies in the body to regain health. But unlike other shamanic experiences, drinking cacao will not make you hallucinate or give you some sort of ‘out-of-body’ psychedelic experience. Cacao helps the body to heal, detoxify and boost your immune system. If you’re open to the experiencing the benefits of the ceremony, it can allow you to work through blockages and past traumas, and dissolve any pent up negative energy.


I first experienced a cacao ceremony—where you drink hot, ceremonial-grade cacao in a ritual setting, at a blogger retreat I was co-hosting here in Tulum in 2018. We all gathered around as this woman guides us through the ceremony. I’ve done a cacao ceremony a few times here in Mexico and from personal experience, it’s very much an experience of gratitude.

Raw cacao is said to open the heart, at the time I wasn’t working through anything major in my life however this time around my heart is definitely in need of some healing and I feel my experience would allow me to work through some of the pain and barriers I put up from this year’s challenges.

Feeling lost what happened this year? Read my 2020 Year in Review.

Mayan Clay Rituals have been used in purifying bathing rituals since ancient times as a natural way to detoxify the body. Yellow Mayan Clay is massaged into your body from head to toe to reenergize your skin. A bathing ritual follows before you immerse yourself in a pool of warm milky Mayan clay to continue your detoxing experience. Lastly, they rub you down with natural oils and leave you to relax.

I hope this post helps you better plan your trip to Tulum. Let me know if this blogpost was helpful & if there is any info you want to know more about!

xx Lisa

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