Where Cancun is characterized by all inclusive chaotic resorts, Tulum Playa is a calm hidden refuge in the jungle. There is barely electricity and running water in some spots, and the main mode of transportation is by bike.
Fly into the Cancun Airport, rent a car and drive two hours to Tulum. I was glad to have a car because it made it easier to take day trips a little bit out of Tulum to various hidden beaches and cenotes. Alternatively, you could catch a taxi to Tulum and then use bicycles to get around town, to the ruins and beaches.
Where to Stay
Tulum is not short of beautiful places to stay – from luxury hidden beach hotels, to expensive and budget eco hotels, budget friendly hotels, and even camping. Wherever you choose to stay, you will never be too far from the beach and the jungle of Tulum!
- I took a yoga class at the eco hotel, Azulik, and next time I come back I’d love to stay at this beautiful hotel, which feels more like a tree house.
- Papaya Playa is another beautiful eco hotel with beach front cabins and lots of other events and activities going on.
- If you are on a budget, camping in one of the campsites around Tulum could be an option. Keep in mind that temperatures sore in the summer months though! Popular campsites include Cenote Encantado and Sante Fe.
- El Jardin de Frida is another budget-friendly spot that is still located near the town center.
10 Things to Do in Tulum:
1. Scuba, snorkel and swim in Cenotes
While the Yucatan Peninsula has impressive beaches, I couldn’t get enough of the Cenotes and luckily Tulum is ripe with them. The Mayans believed these underground sinkholes were holy gateways to the underworld, the name itself means “sacred well”. Cenote Dos Ojos or The Pit are both great for scuba diving and snorkeling. Dos Ojos is primarily cavernous and dark and, at many points, the stalactites are only a few centimeters over head. For scuba diving or snorkeling the bat cave inside you will definitely need a guide so you don’t get lost. In order to avoid the crowds, Gran Cenote is a smaller but equally beautiful turquoise pool. If the dark mysterious caves of Dos Ojos aren’t your thing, Gran Cenote is mostly open and the vegetation creeping down the stone walls feels more inviting.
2. Visit the Tulum Ruins
The ancient Mayan city of Tulum is a short bike ride from Tulum Playa. Although it doesn’t look like much, the Tulum ruins were once a thriving seaport and it’s exciting to wander through and try to piece together what it might have looked like. Visit early before the tour bus crowds and heat creep in, and be sure to take a dip in the Caribbean at the base of the Castillo!
3. Yoga, lots and lots of Yoga
Yoga is a must do in Tulum and there are so many places to choose from. I went to a few places to find out about classes and once I saw the spot at Azulik, one of Tulum’s first eco-hotels, I couldn’t resist attending their morning class. Most of the yoga classes in Tulum run about $15 (basically like a bagillion Mexican pesos), but the views and practice are worth it.
4. Rent Bikes
Biking has always been my absolute favorite way to see a city. In Tulum it is the best mode of transportation and the cheapest spot in town to rent bikes is at Yokte bikes. I lived out one of my dreams, and proudly rode a red bike with a basket all over town. We rode from Tulum Playa to Tulum Pueblo, stopping on the way for a mango smoothie at Mateo’s. Don’t miss all the beautiful murals on buildings along the way too!
5. Lunch at La Fonda Chiquita’s
Tulum is filled with fancy restaurants, like Hartwood, that have world-renowned chefs serving meals in dimly lit hidden jungle spots that have candles hanging from the trees. The best meal of your life can be had in Tulum for a lot of money, but also for a lot less at La Fonda Chiquita’s. While it isn’t on the jungle side of Tulum, it’s probably the most authentic place in Tulum for Mexican food and is a great spot to dine on the rocks above the water.
6. Find a secret beach
Chamico’s. It’s the kind of place you want to tell everyone about, but you also want to selfishly keep just for yourself. Driving up to Chamico’s (past a ton of ‘no trespassing’ signs), I wasn’t sure if we had come upon someone’s beachside shack or if we had wound up in the wrong part of Mexico. There are no signs, no website and no address but this cafe and secret beach were the highlight of my trip. To get there, turn off the main highway past the Jashita Hotel sign and onto a small dirt road. When passing the guard at a small gate just pretend like you know where you are going, he’ll let you through. Despite all the signs that tell you not to trespass, keep going until you reach a dead end and see several plastic chairs and tables. There isn’t much on the menu (well, there isn’t even really a menu) but each dish, especially the ceviche and grilled fish, are made to perfection. Once your belly is full, lounge in a hammock or on the beach for the rest of the day.
7. Drink every kind of Mexican beer
There is nothing more satisfying on a hot sandy day at the beach than a cold beer. And Mexico is full of refreshing beer to quench your thirst – have a Dos Equis, Sol, Tecate, Pacifico, Modelo and Corona…then move on to the endless margaritas and mojitos.
8. Coffee at Zamas
Zamas is a great spot to start the day at a colorful table overlooking the water. But drink fast, the iced coffee on a humid morning melts quickly!
9. Explore Sian K’han Biosphere
Sian Ka’an (‘Origin of the Sky’) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located a but out of Tulum. You will need to either have a car to be able to visit or you can hire a local guide to take you. Sian Ka’an is a MASSIVE area containing tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, as well as a lot of marine life!
10. Relax in a hammock
Laying in hammocks is endless in Tulum and it’s just the reason why I loved this trip so much. Bonus points if you find a cute beach dog to hammock with.