Out of all the places I have visited in Mexico, Tulum is by far my favourite destination. Tulum is located on the Carribean Coast of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and is popular because of its beautiful beaches, yoga scene, fine dining, boutique shopping and laid back atmosphere. Days in Tulum are generally spent drinking cocktails on the perfect beaches, parasailing, jet skiing and cruising around on a bike.
This backpackers guide to Tulum cover things to do in Tulum, places to stay and other travel tips.
Things to do in Tulum Mexico
Relax on the Beaches in Tulum
The beaches in Tulum are by far the nicest in the region. You can easily spend a few days lazing on the beaches, eating delicious food and enjoying a few cocktails. The beaches are lined with adorable daybeds and cabanas, where you can have anything you like delivered to you. The beachfront restaurants are a little expensive for backpackers in Tulum.
Hire a bike in Tulum
The best way to explore Tulum is by bike. You can rent a bike for 150 pesos ($15) and use the bike to ride from Tulum town, up to the Tulum ruins or in the opposite direction up to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
The Tulum Ruins have a stunning backdrop of turquoise waters and bold cliffs. The Tulum ruins are the best preserved Mayan archeological site and host a number of housing structures, burial sites and pyramids. You can even swim on the beach off the coast of the Tulum ruins. Make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat and pack lots of water. The ruins are exposed and hot, no matter what time of the year you visit.
Snorkel Cenotes in Tulum
A cenote, for those who don’t know, is a natural pit or sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposed groundwater underneath. The Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, including Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, is home to thousands of cenote systems. Therefore, Tulum makes the perfect base to explore these cenotes.
Cenotes near Tulum include Grand Cenote, Cenote Calavera, Cenote carwash, Cristal Cenote and Cenote Escondido.
Go Ziplining in Tulum
Why not combine a cenote tour with a zip lining tour? And while you’re at it, why not swim with turtles too. I had a great day ziplining in Tulum, but what really made the day was the total package.
I booked a day trip through Edventure Tours that included hotel pick up and drop off, lunch, ATVing, zip lining, snorkelling in cenotes and swimming with the turtles.
Swim with the turtles at Akumal
I did this as part of the Edventure tour, but it could so easily be done solo. From Akumal Beach, which is a nice beach area halfway between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen, you can rent a snorkel and go swim the turtles alone. If you prefer you can hire a guide from the beach to help you spot the turtles.
Go Parasailing or Jet Skiing in Tulum
The conditions for parasailing in Tulum are absolutely perfect! As you walk along the beachfront in Tulum you will see many water sports providers. For people backpacking in Tulum, this may not be suitable for your budget, but if you have the cash to spare, it will make an unforgettable experience.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve found in Tulum is a corner of Mexico known for its natural beauty. The reserve contains tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, as well as a large marine section intersected by a barrier reef. The rich habitat is home to more than 300 species of birds, as well as 23 archeological sites and Mayan Ruins, the most well-known being Muyil.
Tulum is a popular destination for yoga, being home to many yoga retreats. Beginners and seasoned yogis will be able to find a yoga class in Tulum.
There is lots of beautiful marine life along the coastline of Tulum. You can choose to go snorkelling as part of a tour, or you can hire a snorkel and explore yourself.
Visit Tulum Monkey Sanctuary
Tulum Monkey Sanctuary is a privately owned ranch just outside of Tulum. This ranch rescues animals, looks after them and releases them once they are healthy. We saw a camel, several monkeys, emus and whitetail deer. The highlight was definitely the cenote that you jump into at the end. I wouldn’t recommend this tour unless you really want to see monkeys. I would also recommend cenotes other than the one on this property.
Other things to do in the Yucatan region
There is so much to do in the Yucatan region. Tulum is the place I recommend basing yourself, and from there you can explore until your heart is content.
This large Mayan Ruin is a popular tourist attraction that you can visit in a day trip from Tulum.
Cruise to Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a small tropical island located 13 kilometres off the coast from Cancún. It’s a vacation destination best known for its tropical beaches, snorkelling and scuba diving and luxury resorts. Visitors love hiring golf buggies and exploring the island at their own pace. At the southern tip, you will find a lighthouse, the remains of a Mayan temple and a sanctuary for sea turtles. And if you prefer, you can spend your days on Isla Mujeres sipping cocktails by the seaside. Find out more about taking a day trip to Isla Mujeres here.
Explore Playa Del Carman
About an hour North of Tulum is Playa Del Carmen, another beachside town. Playa Del Carmen is great for restaurant options, nightlife and shopping. You can easily get the public bus from Tulum to Playa Del Carmen for a day.
Cobá Archaeological Site
Cobá is a large Maya site about a 45 minutes’ drive or bus ride from Tulum. This is less popular than the Tulum ruins, so if you have a passion for archaeological sites and want to miss the crowds, head here. You can even hire bikes inside the site to ride around and explore, which is a lot quicker than walking. It is also possible to climb one of the pyramids.
Recommended length of stay in Tulum
I recommend staying in the Yucatan Peninsular for two weeks. Of this 2 weeks, I recommend spending 5 nights in Tulum.
Weather in Tulum
Tulum has year-round tropical temperates, averaging around 30 degrees Celcius. The wet season is between June and October, while the busiest season for tourism is in the dry period between December and April.
Currency in Tulum
The currency used in Tulum is Mexican Pesos and US Dollars. Tipping is customary in Mexico.
Getting to and around Tulum
If coming from overseas, you would fly into Cancun Airport. From Cancun Airport you can organise a transfer or get a taxi or bus to your accommodation. I recommend Shuttle In Cancun for transfers and ADO for bus rides.
If you are on a backpackers budget, take the bus and save. The ADO bus is very easy and safe. As you exit Cancun airport you can purchase a ticket to Tulum for 200 Pesos ($20). Onboard you will have wifi, a bathroom and a movie if you can understand Spanish. The ride will take 2 hours and you will be dropped in Tulum town.
Once in Tulum, I recommend hiring a bike to get around. You can hire a bike for 150 pesos ($15) per day.
Where to stay in Tulum
These are some of the best-rated backpackers in Tulum.
- Mama’s Home
- Hostal Chalupa
- Hostel Che Tulum
- Lucky Traveler Hostel
- Amorcito Corazon Hotel y Hostel
- Mango Tulum Hostel
Search for cheap accommodation options here.
Budget for Tulum
$ – Expect to pay around 200 – 300 pesos ($20-30) or a bed in a hostel dorm room.
$$ – Expect to pay around 350 – 800 pesos($35 – $80) for a mid-range hotel room in Tulum town.
$$$ – Expect to pay 1500 pesos ($150) plus for a beachfront hotel in Tulum.
The best way to get around Tulum is by bike, which costs 150 pesos ($15) per day. Car hire starts at 500 pesos ($50) per day.
Tulum has amazing street food, so if you are backpacking in Tulum and looking to save money, I suggest trying the street food. A taco on the street will cost you 10 – 15 pesos ($1-$1.50). A meal in a basic restaurant will cost 50 – 100 pesos ($5 – $10) and a meal at a beachfront restaurant will cost 150 – 300+ pesos ($15 – $30). To save, book a backpackers in Tulum that provides breakfast.
Travel Insurance for Tulum
Safety in Tulum
Tulum feels like a safe destination, but it is important to exercise safety precautions. Don’t flash valuables on the street, or leave them unattended. Don’t care more than you need with you. Avoid walking down unknown streets at night, especially if you are alone. Avoid drinking too much and remain aware of your surrounding. See more of my tips for keeping safe when travelling.
Vaccination for Tulum
Check the Travel Doctor website to find out if you need any vaccinations for your backpacking trip to Tulum.
Other tips for backpacking Tulum
- I have said it many times, but I highly recommend hiring a bike in Tulum. It is the best way to get around and is so much fun.
- Make sure you try the street food. Tulum is my favourite place in the world to eat street food.
- If you are backpacking Tulum and looking to save money, book accommodation in town. You will be close to street food, cheaper restaurants and shops. If you stay on the beachfront, you will end up spending way more on food and drinks.
- Make sure you visit at least one cenote when backpacking Tulum. If you are interested in taking a tour, this one includes Tulum ruins, snorkelling, cenotes and lunch.
- If you want more tips for backpacking Mexico, check this article out.
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