Tulum Mexico Travel Guide
A 45 minute drive from Playa del Carmen brings you to the next stop our travels through Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum. Most come here to visit Tulum National Park, which has 13th century Mayan ruins from a Port city located along the ocean. Others might come here for its ‘eco-chic’ vibe of yoga, retreats, meditation, and healthy food. Either way, Tulum is a must stop on your way through the Yucatan, even if just for a couple days before moving on.
Where to Stay in Tulum
There are two sections of town in Tulum. One is Tulum Playa, or ‘Hotel Zone’, which is located along the beach and packed full of resorts, retreats, restaurants, and bars. The other section is Tulum Pueblo, which is in the town and divided by the 307 highway which runs through the center. Tulum Pueblo offers a more authentic Mexican experience, with local life, cheap Mexican food, all while still having shopping, bars, hostels, and Air BnB’s. My recommendation is that travelers on a budget stay in Tulum Pueblo and stay at an AirBnB. The town is very safe (always use precautions at night, stay on roads well lit) and walk-able. There are also a number of hostels and guesthouses in town, but as of October 2017 those still cost more than the local Air BnB’s. We stayed with a very nice couple for under $20 USD with our own bathroom and shared kitchen.
You can easily access Tulum National Park from either area of town.
Where to Eat and Drink in Tulum
Tulum has a number of restaurants offering authentic Mexican or Western if you need a break, as well as plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
Rincon Chiapeneco – A favorite of the locals, and recommended by our hosts, this plastic chair mom-n-pops style restaurant offers tacos starting at $8 pesos each and empanadas for $10 pesos each. The menu is extensive, ranging from large plates to individual tacos. Try the potato empanadas or the plantain fritas. Located on Jupiter Sur off Avenida Tulum (highway 307).
La Hoja Verde – A vegan restaurant located on Beta Sur off Avenida Tulum (highway 307). The menu has a range of fresh juices. smoothies, and coffees, as well as salads, sandwiches, entrees and desserts. Try the Explorer Salad or the Falafel Pita.
Don Karonte – I can’t speak much for the food, but at happy hour in the evenings they offer 2 for 1 cocktails ($70 pesos) and beer ($35 pesos) which was the cheapest I saw in town. Other places were charging 2 for 1 margaritas at minimum $100 pesos up to $180 pesos. Located on Avenida Tulum.
El Milagrito – Until 7pm you’ll find 2 for 1 beers for $45 pesos, and 2 for 1 cocktails for $100 pesos. They have an extensive food menu, although more expensive than local restaurants in town. Two flat screen T.V’s either play sports or music videos (we had 2 hours of VH1 classics). We came two nights in a row to enjoy the happy hour and ambiance of this restaurant/bar in Tulum Pueblo.
Mateos – The perfect spot for American Football Sunday, this bar/restaurant located in the ‘Hotel Zone’ has a few flat screen T.V.’s and they will put on the ‘Red Zone’ to watch sports when requested. Tex/Mex style food at higher prices than those in Tulum Pueblo, the ambiance is nice and fun and the drinks good (although more costly). Be careful during the rainy season, the roof has many areas for waterfalls to sneak in.
What to Do in Tulum
Tulum Mayan Ruins at Tulum National Park – This is the highlight of Tulum, and was one of the last cities built by the Mayans around the 13th century, and is located on 12 meter cliffs high above the ocean. The ruins are in surprisingly good shape and well preserved, and the grounds are beautiful. You could spend as little as one hour walking around, or up to several hours on a nice day. Bring your bathing suit and swim beneath the ruins at one of the beautiful beaches that have access from the ruins. One of the beaches is blocked off and a protected turtle nesting site.
If you’ve rented your own car, the best place to park is along Boca Paila Road, the main road of ‘Hotel Zone’ next to the beach. Here you will find another entrance to Tulum Ruins, and FREE parking (park behind the taxi section and only on one side of the road). If you go to the main entrance of Tulum, off highway 307, you will be forced to pay upwards of $100-160 ($5-8 USD) pesos to park. The walk from your parked car will take less than 5 minutes, and you can purchase a ticket here at this entrance. As of 2017 tickets were $70 pesos per person ($4 USD). If you want to hire a tour guide, that can cost you anywhere from $20 USD to $40 USD depending on your guide. We opted to not have a guide and walk around on our own. The guides probably know a lot about the site, but we also read that they often make up stories.