- Visited February 2019
Tulum has become a prime spot in Mexico for tourists and for that reason I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my kind of place. Having spent months travelling round Mexico, enjoying places such as Guanajuato, San Cristobal and Valladolid, prior to my visit Tulum just sounded like an expensive tourist haven with nothing distinctive to offer me. Although having a good time in Tulum can be much more expensive than some of the other parts of Mexico, I did actually have a great experience and I’m glad I spent time here.
Your visit to Tulum can be tailored to meet your needs and your budget. If you are looking for a luxury beachside resort and don’t mind paying a premium rate for your ocean view, then you can easily find that here as multiple hotels and resorts line along the coastline. If you are travelling on a budget like me then you are likely to have to stay in Tulum town, an hour’s walk from the beach itself. Bikes are easy to rent here though (around 100 pesos per day) and most people use their bikes to access the beach and Tulum’s Mayan ruins – one of the most iconic images of Tulum is of the ruins perched overlooking the beautiful blue water. From Tulum town a taxi to the beach should cost no more than 150 pesos each way if you don’t want to walk or bike it. A minute walk from my hostel I was able to get a colectivo for 15 pesos.
The beach in Tulum consists of lovely golden sand though seaweed lining the shore is regarded by some as a problem. I didn’t mind it myself as it looks natural but high end beach resorts try to clear the seaweed away, leaving it pilled up in mounds, so their guests can capture unspoilt beach Instagrammable photos. One thing to be aware of is the lack of public beach access. The majority of places along the coastline charge for beach access so you will need to be careful about where you go at the beach if you don’t want to end up forking out an expensive fee. The Santa Fe entrance for a public beach is close to the ruins so this is a popular area. My favoured place to go was OM Hotel which is free to enter and you can buy cheap food (tacos, quesadillas etc) and drinks here – it gets very busy so go early to snap up a free-to-use sun bed. For those of you who don’t mind paying for ‘luxury’, you might want to check out Coco Tulum – on the day my hostel buddies and I visited, we were quoted 700 pesos just to access the beach! Shocking. As the weather was cloudy though, we were allowed to sit in the swing chairs for no charge, as long as we bought a drink. A glass of wine was 250 pesos and a beer was 120 pesos. Ouch. As lovely as this place was, my advice is save your money and just go to OM Hotel down the road (just keep in mind that this is a cash-only place and ATMS in the area charge ridiculous withdrawal fees so get your money out in town).
Tulum town is quite compact. There are loads of eateries, bars, shops and supermarkets around so you will be able to find everything you need here and I really liked the street art dotted around the place, giving it some character.
- Day 1 – Beach day – spent time at Coco Tulum and Om Hotel
- Day 2 – visited Cenote Corazon del Paraiso (so-called as it is heart-shaped) organised by my hostel. Twenty of us went and we paid 250 pesos for entrance, food and all you could drink. Lots of fun!
- Day 3 – A trip to the Mayan Ruins of Coba. See details below.
- Day 4 – a trip to Akumal. See details below.
- Day 5 – hangover day (free drinks nights in the hostel the night before…). Watched movies in a hammock all day.
- Day 6 – Beach day – Om Hotel.
Coba is known for its large pyramid and it really is worth a visit. My friends and I were told we could get a colectivo to take us there but we had problems trying to locate where to catch it. My advice is to take the second class bus from the ADO station in town (we took Mayab there – the bus was packed so we had to stand all the way there – and then Oriente back – 50 pesos each way). The drive time is around 45 minutes and you will be dropped off a minute’s walk from the entrance. You get the bus back from the same spot. Entry into the site is 75 pesos.
Akumal is a coastal resort about 25 minutes drive away from Tulum. My friends and I ended up visiting Akumal by mistake but it was a happy accident! We set out to go to the Gran Cenote and had been told you could catch a colectivo to it. We stopped several buses on the main street in Tulum town, were directed to keep walking to other stops and eventually a driver told us to get in. After 15 minutes he stopped and told us to get out – we were not at the Gran Cenote but another cenote on route to Akumal and Playa del Carmen. Not pleased to have been misled, we decided to continue on to Akumal, which is a really lovely beach and a great spot to snorkel with turtles. The colectivo was 35 pesos each way. We paid 100 pesos entry into Tsuuk Parque Natural and then paid 150 pesos to use a sun lounger all day. We were quoted 500 pesos to snorkel with turtles with a guide but were happy to just enjoy the beach. Definitely worth visit.
As with Tulum itself, you can find multiple food options to suit your budget in the area. Here are some places I particularly enjoyed in Tulum town:
- Sabor de Mar – fantastic seafood place. The shrimp salad and shrimp tacos were amazing! I ate here a couple of times.
- El Rincon Chiapaneco – budget-friendly and very tasty local food (located next door to Sabor de Mar).
- El Mariachi Loco – very touristy and not cheap but the food and service were both excellent.
*Note – I was surprised to be charged 560 pesos at the airport when leaving Mexico. I was expecting to pay an exit fee but I had apparently not been given the correct visa when I entered Mexico from Belize. Tourists usually receive a visa with an allowance of 180 days which is what I had been given when I entered the first time at the airport. This time I had entered by land, after taking a shuttle from Flores, Guatemala to Chetumal, Mexico (via Belize) and had only been given a 7-day visa. I’m told it is at the discretion of the officer at the border as to how much allowance you are given. At the border, the official was on the phone the entire time, did not speak to me at all about how long I was staying and nowhere on the visa slip did it say I only had 7 days allowance. This meant when leaving Mexico I was charged for over-staying my visa as I had spent longer than 7 days in the country. Lesson learned. Always check what time allowance you have been given rather than assuming you have been given the 180 days you are entitled to.
Selection of pictures from my stay: