The Ultimate Guide to Tulum, Mexico

You asked and I delivered! Here are my suggestions of things to do in the ever so trendy and popular Tulum, Mexico. In this blog post you'll see how my man and I spent time in Tulum on the cheap.

You'll see this post broken down by AREA. 

  • Town.
  • Beach vibes.
  • Outside of Tulum.
  • Splurgin' on Romance.
  • Additional Info.

Here are some things that you've asked for more on..

TULUM TOWN //
Where should I stay in town?

The cheapest accommodations in Tulum are either beach camping or hostels, which I've seen on air bnb and while walking around, however I didn't explore that. I stayed at this apartment right in the heart of town.

 http://blueplayarealestate.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/enhanced-buzz-wide-5658-1430234153-14.jpg

http://blueplayarealestate.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/enhanced-buzz-wide-5658-1430234153-14.jpg

 http://tulumliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/tulum-mexico-Google-Maps.png

http://tulumliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/tulum-mexico-Google-Maps.png

What you should know about staying in town.
As most travel reviews say, staying in town has the cheapest grub and cocktails than along the beach. BUT keep in mind that this is a busy place in Mexico and there are two main roads that run through it. One of those roads is the actual highway that connects Tulum to Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Then there are your typical loud-ass mufflers and street food delivery peeps doing their thang. I also had the misfortune of staying across the street from a cantina with no door and loud music at night. Not relaxing. HOWEVER be wary of staying near newly developed 'immersive jungle experience' properties because some of them are off the grid. Amazing in theory however if they are generator run, you may be smelling gasoline and hearing them work. ALSO (and this goes for properties in the 'hotel zone'), development is BOOMING in the area so you'll hear chainsaws around the jungle. Check recent reviews on prospective vacation properties to see if anyone's mentioned this. This is the main reason, besides the price, as to why we didn't stay in the 'hotel zone'.  

VAL04125.jpg
VAL04127.jpg

Eva, you realize you haven't really started talking about the food yet...
Ugh, can I finally start writing about that? Thanks!!!

For now I'll run down all the TOWN has to offer and trust me, I did a TON of research.. here's what I recommend!

Staying at an apartment with a kitchenette?
Buy the majority of staples (aka this is the cheapest place for booze, sunscreen, toilet paper, cereal, etc) at the Chedraui Supermarket and then get your local produce, grains, beans, fresh tortillas at Pool

 Menu at De Cielo

Menu at De Cielo

But really.. tacos
K. Let me break it down for you:

According to my air bnb host, Tulum peeps eat tacos for breakfast so if you want to go to the best place in town for tacos, Taqueria Honorio, you have to get there around 10am for their FULL AND EPIC SELECTION. After that, your selection becomes more limited. They're all amazing.

Just down the street from Honorio is a more Vegan friendly (yet still omnivore) taco stand with great fresh juices and smoothies. El Canaston has a ton of open bar condiments like slaw and the spiciest pickled carrots you will ever eat. Again, more selection before noon!

For nighttime tacos, the internet boasts a trip to Antojitos La Chiapaneca for their tacos al pastor. They were pretty good but nothing mind-blowing except how inexpensive they are. Still good though! 

The best coffee & breakfast?
You'll find it at Ki'Bok. Go there and order the hemmingway latte and thank me later. Their food is generously portioned and coffee amazing however if you want a cheaper breakfast with great coffee (and fewer hipsters) head over to the Veracruzian jungle joint Cafeune

If you've been to Mexico before, you'll know that juice and smoothies are everywhere. The BEST and cheapest were at Liquido Y Solido. Service here is slow btw. Doesn't matter though, bring a snack and wait for your juice or smoothie. 

Other food in town?
Lots of places in Tulum have grilled octopus on the menu and the best was by far at La Barracuda. Holy @%$# the food here was good. ENORMOUS portions and their ceviche was ON POINT. And you HAVE to get a pitcher of their Chaya Lemonade (made with lime juice, sparkling water and blended with spinach! You'll feel like a champion.

My favourite food has to have been at the charcoal chicken joint Pollo Candidas I came across while walking around town. I trusted it since it had quite a few people waiting outside and a line of chicken grilling away. It was INCREDIBLE and for $60MXN you get half a chicken, rice, slaw and delicious hot sauce. Perfect meal for two. Incredible. 

Booze it up, baby, I'm going to la playa!
Siiick! I'm happy for you. Happy hours are generally the best bang for buck and are typically between 1-5pm when people want a break from the hot sun. My favourite cocktails in town had to have been the fresh sugar cane juice mojitos at Batey. Not sure if they have a happy hour though.. 

 Micheleda at Playa Pescadores. Notice the lack of tan.. it got better.

Micheleda at Playa Pescadores. Notice the lack of tan.. it got better.

Bike riding! I love it, how is it getting around by bike?
I bike everywhere in Ottawa, where I live, so I was excited about crusin' from town down Av Coba, the beach road, with my bae on our air bnb bike rentals. Little did I know that one of them would be SO tall that my 5'2" height could not ride the frame meant for a 6' person! I toughed it out and almost crashed 100s of times. After a few near death experiences we opted for taxiing. Not only was it around $7CAD ($90MXN Tulum Town to Public Beach (Playa Las Palmas, Tulum Ruins, etc), $130MXN Tulum Town to Hotel Zone) each way but it was also nice not to be covered in dried sea water biking on a heavy cruiser bike back to town in the humidity. Like anywhere, make sure that you negotiate your Taxi cost before you get in.

We could have rented other bikes that would fit me.. if you go for that they run about $100MXN/24hrs or $70MXN/24hrs if you rent them for 7 consecutive days or more. Keep in mind that if you're staying in town and spend the day at the beach, there are no street lights so bring a bike light from home. 

Visit Hotel Don Diego de la Selva for the beehive tour! See above.

PS the city is currently building a light system that will extend to the Av Coba which is why part of the downtown strip is unearthed and kinda annoying to walk through...

Outdoor cinema.
You must absolutely NOT miss out on the outdoor cinema in Tulum. Their listings are always posted here on their Facebook page. There are (non alcoholic, like this warm cocoa drink with homemade amaranth milk) drink vendors here as well as a sushi bar! Super quaint and a hilarious selection of movies projected almost nightly on a screen. Bring bug spray!

BEACHVIBES //

Speaking of beaches.. Beach LIFE! That's all I want..

Ya, me too. When I got to Tulum I found out that all of the beaches in Mexico legally have to be public. To access them you have to cross through the Playa las Palmas Public Beach, beside Hotel Mezzanine (going left at the fork of Av Coba) or through one of the beach clubs or hotels in the Hotel Zone. This side of the beach is great because it's more laid back IMO and where locals and tourists mingle. Mezzanine has a killer Thai fusion menu (that's pricy though, but DELICIOUS). Go their for the 2x1 margaritas from 1pm to about 5pm. 

Beach clubs and how to get em cheap...
Public Zone
The 'cheapest' beach club (aka places where you 'rent' umbrellas and chairs) is El Paraiso. Get there early as spots fill up fast on nice days! Here's a great place with reasonably priced food. A little further down is Playa Pescadores with less fancy service but here you are only required to buy a drink and meal per person in order to 'rent' a place to chill where as you have to pay an additional fee for them at El Paraiso. Mind yourself at Pescadores though because this is a launch pad for local fishermen and boat tours with many of their boats docked here.

You can, of course, pack your own picnic and beers in town and bring them with you to the beach. Set up your towels and chill the eff out!

Hotel Zone
Two places that didn't charge extra for the beds because we ate their first were:

La Zebra
This hotel had the BEST food on the beach. It tasted a lot like the rich earthy Oaxaca food from my last trip in Mexico which I direly missed during this trip to the Mayan Riviera. This place also has a bonus for families: jungle gym, large washroom, good times.

Posada Margherita
Quaint Italian restaurant by night, breakfast place during the day. BE FOREWARNED the food is NOT worth the cost. Their smoothies weren't, well, smooth (think particles of celery and pear peels still solid and floating around, so gross for $200MXN) and their portions / cost were very MEH. You can also order off-menu and get a more full breakfast which they didn't tell me until I saw another couple get their food. They boast that their food is worth it but I disagree based on other places in the area I've eaten for similar prices. HOWEVER, if you go for breakfast, use of their quaintAF beach BEDS and lounge chairs are comped. I can't even begin to tell you how peaceful this part of the beach is.. ugh...

OUTSIDE OF TULUM TOWN //
Other shit to do that's cheap?

Walking through the Tulum Ruins. It's cheap to taxi there and walk around. They also have beach access! Bring your towels and have a time. You can also walk along the beach from here to Playa Pescadores and Playa Paraiso, beach clubs I've mentioned above.

Go before 10am as tourist busses from Playa del Carmen and Cancun arrive around 11pm. Same goes for the cenotes! Speaking of which...

GOPR0627.jpg

Can I take Instagram model-style photos in those aquamarine Cenotes already?
Uhh.. sure, it looks super awkward as an onlooker tho tbh.
If you bring your own snorkel you only need to pay entrance fees at cenotes, rentals for flippers and lifejackets are extra. We biked to Gran Cenote from town, too which made that a super cheap activity as we only had to pay for entry!

If you've never snorkelled or snorkelled through a cenote, I HIGHLY recommend paying for a tour guide at and of Cenote Manatee across the street from Casa Cenote. It's truly magical and outside of Tulum which is peaceful. Spend a Sunday morning here and treat yourself to their Texas BBQ for lunch across the street. A word of warning, their food is GREAT (anytime of day and night) there and their margaritas must be at LEAST 3 oz of tequila, BUT have change on you as they write a suggested total of bill with a 18% tip included on your bill so if you want to give them a smaller tip, have the cash on you that you need. 

VAL04014.jpg

So Casa Cenote is outside of Tulum, any cheap things to do around there?
So this part of Tulum is called Tankah and is a little tricky to get to via car. Taxiing isn't that cheap either compared to other places in Tulum (we got it down to $200MXN) and if you stay in this area until the evening you'll be charged a bit more since the taxi charges you their drive from Tulum Town and back. 

We also spent 4 nights here, specifically at Cielo Maya. Great hotel!

This part of the beach has coral on it and in the water so bring a snorkel, water shoes and swim out to see some cool-ass fish. The coral also makes it less popular of a place which makes it nice and quite for a brief break from the bustle of town and the more touristy areas. 

If you want to take another trek outside of Tulum, visiting Chamico's in Soloman Bay and having their ceviche is A MUST. One order is definitely enough to share for two and one fried fish platter is enough for 4. Their last meal service is at 4:30pm so get there early with the fam and spend the day here!

VAL04051.jpg

Romance on a SPLURG //

Get some drinks during sunset at Mi Amor (get the fish tacos and tuna tostada - the view is !!!!!) 

DEFINITELY make a reservation and dine at Arca (second favourite food of the trip with the exception of the coconut salad that comes with the fried fish - get the red pepper spread with quinoa crackers!)

Consider a massage at Mayan Clay. Speaking of chainsaw vibes, be warned that during your full body mud massage immersion, you may be subject to neighbouring construction :( The owner halted their work during it but you are getting massaged outdoors so there will at least be noise from the beach road. This was one of the cheapest massages in the area though...

Take a semi-private tour with Tulum Diving & Travel. We did the Sian Kaan biosphere tour. If you do it, you'll be immersed in a diving experience like no other, in the middle of no where! So much so, however, that you need to drive on the BUMPIEST road of life for 2 hours EACH WAY. It's wild and hurts. Hopefully you'll get Jorge, a hilarious tour guide with great taste in music. Again, average food but incredible experience. SEA TURTLES AND DOLPHINS ANYONE?

ADDITIONAL NOTES CAUSE I LOVE YOU THAT MUCH //

  • Most places serve you pico de gallo and corn chips with your meals. Save money by sharing one dish and eating endless bowls of chips and salsa.
    Β 
  • Bring a long string and hook it up as your clothesline at your hotel. Bring multiple bathing suits. It gets hot there and drying your clothes there takes a while if you air dry em.
    Β 
  • Save their fragile ecosystem! Bring biodegradable sunscreen and bug repellant. One of our tour guides told me about a local environmental science team that have been finding traces of skin care chemicals in the leaves of their trees. Cenotes are a particularly fragile ecosystem and need us all to oblige to help preserve them!
    Β 
  • No I didn't do any yoga or sound healing mostly because places that offered it were so expensive I didn't find it justifiable for the chainsaw vibes going on around where they were offered.
    Β 
  • Walking down the beach road in the hotel zone isn't pleasant. There is no sidewalk for the most part and you are constantly subject to getting out of the way of taxis, delivery trucks and smelling septic tanks of hotels. That being said, parking is a little bit annoying. We didn't have a car but would imagine that taking a taxi is way more convenient. Walk on the beach as much as possible.. except when you want vegan coconut ice cream at Matcha Mama

    Thanks for reading my opus on a beautiful town! I can't wait to go back. Let me know where you want me to review next in the comments below and don't forget to subscribe to find out when my next post is up.

    Adios!