From sacred sinkholes to boho beach clubs, don't miss out on the best things to do in Tulum.
There’s something mystical about Tulum. Situated in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Tulum boasts the coveted title of being a Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town). Intriguingly, it is said to possess auric energy stemming from the after-effects of the asteroid that struck the earth some 66 million years ago in this very area leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Formerly known as Zamá, this once-secluded hippie haven evolved overnight into one of the world’s most sought-after beach destinations. But what is Tulum famous for? An oh-so-Instagrammable banquet of beach clubs, throbbing nightlife, lush jungles, Mayan ruins overlooking pearly white sand, and a food scene that will have you coming back for seconds and thirds.
Some of the best things to do in Tulum include turning down the tempo on a beach retreat, catching a breeze and surfing the seas on a kitesurfing adventure, shopping till you drop, and being spoiled for choice with alternative therapies that bring balance and glee to your mind, body, and soul. While three days is enough time to visit Tulum, to experience everything, plan for a week.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TULUM?The best months to visit Tulum and enjoy these delights are November through March, when the humidity and heat are less intense.
Check the Quintana Roo government portal for COVID-19 information, restrictions, and guidelines to prepare for your deep blue Caribbean Sea adventure.
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Visit the Tulum Ruins
Poised on the craggy cliffs overlooking the Caribbean, a trip to the Tulum Ruins is a must. This is the only Mayan settlement located on the beach and one of the few walled cities built by the Maya. The ruins are one of the most popular sites in Tulum, and after a day of exploration, you can dive into the refreshing waters of the Caribbean and take in the ruin views from the sea, so be sure to bring swimwear.
Cobá is another incredible Mayan archaeological site to visit while in Tulum. These jungle-enclosed ruins are about an hour away by car, and the site is much bigger than Tulum’s ruins. It was previously possible to climb the main temple, Nohoch Mul, but this is no longer permitted.
Spend the Day at a Beach Club
Tulum’s sandy shores are lined with gorgeous beach clubs where you can rent a daybed or cabana for the afternoon and unwind with delicious food and drinks in an idyllic setting. These range from casual thatch roof hideaways to painfully sleek budget-busting hotspots. Some are free to enter, while others may have an entrance fee and/or a minimum consumption spend ranging from $10 to $160. The higher price points typically give you access to pools, spa areas, restaurants, and other facilities. Alternatively, you could book a stay at a hotel that also has a beach club. Some of Tulum’s most popular beach bars and clubs are Papaya Playa Project, Ziggy’s Beach Club, Nômade Tulum, NEST Tulum, Coco Tulum, Mia Tulum, La Zebra, Bagatelle, and Vagalume, which is recognizable for its pool bridge held up by a hand.
INSIDER TIPTulum favors a certain hippie-chic aesthetic. Therefore, some beach clubs have specific dress codes that are strictly enforced. Before you go, take a peek at what patrons typically wear on the social media account of any beach club you wish to visit.
Party the Night Away
Hedonists adore Tulum. If you’re ready to splash the cash, this town doesn’t disappoint in the nightlife arena. Specific places attract large crowds on particular nights in Tulum, so follow the trendy merrymakers along the party trail.
The start of the week is quieter, but Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar can usually be relied on for a good time. If you’re into trendy bars with quirky themes, this is the perfect place to chill out while sipping their infamous fresh sugarcane mojitos and vibing out to everything from electronic music to jazz and mariachi. On Thursdays, Casa Jaguar’s beach bar transforms into a wild jungle dance floor, and on Fridays, you should head to Gitano to dance the night away to a live DJ set. Papaya Playa Project is legendary for its monthly stylish full moon parties, but they are also big on the scene on Saturdays. Get those hips swaying on Sundays at salsa night at La Zebra beachfront hotel. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you might hear whispers of an impromptu rave here or there while you’re in Tulum.
INSIDER TIPAlways inspect your cheque adequately when eating and drinking at Tulum’s bars and clubs. Some places add a service charge to the bill automatically, so be sure not to tip twice. Also, double-check and make sure you have been charged in pesos and not dollars, as you might not be given the most favorable exchange rate.
Get Those Insta-worthy Shots
Tulum seems to be designed for Instagram. Beach clubs, bars, and hotels lure visitors with increasingly eye-catching installations, epic architecture, and destined-for-social-media photo ops. To recreate your own version of all those iconic Tulum photos you have saved on your phone, make your way down the beach road, and you’ll stumble upon some of the most Instagrammable spots.
Many flock to Mia Restaurant & Beach Club (right by Selina Tulum) specifically for a photo in front of its remarkable, wooden-fanned entrance, but the most popular draw for snap-happy travelers is the Ven a la Luz (Come into the Light) art installation by Daniel Popper at Ahau Tulum. Further down the road, you will be reminded to Follow That Dream with the sign just in front of Lolita Lolita Boutique Tulum, while over at Casa Malca, everything is utterly snappable. Formerly owned by notorious Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, this art hotel is flatteringly filled with contemporary pieces by collector Lio Malca—don’t miss the swing couch by the wedding dress curtains. Another beach hotel you’ll want to immortalize in film is Roc Luxe. At the entrance, there is a dramatic white dome with holes in it that looks especially scenic when sun rays pierce through.
INSIDER TIPFor photos, one particular slanted palm tree has become incredibly popular in Tulum. To find it, go to Playa Paraiso, right by The Coconut Experience beach bar.
Pick Your Preferred Beach
Tulum’s north beaches—Las Palmas, Playa Paraiso, Playa Pescadores, Playa Santa Fe, and the secluded Playa Ruinas—offer a more pared-back experience with wide, open spaces and beach bars that err towards rustic rather than ritzy. These beaches have swathes of open sand to lay down your towel and ample parking spots nearby. Playa Paraiso—named after literal paradise—is the most popular palm tree-filled beach in the area. With the famed Mayan ruins, Playa Ruinas gets rather busy in the afternoons, so it is advisable to arrive early if you would like to thoroughly enjoy this world-renowned sandy spot.
South Tulum beaches are more of a barefoot luxury experience where patrons linger over designer cocktails and perch in cabanas dressed to the nines. All beaches are public in Mexico, although finding public access points is tricky due to the assemblage of luxury boutique hotels and beach clubs in this area. Though a tad hidden, you can still find entry points dotted around.
Breakaway From the Beach and Go Into Downtown
Tulum is not all jungle and beach. It’s actually divided into two areas considered playa (beach) and pueblo (town) or centro (center). While the beach is the main attraction, the town is a bustling area that feels more like the Tulum of yesteryear. Breakaway from the shore, peruse the town’s local shops and eateries, and save some cash in the process—prices in the town are often far less than those on the beach road. One unmissable restaurant on the main avenue downtown is Burrito Amor. This gem is tucked underneath a canopy of pink bougainvillea, and it serves the most celebrated, palate-pleasing burritos in all of Tulum.
INSIDER TIPThe road separating the beach and downtown is rather long, and walking is not advisable due to traffic and limited pedestrian areas. Taxis between the two regions can be exorbitant, so negotiate rates before you get in and haggle as best as possible. Better yet, don’t rely on taxis as your main form of transportation.
Rent a Bicycle or Scooter
One of the best and most affordable ways to get around Tulum is by bicycle. Many hotels and rental properties offer free usage or charge a nominal fee. You can also find plenty of rental shops around town with prices between 100 and 300 pesos per day (about $5-$15). Not only is it more affordable than hailing a taxi, but it’s also fun to feel the wind in your hair as you pedal around town. You can get your set of wheels from Ola Bike Tulum or iBike Tulum, which also has scooters. To ride around stylishly, hire a colorful Vespa from Tulum Vespa, and you could even match your bike to your outfit.
Work on Your Mind, Body, and Soul
Tulum as a health and wellness haven is a well-traveled narrative. In this Mexican Caribbean beach town, you can find innovative, experimental, and indigenous healing modalities to nourish your mind, body, and soul. At NEST Tulum, you may release inner blocks during a chakra harmonizing ceremony or relish a pre-Hispanic sound healing. Over at Lucid Aerial Arts at Ahau Resort, swing from the ceiling with sea views during an exhilarating aerial silk, aerial hoop, or aerial yoga class. All levels are welcome, and instructors are positive and encouraging, so beginners need not worry.
From beachside sessions to open-air rooftop studios, you will find yoga classes on offer around every corner in Tulum. To get grounded at yoga practice, look for Om Collective, Azulik Maya Spa, Sanara, or wellness boutique hotel Holistika which has an on-site restaurant serving radiance-bestowing culinary creations. Nômade Tulum also has a healthy roster of regular wellness activities. If you’d prefer the novelty of trying the downward dog position while floating on a board in a crystal-clear lagoon, try a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga session with Jungle Yoga Tulum.
Experience an Ancient Temazcal Ceremony
Temazcal is a physical and spiritual healing bath and purification ceremony that takes place in a sweat lodge resembling an igloo-shaped hut. Temazcal or temazcalli in the Náhuatl language translates to ‘house of heat,’ and these ceremonies have been around for thousands of years in Mexican and Mesoamerican cultures. Typically led by a shaman or temazcalero, these sacred ceremonies involve clouds of steam, herbs, chanting, singing, and drumming, and they are said to free us of impurities and toxins. For those seeking temazcal’s emotional, spiritual and physical healing powers, Nômade Tulum offers soul-soothing sessions for groups or individuals.
Eat to Your Heart’s Content
From jungle-to-table meals and street tacos to molecular gastronomy and everything in between, even the pickiest palates will be pleased with the flavors of Tulum. Foodies should kick off the day with a delicious breakfast at Tamarindo’s, Del Cielo, or Raw Love; or if you want a side of breath-taking ocean views to go with your avocado toast, check out Real Coconut Kitchen. Los Bowls de Guadalupe serves up power-packed smoothies and smoothie bowls if you prefer something a little lighter. For lunch, you can refuel after a morning of exploration at Mateo’s Mexican Grill, which claims to have the best fish tacos on Earth. You also can’t go wrong with the shrimp tacos or hummus at Loco Tulum or a juicy burrito at Mistico Tulum.
Book a Beachfront Stay at NEST
From glamping in the jungle to crashing in a shipping container, you’ll find some pretty unique places to stay in Tulum. However, this is your place if you’re looking for a beach-chic boutique hotel with minimalistic vibes and maximum contemporary comfort. Located on the beach road, NEST Tulum is comprised of 12 dreamy rooms and one luxury villa. With the beach as your backyard, you can step out of your door and feel your toes melt into the silky sands. Spend sun-soaked days lounging under a cabana while being served refreshing mezcal margaritas, a cool respite from the heat.
INSIDER TIPTulum’s beach strip is notoriously pricey. The most affordable accommodation in the area is oOstel Smart Hostel Tulum Playa, where a bed in a dorm room will set you back just $20, and there are private rooms for around $50 per night.
Delight in 20 Peso Tacos at Taquería Honorio
You simply can’t come to Mexico and skip out on street tacos. It’s practically a right of passage. When in Tulum Centro, Taquería Honorio is the best spot for delicious street tacos. It’s a no-frills local eatery where the tacos will only set you back 22 pesos (around $1). The cochinita pibil and poc chuc tacos are must-tries, but you will also find vegetarian options on the menu and fresh fruit juices. There’s inside seating, but you can also get your hand-sized heavenly bites to go. The lines are long, but it’s thoroughly worth the wait. Get there early though, because everything is usually gone by 1 p.m.
Float Down Sian Ka'an
Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. Sian Ka’an translates to “origin of the sky” or “where the heavens were born,” Once you visit it, you’ll see why. This magical biosphere is over 1.2 million acres of unspoiled nature with mangroves, marshes, reefs, cenotes, and verdant rainforests. Avoid the crowds and book an early-morning boat tour so that you’re able to take a gentle float along the river.
Sian Ka’an is best paired with a trip to the Muyil Ruins. Also known as Chunyaxche, this Mayan archaeological site is home to several ancient structures and an observation tower from which to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the lovely lagoon.
Explore the Mysteries of Mexico's Cenotes
There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula that range from underground caves to expansive lake-like lagoons, all beckoning to be explored. Cenotes (pronounced “say-no-tays”) are fresh-water-filled sinkholes that developed due to collapsed limestone, and the Maya believed them to be majestic portals to the underworld.
Three of the most well-known ones in the area are Cenote Carwash, Cenote Calavera, and Gran Cenote. As the name suggests, Cenote Carwash (also known as Aktun Ha) was once used for washing cars. Now it’s an uber-popular swimming and diving spot reaching up to 50 feet in depth. Cenote Calavera has a ladder and a swing, and it somewhat resembles a skull from below. Open-air Gran Cenote is a short 10-minute drive from downtown, and its crystal-clear waters are deemed sacred. You might also want to consider visiting Cenote Choo-Ha, one of three cenotes located near the ancient Mayan ruins at Cobá. Cenote Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) is about 30 minutes northeast of Tulum, and it’s also great for diving. Rent a car and explore these prized swimming holes at your leisure or hire a tour guide or taxi to transport you to and fro.
INSIDER TIPThe most Insta-famous cenote in the Yucatán Peninsula requires a trip to the ‘Magical Town’ (Pueblo Mágico) of Valladolid. Cenote Suytun is a beloved photo spot owing to the perfectly formed circular platform in the cave’s center, much like a runway flanked by turquoise water. To get there from Tulum, hire a car, and you’ll be there in around an hour and a half.
Enjoy a Quiet Getaway From the Crowds at Laguna Kaan Luum
Laguna Kaan Luum is a quiet getaway from the crowds, and it is possibly one of Tulum’s best-kept secrets. If you’re looking for an alternative or an addition to visiting cenotes, add Laguna Kaan Luum to the list. The lagoon is actually a large cenote itself but with far fewer crowds and crystal-clear waters that transform into a beautiful deep blue color as the depth of the water changes. Plunge from the pier into the waist-deep waters, or hang out in the hammocks and swings just taking it all in.
Laguna Yal-Ku is another pilgrimage-worthy lagoon just 30 minutes from Tulum close to Akumal. Yal-Ku is a cenote that flows into a lagoon which is also an inlet for the sea. It’s a perfect snorkeling spot with shallow fresh and salt waters teeming with fluorescent marine life.
Dine at One of the Only Woman-Owned Restaurants in Tulum
WILD Tulum is not just another restaurant in the jungle; it is one of the only woman-owned restaurants in Tulum. At the helm is British-Lebanese music festival producer-turned-restauranteur Karen Young and its dim mood lighting is complemented by lush vegetation and heady scents of copal. WILD Tulum creates a serene and seductive atmosphere perfect for a romantic evening or a night out with friends. Order a la carte or experience the eight-course tasting menu with culinary creations inspired by cuisine from around the world. Be sure to try WILD’s signature experimental cocktails like No Mames! or Hayaté, which has tequila infused with red pepper.
Try Your Hand at Kitesurfing
Given its winds, weather, and water temperatures, Tulum is a paradise for kitesurfing. While basking on the beaches of Tulum, you’ll see dozens of colorful kites breezing through the skies with surfers suspended in the air above the water. For the adventurous souls who dare to try, you’ll find plenty of places to rent equipment as well as kitesurfing schools offering lessons. Tulum Kite School, Sian Kite, or Mexican Caribbean Kitesurf at Ahau Tulum can help you explore the seas with ease.
Boutique Hop and Shop
Whether you’re perusing through Centro or strolling down the beach road, one thing you’ll notice about Tulum is that artisanal shops and boutiques are bountiful. You will find everything from Mexican handcrafts to luxury home goods and beach-chic apparel that makes you want to toss everything in your luggage and revamp your entire wardrobe. Hop and shop your way around town and pick up one-of-a-kind pieces that will forever remind you of the marvelous moments you spent in Tulum.
Indulge in Fine-dining in the Jungle
Let world-renowned chefs spoil you in the most magical, nature-inspired settings. Tulum is chock full of restaurants in the heart of the jungle with intimate surroundings and the elements of nature serving as architectural fixtures. Get a taste of traditional Mexican cuisine with a modern twist at NÜ Tulum, which is often heralded as one of the top restaurants in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Share small plates with big flavors at the ever-inventive Arca Tulum, where open-fire cooking is the staple. Don’t miss the contemporary farm-to-table restaurant Kitchen Table, where guests can participate in the culinary experience, and payment is possible with cryptocurrency.
Dine In a Treehouse Restaurant
Take in 360-degree vistas while floating above the treetops of the dense jungle in a romantic nest. Kin Toh, the most popular of Azulik’s three restaurants, serves up avant-garde Mayan-Mexican cuisine that is a feast for the senses. However, the view from one of their private nests is the chef’s kiss to the entire experience. Japanese and Mexican fusion restaurant Tseen Ja is another spot on the Azulik property which also features those iconic floating nests that you might have seen on Instagram. While there, be sure to also explore the revolving exhibitions at Azulik’s trippy multidisciplinary museum, SFER IK, which has been dubbed “the Guggenheim of the jungle.”
Bare It All at a Clothing-optional Resort
If you’re a naturist with a desire to shed your clothes and enjoy a blissful vacation in paradise, look no further than Intima. You can go au naturel in a judgment-free atmosphere at this adults-only clothing-optional resort. For added discretion, the hotel is within a private walled complex close to the town center. Book a stay in one of the resort’s swim-up, penthouse, or jacuzzi condos and spend your days in the buff being clothes and carefree.
Scream For Ice-Cream
Tulum enjoys year-round warm weather. Cool down and satisfy your sweet tooth during those sweltering days at one of many heladerías (ice-cream parlors). Order something creamy and smooth at Tipi-K on Avenida Kukulkan. The playful pastel-colored storefront will lure you in to try their popsicles, waffles, and crepes. Owned by an Italian ex-pat, Panna e Cioccolato has divine gelato flavors ranging from Ferrero Rocher and tiramisu to passion fruit and gingerbread. Beyond just desserts, Campanella Cremerie serves artisanal gelato, photogenic pastries, and delightful savory dishes like the smoked salmon cholo. You can find Campanella Cremerie in Aldea Zama and in Tulum Pueblo, just minutes from the ADO bus station.
INSIDER TIPTulum’s hugely popular, dairy-free spot, I Scream Bar, is now closed. If you happen to go to Bacalar to see the Lagoon of Seven Colors, I Scream Bar still has a location there.
Imbibe Local Brews
While Tulum isn’t known for being one of the world’s most brew-tastic destinations, craft beer lovers are indeed catered to. Imbibe and do your bit for the planet by sipping Tulum beer, made with desalinated seawater. The sustainable brand also donates a percentage of profits to Fundación Gran Arrecife Maya, which promotes ocean conservation initiatives and the use of plastic-free alternatives. At night you can savor a top-notch pour of Tulum beer on the city’s outskirts at Cervecería Tulum, where an incredible Mayan fire show awaits. Hermana Republica is another tried and tested spot for lovers of Mexican craft beer.
Swim With Giant Sea Turtles
Around 30 minutes north of Tulum, Akumal Beach could easily become your next great love. It has cotton candy-soft sand and charming beachfront restaurants from which to take in ineffably beautiful sunsets. However, it’s more famous for the sea turtles that feed just minutes from the shore. Akumal means ‘place of the turtles’ in Maya, and this beach is a snorkeler’s Shangri-La. Here you can spot Green Sea Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles of various sizes—you’ll be astonished by how large some of them are. The best place to go to meet them is by swimming out from Lol-Ha beachfront restaurant at Hotel Akumal Caribe. You’ll be ever so glad you did.
INSIDER TIPTour operators and vendors in Akumal might fib and tell you that there are no more turtles or that you must purchase a tour to swim with them. Ignore these half-truths, go straight to Lol-Ha restaurant and swim out there. Take note that it is mandatory to swim with a life jacket in these waters, so bring one with you or rent one on the beach.
Make a Splash at a Water Park
Also, about half an hour from Tulum, Xel-Há is a fabulous day excursion with fun for all. This all-inclusive water park is the place to go for swimming and snorkeling with more than 90 types of fish, floating down a river on tubes, exploring jungle paths and grottos, diving from ziplines, and screaming at the top of your lungs while sashaying down a 131-foot lighthouse slide. To top it all off, Xel-Há has restaurants serving international and Yucatecan dishes, which you can visit as many times as you wish.
INSIDER TIPFor a discount on tickets to this child and adult playground, purchase your Xel-Há entry tickets 7-20 days in advance.
Day Trip to Playa del Carmen
The beach city of Playa del Carmen is Tulum’s more urbanized sister that courts everyone from honeymooners to digital nomads and spring breakers who mostly congregate around the bustling (and extensive) Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida). Visit Playa del Carmen for varied dining opportunities at prices that won’t scare the living daylights out of you—the area around 38 Street and Fifth Avenue is full of atmospheric restaurants with string lights, live music, and even mischievous monkeys running around. Playa del Carmen’s rooftop pool game is seriously strong, so be sure to visit Thompson Playa del Carmen’s stylish sky-caressing restaurant and pool, The Fives, Reef 28, or Be Roof at Be Playa hotel which is the most casual one of the bunch.
Get a Rush of Adrenaline in the Sky
Have a blast charging through the rainforest at Selva Maya Eco Adventure Park. Reconnect with nature away from the crowds at this ziplining and cenote park, where all activities are included. The package includes rappelling, rock climbing, sky-walking through a rope course, cenote snorkeling tours, and thrilling adventures on nine zip lines. Tours are bookable in four-hour slots, and they include a tasty taco lunch as a reward for all your hard work.
Swing Into Sunset
Scientific studies have shown that rocking and swinging chairs have immense psychological benefits. Put a swing seat on a blue beach, and you have the perfect recipe for extreme bliss. Tulum is fortuitously decorated with countless swaying seats for you to relax and sip your cocktails in style. You’ll find them at most bars and restaurants, including The Crazy Shrimp and The Coconut Experience at Playa Paraiso. Relish mezcal, lime, and sunshine at La Zebra, which has a swing seat perfectly placed between two palm trees. Two minutes from La Zebra along the beach road, you will stumble upon Matcha Mama and their Insta-famous swings. Don’t blink, or you may miss this small roadside hut. This tropical matcha bar has two other locations in Pueblo and Aldea Zama, and rest assured, there are swings there too. Your camera (and heart) will love the white and black swing seats at Coco Tulum beach club. Post up here before the sun goes down for an unforgettable turquoise water backdrop. The view here in two words? Picture perfect.