Tulum is on the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico. It is one of the earliest resorts in Mexico, offering a place of worship and solitude for the Mayan Kings, clergy and Gods in early times. The tropical beach backdrop is the main attraction of this picturesque, much-visited small ruin on the shore of the Caribbean Sea. Shortly after your arrival, you will understand why early Mayans picked this beautiful place to relax.
Be prepared for LOTS of people and tour groups at the archaeological site. To avoid the crowds, it is best to stay overnight and visit the ruins early in the morning before the buses arrive, or later in the afternoon. Morning is recommended since you can catch spectacular vistas when the sun is rising over the Caribbean.
During the daylight hours you can catch a bus regularly to Tulum, probably on the hour or so. The ride will take about 2 hours.
Rental cars are priced reasonably and are the easiest way to get around the entire area that surrounds Tulum.
Many of the Hotels in Tulum offer a pick-up service from Cancun Intl for an addition 40 or 50 USD.
You can also take a Taxi from the Airport which will run about the same as the Hotel shuttle service.
Buses from Cancun run quite regularly.
Buses from Playa Del Carmen run hourly or so. Bus station is at southern end of Fifth Avenue near Playacar. ADO Bus stops at Xcaret and Xel-ha enroute to Tulum. Mayab bus stops more frequently enroute to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen.
To visit the ruins, get off the bus at the first Tulum stop at the intersection with the access road to the ruins. It's an easy one mile or so flat walk to the ruins from the intersection.
An alternative to the buses is to catch a "collectivo" van. In Playa Del Carmen you can find these on Calle 2 towards Avenida 20. One-way trip costs 35 pesos.
If you drive yourself to the ruins before opening time, it may be a bit confusing as to where to go and what to do. As soon as you park, a man on a bicycle should find you and charge you for parking (50 pesos). You must go through a sort of half open-air mall (which is empty before 8AM). From there you can either sign up with a tour guide (US$20 per person?), pay for a shuttle ride to the ruins (20 pesos), or walk a mile along a road to the ruins. The guides are reported to be better story tellers than actual experts on Mayan culture. The walk is on level ground and passes quickly as you admire the jungle and abandoned shops along the way. If you can walk it, do it and save a few bucks! As you approach a stone wall, to the left will be a brown wooden building where you can purchase your ticket into the ruins (51 pesos, an additional 35 pesos if they see that you have a video camera). From there, head along a stone path through the jungle and into the ruins...
What most folks really need to know, and only manage to figure out once there, is the fact that there are really three different areas all referred to as TULUM only minutes away from each other, not close enough though to walk to and from.
Tulum Pueblo sits split by highway 307 running South-North. "El Pueblo", as referred to by locals, is home to most workers of the tourist industry and where many of the stores, supermarkets, two bus stations, inns, hostels and small hotels are found. This section of town has a definite feel of existing mostly to cater to the Tulum ruins. Tulum pueblo is indeed a destination for shopping, great restaurants, a modest night life, booking tours, banking, shopping for food, local vegetables, fruits, cafes, and local flavor. Do not miss it !.
Tulum Playa nests along the coastline that leads into the Sian Ka'an Biosphere (Ecological Reserve), the Caribbean white sandy beaches to the east, an impressive mangrove & wetland reserve to the south. Tulum Playa embraces many of the fancier, ecological, boutique and spa hotels, and it has a decent to excellent selection of restaurants and night spots. There are also a number of affordable beach front cabana-type lodging locations. Walk the beach and simply step in and inquire about accommodations and rates. You will be surprised and delighted.
It should be noted most of these establishments are Eco-friendly and do not provide electricity past midnight. Toilet paper can not be flushed and it is asked that water and other resources be used sparingly. The hotels in Tulum aim to keep Tulum as it is and stop the ecological problems that have already taken hold in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
If you are staying on the beach and trying to save money, it is wise to stock up on food and drinks in the pueblo. There are not too many restaurant options on the beach, and the ones that are operational are comparatively quite expensive.
You may encounter problems if you try to make phone calls from the beach. Payphones are sparse and often broken, and they are all owned by one company. These phones require you to purchase a special proprietary card of at least 100 pesos, and the cards cannot be used at regular payphones. A better alternative is to use a normal payphone in the pueblo, or use a Mexican cellphone (There is reception on the beach, but make sure to recharge in the pueblo beforehand).
Taxis have a near monopoly on transport to and from the playa. Buses come from time to time, but hitchhiking can also get you where you need to go.
Tulum Ruinas is the archaeological site where the Maya ruins of Tulum stand. It is conformed by a-mile-long road leading into the ruins from highway 307. The road is flanked by several restaurants, a commercial area geared to one-day visitors, a huge parking lot, a small bus station that operates part-time and a handful of middle range hotels.
Tulum is mostly known for its ruins, which strike an impressive image next to the sea, but were constructed during a time period of Maya culture that was waning. The site is notable for a small cenote (albeit dry during Jan 2009), beautiful beach below the ruin laden cliffs and some well preserved stellae in only one of its structures. After visiting other ruins in the area such as Coba, Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, Tulum's main claim is the sea-side setting. It is best visited on a clear, bright day or at sunrise. Bring your swimming suit. At the time of writing, one of the best sections was closed to visitors and covered with plastic bottles and other refuse.
A standard to telephoto zoom lens does well if you must photograph during times of peak tourism. This strategy will keep people out of your shots of the ruins. Tripods are allowed only with a permit that is exclusively available in Mexico City for a $500 fee. A monopod may be a possibility.
Taxis are an inexpensive way to get around but for the most part, Tulum 'Pueblo' is so small that walking is a simple, though often dusty, option. Taxis from 'Pueblo' to the coast is ~70-90 pesos. It is advisable to either take a taxi or rent a bike when traveling between the 'Pueblo' and the beach, as the walk is rather long, dusty and unattractive.
Bikes are available for rent from Iguana Bikes in Tulum 'Pueblo.' 150-250 pesos for 24 hours. Bikes are a convenient way to get around town and to/from cenotes and the beach. Please be careful when riding a bike on the highway. Bring a headlamp/flashlight if biking at night.
Tulum archaeological site
Muyil archaeological site
Dos Ojos Cenote - 100 pesos for entrance only (good if you bring your own equipment and are ready to walk 3km to the cenote). 300 pesos for a guide, ride to the cenote, snorkel equipment, lamp, and wetsuit if you want. Set aside around 2 or 3 hours total.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere - The reserve features acres upon acres of pristine mangrove swamp and wetlands. Just past the information center pull into the dirt lot on the left and walk out to the beach. There are a few fishermen that dock here and are willing to take you on a tour that is much cheaper than the organized tours offered in the area. The fishermen will take you on an hour to two hour boat tour of the reserve anyt time of day. Near sunset is a great option. They will often work for hire for 100 to 200 pesos or 10 to 20USD.
Coba ruins - Be sure to visit the Coba ruins. They are not in as pristine shape as the Tulum Ruins, however they feature "el castillo" the tallest of the Mayan ruins that juts up above the treetops in the jungle. You can still climb el castillo in Coba and the sight from the top is spectacular. You can also rent bikes to get around Coba. Coba is only a 30 minute drive west of tulum on the main road off 307. Just follow the signs to Coba!
Great guided snorkel tours from the public beach near the ruins, cost was 200 pesos each in Nov 2009. Lasted about two hours, a terrific deal.
You can also take your own self guided tour of the reefs right off the beach from the Hotel Zone. Tulum sits on the second largest barrier reef in the world. Be sure to take a tour yourself, or a guided tour of this fantastic reef system. You will be sure to see over 30 species of fish and some spectacular Coral as well.If you must take a guided tour, the cheapest in the area is located at Zamas Hotel.Zamas is located about 10 establishments in from the beginning of the hotel zone.
Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park . Offering unique jungle adventures to suit everyone, Hidden Worlds is situated on the most extensive system of underwater caves and caverns on Earth. The park is home to some of the most incredible cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula, as featured in the critically acclaimed 2001 IMAX movie Journey Into Amazing Caves and the 2007 BBC Planet Earth series.
Scuba diving off the coast or in one of the many cenotes. Ask for info from your place of accommodation.
See also: Cenotes of the Yucatán
In much of the Yucatan, rainwater collects in a system of underground caves and tunnels. Where these tunnels reach the surface is known as a cenote (pronounced seh-NOH-teh). Cenotes usually allow swimming and diving, and rent related equipment. They are fresh water and are often quite cold.
Casa Cenote, in TanKah III Bay is a magic spot. Here the Cenote goes underground some 100 yards before the beach, only to emerge as an 'underwater' water spring about 20 yards of the beach, right in the ocean. Must see. Tanka III Bay is just over 7 kilometers (5 miles) north of the intersection to the ruins. Take a cab. Great places to eat and stay or scuba too.
El Gran Cenote. Admission: 80 pesos.
Check out Mezzanine on the cliffs (only 40 feet high but nice) overlooking Playa Paraiso. Superb Thai food and great ambiance and a super view. They even make decent drinks too and have good shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
If you want a break from mexican fare, check out La Posada Margherita, on the way to the ruins along the beach. Their starter plate has inventive and delicious flavors, and the pasta is freshly made to order. Be warned---it's not cheap.
For the budget minded, try Pollo Bronco in Tulum 'Pueblo'. Pollo Bronco and Pollo Asada both offer chicken that is roasted to perfection that can be ordered by the 1/4, 1/2, and whole.
It should be noted that most of the restaurants in town are infinitely cheaper than those at the resorts. Most places, with the exception of the italian and japanese restaurants feature entrees for well under 100 pesos, or 10USD. Don Cafetos features authentic mexican and is one of the most popular restaurants on the strip. There are countless little cafes and establishments to get a great bite to eat for cheap.
If you are staying on the beach, it is wise to stock up on food and drinks in the pueblo. There are not too many restaurant options on the beach, and the ones that are operational are quite expensive.
If you want non perishable items, grab some snacks to supplement your meals at the Super San Francisco Food Mart. You can buy a cooler here which is great for having cold drinks on the beach each day. Just pick up ice in the morning and the cooler will stay cold until night time. This supermarket however is run by locals and hardly anyone speaks english, so if you don't know spanish, be prepared to shop around to find what you need.
Habana Cafe - If you're craving a taste of Latin life with a touch of Cuban spice, the atmosphere at Habana Café in Tulum Pueblo will satisfy. Habana’s Cuban inspired design is permeated with beats from Latin-infused reggae, Son, Latin house and Merengue. The street level bar brings a style reminiscent of the elegance and opulence of "The Havana 50s" to Tulum. Upstairs in the Sky Bar The scene is even more impressive on the massive, rooftop bar. With its elaborate rooftop garden, 10 foot palm trees, a huge palapa bar, lanterns, and attractive bartenders, the Sky Bar may be the swankest place in Tulum for imbibing outdoors.
Also try a few other cool spots in Tulum that offer fun drink specials with a hip tropical flair:
Acabar offers live music and djs in a trendy atmosphere.
Teetotum offers weekend rooftop movies, a cool lounge and drink specials, try the Razzleberry Daiquiri!
Ak'iin offers weekend parties with live music or djs, no cover and drink specials on a beautiful stretch of beach.
The Weary Traveler Hostel. 1 block south of the ADO bus station. Relaxed hostel with outdoor communal area and kitchen. Breakfast, water, cooking facilities, beach shuttle bus and internet provided. Dorm room single beds: 130 pesos with Fan and 140 with A/C. Dorm room double beds: 235 pesos.
Casa del Sol Hostel . . - 3 blocks south of the ADO bus station, off the main avenue. Rustic hostel with huge rooftop terrace and common areas with shared kitchen. Breakfast is provided. Dorm rooms, doubles, and singles 120 pesos and up. Most of the double rooms are in Mayan style palapas. Garden atmosphere. Great for rainy season.
Cabanas Copal Offers shared rooms with communal bathrooms for 20 US dollars a night. You can also get a room with private bath for 75 US dollars and upwards based on the quality of the room and proximity to oceanfront.
Playa Condesa Offers private cabanas on the waterfront starting at 200 pesos. Located near Diamante K, but considerably cheaper. About 3 kilometers from the ruins.
Mayab Center offers unique yurt palapa accommodations right on a secluded beach just .5 km inside of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, located at the far end of the Tulum beach area. They have built the small retreat center with high eco-standards- composting toilets, grey water treatment system and low impact structures. Breakfast is included in nightly yurt rental, which is as low as $70 US (double occupancy) in the summer months. http://www.mayabtulum.com/
Zamas Hotel , ZAMAS' thatch roof bungalows are right next to the beach. The hotel is 10 minutes from Mayan Ruins, Cenotes (fresh water pools), Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and deep-water sportfishing. Snorkeling is available in the ZAMAS cove.
Hemingway Eco Resort Features 8 rooms on a secluded section of beach about a mile down the road from EcoTulum Resorts. The beach is pristine and the sea is a bit calmer here offering snorkeling right off the beach. Stop by the restaurant for some of the best Italian food out there!
Azulik Villas is a series of beachside villas sea-fronting, rustique built specially designed for honeymooners and couple seeking a romantic retreat in the wilderness. It has many relaxation alternatives like different types of massages, esthetic treatments (body and facial scrubs), reiki, the temazcal (copal sweat lodge- is based on traditional healing methods used by indigenous Mexicans to purify the soul and body) and the chamber of flotation. It is clothing optional.
The Diamante K features cabañas ranging in quality from 2 all the way up to 5 stars on a private beach front. An interesting feature of the Diamante K is the hanging beds in the cabañas. A restaurant is on site, and you can relax in a hammock and just soak up the tranquility. Electricity is supplied by a generator and hence is switched off after around midnight. Candles are supplied in the cabañas.
Tankah Inn Bead and Breakfast Offers 5 neatly furnished rooms, all with ultra silent A/C and ocean view, a great upstairs airy restaurant and terrace, free breakfast, wireless internet, great ambiance, quiet and quaint. Situated on beautiful Tankah III Bay, only seven minutes from the ruins and just 200 yards from world famous Casa Cenote (sink-hole).
Teetotum Hotel . Teetotum is a boutique hotel situated between Tulum town and the beach offering: king sized beds, a/c, ipod docks, continental breakfast, free bicycle use, free high speed wi-fi and a restaurant open from 8AM-11PM daily.
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa, . Dreams Tulum is on one of the most unique beaches in the Riviera Maya surrounded by lush tropical acres, sugary white sand, two beach-adjacent pools, and magnificent colonial architecture. Five minutes from Tulum, it is one of the only resorts in the Riviera Maya where you can view (several miles away) the ancient ruins of Tulum from the beach.Services offered (all-inclusive) include the Explorer's Club, a top notch kids activity center with mini climbing wall, mini stage, games room and more. Luxury Spa. 5 Star PADI Dive Center on site offering daily Tulum area diving and snorkeling excursions to local reefs and cenotes as well as all levels of scuba diving courses. Access to off-site golf.
Ocho Tulum or Suenos Tulum - You truly cannot experience Tulum staying in an all inclusive. Try staying at a hotel along the beach or even in the pueblo. Two upscale resorts with rustic but elegant rooms would be Ocho Tulum or Suenos Tulum.
Hechizo Restaurant - Featured in Food and Wine magazine. Only open during the high season. Reservations must be made prior.
Markets catering mainly to the bus loads of tourists are situated on the road leading to the entrance of the archaeological site.
There are also markets in town on 307 in the main stretch of town. Many cater to tourists however be sure to give them a look anyway. There are a lot of beautiful hand crafted Mexican pottery and fabrics. If you turn off of 307 and vere into town away from the main strip you can discover tons of tiny establishments and get a feel for the truly sleepy town of Tulum.
If staying for more than just a couple of days, you may want to experience taking some Spanish lessons at the beach or at the Spanish school.
CLICK-C@RIBE - At the entrance of Tulum. State of the art internet technology at $14 pesos por hora.
Sian-Kahn Ecological Reserve vast and empty, find a sea kayak and explore the lagoon side
Xcaret Eco-archaeological park in the Riviera Maya
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