Welcome to Tulum, Mexico.
Where the tequila is always strong, the sand is always white and the waters are always crystal blue. Why is everyone traveling to Tulum?” As though this Mexican paradise, sitting on the Caribbean coastline, wasn’t already becoming a popular destination amongst travelers & influencers alike, Covid-driven lockdowns and restrictions left travelers without many other options. Mexico was one of the first countries to allow US citizens access and without many restrictions or requirements such as mandatory quarantine or covid testing.
Tulum is beautiful, pretty easily accessible (especially to the Western world), and has something to offer any traveler. From the Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, cenotes, nightlife, foodie scene, spas and more, there’s more than enough to pack an itinerary and keep yourself busy, or not. Let’s kick off with all of the logistics you’ll need from getting there, how many days you’ll need on your trip and best places to stay.
As mentioned, Tulum is located on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo, located roughly 90 minutes south of the Cancun airport (airport code CUN). Cancun is an international airport accepting flights daily from around the world, so whether you are coming from North America, Asia, Europe or Africa, there should be a route available to you.
My friends and I flew from the East Coast of the United States into Cancun, Mexico via Delta Airlines, who has been doing an incredible job managing the pandemic, encouraging social distancing, cleanliness, and still providing a form of onboard service with a zip lock bag of goodies. My flight was pretty cheap, a little less than $300 USD round trip and included a layover in Detroit, Michigan before making our final stop to Cancun.
From Cancun to Tulum is roughly 80 miles or a little under 2 hours of straight highway. Rumor has it that an airport is underway in Tulum, scheduled to be in service in 2022, but for now, you must make the journey and there are several options to do so:
1. Rent a Car: Advertised for as low as $10 USD a day (sometimes cheaper in offseason but be prepared for “hidden costs”) you can rent a car at the airport, or book ahead, to then drive yourself into Tulum. As long as you have a valid drivers license you will be able to rent a car/drive in Mexico. Popular rental car companies, like Hertz, are available at the airport, or you can use a company that is local to Tulum. We originally planned to use a rental car, as it would have made our trip a bit easier, having the flexibility and convenience to maneuver how we please without needing to call or wait on a taxi, but we arrived during a storm and were advised to not attempt the drive in those conditions- a decision I do not regret. I used Expedia to reserve a rental car with Alamo –though we did not pick it up, reservation process was simple and we were able to select the vehicle type that we would have needed.
Other Notes: Driving is on the right side of the road, similar to the United States. I would advise that you either purchase liability insurance with the car rental company or use a travel card, like the Chase Sapphire, which has a built in car insurance that kicks in as long as you pay for the rental with said card. The drive is a straight shot between the airport and downtown Tulum, but be aware that you may lose service while driving. I’d advise you to download the offline version of Google Maps so that you will have directions even if you don’t have cellular service, there are also plenty of signs along the highway, 307.
2. Catch a Bus: The most cost efficient of the three options, the ADO bus company is the most popular (and only) source of public transportation in Cancun. A little more than $10 USD one-way, you can catch the ADO bus from any airport terminal and get a ride to Tulum Centro. From there, you can leverage one of the many taxi cabs that will be available to get to your Airbnb/hotel. For more info on getting a ticket, ticket prices, schedule or more, please either check the website HERE or check once at the airport (not recommended because personally, I like to have most of my plans in place logistic wise)
3. Catch a Taxi/Shared Taxi Service: You’ll be met with a plethora of taxi companies once you get to the airport, compare prices and take your pick from there. You can either rent a private taxi, where it will just be yourself/your party, or you can do a shared ride which will also include strangers (not recommended with Covid). Our private taxi for 6 was a little under $250 USD done in two trips (one party went earlier and another party arrived later in the evening). After deciding not to pick up our rental car, we were able to easily and quickly compare our options for taxi companies at the airport counter and went with the one that offered the cheapest private taxi option.
Popular shared ride services, Uber or Lyft, are not currently available in Cancun.
How much time do I need on my trip? Honestly, 4-5 days is enough time to really enjoy all that Tulum has to offer. The best time to visit is between October-December, right after hurricane season and before the oppressive heat of the summer. January through March is busy season in Tulum, where you’ll experience pleasant weather, but also a rush of tourists. The rainiest months are historically June, September and October- our trip was at the beginning of October and we experienced both a tropical storm and Category 2 hurricane in the span of 4 days.
Where to Stay
The Playa area of Tulum is the most optimal place to stay, whether you’re a first timer or visit frequently, Playa (beach in Spanish) is known as “the real Tulum” as it sits right along the sandy roads/coastline leading to the beautiful beach. Most of Tulum’s best and most scenic hotels and resorts sit in this area and you’ll probably be spending most of your holiday here as this is also where the most popular tourist spots, restaurants, and more are located. If you’ve seen any pictures from Tulum that are not the Ruins or Cenote- they are mostly from this area!
The other main option- where we stayed- is near the Downtown Tulum area. Playa and Downtown are about 10-15 minutes away from each other, offering very different vibes, scenes and accommodation styles. We wanted an Airbnb vs a hotel to have enough room for our party of 6 to stretch out and be socially distant from others and this is what downtown offered us! Head to my IGTV to check out a tour of our gorgeous Airbnb!
You’ll have your choice of Airbnb, Hostels or Hotels! Each will differ in what they offer & how much they cost. I have only ever personally stayed in an Airbnb while in Tulum (See IGTV) and there are plenty of Airbnb options ranging in price, but there are obviously some very lux hotel options (like Azulik, Papaya Playa Project, Casa de las Olas, Be Tulum, or Coco Tulum) or some equally charming yet cheaper hostels (La Negrita, Lucky Traveler Hostel, or Lum Hostel).
Most of your excursions, restaurants, nightlife, beach fun and even some shopping will be concentrated in the Playa area. So consider that you may need a taxi or a rental car if staying outside of this area- a chunk of our budget went to taxis as all of our restaurant reservations, beach trips and hangout time were done near the Playa area.
As Tulum is becoming a more & more popular destination, I suggest securing your lodging in advance! Leverage sites like Airbnb.com, Expedia, Hotels.com or a quick Google search.
Be sure to subscribe, share, and follow for more Tulum and other travel tips and itineraries. If you haven’t already- catch up on my experience at the most luxurious spa right outside of Tulum- Coqui Coqui HERE.