Quite a few people have told me Tulum is a good place to be and chill out for a while. It is close to Cancun so I picked it as my first destination on Yucatan. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t like the place too much. It’s an ugly and touristy village along a busy road; it’s dusty, expensive and packed with tourists.
The local hostel (The weary traveller) at least turned out to be a rather good place. 120 Pesos is not exactly cheap but it comes with free breakfast and free internet. They also offer a free shuttle to the beach. I’d give it a recommendation any time. The only downside is that you can’t set up a mosquito net and I was eaten alive there.
When you arrive by bus just turn right and walk for two minutes. There are signposts so you can’t go wrong. They have cheap beer and food as well. The staff is helpful and very friendly.
The beach is as good as one could expect in the Caribbean. It has all it takes to be comfortable; white sand, green water, some waves and it wasn’t even busy. There are a number of little shacks that sell beer so I was pretty much a happy customer.
It’s a long way to walk to the beach. I’d give it 45 minutes minimum without luggage. Get a taxi or the local bus. The latter doesn’t go very often though. It leaves from town around 9 and 12 and from the beach at approximately 12.15 and 17.00. Especially the 5 pm bus get’s packed!
Tours and Day Trips Mexico: There are many great tours in Mexico: This link gives a good overview of different tours and excursions
Things to do other than the beach
Cenote diving / snorkeling – you can book day trips to discover the hidden world underneath Yucatan. There are thousands of kilometres of caves underneath the peninsula and they are filled with water. This endless reservoir of sweet water served the Mayans already. They assumed that their bad tempered rain god Chaak lived there.
When the roof of one of these caves collapses it builds a so called Cenote. Some of them are rather shallow, others might 70 or 80 metres deep. The Cenotes were holy places for the Mayans.
The caves are all connected and only a tiny little part so far is charted. The water is crystal clear and a paradise for divers.
Hidden worlds is a Cenote park close to Tulum. Prices vary depending on what you want to do. Just snorkeling costs 40 USD. That includes snorkel, goggles, wet suit and a life vest. If you book in in Tulum transportation is included as well. A guide will show you around and explain a few things about Cenotes. The whole thing is OK but did remind me a bit of Disney land. If you have little time to spare and want to at least once swim in the incredibly clear water of Yucatan’s underworld “Hidden Worlds” is the place to go.
Ancient Tulum : The best way to get there is with a collectivo. They depart just one block away from the hostel. It cost between 12 and 20 Pesos depending on how much change the driver got.
Ancient Tulum looks pretty cool. It is situated right at the beach and you get a cool view from there. There is a stair that leads down to a small but fantastic beach so don’t forget your towel.
Since the ruins are easy to reach they are packed with tourists. The best time to go is afternoon. The ruins will still be packed but all the building face west so at least you’ll get some decent pictures.
You can’t climb any of the pyramids but that’s understandable in such a crowded ruin and on top good. At least this way you can take pictures of the ruins without a bunch of people in shorts and flip flops on them.
It costs around 50 Pesos to get in.
Places to stay
The Weary traveller is OK. 120 Pesos with free breakfast and internet is not too bad for the area.
There are a number of cabanas you can rent at the beach. Thy start from 200 Pesos but you have to get there early to get one of these. There seems to be no upper limit to prices. 550 to 800 Pesos apparently is only “average”. If you decide to stay at the beach get a a taxi from town. It shouldn’t cost more than 60 Pesos. The cheaper places are to the left when you come to the the T-junction at the beach. There are two places next to the parking at the public beach that are relatively cheap. They are just next to the parking area on the left side.
Places to eat
Buenos Aires Steak house – the steaks are yummy and so is the fish. The places is not exactly cheap but than hardly anything in Tulum is. If you want to treat yourself that’s the place I’d suggest.
If you travel on budget try one of the chicken grills. There are a few of them along the Av. Tulum but more to the south towards the hostel. You can’t go wrong with a pollo frito at least from my experience. And in this particular case it was actually quite good.
There are a few bars and a disco in Tulum. The Bar Havana across the street from the hostel has a nice setting since it is located on a roof top. Other than that I wasn’t impressed with the place.
My favourite place to go would be the Acabar. The drinks are good, the people working there extremely friendly, they have good live music on a regular basis and a pool table.
One other thing to do would be a beach party. They are advertised just before they happen. Just ask around and listen to word of mouth.
Info: You can arrange a pickup to Cancun airport from Tulum. It costs 300 Pesos but buys you another night in town. They will pick you up at your hotel and after all it is a nearly 2 hours drive. 300 Pesos isn’t that much after all. It can be booked at the dive centre in Av. Tulum north just behind the crossroad where you’d normally turn right to get to the beach. It’s next to an estate agent.
They have limited seats available. Book 2 days in advance.
FACTS ABOUT TULUM:
- Tulum is near one of the most popular Mayan sites in all Mexico.
- A good place to stay is the local hostel “The Weary Traveller”.
- There is a shuttle service to Cancun airport from here which should be booked in advance.
- Approximately 1.500 people live in Tulum.
- Tulum village is near a spectacular beach.
- The area code is: 984.