I was once told that Tulum is the ‘Bali’ of North America and I was not let down. I was SO EXCITED to put together this Tulum Guide because there is just so much to see. The beaches are crystal clear, the drinks are ice cold, and the Instagram game is on FIRE. Not only is it aesthetically pretty cool, but there’s also an amazing cultural and historical side to the Yucatan Peninsula that you can easily participate in between mojitos ?I’ve included all of this and MORE in my Tulum guide below.
In my Tulum guide, you’re going to read about:
- Instagrammable Places
- Reasonable Accommodation
- Food Culture & Food Tours
- Free Google Maps Guide
Quick Call-out! The beauty of travel is that you get to support local economies with your business and as travel is Tulum’s main industry, you are an important part of this ecosystem! Congratulations! You matter immensely! Please be generous with your tipping and please do remember to take care of this ecosystem, as it’s still so well preserved. Also, if you’re planning to go to Mexico City as well, check out my Mexico City Guide.
Tulum Guide to Instagrammable Places
Tulum is an Instagrammer’s DREAM, but try not to get lost in the hype. As an AVID Instagrammer myself, even I got a bit drained from the hype, the lines for photos, and the general focus on ascetics over experience. Tulum is truly an incredible place filled with natural cenotes (freshwater lakes in caves), pastel restaurants, and most importantly, photogenic food ? – you’ll leave with an incredible feed and a fresh tan for sure. My Tulum guide will give you a little bit of everything 🙂
Top 4 Instagrammable places:
As the former residence of Narco boss – Pablo Escobar, today Casa Malca is an insanely beautiful boutique hotel for the world’s wealthy. They have an iconic swing with a cascading waterfall of wedding dresses along the sides that there will often be a line for. So get there early. Rooms start at 400£ per night, so it’s much easier to purchase a day pass to the facilities for £40 pp, which you can spend on drinks and lunch.
Starting at a whopping £1000 per night, Nomade is the second home to New York’s wealthiest and for good reason. Their picturesque beaches, linen details, and dream-catcher themed decorations make it an Instagram HEAVEN. Be warned, there are lines for the best photo ops AND there are no DSLRs or mirrorless cameras allowed and smoothies will put you out 8£.
Tulum Guide Hack: When you arrive at the entrance, just ask to ‘have lunch’ at Nomade’s restaurant. This way, you’ll get in without an issue and you can scope out where you want to stay on the beach!
Everything on the menu is Instagram GOLD. With their pastel wall paintings and delicious, ice-cold treats this is the perfect place to chill and beat the 31 C degree heat. I would 100% recommend their acas bowl to share and do be sure to nibble on their CBD treats! I have loads more recommendations for food further down my Tulum guide, but this was the most classically ‘Instagrammable’ by far.
Get there at opening or don’t come at all if I’m being honest. We arrived 10 minutes before open time and there were already a few mini-buses of tourists waiting to get in. However, it is truly STUNNING and if you have an underwater camera, NOW is the time to break it out. You’ll need to shower before they let you into the Cenote for the safety of the wildlife and to preserve the water quality so don’t go with a full face of make-up. You will look beat to hell lol.
Zendero Hotel – City Center
With some of these mega resorts pricing in at £1000 per night, it’s easy to lose control of your finances. Normal people want to travel too so I’ve tried to give reasonable recommendations in my Tulum Guide. We were staying in Tulum city center at Zendero Hotel and we had a FABULOUS time. It was perfectly located on the corner of where both lifelines meet – Highway 15 & Highway 307 – so it was the perfect launching point for when we wanted to do any activities. We were a mere 5 minute walking distance from any major restaurant in Tulum city and then an easy drive from up and down the major highways to any major beach resort or cenote.
- $130 – $150 per night
- Prime location, rooftop pool, new facilities
- Good for couples, solo travelers and small groups
What was particularly wonderful about Zendero Hotel was how normal the patrons and the staff were. Perhaps my biggest criticism of Tulum was the fact that many people were there to be seen instead of to experience all of the wonderful things that Mexico had to offer. If you’re never going to leave the resort, you’re not really experiencing a country!
In Tulum, you can find incredible local places that have reasonable prices… or you can swing to the other end of the spectrum and go all out. I’ve dropped LOADS of pins on my Free Google Map that can be dowloaded below.
If you have a specialist diet (i.e. gluten-free, vegan, etc) then you’ve come to the right place!! There are so many specialty restaurants and substitutions are easy to do. As someone who is lactose intolerant AND gluten intolerant, I was in absolute HEAVEN in Tulum because there were so many options.
Viajes Con Ciencia – Food Tours
Whilst in Tulum, you absolutely need to get involved with the local Mayan culture that is unique to the Yucatan Peninsula. I can only recommend Viajes Con Ciencia after being taken around by the owner and Mayan expert, Adrian. With tours available in French, Spanish and English, Viajes Con Ciencia (or ‘Travel with Science’) provides incredible insight into the Yucatan Peninsula’s native history with a visit to Chichén Itzá and a traditional Mayan dinner in a local village. Just before dinner, you’re also going to experience a ‘secret cenote’ that is nearly private for you and your group.
After visiting Tenochtitlan in Mexico City, I wanted to compare what I learned there with the Mayan architecture and history so I chose to experience the Chichen Itza History & Food Tour with Viajes Con Ciencia.
The agenda included:
- Early AM pick-up at our hotel via a private minibus
- Coffee & breakfast break
- Minibus drive through Yucatan + history insights
- Entrance fees + guided tour of Chichen Itza (Mayan Ruins)
- Secret Cenote experience
- Mayan food experience at local homestay
- Charming village visit at sunset
Adrian, the owner and our guide for the day, is so knowledgeable and amazing! He spent many, many years living amongst the Mayan people to learn their history, culture, and language in a more authentic way. Adrian would flick between 3 different languages like NOTHING and can understand the ancient Mayan language decently; if you want a truly authentic Mayan experience, this the tour for you.
Tulum is NOT cheap if you decide to stay at one of the huge resorts along the beach. Where you are staying will often dictate the length of your budget due to food, drinks, and other luxuries; however, here are my top tips for budgeting whilst you’re in Tulum.
- Rent a car! This is the most cost effective way to get around Tulum (other than with a bike) as transfers to and from the airport will often cost you MORE than just renting a car for the whole week. For 6 days, we spent about $200 for our mid-size sedan with National Car Rental. This was WITH all of the super fancy and expensive insurances. From what we heard, people were paying up to up to $100 for a taxi to Tulum and then a second $100 to get back to the airport.
- Eat in the city center! Staying at your resort is comfortable, but all the best local and affordable food is found in the city center. I’ve dropped LOADS of pins in my Google Maps map down below.
- Go resort hopping!… instead of staying at the super expensive resorts. This is what we did with Nomade and Casa Malca (described above) as a SINGLE night at either was between £400 – £1000. At Casa Malca, there was a £40 cover charge per person that we were allowed to spend on food and there was no charge to beach crash at Nomade. The trick is to say you want to ‘eat at the restaurant’ and then you buy a drink and go kick it at the beach with your own snacks. #NailedIt
Thanks for Reading my Tulum Guide!
In summary, Tulum is a magical place where you can relax and recharge at your own pace. However, like all major resort hubs, if you want to experience the REAL Mexico, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to explore outside of your resort and I promise you won’t be disappointed! I hope you’ve enjoyed my Tulum guide and all of the various options I’ve provided. I want normal people to have an incredible experience, no matter what your budget is!
Free Downloadable Google Map!
Use my downloadable Google Layer for your Google Maps app. I’ve put LOADS of food recommendations and I’ve organized them by deliciousness lol. Just click the ‘[ ]’ to open it on your Google Maps app.