Tulum 3- Day Travel Guide
Tulum, Mexico has been such a hot vacation spot lately — I can’t scroll through my IG feed without coming across photos of beautiful cenotes, fresh juices, white sandy beaches, and bohemian vibes. So when some of my friends and I decided we were in need of both a relaxing and adventurous girls’ trip, we knew Tulum would be the perfect destination to spend an extended weekend. Here’s my detailed breakdown of how we spent 3 days in Tulum, along with other relevant tourist information.
Best time to Visit Tulum
Mexico’s dry season is from December to April, making it a prime time for visitors. Rainy season starts in June and lasts until October. During our short stay in June, there were sporadic storms, but they never lasted more than 10 minutes. The temperature in Tulum is typically in the 80s all year round.
How to Get to Tulum
Cancun International Airport is the main airport hub that most visitors fly into. From Cancun, it’s a 90-minute drive south to Tulum. There are three transportation options: private shuttle, public bus, and taxi.
Private Shuttle from Cancun Airport to Tulum
We were able to snag an amazing deal with Royal Pick Up for a roundtrip shuttle service for $220 ($55 per person). The drivers were really friendly and prompt. I recommend booking your shuttle in advance for the best rate and convenience.
Public Bus from Cancun Airport to Tulum
You can take a local bus with the ADO company. Although this is the cheapest option (262 Pesos/ $13.85 one way), it’s the most inconvenient. I suggest checking in advance to see if there is a direct ADO bus going from Cancun Airport to Tulum during your trip dates, because they aren’t always available. In the case of a non-direct ticket, you would have to take the bus to Playa Del Carmen and transfer from there. The bus will leave you at a bus terminal in Tulum Centro, and you will have to get a taxi to reach your final destination.
You can book your bus ticket in advance on the ADO website.
Taxi from Cancun Airport to Tulum
You can catch a taxi upon your arrival for about $100 for 1-4 people. However, if you want to avoid the stress of haggling, I recommend booking the shuttle in advance. Uber isn’t available in Tulum at the moment.
Where to Stay in Tulum?
There are two main neighborhoods in Tulum: Tulum Beach (aka playa) and Tulum Town (aka pueblo).
Tulum Beach is where you will find the beach strip lined with the most beautiful resorts, trendy restaurants and night life. Recently, Tulum has been experiencing a massive seaweed issue, where all efforts to keep the beach clean can not keep up with the constant arrival of more seaweed. However, the further south you get, the nicer the resorts and the less seaweed is a problem. Although Tulum Beach is technically public, the hotels own the best part of the land, so you do have to go through the hotels to access the beach.
Great for people with…
Preferences for spending most of the time on the beach and on the resort
Desires to go to trendy IG-worthy restaurants and cafes
Tulum Town is the actual village where locals live. Here you will find the most authentic food and vibes, but you won’t have direct access to the beach. It’s also an ideal location from which to depart for day trips.
Great for people with…
Desires for authentic food
Preferences for an active vacation over a beach vacation
Tulum Town and Tulum Beach are about 3 miles away from each other.
We booked an AirBnB and stayed at this gorgeous 3-story modern villa in Tulum pueblo. Our villa had a private pool, jacuzzi, outdoor showers, and lush palm trees. I wished I had more time just to lounge and enjoy the space more. Our host Marc was phenomenal and connected us to bike rentals, excursions, and even a private chef.
Getting Around Tulum
There are a variety of ways to travel around Tulum:
Biking is a fun and affordable way to get around Tulum. We rented bikes for $10 a day. Our AirBnB host arranged for the bikes to be delivered to our villa.
Taxis were our primary mode of transportation. As luck would have it, the driver we called to pick us up from dinner on the first night was taking an extremely long time to arrive. We decided to just hail a taxi on the street, and we got into Alex’s taxi. He was really friendly and charged half of what we had paid to get to the restaurant, so we decided to use his services throughout our entire stay.
He had such a warm spirit, and he was reliable and punctual. Although his English was very limited, my friend Deleine speaks Spanish fluently and helped with translations throughout the trip. However, you can easily use Google Translate to communicate.
If you’re looking for a reliable driver in Tulum, reach out to Alex on WhatsApp (+52 984 115 0189).
Los colectivos are the shared shuttle vans that locals use. You can catch them along the main road in Tulum Centro. They usually cost between 20-40 pesos. They go to a lot of the touristy areas like Dos Ojos Cenote*, Akumal, and Tulum Ruins
*We didn’t make it here, but it was highly recommended by a lot of people.
The best exchange rate is almost always at CI Banco or San Jorge de Cambio Money Exchange (both are in Tulum Centro). Avoid exchanging at the airport because you will lose about 7 or 8 pesos per dollar. Be prepared to pay for most things in cash while in Tulum. Exchange a sufficient amount of pesos for your trip, because ATMs are not the most reliable.
3-Day Itinerary for Tulum
Day 1 - Sail Boat Ride to Punta Venado
We started our first full day in Tulum with a private sail boat ride with Captain Ricardo from Sailing with Rich. The plan was to start in Puerto Aventuras and head to Punta Venado, a beach that can only be accessed by sea where we would snorkel with turtles. As we started cruising, I was on such a high: the music was banging and the delicious cocktails were flowing, but then the waves got really aggressive and my energy went from 100 to 0 real quick. Despite taking two Dramamines, I got really bad motion sickness, and I threw up multiple times. When we finally got to Punta Venado, where we were supposed to get out and snorkel, I was way too weak to jump in, and others were feeling sick too. It got bad enough that we ended up cutting the trip short and headed back to the port.
In theory, this was suppose to be a great day, but the waves had a different plan.
Pro Tip: If you have plans to be on a boat, confirm with the captain beforehand to make sure the waves are tolerable and have a back up plan in the event that the waves are bad. We would have substituted the boat ride for a beach trip had we known about the wave conditions.
If you do want to sailboat around Tulum, I would recommend Captain Ricardo and Adam. Despite the mishaps, they did their best to make sure we had an enjoyable time. You can contact Ricardo to book the sailboat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 2 - Punta Laguna + Cobá Ruins + Private Chef
Punta Laguna Natural Reserve
Our second day was a full adventure. We started out in the natural reserve of Punta Laguna where we went trekking to see the spider monkeys and howler monkeys and learn about the different types of trees in the jungle.
We ziplined 150 meters above the lagoon and then canoed to the other side to get to the cenote. Cenotes are underground sinkholes and there are about 6,000 of them in the Yucatan Peninsula alone! The cenote we went into was once a Mayan sacrifice center. We abseiled into the cenote, stood for about 10 minutes, then climbed back up.
We also went to visit a Mayan village where a shaman showed us the different medicinal plants and talked to us about life there. The children and their dog put on a little performance for us and played instruments and sung traditional songs.
Coba Ruins Archaeological Park
After visiting the Mayan village, we went to the Coba Ruins Archaeological Park. Coba is an ancient Mayan city about 1 hour from Tulum and a bit off the beaten path.
The park is huge, but there are multiple ways you can get around:
Walking/Hiking: Not ideal if you are on a time crunch.
Biking: Towards the entrance of the park, we rented bikes for 50 pesos ($2.61), per the recommendation of our guide. The paths are flat and easy to ride on. Riding the bike was enjoyable and provided us with a much needed breeze.
Hire a bicycle taxi: If you don’t feel like riding yourself around, you can hire a bicycle taxi to take you around. Each taxi holds two people and costs 200 pesos ($10).
There are a lot of interesting things to see in Coba, including the Mayan Ball Courts, gravestones, and calendar pieces. But the main attraction is the great pyramid, Nohoch Mul. This is one of the few ancient Mayan pyramids that you can still climb. Nohoch Mul is 137 feet tall! Be prepared to get a solid workout, as the stairs are very steep and narrow. I found that doing a bear crawl was the easiest and safest way to go up and down the pyramid, but there were a few brave souls who hiked up and down standing upright. There’s a thick rope in the center of the pyramid to hold onto if needed.
Coba is an active archaeological dig site, and every day more and more ancient structures are being excavated. At the top of the Nohoch Mul, we had a beautiful view of the jungle and a glimpse of the many unexcavated pyramids and courtyards.
After having such an eventful day, we hired Chef Eduardo Reyes to come cook dinner for us in our villa. The dinner was by far one of our best dining experiences in Tulum!
Day 3 - Chichén Itzá + Akumal
On our final full day in Tulum, we visited Chichén Itzá, one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. One of the most fascinating things about Chichén Itzá is that many of its structures were built in alignment with significant astronomical events, such as solstices, equinoxes, and the shifting moon.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
To make the most of your visit to the historic site, I recommend the following:
Get there early!
Chichén Itzá is two hours away from Tulum. The temple city is open from 8am-5 pm every day. The best time to visit to avoid huge groups of tourists is before 11am or around 3pm. We spent about three hours there. There are ADO buses that go from Tulum to Chichén Itza, but we hired a private driver for convenience. ⠀
Get a tour guide.
I highly recommend getting a guide. The site isn’t labeled well, so you won’t understand the context of the city without one. We lucked out with finding Guillermo! His tour was technologically advanced. He showed us photos showcasing Chichén in its earlier form on his iPad and he had us connect to his WiFi and AirDropped us tons of other pics of Chichén and its artifacts.
Explore the site beyond The El Castillo. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The El Castillo aka Temple of Kukulcan is the most recognizable temples in Chichén Itza, but there are plenty of other things to explore around the site, like the intricate stone carvings and the Great ball court where Mayan sportsmen would compete. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
After Chichén Itza, we headed to Akumal Beach to eat. Akumal is about 30 minutes from Central Tulum and a good place to go to see a lot of sea life, including turtles. We had originally planned on having a full beach day here, but unbeknownst to us, the beach closed at 5pm! So instead we just ate at La Bueno Vida and soaked up the views.
Essential Packing List for Tulum
Health & Wellness
Sunscreen: Sunscreen with at least SPF 30. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and is an absolute necessity for protection against the sun. I love the Neutrogena ultra-sheer non-greasy sunscreen stick for both my face and body.
Bug spray: There are a lot of mosquitoes and other bugs in Tulum. Use bug spray to protect yourself from pesty bug bites and the viruses they may carry. If I’m in the jungle, I tend to use the Repel 100 Insect repellent spray with a high level of Deet for optimal protection. For an everyday Deet-free option, these insect repellent bands with insect repelling oil are a great alternative that doesn’t require you to put bug spray on your skin. Wear one on your wrist and ankle for full body protection.
Hand sanitizer: Great item to have while traveling. I love Purell.
Snorkel & Fins: If you plan to go swimming in cenotes or snorkeling more than once, you should purchase your own snorkel mask and fins. Although you can rent this equipment at the cenotes, it will add up if you want to visit multiple cenotes. Also, it may be a more sanitary option as you have to put the snorkel piece in your mouth.
Swim Shoes: If you’re visiting Tulum, you are more than likely going to engage in a water related activity and swim shoes would be a clutch item to have.
Tulum was incredible! My next trip there will be dedicated to exploring more cenotes, beaches, and restaurants.
Have you ever been Tulum? What were some of your highlights?
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