It’s no secret that the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo offers some of the greatest spring break parties in the Western hemisphere. With all-inclusive hotels serving up unlimited food and drinks on some of the cleanest, sandiest beaches in the world, places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen have been attracting visitors for many years. However, heading south for two hours takes you to the quiet town of Tulum, which can be described as a paradise. With stunning beaches, turquoise waters, ancient ruins, and a more laid back atmosphere, Tulum is quickly becoming a top holiday destination.
Beaches & Cenotes
The town of Tulum is located a few kilometres in land from the coastline. Perhaps this is why the beach area of Tulum seems so well preserved in comparison to its sister towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. With many eco-friendly hotels and cabanas along the beach, the town of Tulum has a deep focus on positive impact tourism, and eco-friendly architecture and practices. Along the coastline with turquoise waters, there are hundreds of kilometres of beautiful sandy beaches stretching from the Tulum Ruins all the way south to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere (pictured below).
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere is a massive reserve that includes both land and water reserves. The biosphere holds a great amount of wildlife and sea life, and includes a coral reef, rivers and waterways, alongside plenty of flora and fauna. Day trips from Tulum involve explorations through the reserve by boat, where you can see many incredible animals including crocodiles, birds, fish, and even dolphins occasionally.
One of the most unique experiences to have when visiting Southern Mexico is to visit one of the many cenotes. Cenotes are natural swimming holes that sometimes include underwater rivers and caves. With cold waters and bright blue tones, some of the cenotes in and around Tulum are breathtaking. Close to the town of Tulum, there are over 20 different cenotes including Dos Ojos, the Grand Cenote, Carwash, and Ik Kil. All offering swimmers different features from turtles to incredible stalagmites, it is even possible to scuba dive some of the cenotes.
Tulum has a prime location in terms of excellent sightseeing. Within a two hour drive, there are three temple complexes to visit including the world famous Chichen Itza, the Tulum Ruins, and the Coba temple complex. Many of these temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
While the town of Tulum is located a few kilometres from the beach, the ruins of Tulum can be found overlooking the sea, along the beautiful turquoise coastline. Less than a five minute drive from the town, the ruins sit on a cliff above the sea, and were built in the 13th century, providing insight into the Mayan culture. The Tulum Ruins span a large amount of space and include a castle, old city walls, murals, and a temple. There are plenty of other ruins scattered around the premises, and there is also access to the local beach, which provides a stunning walk along the coastline.
Less than an hours drive away, the massive Coba temple complex sits scattered out in the jungle. With sky high pyramid shaped temples, Coba is one of the few pyramid sites in Mexico that allows visitors to climb on the ruins. The Ixmoja Temple is the largest in Coba, and reaches 138 feet high into the sky. The views from the top of the temple are worth the climb, where you are rewarded with the vast jungle as far as the eye can see.
Less than a two hour drive away, the Chichen Itza temple complex sits in the jungle. Chichen Itza is one of the most well known temple complexes in the world, and is in fact one of the Wonders of the World. Hundreds of tourists flock to the site every day to visit El Castillo, the most iconic temple in the complex. Chichen Itza offers visitors a lot, with intricate temple designs, sacred cenotes, and access to plenty of souvenirs and incredible photo opportunities.
Now prepare to learn about it…from a hamster?
Tulum has a huge variety of restaurants that vastly differ in price, quality, and location. In the town of Tulum, there are plenty of affordable and delicious local restaurants, bars, and cafes. With some of the best taco restaurants in the region, it is easy to find local and delicious Mexican food. Many breakfast restaurants and coffeeshops are also located in the town, ensuring affordable meals all day long. As you move toward the beach, the prices get slightly more expensive, and tend to vary a lot in Tulum. With plenty of seafood restaurants along the beach, there are both pricy and less expensive options. Many beach clubs and hotels along the beach offer delicious and well priced food selections. These restaurants also offer patios and incredible views of the turquoise coloured seas.
Watch this video to get a better feel of the Tulum, Mexico restaurant experience. How’s your appetite?
There are plenty of accommodation options in Tulum including hotels, eco-friendly resorts, beach clubs, houses, and apartments. If you choose to stay along the beach, there are plenty of options including cabins, cabanas, hotel rooms, and unique eco-friendly homes. In the town of Tulum, there are options for every type of traveller including hostels, houses, hotels, and apartments. If you choose to stay in the town of Tulum, it is a lot cheaper than staying near the beach. Many locals live in and around the tiny streets winding off of the main road, and this ensures that prices are cheaper in the area.
Here’s a video showing an awesome treehouse hotel in Tulum. Not for everyone, but for some – very cool!
Tulum offers every activity that holiday destinations worldwide offer. From kite surfing to scuba diving, hiking, day trips, and jet skiing, Tulum has the perfect conditions for every type of water sport. With big waves and clear waters, scuba diving and snorkelling are popular in South Mexico. Big waves and lots of wind, ensures Tulum is excellent for kite surfing, wind surfing, and other water sports. Since Tulum is a holiday destination, many local businesses and hotels offer day trips to famous sites including temples, pyramids, and cenotes.
Watch this quick video showing some of the surfing in Tulum.
Unlike Cancun with its crazy all night parties and insane daytime beach parties, Tulum provides a more relaxed and subtle nightlife. Many beach clubs play music during the day and provide delicious cocktails and cold beer. People occasionally dance at these parties, however, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than most holiday resorts. On the main street in the town of Tulum, there are many bars and restaurants that offer a different type of party than is offered on the beach.
There are a few clubs along the beach in Tulum that open their doors after 9pm. These clubs offer parties into the early hours of the morning, and is similar to the nightlife that is offered in Playa del Carmen.
Check out some of the Tulum night life in this video below.
Since the beach and the town of Tulum are a few kilometres apart, and are separated by nothing but the jungle and a road, transportation to and from the town can prove to be a bit challenging. While many people rent cars in and around the area, there are plenty of other options to keep you on a budget. Many bike rental places are available, and the ride to the beach is safe and scenic. Buses also run from the town to the beach as well as taxis.
Tulum has been rising in popularity over the past few years as a top holiday destination in Mexico. With untouched beaches, turquoise waters, and easy access to many incredible sights and activities, Tulum is a must visit holiday and beach destination.