Tulum Visitors Guide
How to Get There, Things to Do & More
Updated March 2023
Welcome to Tulum Mexico
Breathe it in… the salty air, the wafting of floral incense, the deep sweetness of tropical flora and fauna…exhale slowly. You have arrived in Tulum. The magic of Tulum, and the reason it has become such an extraordinary destination in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, lies not only in the history of the nearby Mayan ruins of the same name, but in the energetic pull the city and sea have over those who come to visit. Below is our guide to making the best of your visit to Tulum. We hope you enjoy!
A Bit Of History
Tulum was the last great city constructed and inhabited by the Mayan people between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. It was a site of worship to the Great Descending God whose image adorns the temples within the site.
Tulum was also of great importance for sea trade, most specifically for the trading of obsidian. Tribes from all over Mexico and other Central American countries would travel to this Caribbean port for commerce.
It’s said that the great wall around the city was erected to protect it from envious traders and pirates who wanted to steal the prime location for themselves.
The pull of ancient Mayan energies combined with the magic of the natural wonders and historic sites, have been bringing in spiritually centered tourism for decades now.
Once a quiet, beach town with slowly wandering yogis and artists, Tulum has developed into a thriving tourism hot spot. Modern luxury hotels and amenities are now available but don’t worry, there is still plenty of the Mayan spirit to discover.
Is Tulum Safe?
Tulum is considered a fairly safe town to visit in Mexico, although crime rates have risen a bit in recent years. It doesn’t face too many issues with gang-related violence, but petty crime and theft towards tourists do occur from time to time.
Despite the rise in crime, Tulum is a hotspot destination and it is still possible to have a very safe and enjoyable visit as long as you travel with general caution. Avoid being out after dark and be aware of your surroundings.
Where is Tulum?
Tulum is located on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The town, often called Tulum Pueblo, and the nearby Tulum Mayan Ruins are in the heart of the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean Sea. Tulum is approximately 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and 90 minutes south of Cancun by car.
Tulum, like other towns and islands in the region, is adjacent to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-longest coral reef system in the world. This puts Tulum and its neighbors in a perfect spot for turquoise Caribbean waters, white sand beaches, and world-class snorkeling and diving. This is DEFINITELY the island life!
When Is Tulum Hurricane Season?
Tulum hurricane season begins in late May and lasts until early November, with the peak occurring between August and October. The odds of a hurricane hitting Tulum are low (less than half a dozen hurricanes have hit the Yucatan in the past 40 years), but hurricanes traveling near Tulum can still cause inclement and severe weather. Be sure to check weather reports ahead of time and we always suggest getting travel insurance during these months just in case.
How to Get to Tulum & Around
There are a few ways to get to Tulum and around the area.
Arrival by Air
There is currently no international airport in Tulum (one will open in 2023!) so visitors must first fly to Cancun and then travel 1.5 – 2 hours overland to reach Tulum (see below). Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the largest airport in the region and greets more than 20 million visitors a year.
Search for great deals on flights to Cancun here.
Airport Shuttles to Tulum
Private or Group Shuttles can be pre-arranged to pick you up at the airport and take you to your Tulum accommodation. Group shuttles may stop at numerous hotels before yours, so this method could take a bit longer than a private shuttle (while being a bit cheaper).
Shared shuttles are around $45 per person, while a private minivan shuttle can be booked for around $110 per van. We recommend getting a private shuttle if you are in a group of 2 or more people.
You can easily book ground transportation from the Cancun airport to your Tulum hotel here.
Rental Cars in Tulum
Renting a car might be the best scenario if you plan on exploring the area a bit. You can rent a car in Tulum town or at the Cancun airport. Rental cars can be as inexpensive as $15/day at the Cancun airport.
If you rent a car at the Cancun airport, head down the only highway southbound. You will pass Playa del Carmen, Akumal and after approximately 90 minutes you will arrive in Tulum Town. Be sure to check if your lodgings are in the Zona Hotelera (hotel zone) or Centro (town center), as your turn off will be on different sides of the road.
Search for great deals on rental cars at the Cancun airport here.
Search for great deals on rentals cars in Tulum town here.
Buses in Tulum
The bus system is very usable in Tulum town and you can easily catch a bus to Playa from the Cancun airport, then change busses to continue to Tulum. This is by far the most affordable way to travel to Tulum from Cancun, although definitely not the fastest. You can check out the ADO bus schedule here. Busses do not stop at hotels. Only bus stations.
Taxis in Tulum
Taxis in Tulum are an easy way to get around. Flag them down on the road or have your hotel call one for you. Within the hotel zone or within Centro, prices are around $4-$7 dollars. Traveling back and forth between the Hotel Zone and Centro can add up though.
If you want to take a taxi TO Tulum, they are everywhere in Cancun and Playa del Carmen and will take you straight to your accommodation in Tulum. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance so you don’t get overcharged. Taxis from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen to Tulum are convenient but can be quite expensive. Typically $50 (Playa) to $100 (Cancun) dollars.
Things to Do in Tulum
Tulum's Top Highlights
There is so much to do in Tulum. From visiting the Mayan ruins to beach lounging to bicycle riding and more. Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy!
1. Explore The Tulum Mayan Ruins
The Tulum Ruins archaeological site is most likely what brought you to the region in the first place, so go see it! The energy of this magical, ancient place is what has been calling tourists here for centuries. The ruins are perched over the sea in a breathtaking locale near Tulum Centro.
Guides are available at the entrance if you are keen to really understand the historical significance of the place, but strolling solo is always a pleasure too.
If you’d like a private tour including guide and transport from your hotel in Tulum or Akumal, this tour is the most highly rated.
To join a great group tour that includes transport from Cancun, Playa or Tulum center, English speaking guide, and a fantastic side trip to swim at a local cenote, check out this tour.
For more info on visiting the Tulum Ruins, check out our Tulum Ruins Visitors Guide.
2. Visit A Cenote
Talk about healing properties. The cenote choices in the Tulum area are vast and diverse as there are literally dozens of incredible locations nearby. You can swim, scuba dive, snorkel or just walk through one of these breathtaking and powerful forces of nature.
Check out this very popular cenote day tour that visits four of our favorite cenotes (Gran Cenote, Casa Cenote, Cenote Cristal & Cenote Escondido) for a fun day of swimming and snorkeling. Sidenote: Ignore the first image of scuba divers on the tour listing. There is no scuba diving on this tour, just swimming and snorkeling!
If you want to scuba dive in a cenote, try this beginners diving class that includes a lesson and an introductory cenote dive OR if you are already scuba certified, go for this top rated cenote diving tour in the area. For both tours, all equipment is included.
For more cenote info and great Tulum cenote recommendations, be sure to check out our Ultimate Cenote Guide.
3. Experience The Adventure Parks
Just north of Tulum are a cluster of world famous adventure parks unlike anything you’ve probably experienced before. The most famous is Xcaret, with its meandering canals you can swim through, incredible beach coves, cultural shows, jungle hikes, and so much more. They are a little pricey, but the adventure parks are widely considered a must-do in the area. Other very popular parks include Xplor with its caves, ziplines, rafting and ATVs, Xel-Ha with its waterslides, snorkeling, mangrove tubing and other water activities, Xplor Fuego a nighttime torchlight adventure, Xenotes cenote experience, Xoximilco floating fiesta and the oddly popular Xenses optical illusion park. We HIGHLY recommend purchasing tickets for these parks in advance as the parks have limited capacity and long ticket lines.
ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
When planning an international vacation, Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Since your health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country, travel insurance makes sure if you accidentally break a bone or get food poisoning, your medical needs are covered. Travel insurance also typically covers you for trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), Covid issues, flight delays, missed connections and more. We think it’s a no brainer and should be factored into any international trip budget. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.
4. Go To The Beach!
With so many beautiful beaches to choose from it’s a sure bet you can find find a dreamy spot, perfect for a sarong and a picnic basket! Bring your swimsuit as the water can be perfect. Take a fun kitesurfing lesson if you’re bold, Tulum is famous for the sport. Hotels in the Zona Hotelera are on the beach, but if you’re staying in town, the beach is just 10-15 minutes away.
For more Tulum beach info and great beach recommendations, be sure to check out our Tulum Best Beaches Guide.
*Note: Since 2008, Sargassum (seaweed) has regularly arrived on the Caribbean coast of Mexico (Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, etc.) from April to August. Many resorts and beaches remove the seaweed from the sand daily, but it can pile up by the water’s edge and be stinky in places where it’s not removed. For this reason, we suggest getting a hotel with a nice pool area for swimming or spending some time on the islands of Cozumel or Isla Mujeres which are largely protected from the seaweed.
5. Visit The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of ancient tropical canals, rainforest, 120 km of coastline, an abundance of wildlife, and coral reefs to delight your every adventure whim.
Float the winding river canals, take a boat to see manatees and sea turtles, or simply relax under a forest canopy. It is an unforgettable experience not to be missed!
Check out this highly reviewed tour of the Sian Ka’an biosphere that also includes visiting the nearby Mayan ruins of Muyil.
6. Discover Tulum Pueblo
Tulum town center (aka Tulum Pueblo) has a magic all of its own. We always recommend to new travelers that the most important thing you can do when visiting a new place is to see where the locals live. The art, food and culture will delight you.
From Acai to Zanahorias (carrots) and all the delicious options in between, traditional Yucatan fare abounds here. Exploring the town on foot is nice but bicycles are also a popular way to get around. Bikes are for rent everywhere in town. Enjoy the journey!
Check out this fun Tulum walking food tour that goes off the beaten path to show you the best of local cuisine.
For the best food in Tulum, check out our Tulum Restaurant Guide and 7 Yucatan Foods That Will Blow Your Mind.
7. Let Yourself Go
Discover something new or dabble in the peculiar. It’s what makes Tulum stand apart from the rest of the Yucatan. Take a cooking class, visit the art zone, explore the immense yoga and meditation class options, try your hand at scuba diving, take a dance class, start a conversation with a stranger…your options are endless here.
Getting out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to new possibilities is what makes this beautiful place so intoxicating for so many. Open your mind and your courage to the possibilities. Be happy, be free.
Check out this popular cooking class, this yoga class and this scuba diving introduction class.
8. Get Wild In The Jungle
The jungles around Tulum make for some incredible adventures! Numerous tours in the area will take you on jungle ATV rides, ziplining, cenote swimming, and more.
These Tulum adventures are different from the fancier adventure parks up north like Xcaret, Xplor, Xel-Ha & Xenotes and are more about getting wild out in nature. Prepare to get a little dirty and don’t forget your swimsuits!
Explore several popular ATV/Zipline jungle tours here.
This Post Has 8 Comments
I love the article!
This guide is amazing. Thank you!
Hey Katie, you’re welcome!
Fantastic information. Thanks so much.
I recommend visiting the ruins in the morning. It is HOT in the late afternoon. Bring a hat!
Really helpful information. Will definitely use your guides to plan out next trip. Thank you.
We look forward to visiting Tulum later this year. If looks beautiful.
The cenotes were our families favorite thing to do. The ruins were magnificent but swimming on a hot summer day beat all. Can’t wait to use your cenotes guide when we go back!