A Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com
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My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico

A Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Tulum is a beautiful town and area situated along the oceanfront in the Mayan Riviera of Mexico‘s Yucatan Peninsula, located only 131 km south of Cancun (1 hour and 46 minutes driving time) and 65 km south of Playa del Carmen (less than one hour driving time), making it a convenient and lovely place for a day trip from either place or a lengthier stay to explore its hidden treasures and experience its magical, charming and laid-back bohemian vibe. Tulum is a popular destination for travelers and it has so much to offer for offbeat and budget travelers, in particular.

Tulum has stunning and idyllic white sand beaches where you can find modern and chic hotels and high-end resorts in addition to cute and locally owned bed and breakfasts, beach cabanas and guesthouses (most of which come with a hefty price-tag) and expensive but adorable cafes, smoothie and juice bars, and upscale restaurants serving a variety of authentic Mexican and international cuisine; the unique and picturesque Mayan Ruins of Tulum perched atop a rocky cliff-side overlooking the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico; and the friendly, less touristy and small and charming coastal town with a laid-back, quiet and hippie-bohemian vibe and peaceful atmosphere and slow pace of life where you can find budget-friendly & unique accommodations (like hostels and bed and breakfasts in local neighbourhoods), the main avenue is lined with an assortment of souvenir shops selling colourful Mexican handicrafts, there are an abundance of fresh produce markets, and a range of local restaurants and eateries serving everything from inexpensive authentic Mexican cuisine (like 7 peso tacos) to fresh and locally caught seafood to a variety of moderately priced international cuisines. The area is situated along the coastline of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by the dense and lush green jungle.

I absolutely fell in love with everything about Tulum when I traveled there during my first solo trip in May 2015 and then again in November 2015, and the area had so much to offer in terms of things to do and see! You can swim in one of the many gorgeous and unique cenotes (naturally formed limestone sinkholes filled with freshwater that are unique to the Yucatan Peninsula) in the area surrounding the town; explore one of the nearby ancient Mayan Ruins sites like those at Tulum, Coba or Chichen Itza; swim at the beautiful beachesshop for authentic souvenirs and local handicrafts while supporting the local community; eat delicious food from a wide variety of cuisines (including traditional Mexican and Yucatecan dishes); practice yoga and so much more.

Tulum is the perfect place for relaxation, learning about and immersing yourself in the fascinating Mayan culture, admiring and exploring the naturally beautiful scenery and surroundings, soaking up and enjoying the laid-back & peaceful atmosphere and slow pace of life, and eating some amazing and authentic Mexican food! It is truly an incredible and magical place and a gem in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. 

Like I mentioned earlier, I have traveled to Tulum on two separate occasions – from May 24-27, 2015 and November 12-15, 2015 – and spent the majority of my time in the town of Tulum during both of my visits which is primarily what this travel guide will be focused on. This guide is intended for independent and budget-conscious travelers who enjoy exploring off the beaten path and finding unique and alternative things to do while still finding a balance and making time to see some of the main attractions nearby that are definitely worthy of a visit.

I look forward to returning to Tulum many more times in the future and exploring more of what it has to offer!

If you are in the process of planning a trip to Tulum, I hope you find this guide to be informational, helpful and inspirational! Enjoy!

Location

Tulum is located along the Gulf of Mexico in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera and Yucatan Peninsula region, just two hours south of Cancun and one hour south of Playa del Carmen. It is easily accessible from both places via the ADO bus system and local colectivo vans. 

Getting There

Getting to Tulum from either Cancun or Playa del Carmen (or other towns and cities around the Yucatan) is easy and straightforward using the following methods of transportation.

ADO First Class Bus

ADO is a bus company that operates buses in the Yucatan Peninsula. The first class buses are new, clean, modern and well-maintained and include a television with Spanish movies playing, a small washroom at the back of the bus, and comfortable seating. Using these buses is a reliable, safe and relatively inexpensive way of traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula.

From Cancun – First class buses depart from the downtown ADO terminal (located on Avenida Nichupte between Avenida Tulum and Avenida Acanceh) every 45 minutes or so from 6 am until 12 am (up to date schedules can be found at the bus terminal or at www.ado.com.mx). The one-way journey takes approximately two and a half hours and costs 130 pesos.

From the Cancun International Airport – There are a few direct ADO first-class buses that journey from the airport to Tulum. Check the bus schedules at www.ado.com.mx. However, these buses are far less frequent than simply catching a bus to Playa del Carmen and then transferring to a bus or colectivo to Tulum from there. This is easiest and fastest way of getting to Tulum from the Cancun Airport. There are frequent buses leaving from the airport to Playa del Carmen, approximately every half an hour starting at 8:30 am and ending at 11:30 pm. When you exit the terminal, turn to your right and keep walking for a little ways until you see the big red and white ADO buses in a parking lot next to the airport. You can purchase tickets for the ADO buses either at the ticket booth in the middle of the aisle-way as you are exiting the terminal, or at a small booth directly in front of the ADO buses. If you can’t find them, just ask any airport employee, “Donde estan los autobuses de ADO?” and they will point you in the right direction. The journey from the airport to Playa del Carmen takes one hour and then it is an additional one hour from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. 

From Playa del Carmen – The buses depart from the main ADO bus terminal (located at the corner of Avenida Benito Juarez and Avenida 5 or Quinta Avenida) at various times between 1 am and 10 pm. The journey takes one hour with tickets costing 62 pesos.

Upon arriving in Tulum, you will be dropped off in the town’s only ADO bus terminal, located along Avenida Tulum (the main avenue through town) between Calles Alfa and Jupiter. From Tulum’s bus terminal, you can catch buses to destinations like Cancun, Chetumal, Chichen Itza, Coba, Merida, Playa del Carmen, Palenque, and Valladolid (see www.ado.com.mx for updated schedules or visit the bus terminal itself).

Colectivo

Colectivos are white shuttle vans that can hold up to 12 passengers. They are an alternative and cheap way of getting around and the locals primarily use them for transportation from larger cities to small towns and villages throughout the Yucatan. These vans are usually air conditioned, although they are often crammed full of people and are not the most comfortable methods of transportation but they are very cheap (perfect for budget-conscious travelers) and work well for shorter journeys like this one.

The colectivos do not operate on a fixed schedule like the ADO buses, however, they do run all day every day (from around 5 am to 10 pm) and you usually never have to wait more than 10-15 minutes for one to depart. The vans depart when they have enough passengers to fill the seats. The one-way fare for each leg of the journey is between 30-40 pesos. Colectivos are also very speedy and they take around the same amount of time to reach Tulum as the buses do.

I have taken both the ADO buses and colectivos from Playa del Carmen to Tulum and although the buses are more comfortable, I much preferred the authentic and local experience of taking the colectivos! Plus, they were super cheap and easy on the budget!

From Cancun – You have to take a colectivo from the downtown area (across the street from the ADO bus terminal) to Playa del Carmen, and then another one to Tulum.

From Playa del Carmen – The colectivos are lined up along both sides of the street and in a large parking lot on Calle 2 between Avenidas 15 and 20. All you have to do is walk up to one of the many vans and ask the driver if he is going to Tulum “pueblo” (in Spanish, as most of these local drivers do not speak much English). If he says yes, you can hop into the van and find any open seat. You pay the driver when you exit the van at your destination. They will drop you off anywhere along the main avenue in Tulum and then you can walk to your destination from there (Tulum is a small town). 

Getting Around

The town of Tulum is small and compact, making it easy to get around to most places within town by walking on foot. To visit cenotes, ruins and beaches in the surrounding area, the following options for getting around are available.

Taxi

There are taxis driving around everywhere in town and also parked along the main avenue, making it very easy to find a taxi when you need one.

The taxis in Tulum are newer model and well-maintained cars with air conditioning and they can take you to the beach, ruins and nearby cenotes for a fare of around 70-80 pesos for a one-way journey (per car, not per person).

Bicycle

There are numerous local shops in town where you can rent bicycles, with most of them being located along Avenida Tulum, the main avenue running through town. If you are staying at Mama’s Home Hostel, you can get a discount of 20 pesos off a bike rental at Kelly’s Bike Rentals (located along Avenida Tulum, just past Avenida Satelite heading in the direction out of town towards the ruins) by mentioning the hostel’s name to the staff at the shop. I rented a bicycle from this shop for 60 pesos for the day and cycled to the Tulum ruins. It was great! They offered a variety of one-speed bikes that were older but still functioning and relatively well-maintained (my seat was a bit wobbly). A lock was also included with my bike rental and I had to leave some photo ID at the shop which was returned to me when I arrived back with the bike at the end of the day.

A bicycle is ideal for getting from the town to the beach, the ruins and nearby cenotes, all of which are around a 20-30 minute bike ride.

Colectivo

Local colectivos can take you from town to the beach area or Tulum ruins. They run all day long starting early in the morning and depart when they are full. You can find the colectivos parked and driving anywhere along the town’s main avenue. To catch one, either walk up to a parked van, tell the driver your destination, and wait until the van has enough people to leave or stand along the side of the street and wave at an oncoming van, which will then stop and let you in. Again, tell the driver your destination and he will bring you there.

There are always colectivo vans waiting in the parking lot at the Tulum ruins and driving along the beach road to take you back to Tulum.

Banking and Money

The currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso. 

Banks are plentiful in Tulum and the majority of them offer 24-hour ATMs as well. I used the HSBC bank at the corner of Avenida Tulum and Calle Alfa (next to the central plaza and city hall) to withdraw cash and they had reasonable fees along with reliable and easy to use ATMs situated in small separate rooms in the bank building, accessible from the street. Another popular bank that I heard good reviews about is the Scotiabank, which is located at the corner of Avenida Tulum and Calle Satelite Sur.

Always use ATMs that are attached to banks and not the freestanding ones in convenience stores or on the streets. If you encounter an issue with one of these ATMs, then you have no-one to help you. Freestanding ATMs are also easier for criminals to tamper with and you risk having your information stolen if you choose to use them. 

Weather and When to Go

The best time to travel to Tulum depends on whether you are looking for cheaper prices or hot and sunny weather.

For me personally, I have enjoyed visiting Tulum during the shoulder season – the months of May and November – when there are fewer crowds and usually great weather but with a slightly higher likelihood of rain. The rainy season technically lasts from May until October give or take, so torrential rainstorms are definitely more likely during the shoulder season, however, the prices of flights and accommodations are also less expensive. It’s a trade-off. During my visit in November 2015, the rainy season had lasted a bit longer than usual and there were a few afternoons and evenings when the town received heavy rainfalls (although that didn’t stop me from getting out there and continuing to explore and experience Tulum… I just needed a rain poncho) for a few hours before the sunny skies returned. I ended up stranded at a restaurant one evening when the rains came down and was forced to wade through knee-deep water in the flooded streets in order to get back to my hostel. But it was definitely an adventure and quite the experience! On the other hand, there was absolutely zero rain during my visit in May 2015.

December to April is the best time to visit Tulum if you are looking for warm weather with lots of sun and the least amount of rain. This is also high season and the most popular time to travel to Tulum, so there will be more crowds and accommodations and flights will probably be more expensive.

For budget travelers, I recommend traveling to Tulum in the shoulder season in order to save some money and deal with fewer crowds.

If you want to see a breakdown of Tulum’s average weather month-to-month, click here. When I am planning my travels, I also use Wunderground to view the almanac and past weather during the month(s) I am thinking of visiting a place. It’s a great resource!

Things to See and Do

Swim in a Cenote

Cenotes are naturally formed sinkholes in the porous limestone of Mexico‘s Yucatan Peninsula, that are filled with clear freshwater. These natural pools are all very unique and can be found in many shapes and sizes. Some of them are located at the ground level and are open and exposed to the air, resembling a lake, while others are situated completely underground with either a small opening at the top or tall and sheer rock walls on all sides. The Mayans consider cenotes to be sacred places, providing access to the underworld. All of them are absolutely beautiful and they are perfect places for swimming!

There are many gorgeous cenotes in the area surrounding Tulum as well as throughout the entire Yucatan Peninsula. These are some of my favourite cenotes that I have swam at so far near Tulum.

Cenote Nicte-Ha

Cenote Nicte-Ha is a lesser-known and absolutely beautiful cenote located along the gravel road from Highway 307 north of Tulum to the more popular Cenote Dos Ojos, however, this cenote often gets passed over by tourists.

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Cenote Nicte-Ha

The cenote is located in a wide and large round hole in the ground with the water being open to the sky, and is tucked away in the jungle with dense vegetation surrounding it on all sides. The water is crystal clear and a beautiful blue colour. At the far end of the cenote, there was a small cave-like area with a low overhanging rock ceiling which was fun to explore. I loved the natural and serene atmosphere while swimming at this cenote and it was a gorgeous and calm place to relax and swim.

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Cenote Nicte-Ha

I arrived to this cenote early in the morning and was able to experience its natural beauty in solitude while being completely alone there, which was amazing. Cenote Nicte-Ha is definitely a local hidden gem near Tulum with a magical feel to it, and it has been my favourite cenote that I have visited in the Tulum area so far. I would definitely recommend checking this out out when you travel to Tulum.

Location – Approximately 22 km north of Tulum (20-25 minutes driving time)

How to Get There – Take a colectivo from along the main avenue in Tulum (there are designated stops along the boulevard and these white shuttle vans can be found driving up and down the highway frequently). Once you get in the van, ask the driver to drop you off at Cenote Dos Ojos and then pay him when you arrive there. You will be dropped off along Highway 307, at the entrance road leading to Cenote Dos Ojos. Cenote Nite-Ha is situated along this road, before the more popular Dos Ojos. The walk from the highway to the cenote took me around 15-20 minutes through the thick and lush green jungle. There will be a large sign advertising Cenote Nicte-Ha at the junction with a narrower gravel road. Turn right along that road and it is a short walk to the entrance of the cenote.

Price – 100 pesos entrance fee

Further Reading: Swimming at the Beautiful Cenote Nicte-Ha Near Tulum, Mexico

Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote is a gorgeous underground cenote that is situated around 10 minutes north of Tulum on the Coba Highway. Although this cenote is pretty popular with tourists, it is definitely still worth a visit, simply for its natural beauty alone.

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Looking down into Gran Cenote from the ground above

I visited this cenote during my first solo trip to Tulum with a few friends from my hostel. We took a taxi there from Tulum. The cenote consisted of a large and wide round hole in the ground and was accessed via a wooden staircase which led onto a central boardwalk area in the middle of the cenote over the water, with tropical palm trees and other various plants growing around it. It was here where you could purchase your entrance fee along with rent life jackets, snorkeling and scuba gear and secure your belongings in small lockers. There were modern washrooms and changing rooms located at the ground level, before entering into the cenote. From the boardwalk area, there were wooden steps leading into the dark blue but clear water from various different access points. Only a small portion of the water was open to the sky above, before you had to enter a partially eroded cave-like area with a low overhanging limestone rock ceiling. There were ropes strung from the boardwalk to different points inside the cave area, which were helpful for holding onto while taking a break from swimming and treading water.

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Swimming in this cave was so much fun!

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The lovely Gran Cenote

Swimming inside the cave area of the cenote was amazing and such a cool experience! There were stalactites and stalagmites and interesting rock formations and bats hung from the rock ceiling above and would fly over my head while making screeching noises. It was dark inside the cave and kind of scary at first! There were lots of narrow passageways inside the cave area which were fun to explore and swim through. The cenote water was so incredibly clear and very refreshing to swim in on a hot day.

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I loved Gran Cenote

After swimming in the cave area, I enjoyed sitting on the edge of the boardwalk while dangling my feet in the water. There were lily pads around the boardwalk area and small turtles and fish swam around my feet.

Location – 5 km north of Tulum on the Coba Highway/Highway 109.

How to Get There – Take a taxi from Tulum and ask the driver to drop you off at “Gran Cenote.” Taxis can be found parked and driving everywhere along the main avenue in Tulum and they generally congregate around the ADO bus terminal, so if you can’t find one, just head in that direction. The one-way fare costs 60-70 pesos, depending on your negotiation skills. After you are finished visiting the cenote, there will mostly likely be at least one taxi waiting in the parking lot and ready to take visitors back to Tulum. If there isn’t, I would imagine you could ask one of the cenote staff members to call a taxi driver for you or you could just wait for a little while until one shows up. If you visit the cenote later in the day, it might be more difficult to find a taxi back to Tulum, as there won’t be as many taxis driving to the cenote to drop people off, so keep that in mind. You could also rent a bicycle from one of the local bike shops in Tulum and cycle to the cenote. The cenote is located approximately 5 km from the town of Tulum along a busy highway.

Price – 150 pesos entrance fee and 30 pesos to rent a locker.

Casa Cenote

Casa Cenote is a beautiful, open-water cenote that is located just 20 minutes north of Tulum. Casa Cenote is unique from many others in the Yucatan in that it is not situated underground and instead, the gorgeous and vibrant turquoise-coloured water is exposed to the sky. The cenote resembles a small lake and is surrounded on all sides by thick mangroves and lush vegetation. A narrow channel leads from the larger body of water to the ocean.

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The water was actually this turquoise at Casa Cenote. Incredible!

I visited Casa Cenote during my first solo trip to Tulum with a couple of friends from the hostel I was staying at. After the colectivo from Tulum dropped us off along Highway 307, we walked down a long and narrow gravel road with the sun’s rays beating down on us. At the end of the road, we turned to left and did some more walking. There were beautiful and large vacation homes situated along one side of the road, which were fun to admire and it made the walk more interesting. After about 15-20 minutes of walking in total, we arrived at the cenote (it is on the left hand side of the road and it is good signage, so you can’t miss it).

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Swimming in Casa Cenote was amazing!

There were only a few other people there during our visit, resulting in a peaceful and calm atmosphere, and the cenote water was so clear, clean and lovely to swim in. The water was an incredible and vibrant turquoise colour. It was absolutely beautiful! The only challenging part, was that there was a very strong current in the water, which made it difficult to swim around. Swimming against the current was exhausting and at times, I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere, but it was very refreshing! When I sat on the rocks to take a break from swimming, there were tiny fish that nibbled at my feet which tickled and felt strange. There were canoes, kayaks, life jackets and snorkel gear available to rent at the cenote, small wooden lockers to store your belongings (50 pesos) and an outhouse washroom on the property.

After I had finished swimming and cooling off at the cenote, my friends and I walked back to the highway and waited. We ended up taking a taxi back to Tulum, as the price worked out to be cheaper if we split the 70 peso fare between the three of us, than if we had taken a colectivo.

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Casa Cenote

If you are looking for a beautiful and peaceful place to go for a refreshing and relaxing swim, then I recommend heading to Casa Cenote. Because this cenote is situated slightly off the beaten tourist path, you likely won’t experience the same level of crowds as you would at some of the other popular cenotes in the area.

Location – Approximately 20 minutes north of Tulum, along Highway 307.

How To Get There – Take a local colectivo van from Tulum’s main avenue and ask the driver to drop you off at Casa Cenote. After about 15-20 minutes on the colectivo, you will see road signs for the cenote. The driver may or may not remember peoples’ stops, so make sure to say “alto aqui, por favor,” loudly to the driver when you want to be dropped off. You will pay the 25-30 peso one-way fare to the driver as you exit the van. Walk along the long and narrow gravel road until you get to the end, at which point you will turn left and continue walking past the lovely vacation homes for about 15-20 minutes until you see the cenote on your left hand side. There is good signage and it’s visible from the road, so you won’t miss it. To get back to Tulum, walk back the same way you came to the highway. Then, cross the highway to the other side and wait there until you see a colectivo van or taxi approaching you. You shouldn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for one to pass by, as colectivos travel frequently throughout the day between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Once you see one approaching, wave your arms to flag them down and they will stop for you if they have room for more passengers. A one-way fare for the colectivo costs 25-30 pesos and for taxis it is 70-80 pesos.

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The long gravel road leading to Casa Cenote

Price – 50 pesos entrance admission and 50 pesos to rent a locker.

Other cenotes near Tulum that I haven’t had an opportunity to visit yet, but which look beautiful and serene, include Cenote Jardin del EdenCenote Dos OjosCenote CristalCenote Escondido, and others.

Explore Ancient Mayan Ruins

There are a number of both popular and lesser-visited ancient Mayan ruins that are accessible from Tulum.

Tulum Ruins

The Tulum Ruins are a well-preserved archeological site situated just north of the town of Tulum. They are unique in that they are only Mayan ruins site that is located along the oceanfront, and the El Castillo pyramid sits atop a rocky cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The ruins site is compact and easy to explore independently in only an hour or so. Although they are very popular with organized tour groups, they are still worth a visit for independent travelers as well and the various structures as well as large iguanas everywhere make for some fantastic photo opportunities. There is also a small and beautiful beach at the ruins, so remember to pack your bathing suit if you plan on taking some time to swim there (it was pretty busy with tourists though, so you may want to head elsewhere). There are very few trees within the ruins site, so be prepared with sunscreen and a hat and know that it’s going to be hot! Because these ruins are so popular, well-known and frequently visited, I recommend arriving early in the morning when they open at 8 am, in order to beat the crowds and the tour groups and be able to enjoy exploring the ruins in peace and solitude and a relaxing atmosphere. 

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The El Castillo Pyramid overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at the Tulum Ruins. Beautiful!

I rented a bicycle from a local shop in town and cycled along the paved bicycle path to the Tulum ruins, which took approximately 20 minutes. I visited during mid-afternoon when the ruins were already very crowded and when the sun’s heat was super intense, but I still had an enjoyable experience wandering around the site. 

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Tulum Ruins

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Tulum Ruins

Location – The Tulum Ruins are located along Highway 307, just five to seven minutes north of the town of Tulum.

How To Get There – You can take either a taxi or colectivo to the ruins or you can bicycle there. Taxis and colectivos can be found parked and driving along Tulum’s main avenue. Ask the driver to bring you to the Tulum Ruins and the ride will take approximately 5-7 minutes, with the one-way fare of taxis costing around 70 pesos and the one-way fare of colectivos costing around 30 pesos. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle for around 80 pesos per day from one of the local shops along Tulum’s main avenue and cycle approximately twenty minutes along a paved bicycle path parallel to the main highway to the ruins. Although the heat was almost unbearable, I enjoyed cycling to the ruins and would definitely recommend that option. There are bicycle racks to park and lock your bike at the entrance to the ruins or you can do what I did and just lock it against one of the many trees near the entrance.

Admission – 65 pesos entrance fee (as of May 2015)

Coba Ruins

The Mayan Ruins at Coba are lesser-visited than those at Tulum and Chichen Itza and are located in a more natural environment. The ruins site is expansive and the partially excavated structures are situated throughout the jungle, which you can get to either by walking or cycling along the well-maintained ancient pathways known as “sacbes.” You can rent bicycles at the entrance of the ruins, which I would recommend doing as its the faster and easier way to get around within the site. Most of the ancient stone structures are allowed to be explored and climbed, except for a select few. The main attraction at Coba is climbing to the top of the very tall, steep and partially excavated Nohoch Mul pyramid, where you will then be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the surrounding jungle treetops!

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The gorgeous jungle views from the top of Coba’s Nohoch Mul pyramid!

I have enjoyed exploring these ruins two times during different trips to the Yucatan. Seeing the partially restored and unexcavated structures in their natural habitat among the jungle and being reclaimed by the trees and plants as they continue to find ways to grow through cracks in the stones, was really fascinating and amazing to see.

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Coba’s Nohoch Mul Pyramid

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La Iglesia Pyramid at Coba

Location – Approximately 50 km northeast of Tulum along the Coba Highway (45 minutes driving time).

How To Get There – Take a first class ADO bus from the Tulum bus terminal to the Coba Ruins. You can check the updated bus schedules at www.ado.com.mx or at the bus terminal itself (located along Tulum’s main avenue between Calles Jupiter and Alfa). There is only one return bus from the Coba Ruins back to Tulum at 3:10 PM. You also have the option of renting a car from one of the local rental companies in the town of Tulum. I rented from America Car Rental and they had friendly and English-speaking staff and a variety of cars at great prices and including full insurances.

Admission – 65 pesos entrance fee and 45 pesos to rent bicycles at the ruins (as of November 2015)

Further Reading: Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is the most well-known and frequently visited Mayan ruins site in the Yucatan Peninsula and is definitely a must-see ruins site worth visiting during your travels to Tulum. It is an expansive ruins site with a variety of well-preserved and maintained ancient structures to explore. Considered to be a sacred place by the Mayans, Cenote Sagrado is also situated within the ruins site. It consists of a deep hole in the ground filled with freshwater in a gorgeous green colour. Swimming is prohibited in the cenote and you probably wouldn’t want to swim there anyways after learning about this natural sinkhole’s dark history involving human sacrifices. The structures within the ruins site consist of a variety of interesting and unique architectural styles (my favourite is the detailed Puuc-style which can be seen on the Iglesia and the Monastery structures). The El Castillo Pyramid or the Kukulkan Pyramid, is the iconic temple at Chichen Itza and it is the grandest and one of the most impressive structures within the Yucatan. Other notable structures inside Chichen Itza include the Ball Court, the Group of 1000 Columns, and the Observatory, among others.

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The El Castillo Pyramid at Chichen Itza

I had stayed in Valladolid for a few days during my visit to Chichen Itza and thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere after arriving to the ruins early in the morning shortly after they had opened for the day. There were only a handful of other people exploring there when we arrived but the crowds continued to grow throughout the morning and the entrance to the ruins was insanely packed with people when I left there at around 11 AM. However, visiting Chichen Itza is totally doable if you are staying in Tulum, but you will not be able to experience the morning tranquility and serenity and will have to deal with the crowds and people obstructing your views and photos. I had an enjoyable experience wandering throughout the huge ruins site and admiring the beautifully-preserved and maintained and incredibly impressive structures within the site. Chichen Itza is definitely a ruins site worth exploring, especially for first-time visitors to the Yucatan.

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The Group of 1000 Columns at Chichen Itza

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Puuc-style architecture at Chichen Itza

Location – Approximately 45 km west of Valladolid, 119 km east of Merida and 153 km east of Tulum.

How To Get There – Chichen Itza can be most easily reached from the small colonial city of Valladolid and only involves a 45 minute colectivo or bus ride, which makes it possible to explore the ruins site before the large crowds of tourists arrive around mid to late morning. However, Chichen Itza is still easily accessible from Tulum as well. According to the ADO bus company website, there is a first-class bus that leaves Tulum at 9:10 AM and arrives at Chichen Itza at approximately 11:40 AM (2 hour and 40 minute journey) with the only return bus leaving the ruins at 4:30 PM and arriving back in Tulum at around 7:00 PM (NOTE: These bus schedules are subject to change so please check the website or head to the ADO bus terminal in Tulum to see the most up-to-date schedules).

Price – 202 pesos entrance fee (as of May 2015)

Further Reading: Exploring the Ruins of Chichen Itza

Take a Tour of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere

Sian Ka’an is a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located south of the town of Tulum. It is a unique and completely natural area along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico that is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species including crocodiles, spider monkeys, iguanas, coatis, jaguars, pumas and many more. The reserve also contains approximately 23 known archeological sites and Mayan Ruins, including those of Muyil. 

Check out this blog post or this one for detailed information about how to visit Sian Ka’an on your own. 

Although I have yet to visit Sian Ka’an, it is definitely on my list of places to explore during my future travels to Tulum! You can book a tour to Sian Ka’an by clicking here or here

Relax at Tulum’s Central Plaza & Park

Tulum’s central plaza and Parque Dos Aguas are fantastic placea to sit back and relax, enjoy a homemade and refreshing ice cream or “paleta” on a hot day, read a book, and/or do some journaling. I really enjoyed just sitting on a bench and doing some people-watching while observing the local life and culture around me. 

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Carving in Tulum’s main plaza

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The main square in Tulum

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Tulum’s central plaza

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Another interesting carving

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Another interesting carving

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Tulum’s main plaza

Make sure to also check out the main plaza in the evenings, as there are sometimes musical and dance performances going on or evening markets. During my trip, I browsed the stalls and vendors selling Mexican baking and sweets during one evening. 

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An evening market at Tulum’s main plaza

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Lots of sweets to choose from!

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More baking and sweets

Relax and Swim at the Beach

The white-sand natural beaches located along Tulum’s coastline are absolutely gorgeous with beautiful and clear turquoise-coloured waters and they are definitely worth a visit during your visit to Tulum. I am not a beach-loving person and I didn’t end up spending too much time relaxing at the beach, as I would much rather be out exploring, taking photographs, or learning about a place’s culture and history. But I did end up visiting the beach on my first trip to Tulum in May 2015. I enjoyed walking on the sand along the water’s edge and getting one of the most amazing and relaxing full-body massages that I have ever had on the beach, while listening to the sounds of waves crashing against the shoreline.

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The beach in Tulum

The beach is a perfect place to relax for a day and go for a swim in the beautiful and picturesque Gulf of Mexico. I would also recommend walking or cycling along the beach road, where you can find adorable, charming and colourful cafes and restaurants selling fresh juices and fruit smoothies and a variety of delicious foods from a range of cuisines. This is also where the pricier cabanas, hotels, and resorts are located. It is a great place to wander around and explore and there are so many wonderful photo opportunities there!

Rent a Bicycle and Explore Tulum’s Beachfront Road

The Boca Paila is a beautiful narrow paved road that runs alongside Tulum’s gorgeous white-sand beaches, from the town and all the way south to Punta Allen. The street is surrounded by thick lush green jungle vegetation and is lined with adorable restaurants serving a variety of cuisines from healthy and fresh juices to wholesome vegetarian cuisine to classic Mexican dishes to international cuisine and more; unique shops; and charming accommodations on the beach including cabanas. 

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Enjoying a fruit smoothie at a restaurant along the beach road.

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Looking out towards the Gulf of Mexico from a restaurant on the beach road

You can rent a bicycle from one of the local shops in the town of Tulum and cycle to the beach road. I rented a bicycle from a shop called Kelly’s located along the main avenue in Tulum, as you are exiting town and heading towards the beach and Mayan Ruins (If you stay at Mama’s Home Hostel, you will get a 20 peso discount on bike rentals from this shop). 

I enjoyed leisurely cycling along the beach road and stopping to sip a delicious fruit smoothie at one of the local beachfront restaurants. The atmosphere while being among the jungle was so relaxing and calm. 

Browse The Local Shops Along Tulum’s Main Avenue

Tulum’s main avenue (Avenida Tulum) is lined on both sides with a variety of open-air local and independent shops selling a wide selection of authentic and handmade handicrafts including jewelry, purses, colourful blankets, clothing, shoes, ceramics, and much more. 

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Browsing the shops along Tulum’s main avenue

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Browsing the shops along Tulum’s main avenue

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Tulum’s main avenue.

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One of the shops along Tulum’s main avenue.

If you enjoy shopping or are looking for some souvenirs to bring home with you from Tulum, take a stroll down the main avenue and browse the shops. Unlike the shops along 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, the shopowners in Tulum are not overly pushy about selling their products, which makes for a much more enjoyable shopping experience. 

Wander the Town’s Streets, Explore the Local Neighbourhoods & Discover Hidden Gems

Exploring the side streets and local neighbourhoods of Tulum is a fantastic way to get a glimpse into the everyday lives of the locals who live there, observe and learn about the fascinating culture, practice speaking Spanish, eat traditional and inexpensive Mexican food, shop for authentic handicrafts and souvenirs and support the local economy, and have the opportunity to interact and connect with the locals in Tulum.

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A local family on one of my morning walks through town

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Street in Tulum

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Wandering the streets of Tulum

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Calle Orion in Tulum.

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The streets of Tulum.

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A shop in Tulum.

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A quiet local residential street in Tulum.

Wandering and exploring the side streets and quiet local residential neighbourhoods of Tulum was one of my favourite things to do during my travels there and I just loved walking around, taking photos and finding some hidden gems. The town’s streets are filled with lots of colourful, vibrant and interesting murals and street art located in random places along the sides of buildings, cement walls, and on houses. I enjoyed stumbling upon these incredible works of art during my explorations! I also really loved all of the colourfully painted houses, restaurants and the local shops with their name/menu/services painted in colourful letters on the exterior wall of their building. It was great to see so many thriving independent and local shops and businesses and absolutely no chain stores. 

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A colourfully painted house

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One of the houses in Tulum.

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Pretty street art that I discovered along the streets of Tulum.

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Street art along a wall in Tulum.

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Colourful mural

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One of my favourite murals in Tulum.

During my time in Tulum, I would wake up early every morning and explore the streets for a couple of hours before heading off to visit a cenote or Mayan Ruins site and it was amazing to experience the local life and have that time of solitude and reflection every day. Getting off the beaten path is one of the best ways to find authentic and unique experiences and it also offers the opportunity of being able to more easily connect with the locals and learn about the culture of your destination. 

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A charming residential street in Tulum.

As I wandered, I found lots of stray cats and dogs often laying in the middle of the streets or on the sidewalks while trying to find some shade (I found one adorable dog who was so lonely that he followed closely behind me while begging for pets along my entire morning walk); discovered lots of open-air shops along the side streets selling clothing, shoes and fresh produce underneath a makeshift building; a variety of small local markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables (and there were lots of interesting exotic ones that I had never seen or heard of before); no-name family-owned taquerias and eateries serving authentic Mexican foods and meals (like tacos, tortas, sopes, tamales, and more) with their bright red Coca Cola plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the sidewalks; colourfully painted local convenience stores with one of the following names – “abarrotes,” “tienda,” or “tendejon” – painted on the front of the building along with their phone number and store hours; a variety of other local specialty shops like a “floreria” (florist shop), “ferreteria” (hardware store), “tortilleria” (tortilla shop), “novedades” (gift shops), “farmacias” (pharmacies), “zapateria” (shoe shop) and more; rundown-looking buildings with graffiti painted along the walls and overgrown grass and plants surrounding them; colourful retro VW Beetles parked everywhere along the streets; a few elementary schools with children wearing uniforms and playing in the dusty schoolyard; abandoned lots that were completely overgrown with vegetation; and local houses in a variety of styles.

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I loved this hot pink Beetle in Tulum!

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A lonely and adorable little dog in Tulum

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A found a chicken along of my walks!

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A local pharmacy in Tulum.

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A little dog on one of Tulum’s streets

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This little cutie followed me on one of my morning walks through the town!

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An adorable street dog

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Retro VW Beetles everywhere!

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Retro VW Beetle

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Some shops along Tulum’s main avenue.

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One of the residential side streets in Tulum.

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A small local convenience store in Tulum.

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An open-air shop selling clothing along Calle Sol.

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Some local shops on a side street north of Tulum’s main avenue

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A local shop along one of Tulum’s streets

Some of the side streets were dusty, dirty and poorly maintained with the cement crumbling and cracking, litter and trash laying around, and abandoned lots completely overgrown with jungle plants, trees and long grasses; the sidewalks were uneven in some area. I loved the tropical jungle atmosphere with palm trees and lush green plants growing around and between the buildings in town. It was eye-opening for me to see the houses where people lived in Tulum. Many of the houses were located inside one-room cement buildings or tiny make-shift looking shacks with wooden slats for walls and either a rubber or palapa-leaf roof. They had no grass or yards and the houses went right up to the cement sidewalk. No matter what the condition of the house, I noticed that the large majority of them all had a television satellite dish on their roof. 

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Candid street photography shot

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Piles of garbage along the side of the streets.

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The streets of Tulum

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An abandoned lot in Tulum

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A beautiful and peaceful local neighborhood in Tulum

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An adorable kitty that I found along one of my walks through Tulum!

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A quiet residential street in Tulum.

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The houses in Tulum.

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A house in Tulum

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A house in Tulum.

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Another VW Beetle in Tulum

During one of my walks around Tulum, I discovered a local man selling fresh coconut water straight out of the coconut, at a small wooden makeshift stand in front of his house. I decided to support his small coconut-water selling business and purchased one from him. He spoke fantastic English and invited me to have a seat on a plastic chair in front of his house to enjoy the fresh coconut water. I accepted and we started chatting. Some of his other family members came outside to join us as well, although they only spoke Spanish. I learned that this man also worked as a dive instructor at one of the popular cenotes near Tulum and on his one day off per week, he sold coconuts. It was such a cool experience to have the opportunity to interact with some local people in Tulum! It was interesting to learn about his life and he was also interested in my life back home in Canada. After I had finished my water, the man offered to carve out all of the coconut “meat” inside the fruit and he packaged it up for me to take back to my hostel and eat. He was so friendly and welcoming!

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The local coconut stand where I bought some fresh coconut water in Tulum.

Overall, wandering around and exploring the streets of Tulum was an interesting and eye-opening experience and I loved observing and learning about how people live in Mexico and seeing the real side of Tulum, where the locals live! Exploring the streets and local neighbourhoods of Tulum is definitely a worthwhile activity for those who enjoy getting off the beaten path, having unique experiences, observing how the locals live, and seeing the authentic side of their destination. It almost always leads to having some interesting and unique experiences. 

Explore Tulum’s Street Art

Tucked away along random buildings, walls and houses on residential side streets in the town of Tulum, you will find a collection of colourfully painted and unique murals and street art pieces. If you enjoy getting off the beaten path and exploring deeper, then discovering the street art of Tulum is definitely a worthwhile activity for you!

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My favourite mural in Tulum!

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I loved this street art painting in Tulum!

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Graffiti along a building wall

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Street art along the front of this house

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A large mural along the side of a hostel in Tulum.

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I loved this detailed and colourful mural along a building on one of Tulum’s streets!

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Street art in Tulum.

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Street art in Tulum, near Mama’s Home Hostel along Calle Orion

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Street art in Tulum

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This was my favourite mural in Tulum!

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Street art in Tulum, along Calle Sol.

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Colourful street art in Tulum.

I loved simply wandering the local streets of Tulum and stumbling upon this incredible street art in random places. It made for some fantastic photos! 

As you can see, there are lots of things to see, do and explore in Tulum and the surrounding area! Whatever your interests are – nature, diving, eco-tourism, beaches, jungles, cenotes, ancient Mayan Ruins, or eating amazing food – Tulum has something to offer for pretty much everyone! 

Where To Eat

During my two solo trips to Tulum, I have had the opportunity to eat at a variety of different restaurants in the town. One of my favourite ways to experience a culture and a new destination is to sample the cuisine and traditional dishes. This is a list of my favourite restaurants in Tulum, that serve either authentic Mexican food and/or healthy, gluten-free and vegetarian cuisine.

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

Antojitos La Chiapaneca is a small and locally owned restaurant located along Tulum’s main avenue, near the ADO bus terminal, serving incredibly inexpensive and delicious tasting authentic Mexican “antojitos” (small snacks). They only open at 6 pm for dinner and stay open until late into the evening/night. I ate there a few times during my travels and it was always packed with people – mostly local families – which is always a good sign! It is a very simple and casual eatery and there aren’t an abundance of tables inside. The colour theme of the restaurant was clearly red and everything from the wooden tables, chairs, walls to the storefront were painted in the same vibrant and bold shade of red. The menu is simple and consists of only a handful of options for authentic Mexican snacks and beverages (FYI: alcohol is not served here) which are all priced super cheap!

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Inside Antojitos La Chiapaneca

I ordered their famous Tacos Al Pastor along with a variety of other “antojitos” (small snacks) including panuchos, sopes, tacos vegetarianos and an agua de Jamaica to drink (sweetened and chilled hibiscus tea). Everything tasted so delicious, authentic and fresh! The service was a bit slow, but that is the norm in local Mexican restaurants, and was understandable considering how busy the place always was. However, the food was definitely worth the wait. After ordering, you can head over to the restaurant’s large salsa bar area where you will find a variety of salsas (most of them are spicy, especially the green one that looks like guacamole. It is not guacamole) and toppings like lime wedges, radishes, onions and more in large bowls to garnish your tacos. They serve the cheapest tacos that I could find in Tulum (and throughout the Yucatan Peninsula) at only a mere 7 pesos for one taco! Because the restaurant was busy, the atmosphere was loud coming from the chatting of people, cooking of food, and speakers on the old-fashioned television in the corner that was usually playing either Spanish music videos or action movies.

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Antojitos La Chiapaneca from the street (Tulum’s main avenue)

If you are searching for an inexpensive dinner or late-night snack of traditional Mexican food, then look no further than Antojitos La Chiapaneca. It is the perfect place for all of the above!

Location – Avenida Tulum between Calles Alfa and Luna (on the north side of the main avenue, the same side as the ADO bus terminal). They are open at around 6 PM until later at night.

El Camello Junior

El Camello Jr. is a local hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant that is popular with both locals and foreigners alike. They specialize in serving a variety of fresh and tasty seafood dishes. The restaurant is located along the main highway, about a ten minute walk from the downtown Tulum area. Their food is well worth the walk!

The exterior of the restaurant looks nondescript and rundown, with overgrown vegetation around the edges of the building, but don’t let that deter you from eating there. The open-air interior is spacious and simple and has a comfortable and casual atmosphere. Inside, you will also find a vibrant atmosphere with a lively activity of people.

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El Camello Junior from the street

I have visited this restaurant twice during my travels to Tulum and had great experiences. Both times, I ordered the grilled fish fillet which was served with a side of rice, cooked vegetables, and warm refried beans. I also really enjoyed the complimentary tortilla chips and variety of fresh salsas that was served before the meal. My meal was so delicious and tasted very fresh. Their menu served a variety of seafood and classic Mexican dishes with lots of options to choose from. The service was also excellent – professional, prompt, friendly and efficient.

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My delicious meal at El Camello Jr.

If you are a lover of seafood, I would highly recommend eating at El Camello!

Location – Avenida Tulum between Avenida Kukulkan and Calle Palenque.

El Rincon Chiapaneco

El Rincon Chiapaneco is a simple, hole-in-the-wall, traditional and family-owned local restaurant serving a large variety of authentic Mexican and Yucatecan dishes and beverages on their menu. This is the perfect place for those seeking delicious and traditional Mexican food at inexpensive prices and it was my favourite restaurant that I ate at in Tulum. 

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Inside the restaurant

The restaurant looks rather nondescript from the exterior but you will definitely be glad you stopped to eat here. The seating area is outside under a red awning and features bright red Coca Cola plastic tables and chairs. Behind the seating area is the kitchen where a local family cooks up all of the delicious food served here. Sitting underneath the awning is incredibly hot from the sun shining down on it combined with the heat from the kitchen, but don’t let that deter you from eating here. The menu features a fantastic variety and selection of classic Yucatecan specialties and traditional Mexican dishes including sopes, panuchos, tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, chilaquiles, enchiladas and more. They also serve a great selection of beverages including licuados de leche (smoothies in a variety of real-fruit flavours) and aguas frescas (fruit and sugar flavoured water including horchata, jamaica and other flavours).

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Inside El Rincon Chiapaneco

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The restaurant from the street

I visited this restaurant numerous times during both of solo travels to Tulum and have tried the panuchos, guacamole, tacos and sopes and a variety of aguas frescas flavours to drink. Everything tasted absolutely delicious, fresh and authentic. The menus were written in Spanish-only and none of the staff spoke English, which presented a great opportunity for me to practice my basic Spanish-speaking skills. Although I didn’t understand a good portion of what my server was saying to me, the service was friendly, polite and prompt.

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A huge plate of fresh and homemade guacamole!

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Delicious fresh chaya juice at El Rincon Chiapaneco!

I would recommend eating here if you are looking for a wide variety of inexpensive and traditional Mexican dishes to choose from and an authentic atmosphere and experience in Tulum.

Location – Calle Jupiter Sur, across the highway (Avenida Tulum) from the ADO bus terminal.

Co.Con Amor Restaurante

Co.Con Amor is a small restaurant with a relaxed, chill and hippie vibe, that is tucked away in a beautiful oasis behind a real estate building, that serves a variety of healthy, vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free dishes on their extensive menu. I loved the bohemian atmosphere with cool music playing softly in the background. The seating was in the form of rustic-looking wooden tables or comfortable couches situated in the restaurant’s cozy courtyard and tropical garden setting. The outdoor dining area is surrounded by lush green vegetation, the decor is unique and funky, and there is a small “tienda” selling a variety of natural health products (like personal hygiene items) in addition to dry food goods and ingredients.

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The entrance to Co.Con Amor from Avenida Coba.

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The entrance to Co.Con Amor

The food was all made using fresh, organic and whole food ingredients, and the menu featured a range of options including salads, smoothies, fresh juices, and more. The service was prompt and friendly and the staff spoke both Spanish and English (the menus were also available in both languages).

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The charming outdoor tropical garden at Co.Con Amor with seating at wooden tables.

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The small “tienda” at Co.Con Amor

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My delicious smoothie bowl

I ate lunch at this restaurant and ordered the smoothie bowl and homemade kombucha. Both tasted fresh and fabulous. I enjoyed the relaxed and chill atmosphere while sitting in the restaurant’s tropical and jungly courtyard, however, the mosquitoes were absolutely relentless! While waiting for my food, I was constantly scratching my legs but thankfully, one of the staff members noticed my discomfort and brought me a bottle of mosquito spray, which was very thoughtful of them. It definitely helped! If you eat at this restaurant, I recommend bringing your own bug spray so that you are able to focus on, enjoy and savour the incredible food. 

Location – Avenida Coba Sur, in front of the Chedraui Supermarket. They are open from 10 am to 7 pm daily.

Follow them on Facebook!

El Vegetariano

El Vegetariano is a small local eatery serving a variety of vegetarian dishes with a Mexican twist. I ate at this simple roadside restaurant at the corner of two major highways in Tulum after returning to Tulum from a day-long road trip to the Mayan Ruins of Coba. Their menu offered a variety of vegetarian dishes made using fresh and whole food ingredients.

I wasn’t hungry at the time of my visit and ordered a glass of Chaya juice instead. Chaya is a spinach-like plant with large leaves that resemble maple leaves and it is native to the Yucatan Peninsula. The juice tasted so fresh and healthy and it was perfectly sweetened with a little bit of pineapple juice. The open-air restaurant itself was casual and simple and was situated underneath a palapa-roofed structure. The service was friendly and the atmosphere was chill and laid-back.

If you are looking for vegetarian food in Tulum, I would recommend checking this place out.

Location – Avenida Tulum at Avenida Coba.

No-Name Family-Owned Restaurants

Located just south of Tulum’s main avenue in a residential area of town, there are a variety of small, local and family-owned restaurants with no names that serve a fantastic selection of authentic and traditional Mexican food. 

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A local taqueria in Tulum

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One of the no-name family-owned authentic restaurants along Calle Sol in Tulum.

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A busy local restaurant along Calle Sol

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The menu of one of the no-name restaurants

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An authentic Mexican restaurant in Tulum

I ate and drank at a couple of these restaurants during my solo travels in Tulum and enjoyed supporting the local families that operated them. Eating at these restaurants was a unique and authentic cultural experience, as none of the staff spoke English and I was able to practice and build upon my limited Spanish-speaking skills. These small eateries were always lively and packed with locals and their families. The restaurants were open-air and had large openings facing the street, which allowed me to do some people-watching and observe the local life around me. The seating inside the restaurants was always on red Coca Cola plastic tables and chairs and the menu was often handwritten on poster board and posted on one of the walls inside the eatery. I ordered a delicious plate of chilaquiles and an horchata to drink at one of the restaurants and they all served variations of the same classic Mexican dishes – huevos rancheros, tacos, tostadas, tortas, chilaquiles, quesadillas, and more. 

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Loncheria Mati – one of the local family-owned restaurants along Calle Sol.

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The handwritten menu posted on the wall.

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Awaiting my delicious meal!

I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences of eating at these small and local restaurants and would recommend eating there to anyone looking for an authentic food and culture experience. 

Location – Calle Sol between Calles Alfa Sur and Jupiter Sur. 

La Hoja Verde

La Hoja Verde is a small and cute restaurant in the town of Tulum serving a variety of healthy food with vegetarian and gluten-free options.

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La Hoja Verde in Tulum

I ate dinner at this restaurant during my first solo trip to Tulum and ordered a salad and a fruit smoothie. Both tasted very fresh and delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience there. The restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating and I chose to eat on the covered wooden patio outdoors, which was lovely. The service was friendly and attentive.

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My delicious salad

If you are looking for a break from the tortilla-heavy Mexican food, I suggest eating some healthy food at this place!

Location – At the corner of Calle Beta Sur and Avenida Tulum.

Check them out on Facebook.

La Malquerida

La Malquerida is a casual dinner restaurant in Tulum serving a wide variety of traditional Mexican dishes, including fresh seafood. The open-air restaurant is located just south of the town’s main avenue and has seating at wooden tables underneath a covered patio along the street, in addition to indoor seating. 

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

The exterior of La Malquerida

I visited this restaurant during my first solo trip to Tulum and ordered the ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in lime juice with onions and tomatoes. I wasn’t sure whether or not I would enjoy it, but I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted delicious and the texture of the raw fish didn’t bother me at all. The dish was presented beautifully. The service at the restaurant was excellent and the staff were professional, friendly and prompt. I enjoyed the calm and relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant and the unique and colourful decor, like the colourful Mexican blankets which covered every table. After I had finished my meal, my server returned to provide my friend and I with a complimentary shot of tequila, which was generous! I noticed that this was served to everyone after their meal, so it wasn’t just us. 

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

La Malquerida from the street

La Malquerida is a great place to enjoy a delicious meal for lunch or dinner in Tulum and their dishes are all reasonably priced. They also have vegetarian options. 

Location – Avenida Tulum and Calle Centauro Sur. They are open Monday to Sunday from 3 pm to 11 pm. 

Follow them on Facebook

Loncheria El Aguacate 

Loncheria El Aguacate is a cute local restaurant located on a quiet residential street in Tulum that serves a variety of fresh and healthy dishes and juices in addition to a selection of traditional Mexican foods and meals. Everything is inexpensively priced. The exterior of the restaurant is colourful and inviting and the decor inside is simple and adorable.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

The adorable and colourful exterior of Loncheria El Aguacate.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Inside the restaurant

This was the first restaurant that I ate at during my first solo trip to Tulum as it was just a block down the street from Mama’s Home Hostel, where I was staying. I ordered a salad and a fresh juice and both tasted delicious, flavourful and nicely presented. The service was friendly as well. The restaurant had a relaxed, casual and comfortable atmosphere. I would definitely return to eat here again on a future trip to Tulum.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

My salad and fresh juice at Loncheria El Aguacate in Tulum

Location – Corner of Calle Orion and Calle Sol

Local Paleteria Y Neveria

A “paleteria y neveria” basically translates to an ice cream shop in English. The weather is warm in Tulum (especially in the summer months) and you will probably be craving a cold and delicious ice cream treat or popsicle at some point during your visit to Tulum! My favourite “paleteria” was situated at the corner of Calle Sol Oriente and Calle Alfa Sur, in the southern part of Tulum pueblo. It was a popular place frequented by the locals and the exterior was painted in an eye-catching and vibrant design of white and bright pink stripes. You can’t miss it! I visited this place on a daily basis during my travels to Tulum and absolutely loved everything that I ate there.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

My favourite ice cream shop in Tulum!

They serve a variety of homemade and fresh ice cream treats, like ice cream cones and bowls as well as authentic “paletas,” which are fresh fruit popsicles. Everything was priced inexpensively. It was also a great place to practice my Spanish-speaking skills, as the local staff did not speak any English. Pointing to what you would like to order works just as well too though, if you’re having trouble with the language barrier!

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

The colourful and popular Paleteria Y Neveria along Calle Sol in Tulum.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

The menu at the Paleteria Y Neveria

Location – Calle Sol Oriente at the corner of Calle Alfa Sur

Local Mercados

There are lots of small local markets situated throughout the streets of Tulum, selling a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit, spices, and dry ingredients. My favourite local market was the one on Calle Sol at Calle Alfa Sur and it was located inside a wooden and open-air makeshift and rundown-looking building but inside, there were an array of colourful fruits and veggies with many exotic ones that I had never seen or heard of before! There were an abundance of bananas, mangoes, watermelon, papaya, pineapples, tomatoes, avocados, limes and more. It was an amazing place to wander and support the local economy by buying some fresh produce.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

A local market along Calle Osiris in Tulum

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Lots of bananas at the local market!

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Market in Tulum

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Local mercado along Calle Sol.

Browsing local markets is one of my favourite things to do both at home and when I travel, so I returned a few times to explore more of these wonderful local markets. 

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

So many fruits and veggies at one of Tulum’s local markets!

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Inside the market

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Fresh pineapples

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Inside one of the markets along Calle Sol.

At random intersections throughout the town, there were also local families selling buckets of freshly sliced fruits from a small cart. I purchased a few buckets of pineapple and watermelon and they were soo tasty!

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

One of the small carts along Calle Sol.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

The local market along Calle Sol.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

The large market along Tulum’s main avenue near El Camello Jr.

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

So many watermelon!

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Lots of pineapple!

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Lots of fruits to choose from at the market

Locations – Calle Sol Oriente at the corner of Calle Alfa Sur (across the street from the colourful Paleteria Y Neveria listed above); Avenida Tulum between Calle Luna Sur and Calle Saturno Poniente; Calle Orion near Avenida Tulum and Calle Sol. 

Some restaurants on my list to check out next time I visit Tulum include: La BarracudaElement Fusion RestaurantLa Flecha Tulum, Il Barino Juice, Raw Love, and Hartwood

Where To Stay

There are a wide selection of budget-friendly and unique accommodations situated throughout the town of Tulum as well as along the beach, including a fantastic selection of hostels and bed & breakfasts listed on the website Airbnb (click on the link to sign up for Airbnb and get a discount off your first stay!).

Where I Stayed

I stayed at Mama’s Home Hostel (click on the link to read my full detailed review about the hostel) during both of my visits to Tulum and absolutely loved everything about it! It is an amazing hostel that is charming and colourful and has friendly, dedicated, helpful and hard-working staff; friendly travelers; and a relaxed, social, and laid-back atmosphere. I immediately felt welcomed when I walked into this hostel and was greeted warmly by the owner, Jose. The hostel is located in a quiet residential neighbourhood in the town of Tulum, just two blocks south of the main avenue where you can find lots of restaurants and shops.

I really enjoyed the hot water showers, the super fast Wi-Fi, the colourful, inviting and uniquely decorated outdoor courtyard, the fun evening activities for guests, and the absolutely delicious, gourmet and beautifully presented home-cooked breakfasts, which were different every morning. There are so many wonderful things about this hostel and I met some amazing travelers there and made some great memories.

Click here to book your stay at Mama’s Home Hostel on Hostelworld. 

My Detailed Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

The charming and colourful courtyard at Mama’s Home

All in all, this hostel is an amazing place to stay when you travel to Tulum, but it books up fast, so don’t wait too close to your travel dates to reserve your room!

Further Reading: Hostel Review: Jose at Mama’s Home in Tulum, Mexico

>>Click here to book a room at Mama’s Home Hostel. Also, make sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!<<

If Mama’s Home happens to be booked up (it is a very popular place and I recommend booking your stay at least 2 weeks in advance of your travels to Tulum in order to ensure you get a bed), I have included a list of some other hostels and bed & breakfasts that are highly rated on booking websites and have positive reviews from past guests (Note: I have not personally stayed at any of the below accommodations, so please read the reviews from other guests before booking your stay to ensure that the accommodation fits with your travel style, budget and needs). 

Hostels in Tulum

Tulum has no shortage of hostels to choose from and they are great budget-friendly places to stay. Many hostels offer both dorm rooms of various sizes as well as private rooms. If Mama’s Home happens to be booked full during your planned travel dates, here is a list of some other highly rated hostels that I have researched on various websites.

Chill Inn Hostel

Chill Inn is centrally located within the town of Tulum along Avenida Gama between Calles Orion and Beta Sur. Just like the name says, this hostel has a relaxed vibe and is the perfect place to chill. According to reviews, it has a home-like and welcoming atmosphere, amazing staff, it is clean and has all the amenities that a backpacker would need. They offer 4 dorms with the choice of 4, 8 or 10 beds and the hostel has both indoor and outdoor common areas for relaxing and meeting other travelers. They also have complimentary breakfast!

You can read the reviews of this hostel on TripAdvisor. Book a room at this hostel here.

Price: $14 CAD per night for a 10 bed mixed dorm room.

El Jardin de Frida

Just from reading the description of El Jardin de Frida, this place sounds absolutely lovely. It has a tropical garden-like setting and is centrally located in a quiet residential neighbourhood of Tulum (along Avenida Tulum between Calles Kukulkan and Chemuyil), just a short walk from the main avenue. It is the perfect place for travelers looking for a quiet, chill and comfortable place to stay and relax while being surrounded by nature. This hostel is also very eco-friendly and they use solar panels to generate the majority of their electricity. This hostel has all the modern amenities including a hammock area for relaxing, an on-site bar, library and common area. They offer both private rooms and clean and spacious dorm rooms.

Read the reviews of this hostel on TripAdvisor. Book a room here.

Price: $13 CAD per night for a 7 bed mixed dorm room. They also offer 5 bed mixed dorm and double bed private rooms.

Posada Los Mapaches

Posada Los Mapaches is located across the highway from the Tulum Mayan Ruins, so it would be the perfect place to stay if your plans include exploring these ruins or spending time at the beach. According to the reviews, it is a comfortable and charming hostel that feels like a home away from home, with incredible staff who pay attention to the details and put lots of love and effort into this place. Bike rentals are included in the nightly price and they apparently have amazing, freshly cooked breakfasts every morning.

Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor. Book a room here.

Price: $57 CAD per night for a basic twin private room.

Hostel Sheck

Hostel Sheck is a laid-back hostel with a lush garden atmosphere and is located just two blocks south of Tulum’s main avenue (at the corner of Avenida Satelite and Calle Sagitario). According to the reviews, the hostel is clean and comfortable, has friendly staff and a social atmosphere that is great for meeting new people. Amenities include a modern kitchen, hammocks, hot breakfast every morning and hot showers. They can also arrange tours in and around Tulum.

Read the reviews on TripAdvisor. Book a room here.

Price: $16 CAD per night for the 12 bed mixed gender dorm. They also offer 6 bed and 4 bed mixed dorms.

Secret Garden Tulum

The Secret Garden looks like a beautiful and charming place to stay and it is situated in a quiet residential neighbourhood in Tulum (Calle Sagitario #54). This hostel is clean, comfortable and stylish and has a lovely treed courtyard area that is perfect for relaxing and chilling or meeting new people. According to the reviews, the decor is colourful and adorable, the staff are welcoming and friendly, and overall, the hostel is very quiet and relaxing. Amenities include a beautiful courtyard and common area to relax and meet new friends, hot water, book exchange, tour desk and more. Unfortunately, they do not offer a free breakfast. Their standard rooms include air conditioning and a queen size or full bed. They also have Mayan-style bungalows complete with a thatched roof.

Check out TripAdvisor to read the reviews. Book a room here.

Price: $63 CAD per night for a basic double bed private room.

>>If you are ready to book a hostel for your travels to Tulum, click here to book through Hostelworld and you will also be helping to support the costs of running this blog in the process (at no extra cost to you)!<<

Bed & Breakfasts in Tulum

Airbnb is a fantastic website to search for apartments and private rooms where you have the opportunity to stay with locals and have an authentic experience. Here are some bed and breakfasts that I found on Airbnb with good reviews. 

King Size Room in Tulum Centre

This bed & breakfast is located close to the centre of Tulum, and offers a simple and nicely decorated room.

Price: $36 CAD per night

Casa Kino

Casa Kino is quite possibly one of the most unique and authentic bed & breakfasts available in Tulum that is located just slightly out of town (but still within walking distance) in a quiet neighbourhood that is surrounded by the jungle. The house appears to have a palapa roof and wooden slats along the side, which is what the typical house looks like in Tulum. It has received very positive reviews.

Price: $27 CAD per night

Private Room Close to the Beach

This B&B offers a simple private room for up to three guests that is located on the edge of town and is within ten minutes from the beach and the Mayan ruins of Tulum.

Price: $30 CAD per night

Private Room in Tulum Centre

This bed & breakfast offers a spacious and clean looking and authentically decorated private room that can accommodate up to two guests. It is centrally located in the town of Tulum and the room has lots of positive reviews from past guests.

Price: $34 CAD per night

>If you are planning on booking a bed & breakfast through Airbnb, click here to sign up for an account and get a discount off your first stay!  If you sign up and book your first Airbnb using my link, you will also be supporting my future travels, so thank you!<<

Safety for Solo Female Travelers

Tulum is a peaceful, quiet and laid-back coastal Mexican town that is popular with tourists and it is very safe for solo female travelers in particular. The overall crime rate in Tulum is very low. I have traveled to Tulum twice as a solo female and have always felt safe there. I walked around the town’s streets during the day and in the evenings – both alone and with a group – and felt comfortable in doing so. Of all the places that I visited in the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum was where I experienced the least amount of cat-calling/whistling/horn honking type of behaviour from the local men, which although it made me feel slightly uncomfortable and awkward, I did not feel unsafe or threatened. 

I would recommend to follow general safety precautions that you would take anywhere and have some common sense. Be cautious and observant if you are walking alone in the evening or at night and don’t venture down deserted roads, paths or beaches, don’t get drunk (you are easier to take advantage of), use a taxi to get back to your accommodation if you don’t feel safe walking back alone in the evening or night, be aware of your surroundings, don’t flash your valuables around (expensive jewelry, iPhones, camera equipment, etc.), dress modest and respectfully of the culture (for female), know where you are going and have a map with you, always have a charged cell phone with you if you are alone (in case you run into trouble and need help), know some basic phrases and words in Spanish, etc. 

Tulum is a wonderful place for solo female travelers to explore and it has a strong backpacking culture with lots of hostels, making it very easy to meet fellow travelers. 

 

 

Tourist Services in Tulum

The town of Tulum has many services catered towards tourists and has everything that you will need during your stay. Here is a list of some of the services that you can find in Tulum.

There is a tourist information kiosk/booth situated on Tulum’s central plaza in the centre of town (along Avenida Tulum and beside the HSBC bank) and is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily. They have brochures and the English-speaking local staff can provide you with tips and information.

Tulum has a local clinic/small hospital called Centro de Salud (phone: 984-871-2050) which is located on Calle Andromeda between Calles Alfa and Jupiter that is open 24 hours and can deal with minor health issues. If you encounter more serious health problems, it would be best to head to Playa del Carmen or Cancun.

There are lots of local pharmacies throughout Tulum… Just look for the word “farmacia” painted on the front or side of a building. A popular chain of pharmacies in the Yucatan is called Farmacia Similares, and there are a few of them located in Tulum, along the main avenue (Avenida Tulum). The branches at the corner of Avenida Tulum at Calle Jupiter Sur and Avenida Tulum at Calle Satelite Sur both offer simple consultations with a local doctor during the day on weekdays and Saturdays.

The police can be reached by dialing 066 (toll-free, 24 hours) on any phone in Mexico (it is the equivalent of 911 in Canada or the USA). The local police also have a station located on the highway to the Zona Hotelera.

If you are without internet or a phone and need to use these services, there are also numerous internet cafes located along Tulum’s main avenue and in the residential areas south of Avenida Tulum, where you can use the internet on their computers and make international calls. A few in particular, are the Yaku Cafe located at Calle Satelite and Avenida Tulum and Movistar located at Avenida Tulum and Calle Orion.

If you need your laundry done, there are lots of local lavanderias (laundromats) situated throughout Tulum. Some of them will allow you to drop off your laundry to be washed and then they will deliver your clean laundry back to your accommodation or have you pick it up.

As far as getting groceries goes, there are two grocery stores in Tulum in addition to lots of small local street-side markets selling loads of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables as well as dry ingredients. The Super San Francisco de Asis supermarket is located at the corner of Avenida Tulum and Avenida Coba, just on the outskirts of town and it is the largest supermarket in Tulum.

Additional Resources

Looking to read a travel guide to Tulum featuring some recommendations for the upscale and fancier beach restaurants? Click here.

This guide was also inspiring for me to read as I wrote my own guide as well as this one and this one

Some great websites that offer fantastic up-to-date information about Tulum and events include: To Do Tulum, Tulum Traveler, and Tulum Living.

Traveling? Get Travel Insurance

I always purchase travel insurance from World Nomads when I travel abroad and even though I haven’t had to make a claim yet, I like the peace of mind that it provides me. World Nomads is aimed towards independent adventure travelers and their comprehensive insurance policy covers a wide range of activities and situations. Their website is super easy to use and has a clean design and I love that you have the option of extending your coverage or making a claim online through their website. How convenient is that (especially for long-term travelers)?! I am a researcher and a planner and after doing thorough research on many of the different travel insurance providers out there, I found that World Nomads offered the most reasonably priced and least expensive insurance of them all – another great reason to purchase from this company!

If you are planning your travels to Tulum or elsewhere, I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance so that you have one less thing to worry about. 

PS: If you do choose to purchase insurance through World Nomads, please click on my link or use the form above. I will earn a small commission from World Nomads, at no extra cost to you, if you do so (which will help to support this blog and fund my future travels). I only promote companies that I personally use and love and I would 100% recommend World Nomads regardless of whether or not I made any money from them. 

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A Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Have you traveled to and explored the town and area of Tulum? What were your experiences like? What were your favourite things to do and see? What were your favourite restaurants? 

If you’ve been to Tulum, I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about my travel guide! If you have any questions at all about traveling in Tulum, please don’t hesitate to contact me or chat with me on social media – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I hope that you found this detailed travel guide helpful, informative and inspiring for your travel planning and future adventures in Tulum!

If you enjoyed this travel guide, make sure to check out my other blog posts about Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. Follow me on social media to stay up to date on my latest travel adventures and local explorations.

Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, you will be helping to support the costs of running this blog and funding my future travel adventures (in order to bring you more in-depth travel guides like this one), at no additional cost to you! I appreciate your support and thank you in advance for helping me out šŸ™‚ 

Iā€™m Brittany, a small town girl living simply in the Canadian prairies. I love exploring off the beaten path and discovering hidden gems both locally in Manitoba and beyond; traveling independently; photography; eating plant-based and gluten-free foods; browsing local markets; and learning about cultures and ethnic cuisines. My other loves include cuddling with my cats, playing board games, drinking kombucha and matcha tea, spending time in nature, studying maps, eating Mexican food, and making fresh fruit smoothies. On this website, I share my photography, in-depth travel guides, reflections on a variety of travel-related topics, reviews, and favourite simple and healthy recipes, while also documenting stories from my experiences, travel adventures, local wanderings and explorations. Follow along using the social media buttons below and read more about me here
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  • Casual Lux

    Thank you so much Brittany for taking the time to put this amazing and thorough Tulum travel guide together!!! Just love your pictures too! Next spring, my husband and I (also Canadians) will be planning to spend two weeks in Tulum – we can hardly wait! We will also be scouting out condos, as we plan on making Tulum our permanent home in the near future:)

    • Hi there!

      Thank you so much for checking out my guide and I am so glad that you liked it!

      Ahh, two weeks in Tulum! That is so exciting. You’ll have such an amazing time. And living there would be incredible. If you have any questions that weren’t answered in my guide, let me know and I would be happy to help šŸ™‚

    • Hi there!

      No problem and thanks so much for reading my very detailed guide!

      You will have an amazing time in Tulum! It’s such a great place to relax and explore. Two weeks there will be so lovely. That’s so awesome about your possible future of living there too! I am a little jealous šŸ™‚

      What kinds of activities do you have planned for your trip in Tulum?

      • Casual Lux

        We want to visit the Sian Ka’an, bike around town and shop at the local market, visit the beaches of course, and go to several ruin sites. Generally, just see if we can imagine ourselves living there on a permanent basis;)

        • I have heard great things about Sian Ka’an although I haven’t been there yet. It looks beautiful! Biking is a great way to get around town and there are lots of bike rental places to choose from. The local markets are great as well and there are a few of them in Tulum – great for finding fresh fruit and veggies!

          Your trip sounds like it will be awesome! I recommend the Coba Ruins (45 minutes away) and the Tulum Ruins (but make sure to visit early in the morning to have the best experience with no crowds).

  • Wow Brittany! Thanks for sharing this – this is going to be such a handy resource for us! Would you happen to know what’s the best way to look up motorbike rentals? One way could be to go to the information center in Tulum town but just wanted to be in the know in advance šŸ™‚

    • Hi Bharat and Supriya!

      Thank you so much for reading my guide! I really appreciate that and am thrilled that you found it helpful.

      I know that there is a little shop in Tulum called Kelly’s Bikes which rents bicycles in addition to motorbikes. Other than that, I would suggest Googling “Tulum motorbike rentals” or asking your question on the Tulum TripAdvisor forums. And you’re right, there is a tourist information booth in town (on the main plaza in front of the municipal government building) that would have information as well. šŸ™‚

      I hope you have an amazing trip to Tulum!

    • Thanks for reading Bharat and Supriya and I am glad you enjoyed it!

      So sorry about the late reply to your comment. I did reply the day you commented but just realized that it apparently didn’t show up here!

      As for motorbike rentals, there are a few places along Tulum’s main avenue that rent them. I am not sure what the names of them are though. I believe Kelly’s Bike Rental on the main avenue near Scotiabank had motor bike rentals.

      Hope this helps!

  • Nathan Swartz

    Hey Brittany, nice indepth post. Found it when searching for a mechanic in Tulum. “Ferreteria,” FYI, is hardware store, not mechanic. šŸ™‚

    • Thank you Nathan! I’m glad you enjoyed it šŸ™‚ And thanks for the information, I will update that in my post. Have a fantastic day!

  • Never been but it looks awesome! Love the detailed guide, will definitely come in handy in the future!

    • Thanks Rose! It really is a beautiful place. I’m so glad you enjoyed my guide and I hope you have the opportunity to travel here sometime.

  • Cynthia Howington

    Hi Brittany… I ran across this valuable blog searching for things to do and how to get around while in Tulum. I too am a solo traveler landing in Cancun from Denver in a few weeks. The ADO bus schedule is in Spanish and I’m struggling to learn the language so your info about catching the bus from the airport is just what I needed!! I’ve booked a super cheap AirBnb studio apt in the neighborhood right behind the ADO bus station.. how convenient is that?!
    I hadn’t thot about travel insurance so am considering that as well. And I have to rent a bicycle so I’ll check out Kelly’s.

    I’ll be referring to your blog as my guide during my travels very soon.. do you think anything has changed much since you were there in 2015?. If so I’ll find out and let you know.
    Thank you so much!
    Peace ~ Cyn šŸ™‚

  • shadow6

    Ms. B. ..Hopefully, the sun shines once in awhile in your area of operations..that said, thanks for taking the time to post your blog. I have a boat in Key West..and recently spent time in Cuba…but, I like and enjoy kiteboarding and surfing..and about the only place decent is Cozumel for both..so headed down in October. Lived in Europe for a number of years..my Volks van remains in Germany..headed there in a month until late August. I am fortunate to be able to travel just about anywhere.

    Thanks again for taking the time..I look forward to “hanging” in Tulum..on the beach..at Mama’s and those clear and clean “water holes” you mentioned. With that..Buena suerte..adios/RH