Tulum was our first stop in Mexico. We went straight there after landing at Cancún airport and stayed for three nights in a simple Airbnb apartment in quiet a residential area.
Here’s our quick guide to Tulum of what to do, see and eat there.
For such a small town, Tulum has an impressive amount of very good street art. Get off the main high street, especially to the south, and you’ll suddenly start stumbling over pieces everywhere. I feel like we only saw a very small proportion of what was available to see, but these were a few of our favourite pieces.
The main reason most visitors come to Tulum is to see the ruins of the Mayan port city that was actually one of the last to be built by the Maya and indeed survived after the Spanish invasion for about 70 years until its inhabitants were wiped out by exposure to diseases brought from Europe.
Going early in the morning soon after the site opens at 8am is a good idea to avoid both the crowds of day-trippers and the midday sun. Entry is M$70 (€3) and there are also guides who will try to sell you an hour long guided tour at the ticket office. We did not take one, so cannot comment on the quality.
The setting is quite spectacular, especially of the Temple to the Wind God on a cliff right by the sea. There is decent signage in both Spanish and English by most of the major landmarks that does a good job of explaining the building’s construction and giving context for its former purpose.
We took a colectivo from downtown Tulum in the direction of Playa del Carmen to the junction for the turning to the ruins for M$20 (€0.85) per person and then walked the 10 minutes to the entry point. A taxi should cost around M$80 (€3.50), but also hiring bikes and cycling there could be a good option if it’s not too hot and you want the exercise. Typically, bikes are available all over town to rent for M$100 (€4.30) for 24 hours.
The beach at Tulum stretches from the ruins, south down the coast to the next junction back towards downtown. The exit from the ruins leads you out on to the road that runs parallel to the beach, which you can cycle or walk on with just a few cars to compete with.
For the first 2.5 kilometers or so, the beach is mostly occupied by hotels, resorts and private homes, but once you reach the hotel and restaurant Mezzanine, there is free public access. The beach itself is quite beautiful and very clean, with extremely fine, white sand.
In downtown Tulum, we tried just two places for coffee, both of which Zab vouches for their high quality. Ki’bok offers soy milk and happily veganised a couple of their breakfast offerings for us, while Del Cielo has almond milk and does some pretty mean smoothies. Both are clearly aimed at tourists (as is reflected in their prices), but had nice, bustling atmosphere and very friendly service.
The vegan options at this vegetarian restaurant are not so clearly marked, but they are there and make up about half of the menu. The staff are friendly and speak English, so don’t be afraid to ask.
We ate here twice, and the first time weren’t so impressed with the food (I had a burger that was too dry and Zab had a curry that lacked flavour), but the second time we went for the vegan tacos, and were much more pleased with our choice.
In a relaxed outdoor and somewhat hidden setting, this vegetarian place has an extensive menu of curries, salads, tacos, smoothies and clearly marks all their vegan options. It was actually the only place in Tulum where we saw tofu on the menu.
The food was quite good, but it was really the location and laid-back vibe of the place that made it worth it for us. There’s also an organic whole food shop at the back, and another shop selling natural beauty product at the front.
Fully vegan and organic, this place serves up traditional Mexican tacos done vegan. The kitchen is a former food truck, and seating is spread around it under palm trees, making for quite a romantic location. The menu is not too big to be overwhelming, and the service is wonderfully friendly and attentive.
The portions of tacos were a little small, but this was made up for by the interesting fillings and full bar of salsas to help yourself too, some of which were so spicy we couldn’t eat them! It was the most expensive place we ate in Tulum, but worth it for a bit of a splurge.
Serving simple and fresh but satisfying vegetarian food (but also offering a few fish dishes from the neighbouring restaurant), it was necessary to enquire what was or could be made vegan, but the staff were willing and helpful.
Overall the food was good, but for dessert, they advertised a couple of vegan options, and raw vegan cake sounded exciting, but was actually rather disappointing.
Things we didn’t do
There’s a lot more to do around Tulum that we didn’t make the time to do, such as visiting the nearby cenotes for snorkeling or scuba diving, spending a day at Xel-Há (a natural water park with excellent snorkeling opportunities), visitng the Sian-Ka’an Nature Reserve for wildlife spotting or seeing the lesser known Mayan ruins of Muyil.
Here’s a map showing all the places on this quick Tulum guide.
Have you been to Tulum? Did you do any of these things, or something we missed? Tell us about your experience in the comments!