Miles of dreamy snow-white beaches with the finest powdered sugar sand line the Caribbean coast around Tulum, Mexico. Waves lapping gently on the beach glow in an almost unreal turquoise, tall palm trees swaying in the wind. While the pure pleasure of bathing draws you to the coast, inland Tulum awaits you with more amazing sights and natural spectacles: ancient Mayan temples, such as the ruins of Muyil, are hidden in the dense jungle and want to be discovered. Mysterious lagoons such as Laguna de Muyil or Laguna de Kaan Luum invite you to swim and go on boat trips. Numerous crystalline voids promise a very special experience in the cool water.Not for nothing does Tulum belong to the Pueblos Mágicos of Mexico,
In this article I will tell you which places and activities I found most beautiful around Tulum in Mexico, as well as many useful tips for your own trip to the Riviera Maya. By the way, I have been to Tulum twice, once in 2016 and once in November 2022. The tips and updates in the article are from both trips combined!
Tulum Mexico: 15 beautiful sights and tips
Tulum Town ή Hotel Zone;
This question is actually very important in Tulum, because the small city in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo is divided into two areas that are only a few kilometers apart. The cheapest place to live, eat and live is in Tulum Pueblo, the center of the former fishing village with many restaurants, cafes, bars and souvenir shops. All the facilities are grouped to the left and right of the wide road that runs its entire length from Cancun to Chetumal in the south of the Yucatan Peninsula. Here in the pueblo you will also find the bus station of the ADO buses, with which you can reach almost any other destination in Mexico.
The second area is the Zona Hotelera, which appeared much later and has now grown to about 7 kilometers in length. Numerous boutiques and luxury hotels line the picturesque beaches like glittering pearls on a string. Finding a hotel that offers good value for money is a real challenge here.
In Tulum Pueblo there is great street art to admire
Zona Hotelera is Instagram heaven
The entire Zona Hotelera has been a textbook Instagram paradise for about three to four years. Everything is decorated, decorated and arranged to the extreme, which is unfortunately reflected in the nightly price of the hotels. Here, too, along the Beachroad you will find many very good restaurants (rather expensive!) and small boutiques, selling fine designer clothes in a boho style rather than cheap souvenirs. The small art park around the Escultura “Ven a la Luz” is relatively new, where you can take a photo with the now very famous sculpture for a small entrance fee of around 3 euros (as of January 2023).
The Mayan site on the coast of Tulum Mexico
One of Tulum’s most famous attractions is the Mayan site right on the coast. While the Temple of the Descending God, the castle, and the fresco temple are a bit further back in the sprawling Mayan site, the Temple of the Wind God is enthroned in a picturesque location on a cliff directly above the turquoise Caribbean Sea.
You can even go down to the small Playa Ruinas beach with its soft, snowy sand and swim there. However, in some months of the year, unfortunately, an increased alluvial deposit of algae is observed.
The fortress on top of the rock was originally called Zama, which means “place of the sunrise”!
The fact that the Mayan site of Tulum is actually the most photographed in the world also means that you will unfortunately always meet many other tourists here. However, since these are mostly day trippers from other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, who only arrive at the ruins by bus around 10am, you can easily avoid them if you live in Tulum.
The small but beautiful Playa Ruinas at the Temple of the Wind God
Come early at 8 o’clock, then it’s not so busy
Very beautiful view of the Temple of the Wind God
Tulum Archaeological Zone in the morning
Just be there at 8am. for the opening and with any luck you’ll have the Temple of the Wind God to yourself for a while. If it’s too early for you, then the time between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. just before the facility closes is also a good time, when all-day tourists are already returning to their northbound buses.
The Mayan site and associated national park can be easily reached from the Pueblo by bicycle on a 4 km bike path along the main road in the direction of Cancun. Or even easier and faster, with a rental car or a taxi. Admission is currently 110 Mexican pesos, which is about 5.40 euros (as of January 2023).
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The scenically beautiful Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, directly borders the last, southernmost hotel in Tulum’s Zona Hotelera. The Arco Maya, a historic stone arch, marks the entrance to the nature reserve.
In a total area of 5,280 km², different ecological zones such as dense mangrove forests, impassable marshlands and dry coastal vegetation zones provide a safe home for many endemic species of animals and plants. Dolphins, manatees, crocodiles, turtles and countless species of different waterfowl live here, even jaguars and pumas!
In addition, about 20 Mayan ruins are hidden in the national park. One of the most famous of these is Muyil, also known as Chunyaxché. You can also explore the impressive Sistema Ox Bel Ha, the second largest underground river system in the world.
The word Sian Ka’an comes from the Mayan language and means “place where heaven was born”. Crazy beautiful, isn’t it?
A lonely dirt road full of potholes leads from Arco Maya for 45 kilometers along the coast to Punta Allen, a small, colorful fishing village on a headland. Among other things, Punta Allen is known for the idea of gentle tourism in harmony with nature, but also for its fantastic location and picturesque beaches. Even if it looks like you can easily drive to Punta Allen with a rental car on Google Maps, I would advise against it. The road is often in very bad condition. If it breaks, you probably won’t have a network to call for help.
Guided tour of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The easiest and most beautiful way to explore the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is a guided tour, trust me. And that’s exactly why I would like to recommend you Loseana Tours , because the incredibly nice and competent team around Steffi & Andres is the only completely German-speaking operator in the Riviera Maya that offers transportation to Punta Allen by boat. This saves you a few hours on the bumpy dirt road where you will see almost nothing. Instead, in Loseana you sit comfortably in a small boat and cruise through the mangrove canals. In addition to crocodiles and hundreds of waterfowl, with a bit of luck you may even spot egrets in the lagoon!
After the mangrove boat ride, visit the wild dolphins off the coast of Punta Allen and the giant sea turtles. We then set off for snorkeling in the wonderfully warm waters, followed by a relaxing lap in the shallower waters in the most beautiful tropical atmosphere. The tour ends with a short walk to Punta Allen and a delicious meal at the village restaurant. Hmm, the fresh fish with garlic was very tasty!
I can only recommend this trip, a truly unforgettable day!
My tip: If you still have a day or two left on your Mexico vacation, an overnight stay in Punta Allen can also be a very nice idea. Especially the cute scenes of Hotel Cielo y Selva right on the beach of Punta Allen are a true Caribbean dream. Steffi & Andres from Loseana Tours are happy to help you arrange a boat transfer!
Kaan Luum’s zauberhafte lagoon
I am so happy that I finally visited the truly beautiful Laguna de Kaan Luum. Like something out of a fairy tale, the almost perfectly circular lake glistens in the Caribbean sun amidst the dense forests of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. However, right on the edge of the conservation area so you can easily reach this special swimming resort via your own driveway from the main road. You can get there from Pueblo in just 5 – 10 minutes by rental car or taxi.
While the wonderfully warm water at the edge of the lagoon is extremely shallow and glows a pale green, the middle of the lake glows a deep dark blue. You can sit comfortably on the long, wooden jetty and let the extraordinary scenery work its magic on you. There are also plenty of photo spots in the form of hammocks and swings in the water – for those always looking for the perfect souvenir photo. Just like Laguna Bacalar, the bottom of the lagoon is not sand, but a very soft mud, which is very nice to walk on.
My tip: Unfortunately, there are no lockers for your belongings at Laguna de Kaan Luum, so leave anything valuable at the hotel. There are shaded areas under the palapas, though not overly so.
Τουλούμ Sights: Great Cenote, Cenote Calavera & Co.
On the way to Cobá (great Mayan ruins!), one of Tulum’s most famous flowers with crystal clear waters for swimming and snorkeling. You can either bike to the Gran Cenote from the Pueblo or arrive by rental car or taxi. It’s about 4-6 kilometers to cover, depending on your starting point. By the way, directly at the Gran Cenote there are lockers for your valuables and also masks and snorkels for rent if you don’t have the equipment yourself.
Through a large staircase you descend into the cave filled with cold fresh water. Small fish and a series of strange turtles stare at you. The water is of different depth at the different inlets and therefore not always equally suitable for snorkeling or swimming.
Most of the fish swim in the area with the beautiful water lilies!
The Gran Cenote is not a real celebrity for nothing: if you swim under a low rock ceiling, you will suddenly find yourself in a mysterious underground cave, completely fascinating. Countless bats hang from the ceiling, which you can watch undisturbed, at least in the morning.
The same goes for the Mayan site with the temples on the coast: If you come early in the morning, ideally at 8am. when it opens, you will have to share this fascinating natural wonder with not so many other tourists. Admission is now a generous 500 Mexican pesos, about 25 euros (as of January 2023).
My tip: On the way back to Pueblo, you can also make a perfect short stop at Cenote Calavera, which is well known but still not as crowded and has a very cool swing. Jump into the two smaller “openings” above if you’re brave enough.
Recommended Gran Cenote alternatives
When I was at the Gran Cenote during my first trip to Mexico, the entrance fee was only a third of what it is today, which I thought was fair and just for the undeniable beauty of the cenote. Now, however, I would choose other cenotes that are not so well known, not so expensive and still very beautiful and special.
For example, a local suggested Cenote Santa Cruz , which is a few kilometers down the same road. Cenote Escondido near Laguna de Kaan Luum must also be very beautiful and not at all crowded. Personally, I really liked Cenote Encantado Nuan in Zona Hotelera, because no one but me had gotten lost there and it looked completely mysterious with its dark blue water.
On my bucket list for my next trip to the Yucatan (the bucket list keeps growing, not shrinking, do you feel the same way?) is Casa Cenote , where you can actually swim with a wild crocodile named Ponchito. Crazy, right! By the way, there are countless other gaps in the area around Casa Cenote, such as the famous Sistema Dos Ojos , which is especially popular with snorkelers and divers. The best way to get here is by renting a car!
My tip: A highly recommended, off-the-beaten-track Cenote Trail bike tour is this one:
Recommended restaurants in Tulum Mexico
Do you love Mexican cuisine as much as I do? I would give who knows what for a serving of delicious tacos! Some of my favorite restaurants, not just for tacos, in Pueblo and along the Zona Hotelera are:
La Taqueria in the hotel zone
Here you can enjoy really good tacos in a trendy location right on the boardwalk. At cool La Taqueria, a Mexican lifestyle combined with a edgy Caribbean vibe is the order of the day. True to the motto: In Tacos We Trust! My favorites were the grilled shrimp tacos and the Al Pastor tacos.
The Raw Love Cafe
Not only do you get insanely delicious and very Instagrammable smoothie bowls with fresh fruit, vibrant purple açaí puree and toppings of the hottest superfoods, but many other treats from the raw kitchen. How about, for example, raw Pad Thai or a delicious Portobello burger that fills your stomach with health and well-being at lunch or dinner.
The really beautifully designed Raw Love Beach-Café is located in the garden of Hotel Ahau in Zona Hotelera. It is so special here that I would almost count the cafe among the most beautiful sights in Tulum. There is now another small branch in Tulum Pueblo on the main road. Raw Love Café is open daily from 9am to 6pm.
The sugary Holy Deer Café
I stumbled upon the tiny Holy Deer Café , tucked away among expensive boho boutiques and luxury shops on Tulum’s Beachroad. The owner is very nice and prepares the delicious coffee specialties with great calmness and dedication. The highlight for me is the cute seating behind the counter right in a beautiful little void. It is not a swimming void, but rather a tangle of mangroves and aquatic plants where you can spot colorful butterflies and birds. I really enjoyed drinking my cappuccino here!
Wheatgrass Tulum Mexiko
Ok, Wheatgrass Tulum is not a classic restaurant, but it is a very cool stop on the way from the pueblo to the beaches. If you cycle in the direction of the Zona Hotelera, you will find the extensive garden with the hard-working “wheatgrass gardeners” on the right-hand side.
The wheatgrass is harvested fresh from the grass with shears only when you place your order and is hand baled before your eyes!
Outside drips a glass of health in a majestic dark green color. If you’ve never tried a wheatgrass shot, be cautious first. A whole glass could definitely be too heavy for your stomach and could make you quite nauseous. Half a shot will do the first time, trust me. Update 2022: According to the Wheatgrass Tulum Facebook page, the location is open, according to Google Maps it is temporarily closed. It is best to check it yourself on the spot.
A wheatgrass was shot on the way to the beach
Good ice cream Star
Just a few meters from the Wheatgrass Garden you will find the next treat, which is my favorite ice cream shop in the whole area. Granted it’s not a real restaurant, but a cute food truck in the full sense of the word with an incredibly nice guy who whips up the best vegan ice cream in the world.
With a creamy coconut milk base, add fresh fruit, nuts and superfoods to create your own ice cream creation!
Be sure to try the combination of fresh mango with passion fruit and cashews. I really couldn’t get enough of it. Update 2022: Unfortunately, I was unable to discover the ice cream truck at this location on my current trip. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist anymore. Just keep your eyes peeled and if you find it: grab it and enjoy!
This is Tulum’s best vegan ice cream
The small taqueria Tacos Kukulcan is tucked away in a less visited part of Tulum Pueblo. The furniture in the rather inconspicuous interior courtyard doesn’t quite match the fun Instagram vibe of Zona Hotelera, but I think that’s because of the rustic charm of a traditional Mexican taco bar.
The tacos here are incredibly tasty, especially the ones with zucchini and mushrooms. Also highly recommended are the many variations of dips on the tables, which spiced up your dish with extra heat and flavor!
Av Kukulkan 15, Pueblo
Hours of Operation: Open daily from 5pm to 11pm
The colorful courtyard of the traditional taqueria
So delicious: the mushroom and zucchini tacos
Die Taqueria Honorio
Another very rustic and traditional Tulum taco place that is swarmed by locals is Taqueria Honorio at 19 Satélite Sur, one of the offshoots of the main street in Tulum Pueblo. The often long line of people waiting certainly speaks to the sensational taste!
Tulum attractions: the Gitano restaurant
If you’re staying in a hotel in the Zona Hotelera, I don’t think there’s a better place for some classy evening drinks (try the traditional mezcal) than the wonderful restaurant Gitano . As soon as you enter the fairy garden, it is sure to take your breath away, just like me. Everything is beautifully lit: the palm trees, the trees, the bushes. With what looks like thousands of lights. I couldn’t find a more beautiful atmosphere for the evening in all of Tulum!
Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, Quintana Roo
Hours of Operation: Open daily from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Cocktails in the beautifully lit Gitano garden
How to get from Cancun to Tulum
There is a good chance that your plane will land at Cancun International Airport. If you want to go directly to the many attractions in Tulum, you basically have three different options:
Your own rental car
If you’re planning a tour of the Yucatán Peninsula anyway to easily explore some more of Mexico’s beautiful Pueblos Mágicos, it’s a very good idea to pick up your rental car at the Cancun airport and then drive to Tulum. Don’t worry, once you’re on the main road heading south, it’s all straight. Perfect for getting used to driving in Mexico. I would always go for the rental car option because you can really get to all the mayan voids, temples and beaches, no matter how remote!
By the way, I was very happy with my rental car from Sunny Cars. I was able to drop off the car from home quietly before the trip and the pick up at Cancun airport went very smoothly. I can only highly recommend Sunny Cars as a provider because they automatically include an all inclusive package with every booking. All eventualities are fully insured on site at no extra cost. No matter what happens to the car, there can be no unplanned costs associated with the vehicle. Great, isn’t it? I think this gives you a sense of freedom and security!
Buses from ADO
ADO red buses now run south directly from Cancun airport. There are connections to Tulum several times a day. Sometimes a stop is necessary to change trains in Playa del Carmen, while other connections go directly to Tulum Pueblo. Booking tickets online is a good idea as seats often sell out hours in advance.
With the variant with ADO buses, you should check briefly where exactly the accommodation you have booked is located. The bus station is pretty much in the center of Pueblo. You can then either walk to your hotel or take a taxi if you are staying in the Zona Hotelera. This variant will cost you about 18 euros and will take you from Cancun to Tulum in about 3 to 4 hours (with possible waiting time at the bus terminal).
Professional airport transfer
If you can’t get used to the thought of a longer bus ride after the already exhausting flight or driving on the roads of Mexico, you still have the option of booking an organized transfer from the airport in advance. Here is a relatively inexpensive option:
Tulum Mexico: Where is the best place to stay?
Personally, I preferred to live right on the beach. You can cycle from Tulum Pueblo to the public beach with a rental bike (they are available everywhere in town for about 10-15 euros per day) on the bike path, but this is quite exhausting. Especially on the way back in the afternoon when you are completely exhausted from the sun. After all, it is 5 kilometers from the city center to the beach. Meanwhile, there is also the fact that there is a lot going on in the (actually very narrow) cycle path and accidents happen again and again. The same applies to the coastal road. So please be very careful if you are cycling!
At that time, I thought that Hotel Ahau Tulum was very nice, because both the part of the beach in front of the hotel and the cabanas, which are made entirely of natural materials, are a real dream. Unfortunately, the price has now more than tripled since my first visit, which I was shocked to discover while researching my last trip. An alternative might be Coco Tulum , which I also think is very nice.
By the way, Casa Violeta is also beautifully designed and much cheaper than Ahau Tulum . The small boutique hotel is located a little further south on the same dreamy beach and regularly offers different retreats and yoga.
The beautiful Ahau Hotel with a view from the beach
Here you can really enjoy life!
The pristine white beach in front of the Ahau Hotel
You would sleep in such a bell made of natural materials
Ahau’s beautiful treehouse style yoga shala
The algae problem
Have you come across the topic of seaweed when planning your trip yet? Algae and brown algae have been washing up on the beaches of Tulum for many years, which is a real problem. Especially on the kilometer-long public beaches, the plants – which, in addition to everything, do not smell very pleasant – significantly impair the enjoyment of bathing in the months from April to October. I was in Tulum in November and Sargassum wasn’t much to see anymore. If you want to be absolutely sure, then choose the months of December to February as your travel time!
If you stay in one of the hotels along the Zona Hotelera, you can at least be sure that the operators will take care of the regular cleaning of their section. To be on the safe side, you can also ask in advance via e-mail if algae is a problem during your trip.
The welcoming beach in front of Casa Violeta in Tulum, Mexico
That’s pure Caribbean, isn’t it?
The somewhat simpler Yoga Shala at Casa Violeta
Casa Violeta’s restaurant is known for its very good pizzas
Much cheaper than Ahau and also very, very nice!
So, those were my 15 favorite Tulum attractions and top tips for the beautiful little town on the Caribbean Sea on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Have you been here before and have more insider tips? Or still have questions about planning your trip? Thank you for your comment here on my travel blog!
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