When you think of Mexico you think of cheap tacos, cheap alcohol, and maybe an all-inclusive resort. Let me tell you that Tulum is NOT that place! If that’s the vacation you’re looking for, a better option would be to stay in Cancun. With that being said I highly recommend Tulum! I’m going to lay out all the details on how to get there, where to eat, and the pros and cons of Tulum.
I also have videos in the Tulum highlights section on my Instagram so you can look at those too! Click for Instagram
Tulum is about an hour and a half away from the Cancun airport. There are a few different methods of transportation you can take to get there. You can rent a car, take a taxi, take the bus, or set up a private transfer service. Make sure you have your transportation thought out perfectly so you’re not scrambling for something when you get out of the airport. Taxis will jack up the prices because they know you’re desperate and need a ride, so avoid that option. Rental cars are difficult and not really necessary since you can walk/bike to everything. The bus is the worst option in my opinion. You have to take a bus to Playa del Carmen, wait an hour, take another to Tulum, then from there take a taxi to your hotel. This is by far the cheapest option, but personally sounds like a huge hassle.
This is how I chose to get to and from Tulum and I couldn’t recommend this more. I chose Ambar Transfers based on the reviews that I read. It was about $175 total round trip and everything was perfectly planned. It’s so easy to book and their responses to questions via email are so quick! Our driver was waiting for us right outside of the airport with a sign that had my name on it. He offered to stop at a 7-11 so we could get some snacks and drinks. I HIGHLY recommend stopping to get large jugs of water so you don’t have to deal with it when you get into town. We had the same driver that dropped us off pick us up to get back to the airport. He was already at our hotel waiting for us to departe when we came down with our luggage. I loved how timely this service was. I never had to worry about being late or calling my driver because he wasn’t there. I felt beyond safe with Ambar Transfers which was a huge concern of mine when trying to figure out transportation. I highly recommend using them on your next trip to Mexico even if it’s not to Tulum. Make sure to bring pesos to tip your driver because a tip is not included in the cost and is well deserved.
When I booked my hotel I looked at a ton of different options and sites to get the best price. I ended up booking a small hotel on booking.com called Casa Ambar. It was right in the middle of everything, offered free bikes, and the rooms were very spacious. The downside of this hotel was that the AC had limited hours so you couldn’t keep it running all day. The patio was also a large shared patio with the people next door. The people staying next to us never went on the patio so it really didn’t bother us. The price point was great for this place and we were honestly never at our hotel so we weren’t concerned with staying at a fancy place.
Something to keep in mind is that there is a beach side and a jungle side of Tulum. If you’re wanting to stay directly on the beach and have a beach view then make sure you look for that when booking your stay. Again, this really does NOT matter! We were a twenty second walk away from the beach. Almost all of the beach hotels will let you hang out there. I think there was maybe one place where the beach area was for hotel guests only.
Gitano- This place is a MUST! They serve some of the best mezcal drinks in Tulum that I’m still dreaming about. This is by far the most ideal dinner/drinks spots in the jungle. This is a perfect spot for a date too if you’re celebrating something special.
- This place takes cash only if I’m remembering correctly
- Does not open until 6pm
- Drinks average around $12-16 and food is between $15-50 USD
- Gitano Dinner Menu
Azulik- Possibly the highest Instagram spot in Tulum is Azulik. The restaurant with the hanging nets is called Kin-Toh. It’s located at the very beginning of the main Tulum beach street. If you’re going to bike there it’s going to be about 15-20 minutes. Taking a taxi should be about $100-200 pesos.
- They open at 5:30 PM and no reservation is needed but get there early if you don’t have one
- Takes cards
- You have to pay in advance to get inside the restaurant and that money will go towards the food and drinks you get. They do this because people will crowd the restaurant just to get a picture and then leave. We had tacos and tequila and honestly we were pretty underwhelmed with this place. The service was probably the worst we had in Tulum and the food was nothing special. It was cool to see the design of the hotel and hang out on the nets, but the vibe here was different that what I had pictured.
- Kin-Toh Dinner Menu
Matcha Mama- Funny enough I found out about Tulum probably two years ago because I stumbled on a picture of Matcha Mama and thought it was the cutest place.
- Cash only
- Less than half a mile away from La Zebra hotel. Don’t bother pulling it up on your maps because the address isn’t correct on there
- It’s a small shack so seating is very limited
- Food average is around $10-20 USD
Casa Banana- I rode past here probably ten times and finally decided to stop for a drink because it looked so cute. This is another great jungle dining spot. I can’t vouch for the food since I only got drinks, but the food did look good!
- Takes cards
- Food and drink average is around $15-20 USD
Rosa Negra- This place was right across from our hotel and the aesthetic was too cute not to stop in. The service was probably some of the best service we had in Tulum. Our waiters were constantly checking in and they even brought us a dessert to celebrate our anniversary which was so sweet!
- Takes cards
- Average food price $20-30 and average drink price $15-20 USD
- The place was pretty packed when we showed up and we didn’t have a reservation but they managed to squeeze us in. Just keep that in mind when coming here for dinner.
- The food was not my favorite if I’m being completely honest. Nothing on the menu screamed my name and the prices were really high
- I liked this place for the vibes, music, and service. Next time I’ll go for a few drinks, but I probably wouldn’t go for the food.
- Rosa Negra Menu
The Real Coconut- This is probably one of the prettiest restaurants we came to. It’s located in one of the hotels right on the water. The smoothies here are to die for!! All of the food is sugar free, gluten free, and dairy free. Just keep this in mind because we came here hung over and honestly it was not the food we needed to cure us.
- They take cards
- No reservations needed
- Smoothies are about $12 USD and food is between $15-30 USD
- The Real Coconut menu
Origami Gelato- Nothing tastes better than gelato when it’s blazing hot out even at 10pm. This gelato place was the BEST! I highly recommend stopping by here at least once.
- Cash only
Beach clubs and entertainment:
Papaya Playa Project- DJ beach party right on the ocean?! Literally a dream and one of the most memorable things that I did in Tulum. I can’t possibly recommend this place enough!
- CASH ONLY!
- Entry is $40 a person and when you get in they give you a wristband that you can load money onto so you can buy drinks if you want.
- Taking a taxi here is a MUST and it’s about $300 pesos. The taxi drivers will try to get as much out of you as they can. If you walk by one and they say $600 just say no and they will either drop the price or you can find another taxi that’s willing to take you for less. There are taxis all over the place so don’t worry about trying to find one.
- It gets packed FAST so get there early if you want to be right next to the DJ booth
Casa Malca- This hotel was one of Pablo Escobar’s old homes and was by far my favorite place that we hung out at during our trip. There’s beach chairs all around the large pool that you can hang out at and there’s also beach beds along the beach that you can lounge on. This hotel was gorgeous! Pablos main house still had his bar and living room with the same decor.
- There is no sign outfront with the hotel name. We had to pull over and ask someone where the hotel was because we rode right past it.
- You don’t need to be a hotel guest to use the pool or beach beds.
- The food, drinks, and service here was beyond amazing! A pitcher of margaritas was $800 pesos so around $40 USD and food was between $15-20 USD there’s even someone that comes around to bring fruit to everyone and clean off your sunglasses.
- Tip is included in your bill but is split between all of the servers. I would bring pesos for an extra tip because the service is just that good.
- They take cards
- Casa Malca menu
La Zebra- La Zebra was our second favorite place and was similar to Casa Malca. It’s a cute beachfront hotel with beach beds, a bar, and restaurant. The beach beds are normally reserved for hotel guests but if you go later in the day you have a better chance of snagging one.
- Margarita pitchers are $800 pesos or $40 USD and food is about $10-20 USD
- They take cards
- The service here is great! The beach beds have a wooden red flag on the side that you can raise up to signal that you need something. It was so convenient so we didn’t have to chase someone around constantly
- La Zebra menu
Nomade- I was so excited to go to Nomade based on all of the pictures and reviews I was seeing. The hotel is gorgeous and has a cute boho moroccan vibe. The one thing that threw me off here was the service. We went swimming in the pool and decided to lay out on the beach beds and order drinks. When we asked one of the employees for a menu he responded by saying we had to pay $100 just to use the beach bed, but not to tell anyone because he was giving us a discount….shady. We instantly got a bad vibe and packed up our things to go to the next place. I can’t say how their food or drinks were because we obviously didn’t get a chance to try anything.
I Scream Bar- This place gives you the true Mexico experience. Cheap alcohol, cheap food, and tons of people partying and having fun. I could eat their quesadillas every day for the rest of my life I’m not even joking.
- CASH ONLY!
- $2 beers and $5 tacos and quesadillas. By far the cheapest place to eat and drink in Tulum. If you know of another cheap place let me know so I can go next time.
- Nomade menu
- Bring at least $500 in pesos per person! Some places don’t take cards or charge you a fee for using your card. It’s also a hassle to try to pull out cash from the ATM and exchange it. The exchange rate is not the best, so honestly the more you bring in cash the better.
- If your hotel does not offer bikes, there are little shops all over where you can rent a bike for the day.
- Bring bug spray!! I can’t stress this enough. By 6pm the mosquitos are out and it’s brutal. I was spraying myself constantly and still managed to get bit at least 20 times.
- Bring sunscreen! You’re biking or walking around and pretty much always in the sun so it’s best to keep something with you at all times so you don’t get burnt.
- Buy a bottle of alcohol at the airport to take to your hotel. As I mentioned Tulum is not cheap. If you want to save money on drinks then buy some alcohol that you can drink at your hotel before you go out.
- There are taxis driving around Tulum constantly and even more so at night. You’re a tourist so they will try to charge you a ridiculous amount initially. You can negotiate the price or say you’ll find another taxi and they normally bring the price down. Cash only for taxis of course!
- Map out different places you are wanting to go to in advance! This was something I did and it was really helpful so you’re not biking in different directions constantly.
- You should always be aware when traveling to another country, but I felt like it was necessary to mention. I never felt unsafe in Tulum the entire time I was there. With that being said you should always be aware of your surroundings, don’t pull out all of your money for everyone around you to see, and don’t get over the top drunk.
- A tip that might seem obvious to some, is to just go explore! Part of the beauty of Tulum is riding your bike and stopping wherever you feel like. I have difficulty doing this sometimes because I plan things so extensively that I feel like I’m on a schedule to make sure I see everything. I let myself just enjoy my trip this time and decided not to worry if I didn’t get to see everything that I planned to see. I honestly had the best time doing this and now I have things to look forward to for when I go back.
I love Tulum so so much! I had such a great time and I’m already trying to plan a trip to come back again. If you have any questions or need advice on your trip that I might not have covered please let me know! I love planning trips and I’m more than happy to help.