The small town of Tulum, Mexico is two hours south, and light years from crazy Cancun, and four hours north of the Belize border. The Riviera Maya is the area of Mexico’s Caribbean coast from Cancun to about Tulum, and Tulum is about half an hour south of the gringo playground Playa del Carmen. The coastline stretching from approximately 100 miles south of Tulum to Belize is called the Costa Maya.
Why you need to visit Tulum
Tulum is everything wonderful about the Mexican Caribbean. It has been discovered, no doubt, but the white sugar beaches are still some of the best I have ever set foot on. The ocean is as clear as gin and you can get a great meal at the bus station for two dollars. You can also sleep in Tulum for mere pesos.
If that’s not enough, how about fun, outdoor bars and amazing Mayan ruins? I got here before the rest of the world finds out. Speaking of crowds, visit the nearby ruins and parks early in the morning: the Cancun crowds are bussed in later and will overrun you if you choose to visit anywhere at that time.
What is it like in Tulum?
Tulum is quiet, with very few clubs or nightlife to speak of, except during Carnival season in February. The main part of town straddles Highway 307, which runs through the Riviera Maya from south of Cancun, and consists of a few tourist stalls, local stores and what seems like dozens of places to eat chicken. The town is home to some budget digs and internet cafes. The “Hotel Zone” is about a mile east of the beach, as are the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum.
What about Tulum’s Hotel Zone?
Tulum’s “Hotel Zone”, on a beach road parallel to the coast, is where the action is, and that’s a good thing. It’s almost a separate place from the town of Tulum, and has a completely different atmosphere.
The three-mile-long stretch is populated by some fancy digs these days, but hammocks under palapas can still be had for $10/night. Generators supply electricity for much of the day, with occasional power outages at peak times. Expect friendly locals, yoga, health vibes and early nights.
Getting to Tulum
I hope I’ve convinced you to head to Tulum, in which case your first steps are figuring out how to get there. Fortunately, it’s super simple and inexpensive.
To get to Tulum, you’ll most likely opt to fly into Cancun airport, which is the closest airport to the city. From there you can take a Cancun to Tulum Shuttle service. Be sure to look at the board on the bus reader so you know where you are going.
You can also take a shuttle from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen and from there take a bus, but it is more complicated.
Where to stay in Tulum
Lodging options in Tulum range from expensive eco-lodges to palapa-roofed beach cabanas for $10 per night. Check out the Hotel Zone’s Piedra Escondida if you’re looking for a place to splurge: stay upstairs in room six and watch the sun rise over the Caribbean through French doors leading to a mini wooden balcony.