Quick Travel Guide to Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico
Have you ever been to Tulum? The small town on the Riviera Maya is known in the whole world for its famous Mayan ruins and its breathtaking beaches. Snow-white sand and the crystal clear, turquoise sea in the region make every tourist’s heart beat faster. Dense green jungle and the legacy of ancient cultures inspire you to discover new adventures. The small fishing village has become a trendy hot spot for life-hungry travelers in recent years. We have prepared a short travel advisory for you.
1. Location and History
Tulum (“Wall, Fortress“) is located on the Mexican Caribbean coast about 130 km south of Cancun and only 2 km away from the world-famous Mayan ruins. Until the early 1990s, Tulum was a quiet village, and tourism was limited to a few small shops and simple huts on the beach. Visitors only came in buses from Cancun for day trips.
Much has changed since then – since 2008, the city is the seat and administrative center of the ninth district in the state of Quintana Roo, and the population had grown to more than 18,000 at the 2010 census.
2. Tulum Downtown
Tulum mainly lives from tourism these days and offers a great variety of holiday homes, hotels, restaurants and bars in the center of town. Supermarkets, boutiques, bike rentals, fitness centers, tour operators, banks, ATMs, internet cafes, a hospital and much more complete the offer. Language schools for learning Spanish during the holidays are also very popular here. The typical Mexican ambience of the place is enchanting and very relaxed.
Tulum today consists essentially of three parts:
- Downtown with its lively center and many offers for tourists is directly located on the highway 307 Cancun-Chetumal.
- The Mayan Ruins are sitting just 2km besides the village.
- The hotel zone (“Beach Strip“) is located about 5 km away on the beach south of the Mayan ruins.
3. “Beach Strip”: The Hotel Zone
The hotel zone is located along the beach and ends at the entrance of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It is best reached from the center of town by shuttle bus or taxi. The hotels closest to the Mayan ruins are the oldest and easiest, further south, the quality of the offers increases and with that also the price goes up significantly.
The hotel zone of Tulum is several kilometers long and almost completely developed. It already offers over 70 small hotels, many of them are kept in a very individual boutique style. Most of the hotels are built in the traditional Mayan style as “Cabañas”, with roofs made of palm leaves. Electricity often has to be produced by generator or solar cells on site. There are many restaurants, mainly on the jungle side of the only road (“Beach Strip“), and some of them have already received significant international recognition. You will also find some beach clubs and public beaches.
4. Hotels in Tulum
Looking for the right hotel, in addition to your travel budget, the question is whether you would prefer to stay downtown or in the hotel zone. Both have their advantages – during the day, of course, there is a lot going on at the beach and at the Mayan ruins; in the evening, life happens rather in the downtown restaurants and bars.
You should also be aware that many hotels are built in traditional Mayan style with palm straw roofs. At the time of writing this page, Tulum is not fully connected to the public electricity grid of the state of Quintana Roo, and many locations have to produce their own electricity. You should not get annoyed about this, but simply enjoy the very special ambience in this magical place!
5. Restaurants in Tulum
In Tulum you will find a wide range of restaurants both on the beach and in the center. Downtown, food is significantly cheaper (including the taxi fare) and often better than on the beach, especially if you are looking for traditional Mexican dishes and tacos.
However, the best tacerías are only open in the evening, and as a rough rule of thumb applies especially to Tacos al Pastor: the later you come, the more delicious is the meat! Mexican soups are also wrongly underestimated – in Tulum they are often offered and if they are on the menu, you should definitely try them. For those in a rush, there are also very tasty grilled chickens with side dishes to take away downtown.
6. Nightlife in Tulum
The nightlife in Tulum is much quieter than in Cancún or Playa del Carmen. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on here. If you like to drink delicious cocktails or cold beer in the evening, eat Mexican tapas and enjoy music from salsa to funk you will feel very comfortable here.
Near the beach there are a lot of bars and clubs, and there are regular night parties on the beach, where you can dance the night away under the stars, moon and palm trees by the campfire.
Downtown there are not so many evening venues, but often the locals and the tourists meet in some very trendy locations. You will have the opportunity for beautiful evening walks with extensive souvenir shopping. In high season, many hotels and restaurants offer shows, live music, salsa nights to dance and much more. Most locations also have a very relaxed atmosphere in the evening, so that no one will care if you enjoy the tropical nights in shorts and sandals.
7. Activities in Tulum
You can spend your days in Tulum just enjoying the beautiful beach and feasting on delicious food. That would certainly be very relaxing – but also a pity, because there is so much to experience in this beautiful part of Mexico. If you are looking for a little more than that, we have put together the most beautiful activities in Tulum for you.
If you prefer to check the best things to do by yourself, we recommend GetYourGuide. They offer great excursions on fair prices. Their service and cancellation / rescheduling policies are state of the art.
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