If you are looking for a vacation place that offers relaxation, history, culture, and cool vibes, Tulum should be at the top of your list. I had the pleasure of visiting Tulum recently, really just to check out all of the hype around the city, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Tulum literally has something for everyone from families to singles. You can get a glimpse into Mayan history, experience fantastic food, swim in lovely beaches, or just explore downtown Tulum. In this 4-Day Tulum Itinerary, I will walk through all of the great spots to check out in Tulum and a few less popular areas / hidden gems to provide you with the best experience. In addition, you’ll get some tips on what to see in the surrounding areas we well.
Brief History | Tulum
Tulum is a coastal town located in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico. The town is famous for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and rich history. Tulum is believed to have been inhabited by the Maya people as early as the 6th century AD. The Maya civilization thrived in the region until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. The town’s name, Tulum, means “wall” in the Yucatec Maya language, referring to the walls surrounding the ancient city.
The ancient city of Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya people. The city was at its peak during the late post-classic period, from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The city was an important trading hub and played a significant role in the Maya civilization’s economy. The city’s strategic location on the Caribbean coast made it a vital trade link between the inland cities of the Yucatan peninsula and the Caribbean islands.
During the Spanish conquest, Tulum was one of the few cities that managed to resist Spanish rule. The city was abandoned by the Maya people in the 16th century and was later rediscovered in the early 20th century by explorers and archaeologists. Today, the ancient ruins of Tulum are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico, attracting millions of visitors every year. The town of Tulum has also become a popular destination for eco-tourism, with many sustainable hotels and resorts being developed in the region.
Know Before You Go | Tulum
Lodging & Logistics
Visa Requirements: For US citizens, there are no Visa requirements for entry into Mexico for a stay of up to 180 days. Click here for country-specific requirements on entry to Mexico.
Getting There: One thing that makes getting to Tulum tough is that there really is no airport close by. The closest airport is the Cancun International Airport, which is about a 2-hour drive away. To get from this airport to Tulum, there are a few options:
- ADO Bus: This is the option that I used to get from the airport to Tulum. It just makes two stops: one in Playa Del Carmen, then the next in Tulum. The coach is clean and they even play movies for the duration of the drive. To book the ADO bus in advance, you can leverage ClickBus.
- Private Transport: If you don’t mind spending more money or if you have a larger group, you can book a private transfer to Tulum. Click here to check rates for private transport.
- Rent a Car: Now, I’ll admit, given some police corruption, you may not want to rent a car unless you are prepared to pay a bribe or two. But if you are up for the challenge, click here to check rental car rates!
Where to Stay:
There are to primary locations to stay in Tulum: Tulum Beach and Tulum Town.
Tulum Beach is a pristine stretch of coastline located on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, white sand, and laid-back vibe, it’s a popular destination for travelers seeking relaxation, natural beauty, and eco-friendly practices. Visitors to Tulum Beach can enjoy a range of activities, including swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, and fishing. I recommend checking out Coco Tulum Zen Zone – I stayed here while in Tulum and had a really relaxing time.
Coco Tulum Zen Zone features old-style cabanas that are situated right on the beach. In addition to the peace and quiet you’ll find here, they offer yoga classes on the beach, and an onsite spa and sauna. It is a great place to feel like you have escaped from reality.
Tulum Town is located just a few miles inland from Tulum Beach. It offers a unique mix of traditional Mexican culture, modern amenities, and eco-friendly practices. Visitors to Tulum Town can explore the lively streets lined with colorful buildings, boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine. The town is also home to several eco-friendly hotels and accommodations that offer a range of amenities, from yoga classes to bike rentals. I spent the other half of my time in Tulum in here in Tulum Pueblo, and liked it for the real cultural aspects. If you opt to stay in this area, a great option is Zenses Yoga & Wellness. The hotel staff here is amazing and really do make you feel like you are at home.
Zenses Yoga & Wellness is an Adults-Only boutique resort that features an outdoor restaurant, private parking, an onsite restaurant and a open-air yoga studio with a view. The breakfast here is wonderful and the rooms are large, spacious, and very clean.
Getting Around: One thing that is tough about Tulum is that getting around can get quite expensive if you solely rely on taxis. Prices are set via discussion with your driver, but the price will vary. There seems to be a general “rule” around this – one price for non-Spanish speaking tourists (highest), another price for Spanish-speaking tourists (mid-range), and than a much lower price for locals. I do speak Spanish and managed to snag a few deals / found a consistent driver to take me around, but still spent $15-$20 per ride.
If you are game for it, you can rent scooters to drive around the area while you stay there. Be sure to research reputable brands to avoid any issues with high prices / scams.
When to Go: The best time to visit Tulum is during the dry season, which typically runs from November to April. During this time, the weather is warm and sunny with little to no rain, making it perfect for exploring the ancient ruins, snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters, or just relaxing on the white sand beaches. Additionally, the high season for tourism in Tulum is from December to February, so visitors may want to consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of November or April to avoid crowds, high prices, and hurricane season.
Language Considerations: The main language spoken in Mexico is Spanish, and some native Mayan languages as well. Within Tulum, you will find English speakers in many hotels and restaurants, but I do recommend brushing up on your Spanish before your trip. This is primarily so that you can engage with more locals while there. Check out my post on Spanish for Travel to get all the phrases you need to survive.
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Spanish Phrases PDF
This free download includes all the key Spanish phrases that you will need for your travels throughout Spain, Mexico and any Spanish-speaking country. In addition, get details on the best resources to improve your speaking and listening skills as well.
Currency Situation: The currency used in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). At the time of writing this post, $1 = 18 MXN. Click here for the latest conversion.
Electricity Socket: Mexico uses Type A plugs that have flat and straight prongs. These are the same prongs that you see in the US, and additionally they run on 100 volts, like in the US as well. As such, a power adapter is not necessary, but may be helpful to have on hand in case your hotel does not have many outlets.
4-Day Tulum Itinerary | The Perfect Long Weekend
Day 1 | Tulum and Coba Ruins
On your first day in Tulum, spend time getting to know the history of the city by visiting the Tulum Mayan Ruins. The Tulum ruins are a fascinating archaeological site located on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They are believed to have been built by the Mayan civilization during the late Postclassic period, around the 13th to 15th centuries AD. The ruins are situated on a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
The Tulum ruins consist of several structures, including the Temple of the Frescoes, which features intricate carvings and paintings depicting the Mayan calendar and other important symbols. The Castle is another prominent structure, with a tall tower that served as a lookout point for incoming ships. The site also features several smaller buildings and houses, including a ball court and a temple dedicated to the Descending God.
Visitors to the Tulum ruins can take a self-guided tour or hire a local guide to learn more about the history and significance of the site. The ruins are open to the public every day, with limited hours on Sundays, and visitors can explore at their own pace, taking in the stunning architecture and natural surroundings. The Tulum ruins are an important historical site that offer a glimpse into the rich culture and traditions of the Mayan civilization.
While at the Tulum ruins, I recommend wearing a brimmed hat, especially on sunny days. Unlike some other Mayan ruins, there is very little shade around the main buildings.
Next, head to the Coba Archeological Site (which is about 1.5 hours away). The Coba Ruins are believed to have been built by the Mayan civilization during the Classic period, around 600-900 AD. The ruins are situated in the middle of the jungle and are surrounded by a network of ancient roads known as sacbes. The main attraction of the Coba Ruins is the towering Nohoch Mul Pyramid, which stands at over 120 feet tall and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle. This is one of the tallest tower in all the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán. Visitors can also explore other structures such as the Ball Court and the Observatory. One of the unique features of the Coba Ruins is the ability to rent bicycles or hire a tricycle taxi to explore the expansive site. With its fascinating history, stunning architecture, and lush natural surroundings, the Coba Ruins are a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Mayan culture and history.
To close out the day, take time for a quick swim in one of the local cenotes, Cenote Kuxtal to wrap up the day. If you are not familiar, Cenotes are natural swimming holes found throughout the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. These unique formations are created when the roof of an underground cave collapses, revealing a pool of crystal-clear fresh water. Cenotes were considered sacred by the ancient Mayan civilization and were used for both religious ceremonies and as a source of fresh water. Cenote Kuxtal is one of the large cenotes that functions as a multi-purpose place. In additional to the actual cenote, you can have weddings and other private events there.
Today, cenotes offer visitors the opportunity to swim, snorkel, and explore the stunning natural surroundings. There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, each with its own unique features, from underground caves to limestone formations. Some of the most popular cenotes include Ik Kil, Gran Cenote, and Dos Ojos. With their stunning natural beauty and cultural significance, cenotes are a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula.
To explore all of these sites, I recommend booking a guided tour so that you learn all about the local history and culture. A tour will also help you get around having to drive to all the various sites and help you keep your schedule. The tour that I recommend is the Fantastic Adventurous Combo: Tour to Tulum Ruins, Coba Ruins, and Mayan Cenote! This tour will take you to all the sites mentioned above for a very reasonable price.
Check prices for the Fantastic Adventurous Combo: Tour to Tulum Ruins, Coba Ruins, and Mayan Cenote! now.
Day 2 | Muyil and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere
Morning / Afternoon
On your second day, head to out to Muyil for an unique blend of history and nature. Muyil is an ancient Mayan site located in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and is about an hour outside of Tulum. The site was inhabited by the ancient Mayan civilization from around 300 BC to 1550 AD and served as an important trading center due to its location on a trade route between the Caribbean Sea and the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Today, visitors to Muyil can explore the ruins of several structures, including temples, pyramids, and plazas, which provide a glimpse into the impressive architecture and artistry of the ancient Mayan civilization. The site is also home to several well-preserved murals and stelae (carved stone slabs) that offer insight into the daily life and religious beliefs of the Mayans.
What makes the site unique is that after you explore the ruins, you then run right into exploring the surrounding Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It covers over 1.3 million acres and includes both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The reserve was established in 1986 and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Sian Ka’an is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including over 300 species of birds, 100 species of mammals, and 1,000 species of plants.
The reserve is unique in that it includes a variety of different ecosystems, including wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs, and tropical forests. Sian Ka’an is one of the largest protected areas in the Mexican Caribbean and is an important habitat for endangered species such as jaguars, manatees, and sea turtles.
And another cool aspect about visiting this site is that you can swim in a natural “lazy pool” (known as the Muyil River Float) that is located in ancient waterways carved out by the Maya. I absolutely loved my time in Muyil, and it may have been my favorite part of the trip honestly. There is just so much beauty everywhere – but one big tip – the mosquitos are in full force here. Be sure to bring some eco-friendly repellant along so that you do not suffer like me.
To make the experience getting there easy (and to ensure you can do the river float), I recommend doing the experience with this tour: Mayan Ruins & Sian Kaan Nature Reserve Tour. I took this tour and found the guides to be incredibly helpful, and the experience even came a delicious vegetarian lunch. The tour also includes all transfers from your hotel, so transport is easy.
Check rates for the Mayan Ruins & Sian Ka’an Reserve Tour Now!
For dinner, check out the Khyra Tulum Restaurant. Dinner here is an EXPERIENCE! It is designed in the eco-jungle feel that Tulum is known for, and the menu features a little bit of everything, but may be described as Mexican fusion. There is food for everyone here as they offer Vegan and Vegetarian menus as well. I tried a variety of things on the menu (and maybe went a little overboard) but it was all delicious, and the service was top-tier.
Day 3 | Mystika Immersive, Cenotes, and Tulum Town
Start your third day in Tulum with another unique experience – The Mystika Immersive Experience. This attraction offers visitors the chance to explore the natural beauty and culture of the Yucatan Peninsula in an immersive and interactive way. It’s a sensory experience that uses a mixture of creative light displays and art to connect you to Mayan cosmology and Mexico’s most impressive nature sanctuaries. There are four halls:
- Sanctuary: Homage to the nature of Mexico, including butterflies, fireflies, and humpback whales
- Maya: Tribute to Mayan cosmology in a 360º dome
- Ascension: Contemplate Chichén Itzá on a starry night
- Espíritu: Homage to majestic animals – mainly the horse
This is a powerful and moving experience, especially for anyone who enjoys art. I was drawn to the 3D effects done with the light and was impressed by the artist’s style. Each exhibit is aided by moving music, to really put you into the right mindset to feel “swept away” by the art.
In the afternoon, head to one of the many cenotes in the area for a relaxing dip. I recommend heading to the Casa Tortuga Cenote, a popular tourist destination in Tulum. This park is really cool as it offers 4 large cenotes which all provide a bit of a different experience. There is also an onsite restaurant and even lodging, if you’d like to stay there longer as well.
Once you get to this cenote park, you will placed into a group with a guide. This guide will take you to each cenote and explain a little about the history of the cenotes and their importance to Mayan culture. In addition, they will guide you through the best way to swim through them. The four cenotes are: Cenote Wisho, Cenote Campana, Cenote Tres Zapatos, and Cenote Jaguar. They vary from underground cave cenotes to large open air ones.
If you don’t want to visit Casa Tortuga, which is pretty much like a small amusement park, there are certainly more cenotes near Tulum to consider. Here are a few more cenote options to check out:
- El Gran Cenote: This cenote features an open air portion that is surrounded by caves and caverns. It is best explored by snorkeling and diving, given the impressive underwater views
- Cenote Calavera: Translating to “skull sinkhole” this cenote has been made popular by Instagram. This one is for those of you who like adventure, as it is a 13-foot drop to jump in.
- Cenote Carwash: This is an open-air cenote that is less popular than the others in this list. For this reason, it is a great option for simply relaxing away from the crowds
- Escondido Cenote: This “hidden” cenote is located in the heart of the Quintana Roo forest
Head over to Tulum Town and take time to walk Quinta Avenida (fifth avenue). This is the main strip in Tulum town, where you will find plenty of cool shops, restaurants, and bars. Depending on how you like you spend your time, you will find no limit of things to do in this area.
For dinner you should stop at La Gordura for some absolutely amazing tacos. It is located right off of Quinta Avenida, and easy to walk to from the strip. This is somewhat like a “hole in the wall” place, but it’s great for a real treat for the taste buds.
Day 4 | Tulum Beach Day
On your forth and last day in Tulum, spend it in Tulum Beach Town relaxing. Tulum Beach is known for beautiful white beaches and turquoise waters. However, it does get hit with a heavy dose of seaweed (sargassum), from time to time. And unfortunately, this is not predicated on the time of year, it’s more so the luck of the draw. But even if you do experience a lot of seaweed on the beach when you visit, there is still plenty to do on the beach.
There are a variety of water sports to try out, like kayaking and paddle boarding. In addition, there are many options for yoga or massages, and a variety of beach bars and restaurants. Some of the top Tulum Beach Restaurants include:
- Casa Jaguar Tulum: This restaurant is known for its enchanted backyard garden and local Mexican food. There is also a jungle party theme here featured on Thursdays
- Gitano Beach: This restaurant sits on a private beach and has a menu full of fresh fish options. This one is great for a nice lunch on the beach
- Arca: This is a high-end restaurant that serves contemporary Maya-Mexican dishes with produce from local farmers
- Posada Margherita: This is an Italian restaurant located in the Middle Beach area
Your goal on this last day in Tulum is to take it slow and literally just soak it all in.
Best Instagram Photography Spots in Tulum
Because everyone seems to go to Tulum for the photo ops, here are a few of the top spots to get your picture taken in Tulum:
- Follow that Dream Sign: This sign is a cute reminder and is made to look like a regular street sign. It is located right near Nomade & Casa Malca in front of a cute little shop on the main beach road.
- Ven a La Luz Sculpture: This is probably the most famous place to take a picture in Tulum. It is located in front of the Ahau Tulum beach hotel and is a beautiful wooden statue of a woman.
- Azulik Tulum: This upscale hotel has a really cool interior that features macrame style floors. It’s a really unique and cool place to take a shot
- #Tulum Sign: This sign is located near the Tulum ruins, and is an easy way to “prove” that you have visited Tulum
If getting the best shots is of primary interest to you, you may want to check out the Tulum Instagram Photo Experience. With this tour, you’ll have a driver take you to all the top photography spots so you don’t have to worry about missing any of them.
What do Do if you Have More Time in Tulum
Despite it’s relatively small size, there is plenty to do in Tulum. If you have additional time there, here are some ideas on how you can spend your time:
- Day Trip to Playa Del Carmen: Located about two hours away from Tulum, Playa del Carmen has a lot to offer. The town is known for its stunning white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lively atmosphere. You won’t have any of the Tulum sargassum issues here. Visitors to Playa del Carmen can spend their days lounging on the beach, enjoying water sports such as snorkeling and scuba diving, or exploring the town’s bustling streets, which are lined with colorful buildings, artisan shops, and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine.
- ATV Tour: Spend time roughing it through the Mayan jungle exploring nature on your ATV. I don’t know about you, but I am always down for a good ATV experience!
- Chichen Itza and Valladolid Tour: Chichen Itza was one of the most important Mayan cities and a hub of political, economic, and cultural activity between 600 and 1200 AD. The city is home to many impressive structures, including the iconic pyramid-shaped temple known as El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulcan, which serves as a testament to the advanced architectural and engineering skills of the ancient Mayans. This tour from Tulum will also stop at Valladolid, a charming colonial town known for its colorful architecture and rich history
- Luxury Sailing Experience: This experience includes a half-day ride in a catamaran and snorkeling around Tulum. Snorkeling gear and paddleboards are included, as well as an all-inclusive lunch and included drinks.
- Local Cooking Class: This experience will take you to a local’s home to learn you to cook Aztec, Mayan, and Mexican cuisine. You will prepare a three-course meal, share salsa and tortillas, and learn how to taste mezcal. This is a small group / intimate experience.
Is Tulum Safe?
Tulum is generally a safe destination for travelers, with a low crime rate compared to other cities in Mexico. However, as with any tourist destination, it is important to take certain precautions to ensure personal safety. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings and take care when walking alone, especially at night. It is recommended to use taxis or reputable transportation services when traveling, and avoid driving at night.
It is also important to keep valuables such as passports, wallets, and electronic devices secure and out of sight. As with any beach destination, visitors should also take precautions when swimming, such as following safety guidelines and only swimming in designated areas. Overall, by taking common sense safety measures and staying aware of their surroundings, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience. Please don’t let some of these over-hyped reports deter you from making a visit to this magical place.
In Summary | 4-Day Tulum Itinerary
That concludes this perfect Tulum itinerary. In summary, there are many reasons why you should make the trip to Tulum, including:
- Access to beautiful beaches and beach activities
- Plenty of opportunities to explore the local Mayan history and culture
- Delicious food at essentially any place you opt to enjoy
I think that what makes Tulum truly special is the vibe. It just has this really cool eco-bohemian-jungle thing going for it, and I honestly think it’s a place that I could spend a lot of time in. Another special thing about Tulum is that the people there are just so friendly and kind. I traveled solo there and felt safe and taken care of the whole time I was there. I literally can’t wait to go back!
Have you been to Tulum before? If so, let me know what I missed below!