Tulum was on my bucket list after moving to New York city in 2014 as it seemed to be the new hot spot to visit and escape the winter. I loved visiting Morocco and Bali, and it seemed to have a unique mix of similar bohemian vibes but with everything to love about Mexico. This trendy and extremely aesthetic boho beach town along the Caribbean coast of Mexico is all that and more, and a complete contrast to Cancun, which is only 2 hours north. I put together all my favorite things we did and everything you need to know in this Complete Tulum Travel Guide for your visit.
When my sister asked me to join her on a yoga retreat in Tulum February of 2018, I jumped at the opportunity to finally visit the place I had been seeing all over Instagram. It certainly is more “blown up” and pricier now, but in my opinion, the most aesthetic destination to visit that is close to the US. You can feel “off the grid”, biking along the sandy dirty road lined with palm trees off the beach lined with boutique hotels, Mexico’s iconic Caribbean water, smoothie shacks, and of course, tacos and guac galore. You can go for a long weekend or spend a whole week there (which is what I did – the amount of places to discover is pretty long so you have the option to do more adventure activities, or just chill and eat 😉 ).
You’ll want to fly into the Cancun airport (CUN) and it’s a relatively quick flight (about 3 hours from NYC and 4.5 from LA). Tulum is about a 2 hour drive south from Cancun, so you can either rent a car, get a taxi, or hire a shuttle depending on your preferences. The drive to Tulum is pretty much a straight shot, so it should be pretty smooth and easy.
It is going to be HOT in the summer, and tends to be rainy June-October. We went at the end of February and the weather was PERFECT. I think it makes the perfect winter escape (November – April/May), but obviously it will still be amazing any time of year.
We didn’t rent a car, instead we rented bikes (100% do this! Biking along the sandy main beach road is so nice) so I don’t think you need to book a rental car, but it just depends on what you will want to do while you stay. We arranged a few activities in which the hotel arranged a shuttle for us which made it easy. If you think you want to do way more exploring not at the beach, you might want a car then, but what I love about Tulum is that you DO NOT need a car at all to enjoy plenty of activities. Definitely embrace the laid back vibe of walking and biking. Most hotels offer bike rentals or will arrange taxis/shuttles for you if you want to go on any excursions or site seeing.
How long to Stay:
You can totally visit tulum just for a long weekend (I suggest at least 3 nights!) but there are SO MANY good restaurants and activities you can do, you won’t get bored going for a whole week (we stayed a whole week!).
The main tourist area of Tulum beach is NOT in Tulum town. I 100% advise you to book along the beach area of Tulum – this is where all the “it” things are happening, cute restaurants, beautiful boutique hotels, and of course, the BEACH.
This is where we stayed for the week! It is an eco chic bohemian boutique hotel centered around yoga and wellness, right on the beach, with the quintessential boho sun beds, and the decor is just amazing. Breakfast, wifi, and bike rentals included in your stay, as well as beautiful open yoga rooms and rooftops.
This hotel is gorgeous, luxe, on the beach complete with pools. It has more of a villa vibe. The best part is walking through the sand as you walk around the hotel.
This hotel is super unique and has the coolest rooftops! It definitely falls into one of the more unique hotels with organic architecture and stunning views.
This hotel is super cute with the very instagrammable white swings, right on the beach, and more affordable than a lot of the other aesthetic boutique hotels.
This hotel has a more elegant vibe to the quintessential boho chic aesthetic of Tulum, with unique open architecture. The vibe here is everything you image to find in a luxe bohemian stay in Tulum.
One of the most iconic hotels of Tulum, Azulik is a boho luxury vacation dream with rooftop bathtubs, large net hammocks, and everything that comes with feeling like you are staying in the most insane luxury treehouse (including the price).
Obviously you’ll want to enjoy all the guac and chips and tacos you want, but definitely take advantage of the fresh tropical fruits and the abundance of amazing restaurants.
This restaurant is INCREDIBLE and it is such a VIBE. It is open and outdoor and they recently opened up a second location in NYC (which brings all the tulum jungle vibes to the city). Definitely book a dinner here, we loved it so much we came here twice.
This raw and vegan restaurant is soo cute and right off the main road – it has a very unique entrance so you won’t miss it! If you are looking for vegan food, this is your spot!
Perfect little smoothie shack! You’ve probably seen this cute place all over insta, so I was so surprised at how GOOD the smoothies and matcha were (it’s not overhyped!). And of course, it’s so cute to enjoy while on their swings. Ride your bike here and enjoy an afternoon smoothie and matcha to cool off from the beach.
This spot has vegan ice cream and is very chill to visit during the day. It definitely is a SCENE at night and we had so much fun. It seems that different bars/restaurants have their “it night” as far as going out (so just ask the bartender which place is the spot to go for an evening on the town).
This is the restaurant at Nomade Tulum that gives you all the moroccan vibes, with poufs and tales all along the floor, open and outdoor. They focus on holistic and organic food and also have live music during dinner.
Even if staying here for your time is out of budget, you must at least come for happy hour drinks at sunset in their nests attached to their restaurant. Stay for dinner too if you want, but 100% you must come get some drinks here. The views are insane and the whole hotel is a work of art.
This place is part of a hotel right on the beach and it is so shabby chic and cute. You can come for afternoon smoothies or drinks, or enjoy a beachside italian dinner.
The Cenotes are so cool and definitely a specific highlight in this part of mexico. We went to the main one and it had 2 main parts and was stunning. There are many cenotes to visit, so it just depends on your preferences! I suggest seeing at least one because they are really cool! We went to the Gran Cenote, which wasn’t necessarily crowded especially if you go early, but so so beautiful.
If you’re up for a little more historical adventuring, the Tulum ruins are really cool. It also has stunning views of the beach and ocean. Tulum means wall in Maya and was one of the few enclosed cities built by the Mayas to be a fortress, with walls on three sides and the Caribbean Sea on the other. Budget atleast a full morning or afternoon to really explore! If you don’t hire a guide, it is really affordable as well ($3-4).
It’s a lot more than a sweat lodge or sauna! Temazcal is a purification ritual from a traditional Mesoamerican (mainly Mexico) that aims to release toxins in our bodies. You go into the hut and sit in darkness and go through a rebirthing experience with the shaman’s guidance. At the center, hot stones release an intense heat of steam when water is poured, which makes you sweat a lot – So, as you spend your time sweating from the heat, you are actually releasing toxins from the body. I felt AMAZING after doing this! We opted for one that was only about an hour.
Take a spa afternoon and do a full body clay mask with the special mayan clay – it stimulates the skins function, detoxes & energizes the skin and internal organs, exfoliates and regenerates skin tissue to refine wrinkles, helps heal skin lesions such as mosquito bites, acne, rashes and sun burn. It also is a fantastic hair conditioning treatment. We finished the mask by submerging in the ocean. My skin felt incredible afterwards! Pair this with a massage and facial and you will feel totally relaxed.
Even if you rent a car, definitely spend some time biking along the sandy road next to the beach. There are lots of cute boutique shops to explore and shop for all your boho accessories to take back with you.
There are so many cute and aesthetic hotels along the beach, so definitely take some time to walk along the oceanfront. You can usually patronize a hotel at their cafe, restaurant or bar, and enjoy their view and aesthetic amenities for a little. My favorite thing to do was just walk along the beach and look at all the cute places.
I LOVE Tulum. I suggest it for just about any traveler or vacationer. If you’re into aesthetic and boho inspired vacations, this is the place to go without being extremely expensive and to feel more “off grid” without actually being off grid. It certainly is an ‘it’ destination. I especially recommend a girls trip with all the cute relaxing spots to visit, amazing fun options for nightlife, and plenty of spa services and activities available. You will get a way more bougie bohemian feel vs. the inclusive resort feel of Cancun.
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