Tulum has been on my bucket list for a few years now. Since we live in Hong Kong, it always seemed like a far dream to visit Mexico as it is more reasonable to explore Asia or Africa destinations from here. However, at the beginning of the year I had a YOLO moment of if not now when?. Luckily, my husband was on board with the idea so we planned a 2 week holiday in Mexico (first Tulum, a quick stop in Cancun, and then Valladolid) followed by a short trip to Cuba (photo diary from Havana coming soon!).
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Tulum Travel Guide
I kept hearing people compare Tulum with Cancun, saying that Tulum is far more quiet, bohemian and laid-back, and I have to say I agree with that. While the waters in Cancun are undeniably stunning (most beautiful turquoise waters I’ve ever seen!), it is super crowded and commercialised. Tulum, on the other hand, felt so relaxing and spacious – during the mornings we literally had the whole beach to ourselves. Along the beach strip, you won’t see any tall hotel buildings, only chic boutique hotels, fancy restaurants and quirky little shops.
Another great thing about Tulum is that most of the beach strip is open to the public, so you can enjoy the most beautiful beaches even if you are not staying at a resort.
See & Do
Besides spending time at the beach obviously, we visited the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, which was smaller and less impressive than I thought, but offered stunning views of the sea. If you go there, don’t miss the famous lone palm tree – it makes such a postcard perfect picture!
Another popular activity in Tulum is visiting and swimming in many of the beautiful cenotes. We avoided Gran Cenote as we heard it gets overcrowded and went for Casa Cenote instead. We paid a small entrance fee that included a guide and did a snorkeling tour of the emerald crystal waters. We arrived there at 10am and had the whole cenote for ourselves. Simply beautiful. Other popular cenotes/lagoons are Dos Ojos and Kaan Luum Lagoon.
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Eat & Drink
We absolutely loved Posada Margherita. The handmade pasta was delicious and with each meal they give you a complimentary assortment of handmade bread that will for sure satisfy your carb cravings after a swim. The great thing is that they have seatings literally on the beach and they let you stay for as long as you want. The post-lunch nap I had on their hammock was unforgettable!
For dinner, we tried many of the local cheap eateries along the Avenida Tulum in the town, which naturally ended up being tacos most of the time (they can be quite addictive!). One of our favourites was Antojitos La Chiapaneca.
If you get a chance, definitely try Chayote Juice, which is a green vegetable widely used in Mexican cuisine. If you are a green juice lover like me, you’ll love it.
For fresh and tasty mojitos, try Batey on Centauro Norte street. This street also houses many live music bars for a taste of Tulum’s night life.
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Since this was a long trip, we decided to save money on accommodation and stay in Tulum city instead of a beach resort. We chose Secret Garden for its proximity to the ADO bus station which would take us to our next stop, Valladolid. The hotel was comfortable and featured a lovely garden. Rooms start at $47 USD/night. Read reviews and book here.
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Good to know
- Depending on the season, beaches in Tulum can collect piles of brown seaweed on the coast lines so manage your expectations in advance. You can see workers cleaning up daily but they do it manually as to protect the turtle nesting sites, which means some parts will still be covered by seaweed. Personally it was not a deal breaker – it’s nature after all!
- We tried both fancy and cheap food and our verdict is that the local, humble and simple eateries win every time. They are more authentic and with a flavour kick that is hard to imitate! So while in Tulum city, I recommend you try as many local places as you can.
- Overall, Tulum felt very safe and tourists can walk around without being pestered by taxi drivers or anyone for that matter. Everyone is minding their own business, which is great! Taxi fares to and from the beach are also fixed, which decreases the risk of being overcharged. Public buses (Collectivos) are also clean, comfortable and punctual.
What to pack for a Tulum Vacation
A cute straw bag
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