Tulum Vacation Guide: Discover Mexico’s Coastal Paradise

Tucked along Mexico’s Caribbean coastline, Tulum’s ancient Mayan coastal city is a top destination in the Riviera Maya and one of the most visited places in Mexico. With nearly 12 miles of stunning white sand beaches, turquoise waters, ancient Mayan ruins, and a chilled-out bohemian vibe, it’s easy to see why a Tulum vacation has become so popular. 

Once a sleepy fishing village, Tulum has become a trendy hotspot, attracting everyone from backpackers to celebrities. But despite its growth, Tulum retains a laid-back charm.

Thatched roof bungalows and cobblestone streets give the town a rustic feel. Yoga studios, organic cafes, boutiques, and beach bars line the main drag. At night, fire dancers and live music light up the beach.

While Tulum offers plenty to do, the real draw is its natural beauty. Beach lovers flock here to relax on the sugar-soft sand and swim in the warm, clear waters. The coastline is dotted with cenotes (natural sinkholes filled with crystalline water), perfect for snorkeling and diving. Inland, the jungle hides ancient ruins, natural pools, and caves to explore.

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When is the best time to visit Tulum, Mexico?

Tulum, Mexico
Photo Credit: [@shalamov/DepositPhotos]

Tulum enjoys a tropical climate year-round, with average temperatures between 75°F and 90°F. The high season runs from late November to April when the weather is dry and sunny. Room rates skyrocket, and crowds descend during these peak months.

The shoulder seasons of early November and May offer warm temperatures and smaller crowds. Late spring brings hot, humid weather and occasional rain showers. September and October see the most rain, fewer tourists, and lower prices.

The best time to visit Tulum depends on your ideal weather and tolerance for crowds.

High Season: Late November to April

During the dry season, daytime temperatures average 80°F, with cooler evenings around 65°F. The peak weeks are around Christmas and New Year’s when prices are astronomical. High season means crowds, so expect popular spots to be busy. However, there will be lots of events and activities. Tip: book restaurants and activities well in advance of your trip.

Shoulder Season: Early November and May

As the weather transitions between wet and dry seasons, shoulder season brings fewer tourists and better prices. However, some bars and restaurants may be closed. Daytime highs reach 85°F with pleasant evenings around 70°F. Early November is drier than May. May is also when the seaweed, or Sargassum, begins to appear.

Low Season: June to October

Summer in Tulum brings hot, humid weather with daily highs of 90°F. Afternoon thunderstorms occur a few times per week. September and October see the most rain, though showers usually pass quickly. Hotel and flight deals bring drastically lower rates, while beaches and attractions remain uncrowded. However, some businesses close until the high season, and Sargassum is usually present along the beaches. 

What is the best way to get to Tulum, Mexico?

Cancun International Airport CUN
Photo Credit: [@ Skorzewiak/DepositPhotos]

Most travelers fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN). It’s easy to reach Tulum and other popular destinations in Riviera Maya from the CUN airport, but it takes time. 

Your airport transportation options depend on where you stay in Tulum. The beach hotel zone is most convenient for shuttle transfers while having a rental car makes it easier to stay in Tulum town or the outskirts.

Recently, Delta Airlines announced that it will provide nonstop flights from Atlanta International Airport to Tulum beginning March 2024. 

Shuttle or Private Transfer

The fastest and most comfortable way to reach Tulum is by shuttle van or private transfer. Pre-booked services provide door-to-door transport from the airport right to your hotel. Shared shuttles cost around $15-20 USD per person, while private transfers are $80-100 USD.

The drive takes about 2 hours, depending on traffic near Playa del Carmen. Shared shuttles may stop at other hotels, so keep that in mind if you want a direct trip. Private transfers with companies like CanadaTransfers offer luxury SUVs and personal services. This is the best option for small groups of 4 or less.

Rental Car

Renting a car provides maximum flexibility to explore the Riviera Maya at your own pace. Cancun airport has desks for all major rental agencies like Hertz, Avis, Budget, Europcar, and more—rates for an economy car average $30 USD per day.

The drive from Cancun airport to Tulum takes around 2 hours via the main highway with no stops. Having your wheels lets you check out attractions like Cenotes or Xcaret Eco Park. Just be ready to pay for parking on arrival. Fuel, tolls, and basic insurance will add to the rental cost.

Public Bus

Public buses provide the cheapest transport to Tulum for budget travelers at around $15 USD. ADO offers direct bus service from Cancun airport to Tulum every few hours from 4 a.m. to midnight daily. The journey takes 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on traffic.

While very affordable, public buses can be crowded with limited luggage room. Purchase tickets ahead online or from the ADO counter at the airport. Be sure to confirm schedules, as they can change seasonally. Buses drop off in downtown Tulum, requiring a taxi or 15-minute walk to the beach zone hotels.

Private Luxury Transfers

Private luxury transfers in high-end vehicles are available to arrive in style. Companies like Tulum Transportation provide private sedans or SUVs with WiFi, refreshments, and impeccable service. Pricing ranges from $150 – $300 USD, depending on vehicle size. While a splurge, luxury transfers let you ride in total comfort after a long flight.

No matter how you choose to get to Tulum, avoid unmarked taxis at the airport. Pre-arranging transportation is highly recommended for a stress-free arrival.

Things to Do in Tulum, Mexico on Vacation

Cenote in Riviera Maya Mexico
Photo Credit: [@alohadunya/DepositPhotos]

With its stunning beaches, ancient ruins, diverse natural attractions, and boho-chic vibe, a Tulum vacation offers fantastic things to do for all tastes and budgets. Tour companies provide excellent Tulum tours ranging from snorkeling expeditions to cultural experiences. 

Beaches in Tulum

Tulum’s beaches are consistently ranked among the best in Mexico. Most hotels in Tulum occupy prime beachfront spots with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and waiter service ready for guests. Or, plop down your towel anywhere along the public stretches for free. The turquoise waters stay shallow a long way out – perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Don’t miss these great beaches in Tulum, Mexico:

  • Playa Paraiso – Quintessential white sand crescent near the ruins. Public access and amenities like a bathroom are available.
  • Playa Ruinas – Wider and less crowded. Close to cenotes and beach clubs like La Zebra.
  • Tankah Bay – Secluded white sand cove near Soliman Bay. Access fromTankah Tres hotel.
  • Playa Esperanza – South of Tulum hotels. More private with fewer crowds.

Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Mexico

No visit to Tulum is complete without exploring the cliffside Mayan ruins that give the town its name. Dating to the 13th century, these oceanfront ruins are the most picturesque archeological site in the Riviera Maya. Sea breezes cool you as you stroll among weathered temples and take in the spectacular Caribbean views.

Arrive early to avoid large tour groups. However, consider booking a tour with a local guide to learn more about this historical landmark. The beach area below the El Castillo pyramid has a separate entrance fee. Climb the ruins with caution, as some steps are very steep.

Swim in Cenotes

Inland from Tulum, the limestone landscape hides thousands of natural sinkholes filled with the clearest freshwater. These geological wonders are known as cenotes. Grab your swimsuit and dive, snorkeling, or cliff-jumping into these magical pools. Some of the best cenotes near Tulum include:

  • Gran Cenote – Open cavern popular for swimming and snorkeling. It is about 15 minutes from Tulum.
  • Cenote Calavera – “Temple of Doom” style cavern with stalactites. Rappelling and cliff jumping are offered.
  • Casa Cenote – Paradise lagoon with clear waters surrounded by greenery.
  • Cenote Cristalino – Small, gorgeous cenote perfect for swimming. Near Tankah Bay.
  • Cenote Azul – A favorite with cliff jumps.

Bike to Soliman Bay and Gran Cenote

Escape the crowds by renting a bike and cruising south along the Boca Paila road parallel to the coast. It’s about 7 miles from Tulum to Soliman Bay, a quiet scenic beach near cenotes and mangroves. Stop for a dip at Gran Cenote or Cenote Manati along the way. There’s hardly any traffic, and you’ll pass by an old lighthouse and small fishing villages.

Dine at a Beach Club

Tulum’s trendy beach clubs combine tropical ambiance with gourmet cuisine and hip sounds. Kick back on daybeds, lounge by the pool, and enjoy ocean views over fresh ceviche and mezcal cocktails. Popular picks include Gitano, Casa Jaguar, and Nest. Make reservations for dinner during the high season.

Great Day Trips from Tulum, Mexico

Chichen Itza Pyramid
Photo Credit: [@luky7/DepositPhotos]

With so many unique places to explore, filling your itinerary near Tulum is easy. Wherever you decide to go, prepare to be awed by the natural and cultural treasures of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Visit Cobá

About 40 minutes inland from Tulum, Cobá was once a major Mayan city that flourished between 500 and 900 AD. Today, visitors can climb Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid on the Yucatán peninsula, for panoramic views over the jungle canopy. Walking trails connect the various ruins spread out over many square miles. Pedal-powered tricycle taxis are available to zip between sites. Pack bug spray for exploring!

Tulum makes an ideal base to explore the Yucatán Peninsula. Tulum provides the perfect base to explore neighboring towns and attractions on day trips.

Chichén Itzá 

The most famous Maya ruins in Mexico, Chichén Itzá, recently became one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Visitors flock here to see immense structures like the El Castillo pyramid and the ball court. Located inland near Valladolid, it’s about 2.5 hours from Tulum. Go early to beat crowds and climb the iconic pyramid before it closes at noon.

Isla Holbox

For a relaxing island getaway, head north of Cancun to Holbox. This laid-back fishing island has no big resorts, just miles of sandy Caribbean beaches and calm, shallow waters. Go snorkeling to see whale sharks and sea turtles nearby on a day trip. Reach Holbox by a 40-minute ferry from Chiquilá.

Isla Cozumel

Scuba divers can’t miss the reefs offshore of Cozumel. It’s one of the top dive destinations in the world, thanks to bright coral and excellent visibility. Snorkelers will find lots to see as well. Take a ferry from Playa del Carmen, about 1.5 hours south of Tulum.

Visit Valladolid

Inland from the Caribbean, Valladolid provides access to some of Yucatán’s most spectacular cenotes. Don’t miss substantial underground caverns like Ik Kil and the natural pools at Cenote Samulá. The colonial town center itself is worth exploring, too. It is located less than two hours west of Tulum.

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sian Ka’an contains over 1.3 million acres of protected wetlands, forests, and lagoons just south of Tulum. Take a full-day tour to float through freshwater canals, observe tropical birds, and visit ancient Maya sites deep in the jungle. 

Your Tulum, Mexico Vacation

Tulum Riviera Maya Mexico
Photo Credit: [@jkraft5/DepositPhotos]

With its sugary sand beaches, turquoise waters, jungle cenotes, and ancient ruins, Tulum represents the best of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Tulum offers an idyllic Mexican escape, whether you seek relaxation, adventure, or culture. Spend tranquil days swinging in a beach hammock or discover the region’s incredible biodiversity on tours.

From backpackers to luxury travelers, Tulum delivers tropical perfection. Its distinctive mix of natural wonder, Mayan heritage, and chic beach vibe beckons you to paradise.


Tulum Vacation Guide: Discover Mexico's Coastal Paradise
Billy Read

Billy is a deaf travel blogger from Birmingham, UK. Through his blog BRB Gone Somewhere Epic, Billy dismantles the myth that travel is too expensive, and that you can still enjoy hidden gems even in the most popular tourist destinations.