Perched atop a 12-meter-high cliff on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, is the ancient Mayan city of Tulum.
This Mexican city’s unique combination of white powdery sand beaches, hippy art vibe, ancient Mayan ruins, scuba adventures, Cenotes (natural underground reservoirs of water) and great food make it an excellent holiday destination.
As a tourist, there are two ways, really, two enjoy this wonderful city: budget permitting, you can opt for the high-end beach scene, or, alternatively, you can make the most of the more pocket-friendly authentic Mexican experience
A night at one of the beach hotels, where people generally stay for a week, or so, before they pack off to where they came from, is likely to put you behind by $200 – definitely not a workable option for hippy and digital nomads, who like to stay in places for weeks or months.
The beach scene does, however, have some lower cost choices as well, such as camping but due to the high demand, you may need to book a year in advance, at least.
Fortunately, downtown Tulum, which is just a 2-km bike ride away from the beach scene, is a great option if you are a budget traveler.
In addition to being easy on the finances, the place offers an authentic Mexican experience, which is quite charming, in that it makes you feel like you are living in a small Mexican village.
You will find a liveable hippy art scene in downtown Tulum at prices that make sense. Because you are staying longer, you’d want to make friends and connections which are almost impossible when people are coming and going so frequently at the beach scene.
The real hippies and nomads mostly prefer to live the downtown Mexican experience because that’s where you’ll find good quality food, live music, reasonable accommodations, and more – all at affordable prices. Just walk or bike around at night and you will see what it’s all about.
The best way to get around Tulum is on a bike. So, rent one, if it is not already included with your accommodation because you’ll want to be able to pop over to the beach when desired and explore the old world Mexican village as well.
The Mexican experience and the hippy art vibe combine well to make for a good time, especially when you can pop over to the beach and kite surf, body surf or join a formal party as circumstances arise.
If you are looking for some scuba adventure, be prepared to shell out around $350 for two reef dives and four cave dives, including equipment charges. Alternatively, you can go for the cheaper $220 option which includes two reef dives plus two Cenote dives with equipment.
Prices may vary based on the season but walking into one of the mini dive centers may provide even lower rates. It’s getting harder every year in Mexico to dive without showing a certification.
The Tulum ruins are a must-see and you can walk or pedal the few kilometers to the site north of downtown.
Or, you can take a Colectivo – a white minivan that says Colectivo on the front – to the ruins for about a dollar.
The same trip in a taxi, should you decide on that option, will cost you $8 one way.
Make sure to go first thing in the morning if you are looking to avoid the crowds, or choose the hottest part of the day when tourists are lazing under umbrellas, and don’t forget to wear your sunblock.
The Tulum ruins occupy a relatively small area, roughly measuring 380 meters by 65 meters, fortified by a protective wall on the landward side.
Once you are done exploring the magnificent ruins, exit the site from the south side – that’s your right side as you face the sea – and keep walking south until you reach a dirt road on your left that will lead you straight to one of the most amazing beaches in the world.
Rent a scooter for about 20 dollars for the day, which includes insurance, and do the loop around the island, stopping when you see anything interesting. Just follow the road as it curves along the beach, clockwise or counterclockwise around the island. It’s almost impossible to get lost.
The round trip is less than an hour but you are likely to find fun stuff along the way and take a bunch of pictures.
When you are in Tulum, definitely go see Chichen Itza. Make sure to get a trip that includes the Cenote and the colonial town – both are worth your while. It’s about 45 dollars per person.
A Cenote is, basically, a natural sinkhole or underground river that has developed naturally over millions of years. You can take amazing pictures, swim in many of them and scuba dive in some of them.
You can also see the Gran Cenote which is a $5 taxi ride from downtown Tulum plus an entry fee of about 10$ per person.
Tulum Attractions and Activities
- Playa Ruinas
- Tulum Art Club
- Tulum Jungle Gym
- Pyramid El Castillo (The Castle)
- Temple of the Frescoes
- Casa de la Cultura de Tulum
- ProKiteTulum Kiteboarding Center
- Pepe Soho Photography
- Gran Cenote: Limestone cenote & cavern with snorkeling areas, equipment rentals & boardwalks.
- Tulum Bike Tours: Tour service offering scenic bike adventures through the Yucatan’s cultural & archaeological sites.
- Interpretation Center of Nature and Culture Maya
- Laguna de Kaan Luum
- Galeria La Llorona