Disclosure – I am going to start out by saying in 2019 we took a trip overseas where I relied a lot on what I read online and/or via social media for picking out places to go in Morocco. Which has nothing to do with Tulum Mexico, except that I noticed all the posts I relied on were “paid”. We had some not great experiences that definitely could not have been as dreamy as these influencers mentioned. We realized that people are only going to say wonderful things about a place when they are “paid”. This post on Tulum is not paid, except from my bank account, and all suggestions are experiences that we had and paid for; they are honest, and you can reach out with questions. Let’s chat about what we loved about Tulum Mexico with a honest travel post.
We took a beach holiday to Tulum Mexico earlier this year, and it was glorious. We typically are not beach vacation people, but have been talking about Tulum forever. Since we had some free time before 2023 became crazy, we headed south. We had no expectations about this holiday, we only wanted warm sand between our toes, good food and killer margaritas. All of this happened and we were pleasantly surprised. The only regret is that we could not stay longer.
We are by no-means experts and are only going to share what we experienced as well as what we learned from talking to locals as well as other travelers who have been there more than we have.
Tulum is typically a beach destination. Since we tend to prefer an urban environment when we travel, we decided to break up the trip into two parts; town and beach. After a lot of research we learned the area is divided into two areas, Tulum known as the Pueblo, and Tulum Beach. There is also the deep jungle which we would like to experience but did not have time this trip.
The Pueblo; we are getting asked a lot since coming home, is it worth it? Our honest opinion? Yes! If you want to experience the Mayan culture as well as a growing food and art scene, you are going to love it. The Pueblo is actually the downtown area of Tulum. We stayed in the area considered Tulum Town, and the other two areas that are popular are La Veleta and Aldea Zama. Zama use to be the name of Tulum. All of it is walkable, though we did end up renting a scooter for three of the days we were in Tulum Town, and loved having it!
There is a lot to do in the Pueblo, as well it is closer to the ruins as well as most of the cenotes you are going to want to visit are near by. It is more affordable than the beach areas, if you are concerned with budget. You can expect to pay double for food and drinks the closer you get to the beach.
Tulum Beach, is GORGEOUS. The water is warm and the sand is like powdered sugar. Like I mentioned we are not beach people, typically, and we could not pull ourselves off of the beach chairs until the end of the day. It was lazy days of sunning, swimming, eating and drinking and people watching. Blissful and utterly perfect. Tulum beach is a fairly long and sandy, and divided into 4 general areas. The North, tends to be more quiet and is closer to the ruins, Beach Town, which is “more affordable” and starts where the main road dumps into the beach zone, the Middle is where all the nightlife, bars and restaurants are, and the South is more family friendly. We stayed in the Middle area, and loved it as the beaches were beautiful and there was a lot going on.
Is Mexico Safe: This is the one question that we are asked every time we go to Mexico. Do you feel safe? Yes, we have always felt safe traveling throughout Mexico. We have never had an issue traveling to anywhere from Guadalajara to the beach towns. Number one travel tip I give people going anywhere – “Be aware of your surroundings, do not dress or act flashy or loud, and don’t do anything stupid like buy drugs or get drunk in public”. Use the safes where you are staying, put your passport as well as credit cards and cash you will not need when going out. You should be fine. I have only been robbed once in 30+ years of traveling and that was in Rome in front of a hotel, and it was a smash and grab situation.
Water: I DO NOT ever use or drink the water in Mexico or a third world country. I drink bottled water, and I brush my teeth with the same. Most restaurants as well as hotels now use filtered ice for drinks so you should be fine. Filtered ice has a hole in the middle. Only drink from bottles or cans that are opened at your table. I have NEVER gotten sick anywhere I have traveled and I eat and drink everything. Lenny has gotten sick a couple of times, and every time he has brushed his teeth with the tap water.
Getting to Tulum: We flew on Alaska which offered one non-stop flight from San Francisco to Cancun which is about 90 minutes from Tulum.
Driving: We wanted a relaxing vacation, so we opted not to rent a car even though we were going for a week. We heard horror stories of other people, from the actual renting experience to the possibilities of having to pay off the local police for anything that they may want to pull you over for. Our hotels set-up transportation for us, and it was really easy and cost about $75 one-way.
Scooters: We did end up renting one when we stayed in Tulum Town, and had a blast. It was perfect for zipping around town as well as out to the beaches, cenotes and ruins. The company we used was Scooterama Rental, it was in the neighborhood we were staying in and the guys were run the company were super helpful and gave us some great tips local spots. Bonus, it is easy to park anywhere!
In Tulum Town we stayed at this amazing AirBnb, Acacia Tulum. It is located on the other side of the main road but only about a 10 minute walk to the center of the Pueblo. It was stunning, and we had a wonderful time. Definitely more of a couple’s hotel but I could see going there for a girl’s weekend as well. We had room number 9 which was spacious, and was located at the back of the property which was more quiet than the street side. As well, it had a private deck with area with a hammock which got a lot of use. Other rooms that we would book another time are: 8 which has a hammock area, 7 with a private plunge pool and a cool bathroom and 4 which also has a plunge pool and seems very private. Bonus, they will set up massages for you, and they come to your room. We had a couples massage on the deck, and it was fantastic. Would not hesitate going back here.
Coco Tulum – hotel is right on the beach as in our room (#31) walked right onto the beach, and it was heavenly. We left the doors and windows open at night and were lulled to sleep by the crashing waves. There are two areas of the hotel, the Beach Zone where we stayed, and the other is the Zen Zone which is closer towards the front of the hotel near the main road but walkable to the beach. Being on the beach the last three nights was a great way to end our vacation as we relaxed, relaxed and relaxed. The staff was fantastic throughout the hotel, and the breakfast that was included with our room was a delicious way to start the day. Very romantic rooms with air conditioning too. Would definitely go back.
Things We Did: we were very active as in doing a lot when we were staying in Tulum Town. Our time at the beach was spent laying around the beach and swimming. It was the perfectly balanced vacation!
Tulum Archaeological Zone – is known as the Seaside Ruins and was 20 minutes from our hotel via scooter. We booked a fantastic AirBnb Experience with Tania, and really enjoyed it as we were able to learn so much about the ruins as well as the Mayans and the history of Tulum. Fantastic way to start the morning.
Cooking Class – we started taking cooking classes when we travel a few years ago, not only is it a fun way to have an authentic meal but it is a great way to learn a new skill and meet fun people. We have even stayed in touch with some people from past experiences. We had an amazing time with Lily, and her delicious hands-on cooking experience which we also booked through AirBnb. Lilly is gracious and kind by inviting everyone into her home to cook together. Not only did we learn how to make real Mexican food but she also taught us a bit about Mezcal. Cannot recommend enough!
Cenotes – you have to go to at least one while in Tulum. Originally we were going to go to The Gran Cenote or the Santa Cruz Cenote. I almost hate to even share our experience as it was a hidden gem. Lucky for us, our waitress at breakfast who is a local said to avoid those as they are a tourist trap and too expensive. She guided us to Atik, and it was beautiful as well as not crowded. It cost us $17 USD where the others were quoting $25 + per person USD. There were 2 other couples and three single guys when we were there so it was perfect for being able to swim without crowds. The three single guys said they had been to a few different ones, and this was by far the best.
Breakfast / Coffee
La Hydra by Gigi – really good breakfasts as well as coffee. Best margaritas and mezcalritas in downtown Tulum. Ask for Jazmin – she makes them perfectly. We went here every day.
Cetli – on the way out of town towards Coba, also a hidden gem whose waitress shared the best cenote spot. Great local spot – we had a lovely as well as delicious breakfast. Want to do dinner next time. Beautiful vibe!
Taqueria Honorio – Chef Rene Redzepi – suppose to be the best tacos in Tulum on a trendy street stand. We went and weren’t that impressed, it was good but not great, and the wait was 30 minutes.
Antojitos La Chiapaneca – this spot was written up in a bunch of travel sites. Suppose to have Yucatan Style Tacos, Al Pastor with beans and cheese, and the gringa, along with cold beers. We went, and it was terrible, worse experience and meal we had the entire trip.
Encanto Cantino – cool backyard to sit down, cocktails and good food. ** Terrible service – only had beers because the service was so bad.
Los Aquachiles – reviews said to have grilled octopus or whole fish and the shrimp tempura tacos. Good mezcal cocktails too ** We went twice, the first time was a better experience, great service, and very good shrimp tacos as well as passion fruit mezcal cocktails. Second time we went the service was terrible, different staff, the waiter said we had to pay cash only. Bartender didn’t want to make margaritas with mezcal. We only had drinks and left.
Palma Central – it is a food truck park with a cool vibe, and some food spots built with shipping containers. We had drinks there a couple of times – good bartender. Live music every night. The food looked great but we had always already eaten. Would definitely go back.
Campella Cremerie – high quality coffee and homemade gelato. Toasted coconut and Sicilian Pistachio as well as passion fruit are a must. Also the affogato was really good.
The one thing that was a surprise was prices are double if not triple at the beach, so be prepared to pay top dollar to enjoy the beach areas.
Gitano – AMAZING cocktails, as in the best I’ve ever had. The spot is beautiful and the whole restaurant is just a VIBE. Definitely $$
Juanita Diavola (at Coco Tulum) – good breakfasts, and a nice hotel spot to have a drink in the evening. Casual and good staff.
Posada Margherita – might seem weird to have Italian food in Mexico but the pasta was homemade and delicious as was the wood fired pizzas. Only night we drank wine – expensive for pizza. Pay cash or venmo
Hartwood – was a splurge dinner and absolutely worth it. Need reservations. Food and drinks were amazing. Great party/hip vibe. Mostly locals – hardly any tourists. Would definitely go again.
Next Trip (there is a lot so we better book some tickets)
Long Time Coffee
Caffeina Tulum – good coffee and breakfast
Sin Eriqueta – more locals – good breakfast and coffee
Chai House – good coffee and chai tea
Dona Paty Tacos de Guisado – chilaquiles, huevos and fluffy pancakes
Del Cielo – great Mexican breakfasts as well as speciality lattes
Tacos y Tortas El Too – street style tacos sounds like Ivan’s Tacos in Sayulita. It is a food stand with 5 small tables.
Sabor de Mar – seafood dishes, and good tacos
Pepe best tacos in Tulum – Lily from our Cooking Class said this guy has the BEST tacos in downtown Tulum, and to google his name to find them.
El Camello – seafood, tostadas and ceviches. Octopu and Shrimp very good. Mango Margaritas.
Burrito Amor – recommended by our AirBnb host. This spot was ALWAYS packed and looked great. We just never wanted to eat a burrito. Next time.
Pasha – also recommended by our host. She said it has amazing Middle Eastern food. Lebanese influences with food are big in the Yucatan peninsula.
The Real Coconut – also recommended by our host. Farm to Table, Plant focused. Was always packed. Next time.
Arca – Higher End great cocktails.
Safari Tulum – friends went and said they still dream about the food and cocktails.
Todos Santos – great cocktails
Azulik – on beach – get there early
Mateos – rooftop terrace with music and drinks
Coba – we really wanted to visit this area but it would have been too far on the scooter, and the tours were booked up.
Sian Ka’an – would be great to do a tour of this UNESCO Nature reserve that is full of wildlife and ruins.
Akumal Turtles – the beach area of Akumal is famous for their turtles.
SFER IK Museion – curated by Peggy Guggenheim’s great grandson. Sensory museum.
Art Walk Tour – the mural situation is strong in Tulum downtown. We saw some of it but next time would like to book a tour with Tinas House Tulum.
Food Tour – we talked to a few people who did this tour at the beginning of their trip and said it was fantastic. They got all the inside info on the best spots.
World By Hand – ceramics, pottery and craft from Mexico, India and Morocco.
La Tiendita – housewares and clean beauty products.
Auras – Made in Mexico housewares, textiles, jewelry
Zac Be – unique jewelry
In the Middle – Men’s clothing and sandals
Wanderlust – clothing
La Troupe – clothing