Tulum Travel Guide: Tulum Vacation + Trip Ideas
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. For seven weeks now, we have been living in our little cabaña located just 30 m from one of the most idyllic beaches in the Caribbean. We’re at kilometre 8.2 on the small road linking the village of Pueblo and Playa beach. Pueblo is Tulum’s urban area and is located about half an hour away by bike. Playa stretches along the coast and is numbered with kilometre markers; there are no house numbers here.
The cabaña we’ve rented from friends has become our home. We feel at ease here and settled in Mexico. The foreign culture, language, people and customs are just four of the aspects of this trip that appeal to us. And yet we have never felt foreign here. Everyone is so very friendly, so hospitable; we have been welcomed with open arms. We are completely in love with the Mexican kitchen.
Unlike many other parts of Mexico, it’s rare to see poverty, rubbish on the streets or traditional dress in Tulum. Nevertheless, the archaeological sites and ruins attract countless tourists to the little town every year. There are more vegan bistros and organic cafés here than anywhere else in the country. A hippie vibe prevails, and I don’t stand out with my dreadlocks. Maori tattoos seem to be a must-have and yoga courses are offered on every street corner. Tulum certainly has its charm, even if it’s not typically Mexican.
We’ve used the past two weeks of our stopover to top up our travel fund. A friend of ours has made his dream a reality here and set up ‘Turquesa’, a restaurant with jungle camping. We’re there every other day to help with the breakfast service, clean tents and answer guests’ questions. It’s nice to feel useful and have a meaningful task to do while still to having enough time to explore the area around Tulum and lie in the sun and do nothing from time to time. We have developed a tan, although we haven’t really noticed much of a difference ourselves.
Every now and again, we use the bikes we bought for around €70 to cycle to Pueblo. The restaurants there offer much lower prices and they’re also a bit more authentic. While there are plenty of bars and live music, Tulum itself is rather quiet. It doesn’t compare to Playa del Carmen, which lies just a few kilometres away and is full of clubs and nightlife.
Despite the relatively short period of time that we’ve been here, we’ve met a lot of interesting people. There are days when we have to say hello to someone on every street corner. Tulum isn’t a big place after all and people get to know each other. We’ve also been a part of it for the past seven weeks. Although our time here has been a wonderful learning experience, our desire to set off and explore new things is strong. We both have an inner sense of unrest and a desire to finally set off, to once again flee the familiar and delve into the unknown. We haven’t done much research this time, but our next destination is to be Belize. The country is as large as the state of Hesse and we’re truly fascinated by it. The fact that we know so little makes it all the more exciting to simply set off without any preconceptions. Our plan now is to pack our rucksacks, leave the cabaña and say goodbye to Tulum.
Are you planning a trip to the pearl of the Caribbean?
If so, check out our tips for the perfect budget holiday in Tulum:
[For rough orientation: 20 pesos = 1 euro]
- Instead of a cabaña beside the beach (€60–150/night), opt for a hostel or hotel in town (double room approx. €30/night). (Insiders’ tip for outdoor fans: camp! Use your own tent or rent one, e.g., at Turquesa Jungle Camping directly beside the beach.)
- Enjoy the secluded coastline as often as possible (ideally beyond kilometres 8–9. There are hardly any cabañas beyond this point and you will have the Caribbean scenery all to yourself).
- Hire bikes and visit the countless restaurants and cafés in town (more authentic and half the price of those beside the beach). For vegetarians and all those who would like to be, we recommend ‘La Hoja Verde’, ‘El Vegetariano’, ‘La Siesta’ Pizzeria or the tasty vegan tamales at ‘Suculenta’.
- Buy fresh fruit and veg from the van that does the rounds every day at about 5 pm (the tastiest fruit and veg is from local producers – and it’s also the cheapest). Don’t forget to try the fresh coconuts (just 15 pesos apiece compared to 50–100 pesos at the beach bars).
- Take a dip in one of the many cenotes in the area (the lesser known they are, the emptier and cleaner they are – ask your taxi driver to take you to his favourite).
- Visit archaeological sites early in the morning. The later you go, the more tour buses full of tourists there will be. And no one wants to visit ruins in the blistering midday sun. (Save on a guide and other extras by reading up a little and going online beforehand. If you do that, the signs at the site should suffice. You can also save yourself the money for extra access to the beach by simply heading a few hundred metres further along the coast and accessing the beach there.)
- Do without organised day trips and instead plan your own tours (save approx. 80% of the costs – organised trips can be very pricey!). For longer journeys, there is a good network of ADO buses linking destinations all across Mexico. (The only tour that it is difficult to do alone is the one to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve).
- Despite the cheap taxi prices (which do not need to be negotiated, as they are all based on zones), it is still possible to save money here. The ‘collectivos’ (minibus/group taxi services) enable faster travel from A to B. The journey from Tulum to the ruins should cost around 20 pesos, for example. It also costs just 35 pesos per journey to Akumal (sea turtles, snorkelling) and Playa del Carmen (nightlife).
- And last but not least, consider hitchhiking. If you’re not in a hurry and fancy returning home with a good holiday story to tell, simply stand at the side of the road and stick out your thumb. While the Foreign Office would undoubtedly advise against this, hitchhiking is relatively risk-free on the Yucatán Peninsula.
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