Ever dreamed of visiting the Mayan ruins of Tulum? I’m sharing my top tips for visiting Tulum, Mexico to save you time and money! This gorgeous town of Tulum and archeological site has so much to offer and is close to Playa del Carmen and the Cancun hotel zone. I’m sharing 10 Helpful Tips for Visiting Tulum for first-timers.
10. Take the ADO Bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum or Collectivo to save time and money
If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen or Cancun, don’t get a trip to Tulum from a tour operator. A few years ago, my sister and I visited Tulum, and while it was only a $60 USD tour, we spent most of the time in the van picking up other guests, and had too short a stay at the archeological site.
The ADO bus system is akin to North America’s Greyhound or the GTA’s GO bus system. You can buy a ticket in person at the ticket booth using pesos or visa, and it was only $398 MXN pesos for two adults, round trip from Playa del Carmen. The bus takes about an hour to get to the Tulum Archeological site, however, it makes stops in Xcaret and Xel-Ha (also a great way to get there too).
Many cab drivers and our hotel concierge also recommended to take a Collectivo – essentially a white van – that is public transportion and only costs $45 MXN pesos per direction. This option will get you to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen in under 45 minutes! Next time we will brush up on our Spanish and take this transportation option. The white vans wait beside the bus stop in Tulum and say “Dirreccion: Playa del Carmen – Tulum” so you won’t get lost. The Collectivo drivers also spoke English well, so I feel more confident to test this out this option next time!
9. Bring Pesos and USD to Tulum
In Tulum, most of the beach bars, shops and hotels accept both pesos and USD. However, to enter the Tulum Archeological site, you need to pay in pesos. This year, there are many improvements to the entrance of the site, and you can purchase tickets to the Tulum ruins using a Visa card. It costs $75 MXN pesos (about $4 USD) per person to enter the site. The cost is very low, and there are no gift shops, so I really enjoy the serenity and historical value of the Tulum Mayan ruins.
8. Bring your own water bottle to the Tulum ruins
There are no water fountains or booths selling water at the Tulum archeological site, so I highly recommend bringing your own water bottle or buying one before you go visit the ruins.
7. Dress lightly and pack sunscreen, bug spray and a hat
It is VERY hot in Tulum. Maybe it’s because you’re on a cliffside, but it was easily five degrees hotter near the ruins on site. With blazing sun and humidity, definitely dress for the heat. I’d also recommend bringing a sunhat, as I got a bit of a burn. Halfway through our visit to the Tulum ruins, we stopped to reapply sunscreen, as the sun was beating down on us.
After leaving the archeological site, we walked towards the beach bars and public beach in Tulum. I got a massive bug bite on my wrist (that’s still going strong, four days later), so I highly recommend applying bug spray. If you’re staying at a hotel in Tulum, I recommend you bring bug spray and after bite with you, or some citronella oil or candles to thwart bugs! Remember, it’s a natural jungle, and because Tulum is less developed, there are a lot more bugs!
During our visit to Tulum, I wore a light two-piece coordinating embroidered crop top and shorts set from Forever 21, white cat eye sunglasses from Mango, leather Greek sandals from Iris Sandals (similar leather sandals here), an Olivia Burton Daisy watch and a green bamboo handle bag from Forever 21.
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6. Visit the Tulum Mayan Ruins on a self-guided tour
Probably one of my most important tips for visiting Tulum, is to skip a tour guide and go on a self-guided tour of the archaeological site. While I had a tour guide on my first visit to Tulum three years ago, the last two times I’ve visited the ruins without a guide. The park has numerous signs in English and Spanish (why not Mayan… I would love to see the Indigenous language represented more here on site!), complete with diagrams and QR codes you can scan for more information. I also like to read up before or after an archeological visit to compliment my experience. A self-guided tour in Tulum allows you to go at your own pace, take all the pictures you want, and take in the majesty of such an important spiritual and economical hub for the Mayan people.
5. Take the steps down to the Tulum Beach
Once you are in the Tulum Archeological site, you can take a series of steps down to the water to enjoy a beautiful, pristine beach. It’s definitely worth the cost of entry!
4. Relax at Playa Paraiso beach in Tulum & Go Snorkelling
After you visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum, exit the park and head left towards a long road with jungle on both sides. After walking ten minutes, you will see an opening, with a sign for “Playa Pescadores,” which also offers a public entrance to the Playa Paraiso beach. Take a walk along Playa Paraiso and enjoy the pristine sand, turquoise water and boats float by. If you have time, I also highly recommend taking a snorkelling tour. We did this last year, and it cost only $20 USD per person and we saw dozens of sea turtles! It was a magical experience and definitely a good value. No need to book ahead, there are so many kiosks that offer inexpensive, one-hour long tours, which is plenty of time to meet a sea turtle!
3. Best Beach Bars in Tulum
I asked numerous people for recommendations for an inexpensive, beautiful beach bar and came up with a few options. At Playa Paraiso, Playa Pescadores will offer you a beach bed for $300 MXN per person, which can be spent on food. That was the cheapest option we found. Pancho Villa was another beach club recommended to me, however, they did not have chairs out on the beach. As we walked down Playa Paraiso, another beach club wanted $500 MXN pesos per person for a beach chair. Azulik, the infamous treehouse hotel reportedly charges $40USD minimum spend to visit their hotel, however, they are located on the cliffs. Coco Beach Tulum expects a $50 USD minimum spend to stay at their beautiful, white beach club, however they were an $18 cab from the archeological site, so you’d have to drive or bike.
2. Bring your own towel or blanket to the Tulum beach
We opted to bring our own towels and sit in front of a beach bar that was playing an amazing playlist of 80s, rock, pop and alternative music. They served beer for about $50 MXN pesos per Corona and we had a few drinks as we took turns swimming. It was fun people watching as the hippies, hipsters and yoga goddesses made their way up and down Playa Paraiso. It was the perfect afternoon, and was also very affordable.
1. Take in the Tulum Vibes and come back next year
Most of all, take in the relaxed atmosphere and discover Tulum. Get lost in a jungle, marvel at the Mayan ruins and take a stroll past chic beach clubs and hotels. Tulum has a very different vibe than Cancun and Playa del Carmen, and staying for the day completely rejuvenated my soul. We had the most perfect day at the beach, and like the turtles that come back every year, I can’t wait to plan next year’s visit to Tulum.
I hope these tips for visiting Tulum will inspire you to come soon. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.
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