This was my second trip to Tulum, Mexico. The first time was an absolute dream (you can read all about it here!) The white, sandy beaches, the world renown cenotes and the fabulous plant based dining was unforgettable. Might or might not move here one day, just sayin’!
Tulum has so many options for all types of people. There’s the busy downtown, the quiet beach side, the adventure filled jungles, the wondrous Mayan ruins and delicious dining – everything from street tacos to New York-style restaurants on the beach.
Although Tulum is considered paradise, travel sometimes is not. We experienced some not so fun parts of travel. This blog post will be about my top recommendations for where to stay, what to do, what to eat but will also include tips of what not to do and general things to know when going to Tulum. Keep reading for my 7-day itinerary!
Day 1: Sleep in, Grab Brunch & Explore the Beach!
When Bert and I travel, we like to stay at AirBnB’s because they’re more affordable. I was really impressed with our AirBnB – the host acted like a hotel concierge. Anything we needed, they would help! We rented bikes through them, they helped us book excursions, they provided restaurant suggestions, they cleaned our room every other day, provided beach towels, etc. Best AirBnB experience ever! You can check out where we stayed here!
The AirBnB was also in the heart of downtown – super walkable and safe. After sleeping in, we walked to Matcha Mama for coffee and brunch.
After brunch, we wanted to head over to the beach. It’s about a 45 – 60 min bike ride from downtown to the beach. It’s a trek but it’s actually one of the most common ways of transportation. They have a safe bike lane that goes to the beginning of what they call the “hotel zone”. When you reach the “hotel zone”, the path runs out and you’ll be riding with traffic. Relatively safe but be cautious during rush hour, it can get very congested. Tip! Rent bikes EARLY. We didn’t try to rent bikes until 1 PM and we were too late – everything had already been rented. Plan on spending between $5-$10 USD per day.
To get to the actual beach, you have a couple of options:
1 – You can rent a cabana or lay chair from one of the hotels but you will have to pay a minimum. The minimum can vary depending on the hotel – typically it’s between $50 – $100 USD per person.
2 – Go to a public beach! We didn’t go to one but we learned it’s the most affordable way without paying a minimum. Some public beach options are Paraiso beach, Zazil Kin or Mezzanine.
3 – Find a hotel that allows you to just walk through to the beach without renting a cabana or lay chair. We discovered a hotel called Ahau Tulum that allowed us to just lay out our beach towels. We ended up buying a mojito at the bar which wasn’t a problem! Tip! Drinks and food are more expensive at the beach. Our mojito at the beach was $12 USD but in town you could get it for $5-7 USD. Be prepared to spend more at the beach!
Since it takes a while to get to the beach, we wanted to make the most of it before going back to town. One thing Bert & I like to do is to go on our own drink & food tour. We stopped at about 3 places and got drinks & tried small bites. We went to the following:
Ambar – we each got a standard margarita and split chips and guacamole. To be honest, it wasn’t the greatest place. We didn’t like the drinks and felt it was too expensive for what we ordered. No need to add this place to your list!
Posada Margherita – we split two pizzas and had water. This setting is MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. You get a table in the sand on the beach. It was such a beautiful experience – highly recommend!
El Tabano – we ordered veggie tacos (3) and I had the “Mama Lindo” mezcal cocktail. Also, the vibe here was amazing and superb service. Still to this day, it was the BEST mezcal cocktail I’ve tried!
Day 2: Chichen Itza
We visited Chichen Itza, which is one of the seven wonders of the world! As you can imagine, it can get pretty busy and it’s very touristy. We found an affordable all day excursion via iTour to visit the Mayan city. We booked the “Plus” package which got us a packed breakfast, 2 drinks at lunch and a beer after Chichen. None of us ate the packed breakfast so I would recommend booking the “Classic” package (saves you $20) and just get your own breakfast before getting on the bus (which leaves at 10am).
After a two hour bus ride, we then went to a local Mayan village where you can look at artwork and learn a bit more about the culture. We then were able to get lunch here that was buffet style. This is included in the price of your ticket purchase!
After lunch, they took us to Chichen. You have a guide that walks you around and tells you the story behind this historical landmark. The entire excursion is from 9:30 am – 8 pm so lots of stops and time to learn about the Mayan history. I would recommend doing this at least once while in Tulum! Make sure you bring comfortable clothes and lots of water and sunscreen. It will get HOT depending on the time of year you go.
Day 3: Visit the Cenotes
This is always a favorite excursion in Tulum! Bert and I did this last time and it was just as fun this time around. You can book this excursion on AirBnB or directly through their instagram account, Smiling Tulum for $120 a person and 3 cenotes. I love that the excursion lasts from 8am – 2pm (transportation, snacks and lunch included) because you have time to rest for the afternoon and freshen up to do something else at night. It’s the perfect day!
Day 4: Book a Cooking Class
We booked this cooking class on AirBnB and I can’t recommend it enough! This was definitely another highlight of the trip. Our host, Lily, hosts the class at her own home. Her son picks you up from a meeting point in town and drives all guests about 20 minutes to her house. This was a very authentic, Mayan and Mexican cuisine experience. She actually lets you participate by cutting up some of the ingredients and teaches you along the way why we use certain flavors, the history behind it and so much more! This experience was a 12/10!
Day 5: Get a massageat the beach!
For Kim’s birthday, we spent the day at the beach at the Sanara hotel. We started with morning yoga, a 90 minute deep tissue massage + Reiki, lunch at The Real Coconut and shopped around a little bit for the most adorable dress we wore later that evening for Kim’s dinner!
After lunch, we started to head back towards town but explore the beach on our way with a bit more food and shopping 🙂 We went to Raw Love and got two smoothie bowls. Tip! They only accept cash here so make sure you’re prepared!
Day 6: Go to a Beach Club
A lot of beach clubs will require you to pay a minimum to rent the cabana. We found a more affordable one at $50 USD a person atAkiin Beach Club. I stuck to ordering Aperol Spritz, water and some snacks. This was a slower day just to lay and hang out while listening to good music – it was the perfect last day.
What NOT To Do
Don’t show up late to the airport! I was at the airport 50 minutes early for my flight, however, Delta has a strict policy that you have to be there at least 60 minute before any International flight. They will NOT let you through if you are late. Don’t be like me where you have to pay over $700 to book a new flight to get there same day…
Don’t wear regular sunscreen for the cenotes! Sunscreen has chemicals that are toxic to the reefs in the cenote so buy biodegradable sunscreen that is clearly labeled.
Do not bring an American Express credit card. Most places downtown didn’t accept my credit card so I would recommend bringing a Visa or Mastercard.
Don’t go to Mexico without learning some Spanish. Knowing the basics can really help you get around the city, help reduce taxi fares and you’ll impress the locals that you’re at least trying. It’s a sign of respect!
Don’t lose your iPhone! Kim lost her phone on Day 1 so you can imagine it affected her trip experience. She was a great sport about it but it definitely made some things more difficult (QR code menus, digital boarding pass, negative COVID test results, etc.)
Don’t wear jean shorts or a skirt while riding bikes. I experienced some chafing and Kim’s skirt got stuck in her bike’s chain. Wear dry fit, loose and short material!
I wish I had good pictures for you but Kim and I went at night so you don’t see much 🙂 BUT, check out their food onInstagram! We ordered the “8 Traditional Meze” and the “Pirohu – Cypriot Ravioli”. Both were AMAZING!
THAT’S IT! Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I hope this helps you with your next trip and make sure you snap pics to share your experience with others. 🙂