Ah, Tulum. A gorgeous, chic beach town about 90 minutes south of Cancun that I hate to love and love to hate.
Here’s the thing: it’s one of the best beach towns I’ve visited. The beach is gorgeous, the food is delicious, and it’s filled with super cute, boutique hotels—so you’re spared the debauchery that comes with staying in a cookie cutter all-inclusive. But with that comes a few cons. It’s expensive, for starters. And it’s a bit of a scene. It pretends to be eco-friendly, but it’s not. Anywho… 🤣
Whether or not that made you want to visit or totally scared you away, it’s worth noting that I think the pros very much outweigh the cons when you’re in need of a good beach vacation (think 4-7 days).
There are 2 main places you’ll likely look into staying in Tulum: either the Hotel Zone, which is the main strip on the beach where all the boutique hotels and popular restaurants are, or Aldea Zama, an up-and-coming neighborhood in between the Hotel Zone + the City Center, which is where you’ll find lots of Airbnbs (and hotels, too). Here are the pros + cons for each:
Usually when I travel, I just get a little bit of cash out of the ATM when I land (with my debit card that refunds all my ATM fees) and I’m on my merry way. But for Tulum, you reallly want to make sure you get a lot of Mexican pesos out with your bank before your trip.
The ATMs are few and far between and unreliable, and Tulum heavily incentivizes you paying in pesos. Many places don’t take card at all, and the ones that do will fully fuck you over (for example, something will be the equivalent of $50 USD if you pay in pesos, but $65 USD if you pay in USD or card).
For our last trip, we got $20,000 pesos (a little less than $1,000 USD) at our bank ahead of time for a weeklong trip. We had a good amount leftover at the end of the week, but Mexico is somewhere we go back to frequently, so we weren’t worried about having leftovers.
Tulum is about an hour and a half to 2 hours south of Cancun (depending on traffic), and I definitely recommend booking your transporation from the airport ahead of time. If you go online you’ll find lots of legitimate options—you can book a shared shuttle for a low price, or spend a little bit more on a private ride. We’ve been using Cancun Vans and they’ve been great.
If you haven’t already, download the messaging app WhatsApp and create an account with your current phone number. You’ll notice that the hotels and restaurants all use the app to communicate about reservations and stuff like that.
Cell phone service is shotty all over Tulum—particularly in the Hotel Zone + Aldea Zama—so you’ll have to rely on wifi.
Here are a few taxi drivers you can reach out to via WhatsApp to schedule a ride (English or Spanish is fine)
Buy your sunscreen in the states—it’s a lot more expensive when you get there!
I also recommend bringing bug spray—the mosquitos get bad at night.
COVID tests are widely available and easy to get, since as of the time I’m writing this article you need one to fly back into the U.S. Antigen tests are between $35-$45. If you’re staying in the Hotel Zone, your hotel will book you an appointment and the nurse will basically just come shove that thing up your nose right on the beach.
And there we have it! When you’re all booked + ready to start planning your itinerary, head to this post about all of our favorite things to do (spoiler alert: it’s mostly food, with a lot of beach time).