TULUM TRAVEL GUIDE
Where to Stay - Click here for price key
Some nice hotels can be found in the mixed neighborhood (residential and small business) called Tulum Pueblo. This area lies on either side of Avenida Tulum (Highway 307 is called Avenida Tulum in town, between the PEMEX on the south end and the 7-11 at the north). More hotels line the road to the beach; the priciest obviously face Tulum’s gorgeous beach. Many of Tulum’s moderately priced and budget hotels do not accept credit cards; so bring cash, and plastic for the ATM.
Hotel Addy ($$, Calle Polar Ote. #92 between Satélite and Centro Norte, one block west of Avenida Tulum, tel. 984/871-2423) is a budget hotel with a friendly front desk staff. It’s right next door to our favorite restaurant, Ginger!
A German-conceived project geared to the young and young at heart, Papaya Playa Project ($$--$$$; Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila Km. 7.5, Hotel Zone, tel. cell 984/116-3774, www.PapayaPlayaProject.com) offers weekly movies, “soirée surprise” on Thursdays and Katernacht (OK, give us a hint!) on Saturdays. The sprawling beachfront complex has a mini-market, a raw foods restaurant, and juice bar. Accommodations vary from those with bunk beds and shared bathroom to those with two beds with private bath. None has electrical outlets, but they do have electric lights. Internet in the lobby, free parking.
Teetotum ($$$; Road to the beach near Avenida Tulum, Tulum Pueblo, tel. 984/745-8828 or cell 984/143-8956, http://www.hotelteetotum.com) is modern and comfortable, with chocolate brown, orange, and lime green decor. The management is accommodating, the food pretty good and the location at the top of the road to the beach, near Avenida Tulum, is convenient to restaurants and cafés. The bike path to the beach and ruins runs right in front of the hotel.
One of Tulum’s original yoga retreats, Shambalá Petit Hotel ($$$--$$$$; Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila Km. 7.5, Hotel Zone, tel. 984/807-3894, www.shambalapetithotel.com) is open to individual and group travelers. The latter mostly come for yoga courses. It’s got a primo location on the long, sandy beach. They also offer cooking and Spanish classes.
People from all around the world converge at Uno Astrolodge ($$$--$$$$; Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila Km. 8, just south of Shambalá, Hotel Zone, tel. cell 984/164-8496, www.unoastrolodge.com), staying in tents and cabins. The group offers sunrise meditation, kirtan chanting, yoga, aerial and intuitive dance, healing circles, circus arts for children, meditation, massage, and Maya astrology. And more! The restaurant, Cardamom, faces the beach. The vibe is 100 percent international hippie. Sweet.
Where to Eat - Click here for price key
Many of Tulum’s restaurants do not accept credit cards, so bring cash, and plastic for the ATM.
For cheap eats on Avenida Tulum, visit El Perico.
A small restaurant facing Avenida Tulum, El Capitán ($$--$$$; Avenida Tulum between Alfa and Júpiter Sur, tel. cell 984/116-3967) serves big portions; the salad we got was endless. A traveler we talked to raved about the coconut shrimp. There’s a lot to choose from on the menu, and the bar serves wine and mixed drinks.
Mateo’s ($$--$$$, Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila, Zona Hotelera, tel. cell 984/132-6030) has juices and smoothies plus coffee, sandwiches, soup, burgers, and some Mexican standards. Very casual and pleasantly full of people, it’s outdoors with part of the patio covered.
Open daily, the restaurant at Hotel Teetotum ($$--$$$; Road to the beach near Avenida Tulum, tel. 984/745-8828 or cell 984/143-8956, www.hotelteetotum.com) is comfortable, with cement banquets with cushions, good Wi-Fi, and an easy-going vibe. Food can be slow, though. Open daily 8AM to 10PM, they serve international and Mexican dishes, with breakfast all day. Happy Hour is between 5-7PM; enjoy your drinks in the restaurant or upstairs lounge/patio.
We returned several times to Ginger ($$$--$$$$, Calle Polar Ote. #92, next to Hotel Addy, tel. 984/116-4033); open evenings only (after 7PM); closed Sundays. Owner/chef Javier, from Mexico City, cooks up great classic yet contemporary dishes, including a delicious red snapper, great salads, pastas, and desserts. It’s a block west of Avenida Tulum.
We didn’t have a chance to eat here, but the Thai cuisine at La Mezzanine ($$$--$$$$, Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila Km. 1.5, tel. cell 984/131-1596) was recommended several times; the setting overlooking a rocky beach is said to be beautiful. If you like martinis, that’s their specialty.
In business for around 20 years, Zamas ($$$-$$$$, Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila, Zona Hotelera,) has a restaurant and cabins on the beach. On the menu are burgers, seafood, vegetarian dishes, and wood-fire pizzas. Often featuring live music, it’s as popular as a bar as it is a restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner.
Many vacationers return more than once to La Zebra ($$$, Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila Km. 8.2, Zona Hotelera, tel. cell 984/115-4726, www.lazebratulum.com). Dinner is served starting at 6PM, with a salsa band on the weekends and sometimes tango on Sundays. There are tables and lounge chairs on the sand.
Serving dinner only, Hartwood ($$$--$$$$, Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila Km. 7.6, www.hartwoodtulum.com) comes highly recommended by locals, and the-open air restaurant has been written up in bon appétit magazine. Menus featuring Caribbean, Mexican and international recipes change daily and feature locally grown produce. Open 6 to 9PM, Wednesday through Sunday. Reservations not accepted; no credit cards.
What to Do
Several cenotes, or limestone sinkholes, are found along the road to Cobá, including Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera. More are found along the road to Playa del Carmen: Cenote Escondido, Cenote Jardín del Edén, and Cenote Cristalino Each is worthwhile and has its own distinct personality. Our favorites were El Edén and Cristalino.
Extreme Control Kiteboarding (Paraiso Beach Club, north end of Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila, tel. 984/745-4555, www.extremecontrol.net) teaches paddle boarding and kitesurfing and rents equipment.
MotMot Diving (Ave. Tulum #540, tel. cell 106-8292, www.motmotdiving.com) leads dive tours to area cenotes, caverns, and offshore reefs.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve can be visited through the Maya-run co-op Chunyaxche-Muyil Ecotouristic Services (south end of Carr. Tulum—Boca Paila, at the entrance to Sian Ka’an). The standard tour includes a visit to Muyil archaeological site, boat tour of the lagoon, and time to swim at the beach. Visitors can also arrange fly-fishing, kayaking, bird-watching trips; overnighting in Sian Ka’an’s rustic accommodations gives travelers time to fully explore its varied ecosystems. Other recommended tour operators are Amigos de Sian Ka’an (tel. in Cancun 998/892-2958, www.amigosdesiankaan.org) and Centro Ecológico de Sian Ka’an (tel. 984/871-2499, 984/802-5419 or cell 984/146-2079, www.cesiak.org).
Tulum Archaeological Site (left at the end of the road to the beach) is open daily 8AM to 5PM. Walk or take a shuttle bus (small fee) from the parking lot. Entrance fee; separate fees for video cameras and parking.
The following golf courses are listed in order heading north from Tulum. See individual websites for transportation options.
Riviera Maya Golf Club (Carretera Federal Chetumal--Benito Juárez Km. 250, Akumal, tel. 984/875-5048, www.rivieramaya-golfclub.com) has a 27-hole course and a practice course. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones II.
Designed by Thomas Leman in 1991, Puerto Aventuras Resort Course (Carr. Chetumal-Cancun Km 269.5, Puerto Aventuras, tel. 984/873-5100, www.puertoaventuras.com) is a challenging jungle course.
With rolling fairways and natural sinkholes, Playacar Spa and Golf Club (Carretera Chetumal – Puerto Juárez, Km. 309, tel. 984/873-4990, www.palaceresorts.com) was designed by Robert von Hagge. It’s just south of Playa del Carmen.
You’ll find info about Tulum at www.rivieramaya.com. There’s a tourist information booth on Avenida Tulum near Osiris Norte, next to a bank.
Getting There and Around
Most people fly into Cancun international Airport (code CUN) because it has the most options and often the cheapest fares on national and international carriers. There is co-op shuttle service to Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen; from either of those towns you can catch a bus to Tulum, or of course you can grab a private taxi.
The Cozumel Airport (code CZM) also has international access to this region (code CZM), but then you must take a ferry boat. Merida (MID), Chetumal (CTM), and Campeche (CPE) are smaller airports with less frequent and often more expensive flights, mostly through Mexico City.
ADO provides bus service from the airport to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The ADO bus terminal is located at the southeast corner of the main airport terminal. The bus to Playa del Carmen departs every hour from 10:30AM to 9:30PM.
In Tulum, the ADO bus station is located a few blocks off Avenida Tulum, between Osiris Norte and Polar.
Most of the major international car rental companies (and some regional companies) have offices in Cancun airport and at major hotel zone hotels. In most cases you get the best deal by comparing prices on the Internet and booking online.
Hwy 307 connects Cancun to Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and beyond. The divided highway is four lanes until just south of Playa del Carmen, when it becomes two lanes (one lane each way).
Tulum is 115 km (69 mi) south of the Cancun airport and 60 km (36 mi) south of Playa del Carmen.
By Bike or Scooter
There’s a 2.5-km (1.5-mi) bike path connecting Avenida Tulum (as Hwy 307 is called within the Tulum city limits) and the beach, and then heading north along the Boca Paila-Tulum highway to the Tulum archaeological site.
Tulum Bike (Carretera Federal Tulum—Playa del Carmen Km 230, across from the gas station, tel. 984/871-2190 or cell 984/106-7933) is one of several companies that rents bicycles and motor scooters by the day or half day.
In Tulum, cabs have fixed prices by destination. You can always ask to see the rate card if you’re in doubt about the price quoted.