ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 2019, UPDATED PRICES AND EXPERIENCES 2022
I was super curious for Tulum after having seen so many beautiful pictures on the internet. We decided to go for six nights as you can do so many activities near Tulum. I also heard really great things about the cuisine in Tulum, so we wanted to explore that as much as possible too! Beware that this is a pretty long post, as there is just so much to explore in Tulum! Of course I will answer the question, is Tulum worth the hype?
Opinion about Tulum
The opinions about Tulum are a bit mixed, so I want to discuss the pro and cons of visiting Tulum here. Overall I would definitely recommend visiting Tulum, but it is good to be aware of some of the downsides before you go.
Super fancy tropical vibes, it is located in a beautiful rainforest, the hotels at the beach have stunning architecture, completely in line with nature. There are pastel colors everywhere and amazing hippie vibes if you are into that.
Amazing cuisine. Tulum offers a super varied cuisine, the restaurants at the beach side all compete to have the best food. There are healthy options, classic Mexican food, variations on traditional food, sushi, Indian food etc. I did not have one bad meal in Tulum and I would recommend going for the food alone. The food in Tulum is expensive compared to other parts of Mexico, but okay compared to European beach towns.
The activities and cenotes are great! You do not have to get bored as there is so much to do. There is the perfect combination of culture and nature.
During European summer it is pretty quiet in Tulum. When you have lunch at one of the fancy beach restaurants you can take beach chairs for free (which is such a big difference with France and Greece).
At times seaweed takes over the beaches of Tulum, we enquired about this and this has been a big issue over the past years and as of 2022 this is still the case. The hotels clean up the seaweed, but there is just too much to clean everything. The beach right next to the Tulum ruins was completely full of seaweed, which ruined the fun of swimming and taking pictures. We just came from Cuba, which had super clean beaches, so this was definitely a bummer.
The hotels at the beach are really expensive. They all look super beautiful, but don’t ask Mexican prices. You can have much better deals elsewhere. There is an Instagram vibe to all the hotels, which may or not be your thing.
Tulum claims to be a kind of eco-chic kind of place, but that seems to be more of a marketing instrument than actual care about the environment. For example: There are large generators everywhere, which sometimes causes a smell. The Tulum “strip” where the beach hotels are located does not have cycling lanes and there is no proper street lighting, which makes it unrelaxing to cycle at night which causes everyone to take taxi’s.
Where to stay
When deciding on Tulum for a vacation, I did not know that most of the beautiful hotels on the beach cost more than € 500 a night! That is quite a lot out of our price range, so we decided to do “glamping” instead at Joy Tulum. We rented cabana style tents, which had a nice big bed, a mosquito net and not much else. The bathroom facilities were shared and super clean. As Joy Tulum is located out of the city center, you could take free bikes to get around. It also had a swimming pool and you also received a simple breakfast. In 2022 you can book Joy Tulum for € 45 per cabana per night. For Tulum this is a really good price, I think elsewhere in Mexico you can get better deals 😉 Glamping is definitely not for everyone, we were in Tulum in July, when it was super hot and humid and also mosquito season. These conditions were definitely not ideal for staying in a cabana, however I thought it was a really cool way to be able to explore Tulum on a budget and save some money for the amazing food! Tulum town has more budget option hotel rooms + hostels, while this is impossible near the beach.
Tulum ruins: We went to the Tulum ruins pretty early in the morning to beat the heat as there is no shade at the Tulum Ruins. Entry to the ruins is only a few euro’s and you pay an extra fee for your camera. When we arrived at the ruins, it was already pretty crowded. However it is still nice to walk around for a few hours. We also brought our bathing suits, but the beach was completely full of seaweed, so we skipped the swimming. The views from the Tulum Ruins over the Caribbean are beautiful. The ruins are definitely not the most interesting archelogical site I have ever seen. (I much prefer Chitzen Itza and Coba), but the location at the Caribbean makes it worthy of a visit.
Cenotes Crystal & Escondido: These cenotes are located a few kilometers out of the city center, we went there at the advice of our hotel. The entrance fee for both cenotes together is 200 MXN (2022), which is a steal as you get the cenotes almost for yourself. We went there at 11AM and there were hardly any people. The cenotes do not have grotto’s, so they look like lagoons. The water was super clean and clear and reflected the nature beautifully. The cenotes are not commercialized, you won’t want to use the toilets, they don’t have lockers and they don’t sell food (so bring your own). We did not bring our camera as we knew there wouldn’t be lockers, but we could’ve better brought it, because it felt super safe. We took pictures with our phones instead (hence the bad quality).
Snorkling Akumal: Akumal is located about 30 kms from Tulum and it has a beach where you can snorkel with giant turtles. We heard it was really touristy, but it felt like too good of an opportunity to pass up on. I had seen turtles in Malaysia before and felt Hielke absolutely had to see them in the wild. We took a colectivo to get to Akumal. Recently, Akumal has become more protected and they buoyed the water, so you cannot come too close to the turtles. You have to pay a fee to enter the beach (100 MEX), which includes changing rooms, showers and lockers. We bargained a bit for a tour and rental gear. I don’t remember exactly what we paid, but it was very cheap to see the turtles (2022 update: 350 MEX). At Akumal you can just walk into the water and you will find the turtles. We liked our tour guide because he was super helpful with spotting the turtles and the wildlife.
Coba: We took the ADO bus to the archeological site Coba. This costs about € 5 each way and was super comfortable. At the entrance you can hire a bike, which is a perfect activity for the day. Because a lot of people hire bicycles it never feels crowded at Coba. The area is stretched out, so everyone spreads out over the site. We brought sturdy shoes to climb the ruin, but did not feel it was really necessary. I am not super fit, but the climb was not too tiring at all. It is a cool opportunity to stand on the ruins and look out over the beautiful rainforest! Note that there are not many archeological sites that you can climb on. The village of Coba has a nice restaurant, cheap shops with embroidery dresses and we also zip lined over the lake.
Gran Cenote: Even though we had already visited beautiful cenotes, we decided to visit Gran Cenote on our last day. The entrance is 500 MXN, which is expensive compare to other cenotes (it increased from 180 MXN when we visited in 2019). I don’t think you can visit this cenote, without it being crowded. When we arrived at 10AM it was super crowded and pretty much impossible to take good pictures. But: don’t go for the pictures; go for the beautiful grotto’s and the cute turtles.
Hartwood: Hartwood is the most popular restaurant of Tulum and we made a reservation by email 1 month before. This will help you get a table! The menu changes regularly. When we arrived we still had to wait for our table, so we bought a cocktail to enjoy our wait. The cocktail was super original and made the waiting doable. A lot of Americans do complete photoshoot under the Hartwood sign, which was enjoyable to watch 😉 We even spotted influencers in our cue. The waiters of Hartwood are really down-to-earth and charming, which was refreshing for Tulum. We loved our food, but I don’t know how vegetarians would love this restaurant.
Posada Margherita: This might be my favorite restaurant of the bunch. Posada Margherita is an Italian restaurant, which is decorated with so much eye for detail in a tropical meets beach shack way. You could even enter it with your bike 😊 The pastas were delicious and not too pricy. I thought the price-quality was actually really good. Alcohol is expensive though, but we got to use the beach lounges for free which was super relaxing.
Gitano: Gitano is tropically decorated and looks super sleek. However I would recommend going for cocktails and not going for the food. We had some food that was good (hummus), some that was uninspiring (asparagus) and the ceviche was bland… How can you do a bland ceviche? The staff wasn’t very attentive either. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t worth the hype.
Burrito Amor: This is a little restaurant in the center of the town, where the food is much cheaper than the fancy beach restaurants (120 pesos per burrito). It’s a really cozy place that mainly sells burrito’s and interesting drinks. The food contains lots of veggies, good vegan options, you can add cheese to everything, delicious burrito’s, just perfect food. We went back several times, to compensate for our expensive meals in the beach area. The restaurants looks trendy as well and has a beautiful bougainvillea which was in full bloom while we were here.
Nomade: Nomade is decorated in Marrakesh style with lampions and cushions everywhere. Definitely a must to visit for the decoration alone. It just is super stylish and the staff makes you feel really welcome. It was super quiet when we went for lunch. The portions are really small, but delicious! You can also use the beach, which has turtle hatching sites (which you cannot cross) and relaxed hang outs. Also when you do not stay in the hotel you can participate in the yoga and sound sessions, which I wished I had done.
Azulik: We made reservations on the Azulik, which got confirmed, but when we arrived they didn’t have the reservation. The Azulik is architecturally one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.. the bamboo construction is super impressive. It has giant hammocks above the jungle, which was amazing for photograph. However, you are not allowed to take pictures with a camera other than you’re phone…).. very interesting for a hotel that is popular because of Instagram. We discovered that you do not receive a booth when you are just having a “regular” dinner (not spending thousands of euros). The beautiful booths are for influencers and rich people. Our visit was very strange, so we decided to leave and have dinner elsewhere. Just go for the cocktails!
Ziggy’s beach: We had lunch at Ziggy’s beach, so we could use the beach chairs. The food was simple, but tasty and the beach chairs were comfortable, the coronas were affordable. We spent a nice afternoon here! Unfortunately we both had a sunburn after, because the umbrella’s don’t really protect you against the sun, so use your sunscreen wisely. They have a bar with swings as well!
La Zebra: La Zebra regularly hosts salsa nights and that’s how we ended up here. There was good music, good vibes and lots of people dancing in a small square! The restaurant has good reviews as well, if you like salsa I would recommend having dinner there during salsa night.
Matcha mama: Matcha mamma is a Tulum classic. It is a little bar with cute swings that sells things like vegan ice cream, smoothies and bowls. It is a cool place for pictures and to cool off with an icecream!