For my birthday, my boyfriend (now, fiancé) and I went to Tulum, Mexico for six days. Initially, we planned on going to Southwest, USA but due to the unexpected government shutdown in the States months ago, we decided to postpone our trip there and chose Mexico instead.
Since we wanted a chill vacation, we skipped the big, all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and opted to drive for two hours from Cancun to the boho, shabby chic town of Tulum located in Quintana Roo.
Recently, Tulum has become every traveler’s dream and it’s getting more popular each year. To be honest, that kind of threw me off when I was planning our trip, but I know Mexico still has culture and is more than just a Canadian/American favourite beach destination.
With so many things to do, we tried to squeeze in as much activities as we could and so, here is our 6-day Mexico itinerary!
When to go
Mexico is an all year round travel destination, but I think the best time to go is during their dry season which is from December to April. It is also Mexico’s peak season so expect a lot of crowds and higher prices. Rainy season, on the other hand, begins around May through October. We went in April and it wasn’t too hot nor too crowded at all.
How long to go and how to get to Tulum
I would highly recommend at least “budgeting” for five days in Tulum. I think this would be enough to explore the ruins, cenotes, nearby cities and towns and, the beach.
The closest international airport to Tulum is Cancun, and from there it would take you at least two hours to drive south to Tulum. You could either take the public ADO bus transportation, rent a car or book a private shuttle. We didn’t want to stress ourselves so I booked a private transfer from Cancun Airport to Tulum. We booked via Cheap Transfer Cancun on our way to Tulum for 90 USD and Cancun Shuttle on our way back to the airport for 68 USD. Price is per vehicle and both were very reliable.
Where to stay
Tulum is divided into two sections, the Playa (beach) and the Pueblo (town), both aren’t too far from each other and where to stay really depends on you. If you wanted to be closer to the beach and the high-end restaurants, book your stay at one of the eco-friendly, luxury hotels at the beach. But if you wanted to save a little and experience the Mexican culture, it would be best to stay in town. We chose the latter and never regretted it.
We stayed for two nights in The Strabon, a new boutique hotel at the secluded part of Tulum town. We did enjoy our stay here! The staff were great and they even asked the car rental company to drop the car at the hotel. We booked a king room and it was just across the pool. The only thing we didn’t love about it was the unpaved road on the way to the hotel.
Price: 80 USD/night
Our next hotel is the beautiful and minimal Casa Pueblo! This hotel was even featured in Conde Nast Traveler. I loved every corner of this hotel! The staff were very accommodating and it has a restaurant that served the best breakfast. This hotel is located in the main road of the town and closer to everything, but parking could be a problem.
Price: 200 USD/night
Getting Around in Tulum
We first decided to not rent a car at all since Tulum is a bike-friendly town. But on our second day, we thought that it would be best to just rent a car and skip the taxis/bikes.
Day 1: Arrive in Tulum, visit Tulum Town, drinks at the beach
We flew via Westjet and it was a 4-hour flight from Toronto to Cancun. After we arrived in Tulum around 5 in the afternoon, we rested a bit and took a taxi to the best tacos in town, Antojitos La Chiapaneca. They have the best tacos al pastor and it is very cheap (only 10 MXN per taco or 50 cents USD). After our early dinner, we strolled around town and went souvenir shopping at the nearby markets. We then took the cab again to the beach and had my first mojito of the trip in Mateo’s.
Day 2: Sunrise in Playa Paraiso, visit Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera, dinner at the beach
We woke up at 5am to catch the sunrise at Playa Paraiso, Tulum’s public beach. We were lucky and had the place all to ourselves and enjoyed our first Mexican sunrise. Entrance fee is 100 MXN/person.
After going to the beach, we went straight to Gran Cenote, one of the most famous cenotes in Tulum. It was only a 15-minute cab ride from the beach to this cenote and we were the first to arrive. A cenote /se-no-ti/ is a natural-sinkhole made with limerock that has groundwater underneath it. There are at least more than a thousand cenotes in Mexico, specifically in Yucatán peninsula.
Tip: Go here early to beat the crowds! Entrance fee is 110 MXN/person. I think there were 10 of us in line when it opened at 8:10 am.
After Gran Cenote, we went back to our hotel and had breakfast. This was also the time when we decided to rent a car. The next cenote we visited was Cenote Calavera located at least five minutes from Gran Cenote. This is a cenote you could jump into! We went around two in the afternoon and there were only less than ten people when we visited. Entrance fee is 100 MXN/person.
We headed back to our hotel to prep up for our dinner reservation. We got to the beach early so after we parked our car, we rented a bike for 100 MXN/person for two hours and biked around the beach road. We stopped by to have a smoothie in Matcha Mama and then had our dinner in Hartwood, the most recommended restaurant in Tulum. If you want to eat here you need to reserve at least a month to get in.
Day 3: Day trip to Chichen Itza, visit town of Valladolid, visit Cenote Suytun, check in at Casa Pueblo, dinner at the beach
Our third day in Tulum started early and we drove up north to Yucatán peninsula. We left our hotel in Tulum at 7 in the morning and drove for two hours to arrive at 8 in Chichen Itza, one of the seven world wonders of the world. There is an hour time difference between Quintana Roo and Yucatán to explain above.
Again, if you want lesser crowds, go here right when it opens. Entrance fee is 475 MXN/person. You also have the option to hire a tour guide for 1000 MXN.
After Chichen Itza, we drove for half an hour and went straight to the charming Mayan town of Valladolid. Valladolid is still off the beaten path and a must-visit if you’re in Mexico! The best thing to do in Valladolid is to just walk around and let every calle surprise you. The must-see ones are the church of San Gervasio, Coqui Coqui Perfumery, Calle de los Frailes and Cenote Zaci. I’m so glad I got to experience this town’s Mexican authenticity and culture during my visit.
Another nearby destination is Cenote Suytun. Though we didn’t get to swim on this cenote, it easily became a favourite. Entrance fee is 70 MXN/person with life vest included.
Tip: Go here around noon so you could see the light come through the opening.
We headed back to Tulum just right in time for dinner at Posada Margherita, the best Italian restaurant in town. No need to reserve here but it is a popular restaurant so go early.
Day 4: Visit Tulum Ruins, breakfast at the beach, go to Casa Malca, visit Cenote Dos Ojos, dinner at the beach
On our 4th day, we woke up early (again) to visit the only Mayan ruins situated in the Caribbean coast located at Tulum National Park. I actually love these ruins more than the famous Chichen Itza. This Mayan Kingdom overlooking the sea is very awe-inspiring! Entrance fee is 75 MXN/person.
After immersing ourselves with so much Mayan history, we went to El Pez for breakfast and then to Casa Malca, a luxury hotel that was once a mansion of Pablo Escobar.
Tip: At first, we were asked to pay a minimum spend of 1500 MXN/person to get in to this hotel but we were able to get in by just visiting and taking pictures.
We then went to Dos Ojos, another famous cenote in Tulum. Dos Ojos or two eyes has the most turquoise blue cenote that we’ve ever been. It is also a famous cenote to snorkel and scuba dive. Entrance fee is 300 MXN/person to see the two cenotes.
We went back to our hotel and had our dinner in Kin Toh, the restaurant in Azulik hotel. We didn’t make a reservation so we had to line up. Again, there is a minimum spend of 565 MXN/person to get in to this Mayan-Mexican restaurant.
Tip: When you’re in Azulik, visit Ik Lab, an art gallery by the great-grandson of art collector Peggy Guggenheim. Also, cameras are not allowed both inside the restaurant and the gallery.
Day 5: Beach day, souvenir shopping
We allotted our last full day in Tulum to just lie down at the beach. After our breakfast at the hotel, we went to the restaurant, The Real Coconut of Hotel Sanara, for our beach day. Most hotels have minimum spend to rent their cabanas etc. but this hotel didn’t require us to do so since we were dining at their restaurant. We specifically love their smoothies and tacos!
Unfortunately, Tulum, and I believe, the rest of Cancun, has an ongoing seaweed problem so we didn’t get to swim at the beach.
We were still craving for more tacos so we drove back to town and tried El Carmelo Jr.’s guajillo and fish tacos. We ended the night by walking around town to buy more souvenirs and had drinks in Bateys, another town favourite restaurant with live music.
Day 6: Goodbye
It was a rainy day on our last day in Tulum. After indulging ourselves with the hotel’s breakfast, we headed back to Cancun for our afternoon flight.
Mexico definitely exceeded our expectations! Despite knowing about the seaweed problem after we booked, this didn’t hinder us to enjoy its natural beauty, history and culture. I wouldn’t be so surprised if I’m back here again in the near future!
- Always carry cash with you and exchange your dollars to Mexican peso before your trip. Most restaurants and entrance fees mentioned above only accept cash, and sometimes only in peso. Exchange rates vary throughout Tulum but we found the best rate in 7 Eleven, the one close to the road on the way to the beach.
- Aside from sunscreen, an insect repellent would be your friend. Since Tulum is surrounded by forests, expect A LOT of mosquitos.
- Taxis are everywhere in Tulum but they don’t go by the meter. So always ask for the price before getting in the cab. For reference, from Tulum town to the beach it’s 150 MXN one way, and that’s only a 15-minute drive.
- Parking could be an issue if you are renting a car. But for me, it’s still best to rent a car when traveling in and around Tulum. Some parking spots could also cost you at least 100-200 MXN for a few hours and it really depends where you are in town.
- Tulum is not budget or backpacker friendly. It could be really expensive especially when you are dining at the restaurants at the beach (expect to pay at least 100 USD or more). The ones at the town are way cheaper and are great options if you’re on a budget! Tipping is usually 15%.
- Tulum is generally safe and the Mexican people are so friendly! Knowing a little Spanish could also go a long way!
Disclaimer: All opinions and views on this post are my own. Copyright all pictures by Kathleen of I Am Miss Adventures.