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Tips for Traveling to Tulum: What to Know Before you go

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So you’ve had enough of being locked inside the past year and a half, and you’re thinking of traveling to Tulum? Well, you’re in the right place. 😜

Tulum is definitely a hot travel destination on the Yucatan Peninsula at the moment and is sure to help make up for all your valuable travel time lost. It’s both adventurous and exotic, warm and inviting, and will leave you with fond memories for years to come.

To help you get ready for your trip, this blog post will share insider tips from expert traveler bloggers who have spent time in Tulum and have personal experiences to share. They’ve done the research (and made the mistakes), so you don’t have to!

Today, they’re here to share their secrets so you know what to expect and how you can best prepare for your trip to Tulum.

But quickly before we jump into the expert tips, let’s first discuss why traveling to Tulum is worth it in the first place!

Reasons to Travel to Tulum

Peel back Tulum’s multitude of cultural, historical, culinary, and natural layers to create a truly unforgettable travel experience.

Tulum’s History

Tulum is an ancient Mayan city and one of the most important archaeological areas in the whole state of Quintana Roo. It was also one of the LAST Mayan cities to be actively inhabited after the Spanish conquest of the territory and the only archaeological site that faces the Caribbean Sea.

If you like to get a taste of history during your travels, be sure to check out Tulum’s Archaeological Zone with over 60 restored temples. Also, check out El Castillo, the most photographed of the bunch, which is an impressive stone structure strategically placed on a high cliff with dramatic views of the coastline.

Tulum (and its surroundings) are a Nature-lover’s Paradise.

While Tulum may be famous for its archaeological ruins, lively nightlife, and white-sand beaches, there are also plenty of activities in the area to satisfy eco-friendly travelers and nature enthusiasts! From lush nature reserves, picturesque cenotes, and lovely lagoons, to exotic wildlife tours, scuba diving, and adrenaline-pumping zip lines, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to choose from.

For a more unique experience, head out of the Tulum beach area and luxury hotel zone, and south of downtown Tulum to find the Sian Kaʼan Biosphere Reserve. This Riviera Maya reserve covers over 5,200 square kilometers and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. You can tour the reserve with a professional naturalist/biologist and get an inside look at the sensitive tropical ecosystem and local wildlife while also visiting the Mayan temple of Muyil.

It’s family-friendly!

Tulum is also known to be a great place for family and kid-friendly travel, with a number of activities and excursions in the area suitable for all ages!

The area’s light sandy beaches and calm weather make it a perfect destination for families to enjoy a beach vacation together. Most hotels will gladly cater to families with small children.

*It’s important to mention here that Mexico, in general, has its ups and downs when it comes to how safe it is as a tourist destination. With frightening headlines filling the news (especially in the US), it’s understandable why some would hesitate. Still, most travelers I’ve come across who have visited the area have nothing but excellent things to say. The truth is, as we see on this link, that a certain rise in crime has been noticed, yet it avoids tourists to a great extent. The government does its best to see to it that no harm comes to visitors and that guests remain happy. Still, it’s important to inform yourself of the current situation before traveling and you can do so here

Tulum’s weather is a dream almost year-round!

Tulum, like most places along the eastern Mexican coast, has a rather stable temperature and warm weather year-round. The summer temperatures average around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, a pleasant temperature for touring, adventuring, or lounging on the beach.

While the winter months, from December to April, are definitely the most popular for tourism, this, of course, means that the prices will also be highest during this period and that the beaches and resorts are sure to be packed. But hey, to each his own- maybe you’ll find it more fun that way!

The only month that it’s advisable NOT to visit Tulum is October, Tulum’s hurricane season. Unless you want your photo backdrop to look like this (on a good day.) 👇😬

Bad weather when traveling in Tulum

If you’re interested in visiting during Mexico’s yearly festivals and events, look into a trip during Dia de Los Muertos, during the start of November, or Mexico’s National Independence Day, in mid-September.

For a detailed breakdown of the best time to visit Tulum, check out this post by Adventure in You.

Tulum’s Culinary Experience Attracts Foodie-Travelers

In recent years this relatively small, once off-the-beaten-path, beach town has soared to the top of Mexico’s culinary destinations; some are even calling Tulum Mexico’s hottest culinary destination.

With a range of eating options from local street stands and budget-friendly taco joints to high-end tasting menus and international luxury eating experiences, Tulum’s foodie scene continues to grow and diversify.

If you’re asking me, Mexican food is some of the tastiest and most flavorful around. It’s hard to order “wrong.” And while you’ll find a wide range of international delicacies to choose from in Tulum (mainly due to the influx of tourists), I’d highly urge you to seek out some local specialties to try. With a mix of Mayan, Yucatecan, and Spanish influences, as well as easy access to fresh seafood, the dishes of this region are sure to delight and surprise you!

3 must-try local dishes to keep an eye out for when traveling to Tulum:

  • Salbutes (pronounced “sal-boo-tay”): deep-fried puffed tortillas typically topped with pulled chicken or meat and a mix of diced white cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, pickled onions, avocado, and spicy salsa and/or a cream sauce.
  • Camarones al mojo de ajo: shrimp in a garlicky butter sauce (similar to Italian shrimp scampi).
  • Tikin xic (pronounced “teekeen sheek”): a typical Yucutan recipe of whole fish marinated with adobo de achiote (a spice made from the seed of an evergreen shrub) and other herbs, then wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked on the grill.

Culinary scene Tulum Mexico

A bit of history, white sand beaches, great weather, nature, delicious FOOD, AND a developed tourist industry… what’s there not to like?

Alright, now that you know WHY you should travel to Tulum, and you’re probably about ready to book your ticket 😉, let’s talk about what you should know before you go!

Tips for Traveling to Tulum from Expert Travelers

Travel to Tulum on a Budget

In Mexico, you’ll find you can get by in most places by paying with a credit card. When traveling to Tulum, if you want to save money, or even just make your travel budget stretch even further, be sure you carry enough pesos with you so you can take advantage of the many cheap eats on offer in the downtown area.

When it comes to food and drink, many of the authentic Mexican food dishes are sold on smaller street stands and the majority may not accept your card as payment. Rather than pay for overpriced tacos in a beach club or at a posh restaurant, you can take avenge of the roadside eats and save your hard-earned cash for other activities instead.

As a rule of thumb, if you visit Tulum during the months of January, February or November you can expect accommodation prices to be cheaper due to the lower season. If you’re on an extremely tight budget you can also check out the hostels in Tulum as there are some great options.

Tip contributed by Daniel James of Layer Culture.

Do your “Seaweed Research”

Tulum is well known for its gorgeous Caribbean beaches, delicious authentic Mexican food as well as its historic ruins that date back to the time of the Mayas. What many people do not know about Tulum is that the beaches are covered in brown algae during the summer between mid-May and mid-October.

These brown algae are especially common on the Cancun and Tulum beaches. Due to the rising water temperature, the algae multiply further and further so that the beaches are literally flooded with them. The locals spend almost the entire day removing the masses of algae with pitchforks and wheelbarrows so that the beach is at least usable for the afternoon before it starts all over again the next day.

Most beaches are rarely covered with algae during the winter months of June to September; however, this is not comparable to the masses found during the summer months. Before you travel to Tulum you should inform yourself how bad the algae situation is at that time, as the masses can differ from year to year.

Tip contributed by Victoria of Guide your Travel.

Victoria, Tulum photo

Make Sure to Pack Mosquito Spray

Having lived in Playa Del Carmen the last year with several day trips to Tulum, the number one tip I have is to bring plenty of mosquito spray. It feels like the mosquitoes in Tulum are relentless, and they’re out all day, not just at night. They are hard to see, so you may not notice being bitten until it is too late.

In Mexico, not all mosquito spray is created equal. Some of the popular brands that work in the US aren’t as effective here. One of the best mosquito sprays that are all-natural is the OFF! Botanical Deet-Free mosquito spray. If you plan on heading to the beach, having an all-natural mosquito stray is best.
Even after you have sprayed yourself, you’ll need secondary protection. Mosquito repellent bracelets and stickers offer secondary coverage to protect you from the millions of mosquitoes in Tulum.

*Expert Tip: Don’t forget to spray your neck and behind your knees. Most people miss those areas, so don’t let the mosquitoes sneak up on you!

Tip contributed by Cee of Itz a Family Thing.

How to Choose which Cenotes in Tulum to Visit

If you’re traveling to Tulum, you should definitely add one or two cenotes to your itinerary. Cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with freshwater. They’re beautiful places to visit, and their crystal clear waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling!

Tulum is surrounded by a large number of cenotes, and it can be overwhelming to choose which ones to visit on your trip. The best way to make a decision is by figuring out what you’re looking for exactly. If you just want to visit a picturesque cenote where you can spend some time relaxing, going for a swim, and enjoying the scenery, consider Cenote Nicta Ha or Cenote Azul. Both cenotes look like idyllic ponds surrounded by lush, green jungle.

For those who love snorkeling, I’d recommend Jardín del Eden, Casa Cenote, and Cenote Aktun Ha (also known as Carwash Cenote). These gorgeous open-air cenotes are home to an abundance of fish, water lilies, underwater plants, and even turtles! Cenote Aktun Ha is a great option for scuba divers, too – especially if you’re a beginner.

More experienced divers should check out Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Calavera, two underground cave cenotes with spectacular rock formations. Of the two, Calavera (also called the Temple of Doom) is the most challenging.

Tip contributed by Marieke of Echos from Elsewhere.

Cenotes in Tulum.

The Best Way to Get Around Tulum: By Bike 🚲

My expert tip for this post, which is surely no secret, is to make your way around by bike when traveling to Tulum. Bikes are EVERYWHERE in Tulum and cycling is a great way to get back and forth between the “pueblo” (downtown) and the “playa” (the beach area).

Tulum is not the most walkable or pedestrian-friendly, and renting a car will most likely be a pain, as parking is not easy to come by. Taxis are always an option, but traffic jams on the long main beach road are commonplace, and taking taxis every day is sure to add up cost-wise.

On the other hand, bikes are very easy to rent and super budget-friendly in Tulum (about 150 pesos a day, or less if you rent weekly). Many hotels, hostels, and AirBnB’s will also loan bikes to guests for free.

Trust me, you’ll be glad you chose this option when you’re breezing by all the stopped traffic making your way to the beach.

For more info on biking around Tulum, check out this guide.

Best way to get around when traveling to Tulum is by bike.

Well, that wraps up this post! I hope you find this guide helpful when traveling to Tulum!

If you have any tips to share or questions to ask, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below 🙃👇

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