Tulum, Mexico, is a quirky, funky strip of beach at the far end of the Riviera Maya.
I’ve been coming here for nearly 20 years, and every time I arrive I expect things to have changed. Grown up or something.
Despite the opening of hot, gourmet restaurants and an increasing number of beach-chic boutiques, Tulum remains unchanged. And that’s just fine. I love Tulum for the lack of crowds, the massive, clean white beach and super warm ocean water. I love the variety of amazing, low-key restaurants and amazing selection of yoga classes.
But Tulum may not be for everyone. If you’re thinking about traveling to Tulum, especially with kids, read on to discover if Tulum is right for you.
Getting to Tulum
By comparison to the big all-inclusive resorts located only a few minutes from the international airport, Tulum is “far away.” However, in reality it’s a very quick drive to get from Cancun to Tulum. The road is good and thanks to recent road improvements, there is little traffic or obstructions in the way.
The drive from Cancun to Tulum is about 2 hours.
Immediately upon turning off the main 307 highway, the pace of life begins to change. Expect to see plenty of bicycle traffic as you head towards the beach. When you arrive at the T, you will likely turn right. Most of the hotels are to the right, though some are to the left, which is also the direction of the Mayan Ruins.
Where is Tulum?
The Tulum beach strip, which stretches from the Mayan Ruins to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, is about 6 miles long. As you approach the Tulum beach strip from the 307 highway, if you head left there are a few hotels on a generally rocky cliff overlooking the beach. There is one stunning beach here that is actually protected as a national park.
Most of the hotels are to the right. The cliff/ rocky bit (for the most part) extends from the T down to a hotel called El Pez. Once you’re past El Pez, the beach opens up into the classic, wide, white sandy Tulum beach you’ve likely seen in Instagram feeds around the world.
The next three miles or so are the most desirable places to be in Tulum.
What to Expect in Tulum
While of course every hotel is unique, the hotels in Tulum all have a few things in common. First, they are all very small, generally 20 rooms or less. Why? Tulum is ALL about the beach and these rooms definitely deliver a “right on the beach” experience. Sleep overlooking the ocean and take just a few steps from bed to ocean in the morning.
But yes, the hotels here are small and Tulum is a super in-demand destination. This means that thanks to the limited inventory, expect to pay more for a room here than you will further north in Playa del Carmen, Cancun and the rest of the Mexican Riviera.
Hotels are generally constructed out of wood with thatch ceilings. No buildings are more than 2 stories, and all lighting is kept to a minimum – especially outside.
Finally, you won’t find any all-inclusive hotels in Tulum. Part of the charm of Tulum is exploring all the unique, chic places along the beach. You can have every meal at a different place for a week and not try them all. When you’re in Tulum, be sure to wander, explore and get a feel for the area!
Finally, Tulum is still very much an “eco” destination. The jungle here is thick and the community has done an amazing job at resisting and limiting big development. As such, the roads have potholes, you’ll probably get a few bug bites, and central air conditioning just doesn’t exist. Keep in mind that Tulum is all about nature and the beach, not about luxury accommodation and creature comforts.
If you’re are a beach fanatic, happiest with sandy toes and wind swept hair, love to try new yoga classes, enjoy fresh food and spend your beach days relaxing next to a hip demographic – Tulum is right for you!