If you are thinking of planning a trip to Tulum, Mexico; first off: GOOD THINKING! Second, there a few things that I learned on my recent trip there that may help you plan more accordingly.
Travel Days + Time
Starting from before you even get there, consider how long you would like to go. My boyfriend and I only went for 3 days this past trip and that was NOT ENOUGH! Mostly because of the long travel time. We flew from Las Vegas and had a layover in Dallas,TX, making for a 7+ hr flight (not to mention our flight got delayed on the way there AND BACK, making for even longer travel days).
Then, once you arrive in Cancun Airport, its another 1.5-2 hour drive from there. So with a full travel day there and back, I wish we had stayed at least 5 nights in-between.
Next, you will want to arrange your transportation to and from the Cancun Airport. My airbnb host helped us to arrange a car service to pick us up from the airport and take us back, costing $180 round trip total for 2 people. We were picked up in a large, comfortable, air conditioned van. The cost would have been the same had we had 4-6 people as well. Seems steep- but after a long day of travel, it was the fastest/easiest way to get to Tulum. You can find similar pricing online through several companies if you just google ‘Airport transfer Cancun to Tulum’. It cost more if you just book 1 way so I recommend booking round trip.
If you want to save money and don’t mind a longer commute, there is a bus that picks up from Cancun Airport (ADO Public Bus) and goes to Playa Del Carmen, where you switch to a second bus that goes the rest of the way to down town Tulum. This option cost around $12-$15USD.
Once you are in Tulum, you can easily catch a Taxi to go up and down the beach road or to and from down town and the beach. It should cost around $150-$200pesos ($8-$10 USD)from the beach to down town, but always ASK first because the taxis don’t have meters. You can haggle the price as well. You can also rent bicycles on every corner and use those to get around!
Deciding on Accommodations
We planned our trip to Tulum pretty last minute in February (not a great idea) and found that AirBNB had the best options remaining. All of the hotels on the beach that were remaining on Hotels.com where $300+ a night and I am not one to splurge that much on a hotel room. I don’t spend much time in there anyways so I just look to have the basics covered! That being said, we decided to save a few bucks and stay in the Aldea Zama area, in-between Down Town Tulum and Tulum Beach.
Something to understand with AirBNB’s in Tulum is that its’ not locals renting out there homes, it’s small business owners who have had condos built and are renting out the ‘hotel’ like rooms or individuals with nice condos that they only use to rent out. So it was the same as staying at a nice hotel, just with a much better price tag! In fact, the place we ended up booking (The Highline Tulum) through AirBNB for $90/night was $180/night if you booked it through hotels.com! I’ll take a roof top infinity pool + A/C for $90 a night!
That being said, there is a sacrifice being made when you stay in Aldea Zama. This neighborhood is brand new and under construction, so as of February 2018 – there is NOTHING around. That may change in the years to come, but not yet. There was one little convenient store within walking distance but that was about it. We rode bikes to down town in about 10-15min and took a 10-20min taxi ride to the beach (depending on how far down the beach you are going).
My thought on booking a place in Aldea Zama was that I would be close to Down Town AND the beach, and be saving money by not staying ON the beach. Looking back now, if I wasn’t going to stay on the beach, I would just book a nice AirBNB in Down Town Tulum. There was a lot of similar options in Down Town for the same if not less money. I thought it would take longer to get to the beach from Down Town but there are more readily available taxis Down Town so it actually might have been FASTER. Another plus side to Down Town Tulum is that there are TONS of places to go within walking distance. The area is really growing! There were so many cute little restaurants, shops, coffee spots, etc.
In summary: Obviously staying ON the beach is the best option if you can afford it, OR if you book early enough to get an affordable accommodation on the beach through AirBNB (which they did have, but they were all booked by the time we booked the trip). If you want to save money, book a nice Airbnb or Hostel in Down Town Tulum and just take a taxi or bike to the beach. But also enjoy the up and coming down town area!
That being said, I would like to also point out that everyone says ‘oh Tulum is SO expensive”, and just like all other places I’ve travelled, it doesn’t HAVE to be. Yes, you can stay at Azulik Tulum for $500 a night and have a fancy dinner at Hartwood. BUT you can also enjoy Tulum on a budget and find an airbnb or hostel down town, ride a bike to the beach, and hit up happy hour at La Eufamia! Or if you are like me, I like to ride somewhere in the middle and do some budgeting and some splurging.
Speaking of La Eufamia… if you want to know some of the best spots to EAT in Tulum, check out my blog post Tacos in Tulum . (COMING SOON)
Activities in Tulum
Last but certainly not least, one thing to think about when planning your trip is what kind of activities you would like partake in.
Personally, this was just a relaxing trip for us so most of our activities consisted of tacos and margaritas 😉 But we did make it out to Dos Ojos Cenotes and it was awesome!!
Dos Ojos was about a 20-30min drive from Tulum and our taxi driver worked out a deal with us to drive us there – wait while we snorkeled and explored – and then drive us back. I think this is pretty common as there are not taxis waiting to pick people up when you leave.
Make sure to check out BOTH Ojos when you go, there is a 1 and 2. We brought our own snorkel gear but they have it available for rent as well as lockers. You can also book awesome scuba diving tours there if you are certified.
If you have more time, we also heard that Ik Kil Cenote is amazing, but it’s a much further drive away from Tulum.
Other activities available in Tulum are seeing the Tulum Ruins, Scuba Diving, Yoga, and hitting up Explor for more thrilling adventures. Or you can just lay on the beach all day and eat tacos 🙂