Is Tulum, Mexico, worth visiting? You asked. We’ve answered. Cue this guide to the sun-soaked town at the end of the Riviera Maya. It will list seven of the top reasons why you should consider adding Tulum to your travel itinerary for the coming year, touching on the top things there are to see and do in this much-loved resort.
We’ll hop from the caster-sugar beaches and the reef-ringed islets nearby to the mist-gathering jungles that spread out inland, where cenotes and old Mayan temples hide beneath the teak trees. We’ll also take a look at the rich history and the tasty food that beckons so many folks to this corner of Mexico.
Of course, there are lots more than just seven reasons that can answer is “Tulum, Mexico, worth visiting?”. But this guide aims to home in on the real highlights of the town and reveal why it’s risen and risen to become one of the most Instagram-worthy hotspots in the whole of North America…
Visit Tulum for the beaches
The beaches in Tulum town itself really are a sight to behold. They’ve established themselves as something as a go-to for Instagram influencers thanks to those blinding-white sands and a rugged backing of jagged rocks and boulders, occasionally topped by a Mayan temple. What more could you ask for to fill the feed?
There’s quite a few to get through within close reach of the city center itself. For others, you might have to travel 10-20 minutes. The basic rule is that those closest to the downtown core of Tulum are going to be busier. The ones that require a trip southwards will be much quieter, as that’s the direction going away from the popular Riviera Maya (more on that later).
Our top picks for beaches within the heart of Tulum would include:
- Playa Paradiso – Often quite busy but with very soft sand and a backing of coconut trees.
- Playa Santa Fe –The north end of the main city beach tends to have fewer sunbathers.
- Playa Pescadores – Come here to see the fishing boats docked on the shore. And to eat fish tacos in the nearby restaurants.
- Playa Ruinas – The beach that everyone takes a selfie at, Playa Ruinas is home to an ancient Mayan temple that looks right out over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean coast.
Visit Tulum for the history
Tulum isn’t short on history. In fact, it sits in the middle of a region that’s got some of the most striking ancient relics in the whole of Mesoamerica.
The Tulum Archaeological Zone covers the western haunch of the city itself. There, you can wander between the ruins of a whole Mayan town that was built multiple centuries ago. Its centerpiece is the hulking El Castillo citadel that rises a whopping eight meters above the Caribbean Sea, but there are also old streets, court rooms, and shrines filled with carvings.
No talk of Tulum’s history could be complete without a mention of Chichen Itza. It’s one of the musts of a trip to this part of Mexico, offering some of the most striking Mayan temples ever built. Oh, and then there’s the city of Valladolid, a gorgeous medley of colonial buildings that’s crowned with a particularly handsome 16th-century cathedral that could easily be a landmark back in Spain.
Visit Tulum for the food
Mexico isn’t hailed for its zesty tropical flavors and earthy cuisine for nothing, you know. The thing is, there are much better culinary hotspots in the country than Tulum, from Mexico City to the whole state of Oaxaca. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some very tasty things to keep you going here. There really are…
Head to Tulum Pueblo and you’ll find sizzling street-food stalls operating on virtually all the corners and sidewalks. They’re the best places to sample the regional staples. Will it be the Yucatan’s own cochinita pibi, shredded pork marinated in orange and garlic on tortilla, or one of those rich mole sauces, made from chocolate, hot chili peppers, and tomato?
There’s also another side to Tulum’s food scene; the international side. In the last decade or so, a whole range of creative gastronomic spots has opened, serving everything from avocado on toast to Italian pizza to health-conscious raw vegan foods (check out Co.ConAmor for that!). You won’t be short on options when it’s time for dinner – let’s just put it that way!
Visit Tulum for the day trips inland
It’s impossible to ignore the pull of the wild jungles that lurk inland in this part of Mexico. Unfolding in a huge sweep of bodacious trees, palms, jacarandas, and African tulips from the coast to the depths of the state of Yucatan, the region holds a number of bucket-list treasures. What’s more, Tulum is the perfect base for getting out to see them.
Number one on our list would have to be the hidden city of Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s considered the finest Mayan ruin in the world – just check out that colossal pyramid temple at its center! From there you can also explore a whole host of secret sinkholes known as cenotes, which are now famed as fantastic wild swimming spots. The best of them are the Cenote Dos Ojos (a mecca for cave divers) and the mangrove-fringed Casa Cenote.
We’d also recommend hitting the vast Reserva de la Biósfera Sian Ka’an. It’s a big, protected area south of Tulum that encompasses sections of the coast but also large swathes of mangrove and wetland further inland. Guided boat tours are the best way to get there. Expect to see all manner of tropical birds and perhaps even an elusive jaguar.
Visit Tulum for access to the Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya is one of the most celebrated runs of coastline in Mexico. Nope, scratch that. It’s one of the most celebrated runs of coastline in the whole of North America. Stretching something like 100 miles from end to end, it starts at the buzzy party town of Cancun (spring break blowout, anyone?) and ends in the incredible lagoons of the Sian Ka’an reserve south of Tulum itself.
Today, the whole area is connected up by Federal Highway 307. That makes it easy to drive or hop buses from point to point, meaning you get access to the whole shebang when you base yourself in Tulum. What do we mean by “whole shebang”? How about a seemingly endless array of talcum-powder beaches fronted by a bath-warm Caribbean Sea. Tempting, eh?
There are some beaches and beach towns here that we think every first-time visitor to Tulum should try to check out. They include the glistening white sands of Playa Maroma, the sleepy town beaches of Puerto Morelos (great of you want to escape the crowds), and the turtle hatching grounds near Akumal (go there to swim with loggerheads and laze under stooping coconut palms).
Visit Tulum for the hotels and resorts
One of the main reasons that so many tens of thousands of travelers look to Tulum for their hit of R&R each year is the sheer quality and quantity of hotels that are on offer. Yep, this end of the Riviera Maya is positively brimming with top-notch places to stay. It’s a varied mix, too, running the gamut from boho-boutique beach hotels to chic five-star all-inclusive options where you’ll spend your time being pampered and lazing in the infinity pool.
Tulum has a so-called Hotel Zone. It’s much smaller than the one on offer up in Cancun, but it’s also right by the beach and bursting with accommodation choices. You’ll find some good places in the nearby riviera towns and even in Tulum Pueblo (good if you like authentic Mexicana vibes and nightlife), too. Here are some of our top picks:
- Hotel Bardo – Adults Only ($$$) – A deluxe hotel for loved-up couples that channels a little of the Bali mystique with its polished concrete and indoor-outdoor bathrooms. Very cool. Very cool indeed.
- Aldea Xaan Ha Tulum ($$) – A good midrange option in Tulum city with compact but clean rooms, uber-fast WiFi, and a stunning central pool. Beloved of digital nomads.
- Mayan Monkey Hotel & Hostel Tulum ($-$$) – On the way to the beaches on the south side of the city, this bohemian stay has both doubles and dorms, along with very stylish outdoor gathering spaces.
Visit Tulum for the nightlife
Tulum might not have the same reputation for no-holes-barred nightlife as Cancun a little up the coast but it’s still pretty wild. In fact, there’s oodles of tequila drinking and mezcal imbibing to be done in these parts, with some pretty OTT clubs on the menu to boot.
There are two main party zones in the city. The first strings along the main beach road that connects up the playas on the coast. It’s known colloquially as the Beach Zone, and it’s riddled with ramshackle Carib-style shacks that serve mojitos and rum punches, with seating areas filled with beanbags and hammocks gazing over the sand. It’s the place to be for long evenings of chillhop and reggae while listening to the waves roll in.
Then you get the Tulum Pueblo. That’s the nickname for the downtown core of the city. A wilder alternative to the cluster of beach bars out east, it’s packed with tequila cantinas and craft beer outlets. It’s also where the Tulum Pub Crawl happens, hopping from local venue to local venue with all sorts of extras thrown in.
Is Tulum, Mexico, worth visiting for the nightlife alone? That depends. Proper partiers might prefer Cancun, but we think there’s loads to keep you going here no problem!
So, is Tulum, Mexico, worth visiting? The verdict
Is Tulum, Mexico, worth visiting? 100%! There are stacks of reasons why this town is up there with the most popular of all in the land of tacos and sombreros. It’s fringed by a whole archaeological park that offers glimpses of some of the Yucatan’s most striking Mayan ruins. Mind-blowing beaches reach around the coastal coves below that – think pure white sands and seas of milky blue. Tulum is also a cracking jump-off point for exploring the greater Yucatan Peninsula, with its idyllic islands, mysterious ancient temples, and come-swim-in-me cenotes. What are you waiting for?