Tulum, Mexico

White sand beaches, Mayan ruins and a laid back vibe

Overview

What’s not to love about Tulum’s premier location on the Caribbean Sea? It’s a dream destination adored by honeymooners, families and friends. It even appealed to 13th century Mayans who decided the stunning coastal spot was ideal for training priests, building perfect pyramids and practising human sacrifice. Today’s visitors are rather more welcome with top hotels and luxury retreats offering quality accommodation in rustic finery, alongside family run boutique guesthouses.

Endless azure waters lined with miles of sugar-like sands and swaying palm trees attract 2 million holidaymakers each year to the Mexican shores of the Yucatan Peninsula. The most popular time is the cooler winter period of November to April, when people from all walks of life congregate to enjoy food, music and beautiful beaches. Low season from May to October sees hotter temperatures and wetter days, with the latter months in particular experiencing tropical storms. Some restaurants close during this hurricane season, but otherwise, visiting Tulum during the low season can be good option, offering a much more authentic travel experience. The iconic white-sand of Tulum is freed up, it’s easier to connect with the local population and their culture, and prices drop significantly. Yes, the chance of rain is higher but there are still many sunny low season days to be enjoyed. Overall it’s a wonderful time to really appreciate Tulum’s uniqueness and natural beauty without the crowds.

Beach and Pueblo

Tulum is famed for its miles of stunning beaches. Playa Paraíso is popular with locals and Playa Ruinas is renowned for iconic images of Mayan remains perched high above the white sands. Up market hotels boast their own private beaches, but there are many long stretches open to all. Explore and find your favourite, whether it is populated with bars serving delicious snacks and cocktails, or relatively pristine and untouched. Downtown Tulum is a good 4km from the beach area, walkable in 45 minutes or so or take a scooter or cab.

Explore Archeological Sites

Low season is a great time to visit Tulum’s Mayan ruins when you can really get into to the mysticism of the beautiful spot in relative peace. The ancient site formed a walled trading port city to serve the major centre of Cobá from the 13th to the 16th centuries. It’s most well-known for its exquisite watchtower El Castillo, peaking over the Caribbean Sea; and the Temple of the Frescoes with blue-green murals depicting Mayan gods.

Wildlife & Ecotourism

May through October is nesting season for the region’s beloved sea turtles with thousands of turtle mothers making their way onto the sands after sunset to lay eggs. A 3-day autumn festival celebrates on-going conservation efforts, educating locals and visitors on respectful practices and preserving the natural environment. A little further afield, check out the array of flora and fauna at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a large protected area and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to bats, dolphins, tapir, monkeys and a range of big cats like jaguar, ocelot and puma.


Major Airport

Cancun International Airport - CUN

Low Season Months

Jan Feb Mar Apr May
28°C
108mm
8hrs
Jun
28°C
187mm
7hrs
Jul
28°C
130mm
7hrs
Aug
28°C
146mm
7hrs
Sep
28°C
220mm
6hrs
Oct
27°C
202mm
6hrs
Nov Dec

Hotels

Top Experiences

Cycle the Beach Road

When temperatures drop, it’s a good time to explore by bike. A favourite route is to follow the beaches to the Mayan ruins at the northern end. Even the most directionally challenged would struggle to get lost on the straight single road. You can also cycle to the cenotes and into the pueblo.

Downtown Tulum

The Pueblo, some 4km inland, is a fun place to explore, especially if it’s too warm or wet for the beach. Its atmopshere and authenticity is often underestimated but there is so much to discover - local eateries, cobbled alleys, incredible street art, markets, shopping, galleries and museums.

Swimming with Whale Sharks

These beautiful creatures arrive in the area around June and, until August, whale shark tours have an excellent chance of locating them. It’s a truly unforgettable experience. Please do your research and be sure to pick a tour company that truly respects the gentle giants and their habitat.

Insider Tips

  • There are more than 6000 mysterious cenotes in the Yucatan. The natural sinkholes have appeared over millenia, resulting in hidden underground pools filled with water. They were considered sacred by the Mayans and many are protected by UNESCO. Fun to swim in and beautiful to look at.
  • In recent years, probably due to climate change, most beaches of the Mayan Riviera have been affected by the abundant presence of seaweed. The bigger hotels clear the weed from their space, and if visiting public beaches, you can check online where the clearest areas are that day.
  • Visitors in May can enjoy 8 days of indulgence at Tulum’s Caribbean Culture Festival celebrating Mayan, Mexican and Caribbean culture through food, music, dance, literature, film and more. It takes place throughout the city and features a variety of local and international events.

Good To Know

  • Mosquitos are especially prevalent in this area in the low season’s humidity. We recommend screens on open windows and long sleeves and trousers for the evening. Environmentally friendly repellents containing citronella are more effective these days, so try those, rather than a strong DEET.
  • Take a rainy day as an occasion to relax, meditate and connect with nature. Visit a spa or take yoga classes. You can spend the day at one of Tulum’s hotels and beach clubs, sheltered from the rain but still close to its beautiful beach. When the rain passes, enjoy the lush forest, freshly washed.
  • 15th September sees Independence Day, or ‘El Grito’. The celebration begins in the main square with mariachi music, dance and carnival games. Street vendors and restaurants serve all kinds of goodies and drinks. At 11pm, ‘el Grito’, the cry of independence, is called with bells and fireworks.

Food & Drink

Hartwood

££££

One of the most iconic and loved restaurants in Tulum. Their attention to sustainability, quality and local traditions translates into an unforgettable dining experience. Popular during high season, you’ve a much better chance of a low season table.

Tulum Art Club

££

Located in Tulum’s Downtown, it is a laid-back and alternative location, perfect for a rainy day. You can grab a bite, drink some good coffee, read, work, take part in an artistic workshop and appreciate beautiful art pieces, painting and sculptures.

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

£

If you like Mexican street food and want to enjoy it like a real local, La Chiapaneca is the place for you. It’s super cheap, open until late and always full of characters. Best tacos in town, although the empanadas and quesadillas are worth a try too.

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