I sometimes view travel guides from bloggers with a little reluctance – going somewhere once doesn’t make you an authority on the subject and while I feel confident writing about New York and (obviously) Bristol and San Francisco, I didn’t intend to write a guide to Tulum. But! There was so much more I wanted to include in my Tulum travel diary that I figured I’d give it a go.
Here are five things to eat, shop and do in Tulum – if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide including travel in and around the city, finances and tourism info, I strongly recommend reading Brittany Thiessen’s detailed post.
If you do one thing while visiting Tulum, visit a cenote. These magical limestone sinkholes filled with freshwater are one of the stand-out highlights of our trip, and make for the perfect antidote to the heat. Sometimes underground, sometimes open air and sometimes somewhere in between, cenotes are wonderful to swim, snorkel or dive in, depending on their size and structure. We visited Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos, Cenote Escondido and Cenote Multum-Ha. Entrance fees range from a couple of US dollars to $10-15, with larger, busier cenotes such as Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos attracting a higher fee. While financially this isn’t much, I far preferred the smaller cenotes as they attracted less people. Check out my guide to Tulum cenotes if you need further convincing!
It’s easy to get from the beach to the center of Tulum, either by bike or by taxi. We chose the latter to go out for dinner on several occasions, as many of the restaurants along the beach were quite expensive. Recommended by colleagues and our faithful Lonely Planet guide was El Camello Jr – a buzzing roadside restaurant serving a delicious selection of Yucatan dishes. For beachside dining, we also loved Zamas and Posada Margherita.
You may think that it makes sense to visit the Tulum Ruins while, you know, in Tulum, but I would encourage you to hire a car or hop on a bus and travel an hour or so north to Coba. The Coba Ruins are less frequented than those at Tulum or Chichen Itza and all the better for it. A tour is an inexpensive way of getting an insight into the lives and rituals of the Mayans. There is little signage on site, so without our tour guide we wouldn’t have known that the Mayans built a new layer of their pyramids only once every 52 years, or that ball games used to end with beheading and ritual suicide.
With stairs leading from Tulum beach to a patio overlooking the sea, a pre-dinner cocktail at Mezzanine is the perfect way to watch the sun go down. The hotel and restaurant has an in-house mixologist, and their quirky blend of ingredients (rum-soaked raisins and smokey liquors) make for delicious, refreshing combinations. Mezanine also offer a delicious breakfast/brunch everyday, and I can vouch for the French toast in a big way.
Ok, technically there isn’t a shop in this travel guide, and while there were plenty of cute boutiques lining the streets to the south end of Tulum Beach, I must confess I didn’t look in a single one. The only shop we frequented was Mexidivers, and if you’re a qualified diver or simply interested in giving it a go while in Tulum, I would wholeheartedly recommend them. After a refresher class we did a couple of open water dives, but the highlight was diving in a cenote. Our instructor was a professional cave diver with years of experience under his (weight) belt and our cenote dives were an experience I won’t forget. If enclosed spaces or being underwater aren’t your thing, it’s still worth snorkeling in a cenote, as the visibility and colours of the water are incredible.
That’s my rough and ready guide to Tulum! It was my first time visiting Mexico and I know I’ll be back soon, so if you have any recommendations for Tulum or beyond, leave them below.