Ultimate Tulum Itinerary: How to Spend Your Days in Tulum

by | Last updated Jun 22, 2021 | Mexico | 2 comments

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Looking for the perfect Tulum itinerary? I gotchu! After traveling and living in Tulum for 3-4 months this past year, I was able to pull together quite a few itinerary options so that I could help out my sister came to visit. Whether you’re going to spend 3, 5, or 7 days in Tulum (or more), you will have all the best things to do curated into special itinerary guides right here at your fingertips!

If you’ve already got your flights booked and car rental underway, you’re one step closer to sticking your toes in the sand at Playa Paraiso and exploring Tulum Town’s buzzing food scene at night. All that’s left to do is map out what you will do and see during your time in Tulum.

In just 3-5 days, you could easily check off all of Tulum’s highlights, splash in a handful of cenotes, and include a fun day trip to nearby Coba and other incredible Riviera Maya destinations.

With one week in Tulum or more, you will have plenty of time to explore Tulum fully and then go on at least two or more day trips that are a bit further away in the Yucatan Peninsula.

So say goodbye to FOMO, because here is the ultimate Tulum itinerary!

The Ultimate Tulum, Mexico Itinerary

How Many Days in Tulum Do You Need?

To say you need “X” amount of days in Tulum is hard because you could literally spend months here and not see everything.

That said, how many days you need in Tulum depends on what you absolutely WANT to see and what you are okay with not seeing.

If you plan to spend the bulk of your time exploring Tulum Town and the Tulum beach strip, then I’d recommend 5 days. Within that time you can float down the biosphere reserve in Sian Ka’an, hit up Tulum’s beautiful beach, and eat your way through plenty of fish tacos.

With a 7 day itinerary in Tulum or more, you’ll have plenty of time to do all that and more – swim with sea turtles off Akumal beach or go on an exciting mini road trip across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Maybe you can even spend one day on an island?!

What’s the Fastest Way to Get to Tulum?

The best way to get to Tulum and start soaking up every minute of your itinerary is to fly into Cancun and then take a bus or rent a car. Buses from the Cancun Airport will cost $70 MXN while rental cars start at $15 USD/day.

Depending on how long you stay and what you want to do while here, I’d recommend getting a car to share with friends since it’ll be cheaper and you’ll have more freedom to move about.

Where to Stay to Make the Most of Your Days in Tulum

boho-chic Airibnb bedroom in tulum mexico where to stay

People often come to Tulum and stay in the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera – aka the beach strip), but unless you want to spend LOTS of time at the beach, then I’d recommend you stay in downtown Tulum in the pueblo.

Another option is to stay just on the outskirts of it in the up-and-coming expat neighborhood of La Veleta where there are lots of neat Airbnbs and even a sweet digital nomad coworking space.

I recommend you to stay in the town or nearby it simply because the beach area of Tulum feels so far away from all the other activities, apart from the Tulum Ruins and of course, the public beaches and ritzy beach clubs.

Many people don’t realize it’s a good 20-minute drive from Tulum Town to the beach zone, and then once there, traffic is often a nightmare and you could get stuck in it for 2 hours just trying to get to/from your hotel.

So keep that in mind when booking your stay in Tulum!

RELATED: The Ultimate Digital Nomad Guide to Tulum

The Perfect Tulum Itinerary for 3-5 Days

From jumping in a cenote to relaxing on a white sand beach, here are the best things to do with 3-5 days in Tulum.

Day 1: Explore Tulum Pueblo & Its Street Art

bicycles parked at matcha mama in tulum mexico

Tlaloc street art mural in Tulum

To take it easy after your flight and drive, I recommend exploring downtown in the Tulum Pueblo.

If you arrive in Tulum during the morning or afternoon, I’d recommend renting a bike (cost $150-200 pesos) and exploring the town by bike. There are easy bike-friendly streets and even a bike lane that crosses downtown. Hop on and off to check out the shops and take note of where you want to revisit.

But most of all, use your bike and go on an amazing DIY Tulum street art tour. Not only will the colorful murals lead you down some of the neatest streets in the town, but you’ll also get to witness tidbits of local life that you don’t get to see in the Hotel Zone.

If you arrive at night, there’s a sprawling street food market you can hit up to taste authentic Mexican fare or head to the touristy streets where you’ll find gastropubs and mezcal bars.

Where to eat for lunch or dinner on Day 1: La Hoja Verde (outdoor vegetarian/vegan restaurant), or TU (cozy Mexican gastropub)

Day 2: Tulum Ruins + Beach

el castillo mayan building inside tulum ruins

You can’t possibly come all the way to Tulum and NOT immediately want to go splash in the turquoise-blue Caribbean Sea!

Although you could head to the beach on your first day in Tulum, it might not be optimal depending on what time you arrive. In this case, I’m putting it – along with the Tulum Mayan Ruins – as must-dos for Day 2.

That way, if arrive late in Tulum for Day 1, you don’t have to scramble to get to the beach and ruins earlier in the day when there are fewer crowds. So push heading to the beach for Day 2 and instead go enjoy a few celebratory mezcal cocktails at El Grifo downtown for the evening of Day 1.

So, the best beaches in Tulum are actually the public (free) beaches near the Tulum Ruins. They are called Playa Paraiso, Playa Santa Fe, and Playa Pescadores. But they all basically merge together to form one very long white sand beach.

You’ll either need a car, scooter rental, or bicycle to get there since walking would take way too long.

I would recommend starting with the Tulum Ruins and then hitting up the Tulum beach after your visit. It will take around 2 hours to do a self-guided tour of the magical Tulum Ruins that sit perched on the coastline. The archaeological site is quite big so you’ll be walking a lot (and wear a hat/sunscreen since there’s not a lot of shade).

Then, once you’re all finished at the Tulum Ruins, hit up Playa Paraiso and grab a lunch of fresh fish tacos at La Villa Pescadores – a beachfront restaurant and hotel with the most amazing views. You can literally chow down on your food with your toes in the sand. There’s no better way to debut your Tulum itinerary!

To finish up the day, I’d recommend exploring Tulum’s famous – yet often overcrowded – Hotel Zone. Check out the free museum in Azulik and head up to the rooftop nests at Kin Toh to watch the sunset.

Day 3: Cenotes!

kids swimming in cenote cristal near tulumCenote Cristal

Another thing you absolutely can’t miss out on in Tulum is jumping in the cenotes – aka flooded limestone sinkholes (there are over 6,000 of them in the Yucatan Peninsula!).

To enjoy your time in the Tulum cenotes, make sure to GO EARLY! Right at opening time is best. Cenotes aren’t as enjoyable when you have to share them with dozens of other people. 😉

RELATED: 25 Epic Cenotes in & Around Tulum You MUST See

Some of my favorite (and highly recommended) cenotes to include in your Tulum itinerary are:

  • Cenote Calavera
  • Gran Cenote
  • Cenotes Cristal y Escondido
  • Casa Cenote

We actually did a Discovery Dive in Casa Cenote and got to see Pancho the crocodile and lots of freshwater and saltwater life like crabs, lobsters, and barracudas! It was amazing and I HIGHLY recommend it! (P.S. You can also go snorkeling or just swimming here – the cenote is so beautiful and cuts through the mangroves in the jungle).

discovery diving in casa cenote

Note: If your Tulum itinerary ends here on Day 3, you could hit up 2-3 cenotes in the morning and then rent a bike and cruise down Tulum’s Hotel Zone so you don’t miss out on taking pictures at the beautiful Ven A La Luz art fixture in front of Ahau beach club. You could also tuck a mini-tour in the Hotel Zone at the end of Day 2 depending on how long you want to stay at the public beaches.

Day 4: Muyil Ruins + Sian Ka’an Lagoon Float

For Day 4 in Tulum, there’s a really fun activity to do that’s not too far away (giving you more time for the beach road or cenotes) that involves floating down an ancient Mayan canal in the lagoon inside Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

I have a whole guide explaining how to visit, so I won’t go into so much detail here other than that you MUST do this!

First, you will drive 15-20 minutes south of Tulum to the Muyil Ruins – this is another Mayan archaeological site but unlike the Tulum Ruins, these are hidden under a forest canopy.

But the real highlight on this mini day trip from Tulum is taking a boat tour and skirting across the lagoons inside Sian Ka’an and then jumping out to float down an old Mayan trading route from the seat of your life vest!

To do the whole experience – exploring Muyil and doing the boat tour plus maybe climbing the watchtower – will take around 3 hours, so it’s best to around 8-9 AM and finish up at 12 PM in time to head back to town and grab lunch.

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Day 5: Ancient City of Coba (+ Cave Cenotes)

panoramic view of cenote multum ha near coba mayan ruins

No 5-day Tulum itinerary is complete without a visit to the nearby ancient Mayan city of Coba and its underground cenotes.

Coba is located a bit further away from Tulum (45-50 minutes driving) but is still really doable for a day trip.

There, you will get to walk or ride a bike around one of the most mystical Mayan ruins sites. You’ll get to see an ancient, well-preserved Mayan ball court, hieroglyphics, and even climb atop one of the pyramids for an epic look out over the jungle.

After grabbing lunch in the village, head to the underground cave cenotes of Multum-Ha, Choo-Ha, and Tankach-Ha.

Day 6: Fly Home or Rest Day

If you only have 5 days in Tulum, your trip will end here. You’ll likely head back to the Cancun Airport and be on your way, in which case I hope the above itinerary helps plan your trip!

In the case where you’re staying longer than 5 days in Tulum, read more below for more adventures!!

Also, since Days 1-5 are pretty packed full of activities, I suggest taking day 6 to take a breather and just chill at the pool or beach. Consider it a “free” day!

An Epic Tulum Itinerary for 7-10 Day Trips

Day 7: Laguna Kaan Luum & Cenotes

Laguna Kaan Luum outside of Tulum

Laguna Kaan Luum

Cenote Escondido in TulumCenote Escondido

Laguna Kaan Luum is a gorgeous and massive lagoon/cenote just outside of Tulum that has incredible picturesque views and a very deep hole similar to what you’d see in Belize’s “Blue Hole.”

You can swim here, sit on the dock, or take epic drone pictures of the swings in the water. I believe you are no longer allowed to swim “over” the hole since it’s so deep, but you’ll still be able to swim around it.

Also, nearby Laguna Kaan Luum lies two of my favorite cenotes: Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido. Both are well-worth visiting if you enjoy swimming in jungly oasis-like open-air cenotes that don’t attract the same size of crowds as Grand Cenote or Dos Ojos does. They are also much cheaper to visit ($120 MXN total for entry to both).

Day 8: Scuba Diving or Snorkeling

scuba diving in tulum mexico

There are few places in the world that rival Tulum’s scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities, seeing as it has incredible underground cave cenotes and the Mesoamerican Reef just off its shores.

Feeling adventurous? Then I’d highly recommend doing a discovery scuba dive in the Casa Cenote in Tulum. You can also combine a cenote dive with an ocean dive, even without your PADI, and it’s simply an amazing experience to include in your Tulum itinerary.

RELATED: The Complete Guide to Scuba Diving in Tulum, Mexico

If you don’t have your PADI Open Water, you should consider getting it while in Tulum. I took a private course with a Dive Instructor and got mine over the course of 2-3 days.

Also, if you don’t feel comfortable diving, then know that you can still go on snorkeling excursions to the reef as well as to some of the cooler Tulum cenotes (like Dos Ojos).

Day 9: Day Trip to Chichen Itza & Valladolid

If it’s your first time visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, you should consider driving the 1.5-2 hour trip to reach Chichen Itza – one of the Wonders of the World. This Mayan archaeological site is famous for good reason; it’s one of the biggest and most well-preserved Mayan cities to visit in Mexico.

On your way, you will also get the chance to stop by in the charming colonial city of Valladolid. Depending on how much time you have, it’s worth spending a few hours here.

Seeing as you just crossed over state lines from Quintana Roo to Yucatan, you should wander around the town and eat in a traditional restaurant to taste the staple dishes from the region.

While in Valladolid, you can also take the opportunity to visit the Instagram-famous Suytun cenote (with the light beam and platform) or get a rush of adrenaline as you jump in Cenote Zaci!

Day 10: Spend the Day at an Eco Beach Club

beaches tulum

If you are planning to spend 10 days in Tulum, I’d recommend hitting up a beach club to chill on your last day (or whenever your last day is).

Beach clubs in Tulum are really popular because they give you access to the “private” beaches located in front of the hotels.

You normally can’t access them unless you pay either an entrance fee or pay enough in the on-site restaurant to count toward your admission price.

Some of the best beach clubs, like Habitas or Papaya Playa Project, have a $100 minimum fee in addition to whatever you spend on food and drinks inside the club. However, if you’re willing to front the costs – those two will leave you speechless.

The third best beach club I’d recommend is Ahau – the one that’s behind the Ven A La Luz statue and next to Raw Love (a popular organic cafe).

If you’re spending more than 10 days in Tulum, below are more recommendations for what to do and see!

Extra Days 11-14: Exciting Day Trips

woman riding scooter on a day trip from Tulum to Punta Allen

If your trip to Tulum lasts between 11-14 days, then that gives you plenty of time to do more day trips and overnighters on a tropical island and harder-to-reach destinations.

Bacalar is my next most recommend trip to include in a longer Tulum itinerary. If you love Tulum, you’ll equally love Bacalar. This Magic Town is a 2-hour drive to reach its main attraction is its vibrant Lagoon of 7 Colors ideal for kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling. The town itself is rather sleepy but with a few hidden gems like organic cafes, eco-glamping hotels, cenotes, and Spanish fort ruins.

Playa del Carmen is another option for spending a day out of Tulum, but one that’s a bit closer to home. The vibe here is a bit different from that of Tulum. It’s more developed, touristy, and flashy. From Playa del Carmen you can also take a quick 30-minute ferry over to the island of Cozumel where you can go scuba diving on the incredible reef or explore the island’s virgin beaches by jeep.

Lastly, if you’re planning on wrapping up your Tulum itinerary with an easy overnighter in Cancun (to be able to get to the airport faster), then consider going a day in advance. This way, you can hop over to the incredible island of Isla Mujeres located just off the shores of Cancun’s coastline. Here, you can swim with whale sharks, visit a turtle rescue center, or rent a golf cart and tour the island for the best scenic lookouts.

Itinerary for 2 Weeks in Tulum or More

Isla Holbox Ultimate Guide: 10 Best Things to Do (& Not Do!) including the best beaches, where to stay, how to get there, and more Holbox travel tips! #holbox #mexico #island #travel | bucketlist briA stormy day in Isla Holbox

With two weeks in Tulum Mexico or more, I’d recommend all the above but just at a slower pace. If you’ve already done everything, then I’d recommend also adding to your itinerary either:

Of course, feel free to insert these suggestions into your Tulum itinerary, but note that the four destinations above are further away and/or take longer to experience so copy and paste them into a shorter trip itinerary with caution!

Final Responsible Tips for Visiting Tulum

tulum te amo heart mural tulum

Tulum, Mexico is no doubt an incredible place to visit, but it is becoming entirely too saturated for its own good.

Plastic pollution and greenwashing are rampant, so you have to be extra thoughtful of your consumption behavior as well as aware of your impact when you stay in a hotel – especially in the chic Hotel Zone where many “eco-friendly hotels” use diesel generators 24/7 to power their property and dump their sewage in the mangroves. You can read my ultimate guide to Tulum for more information about this issue.

Also, make sure to use reef-friendly biodegradable sunscreen for swimming in the ocean so as to not contribute to the detriment of the reef.

To preserve the fragile ecosystem of the cenotes, don’t wear any sunscreen at all (even if it’s biodegradable).

Lastly, support the locals and always try to consider that what you buy, where you stay, and who you hire for tours all have long-lasting impacts on the community and environment.

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2 Comments

  1. Dylan Harpin

    Great post on Tulum! Such an incredible destination to head to right now, thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • Bri

      Thanks for reading! Hope you have a great time in Tulum 🙂

      Reply

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Hi, I’m Bri! I’ve been slow traveling around the world in search of new adventures since 2013. I have lived in 8 countries on 4 continents including Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, and parts of Europe! I created this blog to inspire others to live a life of adventure, seek out meaningful experiences, and to travel slowly and mindfully. Join me on this journey and let’s tick off our bucket lists! Read my story here.

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