When planning a trip to Tulum, it’s important to first do a bit of research for tips on what to know before you go.
The first time I visited Tulum, I left feeling extremely confused because it wasn’t at all what I expected. The second time I went, I stayed for two months as a nomad in Tulum and got to see its underbelly.
It was during this time that I discovered that Tulum on social media, as popular as it is, often leaves people feeling blindsided during/after their vacation.
One of the best things we can do as travelers is to go prepared. This doesn’t mean following an itinerary “to a T” (although, feel free to read my Tulum itinerary recommendations), as much as it means traveling aware.
So, to help you make the most of your trip, in this guide I will share a dozen essential Tulum tips!
Read more below to discover what you should know before you visit Tulum.
12 Essential Tips for Traveling to Tulum
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1. Don’t buy into the greenwashing
While social media projects Tulum as an eco-friendly destination, that’s not exactly true.
One of the biggest problems the community of Tulum is facing is greenwashing.
Greenwashing is, in short, a false way of advertising that a business, product, hotel, etc., is sustainable when actually it is not.
Tulum’s greenwashing is harmful, so it’s important not to believe everything you see marked as “eco-friendly.”
For instance, many of the hotels located along the beach—the coveted “Hotel Zone”—will look and feel and advertise eco-conscious values.
But, sad fact: Most hotels on the beach strip run on diesel generators 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This is because the hotel zone is not connected to the town’s grid.
While there are some exceptions (e.g. Papaya Playa Project) a lot of the hotels in Tulum’s boho-chic hotel zone are falsely claiming that they are sustainable.
I have done my best to do a round-up of true eco hotels in Tulum, in case you are looking for sustainable accommodation for your trip!
In short, my first Tulum tip is to stay aware of greenwashing and do your best to travel ethically and responsibly.
You can learn more about the underbelly of Tulum in this very insightful documentary — well worth your time!
Click play to watch it here:
2. Protect your trip with travel medical insurance
My second Tulum tip is to not forego travel insurance. Specifically, travel medical insurance!
I don’t think I need to explain why you need travel medical insurance but, it’s simply smart to be covered in case of accidents and emergencies while traveling abroad (to Mexico or elsewhere).
I personally use and recommend SafetyWing travel medical insurance (I’ve been insured since 2018!).
It costs just $40/4 weeks and will cover both your life and your trip to Tulum in case of emergency.
The perks of SafetyWing are plentiful but, essentially, it’s a nomad-friendly travel medical insurance that is cheap and versatile.
Signing up literally takes under five minutes (I counted when my sister got it for our trip to Costa Rica). So don’t wait, just bite the bullet and get insured now.
3. Avoid renting a car, unless you have to (bike or scooter around instead)
This next Tulum tip might be a little controversial but I’m here to tell you how it is!
Tulum is not very car-friendly. Why?
While getting to Tulum from Cancún via rental car is easy, navigating around Tulum is (or can be) a headache.
Depending on when you visit Tulum, traffic backup is awful.
Many unknowing tourists who rent a car for their Tulum trip end up sitting in traffic for well over two hours—all just to get to the beach zone for dinner or back.
And it’s not just that traffic is bad for car pile-ups, but cars are particularly bad for parking. And parking in Tulum’s hotel zone is extremely limited.
If you are a solo traveler or a couple, skip the car rental and then get around by renting a scooter or by renting a bike.
However, if you are traveling with a group of friends or family, I understand those options aren’t very convenient.
In that case, a rental car might not be avoidable.
However, you could still work around the traffic and parking headaches by going early to attractions and avoiding peak travel times (i.e. sunset).
Taxis, while a good alternative, still involves waiting in traffic. And they are ultra expensive.
This is why scooters and bicycles are great alternatives for saving both time and money (not to mention biking is more eco-friendly), but it all depends on what activities in Tulum you wish to see and do.
Feel free to drop me a comment below if you have a special circumstance and aren’t sure what would be best for your group! 👇
4. Not all cenotes are created equal
The cenotes in Tulum are one of the reasons why you are probably planning your trip in the first place. And I don’t blame you!
The cenotes around Tulum are some of the best in the Yucatán Peninsula.
However, that said, not all are created equal.
In fact, some of the most popular cenotes are not the best ones; they can be very expensive and crowded, and those things can spoil your experience.
I highly recommend getting off the beaten path and visiting the lesser-known cenotes.
Guided cenote tours might be a good option for you if you want a mix of popular/off-beat cenotes with transport included.
You can also check out my individual cenote guides below if you wish to visit on your own:
- 🌿 Cenotes Cristal y Escondido in Tulum
- 💀 Jumping in Cenote Calavera (Temple of Doom) in Tulum, Mexico
- 🦇 How to Visit the Coba Cenotes: Exploring the Mayan Underworld
- 🐊 Diving in Casa Cenote with “Pancho” the Crocodile
⚠️ No sunscreen—even biodegradable sunscreen—is allowed in the cenotes. The cenotes of Tulum (and the Yucatán Peninsula) are increasingly becoming polluted and contaminated with chemicals from our body products (and even human feces due to pollution). Please respect local regulations and RINSE OFF before entering the cenotes.
5. You can eat street food, but don’t drink the water
So many first-timers to Mexico wonder if they will get sick if they eat street food.
The answer is this: Maybe? It depends.
Have you ever eaten street food before? How sensitive is your stomach?
The street food in Tulum (i.e. especially at night in Tulum Town/the street food market) is pretty sanitary from what I have seen. I stay away from meat, typically, though, so that probably also helps.
As for the water in Tulum, like in most other parts of Mexico, is not safe to drink. You will get sick, in that case!
Tulum has already got a massive plastic waste and garbage problem (leakage from which is seeping into the underground cenotes…) so, please carry your own water bottle instead of buying single-use bottles when out exploring.
Your hotel should have free water fill-ups and you can also ask at restaurants when you go out for “safe” tap water, which actually comes from the big blue jugs.
6. Stay in Tulum Town if you are on a budget (or want a more local experience)
The actual town of Tulum (Tulum Centro) is actually way more interesting than the Tulum beach zone. For one, there are actually locals living in the town!
Two, the best restaurants in Tulum are arguably in the town as well.
And three, it’s cheaper to stay in the town than on the hotel strip. Everything is cheaper, actually—the food, hotels, rentals, shopping, taxis, etc.
✨ If you are looking for a mix of boho-chic vibes but want proximity to the town for activities and adventuring, then check out TerraNova Boutique Hotel, located in the La Veleta neighborhood (0.9 mi from Tulum Centro).
There is also a ton of Tulum street art in the town from local artists, which you won’t find along the hotel zone.
7. The best time to visit is during the shoulder seasons
Which one would you prefer avoiding—crowds or hurricanes?
Tough choice, right? 😉
The best time to visit Tulum is between November and May. But if you can, avoid the holidays at all costs.
Tulum is crazy popular enough as it is, but the holidays are insane.
If you want to actually be able to afford activities and accommodation without fighting for availability, then skip December and January.
The end of October/beginning of November offers a quieter experience of Tulum, but unfortunately, you risk experiencing a late hurricane (as we did when living there).
Tulum starts to get warmer and more pleasant in the spring, and crowds will come and go. Avoid the Easter holidays, too.
And while the summer will probably be the less crowded time to visit, it’s also the muggiest/hottest and rainiest as it’s Tulum’s wet (and hurricane) season.
8. Visit the public beaches or get a beach club day pass
Most beaches in Tulum are owned by private beach clubs. This makes it very expensive to stick one’s toes in the sand! 👣
Luckily, Tulum does have a large public beach, which actually blends into three different beaches.
But for simplicity’s sake, just pop Playa Paraíso (Paradise Beach) in your GPS and head there.
It takes about 20–25 minutes by bike from Tulum Town to Playa Paraíso or 15 minutes by car.
I would also recommend visiting the public beach after a morning spent exploring the Tulum Archaeological Ruins since they are close to each other.
For beach club passes that are on the opposite end of the Tulum Hotel Zone, where the luxury resorts are, you can expect to pay upward of $100–200.
Ziggy’s Beach Club is the cheapest (at around $50 USD just for entry) but that doesn’t include food. Also, it apparently sucks—according to my sis (lol).
🏖 If you’re going to splurge on a private beach club pass, I recommend going all out and treating yourself at either Habitas, Papaya Playa, or Alaya by Ahau.
9. Avoid wandering into unfamiliar streets alone and at night
Tulum is generally safe, but like anywhere in the world, you should always equip yourself with the best safety practices.
To stay safe in Tulum, I recommend:
- Staying aware of yourself and others, always
- Keeping in touch with the local situation/news on the ground
- Not walking alone at night
- Telling a friend where you are/what you are doing
- Not getting super drunk in public
- Hiding your valuables
- Asking for help from locals inside shops/restaurants if you need assistance
- Taking guided tours if you feel insecure about exploring on your own
- Getting a Mexican SIM card if you need data, and are traveling solo or for an extended period
- Not leaving anything valuable in your car rental or vehicle
- Trusting your gut and intuition — it’s usually right
Lastly, it’s wise to keep note of emergency numbers in Tulum.
- Tulum General Hospital: +52 (984) 871 2271
- Touristic Police: +52 (984) 849 7133
- Firefighters: +52 (984) 871 2055
- Traffic police: +52 (984) 802 5459
10. Don’t purchase drugs off the street (teens will offer)
Tourists in Tulum are easy targets for drug tourism, unfortunately.
Don’t be shocked if a teenager whispers at you things like, “Quieres weed” or “Coca, amigo?“
If you can buy cocaine in the middle of the busiest street in Tulum Centro in front of dozens of other people, then you know the illegal drug trade is already rampant.
That’s a sign that crime is closer than you think.
Tragically, this illegal drug trade is what brought bullets into Tulum and caused multiple deadly shootouts in 2021 and 2022.
So my best advice is to keep your drug use out of Tulum—don’t buy/support this harmful trade that is corrupting the community and killing locals and tourists alike.
And stay away from illegal jungle parties.
If you want to party in Tulum, do so mindfully back at your hostel or at legal events.
Of course, this is just a tip and message to be careful!
Please have fun and enjoy Tulum to the fullest. ☺️
More Tulum guides to help prepare for your trip:
- What to Wear in Tulum: The Perfect Packing List
- The Complete Guide to Scuba Diving in Tulum, Mexico
- 12 Epic Day Trips From Tulum You Can’t Miss
- What’s the Cost of Living in Tulum Mexico?
If you have any questions about what to know before visiting Tulum, please leave your comments/thoughts below.
I hope this list of Tulum tips helps you plan a more safe and more responsible Tulum vacation!
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