I have mixed feelings about this place, BUT it is absolutely gorgeous and despite the negatives, I would go back.
As always, I will share the good and the bad with you about this insta perfect type of location.
Unless you have a car, you'll be most probably get here by ADO bus. We took ours from Merida.
This is a tricky one as Tulum is sort of split between 2 parts. Tulum village and Tulum Zona Hotelera. We decided to stay in Tulum Vilage @Xscape Tulum, which is a nice place and has a good quality price.
Below I put some pros and cons of the 2 areas where you can stay:
-bike: If you want to make things easier and faster for you to access you need to rent a bike. If possible rent it at your hotel as you most probably won't need to pay a deposit.
- stray dogs: if like me you are afraid of stray dogs, there are quite a few in Tulum village. They looked very lazy and tired from the sun, but keep an eye on them
- grand cenote: although from Tulum Village a lot of people recommended to go by bike, I decided against it as you are acutely cycling on the road to Coba and it felt unsafe to me
- ADO bus to airport: this is for sure not the case all the times, but take some extra time that you would normally take for going to the airport. If here is any accident along the way you have the risk to miss your plane (and that's no fun). the problem comes as the emergency line is not kept as an emergency line and police/fire-brigade/ambulances can't pass fast would there be a need
Now, to make the long story short, below our itinerary and how we spent our 2 days & 1 night in Tulum
Day 0 - Night 1
We arrived late and so there was only time for dinner. Based on recommendations from both what we could find online as well as received from the hotel, we decided to have dinner at El Camello Junior. We had mixed octopus - shrimp cevice and it was delicious
Breakfast at Hub Ku
The place was very close to our hotel and as we read good reviews about it we decided to try it out. For sure nice, with good food and coffee, my favorite part was the way it all looked. :)
Some will think that I am like a broken toy, but go there early & mainly for 2 reasons. One less crowds and second to avoid the heat. We arrived there just before 9 and there were already quite some people. Probably the best way to get there is by bike.
Entrance Prices & Schedule
The ticket is 80 pesos for foreigners to be paid cash
Program is 8:00 - 17:00 (you can buy tickets till 16:30)
Sunday's Mexicals can enter for free with their ID, take this into account when planning visiting Tulum Ruins.
History of Tulum Ruins
Tulum was a seaport, trading mainly in turquoise and jade - pretty cool, right? Tulum means wall in Maya, but, the town's original name, Zama translates into "place of the dawning sun."
"Although inscriptions dating from the 6th century have been found, most of the constructions were built around the year 1200, at which time Tulum reached its peak." (source)
The Castle of Tulum
"The Castle is an imposing building right on the Caribbean Sea shore, whose limestone walls rise above sea level. With a natural rocky ground 12 meters high that serves as its base, it's an ideal point to see the ocean. Although, its function would not be so much of a watch tower, but as a guide for navigators, in other words, it served as a beacon or light house only for friendly ships. Tulum's coast is protected by a very long coral reef that was an obstacle for sailors that didn't know Tulum's secret passage. That's why the Mayans sailed out to sea in parallel, and when they arrived at a perpendicular line to the Castle of Tulum, they turned towards the shore through a narrow path from where they could access the coast." (Source)
From the ruins you can normally go down on the beach via some stairs, on the day I went the access was closed, which on one hand I was happy about as it provided the perfect opportunity of people-less photos
Exploring the Caribbean Beaches
So this is a sort of a perfect beach - gorgeous 50 shades of turquoise water with wide white sand beach. It's a dream. The other point is that it's very long so despite getting crowded here and there you'll find a spot where there are not that many people.
As a beach, I don't think it's better than the ones before or after it, but it is for sure more packed. For this I would recommend not to stay there. Also if you want to rent sun beds they are more expensive than at some neighbor locations.
! Important: The law in Mexico says (at least by 2020) that you are not obliged to pay any tip/service fees. Thus you can kindly refuse to pay or pay a different amount than requested.
It happened to as to be obliged to pay, but at the moment you state that in Mexico there is no such obligations then they pull back and agree with you instantly.
You can tip in MX if you like the service 5% - 10% - 15%.
Zona Hotelera - Insta Spots
Basically the Zona Hotelera is a stretch along the sea packed with expensive hotels. There might be cheap options here and there but for sure not too many. The great part of this is that a lot of these hotels are very artsy and look very Coachella-like or Insta-Perfect, which is nice. The down-side is that boutiques around are ultra expensive (USD prices) and also the restaurants are not that cheap
The great-grandson of art collector Peggy Guggenheim has opened a gallery, Ik Lab, within the luxurious eco-friendly Azulik resort. When I went there in Jan it was closed and they could not confirm when it will re-open.
If you want to watch the sunset from their hotel, you have a 50 USD (approx) minimum consumption requirement which you pay at the beginning
The entrance to Ahau is taken over by the massing sculpture of the South African artist Daniel Popper.
"Ven a la Luz (come into the light), and is comprised of wood and rope formed into a female figure. Her torso is filled with lush green plants, which creates an archway for viewers to walk through." (Source)
Follow that dream sign
You can find it next to Lolita Lolita Tulum, not far from Ahau
If you like streetart some nice ones by @senkoeone you can find at KENiZA Beach hotel
I Scream (Ice Cream)
They used to have a blue small cute motorcycle, not there anymore, but you can still try their Sugar Free, Dairy Free, "Almost Free" - Vegan ice cream. It's 90 pesos a ball, but very good.
I don't remember the name of the place, but right across from it, there are 2 palms on top of each other.
Stay Present & embrace the mystery sign
Dinner at Burrito Amor
We ate at Burrito Amor in the evening. Good food and nice atmosphere.
Gran Cenote is one of the most visited cenotes next to Tulum. It opens at 8:10 and closes at 17:00. The entrace is 100 pesos. And the difficult part to all of it you need to shower before and if it's cold, it's not easy to take a shower with cold water, trust me.
It's for sure not as pretty as other cenotes, but if you are there early there is quite some space to swim around.
There's also some caves to explore and it's interesting to see some Stalactite.
Casa Malca - former Pablo Escobar mention
This is far from being my thing, but my sister got it recommended and as a mini insta queen that she is, we had to go.
Getting there is quite far, so either you enjoy your bicycle a lot, or get a taxi. You need to pay 1000 pesos per person a the entrance and now it's tricky: the lady who took the money said you can use all facilities at the hotel (sun-beds, bathrooms, pool) and consume of those 1000 pesos.
So we arrived, there was almost non-one (more people came throughout the day) and you get a sun-bed (oh, I missed so much laying on the sand in this trip) and a menu. A Margarita was 280 pesos which is approx 14 Euro! That's expensive even for Europe!
After some time enjoying the sun, we took some pictures of the hotel with all the fancy/artsy decoration.
There is also a room pained by Keith Haring - nice
and here some other cool elements they have around
well, we ordered a bit of food and some extra cocktails, reaching 1940 pesos when the guy serving us, came buy to inform us that we over-spent. And i have some mathematics knowledge plus today your phone can do the math and things were not adding up. So we asked the guy to bring us the bill and there it was 15% service fee. When we asked what that is he said that it's requested by the hotel. I ended up talking to the manager of the manager to get that out of the bill. I don't like the way this is done especially at such "fancy location". I believe that the price of the cocktails already includes the tip more than enough (you can call me cheap if you want. Living in Belgium, you leave tip where the service is great and you leave 2 euro not 10. - I do make exceptions in US or where I know that this is really a need compared to the economy.
Unfortunately, the quality/price of souvenirs is not the best, but you can buy loads of Dream Catcher, bracelets or other elements out of beads or dia de los muertos type of heads/figurines.
I tried out some hats :)