Tulum Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- The term "Pueblo" is a bit of a stretch The town center of Tulum Pueblo feels "more like a truck stop than a tropical paradise," as Lonely Planet notes. Once you've adjusted your expectations, you can appreciate that area's discounted lodging and food.
- The term "ruins" only applies to the temples Tulum's bread and butter was and is the archaeological zones, and they're surrounded by commercial-palooza. Don't be surprised by the chock-a-block fast-food joints, museums and bookshops that are just next door.
In the past decade, Tulum has grown into a coveted vacation for luxury travelers (or, as the New York Times says, the "Yoga tourist"). But it still tempts bargain-hunters who remember when this tucked-away jewel of Mexico's east coast was more of a secluded getaway. Here, you'll find some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in the Western Hemisphere, ruins that have the cerulean waters of the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. And there are other out-of-this-world wonders, including several cenotes (or underground water-filled caverns) and bioreserves. As an added plus: Tulum continues to be the tiny, quiet alternative to the other Riviera Maya resort areas during the Spring Break season.
How To Save Money in Tulum
- Skip the spa As nice as the "Aloe Vera Wrap" or "Mayan Chocolate Massage" sound, they ain't gonna come cheap. Instead, consider how relaxing the (free) soft sugary sand and lapping waves can be.
- Pack a beach bag Visiting Playa Paraíso beach is free, but enjoying the watersports, the hammocks and ordering any food there isn't. You'll cut costs significantly by bringing a snack, a beach towel and your own Frisbee.
- Enjoy the freebies Tulum is small, so instead of choosing a hotel by location, weigh their incentives. Some of the ritziest spots (like Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa) offer complimentary bottles of wine, a free room upgrade and up to $100 off of spa services.
Tulum Culture & Customs
The Riviera Maya is better known as a North American getaway spot than a bastion of traditional Mexican culture. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. For a taste of local flair, try dining at a local Mexican eatery or exploring Tulum's small downtown. It may be both helpful and respectful to know some basic Spanish vocabulary, and at the very least to say please (por favor), and thank you (gracias).
A few things to be aware of before you go…
Mexico is typically more conservative than some other beach destinations. Nude bathing is not allowed, but some women sunbathers (predominantly European) are known to go topless in the area. In general, the dress code remains similar to most beaches in the United States.
Many Tulum locals keep an afternoon siesta, typically starting around noon or 1 pm, to relax during the hottest part of the day. It's typical for local stores to close during the siesta and reopen in the mid-afternoon.
Tulum can get very crowded with international tourists and local vendors. It is common for vendors to approach tourists on the street or beach with several wares in tow. This can annoy many travelers, but politely say "no, gracias" and they will probably move on.
Many new restaurants have opened doors in Tulum's downtown in the past few years, including several excellent kitchens that serve traditional Mexican food. So be sure to taste the local fare, whether at an expensive Mexican restaurant or a local "taqueria." Popular Mexican food in Tulum includes chicken, beef and fish tacos, fajitas and even hamburgers. Several restaurants serve ceviche, a popular dish in the area that contains an assortment of finfish and shellfish. Other popular dishes include lobster and shrimp, cooked with spicy Mexican seasoning.