Three Days In Tulum, Mexico
Escape to Tulum for gorgeous beaches, majestic cenotes, delicious food, jungle parties and ancient Mayan ruins.
Tulum is one of those places you go and immediately can't wait to go back. There's truly something for everyone and it's not your standard trip to Mexico at an all-inclusive where you don't venture away from the resort.
I went to Tulum with my friend, Jeany, for a long weekend getaway. We arrived on Thursday morning and left early Sunday. I had been to Mexico before (Acapulco Spring Break 2007) and this was a very different experience. Tulum is a luxurious vacation spot with beautiful weather, friendly people, and incredible food. The prices are more than what you'd expect of a typical Mexico vacation, but in my opinion, the experience is well worth it.
In this post, I'll share an example itinerary that combines the experience I had with advice from friends that have also been to Tulum. My goal is to provide you with all the information you need to plan a successful trip. Don't miss the TBP Insider tips on how to plan ahead!
What to See by Day
Day 1: Wander Tulum's main drag
+ Check in to your accommodation and hit the beach!
All of the beachfront resorts on the main drag of Tulum have gorgeous setups where you can relax all day. Most resorts allow you to hang on their beaches even if you don't stay there, but many will require a drink or food purchase.
+ Explore the hotels and shops.
I always like to get myself acquainted with an area the first day I'm there. There are some amazing little shops to explore along the main beach road.
+ Lounge on La Zebra's beach beds.
La Zebra is a vibrant hotel on the beach front that happened to be right next to our Airbnb. The chips and guac were amazing and the fruity cocktails kept us cool under the hot sun.
+ Stop into Coqui Coqui Perfumery to try out their scents.
Coqui Coqui is a dreamy perfumery, boutique and spa on the beach. Jeany and I didn't make an appointment for any services during this trip, but it's on my bucket list when I go back.
+ Dinner at Casa Jaguar.
There is a jungle on the opposite side of the beach in Tulum. Casa Jaguar is on this jungle side. In addition to the incredible food, the venue itself gives off a romantic and exotic vibe, where you really feel like you're in the tropics. Try anything but don't miss the salads. The flavors are amazing.
+ Live music and dancing at Gitano.
Nothing says Mexico like a quality Mezcal bar. Add live music and a jungle dance floor with a disco ball, and I'm in heaven. We spent our first night sipping on iced Mezcal and making friends with the locals.
+ The night's not over yet. Head back to Casa Jaguar for the after party.
Tulum is a small town and once we met a few locals, we were invited to go back to Casa Jaguar for more drinks and dancing. I'm not sure if this happens every night, but the people were friendly, the drinks were delicious and we felt like we belonged in this little Mexican paradise.
Day 2: Visit a Cenote
+ Get up early and take a bike ride to Hotel Teetotum for Huevos Rancheros.
You can rent bikes in Tulum for about $10 a day. Some hotels also offer bike rentals so check with your accommodation. I recommend getting a bike for at least 2 days, since you'll want to ride it to the ruins tomorrow.
+ Spend the day at a cenote.
A cenote is a natural pit or sinkhole that exposes groundwater underneath. That doesn't sound as beautiful as it is, so I will describe it as a majestic swimming hole where you can explore underwater caves.
We went to Cenote Labnaha and booked a tour online two days before. There is an option for 6 hours of activities from zip lining through the jungle, kayaking in an open cenote and snorkeling through caves. We opted for just the snorkeling portion, but heard from friends after that the full experience shouldn't be missed.
The cenote was incredible. Most caves had light shining in from above that created dazzling effect. However, there was one notable exception. Our guide told us that the cave without light was used for Mayan sacrifices. We are still unsure if he was messing with us. At one point, he turned off all the flashlights; I don't know if I've ever experienced darkness like that in my life.
+ Head home to change and go to Posada Margherita for dinner.
Tulum has a reputation for amazing food, and Posada Margherita exceeded my expectations. Walking in, you feel like you're entering an Anthropologie on the beach. Then, you're hit with smells of fresh Italian pasta and seafood. The wait may be long, so put your name in and go explore the boutique in the meantime. Order the fresh pasta with lobster. You won't regret it.
Day 3: A little bit of everything
+ Start your morning with a bike ride to the ruins.
All of my friends say the best time to arrive is around 8:30am to beat the crowds and the mid-day sun. The other option is to go later in the day, around 4:30pm. We didn't actually make it to the ruins, which is a huge regret of mine. My advice: get up early and do it!
+ Ride straight to Hotel Be Tulum for a delicious lunch on the beach.
Be Tulum was my favorite beach spot during the trip. We had chips and guac, fish tacos and a delicious risotto.
+ Grab dinner.
Our last night, we ate tacos back at Gitano because we loved the venue so much.
+ Dance all night at the Papaya Playa Project.
Our last night happened to be a Saturday, so we took a cab up the road to Papaya Playa, a hotel and beach club that was having their version of the "Full Moon Party". We heard about it from the locals we had met on our first night. Jeany and I danced the night away and didn't head back to the hotel until after 2am.
Where to Eat
Tulum is known for its incredible restaurants. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to try them all! Below is a list of restaurants that I compiled through my own experience and recommendations from friends.
We went twice during our trip! Once for live music, dancing and mezcal. The second time for delicious tacos. Don't miss this jungle Mezcal bar, whether you sit down and eat or just go for the entertainment.
My favorite dinner in Tulum. The fresh pasta was to die for. This restaurant is one of the few we went to on the beach side of the street (most are on the jungle side).
Casa Jaguar's salads mix flavors that take your taste buds on vacation. We came here our first night for dinner, and ended up at the bar later on for dancing with local friends we made.
Unfortunately, we didn't make it here, but I have a friend who said they had the best huevos rancheros she's ever had. It's my #1 places to try for breakfast on my next trip.
+ Be Tulum
My favorite beach spot in Tulum. Go here one day to lay by the beach and order fish tacos and risotto.
Hartwood is the most popular restaurant on Tulum's main drag. I've heard rave reviews from many, but others say the lines were too long. I wish I had known to plan ahead. Hartwood's website provides an option to email ahead to make a reservation. If not, you can try to go around 3pm when the hostess arrives to put your name on the list for that night.
Where to Stay
Jeany and I stayed at Playa Canek and had a wonderful time. The room was small and on the beach, but we didn't require anything too fancy. I recommend this as a great option if you're planning on a budget. We were able to book the room straight from Airbnb!
In addition to Playa Canek, there are a number of Airbnb options in Tulum that are right on the main strip. Check out the wishlist I made to see some of my favorites.
+ Be Tulum
While we didn't stay here, it was by far my favorite beach spot in Tulum.
One group that Jeany and I met stayed at the Papaya Playa Project and had great things to say.
TBP Insider Tips
> To get to Tulum, we recommend flying into Cancun Airport and booking a shuttle ahead of time to drive you the 90 minutes to Tulum. We booked through USA Transfers and the company was very reliable. In fact, we had to leave for the airport from Tulum at 4:30am on Sunday morning and I accidentally set a weekday alarm for 4am, so I woke up to Jeany shaking me, saying we were going to miss our flight. Luckily, our shuttle was still waiting outside for us and phew, we made the flight.
> Bring a lot of bug spray. Throughout this post you've probably seen the word "jungle" a few times. Well, there are a lot of bugs in the jungle. Bring mosquito and bug repellent and wear it at all times.
> Sunscreen! Sunscreen! Sunscreen!
> Book your cenote trip ahead of time. If we had planned ahead, we may have gone to Dos Ojos Cenote on the way into Tulum (since it's close to Cancun) but we didn't book until we got into town. Cenote Labnaha was amazing, but we still recommend booking ahead of time to ensure transportation. We ended up taking cabs both ways since we planned last minute.
> Make a reservation at Coqui Coqui before you arrive. We didn't have time for a service, but I can't wait to go back to Tulum and visit this spa.
> Don't be afraid to ask for tips from locals and make new friends. Jeany and I had a great time connecting with locals and hearing their stories. We never would have known about the Casa Jaguar party or Papaya Playa if we didn't ask for tips.
> Tulum may be paradise, but Montezuma's Revenge is still something of which to be careful. Jeany ended up in the hospital with a stomach bug when we returned from Mexico, and the only thing she consumed that I didn't was an iced coffee from a small stand on the street. Stick to bottled water on the trip and confirm that each restaurant uses filtered water and ice.