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Ultimate Tulum Itinerary 2023: Spend 3, 4 or 5 Days in Tulum

Ultimate Tulum Itinerary 2023: Spend 3, 4 or 5 Days in Tulum

Tulum is fast becoming a great beach destination in Mexico with good reason. Just 2 hours away from Cancun, this beach town offers pristine white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and plenty of attractions to enjoy. In fact, you may want to skip going here for a day trip and instead for at least 3 to 5 days to fully enjoy this pueblo magico. 

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That’s right! Tulum is considered a magic town. And why not? Tulum town has some budget hotels and cheap eats that you can enjoy. However, the town center sits on the highway which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. That said, make your way to Tulum’s beaches and you will understand why there is a growing interest in this beach town

Tulum beach is where you will find most of the all-inclusive hotels and high-end restaurants. There is only one main road traversing the beach area. If you prefer to be close to the beach, this is a good spot to be one. However, if you prefer an authentic Mexican vibe, I suggest that you head to town. 

Getting to Tulum

The best way to reach Tulum is by flying to Cancun International Airport. It is the closest airport hence a great place to start your adventure. In fact, this is one of the busiest airports in the country since it caters to international flights. Of course, the busiest airport is none other than in Mexico City

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There are four ways to get to Tulum Mexico from Cancun Airport. First, you can book a private shuttle that will take you directly to the beach town. Although this is the most convenient way, it is also the most expensive. If you are on a budget, you might want to consider other options. However, if you are traveling with a large group, this is the best way to reach the town. 

Second, you can ride the ADO bus to Tulum or from Playa del Carmen if you want to stop by there first. You should get a bus ticket prior to leaving the airport. ADO buses are equipped with air conditioning, and a TV and the seats are comfortable too. 

Third, you can take a taxi to get to Tulum. However, this is the least method that I would recommend. Although you might think that this is the most convenient, you will have to haggle with the driver about the rate. 

Lastly, you can book a rental car so you can drive yourself to Tulum. This is a fun experience and for me, a more convenient way to enjoy the way there. After all, I can stop anytime I want and explore at my own pace. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Tulum?

You can visit Tulum any time of the year. However, October to December are perfect because of the nice weather, not to mention there are fewer crowds. It’s because this is the low season. Keep an eye on good deals around these months. July to early October is the hurricane season while July and August are the hottest months. 

Visiting Tulum from January to March is not a bad idea. However, expect to see a crowd because this is the peak season. There will be a spillover of tourists from Cancun in this beach town during the high season.

How Long Should You Stay?

This will depend on your preferences and how much budget you have set aside for your Tulum trip. It would be great if you can stay for 5 days at least. This will give you ample time to visit some of the best places in the area like the cenotes, ancient Mayan ruins, and more. 

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But don’t worry. Even if you are pressed for time, you can still have fun here. There are day trips to nearby attractions that you can add to your itinerary. Also, you can spend most of your days on the beach. 

Tulum Neighborhoods – Where to Stay?

Tulum is just a small town that is divided into three parts. These are Tulum Town or downtown, Tulum Beach, and Aldea Zama. Let’s take a closer look. 

  1. Tulum Pueblo/ Downtown

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As I have mentioned before, Tulum town is where you want to stay if you are on a budget. It’s a bustling area with good restaurants, budget hotels, and hostels to choose from. However, this is not the prettiest section since it is close to the highway. On a good note, this is a great place to immerse yourself in authentic Mexican culture. 

  1. Tulum Beach

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Now, this is where you will find those Instagram-worthy spots that you have been seeing online. In fact, you will find beautiful beach resorts, lively bars, and some of the best restaurants. The Hotel Zone in this beach strip is where you can book a luxury hotel to stay in. A good example here is the Papaya Playa Project. If you are willing to splurge a little on your trip here, then the hotels on this beach strip are where you should stay.

Take note, however, that this is where the parties happen in this beach town. If you are here for some rest and relaxation, you will not get it during the peak season. After all, bars and hotels will be running all night long with live music blaring in the background. Also, Wi-Fi is a bit spotty here, even when you are inside Tulum hotels

  1. Aldea Zama

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Meanwhile, if you are looking for vacation rentals that will get you away from the crowd, this is it. This is a fairly new neighborhood which is why I recommend it. After all, this area comes with modern amenities, plus the Wi-Fi here is much better. Aside from that, it sits between downtown Tulum and the beach, giving you the best of both worlds. 

Also, since this is a more residential area, you will be able to save more compared to staying in a hotel. How’s that for big savings? 

Tulum Travel Guide Itinerary

A perfect Tulum itinerary will vary depending on one person’s preferences. Some prefer to stick to the beaches, while others want to explore new places. One of the best things about Tulum is that it is close to multiple tourist attractions. This means that you will have lots of things to do while you are here. 

If this is your first time visiting this beach town in the Yucatan Peninsula, I’m more than happy to share with you my Tulum itinerary. This is a five-day itinerary that will take you to the top spots in and around Tulum. 

Day 1 – Explore the Best Beaches 

Since you have just arrived in Tulum, why not spend your first day on the beach? In fact, Tulum is best known for its trendy beaches and beach clubs. The beach zone in Zona Hotelera is the perfect place to find crystal clear waters and white-sand beaches. Beaches like Playa Paraiso, Las Palmas, and Playa Pescadores are among the best beaches in this town. I suggest that you check out their beach clubs if you want to have exclusive access to their private beaches and amenities. 

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Most beach clubs offer a day pass that costs around $1,000 to $2,000 Mexican pesos. In dollars, it is about $50 to $100. The fee is the minimum for the food and drinks that you can get here. Once you have a day pass, you can use their umbrellas, beach chairs, bathrooms, and showers to name a few. Take note that some clubs don’t have any entrance fees. As long as you purchase something from them, you can use their amenities free of charge. Make sure that you check this first before paying. Hit the clubs during their Happy Hour to get discounts on drinks. 

When heading to the beach area, make sure that you bring your swimwear, suntan lotion, towels, and other personal effects. Guests will have free access to the beach and the waters here. Also, if you are planning on visiting a specific beach club, you can email them ahead of time. Ask them to secure a spot for you on the date that you will be visiting. Otherwise, the club might be full by the time you get there. 

Day 2 – Jungle Exploration and Shopping

After enjoying the beautiful beaches of Tulum, you can spend the next day exploring the jungle. In fact, I suggest that you go cenote-hopping the following day. Tulum cenotes are underground natural pools that were once considered sacred by the Mayans. Even now, some cenotes in Mexico are closed to the public because of their sacredness. On a good note, there are several that you can visit while in Tulum. These are: 

  1. Cenote Calavera

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Although the Spanish word Calavera means “skull”, there are no skulls to find at the bottom of the pool. This cenote was named as such because it has the shape of a skull with two small openings for the eyes and a larger one for the mouth. It’s close to the city center which means that it can get crowded pretty fast. After all, there is a rope swing here that makes it a great photo shoot spot for travelers.

Aside from that, there are no restaurants near here. If you are going to spend some time here, I suggest you bring some water and snacks. There are outdoor showers and bathrooms that you can use prior to entering the pool and after. 

  1. Gran Cenote

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Meanwhile, Gran Cenote is one of the most famous cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula. You will find it in a cave in the jungle. It’s the perfect place for wildlife enthusiasts. Go snorkeling or scuba diving here to fully appreciate its beauty. Aside from that, you can easily spot toucans poking their heads from the trees during winter. 

Guests can use the locker rooms, bathrooms, and showers outside the cenote. For a small fee of $10, you will be able to use their facilities. You can even grab a bite to eat from the nearby restaurants. In addition, you can also rent snorkeling and diving equipment from one of the stores here. However, I suggest that you bring your own gear instead. 

Once inside the cave, you will see some amazing rock formations. Make sure that you bring your camera with you to get photos of these stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Have fun splashing around the cool waters. 

  1. Cenote Zacil-Ha

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Meanwhile, if you are looking for a cenote where you can sunbathe in between pool dips, this is it. There are sun loungers around this cenote where you can relax and unwind. Aside from swimming in the cool waters, you can also go snorkeling and diving too. It’s always fun to see what sea creatures are thriving in these natural pools. In addition, professional divers will love exploring the interconnected caves here. 

There is a bar and restaurant on-site as well as bathrooms and restrooms. Again, I suggest that you bring your own gear when visiting this cenote. This saves you money. There is an entrance fee of $10 that lets you use the facilities. 

After you have explored the cenotes, you can spend the rest of the day in the city center. Go for a stroll around the town and visit the boutique shops there. Aside from that, you will find some of the best restaurants here too. You can sample local Tulum cuisine to get an idea about the dining scene. Make sure that you exchange your money for Mexican pesos as some shops only take cash. 

Day 3 – See the Tulum Mayan Ruins

Are you excited to see ancient ruins? You are in luck because there are several archaeological sites that you can find in Tulum. It is always a good idea to add these ruins to your itinerary. After all, they will give you a glimpse of an ancient Mayan city that once thrived here. Which ones should you visit? Here are a few options to consider:

  1. Tulum Ruins

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Make your way down Tulum Beach Road then turn left. You are now in Tulum’s famous ruins. This archaeological site has drawn locals and tourists alike. Although it is a relatively small site, people still flock here as it overlooks the Caribbean Coast. Only a maximum of 10 people per group are allowed. Also, the Ruins can only accommodate up to 3,000 people per day. If you want to see these ruins, you should come here early in the day. 

  1. Chichen Itza

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I also recommend another archeological site which is the famous Chichen Itza. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is just two hours away from Tulum. You can drive up here using a rental car, ride the ADO bus, or join a tour that will take you along the famous ruins of Tulum. 

Chichen Itza’s grandeur draws a lot of people to the site. However, you are not allowed to climb the pyramids to avoid damaging them. Although it is possible to explore the ruins on your own, it’s nice to hire a tour guide too. They will be able to explain the significance of Chichen Itza. 

  1. Coba Ruins

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Meanwhile, Coba Ruins is a great option if you prefer to see ancient ruins up close. That’s right! You will be able to climb these ancient structures which is one of its main attractions. Unlike other ruins, the Coba Mayan Ruins are more of a city than stand-alone pyramids. Many prefer to visit Coba over Chichen Itza. One reason behind this is that they are able to fully explore the ruins. Also, there are no long lines here which is another reason why visiting these ruins is a must. 

Coba Ruins is just an hour away from Tulum. You can go here on a day trip or as part of a tour. Make sure that you bring water and bug spray to keep the pesky insects away from you. 

Day 4 – Find Instagram-worthy Spots in Tulum

With all the excitement these past few days, leisurely activities are perfect for this day. In fact, I promise that you are going to have a good time searching for Insta-worthy spots in Tulum. I find that the locals are quite amazing when it comes to creating artwork and sculptures. Not only that but they also welcome artists from all over the world. If you are looking for great spots to take photos in Tulum, you might want to check these ones out. 

  1. Raw Love Tulum

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Since we are talking about Insta-worthy spots, you definitely need to visit Ahau Tulum Resort and Raw Love Cafe. This is where you will find a huge wooden man sculpture called Ven a la Luz or Come Into the Light. It was made by Daniel Popper, a South African artist, whose work is one of the main draws in this resort. Take a photo of yourself at the entrance while you are here then grab a bite to eat at the cafe. It’s a win-win!

  1. Casa Malca Couch Swing

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Casa Malca is another great place to add to your itinerary. This hotel was once owned by Pablo Escobar. Today, it is one of the sexiest hotels to stay in not to mention there is this cute couch swing perfect for photo shoots.  Aside from that, the Moroccan-style chandelier room is another amazing spot to take photos in. Make your way to the Keith Haring bar and enjoy its black-and-white design.

  1. Follow that Dream Sign

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Another popular photo spot in Tulum is the Follow that Dream sign. You will find this along the Beach Road in front of the Lolita Lolita store. This is definitely a great spot to take selfies or portraits to post on social media. 

  1. Matcha Mama Cafe

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Aside from being a great photo spot, Matcha Mama Cafe offers good food too. In fact, their refreshing smoothie bowls are perfect for Tulum’s warm weather. Have your picture taken at the I Love Tulum so Matcha surfboard then you can place an order for one of the cafe’s smoothies after.

After traveling around these places, I suggest that you enjoy the nightlife at the end of the day. Since this is going to be the second to the last day of your stay in Tulum, it’s only common sense to experience the party scene here. One of the great things about Tulum is that the bars and restaurants can transform into party places once the sun sets. Although the nightlife here is not as rowdy as that of Cancun, you are still going to have a grand time here. 

Day 5 – Go on a Day Trip to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

A great way to see the unique biodiversity in Mexico is to make a trip to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in the Riviera Maya. This sprawling nature reserve covers the jungle and the coastline making it one of the best spots to explore while in Tulum. Getting here is reasonably easy from Tulum. You can make your way to Muyil and from there to the reserve. 

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Inside Sian Ka’an, you will find a wide range of flora and fauna thriving in it. There are multiple walkways that will take you around the nature reserve. They will bring you up close to the wildlife here so make sure to bring your camera with you. Aside from that, you can also go snorkeling or diving here too. I have to say that exploring the ocean depths is a great experience. The warm water makes it a suitable diving spot where you will find corals and plenty of marine life too. 

More Activities to Do in Tulum

The good news is that these are not the only things that you can do while you are in the town of Tulum. Yes, seeing ancient ruins and swimming in cenotes are amazing, but there is more to explore here. In fact, here are other options to include in your itinerary. 

  1. Go on a Food Trip

Since you are in a new place, trying out the local food is a good idea. In fact, you should include Prieto in your list as a popular breakfast spot in town. Another is Del Cielo which locals love as a brunch spot. Located in downtown Tulum, this restaurant makes use of fresh ingredients in all of its dishes. No wonder locals and tourists alike flock here. 

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Aside from that, Matcha Mama is perfect for those who are looking for healthier options. As I have mentioned before, their smoothie bowls are not only refreshing but healthy too. Now if you are looking for Mexican dishes, La Malquerida is where you should go. The place itself is not that special, true. However, they do make it up for with their food. Aside from that, their outdoor tables have swing seats too which is a plus. 

Meanwhile, if you want to on a fine dining experience, I suggest that you go to ARCA. This is a chef-driven restaurant that serves high-quality food. They do accept credit cards as well as US dollars or Mexican Peso. Of course, if you are looking for cheap eats then make your way to downtown Tulum. One option here is Taqueria Honorio where you can grab the best tacos on the go. I recommend their lechon and cochinita pibil. 

  1. Enjoy Water Sports

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Tulum’s beaches are perfect for doing various water sports. Aside from swimming, snorkeling, and diving are two of the more popular activities here. There are shops where you can rent equipment but I suggest that you bring your own. This will save you a couple of bucks too. Aside from that, you can also go surfing, kayaking, and jet skiing too. Many are also into stand-up paddleboarding which you can try out as well. 

  1. Go on Tours

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The easiest way to ensure that you will not miss anything in Tulum is to go on a tour. There are several tours offered here that will take you around the main areas of Tulum and neighboring attractions. For example, if you book a cenote and archaeological site tour, you can hit two birds with one stone. Tulum ruins and the nearby cenote can be done in one day or you can hit up three ancient ruins in one tour. 

It is always a good idea to book tours ahead of time. This way you will be able to get the best deals compared to just booking them on the spot. Also, this ensures that you will not miss a spot on one of these tours. Luxury travelers who want to explore Tulum and its neighboring beach towns can also book a cruise instead. As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from. 


Tulum is making a name for itself in recent years. It boasts gorgeous white sand beaches complemented by crystal clear waters. Aside from that, it is a more laid-back option compared to Cancun and Playa del Carmen. This is why it attracts those who prefer to get away from the crowd, especially during the peak season or Spring Break.

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The beach strip is where you will find luxury hotels and resorts. Just like in Cancun, the Hotel Zone is where you will want to be if you want to be near the beaches, bars, and restaurants. You can never go wrong booking a room in one of these hotels. Just imagine waking up to the sound of the ocean waves or seeing breathtaking views from your window. 

Aside from that, Tulum is also famous for its ancient ruins like Tulum Ruins. This is the closest archaeological site that you can visit from the town. It sits on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean. Yes, the ruins are not as big as that of Chichen Itza, but it is still stunning nonetheless. Afterward, you can go swimming in the waters below. 

If you are looking for a new place to visit in Mexico, do give Tulum a try. The itinerary that I wrote here can be used as a guide but feel free to tweak it. It doesn’t matter if you visit here during the high season, rainy season, or winter season. There is always something for you to do here. 

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