Tulum has become a hot-spot destination over the last few years, especially among the Black community. After a few months of not traveling, I decided to give myself a break and spent two weeks traveling in Tulum. In this mini travel guide to Tulum I’ll share some tips and things that will help you make the most of your trip and prepare to land in Mexico!
My Tulum Vlog: https://youtu.be/D2-e0QnTBvM
Flying from Florida to Cancun
I flew from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) in Florida with JetBlue. It was my first time flying with this airline. The total cost of my flight was $203.59. Check-in bags were $35/piece (coming and going) so I decided to go with a carry-on and a personal bag to save some coins.
I traveled to Tulum in August 2020 while traveling during a time where the pandemic was calming down a bit, but still a concern. The Fort Lauderdale airport had a decent number of people in it, but nowhere near what the “normal” is for travel. Everyone was masked up and social distancing for the most part.
On the plane, we boarded from the back to the front. This is a practice I want all airlines to keep once COVID is over because it was the quickest time I have ever seen a plane fill up in my life! Snacks were given in baggies, and the middle seat was kept clear unless you were seated next to family members. Passengers received two forms to fill out and give to the officers upon arrival. One of the forms you have to keep throughout your stay, and if you lose it you have to pay $30 and wait in line for a new one so be sure to keep track of it at all times.
The flight was only one hour and 30 minutes! Overall, flying with JetBlue was a great experience.
Navigating the Cancun International Airport
The Cancun airport was so empty when the flight landed. It was just the people from my flight around. I didn’t mind because it was the shortest time I spent ever going through Immigration/Customs. No questions were asked, I got my stamp in my passport, and was on my way.
The airport has a currency exchange area. I don’t recommend exchanging all of your money. I would say $100 at the most because the airport has the lowest exchange rates. I changed $200 for 19.50 pesos, but saw rates for 20-22 outside of the airport once I was into Cancun. You can get more for your money outside of the airport so save your bills for those bureaus instead!
I would only exchange $50-$100 there. This amount is enough to get out of the airport and pay for your ride to your accommodation.
Leaving the Cancun International Airport
As you continue to walk and make your way outside of the airport, there are at least a dozen car rental, taxi shuttle booths with representatives that try to get your attention and call you from every direction to book a ride out of the airport with them.
I don’t recall seeing a food place inside or a SIM card post, but this may have been due to COVID. Either way, it is one of the smallest airports I have ever been to.
Once you get outside, more taxi companies are trying to offer you a ride, and private shuttles are waiting for people. There were also two food/drink stands to buy from. The ADO bus area is past where the private shuttles are parked near the curb.
You have the option of getting a rental or taxi ride out of the airport too. The taxis seemed to want to charge me anywhere from $80 – $120, which isn’t bad honestly for a 2-hour ride. I was just on a strict budget and did not plan for that cost just getting out of the airport.
If you are with a group of people, you can always split the cost so that it won’t be a big deal anyway. Just figure it out before you get here. Ask other people on Facebook who their drivers were, look on Viator, or TripAdvisor to schedule one in advance for the best rates. You won’t regret it!
How I Got from Cancun to Tulum
I planned to take the ADO bus, but when I arrived the bus had just left and I would have had to wait over an hour for the next one. I was feeling very impatient so I started talking to one of the people at a booth and negotiated a rate. Turns out, they dropped me off 10 minutes away from the airport to a bus station, pocketed the money I gave them and I had to take a local bus to Tulum. Once I was dropped off in Tulum I took a taxi on the side of the road to my Airbnb with the help of a local merchant.
I don’t speak Spanish, had no SIM card, or an idea of where I was going. I was just happy I ended up in the right place but it was kind of scary! I share this to say be weary of this “scam”. I thought they were going to take me to Tulum because that’s what they told me and it was a lie. I would just wait for the ADO bus.
COVID Restrictions in Tulum
Most places and restaurants close every night at 11 pm due to the pandemic and possible spread of the virus. If you’re with a group of people, I can imagine how annoying this is, but if you are flying solo like me, it’s not a big deal. I feel 11 pm is a pretty good time anyway considering the circumstances. Just stock up on snacks and to-go orders if you’ll be up late and you will be fine!
Everyone was wearing their masks even in the hot Mexican heat! Temperatures are taken at the doors and entrances of some places (not a lot in Tulum downtown), and feet and hand sanitizers are everywhere.
Some of the “touristy” places like Azulik are closed. Not a lot, but it’s best to ask others and call before you just show up anywhere because there is always that risk of the place not being open.
Other than that, considering the circumstances, there is still a lot to do.
Currency in Tulum
The currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso. One U.S dollar is equal to about 20 pesos at the time that I am writing this blog post.
To get an idea of what pesos can get you/how much you need, check out my Instagram highlight for the prices of some of what I paid for.
I’ve heard and personally didn’t see any ATMs near the Tulum beach area, but many ATMs are in the Tulum downtown area where all the shops are. Look for banks, not ATMs alone! I used Santander, which was great, and I had no issues with it.
Electrical Outlet in Tulum
Mexico uses the same 2-pronged outlets that are used in the United States, so there isn’t a need for any adapters or converters. Just bring your appliances as they are!
How to Get Around in Tulum
There are a few ways to get around Tulum depending on where you want to go.
This is what I used most of the time I was there! I had a reliable driver that I used almost every day, which was awesome. I met him through one regular taxi ride and we agreed on him giving me rides from there forward. If you don’t have a consistent driver, it’s easy to wave and flag one down from the side of the street. Make eye contact and wave them over. Taxis in Tulum range from $2-7 for short trips and can be $25 for 30 mins+.
This is the more local mode of transportation. It’s a huge van that makes many stops along the route. You tell the driver where you are going, and it can cost as little as $2 for an hour or more. They get packed, but honestly, I didn’t mind riding them, I just got lost a lot/never knew where to get off when traveling.
I combatted this by typing where I wanted to go on Google Translate and telling the driver to please let me know when to get off!
This bus was like a Greyhound bus and a more organized way of traveling to long distances compared to the collectivos. To take the ADO Bus, you just find the closest station to you (ask the taxi drivers and they will know where to take you). Once there, you go to the booth to buy a ticket and wait to board. It was so smooth and easy. I took the bus from Tulum to Playa Del Carmen and felt very comfortable.
When you think of Tulum, you can imagine a small beach town where people go to relax and unwind. Bikes are heavily used here on the sidewalks and even the streets! You can find bike rental shops near the main downtown shops. They are more expensive to rent around the beach area as opposed to the downtown and more residential areas.
Where I Stayed in Tulum
In Tulum, I stayed at 2 different places that I booked through Airbnb.
It was my first time staying in a private room, aside from college living. For $16/night, the room was beautiful. I stayed with the host (who was always very helpful), and other guests that I rarely saw. It wasn’t the quietest neighborhood, and the neighbors were a bit noisy, but nothing too unbearable. Cleaning was also done frequently during my stay.
The only thing I didn’t like was the bathroom, which was shared. That’s more of personal preference, as I hate sharing space. I wanted to try something new, and while I doubt I will be doing private rooms in the future, this was a good one to have experienced on a budget.
This was a hotspot to stay at from some of my favorite travel influencers who traveled to Tulum as well, so I wanted to splurge just a bit for a night. It’s priced at $59/night, but for one night I totaled at $128.16 (the college student in me is screaming). Was it worth it?
It was a nature vibe, but for the price I don’t think it was worth it. There was a frog in my pool, so I couldn’t enjoy that too much. There was a fridge in the room, but no microwave or ironer.
The outdoor shower was a nice touch. It’s outside, but it’s really still inside of your room with mosquito nets. In summary, the Sanah Villa is great for pictures and Instagram, but as far as being AMAZING, in my opinion I was not impressed and wouldn’t stay again.
Getting a SIM Card in Tulum
I always try to get a SIM card when traveling abroad. I couldn’t find a place to get one at the airport, but once I got into town, there were many TelCel facilities.
I was able to get a SIM card with data and minutes to communicate even if I was away from WiFi. This was big for me in case I got lost, which I did many times!
Where to Eat in Tulum
It is so much cheaper to eat downtown vs. on the beach as expected. This is something to keep in mind if you are on a budget. There are so many restaurants and options to choose from, but here are some of my favorites/popular choices from my trip:
This is a small little cafe right on the corner of a busy intersection smack in the middle of Tulum downtown. I came across Babel while looking for somewhere to do work one day.
The waffles here are the best I’ve ever had in my life and I’m not exaggerating! The smoothie I had was also delicious.
Babel Cafe is a great place with WiFi to go to if you want to catch up on some work and be productive while getting a good meal in.
Burrito Amor is a well-known place in Tulum and has probably been or will be recommended to you. The burritos are amazing! My favorite was the simple one with scrambled eggs and chipotle sauce.
Aldo’s is the Coldstone of Tulum! It is a gelato shop that also has cafe items and sandwiches. I had a croissant here and some juice (very light), but the gelato is amazing! Definitely pass by here and get you a scoop!
There are SO many places to eat in Tulum! I’ve seen Italian, Chinese, and restaurants from many other cultures during my stay. I’m sure you will find your favorites too.
Things to Do in Tulum
The things to do in Tulum tend to fall towards mostly water-based activities. Of course I knew the beach was a big deal, but I thought there would be more to do that didn’t involve water. It ended up being fine because I love water, but as a non-swimmer, I had to be more cautious. As a solo traveler I will say that I felt extremely accommodated. I never had to pay more for being solo or asked to have a traveling partner. These were my favorite activities during my time in Tulum:
Kayaking + Snorkeling for the First Time
I went kayaking for the first time through an Airbnb experience. This was a private kayak and snorkeling experience in the Riveria Maya. I met up with my guide, went to a gorgeous private property, then began kayaking to the ocean. I even received pictures and videos of me underwater which was nice!
Visiting Cenotes + Bike Ride Through Neighborhoods
Cenotes are sinkholes that form when limestone bedrock collapses and exposes groundwater. There are cenotes all around Tulum and people jump in and swim inside of them all of the time. I wanted to experience cenotes so visited quite a few on this tour, biking to each one.
Having a Spa Day at Kore Day Spa
During my trip Kore Day Spa was having a day spa special for people who were not guests at the facility. The special included a massage, lunch, and access to the facilities pools for $40. It was a good luxe day and I would recommend checking Kore’s website to see if they offer anything similar in the future!
Tips When Visiting Tulum
1. Use Tomato.mx to have food delivered to you at your hotel/Airbnb.
2. Most experiences on Airbnb will not let you book or state that you have to wait until a certain date in order to do so, but just message the hosts and ask to book outside of the app and they will usually let you!
3. Google Translate will be your best friend if you don’t speak Spanish. English is not as widespread as people make it seem in Tulum, especially if you choose to stay in a residential neighborhood like I did. Download Spanish so you don’t need an internet connection to use it as well.
Final Thoughts on Tulum
Overall, I think Tulum is a great place to go for a beach getaway/vacation. For me, I felt like something was missing. I spent 2 weeks in Tulum, but wish that I only spent 4 days . This doesn’t mean I don’t recommend coming here, but it depends on what your goal is for this trip. Coming from Florida, I just felt like I was staying at my local beach and I’m not much of a resort/beachy kind of gal, so I wasn’t that impressed for the hype that was behind it! I like to do immersive cultural activities when I travel and this felt like more of a beach trip.