How to Take the Ultimate Vacation in Tulum, Mexico

Take A Break is your ultimate guide to the perfect journeys to recharge, rediscover yourself and your relationships, and reengage with the world. We’ll cover shopping stops, great bars, restaurants worth your money, photo opportunities, memorable rides and experiences, and other important details you need before you book.

Below, we talk to Caroline Bologna, senior travel and culture reporter at HuffPost, about why you’ll want to put Tulum on your to-do list.

What drew you to Tulum as a place to visit or explore?

Tulum has become a hugely popular tourist destination over the past 10 or so years, so I knew about the lush green landscape and beautiful beaches from social media and travel posts.

When a friend decided to celebrate his 30th birthday in Mexico and finally chose Tulum, I jumped at the chance to visit the famous Riviera Maya of the Yucatán Peninsula. I even flew a few days earlier so I could explore a bit on my own.

What are the best times of year to visit?

I went there in early December and it was the perfect time to visit. The weather was perfectly warm, not too hot, and apart from a rainy afternoon, there was pure sunshine.

I’ve read that late October through mid-December is the perfect time to visit Tulum, as it gets less crowded just before high season, which runs from late December through March. Hurricane season runs from mid-summer to early fall, so you may want to avoid these months.

What’s your best advice for getting there? How to make the trip as stress-free as possible?

Probably the most common way to reach Tulum from the United States is to fly to Cancun International Airport then take a shuttle, taxi, or rental car for about an hour and 40 minutes. Be sure to arrive with pesos to simplify the payment process and avoid high exchange rates or ATM fees.

I found the arrival process fairly straightforward, although returning from the airport was a bit more chaotic. I recommend that you arrive well in advance of your departure flight so that you can navigate each leg without added stress.

Left to right: The beach at sunset, Palma Central, as seen from the Aloft bedroom.

Caroline Bologna/HuffPost

Left to right: The beach at sunset, Palma Central, as seen from the Aloft bedroom.

Where do you recommend staying when you go?

My trip was split between a rental property on the beach and Aloft Tulum near downtown. As much as I enjoyed the easy access to the water, the hotel portion was especially nice as it was an easy walk or bike ride into town, and I loved exploring the local shops and restaurants. Aloft also had its own rooftop bar which was a nice way to end the evenings.

If you’re looking to stay near the beach, however, you have plenty of options. In addition to rental properties, there are a number of hotels, including Tulum beach, Las Palmas Maya, Sanara Tulum, Mezzanine and Olas Tulum.

What are your favorite restaurants or foods during your stay?

Everything I ate in Tulum was delicious. Dining options range from casual roadside stalls to more upscale eateries like hartwood and Arca.

I tried delicious tacos at Taqueria Honorioceviche to El Camello Jr.burritos at burritos in lovesmoothie bowls raw love and pastries at Italdo Pasteleria.

What bars or entertainment venues do you make sure to visit? What’s good to drink there or what else should people know?

Tulum has a lively bar and club scene. I love trying new cocktails so I went to Batey taste their famous mojitos.

Other drink stops included El Grifo and Casa Jaguar. Gypsy is another popular nightlife spot in Tulum, and although I’ve been to the one in New York, it was still nice to check out the original location.

From left to right: a starter at Arca, a ceviche at El Camello Jr. and tacos at Taqueria Honorio.

Caroline Bologna/HuffPost

From left to right: a starter at Arca, a ceviche at El Camello Jr. and tacos at Taqueria Honorio.

What are your favorite shops and what do you look for when you are there?

I found wonderful memories at Mixic, hand world, La Tiendita and will have. people like Josa for dresses. Even if you’re not looking for anything to buy, it’s nice to explore all the shops along the jungle-shaded road in the hotel zone. There are lots of wonderful handcrafted goods, clothing and more.

Where is your favorite place to take photos and why?

My favorite place to take pictures was the Archaeological area of ​​Tulum. The Mayan ruins were extremely impressive and interesting to walk through. And it’s hard to beat the beautiful coastal views there.

Which tourist attraction should people avoid and what should they do instead?

I’m always in favor of taking advantage of what’s unique about a destination, so I try to avoid places that exist elsewhere. With that in mind, I would recommend switching from club and restaurant chains like Bagatelle in favor of more local dishes.

Where do you feel most relaxed, calm or happy?

It may be cliché, but there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting on a scenic beach, especially at sunrise or sunset. Tulum is a popular beach yoga destination, so you can even amp up the relaxation factor during your beach time.

What scenic spots do you recommend visiting?

The cenotes of Tulum are world famous for good reason. With their crystal clear water and limestone formations, these natural sinkholes are beautiful places to swim, snorkel, dive, or even just admire on dry land.

In addition, Sian Ka’an Biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage natural park just south of Tulum, making it a great day boat trip when you visit.

Left to right: Mayan Ruins, Raw Love and Christmas decorations going up downtown.

Caroline Bologna/HuffPost

Left to right: Mayan Ruins, Raw Love and Christmas decorations going up downtown.

What is the thing that you make sure to take with you if you go and why?

I recommend packing reef-friendly sunscreen. Tulum is part of the Mesoamerican reef system, and traditional chemical sunscreens have been shown to cause severe damage to coral reefs, so it’s best to stay away.

Be sure to bring pesos so you are prepared to pay in the local currency without having to pay high exchange rates. ATMs aren’t in abundance either.

What specific planning tips do you need to know before you go so you don’t get stressed out?

It’s understandable that you might want to visit Tulum during the summer for better hotel rates, fewer crowds, and better restaurant availability. But understand that you will be there during hurricane season. Try to make refundable reservations and be prepared for possible disruptions to your plans.

What surprised you in Tulum on your first visit?

I was surprised at the prices compared to other parts of Mexico. Tulum doesn’t have to be cheap. Taxis and some restaurants and activities can be expensive. Consider renting a bike to get around cheaper.

Anything else visitors should know?

Tulum has become a popular tourist destination, but don’t forget that you are on sacred and historic land. Be considerate of the local community and the environment by recycling, avoiding single-use plastics, respecting wildlife, and following all the rules in place to preserve and protect the beauty of Tulum.

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