This post's overview:
- 1 Things to know before travelling to Tulum
- 2 Where to stay in Tulum for 5 days: all the areas explained
- 3 Alright, let’s talk about our [more or less] relaxing itinerary for 5 days in Tulum: the best things to do!
- 3.1 Day 1: Getting to Tulum and exploring Tulum town
- 3.2 Day 2: Morning exploring Tulum ruins, afternoon on the beach
- 3.3 Day 3: Cenotes near Tulum, Instagrammable spots in Tulum and evening on the beach
- 3.4 Day 4: Either a day trip at Sian Ka’an / Chichen Itza or a day on the beach (depending on what you’re keener on doing)
- 3.5 Day 5: Enjoying the beach, heading back to Cancun Airport with the stop in Playa del Carmen
- 4 Summary of 5 days in Tulum: the best things to do in Tulum in 5 days!
- 5 Some other posts about Mexico you might like:
Heading to Tulum and not sure what is there to do there? Well, you’re in the right place! In this article, you will find out about the best things to do in Tulum! And what is even better, I’ll share with you our relaxing itinerary for 5 days in Tulum! Ready to get started?
If you’re new to this blog, hi, we are Liza and Jose, a millennial couple based in London, UK. Jose (long for Pepe) was born and raised in Mexico; hence, as you can imagine, we travel to Mexico quite often. Interested in more posts about Mexico? Check our Mexico blog posts category!
Here’s what you can expect to find in this post:
Things to know before travelling to Tulum
Where is Tulum and how to get there?
Tulum is a small town located in the state of Quintana Roo on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. The easiest way to get there is by taking a taxi or a transfer from Cancun Airport. While taxis in Cancun Airport are generally very overpriced (and the overall process of getting a taxi there always was super stressful in my opinion), pre-booking a transfer in advance is much cheaper and overall, it’s a better experience. I recommend using GetTransfer for pre-booking a transfer to Tulum.
Another way to get to Tulum from Cancun Airport is by renting a car.
Renting a car in Cancun Airport to drive to Tulum
The earlier you book your car hire, the lower price you will get. The price really depends on the season; however, you can often rent a car for a week for as low as $90 (without full insurance)! For comparison, if you book on the day of your arrival, the same car can cost you $1500. Make sure to avoid providers like Hertz and National as they are known to scam tourists in Mexico (we were almost scammed by National and ended up without a car, but that’s a whole different story).
What’s the best time to go to Tulum?
If you’re wondering when to travel to Tulum, well, any time! Tulum is a typical all-year-long travel destination, which means that you can go there any time of the year. However, I would generally avoid July to September, as it’s a season with the highest risk of storms. Winter months are usually the coldest, however, cold in Tulum means 28 degrees Celsius, which is pretty hot! In winter, however, you can get some rainy or cloudy days. As Tulum is a tropical destination, it’s impossible to predict if it’s going to rain or not. If you’re very unlucky, you can get a week of rain! However, I went to Riviera Maya and Tulum 4 times and never had a lot of rainy days in a row.
You can swim in Tulum all year long as well! However, from time to time there is an issue with loads of seaweed! Make sure to check the news about that before you go there.
How expensive is Tulum? Prices in Tulum, Mexico
Finally, the last question is how expensive Tulum is. If you’re wondering if Tulum is expensive, the answer is no, not really. It all depends on your lifestyle. It is true that Tulum is more expensive than Playa del Carmen and even Cancun, however, it’s still affordable compared to most Caribbean destinations like the Bahamas or Barbados.
However, Tulum also has some very expensive places and a huge downside of Tulum is that with a small budget, you wouldn’t be able to live close to the beach. You will have to either cycle or take a taxi to the beach and it would take at least 35-45 minutes to get there. Living next to the beach would actually cost you at least $200 per day, so keep that in mind. To find out more about prices in Tulum and the budget you need for a trip there, check out my separate post about Budgeting your trip to Tulum: how expensive is Tulum >>>
Where to stay in Tulum for 5 days: all the areas explained
Tulum isn’t that large of town, but it is spread across a massive territory. That’s why cycling from one location to another can take 40-50 minutes! Cycling is the preferable way of getting around in Tulum – while it might be a bit tiring if you aren’t used to cycling frequently before, it helps you to avoid issues of parking with your car, especially if you’re heading to the beach area.
If you’re on a budget or not sure, where to stay, I recommend staying in 2 different areas during your stay in Tulum like we did. We stayed at era hotel & Spa in La Veleta for a couple of days before moving to Delek Tulum (a stunning beachfront property in Zone Hotelera).
However, let’s look at all different areas in more detail:
Tulum beach: Zona Hotelera and Playa Paraiso
There are two areas located on the beach: Playa Paraiso (close to Tulum ruins) and Zona Hotelera (on the opposite side – where most of the trendy hotels are). Playa Paraiso is definitely quieter, as it doesn’t have so much nightlife and people generally don’t come here to party. It’s a great place to stay if you’re coming to Tulum for a honeymoon (check my guide to a honeymoon in Tulum here). Some of the best hotels to consider in Playa Paraiso: Mi Amor a Colibri and Kai Tulum.
Zona Hotelera is where all the Instagrammable hotels, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, shops and everything you can think of are located! It gets very busy at night and some areas of Zona Hotelera are really really noisy! It’s quite hard to sleep before 2am there, as all the bars and nightclubs are just blasting music, and there is nowhere to hide (not even in your room – unless you’re in a soundproofed property). If that’s not an issue and you would enjoy this area, then some of the best places to stay would be: Azulik Tulum, Delek Tulum and Ana y Jose.
Tulum town: Aldea Zama, La Veleta and Tulum centro
Another popular part of Tulum is Tulum town, which consists of Aldea Zama (it’s the closest to the beach being 15-20 minutes cycling away), a slightly cheaper neighbourhood La Veleta (circa 45-50 minutes away from the beach) and Tulum Centro, which is quite spread and has fancy and average parts.
Alright, let’s talk about our [more or less] relaxing itinerary for 5 days in Tulum: the best things to do!
Here’s the short overview of the 5-day itinerary for Tulum:
Day 1: Getting to Tulum. Exploring Tulum Town
Day 2: Morning exploring Tulum ruins, spending the afternoon on the beach
Day 3: Exploring some of the best cenotes near Tulum, evening on the beach, checking out some of the most Instagrammable spots in Tulum
Day 4: Either a day trip at Sian Ka’an or a day on the beach (depending on what you’re keener on doing)
Day 5: Enjoying the beach, heading back to Cancun Airport with the stop in Playa del Carmen
Without further ado, let’s get started with the relaxing 5-day itinerary for Tulum and some of the best things to do in Tulum.
Day 1: Getting to Tulum and exploring Tulum town
On your first day in Tulum, I recommend taking it easy and just focusing on getting to Tulum and exploring Tulum town. If you’re flying to Mexico from another country, most probably, you will arrive at Cancun International Airport. Getting to Tulum from Cancun International Airport takes, on average, 1.5-2 hours (if you drive there yourself, pre-order a transfer or take a taxi). It can be pretty tiring, so I imagine that you wouldn’t want to go full in and explore a lot on your first day.
Hence, I just recommend checking in at your hotel, relaxing a bit, taking a shower and heading off to explore Tulum town. Tulum town isn’t very pretty (it’s not a former colonial town like Merida or Guanajuato), so the town centre is pretty simple in terms of architecture. Tulum is a town of contrasts – you can see some luxurious new properties being built in front of crumbling small houses, you’ll see a lot of unpaved roads and chickens running on the streets. However, that’s a charm of Tulum, and I feel like it could be lost very soon (unfortunately), due to the rapid development and increased popularity of Tulum.
There are plenty of shops in Tulum town centre – from grocery shops to clothing stores and souvenir shops. There is also a very nice street food market called Palma Central – you’ll find a lot of international food stalls and the food is pretty affordable there.
All the nightlife, however, is happening in the area of C. Centauro Sur – some of the best examples are Batey Mojito bar, Mezcaleria Amores and others. There are also amazing taco stalls right in front of Batey bar if you’re looking for a quick bite!
Things to do on your way to Tulum
However, if you’re just going to Tulum from another location in Mexico (e.g. from Cancun or Playa del Carmen), I imagine that you would want to do a bit more on your first day in Tulum. In this case, you can also explore some of the amazing cenotes on the way to Tulum – e.g. some of my favourite cenotes and the ones I would recommend the most would be Cenote Azul and Cenote Dos Ojos. A lot of cenotes are located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, hence, you wouldn’t need to do a complex detour or go off-the-route completely.
Day 2: Morning exploring Tulum ruins, afternoon on the beach
On your second day in Tulum, I recommend visiting the famous Mayan ruins – Tulum Archaeological site. I recommend heading there early, as it gets pretty crowded (we waited in the queue for about 30-40 minutes to buy tickets when we arrived around 12pm), moreover, it won’t be as hot in you head there early. Getting there is really easy. If you’re based in the town centre, you can just walk (circa 45 minutes), cycle (circa 10-15 minutes or even less) or grab a taxi (circa 5-10 minutes). If you’re based close to the beach, you can also either cycle or just take a taxi there.
The ruins are located on top of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, so you can only imagine how stunning the views are. It’s nice to just wander around and explore the ruins. You’ll be able to spot a lot of iguanas. They tend to love it there, and some are pretty huge. We almost thought that we saw a dinosaur!
Spending the afternoon on the beach
After visiting Tulum archaeological site, I recommend just spending the rest of the day on the beach. You can either stay close to Tulum ruins and explore Playa Paraiso (there are plenty of lovely beach clubs there) or head to the “main” beach in the Zona Hotelera Area. If you’re staying at one of the hotels close to the beach, you can also spend the rest of your afternoon enjoying this beach.
If you’re staying in Tulum town, here are some of the best beach clubs and bars to check out in Tulum:
Day 3: Cenotes near Tulum, Instagrammable spots in Tulum and evening on the beach
As I mentioned before, there are so many amazing cenotes near Tulum. If you haven’t heard of cenotes before, basically, they are natural sinkholes. All cenotes are different, however, some of the best cenotes near Tulum are Gran Cenote, cenote Calavera, cenote Escondido, cenote Dos Ojos and cenote Sac Actun. There is no way to visit all of them in one day (and there is no need to), so try to pick two of the most convenient ones or the ones you consider impressive.
Most of cenotes have a small entrance fee that you need to pay to be able to visit them (and swim there), while some other ones are way more expensive and include snorkelling and even diving activities (e.g. cenote Dos Ojos). Cenote Calavera and cenote Escondido are probably not the most impressive ones, but they are the closest to Tulum and you can cycle there. For the others, it’s easier to hire a taxi (or a car) or take one of the cenote tours from Viator like this one or this one >>>
Explore some of the most Instagrammable spots in Tulum and spending the evening on the beach
Depending on how much time you’re planning to spend in the cenotes, you can either have half of the day free or just the evening. Either way, I recommend walking around Tulum’s Zona Hotelera and explore some of the most Instagrammable spots like the famous Tulum sign, Ven a la Luz statue in front of Ahau hotel, Match Mama and some of the most Instagrammable hotels, which you can easily see from Tulum beach!
Day 4: Either a day trip at Sian Ka’an / Chichen Itza or a day on the beach (depending on what you’re keener on doing)
On your 4th day in Tulum, I recommend spending the day elsewhere (e.g. Sian Ka’an or Chichen Itza) or you can spend it on the beach if you’re keener on relaxing. Let’s first talk about Sian Ka’an and then about Chichen Itza. It’s impossible to visit both in one day, so choose the one you prefer.
Visiting the Sian Ka’an Biosphere
Sian Ka’an is a large nature reserve protected by UNESCO. Visiting Sian Ka’an is an amazing experience as you will have a chance to meet local fauna, snorkel, drive through a stunning forest and discover Muyil ruins – one of the earliest inhabited Mayan sites. While you can visit Sian Ka’an yourself if you hire a 4×4 and get a map of the area, the best [and probably the easiest way] is to get an organised tour. Here are some of the best-rated tours to Sian Ka’an & some of them even include a safari, swimming in a stunning lagoon and even a lunch:
Visiting Chichen Itza
Another thing you can do near Tulum (well, 2 hours away from Tulum, to be precise), is to visit Chichen Itza! Chichen Itza was voted one of the new wonders of the world, and it’s one of the travel bucket list destinations. This archaeological park is located circa 2 hours away from Tulum (each way). You can either drive there yourself and pre-book tickets for Chichen Itza in advance here, so you don’t need to stand in the queue for 30-60 minutes. You can buy the tickets online here >>>
Alternatively, you can take one of many tours that will bring you to Chichen Itza! Depending on your budget and preferences, you can either take a group tour (check the availability here) or a private tour to Chichen Itza (check the prices here)
You can read my post about driving to Chichen Itza yourself – things you need to know! >>>
Spending the day on the beach
If the ultimate goal of your trip to Tulum is to rest and relax, then, perhaps, a tiring day trip full of sightseeing or a day tour to a Nature Reserve wouldn’t be the best idea. In this case, you can just spend this day in Tulum, enjoying the beach or discovering a new area of the town (e.g. Playa Paraiso if you haven’t had a chance to visit it yet) or some of the best beach bars and clubs in Zona Hotelera.
If you’re into food and nice restaurants, here are a few that I recommend checking out:
There are plenty of amazing restaurants in Tulum. Some of them are located inside hotels, e.g. Kin Toh is located inside a hotel Azulik that was an Instagram sensation of 2020. One of the best ways to see Azulik from the inside (besides staying there, of course) is booking a dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants.
Day 5: Enjoying the beach, heading back to Cancun Airport with the stop in Playa del Carmen
Finally, on your last day in Tulum, I recommend taking it easy! Spend some time enjoying the morning, go for a swim or a run, have a lovely breakfast and relax. Depending on the time of your flight back, you can either stay in Tulum and enjoy the beach / or the town or head somewhere else.
You can also visit another cenote or even a town on the way to the airport. If you have an entire day and your flight doesn’t depart until late in the evening, you can even visit one of many amusement parks in Riviera Maya. These theme parks offer a lot of fun things to do – e.g. zip lines, rafting, snorkelling, getting to know tropical animals. If you like adventure, then Xplor would be the best park to visit (the entrance costs circa $100 per person).
If you’re into snorkelling – then Xel-Ha (pronounced Shell-Kha) would be a great option. If you like a bit of both – perhaps, you’d enjoy Xcaret the most (however, the most interesting part of Xcaret is their Mayan show, which runs mostly in the evenings).
Summary of 5 days in Tulum: the best things to do in Tulum in 5 days!
Alright, I hope you enjoyed this post about spending 5 days in Tulum and the best things to do and see in Tulum if you’re coming there for 5 days only! Tulum is stunning and once you come there, you just can’t stop returning. Especially because the town is changing and developing so much and there are so many new amazing openings that it’s hard to keep track on them. Overall, I must say that 5 days are definitely not enough to get to know Mexico’s Caribbean Coast and the beautiful region of Riviera Maya. I’ve been there 4 times and spent over 1.5 months in total, but even that wasn’t enough to see and do everything I wanted to do (well, to be fair, we also had to work some days remotely, so that wasn’t exactly 1.5 months of vacations). However, 5 days would be enough to get to know Tulum and some of the best things to do in Tulum, including Tulum Archaeological Zone, the beautiful beaches of Tulum, the most Instagrammable beach clubs and even explore a couple of cenotes very close to the town.
Once you explore Tulum, you can start exploring other areas like Akumal, Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and some others – there are so many things to do in Mexico, and all of them are amazing!