5-Day Itinerary for Exploring Tulum
Tulum has become one of Mexico's most popular destinations, and after visiting it myself, I understand why. While Tulum is a relaxed beach town where bikes are the main mode of transportation for tourists, there is so much to see and do. Whether you are interested in visiting the Mayan ruins and doing jungle activities or partying at beach clubs and eating at trendy restaurants, Tulum is sure to satisfy your vacation needs.
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Where to stay
La Zebra Hotel Tulum
Longtime favorite on the beach, with a mix of garden and sea view suites and a breezy restaurant overlooking the sandy shore.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Sleek property along the Caribbean Sea on a white-sand beach with breezy rooms.
Cabañas La Luna
Contemporary beachfront property in the Yucatán Peninsula with modern rooms and bungalows offering views of the Caribbean Sea.
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Day 1: Arrive in Cancun and relax by the beach
To get to Tulum, you will have to fly into CUN (Cancun Airport) and then drive approximately 1.5 hours to your hotel. If you are not renting a car, your hotel will help you set up a private transfer. The company we used was STP Caribe and they were wonderful.
You should select your hotel depending on the location you prefer to stay in. We stayed at Zamas hotel which is part of the beach town area of the hotel zone. I absolutely loved this location, because we got the best of both worlds, but if you don’t want to take taxis to dinner every night, I suggest staying further south or what is known as the 'middle' part of the hotel zone.
You will likely arrive to Tulum in the afternoon or early evening. Once you are settled in, enjoy a welcome drink at your hotel's beach while watching the sunset.
There are so many restaurants, bars and shops in the hotel zone, which we popped in and out of on our walk to dinner our first night. Our favorite was El Tabano where we stopped for a Pacifico and played jenga. They served complimentary chips and pico de gallo with our beers, which was a lovely touch!
Have dinner at Rosanegra, one of Tulum's most popular restaurants. Every so often the staff hands everyone a sparkler and you dance on your chairs, but the biggest surprise to us was the complimentary champagne they served in the bathroom! Our favorite dishes were the spicy octopus and churros for dessert. This is a great place to party all night after dinner!
Day 2: Explore the ruins and city by bike
Wake up and enjoy breakfast before renting bikes for the day. You will see everyone on bike while in Tulum, because that is the fastest (and cheapest) way to get around. There are places all along the main road to rent for 24 hours at a time.
Ride bikes to the Mayan ruins. It costs about $10 for the fast pass to not wait in any lines once you arrive. This took about 30 minutes from our hotel and was well worth it!
You are surrounded by so much greenery while also being on top of the ocean. The views were stunning and great for photos. I suggest going early in the day as it gets very crowded and hot.
On your way back from the ruins, stop at Mezzanine hotel for a smoothie & snack, which is situated right on the beach. Make sure to order the Crispy Money Bags - shrimp wontons served with a chili sauce that were divine!
Then, head to Taboo beach club for the day where the party starts around 4:30 pm. There is a per person fee to get in that goes towards food and beverage and includes a table or beach chairs. The earlier you arrive, the better seat you get.
After a full day of sun, get ready for dinner at Gitano where the theme is disco. The queso fundito was life changing - I would go back just for that! After dinner, we headed to the back of the restaurant, which is set up as a club with a DJ and danced all night!
Day 3: Go zip-lining, ride ATVs and explore Cenotes on a tour
Start your day early with the Maya Adventure tour! There are so many activities to do while in Tulum, but we opted for a five hour tour with Maya Adventure that our hotel suggested and set up for us.
The tour was $88 per person and included an hour of ATVs followed by Zip Lining, two Cenotes and ended with lunch. This was the highlight of our trip and a very good deal for all that was included!
Once you arrive back to your hotel, you will likely be tired from the days activities. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach relaxing before it was time to get ready for the night.
If you are going to visit one restaurant while in Tulum, make sure it is Hartwood! While doing research for the trip, we found that Hartwood was voted the best restaurant in Tulum by multiple sources, and there is good reason.
My favorite part was that there is no menu online - the dishes are seasonal and written on a black chalkboard for you to select from. We got the gambas mayas (shrimp) to start along with the cesar salad and both were incredible. For our main courses we shared the filete de robalo (a white fish) and the arravhera angus (skirt steak). Let me tell you I am still dreaming about that skirt steak!
All of the food there had incredible flavor and the ambiance was perfect. You absolutely need a reservation, which you can make via email or WhatsApp a month prior.
End the evening at Papaya Playa Project for a very unique experience filled with wild lights, different DJs, acrobats and fire dancers right on the beach. Buy your ticket to get in beforehand, so you don't have to wait in any lines!
Day 4: Relax at a private beach and have dinner in a jungle treehouse
Start the day with brunch at Bagatelle. For $100 per person, you get sunbeds and a 4 course meal on beach. Brunch includes coffee or juice, one mimosa, a pastry, appetizer, main course and a flight of desserts – an incredible value!
We arrived at 11:30 and got the best seats on the beach. The later you arrive, the more packed it will be.
After a relaxing day at the beach, go to Azulik for the sunset experience at Tseen Ja restaurant. This treehouse experience is one of the only ones Azulik offers to the general public that does not require a reservation. You must arrive by 5:15 and it costs $56 per person, which includes one drink.
Enjoy incredible views atop of the jungle with friendly strangers during sunset hour.
End the day with dinner at Parole. When you think of Mexico, you probably don't think of Italian, but this was one of our favorite meals! The ambiance is jungle vibes and they serve complimentary focaccia to start, which was so yummy.
We got the artichoke as an appetizer which came with a parmesan aioli that was to die for and accompanied the bread so well. The best pasta was the truffle carbonara – need I say more?!
Day 5: Shop in downtown, chill and depart
On your last day, ride bikes to Tulum's downtown for breakfast and some shopping before heading home. We went to Matcha Mama Pueblo for their matcha bowls that were delicious.
I suggest booking a late flight, so you can enjoy the morning before the ride back to Cancun airport. You will have had such a great time that I am sure you'll be planning your next visit to Tulum on your flight home!
Need to Know
If you love Mexico, check out my Magical Guide to San Miguel de Allende.
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