How many days in Tulum, Mexico does one need to see and experience the town’s most notable attractions? We recommend allotting 3 to 5 days if you plan to explore both Tulum Beach and Tulum Town.
There is so much to do in Tulum and we would personally stay up to a month if given the chance. However, most of us do not have that much time to spend on this tropical getaway. The good news is that 5 days is already enough to experience almost everything Tulum has to offer.
In this comprehensive Tulum guide, we’ll give you tips and advice on when to visit Tulum, where to stay, and other useful travel hacks. Whether you’re staying in Tulum for 3, 4, or 5 days, we have prepared an itinerary for you that lets you relax on the beach, see the ruins, and sample the best eats (and drinks)!
Table of Contents
When To Visit Tulum
Aside from its gorgeous white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, Tulum is also visited by plenty of tourists because of its warm weather all year round. However, the summer heat from May to August can reach up to 82°F and can be quite uncomfortable. September and October, on the other hand, see several hurricanes. Therefore, the best months to visit Tulum are from November to January. The skies have cleared. The temperature has dropped. The weather is still humid.
Take note, though, these months are also the busiest in Tulum. Because of the optimal weather, waves of tourists flock to Tulum during the winter months. They normally peak between late December and January, so it’s best to book your flight and accommodation early. You may also plan your Tulum trip around early November to early December if you still want to enjoy the temperate weather without the hordes of tourists that normally arrive during Christmas and New Year.
Where To Stay: Tulum Beach or Tulum Town
Tulum consists of a beach (playa) and a small town (pueblo). Tulum Town is about three to five kilometers from the Tulum Beach. This means they aren’t exactly within walking distance from each other. Choosing where to stay in Tulum will make all the difference.
Tulum Beach is the ten-kilometer coastal path that stretches along the eastern front of the Yucatan Peninsula. Its northern end is home to the Mayan Ruins in Tulum National Park, and its southern tip is where you’ll find the Sian Ka’an National Biosphere Reserve. This is where you want to be if you enjoy nature. Tulum Beach is roughly divided into four areas: South Beach, Middle Beach, Beach Town, and North Beach.
South Beach. This family-friendly part of Tulum Beach sits on a wide stretch of white sandy beach. The shore has no rocky parts, safe for kids and yoga-practicing visitors. The South Beach Zone also gives off a fancy aura, perfect for luxury travelers and couples on their honeymoon.
Middle Beach. This part has a convenient mix of shops, restaurants, bars, and beach clubs. If you’re looking for a place that offers both convenience and quiet, this is your best bet. Since it’s at the center, it’s also the most convenient part of the beach for when you want to visit Tulum Town.
Beach Town. The beach here is mostly sandy and swimmable, but expect a few rocky patches on its southern end. If you’re a fan of biking, this zone is an ideal choice for you. The bike path going to Tulum Pueblo starts here.
North Beaches. This part is also known as the public beach and it feels more resort-like compared to the south beach zones that are full of luxury hotels. The beach is rockier and has less white sand, so the hotel rates are more affordable. You’ll find a handful of cheap yet stylish boutique hotels here.
A lush tropical rainforest separates downtown Tulum from the beach. Tulum Pueblo is where many travelers stay when they visit Tulum. It is usually a ten to fifteen-minute drive away from the beach.
Filled with authentic taco kiosks and yoga studios, Tulum Town offers a more local taste for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture. The town is also close to bus stations, perfect for those planning to take a day trip to neighboring tourists spots such as the Chichen Itza or Playa Del Carmen. It’s the ideal place for long-term visitors, partygoers, budget travelers, and backpackers.
Our Hotel Recommendations
For hotel recommendations, you should check out these articles:
- Boutique Hotels in Tulum, Mexico
- 7 Best Airbnbs in Tulum, Mexico That You Can Rent
- 8 Best Luxury Hotels in Tulum, Mexico
Depending on how much time you have, we’ve prepared an itinerary that will let you see, experience, and enjoy the scenes and activities Tulum is best known for.
3-Day Tulum Itinerary
Day 1: Wind Down
Relax. You’re most likely to arrive in Tulum or finish unpacking in the afternoon. The travel time from Cancun International Airport to Tulum will take at least an hour. With most of the day already gone, the best thing to do is just relax and unwind after your flight or journey. Reserve your energy because you’ll be needing plenty of it in the next few days! Enjoy your hotel’s amenities or check out nearby restaurants. Tulum has tons of world-class dining options!
Enjoy a few drinks downtown. If you’re staying in Tulum Town or want to bike from the playa to the pueblo, you definitely should check out Tulum’s nightlife scene. Savor the sunset with a fresh mojito at Batey’s Mojito & Guarapo Bar or enjoy a sweeping bird’s-eye view of Tulum Town at Naná Rooftop Bar.
Day 2: Tulum Ruins and Beach Clubs
Mayan Ruins. A trip to Tulum wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Tulum Ruins. Get up extra early if you wish to make the most of your full day in Tulum and avoid the crowds. It’s best if you can arrive at the Tulum Archaeological Zone before 08:00 AM to beat not just the crowds but also the would-be harsh noon heat.
Sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking the turquoise Caribbean waters, the Tulum Archaeological Zone is the third most visited ruins in the whole of Mexico, after Teotihuacán and Chichén Itzá. The site was once a walled city and served as an important trading port between the 13th and 15th centuries.
The largest pyramid in the archaeological zone is called El Castillo, which used to be a lighthouse. On the foot of the pyramid, you’ll find a wooden staircase that leads to one of the best beaches in Tulum — Playa Ruínas. This quaint beach has pristine sands, turquoise waters, and towering palm trees. Because of this, you can expect lots of tourists to flock here. That’s why it’s best to come early in the morning.
Beach. After exploring the famous Tulum Ruins, cool off from the heat and reward yourself with tropical cocktails and mouthwatering seafood dishes at Playa Paraíso or Paradise Beach. Situated on North Beach, this picturesque coast is just a few minutes away from the Tulum Ruins.
Known for its namesake beach club that features rows of comfy lounge chairs and oversized beach beds, Playa Paraíso is constantly dubbed as Tulum’s best beach. The beach club is open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and accepts major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. Service is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Since Playa Paraíso does not accept reservations, we suggest you arrive early so you can have a nice spot for lunch.
If you’d like to spend the rest of your stay in beach clubs, here’s a list of the best beach clubs in Tulum.
Day 3: Tulum Cenotes
Breakfast. Rise early and head on to the pueblo to enjoy a hearty breakfast. Have a meal at DelCielo Bistro, Tulum Town’s favorite breakfast place. It serves thirst-quenching juices, excellent espresso, and scrumptious breakfast. Vegan and gluten-free options are available, too. Here is a list of the best places to get great coffee and breakfast.
Cenotes. Once you’ve had your cup of joe, you’re now ready to explore some Tulum cenotes! A cenote is a large water-filled sinkhole that resulted from limestone rocks collapsing. When an underground cave collapses, it exposes the cool groundwater below. It gets filled with rainwater over time, forming a clear pool.
There are about 6,000 cenotes in the entire Yucatan Peninsula and some of the most popular ones are just near Tulum! From downtown Tulum, Gran Cenote is only a 10 to 30-minute drive away. This cenote is one of the nearest and most popular in Tulum. It’s a collection of open-air and cave cenotes amid large tropical greenery. Gran Cenote is great for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Another nearby cenote is Cenote Aktun-Ha. Also known as Cenote Car Wash, Aktun-Ha used to be a pit stop for taxi drivers traveling between Coba and Tulum. They washed their cars with the cenote’s crystal clear water. Thus, earning its famous nickname. Cenote Car Wash is a large open-air cenote surrounded by lily pads. If you’re looking for a cenote that’s off the beaten path, this cenote is the place to be!
Head to Dos Ojos Park if you want to visit a bunch of cenotes. This park 22km north of Tulum is home to several famous cenotes including Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Nicte-Ha, Cenote El Pit, and Cenote Sac Actun (a.k.a Pet Cemetery). If you’re not bringing a car, be sure to head back to Tulum before 05:00 PM as transportation seems to be a bit more difficult this hour.
For a more comprehensive guide to Tulum’s cenotes, make sure to check out this article!
4-Day Tulum Itinerary
Day 4: Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
If you have one more day to spare, you definitely should visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Your trip to Tulum wouldn’t be as complete if you don’t visit this reserve.
Sian Ka’an means “gate of heaven” in Yucatec Mayan. Indeed, this protected natural reserve looks like a place where heaven begins. Known for its complex biodiversity and beauty, this reserve is home to thousands of flora and fauna species. There are wide sandy beaches, small bays, and mangroves along the coastal part of Sian Ka’an. The coral reef here is the second largest of its kind, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
5-Day Tulum Itinerary
Day 5: Relax or Take a Day Trip
It’s your final day in Tulum. We have two suggestions on how to make the most out of your remaining hours here. You can either chill or end your 5-day trip with an adventure.
Relax. All the activities you did the past four days have been pretty tiring. You can take this day to finally relax and enjoy your vacation. Start the day by attending a yoga class by the beach. Tulum has plenty of studios with amazing yoga teachers from around the world. Some even consider this place as the home of the best yoga retreats! Most hotels even offer complimentary yoga classes; make the most out of it.
To fully enjoy your chill day in Tulum, why not treat yourself to a relaxing and rejuvenating massage? You deserve it! Tulum has plenty of world-class spa facilities. Here is a list of the top 5 spas in Tulum.
Adventure. If you, on the other hand, are looking for more adventure, you can end your 5-day trip to Tulum with a day trip to one of the neighboring tourist destinations. After all, it’s not every day you get to spend time in the Yucatan Peninsula!
- If you enjoyed the cenotes, we recommend you take a day trip to Valladolid. It’s home to some of the best cenotes such as the Instagram famous Cenote Suytun and Cenote X’Canche at Ek Balam Archaeological Site
- If you enjoyed your time at Tulum Archeological Zone, take a day trip to the Coba Ruins. It’s less crowded than the Tulum Ruins.
- If you’re up for it, why not visit Chichen Itza (especially if you’re staying in Tulum Pueblo)? Tulum Town is close to bus stations that have routes going to Chichén Itzá.
For a smoother trip in Tulum, here are some travel tips you might find helpful.
- Rent a car. Uber is hit or miss in Tulum. Renting a car is the safest and most hassle-free alternative and the most convenient way to get around town. As mentioned earlier, the beach and the town are not within walking distance from each other, so renting a car will be very helpful when going from one area to the other. It’s also very convenient when you visit the cenotes.
- Don’t do your own laundry. If you’re staying a while, drop off your laundry somewhere local and enjoy yourself at the beach. Don’t forget to bring a good travel laundry bag!
- Always have cash with you. Most establishments in Tulum do not accept credit cards. If they do, expect a 3% surcharge. So it’s best to always bring cash with you, preferably Mexican pesos.
- Pay in Mexican Pesos. Although most establishments accept US dollars, you’ll most likely overpay if you use it. Also, try to avoid having your cash exchanged at the airport. The exchange rates there are usually less favorable than in town.