Tulum is THE perfect beach getaway that sneaks in some culture, nature, and relaxation without a lot of transit time. It’s a location that feels exotic but doesn’t have you spending an entire day traveling. I quickly whipped my bikini top off after this picture because Tulum is European hip like that.
Tulum is about an hour outside Cancun and nothing like it. All hotels are quaint and boutique as resorts are not allowed. This means you need to book your hotel in advance as hotels are small. We went in February and escaped the cold of Nashville and enjoyed off-peak hotel rates. Also important, lots of the hotels are adults only so read carefully if you’re booking family travel.
Weather in February is gorgeous – high 80’s low 90’s but not too hot. This is the perfect getaway if you need a cold weather break in the winter months and rain is almost non-existent.
Something to note about Tulum – it is a long stretch of beach so here’s a caveat when choosing a hotel: 1) Is it on the beach side? If not, abort! 2) Is it on either of the extreme ends of the strip? If so, you’ll be walking a lot more than you want.
WHERE TO STAY – SAVE $ AND SHARE A HIP SUITE:
We went with friends and decided to save money by sharing a room at The Zebra Hotel. They had accommodations with a queen bed and two twins (VERY comfortable actually – I’m a bed snob) so we were able to cut the first two nights’ cost in half and spend time together as we rarely see each other. With the spacious rooms, private plunge pools on the lower levels, huge balconies, and enormous modern bathrooms equipped with double sinks – we did not feel on top of each other.
*They do charge a small additional fee for adding adults to your room but this is nominal compared to getting your own room. If you are planning to go as a family or with friends – Tulum is tough. All of the hotels are made for 2 people and finding anything that accommodates 4 people isn’t easy. The Zebra did NOT feel like a “compromise” by any means!
The Zebra has a private beach with great padded lounge chairs, drink service, and a fun outdoor salsa dancing night that’s touted as the best in the area. We ate at their restaurant twice and thoroughly enjoyed our meals both times.
They also have a pool area if you tire of the beach or the sand and the entire property is so cool and quiet – it will be hard to leave.
La Zebra is operated by Colibri Hotels – ALL of the hotels in this group are fantastic.
WHERE TO STAY – ROMANTIC AND QUIET:
The hubs and I also wanted some time alone, so for our last two nights we stayed at Coral Tulum. This is an adults only hotel on the opposite side of the Tulum “strip” from La Zebra. It is a much quieter vibe. We traded in “hip” for a classy and smaller property with a more grown-up feel. There is no common pool at Coral Tulum but each room has a private plunge pool and a cool outdoor swing. Don’t spring for the ocean front or ocean view rooms. There are only about 16 rooms total so it’s not worth the money to be 15 inches closer to the beach. *Their website does NOT do them justice. The rooms are beautiful and the bathrooms are phenomenal.
Coral Tulum seemed a bit more “grown up” compared to the Zebra. They have a private beach with chairs for guests, drink service, and a delicious breakfast. On Valentines day they brought us roses and champagne – lots of special touches.
WHAT TO DO:
Chill. Eat. Repeat. This was the theme of our first 2 days. However, I’m not a huge beach fan so after we were all caught up and well-rested…time had to explore!
- We took a day tour with a private guide that included swimming with the turtles at Akamal. This is not as involved as you would think. No boats required – just throw on a snorkel and goggles and wade into the water to see tons of turtles! This was our favorite thing to do in Tulum and if you’re a scuba enthusiast, the reefs are supposed to be incredible too. Akumal is only a 20 minute ride from Tulum. Bring biodegradable sunscreen (required) and a water-resistant phone case from home and avoid being gauged before your turtle tour.
2. After turtles, we headed to the “cenotes” where we swam in the chilly waters and checked out the caves, stalactites, and crystal clear shallow waters. Our guide took us to a market before Akumal but there was no need. If they offer a stop there – it’s a tourist trap. Bring bottled water and skip the market for more time with the turtles and “cenotes” swimming.
This made for a full day of activity. There are lots of guides that run this same route – ask your hotel concierge for info pre-departure. Also, try to head out early and start at Akumal to avoid the turtle crowds.
3. Check out the 13th century Mayan ruins at Tulum National Park. You don’t need long here. This is at the northernmost end of Tulum and is a quick 30-45 minutes of self-guided walking. We enjoyed seeing wild coati and large iguanas. If you’ve ever been to Belize, or Teotihuacan/Chichen Itza (in Mexico) this will not be super impressive but definitely worth a quick and cheap visit.
4. Shop:) There are some cute shops as you walk down the long strip in Tulum. Be warned, they’re pricey but unique. If you want better prices and more options – save your money for the city of Tulum.
5. Walk into downtown Tulum. This is a better spot for more authentic Mexican artifacts and prices are much better. Grab a bite to eat and see all of the small hotels with unique boho decor. The walk there is not long (maybe 20 minutes) from the beaches but it’s not going to make the National Geographic cover – you’re walking alongside the hot-as-hades highway.
WHERE TO EAT:
If you can’t afford to stay at Azulik – which we couldn’t. You HAVE to at least eat there! This is a really unique treehouse, palapa, fairytale hotel that is high-end and worth the splurge. Built on top of the jungle with 39 foot stilts, it will impress. There are 3 restaurants and the views are straight out of “The Jungle Book” if Mowgli was a pimp. Link this meal with your visit to the Tulum National Park as they are right next to each other.
By The Zebra Hotel, is a great lunch/breakfast spot called Casa Banana. It’s got a relaxing outdoor eating space and great food/prices.
For a great Instagram pic on wooden swings at the bar – check out Ziggys.
Check out a delicious Italian joint that looks like your stepping into an Anthropologie catalogue at Posada Margharita. It’s right on the beach and the food is incredible – make a reservation.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Tulum is about 60 minutes from the Cancun airport. Make sure to grab a wad of pesos at the airport ATM as most places require cash.
No need to rent a car as everywhere is accessible on foot or by cheap cabs. Instead, reserve a car service or shuttle ahead of time from the airport for about $60. I booked through our hotel and it was a competitive rate. Don’t pay for a taxi as a shuttle is roomy, comfortable, reliable, and affordable. Our driver stopped midway so that we could enjoy a “michelada” drink (usually Modelo beer, lime, and tomato juice) and a quick snack to get the trip started off right!
Don’t go to Cancun when you have Tulum. You’re welcome.