Tulum Guidebook: Where to Eat, What to Do and Where to Stay in Tulum, Mexico

I’ve been to this tiny town in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula twice now. This laid-back, mystical town attracts millions of tourists a year (no joke: according to Wikipedia, 2.2 million people visited Tulum in 2017)!

Many are attracted to Tulum because of its ancient Mayan ruins along the stunning Caribbean Sea. Theses mysterious, highly-visited ruins were once a thriving Mayan city and a major port for Coba, another ancient city close by.

Where To Eat

My favourite topic 🙂 You won’t go hungry in this little town. According to TripAdvisor, over 400 restaurants await travelers to Tulum. Many restaurants cater to tourists and have menus in English and Spanish. I din’t get a chance to try all of the places, but out of the ones I did, I would recommend these dining hot spots:

Don Cafeto

This popular spot has over 1,500 reviews in Google. We found it by chance, and I highly recommend this place. The authentic Mexican joint prides itself on its coffee, but the food is definitely up there too. I had their enchiladas with mole and enjoyed their breakfast another time before setting off in a bus to Playa Del Carmen. It’s right on the main street. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Leaving Don Cafeto before we headed to Playa del Carmen

Bonita Tulum 

This place was on the way from the bus station to our Airbnb during my second visit. Their specialty is burgers — and wow they do ’em well! They have vegetarian and vegan options, and never have I witnessed such creativity at work — all in the name of a classic food item. I went for the veggie burger with peanut-chipotle sauce with sweet potato fries. Their cheesy vegan nachos were fantastic as well … yum!

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

Where the locals dine, and for a good reason! An authentic taco joint. I was on a hunt for panuches  and salbutes and I found them here (thanks to Google). Tacos, panuches and salbutes are 8 pesos each (about .40 cents). Be brave and try their “panuches” and “salbutes”. Similar to tacos, they’re just a little different and there’s something about them. And they’re native to the Yucatán Peninsula! You can learn more about them via this short article form The Yucatán Times.

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Dining in Tulum is a great experience!

Experiences / Things to Do

The Ruins

No visit is complete with paying homage to this ancient Mayan city. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water and wear a hat. It will be h-o-o-o-o-t-t, but totally worth it!

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A painting of the Tulum Ruins by Frederick Catherwood, 1844

Go Snorkeling in a Caribbean Reef

I’m a a newbie snorkeler, and I can’t believe what I’ve been missing out on! Many snorkeling boats leave from the beaches near the ruins. We paid $35 USD each. A big highlight: seeing a loggerhead sea turtle! It was also a treat to catch a glimpse of the ruins from the calm water!

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Getting ready to jump into the beautiful Caribbean sea!
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The Ruins of Tulum

Visit and Swim in “Cenotes”!

You might ask what a cenote is. They’re like giant natural wells, or “sinkholes” that were a key source of fresh water for the Mayans. Today you’ll find them filled with swimming tourists and nature lovers! We visited the Grand Cenote near Tulum (about a 5 minute drive) and I highly recommend it. The Yucatán Peninsula seems to be dotted with cenotes everywhere … entire trips could be devoted to discovering the many sinkholes alone!

Photos of the cenote by Laura & Bernd of the Wat Erleben blog!

Check out the Hand Crafts and Hammocks

While I wasn’t able to take part in this because I was moving to another continent a few weeks after leaving Mexico, Tulum is a great spot to pick up unique handcrafts and souvenirs. The handmade hammocks and dream catchers are like none I’ve seen elsewhere. If you have room for such items, this could be a great spot to buy them!

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Art/ handcrafts in Tulum

Where to Stay

Tulum today is divided into two areas: the ‘Zona Hotelera’ — literally the hotel zone along the Caribbean Coast — and the town itself. I’ve stayed in both the town and in a hotel along the Coast. Where you stay depends on what you’re looking for: if it’s beach, you’re likely better off in the hotel zone. If it’s Mexican cuisine and more affordable options, the town is your best bet. There are so many places to pick from — from beach cabanas (like cabins on the beach), to swanky hotels, to bohemian and homey Airbnbs. Whether or not you’re in the town or at the beach has its pros and cons: townies will end up traveling more to get to the ruins and the beach, while those in hotels will have to travel a bit to visit the town, do some shopping and try some tacos.

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Hotel beach chairs, Zona Hotelera, Tulum

Enjoy your stay!

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