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A Traveling Insider's Guide to Tulum, Mexico

Experience the best of this magical destination with our expert travel guide to Tulum. | By Alesandra Dubin | April 12, 2022

In Tulum, travel comes easy. Tulum is that rare destination that seems to have it all: jaw-dropping natural beauty, a rich cultural history and a dynamic arts and dining landscape. It has every opportunity to indulge in relaxation or soak up the social scene, whatever your style. Here's how to make memories in Mexico:

  • Go barefoot: Tulum beaches are as tranquil or lively as you want them to be, by day or night

  • Chase new experiences: Ancient ruins and glittering cenotes offer thrilling opportunities to explore and discover

  • Refresh and revitalize: The Tulum hospitality scene indulges your every whim, from eco-friendly retreats to lavish all-inclusive resorts

Why visit Tulum?

For most people, it’s all about Tulum’s beaches and natural beauty. The coast is stunning by day and night alike, with white sand, turquoise waters, and beach clubs that up the ante for amenities and luxury. The area’s diverse flora and fauna — almost as if Mother Nature is wearing a light, airy Instagram filter — are further on display at natural reserves built for exploration.

Then there’s the cenotes — natural sinkholes developed from collapsed limestone under the Yucatán Peninsula. Tulum’s cenotes distinguish the region from anywhere else in the world; some are complex underground cave systems while others are open-air swimming holes. Tulum’s Gran Cenote is one of the most well-known, a romantic hot spot for swimming, diving and snorkeling.

Mayan ruins blanket the Yucatán Peninsula, too, but Tulum’s very own ruins have a special characteristic: They’re the only ones built over the beach (and are one of the Maya’s few walled settlements). One of the best-preserved coastal Mayan sites that remain, it’s believed this spot might’ve been called Zama (Dawn) — a reference to its position facing east — some 700 years ago, which is fitting for such a beautiful spot.

Zooming back to today, the dining and drinking scene couldn’t be more modern: Tulum’s bar and restaurant scene is vibrant and bustling, offering everything from tiny taquerias to posh world-class dining. Tulum’s also an art appreciator’s paradise, brimming with galleries and shops selling unique pieces crafted by talented local artisans. Street arts and murals enliven a walk (or bike ride) around town — and make for colorful photos to bring home.

And last but not least, relaxation and restoration are built into the city’s fabric. Tulum’s hotels, resorts, and retreats create an atmosphere of calm and relaxation, with ample opportunities to reset and heal — and to get a little pampered. Think yoga, fitness, meditation, spa time and other restorative experiences.

When is the best time to visit Tulum?

The weather is ideal in Tulum from December through April. But that’s also when you’ll find the most congestion — crowds spike highest around the holiday season as well as during spring break.

By contrast, May and June and September through November (including Día de los Muertos) are shoulder seasons, with fewer travelers competing for attractions, and discounted hotel room rates ready for the booking. Note: September and October are also the wettest months, so pack an umbrella.

May through September are the warmest months, so pack expecting heat for your summertime visit. It’s not the only kind of heat that takes over the city: Expect a party atmosphere around July and August, when Tulum is bustling with a spirited social scene and a jam-packed nightlife calendar.

Getting to and around Tulum

Fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN), about 75 miles north of Tulum. From there, rent a car to drive into town, take the ADO bus line, hire a taxi or car service or take the ADO bus line. It’s about a two-hour journey.

In town, the best ways to get around are by taxi, on foot, or by bike — you’ll see lots a lot of visitors on bikes and Ola Bike Tulum is one of the most popular rental companies. Many lodgings in town provide loaner bikes for guests, too. If you’re open to travel on two wheels, it’s the fun, memorable and sustainable way to go.

Tulum's culture and customs

Travelers will find it easy to navigate through Tulum thanks to a friendly culture, a melting pot of visitors and a thriving hospitality infrastructure.

One thing to keep in mind: While credit cards and the U.S. dollar are widely accepted, it's great to have some Mexian pesos on hand to use for smaller shops and daily expenses.

Where to stay

After hours spent exploring Tulum’s natural beauty and historical architecture, a little rest and relaxation at your hotel is key. These four resorts have everything you need to recuperate from a day of sightseeing, as well as plenty of activities and entertainment for that second wind.

Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Resort: This all-inclusive, eco-friendly property offers sweeping views of white sand beaches and sparkling seas from its secluded position on a tranquil bay. On site are nine pools, a Family Zone and luxury spa. The 13 restaurants and bars offer diverse cuisine from Japanese to traditional Italian, plus local Mexican flavors.

Hilton Cancun, an All-Inclusive Resort: This all-inclusive property offers spacious and modern rooms and suites, two pools, sa Kids Club, Teens Zone and a calendar brimming with nightly activities and entertainment. There are 12 dining experiences, including an all-you-can-eat ice cream and churro shop to delight the whole family.

The Yucatán Playa del Carmen All-Inclusive Resort, Tapestry Collection by Hilton: This adults-only boutique property is situated just steps from the shops, restaurants, and dance clubs of Fifth Avenue. Rooms here are sophisticated and modern. The property has a rooftop pool and serene spa, plus three restaurants. Top off your stay with an exciting range of classes from merengue and salsa to yoga and pilates.

Hilton Playa del Carmen, an All-Inclusive Adults-Only Resort: At this all-inclusive, adults-only property, every lodging is a suite: picture private balconies, ocean views, double jetted tubs and swim-up entry. Visit the Olympic-size freshwater pool, relaxation pool and hot tubs and the tranquil Innan Spa. A slate of 14 restaurants and bars, plus 24-hour room service, makes dining an endless adventure.

Make your Tulum memory

From swimming in cenotes to discovering natural reserves and exploring Mayan ruins, Tulum is an adventurer’s paradise. Balance that excitement with restorative downtime and spiritual healing, and you’ll have an amazing trip and vacation memories to last a lifetime.

Start PlanningView list of Hilton hotels in Tulum

Alesandra Dubin is a news and lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. A veteran digital journalist, she’s covered travel, food, events, fashion and beauty, entertainment, home, parenting and viral content for more than 15 years. An avid traveler, she trots the globe with her husband and 5-year-old twins.