Tulum is a small city on the coast of Mexico. It has beautiful beaches and amazing architecture that make it worth traveling to, but you might not know how to plan your trip. I’ll tell you how to travel to Tulum on a budget with tips for everything from getting around town cheaply to finding cheap food and lodging.
Why visit Tulum?
Tulum has been growing in popularity for the last several years because of people’s interest in the beautiful beaches and jungle vibe. Some say the beaches are similar to the beaches in Portugal. Tulum has a small town feel that’s still affordable and laid back. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops to fill any need you might have while visiting.
There are two major reasons I love visiting Tulum. One is the food and drinks! The other is the natural beauty of the surrounding beaches and ocean, which make Tulum perfect for exploring on a snorkeling or diving trip.
Tips for traveling to Tulum on a budget
There are many ways to experience Tulum. I chose to eat a local restaurants and relax on the beach while my friends partied in cocktail lounges and beachside buffets. If you’re not on a New York budget, don’t worry. There are still plenty of things to do in Tulum that won’t break the bank.
Rent a bike to explore the city and find hidden gems
Renting a bike is a fun way to explore the city and find hidden treasures. There is a bike path that runs along the main road, so bikers can travel safely. I lived in Tulum for 2 months and my condo came with two bikes, so this may be an option for you if you’re planning to stay long term. Daily bike rentals can range from 100-200 pesos per day, which is much cheaper than getting around town by taxi. If you’re staying for more than a week, a good option is to buy a bike an resell it upon departure.
Take advantage of free activities like yoga or meditation on the beach
It’s easy to spend hours exploring Tulum and not spend a single peso. One of my favorite things to do is indulge in some free yoga or meditation on the beach! There are also lots of free activities to enjoy while you’re there, so take advantage of those if you want to save money. You can find flyers for these activities posted around town. If you’re staying at a hotel, they may offer free sessions as well.
Visit one of the markets in town for souvenirs and handmade crafts
There are plenty of fresh produce markets and souvenir shops on the main strip in Tulum town. Local fruits and vegetables are a great way to save money on your meal budget because they are often sold for less than produce imported from other countries. You can find handmade items like clothing, purses, candles, soap, paintings, jewelry, and more at the markets.
Check out some of the small boutique hotels
Small boutique hotels in Tulum can be more affordable than larger resorts, so if you’re looking for privacy or to party with friends without being surrounded by strangers, this might be the option for you. For a list of low-cost accommodation in Tulum check out Tripadvisor or Hostelworld.
Eat street food and find local restaurants instead of tourist traps
Tulum has a lively nightlife with lots of fun restaurants and bars. A great way to save money is by looking for local places instead of tourist traps. There are many restaurants that offer locally grown food as well as vegetarian and vegan options, so you won’t have to eat french fries every night.
Get your coffee fix at any number of cafes around town
Most Tulum cafes are marked by local and international food options like smoothies, nachos, and Mexican breakfast dishes.
One of my favorite parts about a town is the cafe scene. Tulum is no exception to this rule. There are plenty of cafes throughout the town center serving up everything from espresso drinks to hearty breakfasts burritos
The first time I came to Tulum I was surprised by the number of cafes in the main strip. It seems like every other restaurant is a cafe, so there are lots of options to get your coffee fix while enjoying the ocean views!
Explore cenotes to get a glimpse into Mayan life
Many tourists don’t realize that the best sights in this area are the cenotes. They can be difficult to access so you may have to take a tour. If you’ve got a little extra money to spend, it’s a great experience.
It should be noted that not all cenotes are equal, but most tours will be a good opportunity to see the local Mayan culture. Cenote Angelita is one of my favorite spots in Tulum, but if you’re looking to save money there are lots of little cenotes that you can swim or snorkel in as opposed to big tourist attractions.
Take a day trip to Cozumel
It’s easy to spend a few days in Tulum and not venture outside of the small town. If you’re staying for more than a week, I recommend taking a day trip to Cozumel. You can purchase shuttle tickets for around $20 USD round-trip or take the ferry from Playa Del Carmen for about $10 round-trip. If you’re really trying to save money you can take a collectivo to Playa Del Carmen from Tulum. Ask the locals for more information. Cozumel is a beautiful island with lots of beaches and great restaurants. I recommend renting a scooter while you’re there to explore the local spots!
Explore Tulum’s beaches
A trip to Tulum is never complete without taking a dip in the Caribbean Sea. The beach is one of the most picturesque parts of town with pale sand and turquoise waves. You’ll probably want to swim, drink some beer, and relax on the beach with friends.
To get to the beach you need to either take a $1 collectivo or a bus ($5 pesos) from town center. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also bike ($5 USD) or walk (about 45 minutes).
The water will be warm enough for swimming most of the year-even though it’s still considered “the off-season” even in Mexico. It’s often too rough to swim anywhere but at the ocean, but there are plenty of places to lay out and get some sun if you’re not in the mood for a dip.
If you want to go snorkeling, your best bet is Punta Allen because it’s protected by coral reefs.
Go to the Mayan ruins
Tulum is a coastal town in Mexico near the Caribbean Sea. It’s home to one of the most well-known Maya ruins called El Castillo. This site offers gorgeous views of the ocean and was once used as a temple for worshiping gods. You can climb the temple to see beautiful views of the ocean.
You’ll probably want to take a tour with a guide because Tulum’s beaches are home to beautiful tropical fish and other sea creatures that you may miss if you’re not specifically looking for them. You won’t be able to snorkel at this site, but it’s still interesting to explore the ruins even if it’s not your main activity!
There are plenty of trails through the jungle surrounding the ruins which have gorgeous views of both the ocean and dense forest. While there is an cheap entrance fee, I think they’re one of the best activities in Tulum because you can spend as much time exploring as possible-you don’t even have to make it all the way up if you don’t want.
Escape the crowds with a day trip to Coba
Coba is one of Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruins and it’s located south of Tulum in Quintana Roo. If you’re not planning a long trip in this area, I recommend driving to Coba. It’s around 1 hour and 20 minutes south of Tulum, but the trip is worth it because this site is much less touristy than Tulum or the famous Chichen Itza.
Coba has huge pyramids that are a must-see if you’re in this area. Take some time to walk through the jungle here if you want to see wildlife, such as poison dart frogs, birds and trees. The ruins are still in use by the locals and you may even enter a house on your way through.
If you’re feeling adventurous I recommend renting a scooter for around $25 USD per day and exploring the surrounding area . There are hundreds of cenotes, or crystal clear natural sinkholes with fresh water, in the area. The cenotes are often large enough for diving and contain lots of underwater wildlife.
Avoid the hotel zone
The hotels in Tulum are either located on or near the beach, but are not an economical option. The average cost of a room in the hotel zone is $200+ dollars per night. The bars, shops, and beach clubs are also expensive in this area. However, if you want to check out this area I’d recommend going for a coffee or a beer at Papaya Playa Project.
How to get to Tulum from Cancun
There are various ways in order to get to Tulum from Cancun International airport. One can either take a taxi which would cost around 1200 pesos, or one can take the first bus from the airport which would cost about 80 pesos. The ADO bus is by far the cheapest option. Look for signs throughout the airport.
How much does Tulum cost per day?
It depends on whether you travel by yourself, or with a group of friends, and if you are looking for luxury or budget accommodations. That being said, the average cost per day would be around $40-$65 USD.
If you’re traveling in a group the best option would be to share accommodations, which is much cheaper. If you’re traveling by yourself I recommend hostels, AirBnB or CouchSurfing. If you’re traveling with a group, renting an apartment is the cheapest option.
Transportation in Tulum
If you want to get around Tulum there are numerous transportation options available at different price ranges depending on where you’re going and how much luggage you have. For example, one can take a collectivo which is a small bus that fits around 6 people and costs 15 pesos per person to get from Tulum to Punta Allen. Another option is to rent an ATV, motorcycle or scooter for about $25 USD per day which is the cheapest way to get around.
How much does it cost to go diving in Tulum?
The price for diving in Tulum would vary depending on where you go, because there are many dive spots. The most famous and cheapest spot is Puerto Morelos which lies about 40 minutes away from Tulum . It costs around $60 USD for a two tank dive as an introductory rate.
When is the best time of year to visit?
Tulum ha sunny days year round, but the best time to visit is from March until November . The least crowded months are September and October. There are many festivals throughout the month of April, which is during Easter week. Most places offer discounts at this time since there are less tourists than other times of year.
Things to do in Tulum
The main thing people want to do here is dive or snorkel in the ocean, and there are numerous spots to choose from. You can also rent an ATV for some off-roading fun, go on a boat trip into the lagoon or take a tour of Tulum’s ancient ruins if you’re interested in history. If you’re into yoga, you can find some cheap classes in town. The best part is that all of these activities are available within 20 minutes or less from anywhere in town.
Time to hit the beach!
Tulum is a glamorous seaside destination, but can be affordable if you watch your spending habits. Do some research beforehand on where you should stay as well as the best time to find a cheap flight. It is possible to travel on a budget in Tulum, but the key is doing your research beforehand and eating lots of tacos. Now that you know how to travel to Tulum on a budget, it’s time for your next adventure. Book the flight and go!