Amongst many other things, one thing I learned while temporarily living in Tulum for two months is that this place calls many travelers from all over the world to do the same thing! Whether it’s one month or one year, I had met people from every corner of the world that came to Tulum in search of themselves, adventure or healing. And I can say that it is the perfect place for it all!
Tulum is about two hours south of Cancun, MX and has become a very popular Instagram hotspot for the past several years. There are people that are guided here to take photos with the Insta famous hot spots and people that are called there with no reason besides intuition guiding them to go on a journey to heal their Soul.
I was the second option here and I can say that Tulum is an extraordinary place to dive deeper into your spiritual journey as well as experience the sacred beauty of the Riveria Maya. If you are one of the many spiritual travelers, I’d like to give you the ins and outs I learned during my two month stay here.
Where To Stay –
If you plan to temporarily live in Tulum, there are several different areas of the small town you can choose to stay in. The most infamous is of course, the beach road. This is the area of Tulum right on the beach with all the fancy hotels and restaurants and is also the most expensive place to stay. I wouldn’t recommend it to the long term traveler, although if you simply plan to vacation, this area is very beautiful and full of life.
The other neighborhoods of Tulum include Downtown, La Valeta, Aldea Zama and an area that I don’t think has a name that is on the other side of the main downtown road. Make sure to look up the neighborhood before booking your long term stay, but feel free to spend a few weeks in one area and try out another, as they are not too far away from one another, but all have a very different vibe.
I spent my first two weeks in downtown, this was convenient because it’s very close to a lot of restaurants, stores and markets, but it is also very busy. Most of the downtown places to stay will be right along the main downtown road so it can be hard to feel particularly homey unless you are used to such living. Downtown is also closer to the beach road, if you plan on spending a lot of time at the beach.
Aldea Zama is another region in Tulum and this area is known for having a lot of jungle around, luxury villas but not a lot of other things to do around, it is further away from most restaurants, wellness classes and cenotes but also close to the beach. This is a more expensive area of Tulum, right after the beach road.
I spent a month living in the area known as La Valeta and this area was my absolute favorite! Many long term travelers come to this area and it’s easy to make yourself at home fast. This area has much nearby, but isn’t busy. It truly feels like a neighborhood of Mexico but is well spread out. There are plenty of amazing restaurants, wellness classes and other things nearby and you will find yourself running into other travelers often as well as locals!
I stayed at a place called Little Gem and I loved this area, as it was a small hotel with only nine rooms total and a main garden area that felt like your living room. There was also free bike rentals with your stay (which you’ll end up doing all your getting around via bicycle, scooter or motorcycle while staying here long term). The staff was extremely kind and I felt right at home there.
The other neighborhood of Tulum, I don’t believe has a name, but it is on the opposite side of downtown and this region is the least expensive and most filled with the local people, yet also further away from the places that you may find most events or meetups happening in Tulum.
Getting Around –
As I had mentioned before, the best way to get around the small town of Tulum is by bicycle, scooter or motorcycle. Don’t feel obligated to go straight to a motorcycle or feel the need for a scooter either if you do not feel comfortable. I got around by bicycle the entire two months I stayed in Tulum and was perfectly content. Although if you are comfortable with a scooter or motorcycle, it is a lot more convenient to travel further with these options.
There are also taxi’s everywhere you go in Tulum, they are VERY easy to access. You can walk right outside your door and find a taxi in five minutes TOPS. With that being said, taxi’s are not necessarily cheap here. But taxi drivers can charge a variety of pesos for a ride, depending on the season, time of day and traffic. I noticed the cost of a taxi dropping dramatically after the busy season of tourism. From 300 -350 pesos from La Valeta to the beach to 200 pesos, but this is with bartering and getting to know the prices and areas.
It is smart to ask your taxi driver for the cost before you get inside or claim your price beforehand. I will give examples of cost in the next section here.
Tulum Costs –
When I arrived in Tulum, I honestly had no idea how expensive it was there. Tulum is like the L. A of Mexico, so I would recommend to prepare for it being so. Although the currency is different, it’s important to understand it so that you’re not ignorant to how much you are really spending.
My rule of thumb is to consider every 100 pesos to be 5 USD, 1,000 pesos to 50 USD. Some places accept different currency exchange, but this is an average rule of thumb that never did me wrong.
Material things are especially not cheap here, the clothing most definitely. Tulum has a very boho, flow vibe that I love very much but the clothing is extremely expensive, so if you are traveling for a while, don’t depend on not packing fully to buy clothes in Tulum, because you may disappoint yourself. With that being said, the clothing is absolutely beautiful, so if you have some extra money, go ahead and splurge on the gorgeous handmade Mexican fabrics.
Food costs can vary upon where you go. Of course, if you go to a more stylish, fancy place, you will pay more as opposed to a more local spot. There are many stylish, boho restaurants worth visiting. Me personally, I am vegan and the local Mexican cuisine was not very vegan friendly, but Tulum in general has many vegetarian and vegan friendly food. But don’t be afraid to try out other types of foods such as the Italian, Mediterranean and Turkish food in Tulum.
I recommend using a travel credit card here, as well as all places you travel, so you don’t have to pay foreign transaction fees which can add up over time. I personally recommend the United Credit Card or the Venture One Capital One card.
I also found that the best bank to get your pesos from with the least amount of ATM fees was Banco Aztec.
Experiencing the beauty of Tulum –
One of the things I think is most special about Tulum is how close it is to many sacred cenotes in Quintana Roo. There are many beautiful denotes just a bike ride away from the neighborhoods of Tulum. Cenotes are a must do in this region of Mexico, as it is the only place in the world where the rivers run underground (only place you can find cenotes).
You can easily bike to these specific cenotes in Tulum, I will start with the closest to La Valeta and work upwards before going into the cenotes worthwhile for a taxi or motorcycle ride.
Cristol and Esconidos – You pay entry for both cenotes, (about 200 pesos) right across from one another. Not very popular, which makes them special for not having many people.
Mayan Blue – This one is super not well-known, when I went I had this whole place in the jungle to myself. 100 pesos entry (5 dollars)
Corazon – This may be my favorite cenote in Tulum. With crystal blue water, lots of underwater plants, fish and I even caught a little crocodile swimming along the grass lines (they are perfectly harmless). What made this cenote extra special is that it is not super popular either, so you get this place without all the tourists. I think this entry was 150 pesos (7.50 dollars).
Calavera – This cenote is extra special for it’s little holes that you can jump into the cenote through. there is a main giant hole you can climb into through a ladder or jump into, as well as smaller holes above you can step into and fall inside. It has hammocks, some music and sells beers nearby as well. This is a little more touristy, but worthwhile. 200 pesos entry (10 dollars).
Gran Cenote – This is the infamous Tulum cenote, to be honest, the tourism here makes it less enjoyable than it could be otherwise and for that reason it is probably my third favorite. But it is unique and pretty big. There are lots of turtles here to seeand caves to go through with lots of bats. This cenote is also very blue! Entry is 300 pesos (15 dollars).
Tankah Bay and cenote – I would say this is the limit for bike riding, as it was about a 30-35 minute bike ride on the highway. If you wanted you could definitely take a motorcycle or taxi here as well. The cenote is very small but not very popular so is very tranquil. The beach area here has a natural ocean swimming area made my rocks that create a gorgeous, bright blue swimming area!. 300 pesos for entry of it all (15 dollars).
Santa Cruz – This cenote is probably my second favorite. The brightest blue of all the cenotes I had seen, that is what makes this so special. There is also turtles here and a small restaurant that serves. This is about a 30 minute bike ride, I shared a taxi with a friend and was charged about 600 pesos for one way (30 dollars.) I can’t remember the entry for this cenote unfortunately.
Carwash – Another of my top cenotes, this one is about 10 minutes further than Santa Cruz, we also took a taxi here. I find this place unique because of the wildlife, because the people working were so connecting with the nature of this place. We had a guy show us where some birds were nesting and took us to where the crocodile sleeps, where bigger fish were, let us feed them and were just such amazing people. Also cannot remember the entry for this one.
Casa Tortuga – This is another beautiful cenote well known for diving. If you want to book a diving session, this would be the place. If your not diving, you do have to book a tour through the four different cenotes, half under caves and half open. This place is definitely unique for it’s caves but also very busy and a different experience within doing a tour. 450 pesos entry (22.50 dollars).
Dos Ojos – Dos Ojos is a full park of multiple cenotes (not all currently open due to the virus) We were able to visit dos palmas, the first eye and second eye cenote and cenote jaguar. Although there are many more. Cenote Jaguar is fun, with many places to jump off and a zip line to go across the large cenote as well.
Dos Palmas is a quaint little cenote with many lily pads and surrounded by nature, with not many people.
The first eye and second eye are the main cenotes of this park, both under caves and a unique dark blue color, these cenotes are definitely beautiful, although they are required to wear a life jacket in them. You can swim through these caves or you can book a diving experience here. For this park you can pay per cenote or a full pass for all of them for I believe 600 pesos (30 dollars, which I highly recommend.) You would need to taxi to this park.
Muyil Ruins – Muyil is a unique Mayan ruin experience, well preserved in the jungle of Quintana Roo. These ruins are honestly so beautiful, with the main attraction being El Castillo. What makes this place so unique is the surrounding jungle and the lack of tourism. Lots of the ruins in Tulum, such as the Tulum ruins, Coba and Chichen Itza are full of tourists and yet both times I came here there may have only been one family in the whole space. Only 50 pesos for entry (2.50 dollars).
Tulum Ruins – The Tulum ruins are unique to Tulum, right on the cliffs of the Caribbean. These ruins are in the open sun, so if you visit, do so on an overcast day or early in the morning.
Chichen Itza – I had visited these ruins in the past and I can tell you that they are my favorite, although very touristy and in the open sun, these ruins are truly unique, with the main attraction being the physical form of the Mayan calendar built by the Mayans that people today cannot explain. This is a must do, although I recommend VERY early in the morning doing so.
Coba – I never had the chance to visit Coba, about 45 minute drive from Tulum, it is becoming very popular and definitely would be worth while if you are in the area.
Laguna Kaan Luum – This lagoon is absolutely stunning, towards the way to Muyil, this lagoon is shallow most of the way, except for a large deep blue sink hole in the center that you are not allowed to enter. It is a gorgeous blue, with a large deck and area that sells snacks and beers, you may find locals brining coolers and hanging out here for the day. There are also hammocks and swings at this lagoon for your epic Insta shots!
My Favorites –
Now time to tell you the other places that that became my favorite hangout spots while living in Tulum for two months. These vary from restaurants, wellness and hangout spots.
Holistika – I. LOVE. THIS. PLACE. Holistika is at the end of La Valeta and is a restaurant, hotel and wellness center in the jungle of Tulum. It serves vegetarian and vegan cuisine that never disappoints. As well as this, there is a pool that you can hang out nearby in and a wellness schedule with regular meditation, yoga, breath work, sound healing and ceremonies going on daily. If you are staying long term, I recommend following them on Instagram so you can check out and sign up for their daily classes.
Sonido Del Mar – Another restaurant in La Valeta, this place is beautiful with an amazing vibe and also has daily yoga classes.
Ahau – This is a beautiful restaurant on the beach strip, this place is honestly so beautiful and has free salsa lessons on Thursday nights followed by amazing music. I love the vibe of this place.
Ikal – I spent much time at this place, a restaurant, hotel and wellness place on the beach. This place has amazing daily classes and ceremonies by the beach. If you come here to hang out for the day, you can grab a day bed, enjoy their menu and the beach!
Raw Love – If your looking for raw vegan food, this is the perfect place to get your health food fix. There are two Raw Love’s in Tulum, one right on the beach that is famous for it’s Instagrammable entrance and one downtown that is far less busy but just as delicious.
Botanica Garden – Another delicious restaurant, similar to Raw Love located in downtown
Canova – This place was very close to were I was staying, so I may be bias here, but this place is relatively inexpensive and delicious Italian food and wine.
Wrap Up –
Your personal favorites may differ from mine, depending on where you are staying in Tulum as well. But this place has much adventure, delicious food and amazing wellness classes all around. So if you stay open for some adventuring, you will find yourself right at home here quickly.
Don’t be afraid to travel out on your own, as I traveled solo when I came here, it highly challenges what you love and what priorities you have for yourself. Wondering around alone is the best way to discover Tulum and discover yourself. You are surrounded by beauty here, amazing people, food and spiritual growth experiences.