To help get over the winter blues, I spent 4 days in Tulum, Mexico with some friends for MLK weekend. I haven’t traveled internationally since going to Aruba last summer and between the weather and series of events that personally happened at the tail end of 2020, I desperately needed a trip. If you’re planning a trip to Tulum and have no clue what to do, here’s a quick guide sharing how we spent 4 days in Tulum.
Things to Know Before Traveling to Mexico
As a US Citizen, there is no visa required when traveling to Mexico if you’re visiting for less than 180 days. You need to have a valid passport at the time of entry and one page available for your entry stamp.
The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso. There are some areas and tours in Tulum that accept USD and Visa is widely accepted. There are a few tours and restaurants that accept Master Card and American Express. If you’re taking taxis, it is best to have cash on hand.
Traveling to Cancun in 2021
Although non-essential travel isn’t encouraged, here is some information about traveling to Mexico in 2021. Testing is not required to enter Mexico, but I highly suggest being tested before traveling. As of 1/26/21, you will need to have a negative test result within 72 hours to re-enter the United States and quarantine if it is a state requirement.
There were several areas in Cancun and Tulum that offered testing during our stay, but I recently learned that Cancun airport and some hotels also provide testing. It is best to do your research before and during traveling for accuracy.
Flying to Cancun from New York
Traveling from NYC, I booked a direct flight for 4 days to Cancun for $185 on JetBlue. Unlike my trip to Aruba, JetBlue discontinued keeping the middle seat empty and I was on a full flight. The airline claims to disinfect before boarding, but I always made sure to wipe down high surface areas around my seat including the tray tables, tv, seatbelts, and other areas. A mask is required to be worn in the airport and the full duration of the flight for all passengers over 2 years old.
Masks were required in restaurants, shops, inside taxis, and other public spaces. Visiting the Hotel Zone there were tons of people not practicing social distancing or wearing masks. I personally felt anxious and was not comfortable at all. If you don’t like being in large crowds, I do not recommend visiting the hotel zone.
Best Way to Get to Tulum from Cancun
If you’re visiting Tulum, you will have to travel to Cancun Airport which is the largest and closest airport in the area and 90 minutes away. Here are the best ways to get to Tulum from Cancun depending on your preference or budget.
Get an Airport Transfer from Cancun to Tulum
After tons of research, we booked a Cancun Airport transfer through USA Transfers for $135 round trip. The drivers were on time, polite, our luggage was sanitized before going in the van and we even made a quick stop to get food and extra money before arriving at our hotel. If you’re staying at an Airbnb or guest house, USA Transfers also provides services to stop at the supermarket for an extra cost.
Rent a Car
Taking a taxi to each destination adds up so if you’re comfortable, renting a car as it is a great way to explore Tulum at your own pace and save some money. Driving is on the right side of the road in Mexico and renting a car is very affordable. Traffic signs are in Spanish so if you decide to drive familiarize yourself with traffic signs and use Google maps for navigation.
Take a bus from Cancun to Tulum
The most affordable (and longest) option for traveling from Cancun is by taking the bus. The ride from Cancun to Tulum on ADO is 2 hours and 5 minutes and costs around $15. You can visit their website for accurate arrival and departure times.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Tulum has 2 main areas: Tulum Playa and Tulum Pueblo. Tulum Playa, Tulum Beach, La Zona Hotelera, or the Hotel Zone is where you can find popular beach resorts, and restaurants. I personally wanted to relax and keep a low profile so we stayed stay near Tulum Pueblo.
We booked a room at Alea Tulum which is a boutique hotel about a 15-minute drive from Tulum Pueblo or Tulum Town. Alea Tulum has a full restaurant and bar, offers free breakfast and water, juices, and soft drinks in the room fridge were complimentary. We also received 10% off dining at their sister hotel. Our room was clean, had beautiful views of the beach and pool area, and the staff was extremely helpful. We loved spending our mornings eating breakfast by the pool and laying on the hammocks over the water.
If you choose to stay closer to the beach and Hotel Zone area, Hip Hotel Tulum is a good option in walking distance of popular sites. Below is a map of Tulum hotels from budget to luxury options.
4 Day Tulum Itinerary
Since we were spending 4 days in Tulum I researched some of the best things to do in Tulum and received suggestions from friends. Although we received a bunch of recommendations, I decided to play it by ear, but still go along with what the others in my group wanted to do. Here’s our 4 day Tulum itinerary and other suggestions if you are spending 3, 4, or 5 days in Tulum.
Day 1 – Hotel Check-in and Dinner at Pandano
To limit contact, Alea Tulum offered contactless check-in and we arrived at the hotel right at check-in time which was at 3 PM. After showering, we had welcome tequila shots and went straight to the pool and beach areas to soak up the sun. We had dinner at Pandano Restaurant Grill and Cocktail Bar inside the Jashita Hotel which was about 15 minutes away via taxi.
Day 2 – Visit Zona Hotelera
Our second day in Tulum was spent in the beautiful Zona Hotelera region. This area is full of boho-chic hotels, cafes, restaurants, and beach clubs. If you’re looking to take photos for the gram, this is the area to visit in Tulum. We had dinner at Taboo Tulum which is a beach club with Mediterranean restaurant and bar. Other popular restaurants and photo hotspots in the Zona Hotelera region are
- Matcha Mama
- Rosa Negra
- Raw Love Cafe
- La Zebra Beach Restaurant & Bar
- Burrito Amor
- Antojitos La Chiapaneca
- Campanella Cremerie
- Tulum Jungle Gym
- Ven a la Luz
Day 3 – Tulum Ruins, Gran Cenote and Coba Ruins
I visited the Tulum Ruins on my solo trip to Cancun, but my friends have never been. Wanting some culture and fun, we decided book a full-day tour that included the Tulum and Coba Ruins, Cenote swim and buffet lunch. We paid $75 for everything, but if you’re driving or doing a self-guided Tulum itinerary, it is much cheaper. I loved that this included the Mayan Ruins of Coba which is another former Mayan settlement. If you’re pressed for time, visit Coba instead of taking the 2-3 hour drive to Yucatan to visit Chichen Itza. In additional to wearing comfortable shoes, I highly recommend bringing water shoes for swimming in the cenotes and a towel to dry off.
Day 4 – Tulum City
Our last day in Tulum was spent hanging Tulum Pueblo. We walked around the city center roaming the shops to purchase goods for friends and family and ate yummy tacos at Taqueria Honorio. After 2 for 1 drinks we had dinner at Don Cafeto.
Other Things to do in Tulum
An extended weekend in Tulum was great for exploring and relaxing at our own pace, but I’m hoping to visit again. If you’re doing a day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen or spending more than 4 days in Tulum, here are some of the best things to do in Tulum and surrounding areas that include art, architecture, and adventure, which can be added to your Tulum itinerary.
- Azulik Uh May
- SFER IK
- Casa Malca
- Xcaret Park
- Chichen Itza
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