People hear “beach town” and automatically conjure up visions of walking straight from their hotel room or rented condo and onto the beach, and with many Riviera Maya vacation rentals you absolutely can.
Most coastal towns in Mexico, and around the world, seem to spread from the shoreline out, but Tulum is a bird of a different feather.
There are plans for an international airport for this small town, but in the meantime it is most easily accessed by either a bus from Cancun (site is in Spanish) or a colectivo (air-conditioned vans that offer hop-on-and-off services) from Playa del Carmen. You can also take a taxi for the approximately 1-1/2-hour ride from Cancun, but that isn’t a cheap option by any means.
The town of Tulum (which in Mayan meals “wall”) is centered around the highway. While this makes getting transportation, shopping, and finding places to eat much more easy, it creates more of a challenge getting to the gorgeous beach. When you finally reach it, you’ll be eager to hit the clear, blue waters, which are warm enough to keep you from being shocked but cool enough to be a refreshing escape from the jungle heat.
If you don’t have your own transportation, there is a bus to the beach that leaves from in front of the Weary Traveler Hostel at 9 and 12 and returns at 5 PM. You can also grab a colectivo just across the street from the bus station, or anywhere along the main road, for about 10 pesos (just under 1 USD) or a taxi for slightly more. Most people access the beach by walking past the well-known Mayan ruins (an about 65 pesos entrance fee if you want to check them out while you’re walking by).
Colectivos will drop you off about 2.5 km from the beach. It’s a hot walk, so make sure you have plenty of water and possibly a hat to help shade you from the sun. Pay attention to the sides of the road while you walk for some chance encounters with local wildlife such as the super cute coati and large iguanas.
Diving, snorkeling, and swimming in the cenotes is an extremely popular activity in Tulum, and there are several to choose from. Cenotes are caverns that are part of a subterranean river system. It seems each has its own unique appeal and structure, and they are discovering more all the time. The Mayans believed they were entrances to the underworld and considered them sacred. They’re great places to cool off and see something very different.
The town is also conveniently located for trips to nearby Cobá, Ek Balam, and Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.
While in town there are various choices for food. Tortas Gigantes is a great sandwich shop, and their sandwiches are, in fact, huge! You can get them packed to go if you want to take some for a beach picnic. Closer to the center of town is La Parodia Jarocha which has some very good choices for traditional Mexican food, including delicious barbacoa. There is no shortage of Italian food places, and if you’re craving an American fast-food place, the Subway shop is hard to miss.
While there are some more expensive eateries, there are also some very well-priced choices, and the market and small grocery stores have excellent prices on food.
Tulum is the type of town that invites you to slow down, grab a hammock, and just relax. Have you been?