Tulum: beaches, ruins and an eco-chic vibe

Tulum is a popular spot an hour south of Playa del Carmen with a relaxed, hippy-chic vibe. Personally, I think much of the accommodation is overpriced for what you get (and no A/C – aaah!), but there is no denying these are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Tulum is also home to some ancient Mayan ruins. While the ruins themselves are not overly impressive compared with other sites such as Coba and Chichen Itza, their water-front location makes them very unique.

Now these Mayans had good taste in real estate!

Tulum boasts miles of pristine white sand beaches, much of which is only accessible via the resorts occupying them. They are not private, however, and many of the resorts have beach chairs for rent.

I like going to the public beach near the Paraiso beach club, which is just south of the ruins at the northern end of the hotel zone. There is parking, loads of space under the palm trees on the beach and it’s absolutely free. Oh, and it is a spectacular beach.

Public beach near the Paraiso beach club, just south of the Tulum ruins.

A nice day trip to Tulum might include hitting the ruins in the morning (the collectivo stops at the ruins before entering the town), then walking to the nearby beach in the afternoon where there are also a few spots to eat.You can rent a beach chair at the beach club for around 50 Pesos ($4) or just pull up a patch of sand for free (my usual option).

You can also do snorkeling tours from here to the outer reef for 250 Pesos ($20). Boats constantly depart.

On our first overnight visit to Tulum we stayed at Playa Esperanza which are quaintly decorated rustic bungalows on a beautiful beach. In low season, you can stay in a basic bungalow with a shared bathroom for US$30, or with a private bathroom for US$50.  It’s a good little spot in a great location at the north end of the beach, not far from the ruins.

Cabana at Playa Esperanza Tulum

The beach in front of Playa Esperanza – it was raining when we went, but it’s really beautiful

The second time, we stayed at Zamas. They have some stylishly rustic bungalows, right on the beach or one street back with beach views. They were beautiful, but we were back from the beach and as they don’t have A/C, we found it very warm. It was in August which is the height of Summer, however, so they would probably be fine in the cooler months of November to February. Prices start at $95 for a double.

Inside our large suite at Zamas (there were three of us)

My sister and I relaxing on the terrace (we didn’t get much reading done!)

Beautiful view from the terrace

The beachfront restaurant is a nice spot for a drink and a snack, but I did find it quite overpriced for my taste (and wallet!).

There is a good place for coffee right behind it on the jungle side of the road, and to the right of Zamas is a lovely stretch of beach which is great for a walk and for climbing over the rocks of you feel so inclined.

Tulum town is set back from the coast, but it is where you will find the best value accommodation and restaurants, rather than along the beach. You can rent bicycles or catch a taxi to the beach, but it is too far to walk in the heat.

My friend Sam of Live to Explore Life stayed at Mango Tulum, a hostel in town, and shereally loved it. They have bikes for rent and a pool. She also recommended the El Vegetariano restaurant at the entrance to Tulum town for fresh, delicious meals.

Tulum is also a great base for exploring the cenotes nearby such as ‘Gran Cenote’ and ‘Dos Ojos’ to name a couple, as well as the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, or for simply enjoying the chilled out vibe and stunning beaches.

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