As you've probably noticed by now, I love being active. And this is something that definitely translates into my travel style. I can often be found exploring new neighborhoods and natural wonders, embarking on active adventures, and of course, enjoying delicious foods when I travel. So it was no surprise that I found Tulum to be the perfect destination for me -- my trip was filled with exhilarating jungle bike rides, mouth-watering tacos, and explorations of beautiful cenotes and cities off the beaten path. I wanted to put together a list featuring all of my favorite sites and food spot, so I decided to put together this Tulum travel guide -- hope you enjoy it!
Top Active Activities: Tulum Travel Guide
Visit a Cenote or Two ... or Five
You are not going to come to Tulum without hearing about the multitude of cenotes to visit. There are a so many of them, each with different sizes, features, and varying levels of crowdedness. Some are dive-able, scattered with lilies, or even home to a mini (and harmless) crocodile. So I would definitely visiting a few to check out all the different kinds. I used this Cenote Guide from Castaway Crystal to help figure out which ones I wanted to go to. My personal favorites were Cenote Corzaon del Paraiso and Cenote Oxman.
Cenote Corazon del Paraiso
About a 25 minute bike ride from Tulum, I discovered this one coming back from Laguna Kaan Luum. It's a beautiful, heart shaped open cenote, hence the name Corazon. This cenote is not very well known among tourists and felt like I was discovering a secret spot when I got there - there were only about 3-4 other people that day and it was a Saturday! The water was very blue and clear, and I easily spent a couple hours here enjoying the cool water.
A beautiful partially covered cenote near Vallalodoid, Cenote Oxman is a truly a hidden gem. It's known to some as the little brother of the beautiful but overly crowded Cenote Ikkal. The cenote is about a 2 hour drive from Tulum and 10 minutes from Vallalodoid, so it's a good one to stop by on a road trip to the ruins or Vallalodoid.
Laguna Kaan Luum
This lagoon is part of a cenote system and is truly a sight to behold -- it is a lagoon with a sinkhole in the middle. You can go in and swim around it but the sinkhole is roped off for obvious reasons. I biked here via electric bike which took about a little more than half an hour. Although it is possible to get there by bike, the bike ride itself is definitely not for the faint of heart, as you will be biking for about 35 minutes in the jungle heat to get there, so I would definitely recommend an electric bike, scooter, or car depending on your level of comfort.
Explore the Mayan Ruins like Indiana Jones
Mayan ruins are definitely the top of most people’s list when they come to Tulum. Luckily, there are a number of options, both near and far from the city center.
Located on the seaside in Tulum, these ruins are a 15 minute bike ride from the town and very easily accessible. It’s also very beautiful -- whoever lived in these ruins had an unbeatable view. I would definitely recommend going early to avoid the crowds as this is a pretty popular spot given its proximity to the town.
Coba ruins is a beautiful archeological site with majestic Mayan pyramids. It's not as crowded and touristy as the ever popular Chitzen Itza. I don't know about you but I much prefer exploring the ruins without swimming through crowds. The ruins itself are situated in a jungle like campus and are best explored by bike, which you can rent upon walking in for about 60 pesos.
Exploring offbeat cities
Vallolodoid is a colorful, cultural city more inland from Tulum and is a popular passing spot for tourists visiting Chitzen Itza. However in my case, I made it my destination and was not disappointed. As beautiful as Tulum was, Vallalodoid felt like a much more cultural experience. Walking around the colorful pueblo lined streets, discovering coffee shops, and and tasting the delicious local foods here was definitely a highlight of my trip.
An island off the coast of Playa del Carmen known for having the second largest reefs in the world, Cozumel is a great island for exploration. It's also one of the best places to explore via bike -- the whole island has a dedicated bike path that stops by beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, and lush island greenery. I rented a bike from Best Bike Cozumel, which had the highest quality bikes I've encountered the whole trip, with most of them being multi-gear Specialized branded bikes.
If you're a regular at the weights section in the gym, being away from the barbells for too long can feel a bit uneasy. So I was pleased to discover Tulum Jungle Gym, with equipment made out of all natural materials. I legitimately felt like a Flint Stone character working out here. Drop in fees are $30 for a day pass and the gym is next to a beach so you could easily go in the ocean for a dip afterwards.
If you’re into aquatic sports, Tulum is one of the best places to dive, given the plethora of reef life in Cozumel as well as the unique experience of diving in the cenotes that you can only get in Mexico. I spent 3 days diving here in order to get certified and loved it so much that I did a fourth day. I truly feel like diving brings a whole other dimension to exploration -- I was able to see so many beautiful sites underwater, including the light beams hitting the water in El Pit, creating a celestial-like light phenomenon. It doesn’t hurt that diving is known to be a huge calorie burner. I dove with Scuba Social Club and had an amazing experience -- my instructor was very knowledgable and ensured I felt comfortable before and throughout the dive.
It’s my opinion that you will not be able to experience Tulum to the fullest without renting a bike of some sort. It makes getting around so much simpler and is a very safe place for a bike (unlike my hometown of San Francisco). It’s pretty easy to find a traditional bike rental around the town. If you want to venture a little bit farther, I would recommend renting an e-bike - I got one from Barbel Bike Tulum and was astounded by their quality of service. They even drove a new battery to me when I ran out of battery! The town itself is also a pleasant area to explore by bike, with street art, cafes, and shops to explore along the way.
Fitsian Foods: Tulum Travel Guide
La Negra Tomasa
By far my favorite restaurant in Tulum. The restaurant is set in a vibrant backyard setting decorated with lush jungle greenery. Food wise, seafood reigns supreme here. The octopus and shrimp tacos were some of my personal favorites -- the ceviche towers were also a sight to behold. And if you’re in a celebratory mood, ask the bartender about the special cocktail of the week. As a former New Yorker, where high quality cocktail bars were a dime a dozen, I was genuinely impressed by the craftsmanship of the bartender.
I discovered this hidden gem after a grueling bike ride through the jungle roads in dire need of a drink and came here as I had heard great things about their mezcal. I was also pleasantly surprised to find my favorite taco of Tulum here - the Sinaloan style taco, complete with octopus, shrimp and steak. Talk about a surf and turf done right! The restaurant itself has a lavish jungle vibe that Instagram-savvy visitors would love.
El Camello Jr
A popular spot for ceviche, I came here on the first night looking for something healthy-ish. The portions were huge - I got a small size of ceviche and was still overwhelmed by how much they served.
This restaurant focuses on healthy ingredients, and I could definitely see it from the rib eye burrito I tried. Unlike most burrito experiences I’ve had in the States, this burrito did not leave me feeling incapacitated for the day. Although not the most authentic, Burrito Amor is definitely a good option for a place that focuses on healthier and higher quality ingredients.
This local favorite spot is definitely not one of the healthiest meals, but warrants a visit regardless. They excel at the local dish, cochinita tacos, and often sell out within the day. I would definitely recommend going early in order to snag yourself some delicious tacos!
Coffee Shops: Tulum Travel Guide
La Brasa’s morning coffee outlet, this was one of my favorite places to sip on my almond milk latte and spend some quality time with my laptop. The staff was super friendly and Wifi was one of the better ones I encountered in Tulum. Not to mention they had little nutella stuffed croissants!
Café del Profesor Pitágoras
A cute professor themed cafe I stumbled upon during my trip to Vallalodoid, this cafe had delicious coffee and strong Wifi to match. The interior is decorated like a library and even had similarly-themed cups to match.