An Introduction to Tulum, Mexico (Photos)

Just an hour and a half south of Cancun, by car, lies Tulum, a sleepy beach getaway destination – a favorite among those in the know.

For years it has been a yoga retreat destination and the location of many a supermodel shoot. And it has stayed off the radar, as far as a place to stay, for the average tourists who come to the region. But lately, Tulum has been popping up on blogs, in newspapers and magazines more than ever before.

And if you ask me, you better get down there to experience it before it gets spoiled.

People think, “oh that’s a little scary” or “outside my comfort zone” to venture south of Playa del Carmen without a guide. But I promise, it’s quite comfortable there.

That’s me and a friend walking down the beach in the distance.

How is the sand so white!?

Tulum caters to a laid back breed of vacationers with over a hundred bungalow-style hotels perched along beautiful strips of white sandy beaches.

This is out front of a new hotel called, Ahau.

And this was my bungalow at Hotel Zamas.

The region itself is off the grid and gets its electricity entirely by wind and solar power.  So you can feel proud of your eco-friendly status while visiting.

Many of the hotels are rather rustic. But if you can’t do without your creature comforts, there are luxury bungalows in Tulum. I think there is probably something for just about everyone.

Beyond the more typical beach getaway activities, Tulum offers many unique attractions.  There are the ancient Mayan ruins shown below. (Tip: Make sure to get to them by 8:30am to avoid the crowds, I’m serious.)

And here are a few other interesting features. There is reef to explore that I’m told is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. There is a massive nature preserve (Sian Ka’an) where you can go hiking in the jungle, kayaking, swimming with dolphins, and see a lot of interesting wildlife.

And you can also explore the cenotes, naturally occurring, freshwater sinkholes that I feature in this video.

Now let’s move on to getting around Tulum which is easy because it only has two principal drags. There’s the row along the beach and then there’s Tulum town where most of the action happens along the main street. You can bike between them or take one of the many cabs that pass by regularly.

The row itself caters to vacationers with its numerous casual restaurants and bars.

This was at the beachfront restaurant, La Vita e Bella.

And this is the bar at Playa Azul.

In town you can get a hint of real Mexico – albeit influenced by all the visitors.

There are little shops to pick up souvenirs and Mexican art.

How about a hammock for your apartment or a Mexican blanket/rug to liven up your bedroom?

Oh come on, a skeleton figurine? (I’m evoking the pushy salesmen in town.)

If not that, then how about some food?

There are many restaurants along the beach row and in town that have great food ranging from Mexican to Italian and even Asian food.

That was my favorite breakfast at Zamas – eggs over fried corn tortillas, black beans, avocado and spicy salsa.

And food was certainly not the only thing on the menus. There were the usual Margaritas and Daiquiris. But most exciting to me, many places had unique cocktails with fresh fruit juices, yum.

These cocktails are from Casa Jaguar.

I’ll take that, yes please, thank you.

And there’s my foamy cappuccino with powdered cinnamon on top.

No, these things are not authentically Mexican. We are in a fabricated world for foreign vacationers – but I have to admit sometimes, and only sometimes, that’s not so bad.

An interesting quirk about Tulum (and much of the Mayan Riviera) is that there is a large Italian, expat community there. So you can find great Italian food.

And everywhere, it seems, the food is safe to eat – even the ice and the taco stands are ok. I had some delicious tacos at 2am in Tulum town from a stand and they went down just fine. But of course, to each their own!

As far as nightlife, don’t go to Tulum if you want to party all night. By 11pm, there isn’t much going on except for a couple late night venues. But before 11 there’s live music and a moderately busy restaurant scene around town and on the stretch.

One of my favorite nighttime activities –as dull as it may sound to some- was stargazing because you can see so many stars. In Tulum, I could look straight out over the ocean and see stars in front of me. I’d never had the experience of not having to look up to see them. It made me feel like I was in a fish bowl.

Alright that’s it for this blog post. In an upcoming article, I’ll give particulars on where to stay, what to do and where to eat – in case you are legitimately planning a trip! Stay tuned.

Also watch my video about the beautiful sunrise in Tulum here.

  • Scott

    The chamber of commerce should hire you
    these posts have really sold me on this tip of a vacation!!!

  • It looks beautiful reminds me of Vallarta in the old days… How easy is it to get out to scuba dive?

    • travelwkate

      It’s rather easy. Most public cenotes have tour guides who can take you. In the cenotes, it is less about the fish and more about the underwater cave and interesting rock formations. There are companies that will take you out diving along the reef. But I’ve never been, so I can’t vouch for the quality.

  • Getting ready for a trip to Mexico and came across your post. Can’t wait!

    • Awesome! Have an amazing time!

  • Nice post, here you can find more useful information about Playa del Carmen and Tulum –>

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