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The perfect 3 to 10 days Tulum Itinerary + practical tips

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So, how are the plans for your Tulum trip coming along? If you are struggling with laying out your Tulum travel plan, this Tulum Itinerary will shed some light on the best way to plan your days in one of the most popular Mexican beach towns.


White-sand beaches, azure waters, and a dazzling coastline on this breezy, magical town are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the beauty of Tulum. For a vacation, it’s the perfect blend of nature, adventure, and luxury with its wealth of cenotes, lagoons, jungles, archaeological sites, bars, beach clubs, world-class restaurants, quaint boutique hotels and

But so many options also make it quite tricky to fit in all of Tulum’s best places in one vacation, and only a well-planned itinerary will help you make the most of your visit. But don’t worry if you don’t know Tulum well enough to plan an itinerary, I have you covered.

Tulum archaeological site beach - Tulum Itinerary
Tulum Itinerary – Tulum Archeological site beach

Tulum Itinerary for first-timers

I’ve included everything on this itinerary to cover you for at least two weeks. But if your stay is shorter, the days are arranged in the order of importance. After the first 3-5 days, you can pick and choose depending on the length of your trip.

Tulum Itinerary Day 1 – Pueblo Tulum + Tulum Beach

On your first day, which will be your arrival day (and hopefully you make it as early in the day as possible), you can choose from two options: Downtown in Tulum or the beach. If you get there early enough, you can even do both.

If you get there before 4 pm, you may want to hit the beach first for a post-flight unwinding time. Spend the rest of your day on Tulum beach, where you can take a swim in the cobalt waters, chill on the white-sand beach, or take a walk on the road running alongside the beach strip. There are plenty of shops and restaurants here as well.

In the late afternoon early evening, you can stroll in the downtown area to soak in the town. You will be greeted with shops, restaurants, cafes, and everything else the local life of Tulum revolves around. You can also rent a bike (some hotels in Tulum provide this service).

Downtown is very bicycle-friendly, so you will get plenty of delight watching its street art while you go down these lanes.

At night, Tulum downtown becomes a different world, with a street food market lighting up the place. You can go around tasting food, looking at the murals anew, and purchase local art at the shops.

Mayan ruins in Tulum aerial view

Tulum Itinerary Day 2 – Maya ruins

Ready to begin your second day? Today, we’ll be hitting another hotspot of Tulum tourism—the Tulum Mayan Ruins. If you didn’t go for the bicycle rental yesterday, you might want to do it today.

A car or bicycle rental is needed to get to the ruins, or else it will be too long a trip. Even if you make it there before 4 pm (closing entry), you won’t have the energy or time left to enjoy your surroundings after going there on foot.

Perched atop a cliff looking over the strip of sugar-white sand beaches, these ruins offer spectacular views of the turquoise waters from the Maya ruins site. You can either go for a guided tour of these well-preserved remnants of the Mayan Civilization or just look around for yourself.

Make sure you bring water and mosquito repellent.

If you didn’t have enough of the day left on your first day to fit both downtown and Tulum beach into it, now is your time to make one of those trips. You can either head to the Pueblo or visit one of the beaches in Tulum after the trip to Tulum ruins.

You can visit the beach directly below the ruins, or you can go to the more luxurious beaches like Playa Paraiso, Santa Fe, and Cinco Tulum to relax and dine in one of the famous Tulum beach clubs.

Cenote escondido near Tulum - girl jumping

Tulum Itinerary Day 3 – Tulum Cenotes

If you thought you’re done with the hottest tourist attractions of Tulum after visiting the beaches and ruins, you thought wrong; there’s way more coming your way! Just as important as the ruins and beaches on your itinerary are the cenotes that Tulum (and most of the Yucatán Peninsula) is famous for.

These natural limestone sinkholes are filled with crystal-clear water, and so many of them can be found around Tulum. Try to include more than one cenote on your third day, because each of Tulum’s cenotes is a unique one and offers an incredible experience.

You can snorkel, swim, and diving in these cenotes, which is especially enjoyable during the hotter days that Tulum sees from May through October.

Some of the cenotes that I really recommend are Gran Cenote, Cenote Cristalino, Cenote Escondido, Kaan Luum Lagoon, and Cenote Corazon.

All of them are very easy to reach if you have a car or bike, but, due to their popularity, chances are good that you will meet crowds there.

To avoid that, you will have to make sure you reach there by 8 am when they open and there are not many people around, and you get to have the entire place to yourself. Absolutely avoid weekends if you can.


For further reading


Tulum Itinerary Day 4 – Mexican cuisine

Now that you’ve covered the first three days going around the best places to visit on your Tulum visit, you can go easy on yourself and enjoy the best, yet not often mentioned, part of the trip.

The Mexican food culture is absolutely one of the most important features of your Mexican trip. And whether you are a foodie or not, you will be mesmerized by the local cuisine.

I know you have already tried plenty of places (and likely loved each one), but Day 4 of your trip is all about savoring the tastes of Mexican cuisine. You can spend it on the beach where there are plenty of beach clubs, restaurants, and bars with mouth-watering menus that will last you the whole day.

I recommend Papaya Playa Project, Hartwood, Ziggy, and Cenzontle as some of the best Restaurants in Tulum.

Apart from the beach zone, you can find just as unique a culinary experience in the pueblo of Tulum, where you will have many choices of restaurants and amazingly delicious street food as well. The colorful streets add to the overall ambiance of downtown, making your experience an even more enjoyable one.

ziggy - dishes
Photo © Ziggy Beach Club

Tulum Itinerary Day 5 – Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Enjoyed your day unwinding? That’s great! But get ready, because now we’re back in action. You’ve seen the cenotes, beaches, and ruins, but Sian Ka’an is a separate experience of its own.

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, it’s a complex environment known for its natural beauty and abundance of both flora and fauna.

The name of this reserve means “Origin of the Sky”, where an intricate web of freshwater lagoons, marshes, and Mayan-built canals run from the lush green Yucatán jungle to the barrier reef of the Caribbean.

In fact, it’s the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean, which means you can find lots of tours for it from within Tulum very easily. A relaxing visit with your whole family, a romantic excursion with your loved one, or a solo trip on your own to the Sian Ka’an reserve will take you on a memorable excursion.

Muyil

Apart from the organized jeep tours, you can go through the Muyil route and make your trip even more pleasurable by the added scenery. Muyil is extremely easy to reach on your own, has plenty of things to offer like boat tours by local fishermen, and has lots of opportunities where you can just float in the lagoons! If you fancy marine life more, you can opt for the Punta Allen route instead, by booking an organized tour.

Tulum Itinerary Day 6 – Coba Archaeological Site (more cenotes too!)

Another trip to the ruins! Tulum Ruins are quite famous and almost everyone visits them on their visit, but the relatively less crowded Coba ruins, along with their stunning surroundings, make for an amazing half-day trip from Tulum. The area with these ruins is known as the Coba Archaeological Site, which encompasses several cenotes as well.

Situated in a small village by the same name, the ruins offer a completely different experience as compared to the ones in Tulum. The ancient Mayan city that existed here back in 600-900 A.D., was one of the largest Mayan cities, and only a few of its ruins have been unearthed so far.

But the few ruins (from more than 5000 mounds) that have been uncovered suffice for an adventure and then some.

The name of Coba means “waters stirred by wind”, which can be attributed to the four lakes surrounding the village. The central pyramid, called Nohoch Mul, is one of the ruins in Mexico you can still climb. The view from its top is a breathtaking one, with the jungle blanketing the entire area in a refreshing green.

coba ruins

Afterward, three of the most astonishing cave cenotes await you just about 20 minutes drive from the ruins. Mind you, these cave cenotes are quite deep underground and you will have to take some steep stairs to get down there. So if you are claustrophobic you may not like it.

The Cenote Choo-Ha and Cenote Multum-Ha would be the first you will see while driving, while Cenote Tankach-Ha is a little farther down the road.

For all of them, you must climb deep down mother earth womb, where you will see a small platform and surrounding stalagmites, stalactites, and enough room for jumping! It goes without saying that visiting these is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make sure to take a trip to all three (they’re very close to each other)!

Tulum Itinerary Day 7 – Snorkeling/Scuba diving

Missing out on snorkeling and scuba diving while visiting one of the world’s most spectacular coastlines is simply a no-go, so if you missed out on these on your beach day and during your cenote visits, now is the time to fix that. With the world’s second-largest reef barrier close by and wonderful underground cenotes, Tulum’s scuba diving experience is one-of-a-kind.

Just off the shore, you will find the Mesoamerican Reef brimming with lots of marine life like reef fish, crabs, lobsters, turtles, stingrays, and even bull sharks! You can try any of the various diving sites in Tulum to get started, with options available. You can check out any of the diving centers scattered around town.

Apart from the reef, you can go diving in the cenotes of Tulum that are famous for it as well. Your options for the cenotes include Gran Cenote, Casa Cenote, Cenote Carwash, Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Escondido, and many more.

I can’t emphasize this enough, but you have to give snorkeling and diving a try if you’re vacationing in Tulum. The experience is simply amazing and you wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity.

If your stay isn’t this long, you can give it a try on one of your beach visits. But do yourself this favor and make some unforgettable memories to bring back with you.

Tulum Itinerary Day 8 – Valladolid and Chichen Itza

After your first week in town, you will pretty much be familiar with the amazing experiences it has to offer. But now it’s time to explore further out in the Yucatan peninsula, so we’ll be delving even deeper into the Mexican charms to explore its hidden gems.

You’ve probably heard of Chichen Itza, the popular Mayan Site, and claimed one of the world’s seven wonders, so it’s about time you go take a look for yourself. Located at only 30 minutes drive from Valladolid, you can also use this pretty colonial town as a base and explore its spectacular natural wonders. (More about it soon)

mexico, chichén itzá, pyramid

Chichen Itza and its Temple of Kukulcan, specifically, is one of the most impressive ruins of the Mayan Civilization reason why it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico.

And as such it gets way too crowded, especially during the peak season. I recommend getting thereby opening hours (8 am) to get some peaceful time exploring these ruins. The guides here are slightly more expensive but worth it unless of course, you want to enjoy the ruins at your own pace.

Once you finish the visit, don’t miss out on Cenote Ik-Kil and Grand Cenote nearby, both of which used to be sacred places for the Mayan civilization. If you arrive early enough, you will have enjoyed all of these activities without large crowds spoiling the fun.

VALLADOLID MAIN ROAD

Once you’ve explored the ruins and cenotes at Chichen Itza, and crowds have taken over the place, you can move on to Valladolid. The small town is filled with authentic Mexican vibes and makes for a pleasant excursion from the hustle and bustle of the bigger tourist cities.

The place has been a secret destination for some of the more seasoned Mexican travelers, but now it’s getting more and more recognition. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable respite with all the colorful houses dating back to the colonial era, shops, museums, and many more cenotes as well.

The enchanting colonial architecture of Valladolid and refreshing cenotes (one is located just a couple of blocks away from the main plaza) are perfect to top off your day before you head back to your hotel.

Tulum Itinerary Day 9 – Playa Paraiso and Playa Pescadores + Boat tour

Ready for more beaches? Today, we’ll be going to Pescadores Beach, where local fishermen organize boat tours. But before we get there, a stop at Paradise Beach or Cinco Tulum, close by is just the thing to get the mood set.

You can grab a breakfast/brunch in either of those places and soak in the refreshing views from any of the beachfront restaurants before heading on ahead.

Hotel Paraiso overview
Photo © Playa Paraiso Hotel

When you are ready just approach the fisherman desk and book your boat tour. It’s only 1-hour tour where they take you right in front of the Mayan ruins where you can have spectacular views of the Mayan Temples towering over the turquoise waters.

Then you will be taken by a barrier reef where you will be snorkeling and will have the chance to see a wealth of underwater life. Finish the day basking in the sun and watch the sunset which creates an impressive sky color and light even if the sun doesn’t disappear beyond the sea.

Tulum Itinerary Day 10 – Isla Mujeres

If you are up for an adventure today you can move to Cancun and take a tour to Isla Mujeres. The tiny island is full of pleasant surprises and things to do, most of which you can cover in one full day.

You can either go on your own by Isla Mujeres ferry or join a catamaran tour. In any case, the trip itself makes it worth it as the water is of an unimaginable turquoise color.

Depending what are your plans, you may want to spend your last night in Cancun before your departure. If this is not your last day, you can continue exploring. There is so much to see!

Isla mujeres island air view

Tulum Itinerary FAQs

When is the best time to visit Tulum?

You can visit Tulum any time of the year and it’ll be just as unique an experience. The only difference is in the seasons that Tulum sees during the year. May through November is the time when there are more rains, humidity is a little higher, and the Hurricane Season is ongoing, although hurricanes are a rare find. If you’re on a budget, these are the months you can visit because it’s when you will find the best deals.

If you want to go for a short vacation and enjoy the best possible weather, anytime between December and May will be perfect for it. But keep in mind that it’s also the High Season in Tulum, so prices will be at a peak, and chances of crowds are also higher during this time of the year.

Read more about the best time to visit Tulum

Tulum beach boat

What’s the fastest way to get to Tulum?

Since the town has no airport of its own, you can’t fly directly to Tulum. But that doesn’t change much, because Cancun has an international airport that you can fly to from anywhere in the world. Once in Cancun, you can take a registered transport service to Tulum.

Those are the safest and cheapest options. The taxis that go from Cancun to Tulum can be a bit of work because they tend to overcharge most of the time and the drivers aren’t easy to deal with (most of them).

The second option you have (and the one I prefer) is renting a car. You won’t have to worry about any issues, because driving in Tulum is quite safe and easy. A car will give you all the freedom you need to visit the places on your itinerary as well.

You can also use the pickup services offered by many of the lodging services in Tulum. Check to see if the place you’ve booked for your trip offers airport pickup to make the easiest trip to Tulum.


CAR

Rent A Car in Mexico

Browse among international and local car rentals and find the best deal.


What are some things I shouldn’t miss at any cost during my Tulum trip?

Almost all the things Tulum has to offer are incredible, and I recommend trying each one of them. But if your stay in Tulum is just for a few days, the beaches, ruins, cenotes, and Sian Ka’an reserve are definitely unmissable. That’s the reason those come first on my Tulum itinerary, so make sure not to miss out on all the beach clubs, watersport activities, delicious food, enchanting nature, and rich history of Tulum.

Is Tulum safe?

The short answer is yes, Tulum is relatively safe, but you still need to use some common sense. In my post on Tulum Safety, I will explain more in detail what I mean.

Sian Ka an

Where to stay in Tulum

Where to stay in Tulum depends on the kind of activities you’d like to do (and your budget), so I’m going to tell you about four of the best areas for tourists in Tulum to help you decide.

Tulum Beach Zone

The Hotel Zone on Tulum’s beach zone is a favorite among the majority of tourists visiting here, so this is where you will find the most luxurious stays in town. The white-sand beaches are just a few steps away from your lodgings and views of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean are simply mesmerizing.

But, apart from being an expensive option, the traffic in the beach zone gets a little heavy at times, so you will have a tough time getting to and fro during peak hours.

But that’s just a small price to pay if you want to enjoy Tulum at its best and make the most of your trip. I recommend Nomade, Be Tulum, and Casa Malca if you decide to make your stay in the beach zone of Tulum.

Tulum Hotel

Tulum Downtown

The other side of Tulum, Pueblo is a few miles from the beach zone where everything is different yet just as authentic. Lodgings in downtown Tulum are way more affordable and offer a more authentic view of Tulum’s local life. It’s also close to the other activities mentioned on our itinerary, which means quick access to the beach zone, cenotes, ruins, and everywhere else while also saving up.

If you want to make your stay nestled in the colorful streets of downtown Tulum, Zenses Wellness, and Wish Tulum are some of my recommended options. Zenses Wellness is simply gorgeous, so you won’t regret missing out on the luxuries of Hotel Zone lodgings, because they’re all available here.

Wish Tulum is another magical place to stay in downtown Tulum where roomy, comfortable stays come to life with art and creativity.

Aldea Zama

If you’re looking for the trendiest Airbnb to make your stay in, Aldea Zama is just the place for it. It’s a residential area between the beach zone and Tulum downtown, which is a pleasant new addition to the lodgings of the town. The Airbnb and apartments here are new and gorgeously designed, which sweetens the deal further when coupled with the wonderful location and good prices.

Zereno Studio and Casa Mulix are the ones I like the most there.

Tulum Ruins

La Veleta Tulum

Just like Aldea Zama, La Veleta is also a new residential area in Tulum. It’s located a little closer to Pueblo Tulum and is famous for the condo-hotels, restaurants, and bars that are growing in numbers every day there.

Panacea, Harmony Glamping and Boutique Hotel, Holistika, and Era Hotel & Spa are among my favorites in Aldea Zama. Nestled in the middle of natural beauty, these apartments make for a sublime stay while also being affordable.

Read more about the best Airbnb in Tulum

How to move around in Tulum

Moving around in Tulum is fun on its own. For the most part, you can take long walks and, depending on the area you’re lodging in, explore the town at a leisurely pace. But if you want to cover more ground, I suggest using one of the below-mentioned options.

Rent a bike

A bike would be one of the best things you can move around on in Tulum. Going around the busy roads of Tulum on a bike is super easy, something which you can’t do with a car rental or a cab because things get crowded. Your hotel will likely have bike rentals, but if it doesn’t, you can get one from any of the shops nearby.

Rent a car

Car rentals are my go-to option when it comes to moving around in Tulum, or anywhere else in the Riviera Maya. If you’re planning to cover the entire itinerary, you can’t go wrong with renting your own car, because most of the places around Tulum will be easy to get to if you have a car. It’s also the safest option and saves you a lot of trouble, money, and you reach your destinations without getting tired beforehand.

Take the cab

Taxi rides are another one of the options when it comes to getting around in Tulum. But it’s also the most expensive option of the three I have mentioned. You will have to agree on a price with the driver before you get into the cab, and even then it’ll be quite costly. If you can, I recommend getting either a bike or a car rental to make your trips more enjoyable and hassle-free (not to mention economical).


With that, our Tulum itinerary comes to an end. I hope you have all the info you need for your visit to Tulum. If you’re visiting for the first time and have any questions left unanswered, feel free to hit me up, I’ll try to help you to the best of my ability. I wish you the best of luck for your trip, have fun!