We Planned the Perfect Trip to Tulum and Haven’t Been Yet

Tulum Drone View

Have you ever planned the perfect trip than something happened and you didn’t take it? That’s exactly what happened to us with Tulum for a dream destination wedding with one of Mexico beachfront rentals for all our closest friends and family. I spent countless hours coming up with an amazing plan and ended up ditching it, in the end, saying we would go do this on our own one day, and definitely will!

So instead of keeping all these travel plans, we came up with to ourselves we thought we’d share them with our readers in case you’re planning an incredible beach getaway to Tulum.

why we chose not to go
Tulum Beach

Photo by Jack Butcher

This was really a tough choice. Scott and I are both avid travelers and thought a destination wedding would be the only way to go. However, that doesn’t mean everyone else that would come to our wedding would be or could necessarily afford for flights to come see us. Not to mention there are even family members we have that don’t own a US passport.

Traveling is what we love to do, but not necessarily what everyone else loves to do.

I also have heard countless friends complain about other people’s weddings being expensive to even attend or inconvenient, and while they are free to not even attend they felt guilty if they did miss out on their close friend or family’s wedding day. to work to teach even without a voice.

We can totally relate while teaching in South Korea I had to miss two of my best friends weddings because it was seriously impossible for me to take off work during my iron clad teaching contract, we couldn’t even take sick days. I would even have to show up to work to teach even without a voice.

So to save everyone the hassle we ended up doing two small family only weddings, Scott’s side of the family on our favorite California beach and my side of the family back in Ohio on our farm. For any friends who wanted to celebrate we took a mini getaway to Vegas for a weekend to celebrate with them.

We always told ourselves we’ll do Tulum one day on our own.

Our Tulum Plans

Tulum Mexico

Photo by Latjo Kanel

Why Tulum? We chose this destination specifically for its pristine beaches, gorgeous cenotes, and laid back vibe that gives this place its famed reputation as an upscale hippie paradise. Not only that but there were tons of adorable boutique hotels and beachfront house rentals that seemed pretty reasonable.

What to do

This is what is most exciting about going to Tulum, you can either choose to rest and relax all day at the beach or your pool sipping on refreshing ice cold beers or margaritas or choose to go on an adventure. We wanted to do a blend and give our guests an option to, “choose your own adventure,” on free days.

Here are the best things to do around Tulum.

Cenotes

There are tons of beautiful cenotes to visit just a short driving distance from Tulum. A cenote is an underwater sinkhole or cave that are not only filled with beautiful turquoise water but often filled with colorful fish. You’ll want to be sure to bring your snorkel gear so you can get the most out of your experience!

The best cenotes nearby are the Gran Cenote (3 miles from Tulum), Zacil Ha CenoteCarwash Cenote, and even ziplining at Aktun Chen cenotes. But if this ends up being something you love you can find much more nearby as there are over 6000 known cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Ruins

There are tons of Mayan ruins in the area to explore. Channel your inner Indiana Jones and check a few of them out when you’re in Tulum. Our top picks included the local Tulum Ruins, the COBA ruins in the middle of the jungle about 30 minutes away from Tulum, a day trip to the famed wonder of the world Chichen Itza (3 hr drive from Tulum) tied in with the nearby ruins of Ek Balam.

Other Attractions Nearby
Iguana in Tulum

Photo by John Hult

There are some other great attractions nearby like UNESCO World Heritage Site Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve where you can get a tour to check out the jungle and ruins within the biosphere or check out the spider monkey reserve and wildlife at Punta Laguna.

Go swim with sea turtles or visit the popular snorkeling spot Yal Ku Lagoon in Akumal.

If you have kids to entertain or want to channel your inner child check out Xplor Attractions. They have amphibious vehicles, zip lining, little wooden hand paddle boats and everything is kid friendly!

Nearby Cities to Visit

What’s even better about the location of Tulum is how close it is to other popular Mexican destinations known for their beaches, shopping, and outdoor activities like Cancun, Cozumel is only a 40-minute ferry ride away, and Playa Del Carmen.

Or for a more quiet destination, you can go to Valladolid, a beautiful inland town with lots of cenotes surrounding it including Zaci cenotes, Samula cenotes, and X’Keken cenotes.

Daytime in Tulum

We wanted to get a beachfront rental home so that we could have more of an intimate experience and enjoy a slice of beach all to ourselves. What’s great is that many of the rentals come with kayak and snorkeling gear so you can enjoy outdoor activities steps away from your house.

Many of the homes also have their own pools so you can enjoy swimming or sunbathing at the pool during the day at your own place.

If you’re into yoga you can take daily classes at Yoga Shala.

Tulum Nightlife

Another great feature about Tulum would be the array of nightlife options. You can check out Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar for live music, Bar Iguana for its famed cocktails, or Curandero Tulum for live music and DJ sets.

Where to Eat in Tulum

The food scene in Tulum is almost overwhelming as there are so many amazing places to choose from. If you’re looking to splurge for a nice sit-down meal then you will want to check out Mezzanine or get a reservation at Hartwood.

If you’re craving some great wood fire pizza then check out La Onda.

El Capitan is a local spot known for its fish tacos or if you’re into tacos check out Tacolum right on the beach.

For Argentinian food known for great steak and a fun atmosphere check out La Estancia or check out Casa Banana for their steak.

If you want a unique experience check out the tree house inspired restaurant and bar at Mateo’s Mexican Grill.

If you have kids to entertain check out La Zebra, it’s a beach front restaurant with an area for kids to play at.

If you’re looking for more of a local experience be sure to check out Taqueria el Carboncito in Tulum Town known for pastor tacos, or Antojitos La Chiapaneca for their tacos and salsa bar, or Riviera Costena for their tacos. All of these spots are only open at night.

If you are looking for daytime tacos check out Tacoqueto or Pollo Bronco for a quarter to a whole roasted chicken with tortillas, rice, and salsa -for dine-in or take out!

For dessert head on over to the local gelato shop Panna e Cioccolato.

Want to learn how to cook local meals? Take a Mexican cooking class at Rivera Kitchen.

Transportation

The easiest way to get to Tulum would be to fly into Cancun Airport and rent a car. You’ll want a rental so you have the freedom to explore around the Yucatan Peninsula and visit the incredible attractions in the area. The drive from Cancun to Tulum is only about 2 hours, but you do have the option to take a shuttle bus, taxi, or a private driver.

Taxi rides from Cancun Airport to Tulum are around $100.

You can also use a private driver for around $120 who will be waiting for you when you get out of customs.Rental Cars

We strongly advise getting a rental car, when we researched prices the daily rates were about $66-$120 for an SUV and $2-$37 for an economy car.

Once you get to Tulum you can rent local bicycles for around ~$8 per day. You can negotiate a deal if you are going to use it multiple days in a row. We were told you need to make sure you get a lock and you never bike in the dark.

Where to Stay
Cactus in Tulum

Photo by Angus Woodman

We recommend checking out the local property rentals. You can get your own private house with swimming pool on the beach for about the same as a nice hotel. Not to mention the local hotels are going through a bit of turmoil and many of their fate is unknown due to the recent issues going on with locals and foreign hotel owners.

Some people booked vacations well in advance with a hotel and without notice, the hotel owners were evicted from their own property.

While hotels are seeing this happen, we haven’t heard anything about this happening to the home rentals.

Another perk to the home rentals would be that you can take a large group of people and all fit under the same roof. When we do finally go to Tulum, we will be getting a private home.

Also, many of the homes have their own staff you can use as well as hire to cook for you.


A lot of research and excitement went into this trip, and one day we will take it! Especially since Mexico is a stone’s throw away from Southern California. And for anyone looking to do a destination wedding, Tulum is a great place to consider.

Cover Image by Jim Young.

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