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The ultimate 3 to 10-day Tulum itinerary for first-timers

If you are traveling to Tulum for the first time, but also if you are a repeater visitor and would like to find more inspiration, this Tulum itinerary will help you plan your vacation in Tulum and make the most of your time.


The laid-back boho-chic town is still on the rise among occasional travelers digital nomads and expatriates alike. Endless white sand beaches (when there is no Sargasso), a boho-chic culture, stylish hotels, world-class international and local restaurants, a yoga and healthy-living community, the famous and unique Mayan Ruins.

Tulum is all this and more make Tulum a very special place. So much so that after so many years, I am still under the spell of this tiny Mexican Pueblo Magico that keeps calling me back. And there is a lot of Magic indeed in it, despite the spreading virus and some other incidents, it seems that people just don’t want to hear it and Tulum is still one of the most thriving Mexican beach destinations

In fact, among the amazing things to do in Tulum, spending a day in one of its fancy beach clubs is definitely a must.

Here is a nice itinerary for you to help you plan your trip to the popular boho chic Mexican destination. 

Obviously, this 3 to 10-day Tulum itinerary is not set in stone. I have just created this Tulum travel plan with an average length of stay starting from the most unmissable things. You can either follow the itinerary from day 1 for how many days you are going to stay in Tulum or you can just pick different days and make your own trip depending on your priorities and interests. Also if it’s not the first time you may want to omit a few things and opt for new other activities that you missed the first time.

At the end of the article, I will give you some alternative options of alternative Tulum activities that you can also consider. 

Before moving forward with the 10-days Tulum Itinerary, though, I would like to reply to the most common questions that people also ask about traveling to Tulum. 

tulum beach on a sunny day and blue sky

10 days Tulum Itinerary for first-timers

Tulum Itinerary Day 1 

This is supposed to be your arrival day. If you arrive during the day and you have some hours of daylight you have two options:

1- if you are staying in a hotel on Tulum beach, just soak up the last hours of sun, swim, and take a walk on the beach. After sunset dress up (in Tulum Style) and take a nice walk on the beach road and check out the boho shops and the restaurants for your next days. 

2. If you are staying in downtown Tulum – you may want to rent a bike and browse around town, check out the shops selling local art, sit in a cafe- and enjoy the surroundings. Take a look at Tulum Restaurants so that you can make your dining plans for the next few days. 

Tulum Itinerary – Day 2

Check out the Tulum Ruins  – Hop on your bike or your car rental and get to the archeological Site early morning before it gets too hot and too crowded. You can either hire a guide to learn more about Mayan history and the importance of this site in the Mayan civilization or you can just browse around and enjoy the spectacular views. There is a tiny beach below the archeological sites where you can take a swim but I would rather just get there take a few pictures and move on to one of the other Tulum beaches which are much nicer. 

After the cultural visit, you may want to enjoy a day on one of the fancy Tulum Beach Clubs and get some rest, swim, or snorkel. Actually, if you are staying on that side of the Beach Road close to the ruins, you may want to check out Playa Paraiso or Cinco Tulum beach clubs where you can spend the day and have a delicious lunch on their beach restaurant. My favorite is Cinco Tulum. 

If you feel like exploring some more, take a short walk on the beach where the Playa Pescadores is. You will find local fishermen offering boat tours. They are very cheap and short. In about 2 hours trip they take you to a reef for snorkeling and to see the Mayan site from the boat.

Tulum Itinerary -Day 3 

Day 3 is cenote time! You cannot say you have been to Mexico if you didn’t swim in a cenote. If you have never heard of them you should know that cenotes are natural sinkholes made of limestone rocks that have been either eroded or collapsed forming these freshwater lakes where you can swim, snorkel or dive. You must know that in the Yucatan peninsula there are more than 7000 cenotes scattered around and the Cenotes in Tulum and surrounding are some of the most incredible ones. If you have time you can squeeze in more than one cenote in one day

Among the most interesting Cenotes in Tulum, check out the Grand Cenote, a very popular cenote at 10 minutes from Tulum Town, Cenote Cristalino and Escondido, that you can reach by bike or among the newest discovery Cenote Corazón and the spectacular Kaan Luum lagoon. 

To be more accurate, Kaan Luum is not properly a cenote, it’s a lagoon in which you will find a cenote although you don’t actually see it. And it’s not permitted to swim in the cenote area since it’s very deep and there can be unexpected dangerous currents. There is a swimmable area marked with cords where you can jump in the water. I have written a specific post on Kaan Luum where I explain everything in detail. 

Tulum Itinerary – Day 4

Day trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve  – there are different ways to enjoy the spectacular Sian Ka’an reserve. One is by traditional jeep tour which include a small boat tour once you arrive in the village.  My favorite way to visit Sian Ka’an is via Muyil through the floating river. You can first explore the hidden site of Muyil and then drive further to the lagoon where local fishermen organize interesting boat tours.  Check out my article on Muyil and the lazy river to learn more in detail about this incredible day trip from Tulum into the Sian Ka’an reserve.  

Tulum Itinerary – Day 5 

view from the top of the coba pyramid

Explore the spectacular Coba archaeological site and the surrounding cenotes. Coba is a small village by a lagoon, at only a 1-hour drive from Tulum. Not much was going on in this tiny town if not for the popular archeological site and the spectacular nearby Coba cenotes that attract visitors from Tulum and the surrounding areas.

It will take you a few hours to visit the site as the main temple, one of the few that you can actually climb is located at 1 km from the entrance. It’s a beautiful walk in the jungle but if you don’t feel like walking you can rent bikes or bike carts.

coba temple

This site is completely different from Tulum Ruins but fascinating in its own way. 

Nearby, at only 20 minutes drive you can find 3 spectacular hidden cave cenotes if you are not claustrophobic. In fact, you will need to climb down very steep stairs. It s like walking in the womb of mother earth. I am a little claustrophobic but I checked them out anyway. I just stopped thinking that I was 4 mt below ground and focused on the beauty I found down there. 

Tulum Itinerary – Day 6

On day 6, I guess you want to take a break from all this exploring and do nothing but bask in the sun sipping a margarita or two and enjoy a book. After all, you are on the Mexican Caribbean sea where you can find some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. Therefore some beach time is due. If you are not staying in a hotel on the beach I would splurge in one of the trendy beach clubs in Tulum where you can also have a delicious lunch on the beachfront restaurant or use their pool if the sea too rough or there are weeds. Or you can also explore the public beach near the ruins, and the popular Playa Paraiso. 

So, wake up early and admire the beautiful sunrise from Tulum beach, have a nice walk on the beach right after sunrise when the sun is not too hot, and enjoy the cool breeze.

tulum beach on a sunny day and blue sky

Then, have an earthy breakfast at Posada Margherita and lay in the sun or in the shadow in one of their beach cabanas. Enjoy one of their delicious plates from their rich menu and keep enjoy a lazy day on Tulum Beach. Or if you want to stay active you can also try a kite lesson or take a paddleboard tour. 

Among the trendiest Beach Clubs in Tulum Papaya Playa project is one of the coolest where you can chill out all day and listen to music and party all night. 

Normally in the beach clubs in Tulum, you don’t pay any extra cost, besides the entry fee which you can use as a credit against the restaurant bill. 

End the day with a world-class dinner in one of the most popular Tulum Restaurants, such as Hartwood or Centonzle.

Papaya Playa overview

Tulum Itinerary – Day 7

Visit Valladolid and Chichen Itza –

If you are staying in Tulum throughout your entire Mexican vacation, you should definitely explore more of its surroundings. And that’s why a car rental would be ideal. If you didn’t rent it from the Cancun airport you will find many car rental options in Tulum. I generally use Mex Car rental but it really depends on which one has the best offer at the moment. Read my post on renting a car in Mexico for more tips on the matter. 

So today you’ll get to explore what I call the “real Mexico”. Valladolid is a small town that conserves the authentic feel despite the expats and tourists’ invasion. You will see beautiful colorful colonial houses, local shops, and some museums. Valladolid is also surrounded by incredible cave cenotes, while an open cenote is located right in the heart of town at only 2 blocks from the main plaza. 

Chichenitza main piramid

You may want to include Chichen-Itza in your day trip from Tulum which I will organize as follow. 

Wake up very early hit the road at 6 am. It takes 2 hours from Tulum to Chichen-Itza and you should get there by 8 am when they open so you will be able to skip the crowds and enjoy one of the 7th wonders of the world in peace, before vendors and giant busses full of tourists start flocking in. 

Just like for Tulum Ruins or any other, you will be offered the option to hire a guide. Just know that Chichen Itza is a little more expensive, and so is the entrance. But totally worth it in my humble opinion. The place is magnificent. Make sure you get to the Sacred Gran Cenote (different from the grand cenote near Tulum) where you can see the colorful Sacred Bird Mot Mot.

You will then move to the other very touristy and yet spectacular cenote Ik-kil. and then off to Valladolid and explore the city before going back to your hotel in the evening. 

Cenote Ik'Kil - surrounded by a lush vegetation
Cenote Ik’Kil

Tulum Itineray – Day 8

Day 8 is for exploring more beaches. Tulum Beach is spectacular but not the only one. On the stretch of beach from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, you will find many other gorgeous beaches that you should explore, some of them are even close to other beautiful cenotes. 

Enjoy the pristine white sand beach of Xpu-ha or swim with the turtles in Akumal beach, go take a dip in the Cenote Azul or the underground cenote Taak-bi-ha with its phenomenal azure waters or the famous cenote Dos Ojos. All these sites are located very close to each other.

Then at the end of the day, when it’s not too hot you can drive up to playa del Carmen and take a stroll on the famous Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), do some shopping, or just enjoy an aperitif or an ice cream. 

xpu-ha beach with people in the water

You can also stay for dinner in one of the delicious restaurants. Playa del Carmen is quite a popular location for expats and digital nomads. As a result, you will find an incredible variety of international cuisine, cute cafes, ice-cream shops, french bakeries, and much more. 

If you feel uncomfortable driving back in the night you may consider staying for the night in Playa del Carmen or just hire a taxi for the entire day so you don’t have to worry about anything but enjoying yourself. 

Tulum Itinerary Day 9 

Today it’s time for a boat tour. What about visiting Isla Mujeres? It’s a little far, but if you are up for an adventure you should definitely go and explore the pretty little island. 

If you don’t feel like driving to Cancun and get the Ferry to Isla Mujeres, you can check out organized Catamaran tours organized as a day trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun. They usually include the pickup from your hotel in Tulum so you don’t have to worry about absolutely anything and enjoy the day. 

You will be able to snorkel in the bluest waters you will have ever seen, enjoy a local meal, bask in the sun of Playa Norte, or drive around Isla Mujeres on a golf cart

Or if it’s summer, from June through September you can opt for the Whale Sharks tour from Cancun, an unforgettable experience. 

Definitely, the best way to complete your Tulum Itinerary! 

Tulum Itinerary – Day 10

If it’s departure day you may want to enjoy as much time as you can on the beach before leaving for Cancun Airport. If you are not staying in a beach hotel there is a public beach about 5 km from Tulum Town on the north beach road. So that you can have the last swim before leaving Tulum, until next time. 

To get to Tulum Airport, I would book a transport service with a reputable company to make sure they come on time and don’t overcharge you. 

Tulum Itinerary FAQ

How Many Days in Tulum Do You Need?

There is no straight answer to this question. It really depends on how many days you have available, what other places you want to visit during your vacation and what is the purpose of your trip. I believe after reading about this itinerary and all the things you can do in Tulum you will have a better idea of how many days you will want to spend in Tulum. 

How much time do I need at the Tulum ruins?

I would suggest you should consider 1 hour for a guided tour and another hour for you to walk around and take pictures unless you also want to walk down to the beach and spend some time there. If there is no sargasso and it’s not crowded it’s a pretty beach to see. However, keep in mind that the nearby Tulum beaches are much prettier.  

tulum travel guide

What’s the fastest way to get to Tulum from Cancun International Airport?

The best way to get to Tulum from Cancun Airport is by private transportation with a registered company. It’s also safer and cheaper than a Taxi. Keep in mind that Taxis usually tend to overcharge, not to talk about Tulum Taxis who love to make up their own inflated rates. 

Another great way to get to Tulum from the Airport or anywhere else is by renting a car. That’s really the best way to move around in the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s super safe and you can reach the most beautiful cenotes and secret gems in the area, where the local busses don’t get.

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Where is the best area to stay in Tulum?

That’s also a very personal choice. I can tell you about the most popular area where people love to stay so that you can pick what you think it’s best for you. 

Tulum Beach area – Tulum beach is the most expensive area but also the most amazing. Falling asleep at the sound of the waves and waking upright on the beach in one of the fancy Tulum beach hotels is a dream come true. If you are willing to splurge that’s the best option.

Aldea Zama – This is the newest exclusive residential area where to stay in Tulum. It’s in the most strategic location as it’s halfway between the beach and Down Town Tulum. You can find many exquisite Airbnb in Aldea Zama and other gorgeous apartments for rent.  

La Veleta – another exclusive new residential area in Tulum that is now growing with new restaurants and bars, besides great condo-hotels. Located between Aldea Zama and Tulum Town. 

Tulum Town– that’s the heart of Tulum where you can find great restaurants, coffe places and shops. It’s quite a lively area but you can find great and affordable places in quiet areas not far from the bustling main road. 

view of the beach from an hotel
View from a room at @ Dunes hotel

When is the best time to visit Tulum?

It is always a good time to visit Tulum and walk on that precious beach, jump in a cenote and explore the surroundings. However, there are different seasons each one with its own pros and cons.  As I explain in detail in my dedicated post on the best time to go to Tulum, but in general you may want to keep in mind the following notes:

May through November (excluding August) – it’s the low season and that’s when it is mostly humid with more chance of rain. That is also hurricane season on the Mexican coasts. 

December through Easter – high season – the weather is drier, the seawater is cooler and prices are higher.

May, October, and November are the cheapest months where you can find the best flights and hotel deals. 

What are the unmissable things to do in Tulum?

Oh well if you have a short time in Tulum and you only have to pick a few things to do and places to see, here is what I wouldn’t miss:

  • A day on the beach in one of the fancy Tulum Beach Clubs (Papaya Playa Project is the trend of the moment)
  • Visit a couple of the spectacular Cenotes in Tulum
  • Visit the Tulum Mayan Ruins 
  • Take a tour to Sian Ka’an

Is Tulum Safe for solo travelers?

The short answer is yes. It’s indeed a relatively safe place to spend your vacation or to live for a while if you work remotely. The well-known issue that we have in Mexico is related to drug cartels, it’s undeniable, but any sort of dispute that may raise wouldn’t normally affect the tourists or locals that are not involved in illegal matters.  Then, incidents happen and petty theft is a thing, just like everywhere. You may want to read my thorough guide on how to stay safe while traveling in Mexico  (which include a section on Tulum)

How much money should I take to Tulum for a week?

That is impossible to answer because it depends very much on your budget and where and what you like to eat and how many souvenirs you want to buy. You can find tacos on the street as cheap as 2 USD and a meal in a restaurant for 100 USD per person.

It is really up to you. Having said that, Tulum restaurants don’t like credit cards that much, so I would suggest you should bring some cash with you and exchange it in a bank or any casa de Cambio.

Do not change your money when you arrive at Cancun Airport because those money exchange offices at the airport either charge you a commission or give you a bad exchange rate.

Is Tulum worth visiting

Yes!! read on to see why!

Read more practical tips to travel to Tulum  in my complete Tulum Travel Guide for 2021

Where to stay in Tulum

If you haven’t booked your place yet this article of the best hotels in Tulum will help you make up your mind as it includes a wide selection of properties in the most popular areas of Tulum and for different budgets. Here below is my top choice among and Tulum Airbnb and hotels:

Tulum Town

zenses hotel room
Photo © Zenses Tulum

Zenses Wellness and Yoga Resort – Adults Only – A relatively new hotel, it offers a spectacular spacious room stylishly decorated in the typical Tulum boho style. It’s one of those hotels that you never want to leave.

Check rates & availability:    Booking.com | Hotels.com
Read reviews on TripAdvisor

Tulum Beach 

Be Tulum hotel room
Photo © Be Tulum

Be Tulum – an iconic luxury property and one of the best hotels on Tulum Beach. A magnificent blend of jungle style and sophisticated interior. It’s one of those places that makes you feel cool and fancy even on your worse day.

Check rates & availability:  Hotels.com | Booking.com | Read reviews on TripAdvisor

Aldea Zama

casa Mulix front
Photo © Casa Mulix

*Casa Mulix* Lovely Boho Chic Jungle Experience

Trendy beautiful apartment in the heart of Aldea Zama, newly furnished and nicely decorated with local art. Read more and check availability on Booking.com

La Veleta Tulum

Panacea Tulum
Photo © Panacea Condo Hotel

Panacea – Beautiful apartments in the middle of nature with elegant decor, in a tranquil condo with free pool access. Read more and check availability on Booking.com

How to move around in Tulum 

To move around Tulum you have different options:

Renting a bike 

That is a fun and cool way to explore Tulum downtown and get to the beach while doing some exercising and avoid traffic. If your hotel doesn’t rent bikes you will be able to find a lot of rental shops in Tulum pueblo (town). It’s cheap and fun, but avoid biking at night, especially in dark areas. 

Renting a car

The best way to move around the Tulum surroundings is definitely by renting your own car, but not to get to Tulum beach road where sometimes it feels like you are in New York, for the amount of traffic. It’s just not worth it. However, they have now created a few more parking spaces so it’s easier than it was before and if you go to a beach club they usually have their own free parking spot. 

Using Taxi

Keep in mind that a taxi ride in Tulum is more expensive than anywhere else in Mexico, and taxi drivers in Tulum are not popular for their kindness. If you read all my other posts on Tulum you can see a pattern, I know. I keep reiterating it but because I just didn’t have the best experiences with Tulum taxi drivers. So forgive me if I insist on renting a car. 🙂 

Here we go! we have come to the end of this Tulum itinerary and I hope you could get more than you were expecting out of it. As usual, if you have any questions I am just a click away! Have fun in Tulum!


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Jade

Tuesday 27th of July 2021

Great post! I went to Mexico when I was a teenager but have high hopes of living there for a while once I return from Europe. I'm in desperate need of beach life! Can't wait to check out Tulum, definitely saving this post for later. Thanks for sharing!

Isabella

Tuesday 27th of July 2021

Hey Jade! thanks a lot for stopping by. I am glad you found the post useful! You will love Tulum :) Happy travels!

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