One Day in Tulum, Mexico | Best 2024 GUIDE

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Planning to spend one day in Tulum and want to know what to do to maximize your visit? Keep reading!

I recently visited Tulum and was incredibly nervous about visiting. I had heard so many mixed things but knew I had to see it for myself to make my own opinions and guess what? I LOVED IT. I spent a week touring Tulum and its surroundings and am happy to share my favorites with you!

Tulum is one of Mexico’s most popular travel destinations famous for its beautiful beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, and bohemian atmosphere. While touristy, its charm lies in eco-conscious resorts, trendy beach clubs, and a luxurious vibe, it is also one of the best Bali alternatives for those looking for a bali-esque getaway!

If you only have time for one day in Tulum you can still see and do quite a bit. Below is your complete guide to one day in Tulum!

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(Disclaimer: Some links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on the link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you and you may even receive a small discount. See disclosure for more information.)

One Day in Tulum, Mexico

Short one time? Here’s what you need to know!

Best Hotel in Tulum: Hotel Shibari
➡️ Reserve your tours in advance! Click here to book the best Chichen Itza Day Trip from Tulum

In one day in Tulum, you have just enough time to enjoy the unique blend of ancient history and modern beachfront experiences.

Explore the Tulum Archaeological Site with Mayan ruins perched above the Caribbean Sea. Relax on the stunning beaches and indulge in local cuisine at beachside eateries. Discover the bohemian charm of the town with boutique shops and colorful murals.

Whether exploring ancient wonders or lounging on the beautiful beach, Tulum’s energy will have you wishing you planned more than just one day!

Getting to Tulum from Cancun and Playa del Carmen

From Cancun:
🚗 By Car: Tulum is approximately a 2-hour drive from Cancun.
🚌 By Bus: ADO buses operate from the Cancun International Airport and the downtown bus station to Tulum.

From Playa del Carmen:
🚗 By Car: Tulum is about a 45-minute drive south of Playa del Carmen.
🚌 By Bus: ADO buses also connect Playa del Carmen to Tulum. The journey takes around 1 hour.

10 Best Things to Do in Tulum

Visit Tulum Archaeological Site

Tulum pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological site in Quintana Roo state of Yucatan penincual in Mexico, Central America

The Tulum Archaeological Site is a must-visit destination, offering a unique blend of history and natural beauty. Perched on cliffs above the turquoise Caribbean Sea, it provides a stunning backdrop to well-preserved Mayan ruins.

Explore ceremonial structures that showcase the ancient civilization’s architectural prowess and strategic coastal positioning.

➡️ Time needed: Plan for a 2 to 3-hour visit.
➡️ Entrance Fee: ~85 Mexican Pesos.

➡️ Click HERE to book the top-rated tour for the Tulum Ruins

Spend a Day on Tulum Beach

Hanging wooden swing seats tied up with rope on sand at beautiful beach resort with canopy, in tulum, Mexico.

To spend a day on Tulum Beach, securing a bed at a beach club is a popular choice. Arrive early to claim a spot, and inquire about reservation options for guaranteed seating.

Some of the best beach clubs include Taboo Tulum, and Ziggy’s, known for their chic ambiance and beachfront settings.

Be cautious of minimum spend requirements at beach clubs, where you may need to spend a certain amount on food or drinks. Alternatively, enjoy the free public beach area near the Tulum ruins, offering the same stunning views without the club amenities.

Explore Some Cenotes

Beautiful view of Cenote Sac Actún - Akumal, near Tulum city located in Yucatán Peninsula - Mexico

Cenotes are natural sinkholes or freshwater-filled caves found in the Yucatan Peninsula, formed by collapsed cave systems. Visiting cenotes in Tulum is a must to experience one of Tulum’s most magic nature wonders and soak in the regions unique beauty and ancient history.

The 5 best cenotes in the Tulum area are:
➡️ Gran Cenote
➡️ Dos Ojos
➡️ Cenote Calavera|
➡️ Cenote Sac Actun (pictured above)
➡️ Cenote Azul

When exploring cenotes, wear biodegradable sunscreen, bring water shoes, and respect the natural surroundings. Additionally, arrive early to avoid crowds, and consider hiring a guide for a richer understanding of these natural wonders.

➡️ Click HERE to book the top-rated tour from Tulum to Various Cenotes

Go to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Mexico

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Tulum, is a vast protected area renowned for its rich biodiversity and ecological significance.

Upon visiting Sian Ka’an, expect a mesmerizing natural landscape featuring diverse ecosystems such as mangroves, wetlands, and coral reefs. The reserve is home to an array of wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, and numerous bird species.

Additionally, you’ll encounter ancient Mayan ruins and have opportunities for activities like snorkeling in crystal-clear waters. Embrace the reserve’s commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism, ensuring a rewarding and environmentally conscious experience.

➡️ Entrance Fee: $50 (US$2.80), boat tours are $50 to $150 USD per person.
➡️ Time Needed: Full Day.

➡️ Click HERE to book the top-rated tour for Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Visit Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Mexican temple ruins in Mexico

Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a prominent archaeological complex in Mexico, showcasing ancient Mayan ruins, including the iconic Pyramid of Kukulcan.

To reach Chichen Itza from Tulum, consider a bus, car rental, or guided tour for approximately 2 hours.

Entrance costs around 481 Mexican Pesos, with additional fees for guided tours or photography. Allocate at least half a day to fully appreciate the site’s historical and cultural significance.

➡️ Click HERE to book the top rated tour to Chichen Itza

Watch the Sunset on the Beach

Tulum offers various stunning beaches for a captivating sunset experience. Popular choices include Playa Paraiso, known for its long stretches of white sand and clear waters, or the beach in front of the Tulum Archaeological Site, where ancient ruins meet the Caribbean Sea.

Additionally, the beach clubs along Tulum’s coastline, like Ziggy’s or Papaya Playa Project, provide comfortable settings to enjoy the sunset with amenities.

Each beach in Tulum offers a unique ambiance, allowing you to choose the one that aligns with your preferences for a picturesque and tranquil sunset viewing experience.

Rent Bikes

Renting bikes in Tulum is a popular and eco-friendly way to explore the town and its surroundings. It allows you to navigate through narrow streets, visit nearby attractions, and enjoy the coastal areas with ease.

The cost of bike rentals in Tulum can vary but generally ranges from 100 to 300 Mexican Pesos per day, depending on the type of bike and the rental shop.

With bike rentals being an affordable and convenient option, you can enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Tulum while minimizing your environmental impact.

Explore Tulum Town

Exploring Tulum town offers the perfect mix of bohemian charm, vibrant culture, and local flavors. Stroll along the main avenue lined with boutique shops, cafes, and colorful murals.

Visit local markets for handmade crafts and souvenirs. Indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine at quaint eateries, and experience the town’s relaxed atmosphere.

Tulum’s town center provides a glimpse into local life and offers a more intimate and authentic experience compared to the beach areas.

Try the Amazing Restaurants

Trying new restaurants in Tulum is a culinary adventure, offering diverse flavors and showcasing the town’s vibrant gastronomic scene. Indulging in local and international cuisine provides a chance to savor fresh, seasonal ingredients and support the dynamic culinary community.

The 4 best restaurants in Tulum, known for their amazing dining experiences, include:

➡️ Hartwood: A renowned farm-to-table restaurant with a constantly changing menu featuring locally sourced, organic ingredients.
➡️ Arca: Offering a modern twist on Mexican cuisine, Arca emphasizes wood-fire cooking and a unique, flavorful approach.
➡️ Gitano: A chic jungle oasis known for its mezcal cocktails and contemporary Mexican dishes, creating a stylish and lively ambiance.
➡️ Casa Banana: Combining Argentine and Mexican influences, this restaurant is celebrated for its steaks, seafood, and cozy atmosphere.

Go Shopping

Shopping in Tulum offers a bohemian and eclectic mix of clothing and artisanal items that capture the town’s laid-back vibe. You’ll discover boutique shops with handmade clothing, unique accessories, and locally crafted goods.

Expect to find stylish beachwear, flowy dresses, handmade jewelry, and vibrant textiles reflecting the local culture.

Where to Stay in Tulum

Tulum offers a diverse range of accommodations, from boutique beachfront retreats to eco-friendly jungle hideaways. Expect charming, bohemian designs, with many hotels blending into the natural surroundings.

➡️ Budget: Hotel Boutique Murana Tulum
➡️ Midrange: Niken Beachfront Tulum Hotel
➡️ Luxury: Hotel Shibari

Frequently Asked Questions

Is one day enough for Tulum?

While one day in Tulum allows you to experience its highlights, a longer stay is best to fully immerse yourself in its offerings. In a day you can explore the Tulum Archaeological Site, relax on the beach, and get a vibe of the town.

However, to delve deeper into the local culture, enjoy more time relaxing on the beach, and explore surrounding attractions like cenotes and biosphere reserves, a longer stay is best.

I’d suggest spending at least 3 days in Tulum to allow for time to see and do as much as possible.

Is Tulum a day trip from Cancun?

Yes, Tulum is often visited as a day trip from Cancun. The distance between Cancun and Tulum is approximately 130 kilometers (81 miles), and the journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours by car.

You also opt for guided tours or local buses (ADO BUS)to get to Tulum.

Is Tulum a walkable city?

Tulum is a relatively small town, and certain areas are walkable, particularly the main avenue in the town where you’ll find shops, restaurants, and services.

However, the beach area is more spread out, and depending on your specific destination or accommodation, walking is not super practical for longer distances. I was surprised at how far the distances in the beach zone are and walking in the heat is not a great option.

Is Tulum or Cancun more fun?

If you’re seeking a vibrant nightlife with clubs and resort parties, Cancun is for you. Cancun is known for its lively atmosphere, numerous clubs, and always busy hotel zone that is perfect to those looking for an energetic and party-centric experience.

While Tulum also has a fun nightlife and party scene it is more luxerious and often times more expensive. Tulum often hosts famous DJ’s and world-renowned festivals that are becoming more and more common.

Both Tulum and Cancun are fun but in general:
➡️ If you want to go clubbing and enjoy endless nightlife options: Cancun
➡️ If you want to visit luxury beachclubs, attend famous festivals and see DJ’s perform: Tulum

Tulum Travel Tips

Below are some general Tulum travel tips to take into account.

➡️ Sun Protection: Tulum can be hot, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
➡️ Cash is King: While credit cards are widely accepted, having some cash is useful for smaller places, and avoiding credit card machine surcharges.
➡️ ATMS: Use ATMs located inside banks or reputable establishments. DO NOT use any ATM’s in the hotel zone!
➡️ Reservations for Popular Spots: Tulum is a popular destination, and some restaurants and beach clubs can get crowded.
➡️ Taxis: Agree on a fare before starting the ride or use reputable taxi apps with transparent pricing OR use colectivos (my tip)!

Travel Insurance

Getting travel insurance before you travel is a MUST. It’s the number one thing you should always pack before travelling that can save you a lot of money, time, and stress. With how crazy travel has gotten recently you need that peace of mind that no matter what happens there is something protecting you from losing out. I always travel with travel insurance and think everyone should.

I always travel with travel insurance and think everyone should. Below is my favorite travel insurer Safety Wings, enter your details to get a free quote!

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