Tulum – overpriced love or dream destination?

Is Tulum really paradise in Mexico?

Tulum has become one of the top places in Mexico since Instagram. Tulum is considered a dropout paradise, hip, alternative and ecologically correct, but Tulum is also a popular destination for package holidaymakers who want to spend their vacations in an all-inclusive accommodation.

So it was of course obvious that we also put our feet to Tulum on our world trip. Since friends from Germany had just visited us, we wanted to make Tulum unsafe over the Christmas holidays and enjoy the flair. Whether we succeeded you can find in our travelogue about Tulum.

View over the beach of Tulum

The journey to Tulum

Getting to Tulum is actually quite easy, probably one reason why Tulum is currently experiencing such international hype. No matter whether one would like to reach Tulum from the USA or from South America or also from Europe – there are always possibilities to reach the bathing resort in the south of Yucatan economically.

From Germany it is usually cheapest to arrive directly from one of the major airports (Cologne / Bonn, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin or Munich. Here go regular flights of various airlines to Playa del Carmen or also to Cancun. Once you have arrived in Mexico it is no problem to travel to Tulum. Either one takes a Collectivo from the bus station of the two tourist centers or one takes directly the bus line ADO or Oriente. ADO is the most comfortable way to travel through Mexico. Here you have nice big seats, mostly W-LAN but also a good air conditioning. Even a USB charging plug is installed in most buses.

From Playa del Carmen you can get to Tulum for about 4 euros. The trip takes about 1 hour. From Cancun, the ride costs about 15 euros and takes about 3.5 hours.

Taking a bus through Mexico is a great alternative to flying!

If you decide to take a Collectivo or even a bus from Oriente, traveling is far more uncomfortable and confusing. Since we have mostly traveled with ADO through Mexico during our trip, we can unfortunately not give exact prices here. According to other tourists but the prices are somewhat cheaper.

Accommodations in Tulum?

Accommodations are in Tulum now like sand by the sea. However, even the most hostel for low budget travelers are rather too expensive, as we find. Accommodations also in the dorm room there are usually only from etwa 20 euros the night. Compared to the rest of Mexico or Yucatan, the price here is already significantly higher.

Whatever accommodation you are looking for in Tulum you will find. If you are looking for the Eco Lodge directly on the beach which has similarity with a tree house then Tulum will also have the right solution for you. Of course, there are also countless hotel chains that vie for tourists with an exclusive offer and thus try to draw the favor on itself. From an all-inclusive offer to a private chef, you can find in Tulum probably really everything.

In addition to all the hotels that are bookable through hotel portals and travel agencies, Tulum also has great accommodations via AirBnB on offer. Here you have the choice between small apartments or rooms or a villa with private pool overlooking the cliffs of Tulum.

We decided during our stay for a All-Inkl. Hostel. We wanted to have over Christmas simply rest, have to worry about nothing and just enjoy the time and peace. For the Lucky Traveler All. Inkl. Hostel we had to pay per night per person about 80 euros. We were unfortunately very late with the booking of our accommodation over Christmas, so the price here was already accordingly high.

So are holidays in Mexico or the like, it is worthwhile to book further in advance to save costs. Also, if you plan to travel by bus, you should not just go to the bus station, but have already bought the ticket in advance. So you save yourself long waits at the queues and comes quickly and cheaply from A to B.

What makes Tulum so unique?

Tulum is totally hip. You open Instagram and it feels like every model is sitting in some eco lodge in Tulum. This is probably also one of the reasons why Tulum is currently experiencing such hype. Of course, the great region and the Mayan ruins in the tourist growth also plays a significant role but also the hotel chains and well-financed lodges have understood how to attract attention. Due to the relatively high costs per overnight stay and relatively low maintenance costs, there is of course more money left over for advertising budgets.

But not only the marketing is to blame for the fact that Tulum is so loved. If you walk along the beach, you will quickly realize that the region fits right into our sustainable society.Sandy hair and smoothies with moringa rule the beach here.In between, a few tourists squeeze in who have become victims of Tulum’s good advertising campaign.

Tulum has developed its own style. This style is hip and sustainable. Many people who love Tulum could actively live this flair and lifestyle and were probably hooked here by the region. So you can already understand if you are enchanted by the region – because it is already kind of cool and hip.

When is the perfect time to travel to Tulum?

As we found out for ourselves, December was not the ideal time to travel to Tulum. But if you are on a world trip you can unfortunately not always follow climate tables and good travel times. But who plans his annual vacation in Tulum will be able to spend the most beautiful days in Tulum from March to September. Here it rains relatively rarely and the daytime temperatures are rarely below 30 degrees. When we were in Tulum in December, the wind was relatively strong and the temperatures ranged from 17 degrees at night to 28 degrees during the day. The sea was a pleasant 27 degrees.

What can you experience in Tulum?

Tulum in itself does not offer so many opportunities in our eyes. Of course, from Tulum you have the possibility to visit the Chichen Itza or also the National Park Shian Kaan to explore. Here there are countless tour providers who will already be on the road vying for your favor.

For an 8 hour excursion including transportation and food in the Shian Kaan National Park from Tulum you have to expect about 130 USD $. For this you can then experience various animals and islands as well as the floating canal in Shian Kaan.

Unfortunately, we had no chance to book such a tour, because esome tour providers had closed over Christmas or were partly already fully booked. In addition to the tours to Chichen Itza and Shian Kaan, there are also numerous tours that offer various cenotes in the region around Tulum. Prices with transportation start here at about $20 USD.

Who does not want to depend on transportation, can borrow bikes in Tulum or gets which provided directly by the accommodation. If there are no bikes at the accommodation you have to calculate with about 7 USD $ a day. For it one has then evenly a piece of mobility.

A visit to the Grand Cenote

View of the Grand Benote

A cenote with turtles? Yes exactly that must be the Grand Cenote near Tulum! Yes exactly that is also the cenote! The Grand Cenote near Tulum is a very special cenote.

About 3.5 kilometers outside of Tulum is the Grand Cenote. If you have already visited some cenotes in Mexico you will realize how well organized this cenote is. There are nice toilets, a shower and even lockers are available in the cenote. So far, we have not been able to find this anywhere else during our numerous cenote visits.

At the Grand Cenote

The entrance fee, however, is also much more expensive than at the other cenotes. Here is due per person 180 MXN $, which corresponds to about 8 – 9 euros (depending on the exchange rate). The showers in the cenote itself are free. The water for the showers is pumped directly from the cenote. So who hopes for a warm shower will not find here.

The cenote actually consists of two cenotes that are connected. So you can swim from the big cenote via a cave system to the other one.

We were in Cenote for 3 hours and it was really fun. You should definitely take diving goggles or swimming goggles here to really get the great underwater world here.

Water world in the Grand Cenote

The sun’s rays shining through the deep water are especially impressive. Something like that you get to see even in the sea only rarely.
If you want to swim, however, only in the Cenote, you should be careful that you do not hit on the sharp stones that reach to just before the water surface and are therefore not quite safe.

Entrance Grand Cenote in Tulum

It should also be noted that it is mandatory to shower off before bathing in the cenote, so that no unwanted chemicals get into the cenote here and disturb the delicate ecosystem. So eyes closed and through!

By bike, the Grand Cenote can be reached in about 10 minutes by car. The route is not very impressive since you drive along a straight road the whole time. You will only see the immense masses of garbage on the side of the road and every now and then a car that passes you at a moderate pace!

The second cenote which is connected to the Grand Cenote by an underground channel.

A visit to the ruins of Tulum

View over the ruins of Tulum

What was naturally also on the plan, if one is already once in Tulum, is naturally the park and/or the ruins of Tulum.
Here it concerns old Maya ruins those directly at the sea were built. These ruins are the only known buildings of the Maya directly by the sea.
We were lucky that we were accommodated directly in the Lucky Traveler Hostel All Inclusive. This hostel is located just outside of Tulum about 1.5 kilometers exactly opposite the Archeological Park in Tulum.

Therefore, getting to the ancient Mayan ruins was easy as can be. We grabbed the bikes and drove about 1 kilometer until we were at the entrance of the Archaeological Park. On the way to the ruins of Tulum, you pass countless stalls that sell a wide variety of souvenirs and, of course, offer them loudly.

Note: Of course, we also looked around a bit here and compared the prices. Who wants to buy souvenirs in Tulum although he still travels to other cities in Mexico is probably to blame, the prices in Tulum for souvenirs from Mexico are the highest in the whole Yucatan. If you take a Mayan cloth as an example – you can get it in Merida or Playa del Carmen for about 3 – 5 Euro, so about 100 MXN $ in Tulum you should pay 3 times as much for the identical one. So who visits more stations than Tulum should wait with the purchase.

After one is then at the entrance and 70 MXN $ per person paid has one trots with the other tourists a well-kept path along, until one has finally arrived at the first walls of the ruins. If one has luck one meets here a few fat coatis trying to pick up food from the tourists.

Then it goes up some steps and you are already directly on the coast. Here are already countless tourists who are busy and highly motivated selfies. We think that a rainy day or the late afternoon are the best visiting time for the ruins. When we were there in the morning on Christmas Eve, was very many tourists there who have tried to shoot the perfect photo.

Then you have to go through a small narrow gate, here it probably always jams since most tourists are larger than the Maya at that time. Attention here you can easily bump your head. Finally you have reached the ruins. You have a beautiful view over the entire ruins, but in between there are always countless tourists who probably think exactly the same. “Here it would be really nice if it was not so crowded!”


View of the beach at the ruins of Tulum

Due to the fact that the ruins are located directly on the beach, these ruins get a very special flair. The wind blows, you can hear the sea rushing and nature slowly regains the entire area. In between you will find again countless tourists trying to make the perfect selfie.

Beach at the ruins, this one is unfortunately closed for bathers.

If you take your time and read some of the plaques that are placed in front of some piles of stones, the tour of the site takes about 1.5 hours. At the exit, the busy ice cream vendor is already waiting to sell water and ice to the parched tourists.

Exit of the ruins

Who wants to make professional photo equipment and here photos of the ruins, is pointed out at the entrance directly with a sign that you should pay 40 MXN $ more. We had our GoPro with gimbal and 2 more cameras with us – which have represented no problem at the entrance but. Drones are prohibited in the area.

The ruins of Tulum are definitely worth a visit! If you have the opportunity to visit the area at an unusual time (as we thought on Christmas Eve) should take the opportunity and hope that few tourists are on site. The entrance fee we find fair and justified for the preservation of the park.

Restaurants in Tulum

Here we can unfortunately not directly share our experience since we were as already mentioned in an All. Incl. accommodation were accommodated. But when we are along the beach we have some glimpses of different menus can catch.

The prices are also here about 30 – 40% above the Mexican average known to us. If you pay in Merida for a taco 55 MXN $ – you pay here for a taco 110 MXN $. Whether these are then also really better we can unfortunately not say.

In Tulum there are very many international restaurants. Whether you are looking for typical Mexican food or Italian pasta – in Tulum you will find.

We also noticed that there are many vegan restaurants. Here, delicious smoothies, snacks and veggie burgers are offered. The prices are, however, in our eyes, overpriced.

View of a beachside eatery in Tulum

Shopping in Tulum

As mentioned before, in Tulum you have the opportunity to buy various souvenirs and memorabilia. In addition to these stores and merchants, there are of course numerous supermarket chains such as oxxo, 7elven, superaki, Chedaui etc. which of course also have a branch in Tulum.

Are the terrible brown algae in Tulum?

Before we started the trip to Tulum, you have read in many travel blogs that at the moment just an algae plague at the Playa Maya is – speak from Cancun to Tulum the complete beach smells fishy and bathing is only very limited fun.

That’s why we also want to go back to the situation in December 2018 in this post. When we were in Tulum for 4 days and of course visited the beach here, was a relatively strong current. Red algae were none to be seen in the water at this time. The sea had a pleasant bathing temperature. However, the bathing in Tulum was also only very limited fun. When we were Vor-Ort was very much seaweed on the coast that was partially already decomposed by the sun and slowly started to stink again.

Beach at Tulum with brown algae

The golf rod was probably washed up on the beach of Tulum by the strong current that was at that time. So if you are looking for the perfect beach – you will still be disappointed in December 2018, as the water is clouded with brown algae.

Those who want to know even more about the golf tang or brown algae in Mexico – are welcome to read our article about it.

Our conclusion about Tulum

We have this typical Tulum Spirit in the 4 days unfortunately can not feel. We receive Tulum as relatively expensive. The region is really beautiful but the prices are significantly higher compared to Merida, Playa de Carmen or even Cancun, although the performance is the same (cab, food, hotel, etc.).
Who is of course looking for an all-incl. vacation and is willing to accept high costs for this is in good hands in Tulum. The surroundings are really beautiful and there are many activities in the region, whether you just want to enjoy a day at the beach or perhaps prefer to explore the pyramids of Chichen Itza.

In addition, one should mention here again that Tulum is probably too expensive for the backpacker. Here you have to expect easily 50 euros per day per head to get a reasonably nice accommodation and not have to starve.

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