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The Ideal Tulum Itinerary (3 to 5 days)

If you’re visiting Tulum soon, you’ll want to read this comprehensive Tulum itinerary. It will help you plan your trip, make the most of your time, and not miss any gems in the region! Check it out.

I’ll be honest: no time is enough time in Tulum! This laid-back beach haven on the Caribbean coast of Mexico is everyone’s dream. After all, it offers all types of experiences and attractions. From historical riches to astonishing natural wonders, great food, parties, and some of the best beaches you’ll ever see, it’s all here.

With such a wide offer, journey planning can be a bit daunting, especially if it’s your first time traveling to Tulum. With that in mind, I have decided to put together this Tulum itinerary.

3 to 5 days will be enough time to explore the very best of the town, the beach, and the surroundings, but definitely stay longer if you can (I bet you’ll want to once you’re there!)


First things first: how do you get to Tulum in the first place? It’s easy! Chances are you will be going to Tulum from Cancun, which is about 118 kilometers (73 miles) away, and there are many options to cover that distance.

I wrote a whole post on how to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum, but if you want the info quickly, here it is.

The main options are pre-booking a private transfer, pre-booking a shared shuttle, or taking the ADO bus from the airport.

▶️ Private transfer to Tulum: The best option if you want to keep things as easy and efficient as possible. If you’re traveling in a group, it could even save you money because you pay per car, not per person.

▶️ Shared shuttle to Tulum: The shared shuttle is a good, more budget-friendly option that takes you straight from Cancun Airport to your hotel. It’s also the perfect transfer for solo travelers. The downside is that they might make several stops along the way to drop off passengers.

▶️ ADO bus to Tulum: This is the most affordable option. ADO (the main bus company in Mexico) has buses that go straight from the Cancun Airport to Tulum, departing several times a day. ADO buses are big, air-conditioned, and of good quality. They’re also the only public transport option from the airport.


Tulum is divided into two main areas: the beach and the pueblo (the town itself). Where you choose to stay depends on your interests and priorities, both areas have things to offer! Here are some options for each.

Tulum Beach

LUXURY: La Valise – Private beachfront bungalow? Yes, please. Romantic and chic, this is one of the best hotels in Tulum beach, with bungalows that blend beautifully with the natural surroundings, breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea and the jungle, and an infinity pool.

MID-RANGE: Zamas Hotel – Reportedly offering “the perfect antidote to the mundane”, Zamas is a beach dream of white sand and coconut trees, with rustic, stylish, and charming thatched cabins overlooking tropical gardens or the sea.

Tulum Town

LUXURY: Hotel Bardo – This adults-only hotel focuses on lifestyle luxury experiences. They have gorgeous, rustic-chic style rooms, and a private pool tucked in the Mayan jungle of Tulum.

MID-RANGE: Coco Hacienda Tulum – A plant nursery turned into a boutique hotel, they offer trendy rooms that combine historic charm and modern comfort, surrounded by perfect vegetation.

ON A BUDGET: Che Tulum Hostel & Bar – Super convenient location in the heart of Tulum, with all the action at the doorstep. They have a lovely pool in a green garden, hammocks, their own bar, and recently renovated rooms.

Right Outside Tulum

DREAMY CENOTE HOTEL: Wakax Hacienda – This gorgeous hotel boasts its very own cenote, plus outdoor pools, a spa, and a restaurant. The colonial architecture and rustic design are very appealing, and you’ll enjoy 5-star service and amenities, including a bar, free bikes, and breakfast on the daily. Check out my full review of Wakax Hacienda!


Welcome to Tulum, the land of perfect beaches, awesome food, and even better vibes. Fun times await! This itinerary for Tulum, Mexico, will help you plan your visit.

Follow it to a T and you’ll get to see and experience a lot. But, of course, you can also modify and adjust it to suit your tastes and needs. Let’s get started!

Day 1: Tulum Ruins + Beach

A must-do in Tulum is visiting the Tulum Archeological Site, one of the most visited in the whole of Yucatan and arguably the most picturesque.

Built as a seaport fortress, this ancient site was constructed to protect the city from the East. The main pyramid El Castillo (The Castle) served as a lighthouse, and large, thick limestone walls surrounded it on three sides.

Something that sets these Mayan ruins apart is that they’re perched at the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. You’ll get unbeatable views of the sea and Tulum beach!

Visiting the ruins on your own from Tulum is easy, the site is only 3 km from the city center. To get there, you can rent a bicycle and ride to the entrance (about 20 minutes from town); take a taxi (the easiest option); or catch a colectivo.

If you’re opting for the colectivo (shared shuttle), stand anywhere on the main boulevard in Tulum Town and flag it. It’ll drop you off at the entrance of the ruins.

Some useful tips:

• Bring pesos, as it’s the only currency accepted for the entrance ticket

• Lots of water – you’ll be walking under the sun for quite some time!

• Pack a hat and sunscreen, and your swimsuit (there is a “secret” beach directly under the ruins!)

More importantly, try to be there at 8 AM when they open to beat the crowds (and the heat), you’ll thank me later!

➤  To get the best of Tulum in one tour, check out this 3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour, which takes you on a guided visit of the Tulum ruins, snorkeling through coral reefs, and swimming in a cenote, followed by a jungle walk and visit a limestone cave. ➥ BOOK IT NOW

➤ This Tulum and Cenotes 5 Hour Guided Tour brings the best of both worlds: learn lots about fascinating ancient Tulum with a guided tour of the ruins, and then shake off the Caribbean heat swimming in a natural sinkhole. ➥ BOOK IT NOW

Now the moment you’ve been waiting for! It’s time to hit the beach.

If you’re staying in a hotel in the Tulum Beach area, you’ll probably have access to a private beach. In this case, drop everything in your room as fast as you can. Grab a hat, a book, and a snorkel mask, and head to the sea for some well-earned relaxation time.

If you don’t have access to a private beach or would like to explore further, there are many incredible spots along Tulum’s 10-km shoreline.

Playa Paraiso (which fittingly means Paradise Beach) is within an exclusive beach club on the northern end of the shoreline. Here you can rent beach chairs and parasols, and forget about the world’s troubles for a day.

Image of a Paradise Beach, a must-stop on any Tulum Itinerary. The beach has white sand and turquoise waters. The sky is blue, dotted with white clouds, and there's a palm tree by the shore.

The water here is ideal for a relaxing swim or snorkeling since the coral reef is amazing. You might even spot turtles!

Las Palmas Public Beach is a fantastic option to enjoy a more preserved beach with fewer tourist developments. Expect fewer crowds, a wider beachfront, and cheaper restaurants.

That Mexican cuisine is world-class is no secret, and in Tulum, they combine it with ancient Mayan culinary traditions for some heavenly bites. Foodies will be very happy in Tulum! These below are some great spots to eat after spending a day at the beach.

Loco Tulum – Expect outstanding food and a relaxed atmosphere under the palm trees, a seasonal tasting menu, and local cuisine with Mediterranean influences. There’s a magical ambiance in this solid mid-range option.

Villa Pescadores – A gourmet Mexican menu awaits at this eco-rustic beachfront restaurant, part of the hotel of the same name. Set on the public beach Playa Pescadores (fishermen’s beach), the menu is packed with the freshest, most tasty seafood you can find.

Posada Margherita – Because who doesn’t love Italian food! Posada Margherita is the best Italian eatery in town, set directly on the beach. They serve homemade pasta, mouth-watering focaccias, and of course, great pasta and gelato. All with immaculate views of the ocean.

For more ideas, check out my post about the best restaurants in Tulum.

Day 2: Cenotes in Tulum + Playa del Carmen

No trip to Tulum is complete without swimming in cenotes. This is a unique and unforgettable experience you’ll only get to enjoy in this part of the world. And, trust me, once you’ve visited one, you’ll become obsessed and will want to see them all!

Cenotes are freshwater natural pools that form over thousands of years. It occurs when limestone caves collapse and get filled with rainwater and water from underground rivers. And they are oh so dreamy! Lucky for you, some of the best cenotes are found around Tulum.

Cenote Dos Ojos – This is one of the most famous and instagrammable cenotes. Its name translates as “two eyes” because from above the ground, it looks like two cenotes.

In reality, though, Dos Ojos is a single cenote composed of two sinkholes connected through a 400-meter passageway. Filled with sunlight and with the most turquoise waters at delicious temperatures all day, it’s a must-see.

Cenote Calavera – A truly special cenote that is still relatively unknown, so it’s a great cenote to go for a peaceful swim. There are many fish and maybe a bat or two flying around the cave, which adds to the middle-of-the-jungle feeling.

Cenote Calavera is quite deep, so it’s a good spot if you feel like jumping off the edge!

Gran Cenote – Another extremely popular cenote, and for a reason: the color of the water is otherworldly, and you will lose track of time swimming and snorkeling around the many caves, under the stalagmites and stalactites. If you’re lucky, you might get to swim with a turtle or two!

Image via Flickr by mtkopone

Cenotes abound in the area, and you can easily visit multiple cenotes in one day, which is the best. Since they are so different from one another, each will be a unique experience. The drawback is that you’ll need to either drive, take a taxi, or join a tour to visit them, as they’re out of town and public transport is not great.

If you can, I recommend you rent a car and drive around yourself, or hire a car with a driver for the day. This will be cheaper than going around in taxis, especially if you’re in a larger group. It’ll also give you more freedom!

➤ You can hire a car and driver for 6 hours to take you anywhere you wish within the Riviera Maya. Basically, pick which cenotes you want to see, how long you want to stay, and the driver will take you there! ➥ BOOK IT NOW

➤ Otherwise, you can always join a tour and visit a few cenotes in a day, hassle-free. This Cenote Triple Adventure Tour will take you free-diving, snorkeling, and cliff-jumping at three different cenotes, including Gran Cenote. Don’t worry, you don’t need to jump, you can also climb down the ladder! ➥ BOOK IT NOW

When the night closes in, go enjoy the best of the Quintana Roo nightlife at Playa del Carmen.

Only an hour away from Tulum, Playa del Carmen is super easy to get to. The cheapest option is to hop on a colectivo (shared minibuses), which run frequently almost all day.

If budget is not an issue, though, the most convenient option is to get a private taxi. You can ask your hotel to call one for you, they’ll know which taxi companies are legit.

An in-between option is to take the ADO bus, which is more comfortable than the colectivo, but they run on a schedule, so check the times (especially to get back to Tulum!)

Once in Playa del Carmen, you’ll encounter endless options to enjoy the night. The city is famous for its fabulous entertainment, after all! If your idea of fun is downing tequila shots and dancing until sunrise, head to one of the many nightclubs and bars on the beach or the city center. There’s one right after the other!

For a nice dinner, try one of these fabulous eateries in town:

Alux is a restaurant set inside a huge cave more than 10,000 years old. They offer Mayan specialties and great drinks.

La Perla Pixan is where you’ll be served the very best authentic Mexican food to the sounds of live music.

• You could also stop by Le Lotus Rouge, which will have you daydreaming in colors with their eccentric venue set under a circus tent (artists and great food included).

There are really tons of things to do here! Probably the most Playa del Carmen thing that you can do, though, is simply to stroll along and take in the ambiance at 5th Avenue.

This is the commercial and entertainment heart of the city: almost 1.2 miles of high-end stores, bars, restaurants, and local shops. You’ll also find street musicians, artistic performances, and much more. 

Day 3: Day Trip to Sian Ka’An Biosphere Reserve

Even if you’re only going to spend 3 days in Tulum, please save some time for Sian Ka’An, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean.

The reserve is home to a remarkable variety of flora and fauna, including many endangered species. The landscapes are sublime and the color of the water is otherworldly. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Sian Ka’an Reserve is one of the most naturally astonishing and beautiful places in Mexico!

While getting to Sian Ka’an on your own is possible, it can be quite hard: you’ll need a 4×4 and be comfortable driving on a jungle road. Unless you have plenty of time and are feeling adventurous, it’s best to visit the reserve with a tour. There are few trails and navigating the waterways on your own can be difficult.

➤ This Sian Ka’an Adventure Tour takes you on a full-day exploration of the Nature Reserve, with a guide to tell you all about it and help you spot the unique fauna, take you snorkeling on the reef, and on a boat ride with lunch included. ➥ BOOK IT NOW

Exploring Sian Ka’an will take all day, so I bet you’ll be ready for some tacos when you’re back! Tulum is a great destination for food lovers (and who isn’t?), offering all from the most traditional Mayan dishes to fancy international cuisine. It’s time to let your inner foodie get wild!

➤ If you want to see what the real Tulum is all about, this Local Walking Food Tour takes you on a 3-hour immersive experience to taste the most authentic flavors of Mexico away from common tourist hot spots. ➥ BOOK IT NOW

➤ If you want to dive deeper and try your hand at the kitchen, this Mexican Cooking and Mezcal Tasting is perfect! Your passionate and experienced host will tell you all the secrets of Mexico’s most traditional ingredients and flavors. You’ll cook a traditional Mexican menu from scratch, and enjoy it later along with a mezcal tasting. ➥ BOOK IT NOW

If you planned your Tulum itinerary for 3 days, then this is the end of the run for you. It’s such a pity, but what better way to end it than giving your belly the best of Mexican cuisine to remember for a while?

If you’re one of the lucky ones that can stay for longer, read on, there are still many places to discover.

Day 4: Chichen Itza & Valladolid or the Coba Ruins

It’s time to visit one of the most famous tourist attractions in Mexico and the greatest archeological sites in the Americas: Chichen Itza. This famous ancient Mayan city has been listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and I’m sure you’ll recognize the famous step pyramid that is already a landmark of Mexico.

Chichen Itza was a major political, religious and cultural center in the Mayan empire, and an important site of pilgrimage. Its ancient buildings, towering temples, and impressive monuments have been restored and visiting is an absolute must if you’re in Yucatan.

Since going to Chichen Itza requires a day trip, it’s a good idea to take this opportunity and explore the surroundings, which have a lot to offer! 

Pay a visit to the colonial town of Valladolid, with its endless charm and rich history that emanates the magic of Mayan times. Roaming the cobblestone streets of Valladolid is simply a pleasure, and if you feel like it’s getting too hot, you can always cool off at the cenote located right in the middle of town (yes, that’s right!).

Before you leave, get some traditional Yucatan food. Valladolid is famous for it!

This area is also a treasure trove of cenotes! Only 3 km (1.8 mi) from Chichen Itza, you’ll find Cenote Ik Kil, a gorgeous pool of turquoise freshwater perfect for a dip to shake off the day’s heat. This cenote has a wide opening to the sky, letting in lots of sunlight.

With an impressive drop of 26 meters (85 feet) from the surface to the water, it’s perfect for divers. There’s also a staircase to walk down to the water’s edge in case jumping off cliffs is not your thing!

➤ If you want to save yourself the hassle of planning, this Chichen Itza, Cenote & Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour is a great option. It includes a visit to Chichen Itza and Valladolid, and you’ll freshen up at a cenote afterward. Lunch is included and pickup from Tulum is available. ➥ BOOK IT NOW

If you don’t want to travel the 2 hours between Tulum and Chichen Itza, consider visiting the ancient Mayan city of Coba. It’s tucked deep in the jungle between Tulum and Valladolid, and unlike the other cities, Coba was not a single site. It’s rather a collection of settlements connected to the main pyramid, which you can still climb!

Crowds are definitely smaller here, and the structures are well preserved amid the beautiful lush green of the jungle. Really worth it!

Coba can be easily reached from Tulum by car. There are plenty of car rental companies in Tulum and driving will give you more flexibility to discover the area. From Tulum, take the Quintana Roo Highway 109. It’s only a 40-minute drive, and you’ll find Coba just off the main highway to Valladolid.

Otherwise, these are two good tours you can join.

➤ This Mayan Inland Expedition is as comprehensive as it gets, and it will take you on a full-day adventure to visit the Coba ruins, a nature reserve, ziplining, hiking in the jungle, canoeing, and taking part in an eco-tour. ➥ BOOK IT NOW 

➤ If you want to keep things simpler, check out this Private Tour to Coba Ruins and Cenote. You’ll get a guided tour of Coba, and the chance to cycle around the site under the canopy of the jungle. The visit is followed by a refreshing dip and snorkeling at a nearby cenote. Delicious Mexican food is included! ➥ BOOK IT NOW

To celebrate your 4 days in Tulum, how about checking out one of the many beach clubs Tulum is renowned for? There is no shortage of options here. 

Check out Nomade, an upscale boho-style hotel focused on wellness. Here you can sip your favorite cocktail with your feet in the white sand, sitting on comfy sunbeds or patios. They have great healthy food too!

Gitano is another great choice. This beach club has an unbeatable setting on a small beach cove, warm staff, beautiful decor, and fantastic Mexican food and drinks to close a great day of exploring!

Day 5: Beach Day or Xcaret/Xplor

Here we are, the final day in this Tulum 5-day itinerary! By now, you have probably realized how much there is to do in Tulum and around. If you want to take this last day to simply relax at the beach, I get it! Beach time in Tulum is always a good idea. 

But in case you still have some energy and want to squeeze every minute out of your time here, may I suggest having fun at one of the many theme parks in the area? Check this out.

Xcaret is an eco-archeological theme park full of impressive landscapes and natural riches. At the park, you can take part in dozens of activities in the jungle, underground rivers, cenotes, or the Caribbean Sea facing it.

Among the activities to be enjoyed are ziplining, snorkeling, kayaking through underground caverns, exploring natural sanctuaries, and witnessing traditional Mayan ceremonies. There’s a lot more, of course!

➤ Xcaret is near Playa del Carmen, about 60 km (37 miles) from Tulum, so it requires a day trip. To get priority access and forget about figuring out how to get there, this Xcaret Day Trip with Transportation will make things a lot easier. You just focus on having fun! ➥ BOOK IT NOW

➤ If you have your own vehicle or prefer arranging transportation independently, I still recommend getting tickets in advance, since Xcaret is a wildly popular destination. This Fast-track Ticket for Xcaret will help you skip the line and get full access to all the attractions within the park. ➥ BUY IT NOW

Xplor is an adventure park that is sure to provide you with adrenaline for days! Located right next to Xcaret, Xplor offers unforgettable adventures across the Mayan jungle.

You’ll ride amphibious ATVs, zip-line across the jungle, splash around in cenotes, and swim under a stalactite-filled cave. Rafting and venturing out on an underground expedition are also in the cards!

Whatever you pick, you will get your fair share of endorphins and leave with a smile on your face.

➤ Again, Xplor is located right next to Xcaret, so it will take some traveling to get there. This Xplor Adventure Park with Hotel Pick-up combo will take care of everything so you only have to worry about enjoying. Transport, priority entrance ticket, equipment, and food are included ➥ BOOK IT NOW

➤ If you’d rather figure out transportation yourself, here you can get Fast-track Tickets for Xplor Park in advance and skip the line at the entrance. ➥ BUY IT NOW

When the night has come, put a classy end to your time in Tulum by paying a visit to Papaya Playa Project. This rustic high-end resort has its own beach club nestled in the jungle with unobstructed views of the Caribbean.

The style blends nature and human constructions seamlessly, and they put a big emphasis on the quality of the music and the cocktails. It’s a great place to party and cap your time here in pure Tulum style!

I hope this Tulum, Mexico, itinerary has given you a good idea of what to see in Tulum and the surrounding area. Quintana Roo -and Yucatan in general- is a magical land filled with treasures, and I have no doubt you will want to go back over and over, no matter how many times you visit. 


How many days in Tulum do you need?

I would say 3 days is the bare minimum. A well-planned Tulum 3-day itinerary will allow you to experience the best of Tulum and make a day trip or two. But, there’s so much to do and see, I highly recommend spending more time. 5 to 7 days would be an ideal start.

Is Tulum, Mexico, worth visiting?

Absolutely! Tulum is such a charming place! It has a bit of everything and there are tons to do around the area. It has become wildly popular in the last few years, though, and prices have gone up a lot, so bear this in mind.

Is it better to stay in Tulum town or beach?

This depends on your budget and priorities: the town is the better choice for budget travelers and those who want to be near most services (buses, shops), bars, and nightlife. If you’re looking for some serious beach relaxation, can afford it, and don’t mind being away from the amenities in town, stay at the beach instead.

Are 5 days in Tulum enough?

5 days is enough time to see the best of Tulum, spend serious time at the beach, and explore a bit of the surroundings. Bear in mind that Quintana Roo has a LOT to offer, so if you like Tulum and want to stay longer, it also makes for a good base to explore the state further.

What’s the best time to visit Tulum?

If you’re looking for perfect weather, the best time to visit Tulum would be from December until April. This is also the high season, which means bigger crowds and higher prices. May to November is the low season, and while prices are lower it’s hotter and more humid.
October is hurricane season, so always check the weather forecast! November may be just the perfect month to visit, though: you have the cool breezes left off from the hurricane season, but no crowds and the prices are still low.

Is there an airport in Tulum, Mexico?

There is no airport in Tulum. The nearest airport is Cancun International Airport, which has great international connections, and it’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Tulum.

  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.