Yucatan has it all. Kilometres of pure jungle, unique cenotes, fabulous wildlife, delicious food and dazling beaches situated on the coastline of the Caribbean Sea. Mexico has been on my bucket list for so long and I finally made my dream come true. I wanted to make my first visit to Mexico special and I decided to visit on my birthday. So I did. Could life get any better? We picked our hotel in Tulum for the entire trip, but we did many fun things every day.
This post about Tulum is filled with travel tips to help you plan your trip to Mexico! Tulum is a small town in the state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. I know that Tulum had been portrayed as a destination for luxury travellers, but is not entirely true, it has so much to offer for the adventure seekers, nature lovers and healthy enthusiasts as well.
BEST BEACHES IN QUINTANA ROO
Quintana Roo is a must visit when travelling to Mexico. It’s the perfect gateway if you love tropical weather and if you dream for an exciting romantic escape in paradise. Get ready, because here you have plenty of idyllic white sand beaches, nice snorkelling and of course… tacos. Due to its popularity it is very hard to enjoy the best of Tulum without the crowds, but there are some places, or time of the day where and when you can have a place almost to yourself. We visited many beaches in our 3 weeks stay in Mexico and here are some of my favourite
- Las Palmas
LAS PALMAS BEACH
If you want to run away from the crowds and have some chill time, this beautiful beach is the perfect spot. It’s quieter and more secluded than the super famous Playa Paraiso. This beach is mostly virgin, so at this beach there are no restaurants or bars, so if you want to spend all your day at this beach maybe you should bring water and snacks. If you want to enjoy your time in the sun you should also bring your own umbrella, because as I mentioned before this place is pure nature and there are no sun beds or umbrellas. But if you want to eat in a restaurant, there are a few, like 5 minutes by car from the beach, offering typical Mexican food.
At this beach you’ll enjoy a serene expanse of pristine sand and turquoise waters, you’ll be in love with this place as soon as you see it. But not out of the water is absolutely amazing, underwater is magical. You can swim among tropical colourful fish, above corals and if you are lucky you can even spot manta ray.
Akumal Beach is about 30 minutes drive from central Tulum. This beach it’s more commercialised than Las Palmas beach, but it’s a spectacular spot to spend a lovely morning at the beach under the shade of the huge palms, have a delicious lunch while listening the sounds made by the waves of the Caribbean sea and of course the main reason why this place is so visited, to swim with the turtles that are in the bay. You will spot them even from the beach while they have lunch or they just hang out pacifically with no fear at all of the human presence. How awesome is that?
In the past years this beach was overcrowded, because it seems that everybody wants to swim with the turtles. So they came with a solution to limit the access at the beach. The solution was to have a paid access to the beach where they can control how many people visit each day. At the entrance you pay and walk the trail to the beach. If you come here by car, there are parking lots a few meters before the little house where you can access the beach, where you can pay 50 pesos for the day and the entrance fee at the beach is 120 pesos.
This beach has all the facilities you might need, restaurants serving delicious typical food and drink all day, tour guides, sun beds, umbrellas, bathrooms, lockers. It’s the perfect place for the tourist.
swimming with turtles
The sea life at this beach is amazing, with cute turtles often making an appearance. The beach is roped off and you can access the most popular area for turtles with a guide. It is reserved just for a set amount of persons per day in order to protect the turtles. We reserved a tour which included a guide who will lead you to the best spots, free sun beds and snorkelling gear for those who need it (we have our own). The tour costs 120$. I have to mention that we booked a private tour, with a group the cost of the trip is cheaper.
And once you’re in the water you can also expect to see plenty of tropical fish like barracuda, needle fish, stingrays, eagle rays, angel fish, grouper and even corals. Underwater it’s a magical and tranquil place!
You can, however swim in the area and have the possibility to see turtles if you don’t want to book a tour or if you want to see them again by your own. In case you are lucky and a turtle might swim close to you be respectful and do not touch them!
Even this was not my first time swimming with the turtles I still get very excited to swim with them. They are cute and friendly. I love to watch them floating with such elegance and lightness. Some of them were they huge, other ones had a few beautiful yellowish green remoras on their backs. I I have only videos with the turtles and I can’t share with you photos with them. The ocean doesn’t stop to amaze me.
Flying the drone in Mexico was a challenge. Usually it is not prohibited, but here I met some of the most weird situations. Anyway, at this beach we could fly the drone, but we asked for permission before flying. I waited until the crowds stared to fade to have the beach empty for better photos.
This was the first place we’ve seen when we arrived in Tulum and every morning we came here to watch the sunrise. Playa Paraíso is the most famous beach in Tulum and is very crowded. But we managed to find a time of the day with less people around. One of the reasons why is such a touristic attraction, beside just when you step here is obvious how fabulous is, is that Playa Paraiso had been ranked as one of the world’s best beaches, with spectacular white sand that perfectly matches the colour of the water.
Playa Paraiso is opened to the public and you can visit without having to stay in any hotel. You have the freedom to visit the beach any time you want and to do whatever you want to.
where is Playa Paraiso
Playa Paraiso is only 15 minutes from Tulum and you can get here by car, by bike or walking, depends how you want to. The warm weather is perfect if you chose to walk or go by bike and it feels quite nice when you feel the fresh air on your face, as it is not an overwhelming heat.
This beach has many resorts and restaurants so you can have a cold drink or lunch, or dinner at the place you want to, as there are plenty to chose from. We never stayed here for more than just to watch sunrise and a few sunsets but if you want to spend the day here and if you want to lay down on a sun bed, some resorts will allow you to if you pay. But if you can stay at the beach for free and just lay down you own towel and have a fun day at the beach.
Because of the climate change, recently has appeared the sargassum, this is a type of macro algae and its accumulation on the coast is a phenomenon that has occurred in recent years.
In Quintana Roo, the effect of sargassum on the environment is being investigated, while measures are being taken to keep the beaches clean. However, sargassum does will not affect you to enjoy the beach, as it is something natural.
Maroma Beach is one of these beaches where public access can only be obtained through a local hotel or through a restaurant. And once you step on the beach you will fall in love with the tranquility and powdery white sand. We came here because we wanted to see the sunrise from another beach that was not Paraiso beach, because we’ve been there almost every morning for the sunrise.
This beach was a good choice, it was one of the most peaceful in Tulum, here was no loud music, not too many people (actually there were only 2 girls and the hotel staff), so we had a little bit of privacy. This is a small paradise, hidden away from craziness of the other beaches and only a few kilometres from Tulum centre.
have a fancy breakfast
Here we wanted to have a fancy breakfast in this amazing setting view at this dazzling beach. But I don’t recommend the restaurant because the food was not too tasty, neither the coffee. It was too expensive ant not worth the price, but we had to try it.
Delfines beach is a very quiet place and if you like tranquility and you prefer to stay away from the crowds, like us, this beach is a good idea. We discovered this place by coincidence while we were looking for a place to have lunch. You can have access here only thru a hotel, but the place is not crowded at all and there are only a few people, the hotel guest.
There is no entrance fee, but we had lunch and they allowed us to use their hammocks and stay at the beach as much as we wanted to. This place is surrounded by the jungle and it’s pure paradise. That’s all part of its charm, but the little inconvenient is the hotel, but not as bad as in Tulum.
The snorkelling is also superb around here, with impressively vibrant reefs just beneath the waves. Just say you’re there for the beach and they’ll let you through.
This beach is huge ,so here is enough space for everyone. Depending on which part of the beach you chose to stay, it is more or less crowded. We opted for the lees crowded part, of course. There are a few small hotels and restaurants, but with all that the beach is surrounded by the jungle.
This beach here is ideal for long walks while looking for seashells and for something that I haven’t experienced before at the beach and believe me I’ve visited plenty of beaches.. here you can walk among seagulls while they are flying, yes.. you can walk among them.. how amazing is that. It was such a great experience for me, as you can see, I love nature and animals and having all those birds flying so close to me, it was simply magical.
snorkelling and swimming
We haven’t snorkel here because when we visited the beach the waves were huge and the visibility wasn’t at it’s best. But we did swim and it was awesome, the water was super warm and nice to get into.
Now I will take you from the azure blue waters to picturesque green jungles. Yucatan is not only gorgeous beaches, it owns hectares of pure jungle that are home to jaguars (you can meet them if you are super lucky), monkeys, iguanas and hundreds of other amazing species of animals and insects.
In our stay in Mexico we wanted to see as much as we could and the jungle was not an exception, we even slept in the jungle for a few days and that was one of the most beautiful experience of our lives, but I will tell you more details about that in a post I will make about our van life experience here in Tulum. But even if you don’t plan a sleep over in the jungle is hard not to go at least once into it, as the entrance to many cenotes or beaches are thru the jungle. It’s an amazing experience.
I think that nobody should miss the opportunity to discover the tropical jungle of Yucatan peninsula. The jungle is full of secrets that not even scientists could discover, large parts of this mysterious rainforest are still unknown. It’s a place full of cenotes, lagoons, crocodiles, jaguars and hundreds of species of plants.
when to visit
The amazing jungle can be explored all year round, the weather conditions here don’t really vary between seasons, the jungle has a warm, rainy and humid climates. Or better said, perfect to visit any time of the year.
lunch in the middle of the jungle
We found this place by chance, this restaurant is literally placed in the middle of the tropical jungle. The owner of the restaurant told us that the security guy spotted a few times a jaguar coming in the middle of the night. I don’t remember the name of this place but the restaurant is close to Cenote Azul and here they serve delicious traditional food and they have great service. We came here a few times, that much we liked it.
f a u n a a n d f l o r a
You will spot while you walk thru the jungle some of the most fascinating and unusual species include more than 100 species of orchid, huge palms, mango and avocado trees. Hiking around the forest, you may run into tapirs, piglike peccaries, large, tailless rodents, a few species of deer can be found as well. The spider monkey also inhabits some forested areas of the region. This place is a dream.
Pollution, poaching, illegal traffic of rare species and the filling in of coastal areas for yet more resorts are taking an enormous toll on the Yucatán’s wildlife. Deforestation is also a major threat.
Some of the species on the peninsula that are threatened with extinction or are protected include five species of cat (jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarundi), four species of sea turtle, the manatee, the tapir and hundreds of bird species, including the harpy eagle, the red flamingo and the jabiru stork. Efforts are being made to save these and other endangered creatures from extinction.
TULUM SCULPTURE “ven a la luz”
Ven a la luz (come into the light) has been permanently installed at the resort Ahau Tulum. This ten meters high sculpture made of steel, wood, rope and greenery was built by the amazing artist Daniel Popper.
I find out about this fabulous sculpture on a blog post I was reading about Tulum some time ago and it caught my attention. So it was on my visit list when I was there. This place is overcrowded due to its fame on the internet. We could enjoy this amazing piece of art with nobody around arriving there before 7 AM and we had it all to ourselves. When we passed back by later that day there was a long line to get a photo with the sculpture.
If you ask me if coming here has worth it, I would say yes, it’s an impressive art work, very interesting and I am totally in supporting artist. If you are in Tulum is not a bad idea to make a little time to visit it.
Matcha Mama is a popular place in Tulum and one of the most visited. Many travellers come here to enjoy the variety of flavours offers by their açai bowls and of course to snap a cute photo in the gorgeous setting at this bar, outside the jungle or the fabulous beaches. I liked this place so much that we went there twice during our trip and I rarely repeat.
The bar has a rich menu filled with kombucha, smoothies, açai bowls and every single matcha creation. Matcha Mama makes each bowl fresh to order so it can take several minutes before your bowl or smoothie is ready.
b i k e r i d e s
You haven’t been to Tulum if you don’t do at least a bike ride. Walking around by bike is an amazing experience and very handy, because in Tulum the traffic is crazy.
The bike ride between the town and beach takes 20 to 35 minutes depending on your starting point. On a bike, you make your way right by all the traffic and you don’t get stuck in a car. There are many rental shops with most well maintained bikes in all sizes, plus accessories like baby carriers.
You can book a bike almost anywhere, hotels or shops. If is the hotel where you stay it might rent you the bikes for free, depends on the hotel policy. We rented our bike with the hotel Ahau Tulum and we payed 8 dollars for an hour.
FOLLOW THAT DREAM SIGN
I’m totally convinced that this spot is familiar to many people and how not to if it’s all over the internet. There are lots of life inspiring street signs in Tulum thanks to the many artists there, but it seems that must be something different about “Follow that Dream”. The sign is located on the main street of Tulum in front of Lolita Lolita boutique.
It’s located literally on the side of the road so try to be careful when taking photos! This road is very busy and it keep coming cars. We’ve been there around 3PM to avoid traffic and it was a great decision.
k a y a k i n m a n g r o v e s
I like water sports so we had to do a kayak tour among the mangrove and it was amazing. We booked a tour a few days before.
The tour included the guide, lunch and the kayak. We wanted to do the tour in kayak but if you want you can rent a speed boat. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the natural history of mangroves and led us on a very cool tour. He speaks English too, but we speak Spanish as I speak fluent and my boyfriend is Spanish.
The route was astonishing. It’s amazing to kayak among the mangroves, it was so peaceful and relaxing and the water was so clear that we could see the fish swimming under us. The route round-way it took us about three hours.
t h o u g h t s a b o u t T u l u m
Tulum is a paradise. There are many interesting things to see and do and I was particularly amazed by the cenotes and the jungle in this area. I hope my blog post was helpful to you. For any tips or thoughts just drop a comment bellow.