Sometimes when I travel and write my travel guides, I hope to find places that are exotic and far from home, but with air conditioning and cute interiors, where people eat chia seed pudding and drink organic kombucha. They would be like my favorite places in California but in far-flung places, making them somehow a thousand times better.
It’s no surprise that hardly anywhere gets it quite right. And why should they? If I wanted that kind of thing, I should just stay home. Except that, well, as an admittedly slightly insufferable traveler, it’s fun finding places that suit my tastes in surprising places.
And this is what Tulum does best. It provides you with everything you might dream a hip Mayan-influenced beach experience in Mexico might be—sound healing! sweat lodges! açaí-turmeric-matcha-cbd errthang!—while at the same time catering to your exact tastes and preferences.
You’re never really pushed too far out of your comfort zone (almost everyone speaks English and the most inconvenient part of your day is remembering not to open your mouth in the shower). The entire aesthetic is beautiful and Instagram-worthy. And the food is delicious, though familiar.
So if you’re ready to have your pick of poke from a bubble-gum-pink van from Los Angeles or dinner in an epic treehouse built on stilts above the jungle, you’ll love the barefoot-luxury beach town.
If a design-, woo-woo-, and health-centric beach experience is what you’re after, Tulum’s got it all.
Want to experience Tulum like a local? Opt out of staying on the jungle road and stay in town instead. Tulum has two main parts: the jungle road, where all of the luxury resorts (aka as “eco-hotels”) are, and the “town,” where you’ll find more locals living and hanging out (though it seems like most people we met lived in Playa Del Carmen). To get between the jungle road and town, you can take a taxi or rent a bike if you’re feeling more adventurous.
Here are 25 Instagram-worthy things to do in Tulum.
1. Eat dinner at Kin Toh, a treehouse restaurant built above the jungle.
Kin Toh is one of the coolest restaurants/spaces I’ve ever seen. It’s expensive, but the suspension bridges, nets you can climb out onto to admire the view, and private-dining nests more than make up for the price and mediocre food.
2. Admire the art at IK LAB.
Right next to Kin Toh is IK LAB, an amazing museum with intricately constructed wood and concrete walls and floors, undulating like waves. Come for the art, stay for the space. Admission is free!
3. Eat grilled octopus and people watch at La Popular.
Sitting right on the beach, La Popular is part of Nomade resort, or as Sophie calls it, “influencer camp.” There are beautiful people posing everywhere. Not to mention this was the best grilled octopus we had our entire trip. The fish and shrimp tacos were good, too.
4. Chill in Nomade’s nest.
Take pictures, read a book or just hang out in Nomade‘s gigantic outdoor nest. Their boho restaurant Macondo is also super pretty for getting drinks and listening to live music at night. Just beware that it’s entirely lit up by candlelight. It was so dark that everyone in our party had to bust out their phones for extra light to see what they were eating—but it sure is romantic.
5. Get breakfast at Nest.
We stayed at Nest for half of our time in Tulum (for Sophie and Jordan’s Tulum wedding!). Their restaurant and bar are right on the beach. Every morning we’d roll out of bed and have a full breakfast, complete with at least four drinks each. Each breakfast comes with coffee, tea, grapefruit juice, a shot of warm water and lime juice (good for cleaning out the colon) and a probiotic shot. Nest’s minimal, beach-chic decor and grounds are so pretty, it’s worth a stroll after eating. They also have a hammock to hang in while you finish one of your (many) beverages.
6. Downward dog at Ahau.
Ahau’s yoga studio is right on the beach overlooking the ocean. In the picture above, the studio is on the top floor of the building. It would be an incredible way to get your day started.
7. Dance and sway at Ahau.
Eat a casual dinner on the beach at their grill, then stay for a drink and live music. We stayed at Ahau for a night and loved the vibe.
8. Get a swing seat and a smoothie at Matcha Mama.
Order a smoothie, grab a seat in one of the swings lining Matcha Mama and sloooow down. I’m obsessed with their reusable bamboo straws.
9. Shop one of the many boutiques on the jungle road.
Want to get that effortless barefoot-luxury look? Hit up one of the gorgeously curated boutiques lining the jungle road. The shops across from Nest are really cute (and really pricy!) with white-and-linen everything. Kaya is a cute one for handmade knick-knacks and gifts.
10. Chill out with a chai latte at Chai House.
Located inside Casa Jaguar, the Chai House is a perfect spot if you want to go out and experience night life but also want to cozy up with some tea. Sip their signature spicy blend of chai from your spot tucked in the corner, looking out among all the diners. There are also a couple of funky boutiques in the back of the restaurant, too.
11. Eat beets and hold hands at Mur Mur.
When you’ve found the most charming alley in Tulum lit up by string lights, you’ve found Mur Mur. Most of their local, seasonal menu is cooked in a brick-oven grill. Get the beets! I had my doubts that a plate of beets could be as memorable as all of the glowing reviews insisted, but they really were. (The octopus was also excellent.)
12. Eat tacos in your swimsuit at La Eufemia.
Everything in Tulum is a pretty penny, which makes affordable, casual taquerias like La Eufemia a real gem. It’s accessible from the beach so you can roll in wearing your swimsuit or order and eat right on the sand. If you’re coming from the street, look for a wooden sign in front and then walk down a long alley all the way to the back. If you think you’ve gone the wrong way that means you’re almost there, haha. Their tacos are delicious (I love the fish and shrimp). Tip: Bring your pesos; it’s cash only.
13. Bike along the jungle road.
The jungle road is narrow and long, and cars tend to drive pretty slow along it, making it great to see by bike. Check with your hotel because most hotels have bikes you can borrow for free.
14. Check out Pablo Escobar’s old mansion.
A hip boutique hotel, Casa Malca was formerly Pablo Escobar’s mansion. A fun place to walk through and see, his old crib has lots of modern art inside and a cascading curtain of wedding dresses in front. Here’s an in-depth inside peek if you’re curious.
15. Sip a fresh coconut.
Tulum is coconut heaven. They’re everywhere! Pro tip: The cheapest ones we found were in town. Just keep your eyes peeled for restaurants and vendors who cut them open right in front of you.
16. Enjoy the eco-friendly everything.
Tulum is huge on sustainability. Instead of plastic straws, our coconuts came with bamboo or lemongrass straws (see #15). Once we got shrimp burritos wrapped in banana leaves.
17. Explore the Tulum Ruins.
Closer to town, the Tulum Ruins showcase a beautiful part of Mayan history. There’s also beach access, so bring your suit if you want to go for a dip. Also, watch out for the huge lizards everywhere!
The best shopping in Tulum? The Tulum Ruins
Seriously, the Tulum Ruins are one of the best places to shop for local made items and gifts. There’s a whole shopping area at the entrance with a ton of different vendors and stalls. Don’t let the Starbucks next door fool you. The shopping felt super local, and the prices were so much better than the jungle road, and even in town. My mom got two straw purses for $20 each.
18. Shop on Tulum Ave.
Tulum Avenue is the main shopping strip in town. You’ll know you’re there because the sidewalks will be filled with shops brimming with leather bags, woven hammocks and dream catchers and more. You could spend an entire afternoon looking in all the different shops. Don’t forget to negotiate!
19. Pop into Tulum Art Club for a refreshment.
Tulum Art Club features local art on the walls and a cool garden in the back. The cafe prices are very affordable (Tulum is so expensive, any time we found a place that wasn’t pricier than San Francisco, I was 🙌) and they have light bites, third-wave coffee and fresh juices. Lots of people were there doing work on their laptops, making for a fun people-watching spot, too.
20. Get your groove on at a silent disco at Co. ConAmor.
Co. ConAmor is a vegetarian, crunchy restaurant/cafe/spice shop/open space where you can get kombucha, smoothies and shots made of turmeric, apple cider vinegar, black pepper, lime, honey and kombucha (that kinda place!) The relaxed, friendly vibe is great for hanging out, reading or getting some work done. On Thursday nights, they have “ecstatic” barefoot, silent dance parties.
21. Swim in a cenote.
Cenotes are a must! They’re water-filled sinkholes in limestone that are created when the roof of an underground cavern collapses. While the area has thousands of cenotes, we checked out Gran Cenote, a popular cenote among tourists, because it was conveniently located (really close to town and our airbnb) and easily accessible for my parents (we just took a taxi and it was a short walk from the entrance). This was one of my favorite things we did. I could sit and look at the water for hours.
- Gran Cenote was 180 pesos per person (I think it was cash only).
- Everyone is required to take a shower beforehand. They check to make sure your hair is thoroughly wet before letting you in.
- Don’t wear sunscreen or chemical bug spray to help preserve the water quality.
- Bring a snorkel!
The best cenote in Tulum
Multiple taxi drivers recommended Casa Tortuga as their favorite cenote. It’s 3 caves, so you get a real bang for your buck.
22. Go on a date to Hartwood.
A super hip and happening place, Hartwood is the “it” restaurant in Tulum. They’re known for cooking their entire menu over live fire. My sister Sophie and brother-in-law Jordan say it’s amazing. They had the grilled octopus, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs and craft cocktails. Part of the fun is that the menu changes daily based on what the sea brings that day. Make reservations far ahead of time.
Tip: If you can’t get in (or forget to make a reservation), Mur Mur is right next door with seasonal, local fare and also delicious (see #11).
23. Grab dinner at Rosa Negra Tulum.
Want to know what you’re eating? Rosa Negra will show you. Servers bring a bowl of the day’s fresh seafood right to your table so you can choose what you want to have cooked. Other highlights include their spot-on service, delicious (and complimentary) gruyere popovers, and wooden lanterns and candles setting a romantic ambiance. For a more intimate dinner, go during the week. Fridays and Saturdays feel like a party.
24. Swim in the ocean.
Tulum’s beaches are incredible. The Caribbean is so, so blue and the sand so soft and white. It’s also fun walking up and down the beach and seeing each hotel’s beach lounge furniture. These open-air teepees are in front of Nomade.
25. Party in the jungle.
Night life in Tulum is unique because all the restaurants and bars are tucked inside the jungle. Hot spots include Gitano (there’s something about a disco ball hanging above you in the jungle that’s irresistible), Casa Jaguar, Wild and Arca.
I absolutely loved Tulum and want to go back already. The sloooow pace of life, the wild jungle, the healthy food, all the design-y things to do in Tulum. I felt so inspired when I got home and even re-committed to eating healthier. Until next time!
Planning a trip soon? Check out my other Travel Guides for Instagram-Worthy Walks, destination ideas and travel inspiration.