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When is the last time you had a vacation so perfect that you considered burning your passport and staying forever? Get ready to start plotting your passport’s demise, with my best affordable Tulum tips for luxury beach bliss on a budget!
Tulum is located about two hours south of Cancún, at the southern edge of the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. Ten years ago it was a sleepy vacation spot for hippies and backpackers. Now, Tulum’s eco-chic boutique hotels, hip beach bars and trendy restaurants are frequented by stars.
You won’t find all-inclusive resorts in Tulum, but it’s still possible to spend a relaxing long weekend there in A-list luxury on a D-list budget. Be warned though, that part of Tulum’s charm is its chilled out eco-vibe. Some hotel options don’t have air conditioning due to the lack of power grid (with solar power or generators only). Other hotels have electricity limited to only evening hours, or showers that are a bit salty!
Also, for an affordable Tulum getaway, you should book as far in advance as possible (3 months for some dates). You’re likely to find the best deals in September – November. I’ve got some great budget hotel options for you below, with their links on Booking.com. I’ve also included a link to the hotels’ Instagram accounts so you can start planning your selfies. 🙂
Tulum Haphazard Rating: 1 of 5. The only worry you have in Tulum is getting here and then not wanting to leave!
To Instagram: Mayan ruins overlooking the sea, cenotes, white sand beaches with blue waters
To Eat: Tacos on the beach, local fish and ceviche, specialty local cocktails and meals at upscale restaurants and bars
When to Go: For the best flight and hotel deals, try September – November; avoid holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, Day of the Dead, Semana Santa, spring break
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This post is packed with all my best tips from years of Tulum trips, so be sure to pin it for later reference!
Budget Tulum Step 1: Snag a Cheap Flight
Set alerts on the usual search sites: Kayak, Google, TripAdvisor. Also sign up for the free Scott’s Cheap Flights mailing list, which sends you daily emails with cheap deals from your preferred airports.
Check routes from your area and see which airlines generally have the lowest prices and direct flights. Consider other nearby cities that are hubs (like Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Baltimore, etc.) Sign up for direct alerts from airlines like JetBlue and Southwest which also fly to the Caribbean, but might not be part of the search site alerts.
I’ve seen Tulum flight prices from D.C. drop in the fall and again in the late spring. I flew roundtrip one April for $300 thanks to a TripAdvisor alert, and booked a flight two years ago in November for $210 thanks to Scott’s Cheap Flights!
Step 2: Plan On Just 1-2 Activities And A Lot Of Relaxing
I once spent five days in Tulum moving from beach lounger to onsite restaurant to hotel room, then starting the circuit again the next day. A nice man brought me drinks and tacos whenever I wanted, and it was the most blissed-out five days of my life.
But, if you rent a car or are willing to take taxis, I recommend at least one activity. Perhaps visiting the Mayan ruins on a cliff overlooking the sea (the only ruins by the sea in Mesoamerica), or swimming in a cenote.
Tulum Ruins: I’ve toured with and without a guide. If you’ve never seen Mayan ruins before, consider springing for one. They can be hired at the entrance for around $30. Or tour at your own pace reading the signs at each ruin, which are in Spanish and English. Warning: there’s no shade. I recommend going early in the day and bringing a bathing suit. You can take stairs down to the beach for a swim. Expect to pay in pesos for your visit, around $4 per person plus $7 if you park. Pay a little more to take the train from the parking lot to the ruins rather than walk.
Cenotes Near Tulum
Cenotes are sinkholes found throughout the Yucatán. They were created by collapsing limestone, then filled by underground springs. Some are open to the sky, while others are more like swimming in a cave. I recommend Zacil Ha, or nearby Aktun Ha, also known as “Cenote Carwash” (although you will see more scuba divers there). You won’t need a wetsuit since both are open cenotes, plus at Zacil Ha there are loungers, a snack bar, etc. It’s refreshing on a hot day, and a totally unique Yucatán experience!
Step 3: Stay Part or All of Your Trip in Tulum Pueblo (Town)
In Tulum, you have a few options of what area to stay in: Tulum pueblo, the beach road south, and the beach road north. You can even stay inside Sian Ka’an, the biosphere reserve past the hotel zone. Since it’s so remote, though, it’s not an affordable Tulum option.
Check out the maps below to get an idea of where Tulum is in relation to Cancun, and where the town and beach are. IMPORTANT: in your hotel search, watch for tricky hotels from neighboring towns that have added “Tulum” to their hotel name. Be sure you check the hotel’s city name and location on a map before you book! But don’t worry – I’m going to give you my best affordable hotel options.
Tulum Town (Pueblo) Budget Hotel Suggestions
My first trip to Tulum, I stayed in town for 3 of my 6 nights. For the first few days, this let me have easy access to the ruins and cenotes for snorkeling. Plus I saved a little money to splurge on the beach part of the trip.
I TOTALLY recommend this method for a more affordable Tulum trip. We enjoyed a few days of cenotes and ruins and then retired to a beachfront cabana for 3 nights. Tulum town has many boutique hotel options if you still want to feel a little posh.
Based on my trips there and hobby of hotel stalking, I suggest scoping out these budget Tulum options around $100/night or less:
La Palmita This is a super-budget option in the heart of Tulum town. It’s got awesome reviews and rates starting at less than $40/night! AC, a basic kitchen, free Wifi, and walking distance to many restaurants. Check out their Instagram!
Mayan Monkey Hostel This new hostel is located on the road from Tulum town to the beach, and has rates starting at just $12 or around $50 for a private room! Great reviews of the common spaces, pool and nightly DJ. Check out their Instagram!
PRO TIP: USE BEACH CLUBS TO GET BEACH ACCESS WHEN STAYING IN TOWN. If you stay in Tulum Pueblo for your entire trip and want to hang out at the beach, find a hotel or restaurant that advertises as a “beach club.” This usually means that they rent daily lounge chairs for a fee, or allow non-guests to use their beach by agreeing to a minimum food and drink spend. On the north beach road, try Villa Pescadores. Or south, try Papaya Playa Project, Ziggy Beach Bar, Villa Las Estrellas, or La Zebra. Taqueria La Eufemia restaurant is the cheapest beach access I’ve found and a fun spot!
Step 3 Continued: …Or Find A Budget Hotel Deal On the Tulum Playa (Beach)
To find Tulum beach hotels, select “beach” as an amenity in your search, or use a map to search only the beachfront hotels. If you book early or during the low season, it’s possible to find some great deals.
Keep in mind that if you don’t book a beachfront hotel, you might need to pay a daily fee for a lounger or order a minimum amount of food and drinks. This includes the few hotels located on the jungle side of the road without their own beach access. Read the fine print of the hotel description to know what your amenities are – especially if breakfast is included. Also be sure your selection has a private bath: some cabanas have shared bathrooms.
The beach road – named Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila -is numbered according to distance from the ruins. Look for the kilometer markers to find addresses.
Tulum Beach Hotels: Beach Road South Budget Hotels
Driving from Tulum town toward the beach, you’ll have an option to go left or right along the beach road. Turning right, the Tulum Beach Road South is where most of the hotels, restaurants and bars are located. It’s easier to walk and bike to get to things here, and parking is limited.
Check out my affordable Tulum beach hotel options under $200/night for a Tulum getaway on the beach road south. Try different dates since they can vary widely based on bookings and season. Some have AC overnight and all have private baths:
Rosa Del Viento One of the last hotels on the beach road, but this hotel has a nice private beach and included breakfast. AC, and free Wifi in public areas.
Las Palmas Maya Located on the jungle side of the road, but with free beach access across the street (or check with management for tips on nearby beach clubs). Great central location to restaurants and one of the cheapest options in this area. No AC, but WiFi and community kitchen included. Breakfast available.
Posada del Sol Tulum This beach hotel spans both sides of the beach road. The budget rooms are on the jungle side. AC, free Wifi in public areas and included continental breakfast. Check out their Instagram!
Tulum Beach Hotels: Beach Road North Budget Hotels
The beach road north is quieter, and people who really want to “get away” will like this area because the beach hotels here feel so much more secluded. I imagine it’s what Tulum used to be like before its popularity exploded in recent years. To stay here, you should have a car or be ready to take taxis, since there are fewer restaurants close by.
I’ve got two affordable luxury hotel options here for you under $200, and one budget option.
Villa Pescadores If you want to simply chill for several days while pretending you’re a movie star, I recommend staying at the beachfront Villa Pescadores. This is the place that made me consider burning my passport! You can kick off your shoes and never put them on again until you leave. It has 18 cabanas all with a private bath and AC overnight, and electricity all hours. Wifi is available in the rooms and at the beach. They have a great restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — plus servers who will bring you food and drinks on the beach so you never have to leave your lounger! Check out their Instagram!
Poc Na Tulum Great reviews and affordable Tulum room options, but most without AC. Beachfront, Wifi in lobby, breakfast included.
Hotel and Cabanas Zazil Kin This is one of the most affordable Tulum beach hotels at under $100/night! Reviews are mixed, but if you’re OK with very basic accommodations as a trade off for an amazing secluded beach, this could be your spot. No AC, but electricity overnight, and a restaurant on-site. Some options have shared bathrooms so be sure to check the room amenities. Check out their Instagram – they’ve got a good vibe going!
Budget Tulum Step 4: Eat at Smaller Local Spots
If you’re looking for restaurants outside your hotel, I recommend a few low-key and affordable Tulum options along the beach road:
- Taqueria Eufemia – located around km 10, a spot popular with locals because of their $2 tacos. Also cheap beach access if you want to eat and drink all day! Park on the street and look for a sign between Hotel Amoirera and Camping Chavez. Check out their Instagram – it’s fun!
- Restaurant Tunich – at km 5.5, a cute and friendly cafe with great reviews.
- Ziggy Beach Bar – at km 7, cocktails, live music and legendary tuna nachos. Check out their Instagram
- Restaurare – at km 6, if you have a vegan in your group, this restaurant will make them very happy.
Tulum Grocery Stores
You’ll also find two grocery stores where you can pick up supplies in Tulum Town. The Súper Akí Tulum is smaller with a limited selection, while the Súper Chedraui is more like a Super Wal-Mart. Súper Akí is on the corner when you turn onto the road to the beach from town, and Súper Chedraui is a little further down the same road on the left.
Bring plastic zip bags or containers if you’ll keep fruit or sweets out in a cabana, to protect them from ants.
Step 5: Get Creative on Getting Around
The most affordable Tulum ground transportation option from the Cancún airport is taking a bus to the Tulum Pueblo. Even if you’ve never been there before, many tourists do this each day. For this option, be sure to get cash at the airport (there are ATMs right after exiting customs, in the alcove by the public restrooms) for the buses and for a taxi from the bus station to your hotel. Check out this guide to different transportation options which includes a video of how to take the bus.
You can also pre-book a private transfer like Paradise Transfers, so that a car is waiting for you upon exiting the airport, but this is usually over $100 each way.
When I visit Tulum, I typically rent a car. I find it to be about the same price as airport transfers and taxis, and as long as you’re comfortable driving, it gives you much more flexibility. You can save money by waiving the required Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance and instead booking with a credit card that includes it. I usually rent with Hertz or Alamo, but have also used Easy Way with no problems.
Check out my article on Driving in Mexico for more info on renting a car in Cancún!
Step 6: Adjust Your Expectations
Tulum is a truly unique destination, with spectacular beaches, ruins with a stunning view of the coast, and a laid-back vibe. It’s not going to be an all-inclusive experience, but it will be one of the coolest places you’ve visited. Relax and embrace the beach bliss! And start plotting how you might lose your passport and have to stay…
Can’t Get Enough of Mexico Travel?
- Is Guanajuato on your travel radar yet? It’s a charming UNESCO heritage site near San Miguel Allende, but without the crowds of its more famous neighbor. Don’t miss this this guide to visiting the colorful city of Guanajuato!
- Have you dreamed of visiting Mexico for Day of the Dead? Find out how to plan your own trip and experience the unique traditions of Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca!
More Tulum Tips and Resources
- Grab my Tulum Packing List to know exactly what to take for your dream getaway!
- Check out Tulum weather from Holiday-Weather.com
- Tulum restaurant tips from Eater.com
- Renting a car? Get my best tips for Driving in Mexico
- Check out my review of Hotel Tiki Tiki, a Tulum mid-century style gem