Budget-Friendly Accommodations in Tulum

Budget Accommodations Tulum

Tulum, Mexico is a small, laid-back Mexican town with a slow-paced atmosphere located in the Mayan Riviera along the Gulf of Mexico, approximately two hours south of Cancun.

The town of Tulum is a great place to stay to get a better feel for the local Mexican culture. There are also more authentic restaurants to choose from that serve traditional and cheap Mexican food. The town is becoming more touristy but is nowhere near the level of tourism that you will see in Playa del Carmen and Cancun. There are not too many crowds in Tulum, which I loved.

Tulum is the perfect place to relax and learn about the Mayan culture and history. The town is close to the gorgeous beach which can be reached via local colectivo shuttle van or taxi (5-10 minutes) or bicycle (25 minutes). The are an abundance of unique and beautiful cenotes surrounding the town. The ruins of Tulum, Coba and Muyil are also nearby, as is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.

Hostels:

Mama’s Home | Starting at $14 CAD per night

Calle Orion between Calle Venus and Sol Sur 

I stayed at Mama’s Home for four nights during my first solo travels in Mexico. It was an amazing hostel!

Mama’s Home is a hostel in a quiet local neighbourhood of Tulum, with a relaxing and laid-back yet social atmosphere. It is centrally located and is within short walking distance to local restaurants, shopping, pharmacies, grocery stores, and banks. The ADO bus terminal is approximately a 10 minute walk away, on the main avenue going through Tulum.

The hostel features a central outdoor courtyard surrounded by colourful and brightly painted walls with a variety of designs and patterns that is the perfect place for socializing with and meeting fellow travelers and also just relaxing in one of the hammocks along the side of the courtyard, unique decor, a communal kitchen and refrigerator for guests, super fast and free Wi-Fi, two guest computers, a book exchange, luggage storage, free breakfast (the breakfasts are elaborate, delicious and different every morning), super friendly and helpful staff with great tips and recommendations, a 20 peso discount on daily bike rentals from a local place in town, free maps of Tulum, and hot showers.

Jose, the owner of the hostel, organizes a variety of fun social activities and events that take place in the communal courtyard, as way for travelers to get to know each other, make friends and have fun. When I stayed there, there was a pina colada night and movie night. I participated in both and ended up meeting some great friends! There are also two adorable kittens that live at the hostel. They love to cuddle and play with you.

Mama’s Home offers a variety of rooms to choose from. There are spacious and air conditioned private rooms along with an air conditioned 6 bed mixed gender dormitory and a 10 bed open air mixed gender dormitory (with no air conditioning). The dorms have individual lockers to keep your belongings safe.

I have personal experience staying at this hostel (you can read my detailed review by clicking on this link) and can pretty much guarantee that you will not regret staying here!

View of the hostel from the street

View of the hostel from the street

Colourful walls in the courtyard

Colourful walls in the courtyard

Hostel courtyard with vines growing up the walls

Hostel courtyard with vines growing up the walls

The outdoor hostel courtyard

The outdoor hostel courtyard

The tables in the courtyard with a nice view of the beautiful murals and paintings on the walls

The tables in the courtyard with a nice view of the beautiful murals and paintings on the walls

TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, Facebook, Twitter 

Hostel Akadia Cultural Tulum | No price listed

Calle Sol Poniente Lote #5 between Calles Alfa and Jupiter (one block north of the main avenue, directly behind the ADO bus terminal)

Hostel Akadia Cultural is a relaxed hostel with a chill atmosphere, located in the town of Tulum.

The hostel features a large courtyard with a swimming pool. Other amenities include Wi-Fi, TV, lockers, equipped kitchen, music, bar, cooking classes, and an on-site restaurant.

Hostel Akadia offers private rooms, dorm rooms, camping and hammocks.

Official Website, TripAdvisor, Booking

Chill Inn Hostel | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Avenida Gama #47 between Calles Orion and Beta Sur 

The Chill Inn Hostel is a newer hostel with a relaxed atmosphere located in a quiet and safe neighbourhood in the town of Tulum, a 5 minute walk from the main avenue where you will find banks, restaurants, groceries, tour agencies and transportation. It is located within a 20 minute bike ride to the beach and Tulum ruins or a 5 minute taxi ride.

The hostel features a shared kitchen and common areas which are great for relaxing or socializing, free Wi-Fi and included breakfast.

The hostel offers four dorms with the choice of 4, 8 or 10 beds, all of them equipped with a full bathroom and shower. Each bed has an electrical outlet, comfortable mattress, reading light, fan, and security box, as well as fitted curtains so you can have some privacy.

Chill Inn Hostel

Chill Inn Hostel

HostelWorld, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Booking, Official Website

El Jardin de Frida | Starting at $

Avenida Tulum between Avenida Kukulkan and Chemuyil

El Jardin de Frida is an eco-cultural hostel built around a beautiful garden, located in a calm and quiet neighbourhood of Tulum. They use solar panels to generate 80% of their electricity. The hostel is centrally located on the main avenue in the town of Tulum, close (about a 10 minute walk) to the bus terminal, restaurants, attractions, banks and supermarkets.

The hostel features a large, beautiful and tranquil garden where you can find hammocks to relax, mango, banana, and avocado trees and be surrounded by nature. The hostel offers daily cleaning, hot water, linen included, luggage storage, tourist information, a communal kitchen, bar, free continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, lockers, and a library.

There are both private rooms as well as a 7 bed mixed dormitory (shared). All of the rooms are spacious and clean and have fans. The private rooms have private bathrooms and a small terrace facing the jungle. The dorms have a full bathroom ensuite and single beds (not bunk beds).

El Jardin de Frida

HostelWorld, TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook

Hostel Sheck | Starting at $11 CAD per night

Corner of Avenida Satelite and Calle Sagitario 

Hostel Sheck is a laid back hostel with a beautiful lush garden to relax, socialize and meet new people. The hostel is located in the town of Tulum, close to banks, supermarkets, the ADO bus terminal, restaurants and attractions.

The hostel features a budget-friendly bar, fully equipped industrial kitchen (with blender, juice squeezer, variety of utensils, industrial stoves, refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven), hammocks, tour and travel recommendations from the staff, free hot breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free purified drinking water, free Tulum maps, hot showers, individual lockers, bed linen included, towel rental, discount on bike rental, table games, book exchange, and more.

The hostel offers a variety of rooms including: 12 bed mixed dorm, 6 person mixed dorm, 4 person mixed dorm, and private rooms with shared as well as private bathrooms. The dorms have individual lockers, a full bathroom, and ceiling fan.

Hostel Sheck

Hostel Sheck

Hostel Sheck

HostelWorld, Official Website, Facebook, TripAdvisor

Hostal Tulum Naa | No prices listed

Avenida Satelite between Calle Sagitario and Calle 2 Poniente (left hand side)

Hostal Tulum Naa is a clean and comfortable hostel centrally located in the town of Tulum. It is close to banks, restaurants, the ADO bus terminal, supermarkets, shopping and attractions.

The hostel features 24 hour reception, free Wi-Fi internet access, board games, housekeeping, an outdoor terrace and a kitchen.

The dorms include a ceiling fan, shared bathroom with hot water, lockers and reading lights. Linens and towels are included.

Hostal Tulum Naa

Hostal Tulum Naa

Hostal Tulum Naa

HostelWorld, Facebook, TripAdvisor

Hostal Chalupa | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Corner of Avenida Tulum and Avenida Coba

Hostal Chalupa is a newly built hostel that is comfortable and clean. It is located at a busy highway intersection in the town of Tulum, within walking distance to the bus terminal, restaurants, banks, supermarkets, tour agencies, and shopping. The beach, ruins and cenotes are a short taxi (5-10 minutes) or bike ride (20 minutes) away.

The hostel offers free Wi-Fi, air conditioning at night, a kitchen, relaxing lounge, outdoor swimming pool, housekeeping, linen included, luggage storage, lockers, and huge rooftop patio.

Accommodations include a 4 bed dorm, two 5 bed dorms and two private ensuites.

Hostal Chalupa

HostelWorld, TripAdvisor, Facebook

Una Noche Mas En Tulum | Starting at $8 CAD per night 

Calle Jupiter Sur, just south of Avenida Tulum (main avenue) 

Una Noche Mas en Tulum is a clean and simple hostel and it is the cheapest accommodation in the town of Tulum – perfect for budget travelers. The hostel is located in a safe and quiet neighbourhood just minutes south of the main avenue in town. It is located two minutes from the ADO bus terminal, and close to many local restaurants, shops, supermarkets, tour agencies and attractions.

The hostel offers free drinking water, 24 hour reception, free city maps and an outdoor terrace.

The hostel offers private rooms with a shared bathroom, a 4 bed female dorm, and a 6 bed male dorm. All rooms have fans, lockers, and free Wi-Fi.

Una Noche Mas En Tulum

HostelWorld, Facebook, TripAdvisor

Quintana Roots Hostel | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Calle Sol Oriente #19 between Highway Coba and Calle Escorpion Sur

Quintana Roots Hostel is a new and comfortable hostel in Tulum. They are centrally located in the town of Tulum, and a short bike or taxi ride away from the beach, ruins and cenotes, as well as being within walking distance to local restaurants and the ADO bus terminal.

The hostel provides information about tours and Tulum, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, drinking water, kitchen, hot water, lockers, daily cleaning, linens included, dive centre, lots of electrical outlets, fans, game room, rooftop area, flat screen television and lounge and hammock area.

There are a variety of rooms to choose from, including mixed dormitories, female-only dormitories, and private rooms. The dorms range in size and can sleep from 6 to 12 people.

Quintana Roots Hostel

Quintana Roots Hostel

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook, HostelWorld

Budget Hotels:

Kin-Ha Suites | Starting at $55 CAD per night

Calle Orion between Calles Venus and Sol (across the street from Mama’s Home Hostel)

This small, affordable and comfortable hotel has a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere and rooms surround a small courtyard garden. The hotel offers free parking and is centrally located in the town of Tulum, only a couple of blocks south of the main avenue in a quiet residential neighbourhood.

Services include: rental cars, bike rentals, access to facilities at sister hotel on the beach (Playa Kin-Ha), 24 hour surveillance, airport transfers, discount at the restaurant at the beach location, diving, yoga classes, beach club, massages and laundry.

The rooms feature hammocks, air conditioning or a fan, double, single or king sized beds, free Wi-Fi, and a private bathroom.

Official Website, Trip Advisor

Secret Garden Tulum | Starting at $75 CAD per night

Sagitario Poniente #54 (from Avenida Tulum, walk two blocks north on Calle Acuario Norte and turn left on Calle Sagitario – the second street you will arrive at)

Secret Garden is an affordable and comfortable hotel that is hidden away in a quiet neighbourhood in the town of Tulum. It is centrally located, only two blocks from the main avenue with shops, restaurants, transportation and more.

The hotel provides a beautiful courtyard area with a tranquil atmosphere and surrounded by tropical gardens, tour desk and information, free local maps, hammocks and lounge area, free Wi-Fi, luggage storage, laundry service, hot water, beach towels, daily cleaning, coffee/tea/cookies/granola bars/fruit available 24 hours and a book exchange. Breakfast is not included.

The rooms and cabanas feature modern, minimal and unique decor with a comfortable atmosphere, and are decorated with local and handmade ornaments. The rooms are clean and all have air conditioning and all feature private bathrooms.

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

HostelWorld, Official Website, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Booking

Hotel Posada Las Tres Palmas | Starting at $23 CAD per night

Calle Venus #88 between Calles Satelite and Centauro Sur

Las Tres Palmas Hotel is a comfortable budget hotel located in the town of Tulum. It is located within walking distance of restaurants, banks, the bus terminal, transportation, and groceries.

The hotel offers bikes for rent, tour desk and information, laundry services, and airport transfers/shuttles for a fee.

The hotel has 12 rooms available which include double, twin and family rooms. All rooms have a kitchenette, bedroom and balcony overlooking the surroundings, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.

Las Tres Palmas

Las Tres Palmas

TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, Official Website, Booking

Hotel Palma Real | No information available

Federal Highway Tulum-Coba Km 21.5

Hotel Palma Real is a budget hotel located on the highway between the towns of Tulum and Coba. In order to get to Tulum town for restaurants, banks, groceries, and transportation, you will have to take a taxi.

The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, bar, free Wi-Fi, included breakfast, free parking, on-site restaurant, 24 hour reception and luggage storage.

The rooms are air conditioned and have simple decor with tiled floors. The rooms feature cable television and private bathrooms.

TripAdvisor, Booking, Official Website

Hotel Nadet | Starting at $85 CAD per night

Calle Orion Norte by Calle Polar

Hotel Nadet is a hotel located near Tulum town’s main avenue, close to restaurants, groceries, banks and transportation.

The hotel provides free Wi-Fi, luggage storage and free parking.

The hotel has 15 rooms which offer free Wi-Fi, cable television, kitchenettes with refrigerators and premium bedding.

TripAdvisor, Expedia, Official Website

Hotel Villa Matisse | No information available

Avenida Satelite Norte #19

Hotel Villa Matisse is located in the town of Tulum, close to banks, restaurants, transportation and supermarkets.

This hotel offers free bike rentals, free Wi-Fi, a garden and lounge area, tour desk and free parking.

The rooms are simple and feature a full private bathroom with shower as well as bed linen and a fan.

TripAdvisor, Booking

Mango Tulum Hotel | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Calle Polar and Avenida Coba (behind the OXXO)

Mango Tulum is an affordable, modern, comfortable, simple and clean hotel located in the heart of Tulum, close to the ruins, cenotes and beach and within walking distance of banks, restaurants, transportation (15 minute walk to the ADO bus terminal) and groceries. It is a small and friendly family-run hotel located in a quiet and tranquil neighbourhood.

The hotel provides free Wi-Fi internet, large garden and swimming pool, air conditioning in all rooms, hot water and free drinking water, free tea and coffee, free maps, fridges in the private rooms, parking and on-site security.

This hotel/hostel offers 4 bed shared dormitories and private rooms. The dorm is simple and has bunk beds, air conditioning, and a separate full bathroom ensuite with showers and toilets. There are large individual lockers, individual power outlets, and individual fans. The private rooms are spacious and modern and have ensuite washrooms and showers, air conditioning and internet.

Mango Tulum Hotel

Mango Tulum Hotel

Mango Tulum Hotel

HostelWorld, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Official Website

Unique Accommodations

Pacha Tulum |

Avenida Coba in front of the Supermarket San Francisco

Pacha Tulum is located beside a supermarket and banks, and close to restaurants, transportation, and about a 5 minute drive to cenotes, the beach and the ruins of Tulum.

It features free Wi-Fi, 24 hour front desk, free parking,

The rooms are comfortable and simple, offering basic decor with a desk, wardrobe, private bathroom and air conditioning.

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook, Booking, HostelWorld

Lobo Inn | Starting at $12 CAD per night 

Carretera Federal Chetumal-Cancun Km 230.5 

The Lobo Inn is ideally located near Tulum and it is only a 10 minute walk from the beach and 3 km from the Tulum Ruins.

The inn offers a spacious garden and swimming pool with a relaxing atmosphere, full breakfast, friendly service, free Wi-Fi, bike rentals, purified drinking water, hot water, fully equipped kitchen, bed linen included, parking, hammocks, lockers for bags and personal belongings, book exchange, TV room with DVDs, luggage storage and a lounge area. They also offer a travel desk, taxi service, 24 hour reception and currency exchange.

Lobo Inn has a variety of rooms to choose from including private rooms with double beds as well as a 14 bed mixed gender dormitory.

Lobo Inn

TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, Facebook

MyTulum Cabanas | Starting at $40 CAD per night

Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila KM 7.5 

MyTulum Cabanas are large cabins located on the gorgeous beaches of Tulum. The town of Tulum, along with local restaurants, supermarkets, the ADO bus terminal and shopping is located 9 km away, and can easily be reached by taxi.

The cabanas feature a tour desk, massage services for a fee, tropical decor, an on-site restaurant serving local and Mexican-style dishes, a bar, car rental, bike rental, laundry service, and airport shuttle (the last four items have a fee).

The bungalows offer rustic-style decor, free Wi-Fi, a fan, mosquito net, sofa and garden views. The bathrooms are private and are stocked with free toiletries.

MyTulum Cabanas

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Booking, Facebook

Ahau Tulum | Starting at $72 USD per night

Carretera Tulum-Punta Allen KM 4.4

Ahau Tulum is a unique and eco-friendly accommodation located directly on the beach. It features free Wi-Fi, yoga lessons and massage services (for a fee), and an on-site restaurant.

Ahau Tulum offers rooms for a variety of budgets. The guesthouse with shared bathrooms and “Bali Huts” are budget-friendly and rooms have mosquito nets and fans.

Official Website, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Booking.com

Yoga Shala Tulum | Starting at $63 CAD per night

Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila KM 7.5

Yoga Shala “offers a comfortable space to stay, relax and practice yoga.” It is conveniently located between the Tulum Ruins and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, and is only a 10 minute taxi ride from the town of Tulum where you will find restaurants, shopping and transportation. Yoga Shala is surrounded by lush jungle and is located only steps away from the white sand beaches of Tulum. The hotel offers a wide variety of yoga classes and styles.

The hotel features massage services for a fee, tours, bike rentals, on-site restaurant, and boutique for shopping. Wi-Fi is available in public areas.

You can choose from a couple of different rooms including private rooms with shared bathrooms or private bathrooms. All rooms are unique in their decorations and their size. There is no air conditioning.

Yoga Shala Tulum

Yoga Shala Tulum

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook, Booking

Volunteer Exchanges:

The website Workaway is a place where volunteers can connect with businesses and individuals in destinations around the world, offering free accommodation and sometimes food in exchange for your time and skills.

You are often required to work for 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week. There are a variety of volunteer placements available on the website and you can browse through them for free (but you must pay for a membership to contact the hosts). You could be working at a backpacker hostel, guesthouse, bed and breakfast, local hotel or small business or helping out a local individual or family with something.

Volunteering in Tulum is a great way for budget travelers to save money on accommodation costs in order to travel slower and for longer periods of time.

Here are some volunteer placements that I found interesting during my travel research:

Help at a hostel in Tulum

Help at a bed and breakfast in Tulum

Help at a hotel 

Help at a small hostel 

Airbnb:

Airbnb is a website that allows locals in places around the world to rent out a private room in their home or their entire home/apartment to travelers for either a nightly, weekly or monthly fee.

Airbnb rentals are a great alternative to hotels and they are often cheaper. You have the opportunity to live with a local resident who can provide you with advice and recommendations for things to see and do, transportation and where to eat in Tulum. You might even become great friends! Airbnb is great for those who enjoy the comforts of home and those who want more privacy than a hostel dorm room offers.

If you sign up for Airbnb using this link, you will get a $25 USD credit for your first booking!

Here are some Airbnb rentals that I found during my travel research:

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2122747?s=2ZE4ANl1 – Located in Tulum town, $34 CAD per night, 5 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/4502053?s=2ZE4ANl1 – Located in Tulum town, $21 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/4305070?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $41 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/5077746?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $38 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/3877314?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $41 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/3153261?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $60 CAD per night, 3 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2071513?s=LkYUwkpL – Located on the beach south of Tulum (camping), $20 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2102819?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $57 CAD per night, 3 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2883241?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $47 CAD per night, 3 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/862329?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $52 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/4477417?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $40 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2993524?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $43 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

I hope that you have found this accommodation guide to Tulum helpful for finding cheaper places to stay on a budget.

Have you been to Tulum? Where have you stayed? Do you have any recommendations that are not listed here? 

Please let me know in the comments below!

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Experience the Real and Authentic Side of Tulum, Mexico

The Real Tulum

When I visit new towns, cities and countries, I want to show and tell you about the realities of life there for the locals. I don’t want to sugar coat it, and make it seem like everything is all perfect. I want to show you the side of places that not many people will show or tell you about, because those are the realities.

It is natural for us as humans, to want to share our best moments, our most amazing experiences and our most stunning photos with the world, via blogs and social media. We post gorgeous photos of the places we travel to, capturing the place in the best possible moment, so as to make it look perfect and desirable to visit. We describe our experiences and how amazing they were and how perfect everything was. As humans, it is also natural for us to compare our lives with others, and what they are doing, what they are experiencing and where they are traveling to. We often forget that we are comparing our real lives to other peoples’ highlights. We are not being shown the realities behind these seemingly perfect photos and social media status updates. People often won’t post online how long it actually took them to get that perfect-looking photo. They won’t tell you about the long and uncomfortable bus journeys necessary to actually get to some of these places. They won’t share with you the mistakes they made along the way, or other things that went wrong. This bothers me.

When I scroll through my Instagram feed, I see photos of gorgeous places that sparks a desire in me to travel there too. But this is just surface beauty. What I really want to see, is how the locals live and I want to understand the realities of life in those places. Beauty is more than what meets the eye. What beauty means to me, is being real and authentic. Seeing the reality of places, adds character and authenticity to our understanding. That is what I want to see people sharing.

And that is why I have written this post about the realities of life in Tulum, Mexico. I will show you the “real” and authentic Tulum.

Tulum, Mexico can be divided into three separate areas: the beach, the ruins and the town. When most people visit Tulum, they only go to the ruins and the beach. But, Tulum isn’t all about the gorgeous beaches and stunning ancient ruins. Not far from the beach and the ruins, is the town of Tulum. Few tourists venture into the town, which I think is a shame. While the beach and ruins are gorgeous, I really enjoyed exploring the town for four days. It is an authentic and real small Mexican town and you really get a sense for what life is like there. Hardly anyone speaks English off of the main avenue, where the small handicraft and souvenir shops are located. There are small family owned, hole-in-the-wall “loncherias” (lunch restaurants) that offer an authentic atmosphere and delicious traditional cuisine. There are small convenience stores called “abarrotes” on almost every street corner. There is garbage in the streets. There are stray dogs and cats roaming around everywhere. There are gorgeous murals painted on random buildings throughout the town. The town has charm and character. The locals are warm and friendly, and I loved my time there. The town of Tulum is definitely worth a visit in my opinion, if you want to experience a real Mexican town.

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These photos below, capture the realities for most of the local residents in this small slow-paced town. 

When I visit new places, I like to observe how the locals live. The best place to do this, is going away from the tourist attractions and spending time wandering residential neighbourhoods in towns and cities. This is one of my favourite things to do when I arrive in a new place. When you explore a city or town more in depth and visit areas where the locals are, you have the opportunity to interact with the locals, experience their nature, and become immersed in their culture and language, which I love. 

Most locals in Tulum live in houses like the ones in these photos: they have one room with a concrete floor, a roof made of sheet metal, hammocks for beds and likely no electricity or running water. It is truly humbling to see how these people live. Despite how little they live with, I observed and experienced the generosity, kindness, warmth and cheerfulness of the locals on a daily basis. 

It reiterates the notion that having more “stuff” does not equal happiness. These Mexicans are cheerful and smiling every day, whether they are selling freshly cut fruit on a street corner to make a few extra dollars, selling souvenirs to tourists or serving in a restaurant. They have so little in terms of possessions but they value family and focus on what is important to them. I think we can all learn some valuable lessons from these kinds of people. 

Learn to live with less and know when is “enough.” Be happy and grateful for what you do have and stop the desire for accumulating more stuff. And remember the nature of Mexicans, despite their life situations, and how positive and warm they are. Remember this when you find yourself complaining about “first world” problems.

Next time you are in Mexico, I recommend staying in the town of Tulum, to experience the culture, learn from the way the locals live and experience the kindness and generosity of Mexicans from your daily interactions! There is so much character and it is a lovely and charming small and authentic Mexican town.

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The Ruins of Tulum, Mexico

Ruins of Tulum

I visited the Tulum Ruins during my first solo trip to Mexico. I had previously visited these ruins with my family, but I wanted to come back and explore them on my own.

Gorgeous ocean next to the ruins

Quick Facts:

Where are the ruins located?

The Tulum Ruins are located approximately five minutes north of the town of Tulum (by car) and one hour south of Playa del Carmen, along Highway #307.

The magnificent El Castillo

How do you get to and from the ruins independently?

You can easily get to the ruins via taxi from the town of Tulum, colectivo (shared shuttle van) from either Tulum or Playa del Carmen, ADO bus from Playa del Carmen or Cancun, or by bicycle from the town of Tulum.

Taxis from the town will cost around 70 pesos to the ruins, and they will drop you off at the entrance. You can catch a colectivo along the main highway running through the town of Tulum, if you just stand anywhere along the boulevard on the south side of the road (going towards the ruins). Colectivos drive by all the time and will stop for you, as they do not operate on a fixed schedule. Colectivos cost around 30-40 pesos and they will also drop you off at the entrance. Just tell the driver where you want to go and then grab an available seat in the van. You pay when you reach your destination.

You can catch colectivos from the parking lot at Avenida 15 and Calle 2 in Playa del Carmen. Listen for drivers calling out the names of destinations, and when you hear Tulum, head to that van. You can also ask the drivers where they are going. You may have to wait a little while until the driver finds enough people to fill his van. Make sure to tell the driver that you want to go to the ruins (las ruinas) not the town and they will drop you off there for about 40 pesos. Once you are finished exploring the ruins, you can find the colectivos lined up along the road that takes you from the ruins entrance to the highway.

There are first class ADO buses that run between Playa del Carmen and Tulum on a regular basis. You can check the schedules at www.ado.com.mx. The buses will stop at the ruins first, on the way to the bus terminal in the town of Tulum. You will get dropped off at the intersection of the highway and the short road that leads to the ruins (about a 10 minute walk). The first class buses from Playa del Carmen to the Tulum ruins cost about 62 pesos. You will have to check the bus schedules for buses returning to Playa del Carmen.

The colectivos and ADO buses will drop you off on the highway at the intersection of a road that leads to the ruins. You can walk approximately 1 km towards the ruins or take a little tourist train for about 20 pesos. There are a lot of information booths lined up along the road. Do not buy tickets or tours from them, as they will not be authentic tickets. Wait until you get to the official ticket booth at the entrance of the ruins to buy tickets.

You can also choose to rent a bicycle in the town of Tulum. I rented from Kelly’s Bike Rentals (located on the main highway running through town, just past Calle Satelite while walking towards the beach) and paid 60 pesos for the day (regular 80 pesos, but if you stay at Mama’s Home Hostel, you get a discount). There are other bike rental shops located along the main highway through town as well but they all cost around the same. Make sure to bring your driver’s license with you, as the rental place will keep it as collateral and give it back to you when you return the bike. You are provided with a bike lock. There is a paved bike path that runs along the highway all the way from town to the ruins, and riding there only takes about 20 minutes one-way. It felt very safe and it was nice not having to worry about the highway traffic. Once you arrive at the ruins, there is a place for bike parking right next to the ticket counter at the entrance, or you can just lean your bike up against any tree near the entrance and lock it there.

Kelly’s Bike Rental in the town of Tulum

Cost of Entrance:

65 pesos (as of May 2015)

Hours:

8 AM to 5 PM CST.

How much time is recommended to explore the site?

The Tulum Ruins are small and compact and you do not need more than two hours here. I spent about 1 1/2 hours in total. There is a small beach that you can access from the site and if you are planning on swimming there, you could choose to spend the entire morning, afternoon or day at the ruins.

View of the ocean from the cliff

Ruins

Tips:

Bring lots of water with you to stay hydrated. The ruins site is wide open with hardly any shaded areas and once you have paid your entrance fee, there is nowhere to purchase water.

Wear a hat and lots of sunscreen (natural if possible), to protect your skin from sunburns.

Eat before you enter the ruins, to stay energized and prevent fainting from the extreme heat. There are no stores or carts to buy food from once you are inside the site.

You are not able to touch or climb any of the ruins in Tulum.

Bring a swimsuit and towel. There is a gorgeous beach area below the cliff where the El Castillo is situated, and it can only be accessed from the ruins site. You spend some time swimming in the ocean here to cool yourself down.

Wear good sneakers. Climbing hills and stepping on rocks while wearing flip flops would not be a smart idea.

You will need at least 30 minutes to see the ruins (though in my opinion, you would miss out on a lot if you left after only 30 minutes). I spend about an hour and half at the ruins and went through at a leisurely pace. I did not go swimming at the beach, so allot yourself more time if you plan to swim.

Get to the ruins as early as possible, preferably when they open at 8 AM. By midday, the ruins get very crowded with many different tour groups and the sun is extremely hot.

The sunny and wide open ruins site

The Tulum ruins are situated on a rocky cliff overlooking the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The site is small and open and the structures are much smaller than those at the sites of Coba and Chichen Itza. Nevertheless, they are still beautiful and interesting to learn about.

Ruins

I decided to visit the ruins around lunchtime/midday, which I quickly realized was a bad decision, considering that it’s also the hottest time of the day (and I visited in May, which is one of the hottest months in Mexico)! The bike ride from town to the ruins was absolutely exhausting, but thankfully there were a lot of gas stations along the way where I could buy some ice-cold water to keep me going.

I am pretty proud of this photo! The stunning El Castillo overlooking the ocean waters

Midday is also the busiest time to visit the ruins, and there were crowds of people everywhere. This made the atmosphere less relaxing and peaceful, than I prefer. It was also difficult to take good photos of the ruins without people getting in your way.

Ruins

If you are planning on visiting the ruins, I suggest arriving around the time the ruins open at 8 AM, in order to beat the heat and the crowds. Also, bring lots of water with you, as they do not sell it at the ruins!

As you enter the road to the ruins from the highway, you will be bombarded with people trying to sell you tours. Keep bike riding or walking past them and buy your tickets at the official ticket booth at the end of the road.

I had to take a selfie!

Despite the challenging bike ride to get to there, the ruins were worth the effort.

The view of the El Castillo overlooking the ocean was gorgeous! There were also some other interesting structures around the ruins site to visit and the history is interesting to learn about.

A big guy!

This was one of the bigger iguanas

One of many iguanas spotted at the ruins

There were large iguanas everywhere, sunning themselves on the rocks or hiding in small cracks in the ruins, with only their tails sticking out. There was also a set of wooden stairs that takes you down the cliffside to a small and beautiful beach, directly underneath the ruins. Bring your swimsuit and a towel if you plan on checking out the beach.

Ruins

Secluded and quiet beach area below the ruins

The only downsides to visiting these ruins, is that all of the structures are roped off and you cannot touch or climb anything. I disliked how crowded the ruins were, but I did visit during the busiest time of day. If I had gone during the early morning, I am sure my experience would have been better.

The El Castillo with wooden steps leading to the beach below

The area surrounding the ruins was very commercialized and developed for tourists, and sadly, there was even a Subway near the parking lot. There was also a large market-style shopping area before you got to the ruins selling overpriced souvenirs.

If you are hungry or thirsty after visiting the ruins, the road running from the site to the highway is lined with tourist-priced restaurants. I ended up buying fresh coconut water for 50 pesos, which is double what you would pay in the town of Tulum.

Strange looking tree growing out of the cliff

Overall though, I really enjoyed visiting these ruins. They are located close to both the town of Tulum and Playa del Carmen and make for a good half-day or full-day trip.

The Cenotes of Tulum

Cenotes of Tulum

Cenotes are a natural phenomenon that are unique to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. They are natural sinkholes which result from the erosion of the limestone ground collapsing and forming a large hole in the ground, exposing the water underneath. There are different types of cenotes and they are all unique.

Many of the Yucatan’s cenotes are part of extensive cave systems, which connect the cenotes together.

There are thousands of cenotes (pronounced se-no-tayz) in the Yucatan. They were used by the ancient Maya populations for sacrificial offerings and as a source of freshwater for their communities. Cenotes were also regarded as symbolic entryways to the Mayan underworld.

The word “cenote” is derived from the Yucatec Maya word “dzonot” which means “well” or “cave with water.”

GRAN CENOTE:

Location:

Gran Cenote is located on Highway 109 otherwise known as the Coba Highway (as it continues north to Coba from the town of Tulum) between Tulum and Coba. It is approximately 4 km down this highway from the intersection of the main Tulum Highway through town (Highway 307) and the Coba Highway.

This cenote is absolutely gorgeous!

Shallow swimming area

Getting There:

You can easily rent a bike from one of the many bike rental places in town (I rented from Kelly’s Bike Rental shop, as guests staying at Mama’s Home hostel receive a 20 peso discount per day, costing you 60 pesos instead of the regular 80. It is located on the main Tulum Highway in town, on the right hand side just past the Scotiabank at the intersection of Tulum Highway and Avenue Satelite heading east towards the ocean). You can bike along the highway to the cenote. There is no bike path. There is good signage and there are trees in the parking area where you could lock your bike against.

You can also take a taxi (which is what I did, because it was way too hot to be biking that day!). Taxis cost 70 pesos but if you share the cost with some friends, it will be much cheaper.

The low hanging cavern

Costs:

150 pesos entrance, 30 pesos to rent a locker.

Open swimming area

My Experience:

Gran Cenote was the first cenote I visited in Mexico on my solo trip. I went with new friends that I met the night before at the hostel I was staying at.

We went in the afternoon around 2 pm, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was not as crowded as I was expecting (considering how popular and well known it is). The cenote is a caved-in hole in the ground with a large opening at the top, exposing much of the water to the sunlight above.

You walk down a set of sturdy stairs to an area where there are wooden boardwalks built over top of a portion of the open water. You can sunbathe or just relax here after swimming.

There are trees growing out of the rock walls up the cenote and lillies, turtles and little fish in the shallow water around the boardwalks. It’s crazy how trees and plants can survive with their roots in a rock! I dangled my legs in the water while sitting on the boardwalks and taking a break from swimming and the turtles seemed very interested in my feet! They would swim around my feet and came very close… I was a little nervous that they might think my toes look like an appetizing meal! Thankfully, nothing happened.

I really enjoyed swimming inside the cavern section of the cenote! There were bats flying over my head and stalactites everywhere. There were a few really narrow passageways from one section of the cavern to another, which was pretty cool to explore.

Gran Cenote is part of the Sistema Sac Actun, which is an underwater cave system with water channels connected to other cenotes. The system measures 230.8 kilometres and is the second longest cave system in the world (second to Sistema Ox Bel Ha which is also in the Yucatan). You can swim through some of these channels at Gran Cenote. There is a rope that connects from the boardwalk to rocks within the cave system, so if you get tired of swimming, you can hold on to it or stand on it for a break.

The stairway to get down to the cenote

The stairway to get down to the cenote

The cenote from the ground above

CASA CENOTE:

Location:

Casa Cenote is located off of Highway 307, between Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

Getting There:

The easiest way to get to Casa Cenote from Tulum is to take a colectivo, which is a shared shuttle van that can take up to 12 passengers. They are comfortable, cheap, air conditioned and fast. You can catch a colectivo from anywhere along the main avenue in Tulum. Just stand on the boulevard on the main avenue and wait for one to stop and pick you up. They drive by frequently but do not operate on a fixed schedule. It costs 20 pesos one-way. If you are coming from Playa del Carmen, you can also catch a colectivo from the parking lot at Calle 2 between Avenida 15 and 20.

When you board the colectivo, tell the driver where you want to go and grab a free seat. Once you arrive at your destination, you pay the driver. The colectivo drops you off on the side of the highway, at a gravel road that leads to Casa Cenote. To get to the cenote, you have to walk down this long, narrow and deserted dirt road with jungle on both sides. It is wide open to the heat of the sun and there are no options to get any shade, so bring water with you. It is a fairly long walk. Once you get to the end of the road, turn left and keep walking down another gravel road. This road is a bit more scenic as there are gorgeous beachfront vacation rental homes on the right hand side of the road.

You will soon see the cenote on the left side of the road. There is a restaurant across the road from it and there are signs, so you can’t miss it. The total walk from the highway to the cenote took us about 15-20 minutes one-way. But the cenote made the walk well worth it!

To get back to your destination, simply stand on the side of the highway that you want to go and wave down a passing colectivo. They will stop and pick you up. You can also flag down a taxi which will cost 70 pesos back to Tulum.

The long dirt road that leads to the cenote

Costs:

Entrance is 50 pesos and locker rentals are 50 pesos.

My Experience:

I visited Casa Cenote along with two Australian friends that I had met the night before at the hostel I was staying at in Tulum. I had an amazing time!

Gorgeous!

Casa Cenote is part of the Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich, which is an extensive water channel and cave system which includes 36 cenotes and a recorded length of 67 kilometres!

The walk down the gravel road was kind of long and tiring, but it was well worth it once we got to the cenote!

How incredibly beautiful!

The water of the cenote is a beautiful turquoise colour and is so clear. The cenote is an open-water cenote at the ground level and is surrounded by trees and thick mangroves. There was a very strong current in the water which made it difficult to swim further up the water channel, but it was still fun.

I loved this cenote because it was further off the beaten path than many of the other cenotes in the area.

Turquoise waters surrounded by lush mangroves

It was not too crowded at all when I visited (around 10 AM) and there were less than ten other people there. This made for a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere!

Here is some more information about cenotes:

http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/home/sacred-sinkholes

http://www.divecenotesmexico.com/cenotes

I hope you enjoyed reading about these cenotes in the Tulum!

Which cenotes have you had the opportunity to visit in the Tulum area? Any recommendations for cenotes to visit next time I travel to Tulum?

Let me know in the comments.

The Best Places to Eat in Tulum, Mexico

Best Places to Eat in Mexico

Tulum, Mexico is a small beach town located about two hours south of Cancun, along the Gulf of Mexico in the beautiful Mayan Riviera.

If you love food but are traveling on a budget, fear not! Tulum has an abundance of cheap local eateries to choose from, where you will find traditional and authentic Mexican cuisine being served.

Here are my budget-friendly favourite places to eat in Tulum:

El Rincon Chiapaneco:

Calle Jupiter Sur, just south of the main avenue (across the street from the ADO bus terminal)

El Rincon Chiapaneco is simple, open-air, local eatery that serves cheap and tasty authentic Mexican food. This place is always packed with locals, which is a good sign!

The red awning over the street-side tables must attract the sun’s heat, because it is absolutely scorching hot sitting underneath it! But don’t worry, the taste of the food will make it worth it.

I returned here multiple times during my solo trip to Mexico and sampled the guacamole, tacos and panuchos as well as aguas frescas. They also served many other Mexican foods, such as chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, salbutes, sopes and more. During one of my visits, there was a local musician singing and playing guitar, which created a lovely and relaxing atmosphere. The staff only speak Spanish which makes visiting here a great opportunity to practice your language skills! If you can’t speak Spanish, you can just point to whatever you want on the menu and I am sure they will understand.

My guacamole platter with chips was 35 pesos, tacos and panuchos were 8-10 pesos each, and aguas frescas were 13 pesos.

All of my meals here ended up costing under $5 CAD and everything was very satisfying!

El Rincon Chiapaneco

Inside El Rincon Chiapaneco

Inside El Rincon Chiapaneco

Guacamole at El Rincon Chiapaneco

Musician at El Rincon Chiapaneco

La Hoja Verde:

Calle Beta Sur just south of the main avenue.

La Hoja Verde serves healthy cuisine with vegetarian options, and is a great option for those getting tired of eating tacos all the time.

I enjoyed my meal! I ate here once and ordered a delicious smoothie and salad for 185 pesos. The restaurant has cute decor and the seating is outside on a patio that opens up to the street. The service was prompt and friendly.

Salad at La Hoja Verde

La Hoja Verde

Loncheria Mati:

Calle Sol between Calles Jupiter and Alfa.

Loncheria Mati is a local family-owned restaurant that is frequented by local families. They serve cheap and tasty traditional Mexican food. This place has an authentic Mexican feel, from the plastic tables and chairs to the retro television playing Spanish music videos and movies, to the menu which is hand-written on colourful poster paper and posted on the wall.

I have eaten here multiple times and every time I visited, I was the only Caucasian tourist around. It was a really neat experience to get off the beaten tourist path and immerse myself in the local culture and language.

All of the staff only speak Spanish, which is a great learning opportunity for you!

They are only open for lunch.

Loncheria Mati

Table at Loncheria Mati

Chilaquiles at Loncheria Mati

No-Name Eateries:

Calle Sol (south of the main avenue) between Calles Alfa and Jupiter.

Located along Calle Sol are a variety of no-name cheap and local eateries serving authentic Mexican cuisine, like tacos, empanadas, salbutes, panuchos, sopes, and tostadas. They also serve licuados (smoothies) and aguas frescas (sugary fruit water drinks) in a variety of flavours including sandia (watermelon), melon, pina (pineapple), mango, fresa (strawberry), jamaica, horchata (milky rice, cinnamon and vanilla flavoured drink), platano (banana), and more.

These places are family-run and are very simple and casual, with their menus either painted directly on the wall or hand-written with marker on a poster board, an old television playing Spanish music videos or movies and plastic Coca Cola tables and chairs. I loved visiting these places because they were so authentic! I was always the only tourist there and the rest of the place would be packed with locals. Nobody spoke English. Immersing myself in this environment, ordering food in Spanish and observing the local life around me, was an adventure and a good challenge!

Hand-written menu at Loncheria Mati

Menu at a hole-in-the-wall local eatery

Hole-in-the-wall local restaurant in Tulum

La Malquerida:

Calle Centauro Sur, just south of the main avenue.

La Malquerida is a great restaurant to visit for dinner. You can choose to sit inside or outdoors in front of the restaurant looking out onto the street. They have an extensive menu and serve a wide variety of moderately-priced traditional Mexican food and drinks. The atmosphere was lovely in the evening.

The service is professional and friendly and you are given a free shot of tequila at the end of your meal.

They are only open in the evenings.

Ceviche at La Malquerida

La Malquerida

El Camello Jr:

Corner of Avenida Tulum (main avenue) and Calle Luna Sur.

El Camello Jr. is a well-known and popular seafood restaurant located on the outskirts of the town of Tulum. It is a simple restaurant and doesn’t look like anything special when you are walking towards it, but you definitely not regret coming here.

They serve a wide selection of fresh and local seafood as well as other traditional Mexican foods. Everything is moderately-priced. This place is always packed with locals and tourists alike.

The service was fantastic.

Fresh fish at El Camello Jr.

El Camello Jr.

Batey Mojito Bar:

Calle Centauro just south of the main avenue (across the street from La Malquerida restaurant).

Batey Mojito Bar is a bustling place in the evenings and well into the nighttime, and is packed with people, as the locals mingle with the travelers.

They serve delicious mojitos in a variety of flavours, among other many other drinks and some food as well. The first thing you will notice about this place, is the bright and colourfully painted retro VW Beetle parked in front of the bar at all times. The bar staff have retrofitted this car with a sugar cane juicer, and they use the freshly pressed sugar cane juice in their mojitos! How unique and creative is that?!

This place has a fun and easy going atmosphere with good live music. It is very easy to strike up a conversation with anyone and meet lots of people here.

If you stay at Mama’s Home Hostel, the owner Jose will likely invite all of the guests to a night out at Batey. That is how I ended up there and I had a great time!

Batey Mojito Bar in Tulum

Antojitos La Chiapaneca:

Avenida Tulum between Calles Jupiter and Acuario Norte.

Antojitos La Chiapaneca doesn’t look like anything special during the day, but after they open their doors at 6 PM nightly, it becomes a hub of local activity! It is a small, casual and authentic eatery that serves the cheapest tacos in Tulum (at 7 pesos each) as well as other delicious Mexican “snacks” like panuchos, sopes, and salbutes. Make sure to try the tacos al pastor!

This place is popular with local families and is packed at night. The service was excellent and the staff were friendly. The staff only speak Spanish which makes for a great opportunity to practice!

The restaurant features a self-serve salsa and topping bar complete with bowls of spicy and mild salsa, cabbage, onions, cilantro and lime slices. The place has a very authentic Mexican feel with the simple chairs and tables and old television playing classic Spanish movies.

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

Loncheria El Aguacate:

Corner of Calle Orion and Calle Sol.

Loncheria El Aguacate is a small and adorable local restaurant in a quiet neighbourhood serving traditional Mexican foods as well as a variety of healthy options like salads and fresh juices.

The service was friendly. I recommend trying one of their juices!

Loncheria El Aguacate

Loncheria El Aguacate

Loncheria El Aguacate

Cabanas Restaurant & Bar:

Boca Paila Road just south of the Tulum Ruins.

Cabanas Restaurant and Bar is located along the beautiful tree-lined road running parallel to the beach.

The tables for the restaurant are situated on large rocks directly on the beach itself with an amazing view of the ocean!

They serve a variety of moderately-priced cuisine and the service was friendly.

Cabanas Restaurant and Bar

Fruit Markets:

Calle Sol between Calles Jupiter and Alfa Sur; Calle Osiris just south of the main avenue; the main avenue near Calle Luna Sur (right before El Camello Jr.)

I love visiting local markets both at home and when I travel.

Tulum has a few great local markets in town! They are all offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including some exotic ones that I had never seen before. There are an abundance of bananas, plantains, papayas, watermelon, pineapples, guavas, mameys, tomatoes, red onions, avocados, limes, mangoes, carrots, bell peppers, lettuce, apples, oranges, beans, many different types of chilies and more.

The markets are a great place to purchase cheap, fresh and local ingredients to cook your own meals at your hostel or other accommodation.

Local Market

Market on Calle Sol

Watermelons at the market

The market near El Camello Jr.

Pineapples at the market

The market near El Camello Jr.

Market on Calle Sol

Market fruits and vegetables

Tomatoes at the market

Fruit Carts:

Corner of Calle Osiris and Calle Sol (there are also many fruit carts on many random corners throughout Tulum)

There are fruit carts situated on various street corners throughout the town of Tulum. The one that I visited most frequently was operated by a local woman and her family. None of them spoke any English, but I still enjoyed interacting with them as best I could.

On my walk every morning, I would pay her a visit and purchase some freshly sliced fruit by the bucket for only 25 pesos. She sold pineapple, watermelon, mango and papaya. She also squeezed fresh lime juice on top of the fruit, which was so delicious!

Fruit cart at the corner of Calle Sol and Calle Osiris in Tulum

Paleteria y Neveria:

Calle Sol by Calle Osiris.

Paleteria and Neveria translates to popsicle and ice cream shop in English, and that is exactly what they sell! There are places like this all over Tulum.

I have frequented this place multiple times during my travels. They serve fruit and cream-based popsicles and fresh ice cream in a variety of delicious and exotic flavours including elote (sweet corn), coconut, mamey (native fruit to southern Mexico), among others.

Paleteria and Neveria

Paleteria and Neveria

Have you eaten at any of these places in Tulum? Do you have any restaurant recommendations that serve traditional Mexican food and have an authentic atmosphere? 

Let me know in the comments!