Tulum is not a big city, but like every destination, it helps to get some tips on the best way to move about town before you go. It’s always a bit hard to get oriented when you’re planning a trip to a place you’ve never been, so I want to demystify the process so you feel prepared for a wonderful visit!
TULUM - THE TOWN & THE BEACH
First, you need to understand how Tulum is situated. There is a hotel zone, which stretches north to south along the coast. Those iconic pictures of white sandy stretches of beach and swaying palm trees? That’s the hotel zone. The main beach road is scattered with restaurants, bars and chic boutiques, along with the occasional pharmacy or convenience store.
The town (el pueblo) of Tulum is located about 2 miles inland from the beach. There is a main highway that runs through town from east to west (Hwy 307), which also curves up along the coast to head towards Playa del Carmen and Cancun to the north. As opposed to the hotel zone, this is where people actually live and where you can find a host of shops, cafes, restaurants, grocery stores and so on. For a short section of town (about 5-6 blocks) there are marked bike paths (in green) on the sidewalks in each direction.
I stayed in town and found a lot of options for getting around Tulum - and getting out of Tulum for day trips and weekend excursions. Here’s my take on the different transportation options in Tulum for getting around town, going to the beach, exploring outside Tulum and going to and from the airport.
Getting Around Tulum
This was by far my favorite mode of transportation in Tulum! Our Airbnb was located right on the edge of town on the southwestern side, so walking was not really feasible (especially with the heat), BUT biking was perfect! Our bikes came with our Airbnb, so we didn’t have to deal with renting them but bike rental places abound, so it’s still an option for any visitor to Tulum.
And it’s easy! Going to the other side of town to go grocery shopping at Super Aki took about 15-20 minutes, and heading to the beach was closer to 35-45 minutes. We also biked to nearby cenotes and avoided paying exorbitant taxi costs! (For example, I was quoted 150 pesos to go to a pair of cenotes right outside of town - Cristal and Escondido - that literally took 10 minutes to bike to.)
As I alluded to above, walking was not really an option for us. Before you accuse me of being a wuss, I live in NYC and I am VERY accustomed to walking to my destinations. But I found that in Tulum in June-July, 15-20 minutes was about my limit in the intense sun, heat and humidity. And due to our condo’s location, that was the minimum I had to walk just to start getting to restaurants and shops on the main road.
The word on the street was that taxi drivers in Tulum were notorious for overcharging so I avoided taking taxis unless absolutely necessary (I was also trying to stick to a budget). When I arrived and left Tulum in the ADO bus (more on that below), I took a taxi to our rental and it was 50 pesos for a 3-minute ride. When I needed to go to the end of the hotel zone for a photo shoot, I took a taxi and it was 400 pesos each way for about a 20-minute ride (that was down from being quoted 600-650 pesos). If you decide to take taxis around town, always negotiate! If you find someone you like, get their name and number so you can call on them again to schedule rides.
The other options for getting around Tulum are renting your own car or moped. We didn’t want to take on the expense of a rental car (or the often exorbitant deposit required) and knew we wouldn’t really need it. But if you think you will spend a lot of time on more of a road trip vacation and/or you want to stay in town but party in the hotel zone, it might be worth the expense. As for mopeds, they seem pretty cost-effective, as long as you know how to drive one, which I don’t! If they fit in your budget and comfort level, these are excellent options for your stay.
HOW TO GET TO THE BEACH FROM TOWN IN TULUM:
First - have no fear - this is easy!
To get to the beach from town, you’ll go down Hwy 15, which intersects the main road (Hwy 307) at a huge landmark - the supermarket Super Aki. If you go straight through the intersection, staying on 307, you’ll head north to Akumal, Playa del Carmen and Cancun. If you turn left, you’ll head inland (and towards several cenotes). Turning right takes you to the hotel zone at the beach!
The route is the same whether you’re in a car, on a moped or riding a bike - head down Hwy 15 until you hit a traffic circle/roundabout, where you’ll have a choice to go left/north up the coast or right/south down the coast.
---> I was very nervous about riding a bike along what is technically considered a highway, but there is a huge sidewalk the ENTIRE way from the intersection with 307 to the roundabout that is used by pedestrians and cyclists, so it is really easy and enjoyable! (Just wear your sunscreen because it is intensely sunny!)
Note that if your destination is towards the southern end of the hotel zone, your taxista might take you down a side street to cut down Avenida Kukulcan towards the beach road. Kukulcan has a TON of potholes, so I would not recommend this route if you are driving yourself or biking.
TRAVELING OUTSIDE OF TULUM
There are two terrific and inexpensive options that I highly recommend for getting out of Tulum for daily excursions or heading to and from the Cancun airport.
You’ll see white vans labeled as “colectivo” throughout Tulum - a shared taxi service with a route along Hwy 307 that is particularly useful for tourists. There are three main stops in town - you can see the vans congregating - and you can go north all the way to Playa del Carmen if desired (from there, you would catch another colectivo to go further north to Cancun). We took a colectivo to the Casa Tortuga Cenotes and it was extremely efficient, comfortable and inexpensive (20 pesos each way per person!). There was a guy who was directing passengers to the correct van and letting the driver know the destination (doesn’t hurt to remind him when you’re getting close to where you want to be let off though). Two things to note: the vans are air conditioned (yay!) and there is no room for luggage.
This bus service is one of the most popular ways to get to Playa del Carmen, Cancun and the Cancun airport. It’s inexpensive and well-organized. At the Cancun airport, I easily found the kiosk and bought my ticket to Tulum for 300 pesos (with a quick dropoff in Playa del Carmen). From the Tulum bus station in Centro, I took a taxi to my Airbnb rental. I also took the bus to and from Playa del Carmen, which was only 98 pesos each way. You can buy tickets online or in-person. The buses are comfortable, air conditioned and have bathrooms.
** Again, if you think you’ll need more freedom in your traveling in and around Tulum and you have a more flexible budget, it makes sense to consider renting a car (or even hiring a taxi driver for the week).
But I found that biking, catching colectivos and using the ADO bus services was perfect for my 3 ½ week stay in the Yucatan!
Scroll down to the comments and let me know if these tips have helped, if you have any questions, or if you have any tips to add!