Tulum Travel Guide - S Marks The Spots

Tulum in Mexico was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to so far. I have already posted some snapshots from this magical place but also wanted to share with you a complete travel guide with my tips in case you’re about to cross it off your bucket list!


• While in Mexico I visited many different Mayan ruins but the Tulum one were the most spectacular by far in terms of scenery – no wonder why they figure amongst the most visited Mayan site in the Yucatán Peninsula. Even if you’re not that much into sightseeing, I would still recommend a visit just for the amazing landscape. The ruins are located right on the beach and offer great views over the Caribbean sea. Imagine turquoise waters, sugar-white sand and palm trees – paradise on earth in other words. Oh, and friendly lizards that sunbathe lazily in the sun waiting for visitors to feed them with flowers. One of the best decisions my partner and crime and I made during our trip was to rent bikes and cycle all the way from our hotel to the archaeological site. The route is beautiful, so we kept stopping every now and then to admire the nature at our ease and take a few snaps, naturally! Just make sure to arrive early in the morning to avoid large crowds and the boiling heat. If you’re interested in the history and rituals of the Mayan civilization, it’s a good idea to hire an accredited guide at the entrance. I found it quite helpful as our trusted guide books didn’t offer that many details and the site itself had only a few signs with explanations here and there. Depending on the guide and your negotiation skills, a tour around the ruins will cost you only about 15€ and can be in any language, including English of course.  

• Another must-visit sight in the area are the cenotes, underwater caves in the heart of the jungle filled with fresh water. They were a place of worship for the Mayans who believed them to be portals of communication with the underworld gods and they still feel somehow magical. There are thousands of different cenotes, so you’ll end up visiting a handful of them or so during your stay. Picking just one was practically impossible for us, so we decided to explore some the most famous, such as the Ik Kil Cenote and a few that were lesser known, like the Multum Ha Cenote. Swimming together with little turtles in a stalactice-lined cave with crystal clear waters is still one of my most memorable experiences ever! It’s one of those moments when you really feel alive and incredibly grateful to be in a certain place. Now some practical tips: Everyone recommends the Gran Cenote which is the closest one to Tulum but having seen quite a lot of cenotes, I was a bit underwhelmed so if you only have limited time skip it and visit instead another one. Before entering any cenote, you need to take a shower to protect the habitat, so you’ll find at the entrance showers and changing rooms. The cenotes are interconnected through a labyrinth of underwater caves, so if you’re an experienced diver or keen on learning how to dive, Tulum is a wonderful starting point.

• Just a short ride away from Tulum you’ll also find Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most visited Mayan sites in Mexico, with impressive pyramids, temples, columned arcades, and other stone structures. This place is so significant that deserves a post of its own, so watch this space.

• Not far from Tulum there’s also Coba, another Mayan site which is only partially excavated (but still quite big!). This spot was really fun to visit as we rented bikes and cycled through the jungle to see the different ruins. The highlight is “El Castillo”, one of the largest pyramids in northern Yucatan that you can actually climb. I have to warn you, getting on top is far easier than coming down, especially if you’re afraid of heights, but being able to walk on the steps of Mayans feels really special.

• If you’re looking to explore a less touristy city, pass by Valladolid on the way to Chichén Itzá. Despite being the third largest city in Yucatán, this place is very calm and affordable. If you love photography, you can spend a few hours wandering around town capturing the beautiful pastel houses. I am glad we visited Valladolid as we experienced a different side of Mexico.


One of the things I liked the most about Tulum was how relaxed it felt. In terms of restaurants, there’s the whole range from cheap local eateries to more sophisticated venues that retain the local feel. It’s up to you to choose the type of culinary experience you’ll go for.

• I’ll start straight from my most favourite foodie spot in Tulum, Hartwood. If I had to recommend just one restaurant in Tulum, it would be this place – easily one of the highlights of our trip. Located on a jungle road along the coast, the restaurant has no electrical appliances, so all cooking preparations are done by hand and on a char grill. The menu changes daily and all ingredients are seasonal, organic and locally sourced. My partner in crime and I had the octopus and the fish of the day along with sides of local vegetables which we happily washed down with fruity cocktails. Everything was fresh and ridiculously delicious; we both agreed that it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had. Now the challenge is to get a table! Groups under 8 people cannot get a reservation, so you’ll have to get there at around 15:00 and queue to get on the dinner list. Get armed with patience, take some cash (they don’t accept cards) and you won’t regret it, I promise!

• Another delicious restaurant was Posada Margherita. This came highly recommended from a friend that had visited Tulum quite a few times and although I didn’t really want to have Italian food in Mexico, I’m really glad we followed her advice. The menu featured just a few pasta, shrimp and fish dishes, which is always a good sign if you ask me as it means everything’s fresh. I can never resist fresh pasta, so we opted the shrimp pasta and fish – both delicious! The atmosphere is great too; kind of like an Anthropologie shoot if you know what I mean! Cool sea breeze, candlelight, vintage tables and fresh fruits and veggies on display. It reminded me of Liasti, one of my favourite restaurants in Mykonos. A great spot for a romantic dinner!

A short walk away from Hartwood, you’ll find Gitano, a beautiful mezcal bar – restaurant. This is where we had the best cocktails of our trip: strong, spicy, and inventive. I’m actually still dreaming about their smokey margarita! The space was lovely with dimly lit chandeliers hanging from the trees and local live music. My only complaint is that the lady at the door was rather rude but we tried not to let that ruin our evening. A great spot for pre or post – dinner drinks. 

• If you prefer more laid back eateries, then I would suggest Chamico’s. This is basically a low-key in front of the sea amongst the palm trees with no menus but the freshest lobster and ceviche you could hope for! Don’t let the plastic chairs and tables put you off, the food is seriously out of this world. Ever since our trip I found out that the NY Times share the same view, so visit it while it’s still unspoilt.


Similarly to restaurants, one can find the whole range in terms of accommodation from luxurious all-inclusive resorts to hostels and thatched roof beach cabanas. After spending the first half of our trip in Cuba, we wanted to treat ourselves to a bit of comfort so we stayed at Zen Serenity Resort which proved to be a great choice. All rooms are suites and most have a jacuzzi inside or on your patio. The location is stunning and although the food was not a highlight, this place was perfect to unwind. Still miss those early morning yoga sessions by the beach. *sigh*


• Before arriving in Tulum, I spent a few days in Cancun (more on that in a future post!). The two cities are well connected as there is bus service which I found pretty good. No need to book in advance, just buy your tickets on the spot and if you have time, stop by Playa del Carmen, a trendy coastal city. Once you reach Tulum, you can either walk or cycle pretty much everywhere.

• If you decide to move around by taxi, beware of taxi drivers and how much you get charged. This was really annoying for me as they kept asking different amounts of money for the same route on various occasions, so my advice would be to agree on the price before you get into the car. During our trip we also tried to hire a car. I say tried because it didn’t prove to be a straightforward process. After two unsuccessful attempts, whereby the car never showed up despite having made all the necessary reservations online, we finally got one and took a small road trip on the Yucatán Peninsula. Although I had heard various stories about how unsafe and dangerous it is to drive around in Mexico, I’m happy to report we didn’t face any difficulties.

Before visiting Cuba, many people warned me about mosquitos. While we didn’t have any issues in Havana, Tulum was a completely different story. Make sure to get some bug repellent, because they seem to love the jungle. I learnt my lesson the hard way!


Sandy (@smarksthespots)