Tulum is an incredible place to visit, known for having a world-class Mayan Ruins and an incredible Caribbean beachfront, which makes it one of the most popular destinations along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Tulum has become a legendary destination over the last few decades, transforming from a small fishing village into a major tourist destination. While it may be hard to picture today, as early as the 1990s, Tulum was a small village just outside the ruins with a few cabanas on the beach. Oh how things have changed.
Especially in the last 5-10 years, Tulum has expanded exponentially. It has now passed the tipping point of being an off the beaten track destination and many new housing projects and hotels have been popping up along the beach and expanding the downtown area. It has been billed as an eco-friendly destination, and attracted both bohemian hippies and wealthy travelers seeking spa-orientated vacations along this beautiful beachfront. There are many incredible restaurants and bars located here, catering to the influx of tourists. It’s a fun place to visit.
We’ve been living on the Riviera Maya for several years now, so we have visited Tulum on several occasions. We have both explored the ruins, enjoyed the bohemian vibes of the town and enjoyed some lazy days on the beach. There is a lot to do in the surrounding areas too (like the many nearby cenotes and other unique attractions), which makes it easy to understand why this has become a popular place for tourists.
The Mayan’s inhabited this area for thousands of years, and the archaeological zone was an important trading port for nearby cities like Coba. Alongside the beach, the ruins are one of the most important draws for tourists to the area. We have previously featured an article on the ruins – Mayan Ruins of Tulum – so today we are shifting the focus on the other two; the town and the beach.
Tulum can be divided into three distinct zones; the ruins, the puebla (town) and the hotel zone along the beach. Traveling along highway 307 from the north (the main highway that connects the Caribbean coast from Cancun to Belize) you will pass the entrance to the archeological zone and quickly enter the center of town. Downtown Tulum is where most of the hostels, restaurants and infrastructure are located, including banks and grocery stores. The beach is located about 2km from the downtown, and most people choose to make the journey between the two by bike.
Tulum is a great place to relax for a few days, with the white sand beaches being some of the best in Mexico. With all the great places to eat and drink, its easy to see why it’s so popular. The area south of Tulum is part of the Sian Ka’an ecological reserve, so there are limits as to how much can be built along the beach, and there is only one road that travels along here. The road is narrow and traffic sometimes can’t travel both ways at the same time. There are restaurants, beach clubs and hotels on both sides of this road, either on the jungle side or beach side, which are fun to visit.
Tulum is a place that is growing at a rate that is not sustainable, as everyone wants to take a piece of this paradise for themselves. Tulum bills itself as an eco-tourism destination, and they have succeed in portraying this image around the world, but there is a darker side to this unchecked expansion. Hopefully they find a way to find a balance and keep this place one of the most beautiful destinations in Mexico, as this is a place with unmatched beauty that people can hopefully enjoy for generations to come.