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  • Writer's pictureInfo Mexico Kan Tours

10 Things to do in Tulum…Like a Local

Updated: Jun 4

Get to know Tulum like a Local ! Tulum is a town with a chic bohemian atmosphere, white sand beaches, Mayan ruins and crystal clear water cenotes. This privileged location combined with the wide offer of boutique hotels and funky restaurants has seen it become an essential destination in Mexico for travelers seeking a paradise away from the all-inclusive hotels in Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

In order for you to explore the best things to see and do in Tulum, we have put together our definitive guide, based on the broad perspectives of all our team members. We can guarantee this is not only a ‘true locals’ view of what’s hot and what’s not, but is wide ranging enough to cover all different tastes and budgets as well as representing exactly what makes Tulum, well, Tulum.

1- Keep Fit

We know that a little exercise is always good and your body and soul will thank you. There are a lot of options for you to exercise in Tulum, here are a few of our top choices: play volleyball in front of Ikal & meet people on the beach; join Tulum Fighters Muay Thai team, a highly skilled group of fighters and professional trainers; check out one of the many CrossFit groups that train and offer classes in town; learn how to dance Salsa (Tuesday nights at Palma Central) or Bachata, to groove like a real Latina/o; practice Yoga with OM Collective Tulum, for great classes at great local prices; have a go at Rock Climbing at the wall in Los Amigos Gym; go hit some MTB jungle trails at Punta Venado bike park; SUP on the local lagoons or at the beach and learn how to Kitesurf! Tulum offers so many options to keep fit, have fun and make new friends (without setting foot in a gym) that we are sure you’ll find the sport or activity that fits with your lifestyle.

2- Check out the Urban Art scene

There is a lot of art in Tulum, and an ever increasing amount of Mural Art. The street art scene in Tulum is especially vibrant, with new murals appearing constantly among the backstreets of the Pueblo (downtown). While some are in plain sight, others are hidden away, so the best way to get around and see some of them is by bike. Tulum attracts a huge variety of people and this is no different when talking about artists - some very well known international artists have painted the walls of Tulum. That said, the artists that truly capture the essence of our town and transplant it to the streets are the locals who have made this town their home.

The themes on view reflect the essence as well as the many challenges facing the region and town, including: the environment, pollution, social integration, the effects of technology on society, local history, culture & mythology, the natural world and finally the modern day melting pot that is Tulum. Two of the foremost artists working over the last decade to beautify the walls of the pueblo are Emma Rubens & Valeria Navarette.

They have both been heavily involved in Tinasah, a local art collective that has been integral to creating and promoting street art. Both artists integrate local people and characters past & present into their works.

Rubens in particular has a habit of painting her friends and neighbors on the walls of town, making her murals particularly representative of local people & culture.

Other spots worth checking out are the Art Walks in

Holistika and Tuk Tulum. Some fabulous murals on view in both, by world class local & international artists. Without a doubt, riding a bicycle is the best way to explore this vibrant scene. You can rent one or join a specialized street art tour with Tulum Bike Tours.

3- Cenotes

Nowadays, swimming in cenotes has become one of the best known activities to do in Tulum. There are literally thousands of cenotes in the region, so how do you know which is the best one, or a must see? Cenotes are so varied in their size, shape, layout and details that no 2 are the same and each visit is unique, which is another reason they remain so attractive. In our experience, the ‘best’ cenote is the one you get all to yourself. What this means is, the less people there are in the cenote, the more you will enjoy it. There are 2 ways to go about this: look out for lesser known cenotes or plan to visit the popular ones when they are less busy (hint, this is very early right at opening time or at the end of the afternoon an hour or so before they close).

For example, one very few people visit close to Tulum town is Cenote Car Wash. If you want a good overview of cenotes with the added insight of a top guide, you can visit 3 cenotes near Tulum during our Cenote Adventure Tour. You will first explore the Gran Cenote, first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, Taak Bi Ha, a lesser known but absolute gem of a cenote located inside the world renowned Dos Ojos park, and a private underground cavern system with a cenote located in the jungle near Akumal.

This is a fantastic way to experience the variety of the underground & underwater world in one morning. You can also join our Cenote Trail bike tour, visiting 3 cenotes around Tulum by mountain bike, an awesome way to combine exploring cenotes with some active travel and biking in the jungle. You will enjoy the clear freshwater even more after working up a sweat! If you are staying in Tulum Hotel Zone and want to see a cenote without going too far, our recommendation is to go to Cenote Encantado, an open cenote in the middle of the mangroves.

4- Eat Local

Delight your palate with the incredible and delicious local gastronomy on offer in Tulum. This list could be endless, and as there are already 1 million food blogs about Tulum, we are going to keep it short and extremely local. The number 1 tip for looking out for where to eat is to watch the crowd. You know which taco cart is the one to go for if you see crowds lining up. This is in no way a complete guide to food in Tulum, but if you want 1 place per food style, tried, tested and retried by Mexico Kan Tours, here we go!

Local style tacos and snacks: Taqueria Maya, (no trip to Yucatan is complete without trying cochinita pibil and relleno negro - if you want to go full local, ask for a panucho instead of a taco). Mexican Seafood: Sabor de Mar (tostadas, ceviches, aguachiles…so much to choose from!). Street tacos: Guadalajaritas (a deceptively simple looking cart famous for its Torta Ahogada, but also has tacos de barbacoa or crunchy frijol tacos topped with carnitas, don't go if you are watching your figure).

Evening tacos: Taqueria Kukulkan (al pastor, suadero, arrachera, also a great selection of other Mexican dishes).

Want to try Pozole? La Mexicanita. Choose a red, white or green broth with corn and choose your meat or veggie. Tacos de Canasta: La Hija de Aca Tacos. You might or might not know what a taco de canasta is, but believe me, you want to try it. Absolute local favorite since the early days of Tulum, with the daughter (la hija) continuing her parents’ business.

Something special/different: Mestixa (it’s either Asian-Mexican or Mexican-Asian, they say it’s not fusion but it is absolutely delicious). Other places that deserve a mention are Don Cafeto for being there forever serving staple Mexican favorites; Burrito Amor for you guessed what, La Hydra for pizza, because, well, pizza; La Bonita for a good burger; La Hoja Verde for vegan & veggie; Italdo if you are missing Europe (or just love food); Cara Feliz if you want a nice brunch in a super cool Library Coffee shop, La Negra Tomasa for a cerveza & mezcal with your guide after a tour and last but not least, Palma Central for being a kick-ass food truck park that most people don't even go to for the food trucks.

5- Spend time at the beach

If your thing is to lie on the beach and enjoy the sun and sea, Tulum is the right spot for you...

The beach of Tulum is divided into 2 distinct areas, branching out north and south from the main road down to the beach along Av. Cobá, Known locally as the Playa Publica and the Zona Hotelera. North, heading towards the ruins you will find Tulum public beaches such as Playa Paraíso, Playa Pescadores, Santa Fe, and some beach clubs. Use one of the many public entrances and find yourself a spot that you like or try one of the beach clubs like Cinco or Ikal to get some shade, enjoy the service from the restaurant & bar, share good music and relax in lounge beds looking out at the sea. Ikal also offers a whole range of interesting wellness activities (you can check the schedule on their social media).

To the south, heading towards the reserve of Sian Ka’an, is the Tulum hotel zone, which is much more built up than the northern side and where you will find a lot of the trendy hotels, clubs and

boutiques that many people also come to Tulum to visit, such as Nomade, Casa Malca, Papaya Playa, Azulik. If you are not going to 1 place in particular you can access the beach by going through one of the hotels, some of which have public beach clubs like Mia or Coco. There are many different styles and budgets, some are very exclusive or have stricter door policies than others. For most of them you will have to get food or drinks at their beach club in order to enter. Resorts in Mexico offer luxurious amenities like spas, yoga classes, gourmet restaurants, and many other activities and Tulum is no exception. Be warned that traffic is often terrible on this side of the beach and finding parking can be a big problem.

If you have a car, you can explore beaches further afield such as Akumal Bay, Bahia Soliman or Caleta Tankah.

6- Discover Mayan Culture

Your visit won’t be complete if you do not visit our emblematic archaeological sites. Tulum is one of the few places in the Riviera Maya that has several nearby sites to contemplate the fascinating history of the Maya and their countless secrets. If you are one of those who seek an unparalleled adventure, we recommend the following archaeological sites :

Tulum: an ancient Mayan port overlooking the crystal waters of the Caribbean… It’s a must see during your stay in the Yucatan. Choose to go early in the morning as it may be crowded and hot in the afternoon. Walking around the ruins of The Temple of the Wind, Temple of the Frescoes and the magnificent Castillo, holding secrets to a mysterious past of sun-gods, sea-trade, ritual and ancient tradition.

Muyil : located in the northern section of Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, this millenia-old trading post, nestling in-between the freshwater lagoon system and the tropical forest, is the perfect place to enjoy an introduction to Mayan history, ecology and all medicinal plants.

Cobá: The ancient Mayan city of Coba was once a metropolis of the north-eastern Yucatan. Massive pyramids, countless plazas, palaces and monuments have been buried in the jungle for over 1000 years, only recently discovered by archaeologists. Cobá was built around a series of small lakes, which provided a good agricultural environment where the lush vegetation is pre-eminent and gave rise to possibly the largest pre-Hispanic settlement of the Classic period in northern Yucatán (200-800 AD).

Chichén Itzá: the enigmatic Mayan site voted a new Wonder of the World. The fascinating history is brought alive by the impressive restoration work carried out over the last century. Chichen Itza is a must see for history enthusiasts and is unrivaled in New World archaeology for the perspective it allows us on Mesoamerican thought, culture, architecture & engineering.

7- Take some time to relax

If you are looking to relax and let yourself go, we recommend you visit the Lagoon of Nopalitos. There is one public entrance called Milum Lake Club. For only 150 pesos you will be able to spend the day there, have a picnic, use the kayaks, and even rock climb ! It is the perfect place to rest and spend time with your family or friends.

If you are looking for a bit of comfort, right at the fork in the beach road you will find Kore Retreat and Spa Resort where you pay around 60 USD for a day pass that includes food,

drinks, use of the pool & seafront lounge, and even a massage… Or visit Flora Spa for a pampering experience you won't want to miss. Although it is a beauty salon it is also a wellness and spa center. Here between the harmonious atmosphere and relaxing massages you will find everything you need to have a perfect holiday break and recharge your energy.

And if you have kids and want to take a day off, don't hesitate to hire the best babysitters in Tulum ! Two companies offer great services : Ananababysittingtulum & Sitters of the caribbean.

8- Dance!

Tulum has become one of the most well-known party destinations in Mexico, but manages to maintain its own style and vibe to differentiate from our neighbors in Playa del Carmen and Cancun. While you can find Techno and House parties if that is what you are looking for, and plenty of them, you can also join the more local dance nights going on around town.

Check out the Salsa nights in Palma Central, Xaman Ha or Satelite 307, or Bachata nights in Casa Alba.

Everyone dances and switches partners. Whether you are a beginner, a professional or a Latin dance lover, the atmosphere at these events is open and friendly where all are welcome to join in, enjoy dancing & have some fun. If you are interested, many dancing teachers offer classes every day.

9- Listen to live music

The nights can be long in Tulum ! To enjoy the best bands and a wide variety of types of live music, go to Luhme, Batey, La Bonita, Encanto, Negra Tomasa...

From bossa, tango, jazz, blues, rock, DJs all the way to holistic restorative music, you will not only find something you love, but will be possibly blown away by the huge variety of top quality musicians and artists living & performing in Tulum.

10- Take some time to volunteer

As you may already know, Tulum has developed extremely quickly without the sufficient infrastructure. The town, beach and surrounding area is facing huge issues relating to the environment, the ecology, the lack of implementation of waste management plans and a general disregard for the environment that sustains as. As a region that attracts both international jet setters and migrating workers from the poorest parts of Mexico and Central America, there are also big problems with social and economic inequality & exploitation, as well as the effects of rapid growth on the local population and social integration.

We are very grateful to anyone that has an interest in the area and helping us manage the problem that growth brings. The organization Tulum Circula works for a better sustainable management of recycling and organizes beach and downtown clean ups. If you have a couple spare hours and would like to leave a positive impact, contact them. If you don’t know where you can put your garbage, @puntoslimpiostulum has recycling points at your disposal. Separate your own waste and drop it to the recycle bins provided in your local Tulum neighborhood.

Waste is not the only thing left on the streets. Unfortunately, you will see around the streets a lot of stray dogs and cats in Tulum. Alma Animal Tulum rescues animals in bad situations, rehabilitates, cares for them and ultimately finds them homes. If you want to take a new pet home call them, or help them through a donation.

In order to promote cultural and social learning among children, two organizations, Los Amigos de la Esquina and Movida Maya, offer a diversified program of recreational activities for the children of Tulum, focused on well being, the environment, and art.

These initiatives allow the children of Tulum to preserve their cultural traditions, to open up to new activities that they would not usually have the chance to discover, and to develop knowledge for a sustainable future. Don’t hesitate to join and share your talent with them!

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