Tulum, Mexico – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

The world-famous party and digital nomad hub of Tulum. In the last 5 years Tulum has become very popular with the gringo crowd, but it’s important to note that Tulum was always an important location for the Mayans. Fun fact – Tulum is home to one of the only Mayan ruins in a beachfront location.

 The beaches in Tulum are amazing. The infrastructure is quite poor, and unable to keep up with the growth of the city. There is still no cellular reception in many areas. Despite its flaws, the city continues to grow. New nomad-friendly coffee shops are popping up every day. The crowd is getting more high end and more international. People treat this like it’s Miami and splash big money on bottles and beachclubs. Tulum is a brand now.

Picture a harmonious group of digital nomads, influencers, New York bankers, scuba divers, hippies, yoga teachers, and bachelorette parties going to electronic music raves in the jungle. Tulum manages to strike a balance between all these forces, and that’s what draws people. Most people are in Tulum for a good time not a long time. Make no mistake – Tulum is expensive. Probably the most expensive city in Mexico. Logistics in this city are key, so pay attention to where you stay and what venues you go to. 

POPULATION: 50,000-70,000 (2020 official census)


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DIGITAL NOMAD AND EXPAT COMMUNITY IN TULUM

How did this crazy place come to be? Well, modern Tulum began as the more chill answer to Playa del Carmen (which in turn began as the more chill answer to Cancun).

Today Tulum is one of the world’s top digital nomad hubs. There are many location independent entrepreneurs here in town. There are many coffee shops and coworking spaces in town to choose from. 

By the way – to exchange your crypto / digital assets for cash in Playa del Carmen you can hit up @sudo338 or @exchangeinmexico on telegram. Haven’t used them personally but they come recommended. 

Lots of nomads flock to Cancun but just a heads up – most prefer Playa del Carmen for long term stays. PDC is going to be way cheaper and more walkable. Cancun is more for tourism and short term stays. 

Tulum also enjoys status as a spiritual center. Tulum has served as a spiritual center for the Mayans for centuries (or even millenia). Modern Tulum still has a reputation as a spiritual hub, and today the town is full of yoga teachers, candle-lit ceremonies and health food stores. In Tulum there’s no clear line between the spirituality crowd, the psychedelic crowd, and the raving party crowd.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN TULUM

Tulum is an interesting city from a logistic perspective. In Tulum, there’s basically 4 categories of accommodation:

1. Centro – In town and away from the beach. 

2. The beach – also known as the ‘Zona Hotelera’. It’s going to be expensive to stay here and it’s going to be super loud, but it’s great for a high energy party weekend.

3. Gated Communities between Centro and Beach – these jungly gated communities are not close to anything and you’ll need transportation. 

4. Slightly Out of Town – There are hotels along the highways going northeast (towards Playa del Carmen) and southwest (towards  Felipe Carrillo Puerto). 

Tulum Mexico Map
Tulum Mexico Map

 

RENT AN APARTMENT IN TULUM

You used to be able to get a studio or 1br for $400-$600. Not anymore. Prices for apartments in Tulum are rising every year due to the increased demand. Expect to pay at least $1500-2000 UD per month in high season (from November to April). It’s going to be cheaper to rent in town than near the beach, of course. In fact, there’s almost no long term housing stock on the beach. Almost all accommodation on the Tulum beach area (Zona Hotelera) is reserved for hotels and short term rentals. All the locals live downtown and bicycle to the beach.  

 

BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT TULUM

It’s important to understand that high season and low season makes a big difference here in the Caribbean. In Tulum, the high season runs from late October November to the end of April. Some people would say that high season starts in January with the start of Tulum festival season. In late October/early November is Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, 2 good days to be in Mexico. The weather starts getting better in October and the best weather in Tulum is from late December to early March.

 

BEST BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN TULUM

10/10 

Nightlife in Tulum is a perfect 10/10 if you have money to spend. Tulum is one of the best party scenes in the country, alongside Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. Going out in Tulum is expensive. It’s still possible to party  on a budget in Tulum, but you’ll have to stick to a few trustworthy spots. The cover charges at the beach clubs can be obscene. The bouncers and club management will regularly impose $100 cover and the prices for bottles are high. 

The best recommendation for partying in Tulum is to party close to where you are staying. If you stay on the beach, party on the beach. But if you stay in centro, party in centro. You’ll meet tons of big groups and bachelor parties. Things get crazy here. If you want a quiet, romantic holiday, Tulum might not be it. For a quiet couple trip you might consider Isla Mujeres.

Most Popular Bars in Tulum Among Locals:

Santino: One of the classic bars in Tulum centro. Guaranteed to be a good time. They have another location in Playa del Carmen.

Xibalbar: Crazy place with a diverse crowd.

Most Popular High-End Nightclubs in Tulum:

Papaya Playa Project: Legendary beach parties. You haven’t been to Tulum if you haven’t been here. 

Taboo: They brand themselves as the best beach club in Tulum. It’s certainly one of the best known.

Coco Beach: More of a daytime-oriented beach club. It’s definitely one of the classic spots.

 

BEST RESTAURANTS IN TULUM

Palma Central: Relaxed spot for pizza, sandwiches, and more. 

Taqueria La Chiapaneca: Amazing taco spot with prices that are VERY reasonable by Tulum standards.

Restaurante Pies Descalzos: Beachfront restaurant with a great vibe.

 

DAY TRIPS & THINGS TO DO IN TULUM

Tulum has all of the tourist infrastructure you need. You will be able to find kiosks to book trips, take tours, rent cars etc. This is a good place to be to do ‘extreme’ activities like riding jet skis and ATVs through the jungle. 

Hit the beach! Playa Paraiso is magnificent. The beaches in Tulum are very nice by any international standard. In some parts the sand is pink.

Visit the famous Tulum Jungle Gym, located right on the beach. It’s expensive for a day pass.

Check out the Holistica Art Walk, a vibey art studio that is open to the public. They also do art classes and artistic events. 

Visit the Laguna de Kaan Luum, located just west of centro. 

Visit a cenote! Among the most popular cenotes near Tulum are Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera,Cenote Santa Cruz, and Cenote Tankah.

Take a day trip to Valladolid, a historic colonial town a 2hr drive away.

Visit the city of Merida, the bigger version of Valladolid. A must-see city with tons of history. 

Visit Chichen Itza, one of the great wonders of the world.

Take part in a Temazcal ceremony, an ancient Mayan tradition.

Go to Xcaret, one of the best theme parks you’ll ever go to. It’s worth it. And don’t miss the night show.

 

SAFETY IN TULUM

Only a handful of tourists getting down or hit by ricochet bullets per high season. Its not too bad! 

 

HOW TO GET TO TULUM

They are currently building an international airport in Tulum! It won’t be ready for a few years, so you’re probably going to fly into Cancun airport. It is also possible to get to Tulum from the Merida airport, though the buses are less frequent and the route is longer. The bus from Cancun to Tulum will take about 2 hours. 

 

COST OF LIVING IN TULUM

Tulum is expensive – everybody knows this. If you bring up the cost in discussion, such as regarding $5 bottles of water, people just shrug their shoulders and say ‘it’s Tulum’ It’s definitely possible to live in Tulum on the cheap though. There are quite a few cheap taco stands and food options. What gets expensive is accommodation and nightlife.

All the Mexicans and Argentines are getting by in Tulum on less than $1000 a month (though usually in shared accommodation). Your best bet for saving money while living in Tulum is having a solid form of transportation (bicycle, Vespa, Jeep etc). If you have transportation you will not be reliant on the extortionist taxis. Another way to save money is to party in the centro/downtown, and not at the beach clubs. The locals know where to go. 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON TULUM

Tulum will continue to grow as a expat and digital nomad hub. The area is under constant development and reconstruction. The government is trying to keep up with the  population growth by upgrading infrastructure. Quintana Roo has become the fastest growing state in both population and GDP and Tulum is a big part of that. Tulum has become a brand name. It will be exciting to see what Tulum looks like in 10 years. If you want to party in the jungle, Tulum will not disappoint. Most nomads and expats realize it’s hard to live here full time, then move to Playa del Carmen. Tulum is probably 2x more expensive than neighboring Playa del Carmen and 3x more expensive than Cancun.


OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10


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