With enchanting cenotes, white sandy Caribbean beaches, and Mayan ruins, Tulum lives up to the hype. It’s a bucket list destination for people around the world, which has led to rapid development over the past ten years and made Tulum a more expensive vacation spot.
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How much does a Tulum trip cost?
If you stay in a hotel on the beach, take taxis, and eat at trendy restaurants, you can spend thousands of dollars in Tulum. However, if you choose cheaper accommodations in the downtown area, eat street food, and use local forms of transportation, you can spend a week in Tulum for less than a thousand dollars.
Is Tulum expensive?
Tulum is one of the most expensive places in Mexico. The cost of living has increased significantly since Tulum blew up online in the early 2010s, but the local Mexican population continues to live with very low income. Visitors from countries like the U.S. will find beach hotels and restaurants with similar prices to the U.S., but there are plenty of ways you can enjoy Tulum on a budget.
Cheap Things to Do in Tulum on a Budget
It’s easy to spend a lot of money in Tulum, but it’s not too difficult to travel Tulum on a budget if you plan ahead. After spending a month and a half in Tulum, here are my top recommendations for cheap things to do, plus a few tips for saving money during your stay.
Lounge at Playa Paraiso
I could spend every day of my life reading by the water in a lounge chair. But in Tulum, beach clubs and oceanfront hotels are pricey (think minimum $40 USD per person).
My favorite spot to rent a lounge chair for cheap is at Playa Paraiso, a public beach popular amongst Tulum locals and expats.
Right at the entrance of the beach there is a lowkey beach bar with lounge chairs and umbrellas. You can rent two chairs and an umbrella for $320 pesos ($17 USD) a day.
If you want to spend less and don’t mind not having an umbrella, you can set up a spot on the beach with a beach towel for free.
As an added bonus, Playa Paraiso has plenty of free parking for bikes and scooters.
Explore Tulum’s secret free cenote (and other cenotes)
Cenote Aldea Zama is the only free cenote in Tulum, and it’s walking distance from El Centro. It’s a small, but picturesque cenote that is frequented by local families. Read more about Cenote Aldea Zama.
There are dozens of other (paid) cenotes to explore in and around Tulum, such as Dos Ojos Cenote, Cenote Calavera, among others.
Bike to the beach
Renting a bike is one of the best things you can do in Tulum. Bicycles are available to rent on nearly every street and they cost around $8 USD per day. Tulum is spread out, so you’ll want some way to get around, and a bike is the cheapest (and most fun!) after walking.
Riding a bike between Tulum town and the beach is easy with the long sidewalk/bike path that connects the two areas, and there are bike racks at the entrances to most beaches and outside shops throughout downtown.
The easiest public beach to get to from Tulum Centro and the Hotel Zone is Playa Las Palmas.
Visit the Tulum ruins
The Tulum Mayan ruins are located right along the Caribbean ocean near Tulum’s public beaches. The entry fee is $90 pesos (about $4.50 USD) and the ruins are open everyday from 9-5pm.
Wandering through the ruins is one of the best cheap things to do in Tulum. After spending an hour or so exploring the ruins, walk down to the beach and cool off in the ocean.
Try local street food
Restaurants in Tulum (especially along the beach) can get pricey. For a cheap meal, follow the locals to one of Tulum Centro’s many street food stands.
There are several popular vendors outside the OXXO convenience store on the corner of highway 307 and C. Geminis Sur. Each night, this area lights up as swarms of locals and tourists come to grab a quick, delicious meal.
You might also like: my guide to the best vegan restaurants in Tulum.
Chill at a Rooftop Pool Bar
One of my favorite spots in Tulum Centro is Casa Vegana, a vegan restaurant and rooftop pool bar. It’s one of the nicest vegan restaurants in town, and a great place to hang out. Their menu items aren’t super cheap, but they aren’t expensive. You can order a drink and snacks, and then lounge by the pool for a few hours.
Attend a donation-based yoga class
I love yoga, but I was shocked when I saw the prices of yoga classes in Tulum. Most studios charge more than I pay in the U.S. Then I found Om Collective.
I encourage you to give generously so they can keep offering classes in Tulum.
Explore free activities on Tudu Tulum
The Tudu Tulum app is the best place to see free (and cheap) events in Tulum. It’s a great place to hear about places with free live music, yoga classes, and more.
Affordable day trips from Tulum
There are so many places worth exploring nearby Tulum. Some can be reached by colectivo (shared van) for a few dollars, but others may require a rental car or guided tour. Some of the best day trips from Tulum include:
Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve
There is a gigantic nature reserve right outside of Tulum. It’s called Sian Ka’an and can be easily accessed by car or scooter. Sian Ka’an is an incredible place to experience local wildlife—dolphins, manatees, crocodiles, turtles, and more. Be prepared to pay the entry fee, plus extra if you want a tour.
Floating down ancient Mayan Canals at Sian Kaan
Kaan Luum Lagoon
Kaan Luum Lagoon (Laguna de Kaan Luum) is a breathtaking blue lagoon just 15 minutes away from Tulum. It’s easy to reach from downtown Tulum by colectivo, car, or scooter and costs $60 pesos per person.
The Coba archaeological site is one of the most popular day trips from Tulum. The easiest way to get to Coba is to rent a car, but there are ADO buses that run between Tulum and Coba each day as well. The Coba entrance fee is $80 pesos per person, plus $50 pesos for parking.
Lago de Bacalar is two and a half hours south of Tulum, but it is so worth visiting if you have time! It’s easy to catch an ADO bus from Tulum to Bacalar town. From there, you can enjoy the vibrant blue lake and many cenotes surrounding it.
If you’re interested in visiting a lesser known Mexican city that feels completely different from Tulum, Valladolid is the place to go! This colorful colonial city is an hour and a half away from Tulum, right along the way to Chichen Itza.
Xcacel Beach (Xcacel Área Natural Protegida Estata) is a sea turtle sanctuary and beach just twenty minutes north of Tulum. It’s an easy day trip close to Tulum if you’re looking to enjoy the beach without the crowds. Entry costs $97 pesos per person.
Right outside of Sian Ka’an, you’ll find the Mayan Muyil Ruins. This is a less visited Mayan archaeological site that is just a few minutes away from downtown Tulum. Muyil is one of the oldest and longest-occupied Mayan sites in the area. The entry fee is $65 pesos per person.
Akumal, which means “place of the turtles,” in Mayan is a small beach town just thirty minutes north of Tulum. It is known as a great spot to swim with sea turtles, but be aware that you’ll likely need to go on a tour to swim with the turtles. If you’re on a budget or don’t want to do the tour, Akumal is still worth visiting for snorkeling with tropical fish. I recommend snorkeling in front of the Secrets resort.
Manahual is a fishing village and cruise port near the Belizian border. It’s two and a half hours from Tulum. It’s more affordable and less busy as compared to Tulum, but still has the same stunning turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.
Chichen Itza is the most popular day trip in the whole Yucatan Peninsula. Thousands of tourists visit these Mayan ruins every single day, and for good reason. Chichen Itza is one of the new 7 wonders of the world, and a UNESCO world heritage site. If you want to check out what it’s all about, you can easily book a tour from Tulum to Chichen Itza.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is Tulum’s big sister. It’s just an hour away and is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a change of scenery. Playa has more modern conveniences than Tulum and plenty of things to do.
Also see: 202 Mexico Instagram Captions
Quick tips to save money on your Tulum vacation
- Stay in El Centro instead of Tulum beach
You can save a lot of money by staying in Tulum’s centro neighborhood instead of on the beach road. It’s easy to find a highly rated hotel with modern amenities and a pool for around $60 USD in the town. You can save even more if you stay at a hostel for around $10 USD a night.
2. Consider a hostel
If you want to stay along the beach but are on a strict budget, consider staying at a hostel like Selina. You can stay in a mixed dorm for about $35 USD per night if you don’t mind sleeping in a room with strangers.
3. Use colectivos and bikes
Colectivos are a local form of transportation in Tulum and other parts of Mexico. They are safe, reliable, and cheap. They operate like local buses and run very frequently along the main roads in Tulum.
Many of the local attractions and nearby towns are easily accessible by colectivo. For example, you can take a colectivos to Akumal for around $40 pesos ($2 USD), a trip that would cost around $600 pesos ($32 USD) in a taxi.
4. Enjoy the beach like a local
When luxurious beach clubs and restaurants line the beaches throughout Mexico, it can be easy to normalize spending an outrageous amount to enjoy a day at the beach. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sometimes it’s worth it to splurge for a day at a beach club, but it is so easy to save money by sitting on a beach towel instead.
Bring along your own snacks and drinks, or spend a few dollars more on food on the beach.
5. Make food at your hotel
You don’t have to eat out for every single meal while you’re visiting Tulum. Think of how much you could save if you ate a free breakfast at your hotel and packed a sandwich for lunch most days?
My favorite easy meals to make at an Airbnb/hotel include spaghetti with tomato sauce and mushrooms, ramen with fresh veggies, tacos, and smoothie bowls. If you do make food at home, make sure you sanitize your veggies and don’t cook with tap water.
Final Thoughts: Tulum on a Budget
While Tulum might not be the most budget-friendly spot in Mexico, you can still enjoy the natural wonders that this Mexican town has to offer without breaking the bank.
Essential Mexico Travel Resources
Have a Mexico trip coming up soon? There are a lot of travel companies out there, but some are better than others. After traveling to dozens of countries and living abroad on several continents, here are some of my favorite websites and resources for planning unforgettable trips.