This is a detailed one day budget trip guide to experience the glorious Tulum, a town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. I began my journey from the nearby community Puerto Aventuras, but this guide can be used by anyone who has a full day to kill in Tulum! Note: this guide is designed to allow you to fully embrace the places you visit and therefore more can be done in a day if you prefer.
Budget travel – ‘collectivos’
I organised this day so I was able to get a collectivo everywhere I went. A collectivo is basically a minishuttle bus that locals mainly use. They are reliable and appear often. You can flag down these buses off the highway or in towns like Tulum very easily. Journeys generally cost between 20-40 pesos, so not even £2! Once you flag one down, shout to the driver your destination, and maybe shout again when you are near approaching, incase they forget. The orange/red striped collectivos are the ones that travel between the long stretch of: Tulum – Puerto Aventuras – Playa del Carman -Cancun.
Not all places you may want to visit will be accessible by a collectivo. For instance, I was originally wanting to visit the Gran Cenote as it was close to Tulum and seemed a popular one. After speaking to various locals however, I realised there were plenty of other beautiful spots for much cheaper!
First Stop – Mayan ruins
Cost: 70 pesos (plus a fee on top of that if you are using ‘professional’ camera equipment. So, essentially, don’t have your selfie stick or gopro out until you are well into the site and you should be fine…or if they spot it, they will just keep it at the barriers where you enter until you return)
The Tulum National Park hosts a 13th-century, walled Mayan archaeological site that overlooks the sea on the east coast. The collectivo will drop you on the highway, then it’s about a 10-15minute walk up the straight dirt road until you get to the site. Aligning the dirt road are some markets and shops that are nice to look at, although I’m sure particularly pricey given the area.
BE AWARE — do not be fooled by the ticket offices on the side of the road — you do NOT have to pay until you reach the site itself — I’m sure these places will charge you much more!
Once you are in the grounds of the site you can have a pleasant walk around for a while taking it all in. There are lots of information boards just as you enter and by some of the ruins so you can get an idea of what you are looking at.
Second Stop – Tulum town centre
I went back to the highway where I was originally dropped and caught a collectivo to Tulum town centre. Make sure you get off in the town centre and not by the beach — there is quite a big distance between them. The centre is where the locals and hippies hang out. You will be dropped along the Tulum avenue, which is the main shopping and dining avenue in the town. Take a look in some of the shops to see some beautiful clothes / souvenirs. For a budget lunch however, I would recommend walking slightly off the beaten track like I did.
Cost: 70-80 pesos
I walked around for a bit and found a local new mexican joint called Tropi-Q (circled in on the map). I got there around midday/early afternoon so they were still serving breakfast but it was great! If, like me, you started the day particularly early to get to the ruins then you may not have had a chance for a good breakfast anyway. For 80 pesos I received unlimited coffee, a beautiful selection of fruits, with honey and granola AND a traditional mexican hangover breakfast called ‘Chilaquiles Verdes’ with chickpeas. This dish is basically fried tortillas with cheese in a green salsa sauce. No stress if you don’t fancy this though, they have another sandwich option. Plus, by mid-afternoon they will be serving lunch, which if I remember correctly was 70 pesos. They are lovely in there and I would fully recommend!!
Third stop – Casa Cenote
I took a collectivo from Tulum avenue a minute away from Tropi-Q and went to the Casa Cenote. It took about 10 minutes from there and then approximately 1km walk to the Cenote along a flat dirt road. However, on the walks there and back from the Cenote I received a lift from lovely locals so it was quick and easy! Of course if this doesn’t suit you the walk is simple.
Cost: 120 pesos (plus 50 pesos for a locker if you want)
You also have to pay extra for snorkelling gear if you don’t bring your own. Of course you can just go for a swim if you like but I recommend at least bringing a mask so you can see the beauty that lies under the water!
I easily spent about 3 hours at this spot. Leisurely snorkelling around the whole Cenote took me an hour. The Cenote extends for about 250 yards into the jungle and is surrounded by mystical mangroves. It is so breathtaking and the water is so clear you will want to keep jumping back in. Cenotes can get pretty chilly after an hour but if it’s sunny just soak up the rays in between. I took a couple of dips to try and find the local crocodile! You can also go for a swim or hang out on the beach that is adjacent to the Cenote.
Walking back to the highway you can flag down a collectivo home. Easy peasy and for pittance. Good luck!