The beaches of Tulum are some of the best beaches in the world!
So if you’re not already planning a beach vacation to Tulum, read on to learn why you should. And if you are, you’re in luck because I’ve got you covered with everything you need to know to make the most of your trip to the gorgeous Caribbean beaches in Tulum.
I’ll go over the best beaches in Tulum, with a quick pro and con list for each beach. I’ll also give you practical information for how to get around the beaches, how to find the best beach clubs in Tulum, and where to stay in Tulum. And if you read to the end I’ll even give you a special bonus: three awesome non-beach things to do during your trip to Tulum.
But, first, the question on everyone’s mind is:
There is no easy answer, as it depends on preference. Playa Ruinas is the most beautiful beach in Tulum. Tulum’s south playa has the best beach clubs in Tulum. And the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is the best beach day trip from Tulum.
Ok, that’s the short answer. But there is a ton of additional information in this Ultimate Guide to the Beaches of Tulum to help you plan your trip, so click on this Table of Contents to jump around the article:
I’ve been to Tulum three times and it’s one of those amazing beach destinations that I plan to keep returning to (see my post on 10 reasons to visit Tulum to understand why). Last time I went, I made a short one-minute video to explain why. Give it a quick watch and see if you can look me in the eye and say you’re not eager to visit Tulum’s beaches. 🙂
Ok, now that you’re sold on Tulum, let’s get on to the question that’s probably highest on your mind:
Although there are a few sub-beaches within the north one, Tulum proper really only has two large beaches: the north playas (or “beaches,” in Spanish) and the south playa. They are distinguished when the single road to the beaches from Tulum town splits at a roundabout. Getting to either one is straightforward: Head right for the south beach, and left for the north beaches.
But what’s the best beach in Tulum?
Well, the answer is going to depend on what kind of beach bum you are. So here’s a brief rundown of the north and south beaches to help you choose.
The north beach in Tulum is probably one of the nicest public beaches I’ve been to in the world.
Technically speaking, there three different beaches (although they all sort of blend together): Las Palmas beach at the southern end, Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach) in the middle, and Playa Ruinas at the north near the Tulum ruins. The latter has stunningly gorgeous blue water and Mayan ruins on a cliff overlooking the beach at the far north end! Note that the far north end under the ruins is roped off from tourists as a turtle nesting ground.
Unlike the south beach, Tulum’s north beaches have been shielded from too much development, plus the beachfront is wider, meaning there is a lot more open sand for laying out a towel and chilling away from the beach club crowd.
Tulum’s south beach is home to phalanx of luxury riviera maya hotels and beach clubs. It’s hard to access the beach unless you go through one of these hotels, as the resorts attempt to preserve some sense of exclusivity for their guests.
Nonetheless, Tulum’s south beach is very much worth a visit in its own right. You can stay in a botique hotel or resort there or rent a day bed at a beach club (see the section below for some suggestions on that front).
There are some additional beaches just outside of Tulum that are also worth checking out if you have the time.
Probably the most exciting are the various secluded beaches in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. The entrance to this protected area is just beyond the southern tip of Tulum’s south beach. Home to thousands of species of flora and fauna (I saw dolphins and turtles on my visit!), the biosphere also has some wild and secluded beaches -with some of the most stunningly clear water I’ve seen anywhere outside of Southeast Asia! .
The easiest way to visit Sian Ka’an from Tulum is as a part of a tour (I went through Yucatan Travel and absolutely love my experience with them) or you can organize your own way (just be aware that the roads require a high-clearance vehicle, which can be expensive to rent).
Another option if you have extra time in Tulum and want to venture out further is to visit Akamal, another popular beach destination just 30 minutes north of Tulum. You’ll find stunningly clear water and the opportunity to swim with sea turtles.
The truth is that, although they are very different from each other, both the north and south beaches are both genuinely excellent. Just check out these incredible photos of the beaches in Tulum and you’ll see how each one is amazing.
Though you can’t go wrong either way: there’s a reason the beaches of Tulum are #1 on our list of the top things to do in Mexico. So why not visit all of the beaches of Tulum and figure out which one you like best?
When visiting the beaches of Tulum, you basically have a choice: bring a towel, some drinks, and go it alone, or hire out a daybed or cabana (usually in the form of meeting a minimum spend for food and drinks). The former option is best done on the north beach, while the latter is almost the only way to really visit south beach (otherwise it can be hard to even get beach access).
My four absolute favorite beach clubs in Tulum are:
There are a lot of other beach clubs in Tulum, though, so if you want a full rundown I suggest checking out this detailed post.
Here’s some quick practical information for making the most of your beach vacation in Tulum:
There is a single road that connects Tulum town to the beaches. Here’s your four options for getting to the beach:
Parking in Tulum’s north beaches is relatively simple, as there is a public parking lot near the public access point (just south of Villa Pescadores), as well as a fair amount of space on the side of the dirt road.
On the south beach, it is possible to park for free in certain spots by the side of the road (especially further north), but the narrow strip of road has been so developed that most of the parking is now controlled by the resorts and restaurants. If you plan to rent a daybed, they will likely let you park for free.
In a word, yes.
Look, no destination is totally safe. But Tulum is filled with tourists and the Mexican government has a strong incentive to keep the area as safe for travel as possible. Mexico’s reputation as a dangerous spot for travel is mostly undeserved in my opinion, and I think even less adventurous travelers are likely to feel perfectly safe in Tulum.
The biggest risk you have to worry about is probably a car accident or sudden medical bill.
When figuring out where to stay in Tulum, you have to first decide whether you want to stay in Tulum town or along the beaches of Tulum.
The advantages of staying on Tulum’s beaches are:
The advantages of staying in Tulum town are:
Whatever you pick, there are a lot of great accommodation options in Tulum. I’ve listed some of the best below [affiliate disclousre: booking through these links may provide a small commission to support this site at no cost to you]. But the truth is that there are too many awesome options to list, so I recommend running your own quick search.
Just enter your dates in this box to see what’s available for your Tulum beach vacation:
If you want to stay on the beaches in Tulum, you’ll have to be prepared to pony up. But the digs are sure to be sweet, and you’ll be near the awesome Tulum beaches.
Tulum is not a cheap destination, so if you’re looking to see the beaches of Tulum on a budget, I suggest staying in town and planning to make the short taxi ride or slightly longer bicycle ride to the beach each day. Plus, you’ll be close to the popular Batey Mojito bar (not to mention most of the other nightlife options). Again, it’s best to check the above search box, but here’s some good hotel options in Tulum town:
The honeymooners and luxury travelers haven’t managed to run the backpackers out of town yet. Tulum has a surprisingly large array of hostels on offer. Some of the best:
If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, sign up with this referral code and you’ll get $40 off your first booking!
Tulum town has an awesome selection of Airbnbs. I once rented a three-bedroom villa with a private pool for under $100 USD per night!
Tulum is famous for its gorgeous beaches, but there are a ton of other awesome things to do besides hangout on the beach.
Here’s some of my favorite fun things to do in and around Tulum and Quintana Roo (the Mexican state where Tulum is located):
What’s a cenote, you ask?
Well, it’s basically an underground swimming hole. There are thousands of them in the Yucatan peninsula, and they come in all shapes and sizes. You can even go diving in many of them!
My favorite is Cenote Caracol, which has two incredible underground caves attached to it – one of which you can swim through! Just check out the above photo and tell me that it doesn’t look awesome.
You can also visit a huge underground cave and cenote network at Rio Secreto, which lies about 45 minutes north of Tulum.
For a more complete rundown of the cenotes near Tulum, check out this guide by Anna Everywhere.
Sure, Tulum doesn’t have the pumping clubs of Cancun or the endless sea of restaurants of Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue — but maybe that’s exactly why we love it, right?
On the food front, Tulum towns offers a wide variety of eats, from classy joints like Unico to numerous budget taco cantinas lining the main strip. Or head down to the southern beach for a higher-end meal at Casa Jaguar.
For a truly unique culinary experience, though, be sure to check out The Dining Experience Tulum. Being hosted by this awesome “adult dinner party” was my favorite evening in Tulum. Be prepared to make your own salsa and drinks (lots of them!), enjoy seemingly endless courses of Mayan fare, and — most importantly — leave with a slew of new friends.
Oh, don’t forget about the town’s small but vibrant nightlife scene! The most popular joint in town is Batey, which serves up specialty mojitos made with sugarcane pressed right in front of your face! And if you’re in the mood for some dancing afterwards, head across the street to party the night away at Santino.
Two hours north of Tulum, the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are a popular attraction. They’ve even been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
A little closer to Tulum lies the ruins of Coba, which you can only reach by walking or biking through a stretch of jungle. Unlike Chichen Itza, it’s still possible to climb the Coba ruins. You might even feel a bit like Indiana Jones.
There are tons of tours to both ruins on offer in town, or you can either drive or take an ADO bus and do visit them independently.
Just south of Tulum town lies the Kaan Luum lagoon. Previously an undiscovered gem, the word about this place seems to have gotten out. Here you can relax in the cool waters of the lagoon or bath in the mud, whose minerals supposedly have healing properties.
Best of all, there is a giant cenote in the middle of the lagoon, which looks pretty cool from the air right?
That’s it for this Ultimate Guide to the Beaches in Tulum, Mexico! If you have any questions, just scroll to the bottom and let me know in the comments!
And if you’re heading north in the Yucatan, be sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to Valladolid, Mexico and my Travel Guide to Celestun, Mexico. And no matter where you are going, you definitely won’t want to miss these 17 Insanely Useful Travel Tips for Mexico!
Lastly if you’re on Pinterest, you can pin this article here:
Nate Hake has traveled to 65+ countries across six continents around the world and blogs about his travels at TravelLemming.com. He is from Denver, Colorado, recently concluded a six month stint living in Mexico, and is now currently traveling in Thailand.