Ahhh Tulum…raw natural beauty, rustic charm and a resilient ancient history that is still seen and felt in every corner of this tropical paradise. You’ve probably seen the images of famous Mayan ruins nestled along crystal blue waters pop on your newsfeed or maybe you’ve even read about the Sa’an Kaan Biosphere Reserve in an article or two. Recently, Tulum has become somewhat of a millennial vacation hotspot. Why? Besides its obvious appeal with its breathtaking beaches, an eco-friendly atmosphere and a totally laid-back vibe, a trip to Tulum is also actually affordable!
From cheap, authentic eats to beachfront bashes and chic resorts, this Mexican oasis is the perfect place for you to escape the cold and vacation in luxury…even on your shoestring budget. Whether you’re a beach bum or an adventure-seeker (or both) make like a millennial and use our budget travel guide to plan your next getaway in Tulum!
When to Visit
Well, in a place where it’s always sunny and rarely under 70° F all year long it’s hard to say there’s ever a bad time to visit, but when it comes to finding the sweet spot where affordability meets prime beach-bum season, there’s definitely a best time to visit.
January – March: No way, José. If it’s affordability you’re looking for, just remember this is peak season for vacationers looking for a sunny sojourn to escape the cold winter months and reinstate that much-needed tan. If you’re here to sightseeing, consider yourself forewarned: along with the higher costs, you’ll also encounter a higher volume of tourists – meaning ruins, beaches and the Biosphere Reserve are going to be jam-packed.
April – May: While you might find a decent hotel deal and some cheap flights to Tulum during this time, keep in mind that this is also the hottest time to visit, with temperatures spiking past the 90° F – 100°F mark. Not exactly the most comfortable of conditions. Not to mention, prices are still on the higher side as prime tourist season is still winding down.
June – September: Tulum, like all other tropical destinations, sees a ton of rain. These months are known as hurricane season here and see the most precipitation. While you’ll find bargains on hotels and some super cheap airfares, you’re also likely to catch a tropical storm or two. And when it’s not raining, you’ll encounter some sticky days — Yikes!
October – December: DING, DING DING! This three-month stretch from October to December is the best time to visit! Last minute flights, cheap airfares, hotel deals… this is when you’ll hit the jackpot! Keep in mind the first half of October is still hurricane season, so when you’re booking aim for travel dates towards the end of the month. On a similar note, the end of December see the start of the tourist extravaganza, so you’ll see a quick hike in prices around that time.
Chow Down & Drink Up!
You’ve heard it a dozen times, but here’s lucky thirteen – millennials are all about authentic experiences when it comes to travel. Whether it’s a full-on beach party or a low-key fireside glass of local wine, Tulum has just what you’re looking for, without a big price tag attached.
When it comes to choosing your cuisine – the most affordable (and probably the most unforgettable) option is to go local. Fresh ceviche, fish tacos, open-flame grilles aricherra tortas or flank steak sandwiches…the local cuisine is Mex-tastic and also incredibly affordable. Just like the properties, some of the bigger name restaurants on the coast will cost you a pretty penny, but take the time to scope out some of the smaller local shops like Mateo’s or a spot downtown like La Malquierda and both your wallet and your stomach will thank you.
Cenotes, Ruins & Handicrafts…Oh My!
To list out all the reasons why millennials flock to this tropical paradise would take far too long, but here’s one of the more essential ones: it offers loads of unique experiences that are also budget-friendly. Which brings us to Coba. Just a short drive from Tulum’s town center lies the ancient Mayan city if Coba – home to the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Mayan world. Even if you’re not much of a culture-connoisseur, we highly recommend that you head out to the Coba Ruins for a day trip. Not only will you have several one-of-a-kind experiences here, but if you’re on both a budget and a time crunch you’ll knock out a bunch of adventures in one, highly affordable go! For starters, unlike its famous cousin to the west, Chichen Itza, the ruins at Coba stand as the only Mayan archaeological site where you can actually climb up the pyramids (talk about Instagram-worthy photo opportunities!).
Along the way, you’ll find tons of small tiendas or shops on the side of the roads that carry hand-made crafts and artisanal decorations. Not only are the prices much lower at these roadside shops, but they’re also mostly run by the townspeople and families, so whatever you purchase will go right into the local economy (not to mention, you’ll likely find something special or uncommon in comparison to the stuff at more commercial spots).
Still not enough affordable and off-the-beaten-track adventure for you? Another reason why millennials love this tucked away, ancient town is because it’s surrounded by not one, not two but three cenotes located within 5 minutes of the ruins! When most people think of cenotes (natural pits filled with fresh water and formed by the collapse of limestone caves) they gravitate towards the Gran Cenote, the largest cenote in Tulum, because of its size and popularity. The entrance fee here is upwards of $25 with additional charges to rent gear. It’s also heavily tourist-filled at almost all times of the year. The three cenotes in Coba — Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha and Multun-Ha– are equally as beautiful but smaller in size and offer not only a much more varied experience with multiple spots to choose from but also a far more affordable one. When entering the area, you can choose to buy entrance to just one of these at 55 pesos ($3.00) or all three at 165 pesos ($9.00) with no extra costs to use their life jackets!
Guilt-Free Beach Bumming
Sparkling, turquoise waters brimming with coral reef and thriving sea life, nestled along a coastline of pristine, fine white sand — if there’s one thing to note about Tulum, it’s their beaches. But luxury beach bumming in this oasis, as you can imagine, comes with a hefty price tag. If you’re someone who knows you’ll be spending about 99% of your vacation time sprawled on a daybed on the beach, drink in hand…but also someone who can’t afford the ritzy beachside property rentals or hotels, don’t worry. You don’t have to sacrifice your sunbathing ways and 20-30 somethings have cracked the code on how to get their fun under the sun, without breaking the bank.
Since coastline accommodation can get pricey, opt to say closer to the downtown area further into Tulum town, which is only a short $5 cab ride or 10-minute bike ride away (the closer you are to the beaches, the more expensive your stay will be). Unlike other Quintana Roo vacation areas like Playa del Carmen and Cancun, almost all Tulum beaches are open to the public and free. For that added bit of luxury, pick a day you plan on some all-day sun-soaking and head to one of the many oceanside hotels. Many of these establishments offer one-off day-bed pricing, meaning you can rent a lounge chair and/or umbrella on their property even if you’re not a guest of the hotel or resort! Whereas the cost of staying in one of these hotels can go anywhere from $125 – $500 per night, the prices for lounging for the day range from $40 – $100 and usually include some food and drink. The best part? There’s usually no time limit, so long as you keep the libations flowing.
Have any budget-friendly tips of your own for Tulum? Let us know in the comments below!