How to Take a Day Trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen (2023 Guide)
Want to take a day trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen? You’ve come to the right guide!
As a Playa del Carmen resident and local travel blogger, I’ve taken countless day trips to Tulum and I’m here to help!
In this post, I’m sharing everything you need to know about taking a day trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen including how to get there, top things to do, restaurant recommendations, and top tips for visiting.
Read on for my ultimate Tulum day trip from Playa del Carmen guide.
Why Take a Day Trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen?
With its beautiful white-sand beaches and bohemian design aesthetic, Tulum has become one of the most popular beach destinations in Mexico.
At just one hour away from Playa del Carmen, a day trip to Tulum is an easy and fun activity if you want to find out for yourself what makes Tulum so unique.
In the coastal town of Tulum, you’ll find a bohemian beach scene that feels worlds away from Playa del Carmen.
With its earthy design elements and Instagram worthy backdrops at nearly every turn, Tulum boasts untouched beaches, Mayan Ruins, open-air restaurants, upscale jungle hotels, and trendy designer boutiques.
Tulum is the perfect destination for a day trip from Playa del Carmen if you want to chill out at its superior beaches, visit the Tulum Ruins, or take a stroll through its trendy beachfront Hotel Zone.
Just be prepared for Tulum attractions to come at a higher price tag!
Fun Fact: Tulum is also considered a “pueblo magico” (magic town), which is an official distinction given to towns in Mexico that are considered to be particularly special or charming.
Where is Tulum?
Tulum is located about 1 hour south of Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, just north of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Driving times from nearby destinations are as follows:
- Playa del Carmen to Tulum: 1 hour
- Cancun to Tulum: 2 hours
Is it Safe to Take a Day Trip to Tulum?
You might be wondering – is it safe to take a day trip to Tulum? It’s not a secret that there have been widely publicized incidents of drug violence in Tulum in the past couple of years.
However, as someone who lives in Playa del Carmen, I do still believe it is safe to visit Tulum on a day trip.
If you stick to the main tourist areas and steer clear of any drug activity, you will more than likely be fine visiting Tulum. It’s more the late-night and illegal activity where risks are higher and danger is more likely to occur.
Of course, safety is never guaranteed and it’s important for travelers to be aware of the possible risks and current safety situation in Tulum.
As in any foreign destination, use common sense, avoid staying out too late, and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
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How to Get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
There are a few different ways for getting to Tulum from Playa del Carmen depending on your budget and the size of your group.
👀 Looking for the easiest way to get to Tulum? Book the best Tulum tour from Playa del Carmen by clicking here!
Drive to Tulum
If you’re comfortable driving in Mexico, the best way to get to Tulum is by renting a car from Playa del Carmen.
This would allow you the freedom to visit places on your own schedule and explore some of the more off-the-beaten-path attractions near Tulum.
Plus, driving to Tulum from Playa del Carmen is very easy – it’s just a straight shot down the highway. You’ll just want to watch out for speed bumps and occasional traffic stops.
👉 For a hassle-free experience, book your car through my favorite rental service Discover Cars by clicking here!
Related Reading: How to Get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum
Take a Taxi to Tulum
If you don’t want to drive yourself, taxis are abundantly available in Playa del Carmen and can be easily hailed to get to Tulum. You can expect the Playa del Carmen to Tulum taxi price to be about $700 pesos (~$35 USD) each way.
When taking a taxi to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, it’s always best to confirm the price of the taxi upfront before getting in the car. You’ll also want to have enough cash on hand as credit cards are not accepted.
Travelista Tip: Always wear a seatbelt when taking taxis especially for long distances. Drivers in Mexico can be a little unpredictable and it’s not uncommon for accidents to occur.
Take a Colectivo to Tulum
The cheapest way to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is to take a colectivo, which is a public transport and shared van service that runs continuously on the highway between the two towns.
Tulum Colectivo Station
As of 2023, colectivos can be picked up in downtown Playa del Carmen near the Chedraui grocery store and the main highway 307 (behind the McDonald’s).
There will be a line of colectivos and you’ll want to make sure you get on one that says “Tulum” on the side.
Tulum Colectivo Schedule
Colectivos do not have a set schedule and just depart when they are full so you’ll never have to wait long to get on the road. They typically depart every 5-10 minutes and run from early in the morning to around 11:00pm.
Once you’re on the colectivo, it will take a little longer to get to Tulum as colectivos stop frequently to pick people up and let them off along the way.
There aren’t specific stops so you’ll need to tell the driver when you would like to get off if it’s before the final stop in Tulum.
Tulum Colectivo Cost
The colectivo to Tulum costs around $50 pesos (~$2.50 USD) and you will pay the driver upon exiting.
It’s best to pay in pesos and you’ll want to have small bills on hand as most drivers will not have much change.
Depending on where you’re headed, you can either get off at the Tulum Ruins, at the beach road to the Hotel Zone, or just take the colectivo all the way to the end at the stop in Tulum Centro.
Take the ADO Bus to Tulum
Another option to get to Tulum is by taking the ADO bus, which is charter-style bus and is much larger and more comfortable than a colectivo.
The Playa del Carmen to Tulum ADO bus has set schedules and tickets can be booked online so this is a better option if you don’t speak Spanish and are nervous about taking a colectivo.
ADO Bus Schedule
The ADO bus to Tulum from Playa del Carmen departs very frequently with 2-3 departures every hour from early in the morning until around 11:00pm. The travel time is 1 hour and 10 minutes.
ADO Bus Stations
The Playa del Carmen to Tulum bus departs from the Playa del Carmen Turisitica ADO station in downtown Playa del Carmen on 5th Avenue and Avenida Juarez.
They will drop you off at the ADO Station in Tulum, which is located right off the main highway just south of the Tulum town center.
From there, you can take a taxi to the Tulum Ruins, nearby cenotes, or the popular beachfront hotel zone.
How to Book ADO Tickets
ADO Playa del Carmen to Tulum tickets can be booked online on the ADO website and the cost is around $108 pesos (~$5 USD) each way.
The ADO website is only in Spanish but is pretty straight forward. For detailed instructions on booking ADO tickets, see my full step-by-step ADO guide here.
If you don’t speak Spanish, I would recommend booking ADO tickets on Busbud, which is an online booking tool but you’ll pay a tiny bit more for the added convenience.
👉 Book ADO tickets to Tulum on Busbud by clicking here!
Book a Tour to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
If you want to visit Tulum from Playa del Carmen, the most hassle-free option would be to book a tour with roundtrip transportation included.
This would be an all-inclusive experience with fun activities like visiting the Tulum Ruins, reef snorkeling, cenote swims, or ziplining.
👉 These are some of the top Playa del Carmen Tulum tours with transportation included:
How to Get Around Tulum
Once you’re in Tulum, there are a few different Tulum transportation options available depending on what you choose for your day’s activities.
If you have a rental car, this is probably the easiest way to get around Tulum on your own.
Parking is available at most restaurants, hotels, and beach clubs along the hotel zone for paying customers. Valet parking may also be an option for an added cost.
If you don’t have a car, taxis are abundantly available in Tulum and can be hailed easily to get around. Just keep in mind, taxis in Tulum are typically much more expensive than in Playa del Carmen.
You’ll want to confirm the price of the taxi upfront before getting in and it’s best to have cash on hand as credit cards will not be accepted.
Travelista Tip: Uber is not available in Tulum so if you need a ride, you’ll need to hail a taxi.
Another fun way to get around Tulum is by renting bicycles. Bicycles can be rented from bike rental shops in Tulum Centro–there are a few rental shops located right off the main highway.
Bikes can typically be rented by the hour or day and they’ll likely request an ID to keep as a form of collateral to ensure you return the bike. From there, you can ride to the beach and pedal along the trendy beachfront hotel zone.
Travelista Tip: Use caution when bike riding along Tulum’s Hotel Zone as the roads can be narrow and you’ll come close to passing vehicle traffic.
Best Things to Do in Tulum on a Day Trip
Tulum offers plenty of fun activities that are perfect for a day trip. These are some of the best things to do in Tulum:
1. Visit the Tulum Ruins
Undoubtedly Tulum’s most popular attraction, the Tulum Ruins are one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico and the only beachfront Mayan ruins in the state of Quintana Roo.
The most notable feature of the Tulum Ruins is the oceanfront location with the ruins elevated at a height of about 12 m (~39 feet), offering spectacular seaside views of the brightly colored Caribbean Sea.
At the Tulum archaeological site, many basic structures remain including El Castillo (The Castle) and many different temples. The site also offers a one-of-a-kind public beach access area to cool off after visiting the ruins.
While not as grand as the Chichen Itza ruins, the Tulum Ruins are still impressive and worth a visit! If you get there early, you’ll still have time to hit a beach club in Tulum afterwards.
You can find my full guide to visiting the Tulum Ruins in this post!
2. Visit a Tulum beach club
Tulum is home to many fabulous beach clubs, which are a great place to spend the day relaxing on lounge beds with food and beverage service.
You’ll find beach clubs in Tulum for every vibe whether you’re looking for a beachfront party scene or something much more chill and relaxing.
One important thing to know about Tulum is that there aren’t many public beach access points.
So in order to access some of Tulum’s most beautiful beaches, you’ll need to purchase access by renting lounge chairs at a beach club or dining at a beachfront restaurant.
While this can be expensive, from my experience it has definitely been worth it!
With far fewer crowds and a widespread beachfront area, the beaches in Tulum are far superior to the beaches in Playa del Carmen. Plus they are much more chill so you’ll actually be able to relax!
Here are some of favorite beach clubs in Tulum:
- Ziggy’s Beach Club: With a palm tree lined entrance and cutely strung overhead lights, Ziggy’s Beach Club is a fun Tulum beach club with great food and drinks and a widespread beachfront area. You can grab a table at the restaurant or head directly down to the beach to reserve a large beach bed. Pricing varies by season but there is usually a minimum consumption charge.
- Mia Beach Club: As one of the trendier and more upscale beach clubs in Tulum, Mia Restaurant & Beach Club offers a full service restaurant and bar, as well as large day beds for rent on the beach with palm trees for shade. The menu at Mia’s offers upscale Mexican cuisine such as tacos, seafood, and ceviches, as well as a few American items like hamburgers and ribs. Pricing varies by season but there is usually a minimum consumption charge.
Travelista Tip: If you’re looking to save money, head to Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach), which is one of the only public beaches in Tulum.
3. Visit a Tulum cenote
Another fun activity in Tulum is to head to a nearby cenote, which are freshwater swimming holes unique to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.
Once there, you can swim, snorkel, or just hang out in crystal clear waters and admire the natural beauty.
These are some of the best cenotes near Tulum:
- Gran Cenote: Gran Cenote is a popular cenote located less than 10 minutes outside of downtown Tulum. It has an open swimming area, as well as a cave you can float or snorkel through. Snorkel gear and life jackets can be rented for an additional cost, and there are some amenities like bathrooms, changing rooms, lockers, and snacks for purchase.
- Cenote Dos Ojos: Meaning “Two Eyes,” Dos Ojos Cenote is probably one of the most popular cenotes near Tulum featuring two twin cenotes next to each other. Located about 25 minutes north of Tulum’s city center, Dos Ojos is situated in a more commercialized cenote park, which includes a restaurant and amenities. Guided snorkeling and scuba diving tours are also available.
- Cenote Tak Be Ha: Cenote Tak Be Ha is a smaller and less well known cenote near Tulum, which is more of a hidden gem. After a short hike, you’ll arrive at a beautiful closed cenote with impressive stalactites and rock formations. Cenote Tak Be Ha is an underground cavern with lights to illuminate the turquoise water and surrounding swimming areas.
- Casa Cenote: Known for its crystal clear emerald water and lush mangroves, Casa Cenote is a long freshwater cenote located just north of Tulum. Casa Cenote is different from traditional cenotes for the fact that it’s more like a long lazy river that feeds directly into the sea. At Casa Cenote, you can swim, float, snorkel, or even paddle board in a beautiful natural setting. With its shallow depths and clear water, it’s also an extremely popular spot for beginner scuba divers.
Travelista Tip: When visiting cenotes, be sure to bring biodegradable sunscreen, water shoes, and a quick dry towel. Regular sunscreen is not permitted.
4. Ride bikes through the Hotel Zone
If you’re looking for a fun and inexpensive way to explore the beautiful Hotel Zone in Tulum, consider renting a bicycle for a leisurely stroll.
There are several bike shops located near the highway in Tulum Centro, so it’s easy to find one that suits your needs.
Once you have your bike, simply ride down to the beachfront Hotel Zone and start exploring. You can stroll along the beach road, checking out the various beach clubs, jungle restaurants, and designer boutiques.
You’ll get a peek at the ocean in some parts, but most of the road is lined on both sides with Tulum hotels, restaurants, and shops–all instagrammable of course!
5. Go shopping at designer boutiques
If you’re looking to do some shopping while you’re in Tulum, be sure to check out the trendy designer boutiques in the beachfront Hotel Zone.
You’ll find everything from designer swimwear and beachwear to upscale souvenirs and home accents. Most of the items are handmade and sustainable, so they come with a bit of a higher price tag.
But each item is made with Tulum’s unique design aesthetic so you’ll be able to take home some one-of-a-kind items.
6. Break a sweat at the Tulum Jungle Gym
Another popular tourist attraction in Tulum for active travelers is the Tulum Jungle Gym, which is a beachfront gym where all weights and exercise equipment are made from wood and earthy materials.
This oceanfront workout zone is a great place for a one-of-a-kind outdoor workout or even a quick photo op! It’s probably one of the most unique gyms you’ll find in Mexico.
7. Snap some Instagram photos
Another fun activity in Tulum is to take some Instagram photos. Tulum is basically an Instagrammer’s paradise and attracts bloggers and social media influencers from all over the world.
With unique photo ops at nearly every turn, you’ll never run out of things to capture.
Popular Instagram photo locations include the wooden swings at Matcha Mama, the “Follow That Dream” sign, and the “Ven a la Luz” art installation at Ahau Tulum hotel.
No matter where you go, you’re sure to get some amazing shots that perfectly capture the fun tropical vibe of this bohemian destination.
8. Explore Tulum Pueblo
If you’re looking for a more authentic Tulum experience, head to the downtown area known as Tulum Pueblo. Located about 3 miles from the beach, this area is closer to restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and grocery stores.
While it may not be as picturesque as the Hotel Zone, Tulum Pueblo is definitely worth a visit to get to see a more real side of Tulum.
While there, you can dine at local restaurants, grab a drink at a fun bar, or shop for more reasonably priced souvenirs.
9. Visit Pablo Escobar’s beach mansion
If you’re looking for one of the most unique things to do in Tulum, consider visiting Casa Malca.
This former beach mansion of Pablo Escobar has been transformed into a one-of-a-kind luxury hotel, complete with stunning artwork and unique design elements.
While the property is one of the best hotels in Tulum, day passes can be purchased for those who want to chill at the property’s beach and explore its incredible features.
Day passes are not cheap but will give you a totally unique experience and great story to tell!
10. Eat at local restaurants
If you want to experience more authentic Mexican food while in Tulum, venture away from the Hotel Zone and check out some of the local restaurants in Tulum Pueblo for tasty tacos, fresh seafood, and other traditional Mexican dishes.
In Tulum Pueblo, you can find some great tacos at Taqueria Honorio or La Taqueria.
You’ll also find food trucks, taco stands, and local restaurants in the area serving more traditional (and more reasonably priced!) Mexican food.
Best Tulum Tours from Playa del Carmen
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of planning your day and getting around Tulum on your own, consider booking a Tulum tour from Playa del Carmen with transportation included.
Plus, you’ll have a local guide to get the most out of your experience and show you all the best spots.
Travelista Tip: Booking a tour is probably the best option if you want to visit the Tulum Ruins and a cenote, but most tours don’t really go to the beachfront area in Tulum. If you just want to relax at the beaches in Tulum or explore the Hotel Zone, you’re better off going on your own.
Here are some of the best tours to Tulum from Playa del Carmen:
Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling, and Cenote Tour
This full day Tulum tour includes a guided tour of the Tulum Ruins, as well as reef snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, and a visit to Xtun Cenote.
Plus, roundtrip transportation from your Playa del Carmen or Riviera Maya hotel, lunch, and entrance fees are included.
You’ll not only get a history lesson at the ruins, but you’ll be able to experience some amazing snorkeling at world-renowned coral reefs, and take a dip in an ancient cenote connected to underground rivers.
I visited Xtun Cenote on the Akumal snorkeling tour with this same tour company and had an incredible experience! The cavern cenote is so impressive and our tour guides were excellent.
👉 Book the Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling, and Cenote Tour by clicking here!
Tulum Ruins and Jungle Adventure
This small group full-day tour includes an early visit to the Tulum Ruins, where you’ll have a guided tour of the archeological site and be able to beat the crowds.
Then, you’ll head to Cenotes Tankah, which is a nearby cenote adventure park where you can swim, snorkel, go canoeing, and try out an overwater zip line. Roundtrip transportation and a traditional Mayan lunch are included.
👉 Book the Tulum Adventure Tour by clicking here!
Private Tulum Ruins, Turtles in Akumal, and Cenote Adventure
If you want a more exclusive experience, consider booking a private Tulum tour. This private tour experience includes a guided tour of the Tulum Ruins, as well swimming with sea turtles in Akumal, and a visit to Xtun Cenote.
Plus, you’ll have your own private driver and tour guide to get the very best experience, customize your own schedule, and avoid the crowds.
👉 Book the best private Tulum tour by clicking here!
Best Lunch Restaurants in Tulum
If you’re exploring Tulum on your own, check out some of these best places in Tulum for lunch or a healthy treat:
La Taqueria is a casual yet trendy taco restaurant with a few different locations in Tulum. You can find locations in Veleta (the residential area of Tulum) or there are a couple locations along the Hotel Zone as well.
At La Taqueria, you’ll find a trendy outdoor seating area where you can dine al fresco. The menu features classic Mexican dishes like tacos, quesadillas, burritos, fajitas, and nachos.
Plus, you can order craft beer, cocktails, and fresh juices and smoothies.
Matcha Mama is an outdoor smoothie and juice bar serving tropical smoothies, acai bowls, and kombucha.
All menu items are freshly prepared, plant-based, and gluten-free and offer unique ingredients like bee pollen, amaranth, and maca. My favorite menu item is the Mango Tango, which comes as a smoothie or a smoothie bowl.
The colorful presentation of the smoothie and acai bowls is almost too pretty to eat! Plus, its Instagram-worthy swings and signs make it a popular spot for photo ops.
Similar to Matcha Mama, Raw Love is another health food restaurant and smoothie bar located at the Ahau Tulum hotel. Menu items include vegan and vegetarian dishes, acai bowls, superfood smoothies, and juices.
Raw Love can be accessed from the beach so it’s a great spot to stop for a healthy treat if you’re walking down the beach in Tulum.
For a casual meal in Tulum Pueblo, check out Palma Central, which is a colorful food truck park serving a variety of dishes.
You can order from any of the food trucks and stands in the park which serve a ton of different cuisines like Mexican food, pizza, wings, noodle bowls, and sandwiches.
Plus, there’s a full service bar where you can order cocktails and local beers. Be sure to go early as they close at 2PM and reopen at 5PM for dinner and live entertainment.
What to Bring on a Day Trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
Here are a few things I would recommend bringing on a day trip to Tulum:
- Biodegradable Sunscreen: Anytime you are going to be swimming in the ocean or a cenote, you’ll need to wear biodegradable sunscreen as regular sunscreen is not permitted. You can pick up my favorite brand on Amazon here.
- Sun Hat: Bring a sun hat to protect your head and shoulders from the sun. The style in Tulum is very bohemian so you’ll likely see both men and women wearing Fedora style hats like this one.
- Water bottle: Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day. These collapsible water bottles are a great option to travel with as they can roll up to fit easily in your beach bag, backpack, or suitcase.
- Belt Bag: I always wear a belt bag when on Tulum or Playa del Carmen excursions to keep my personal belongings safely secured in front of me when walking around. I personally use and recommend this belt bag to travel safely around Mexico.
- Comfortable Shoes: Wear comfortable walking shoes or sandals depending on your Tulum excursions. Tulum is very casual and the ground is pretty uneven so I wouldn’t bother wearing heels or nice shoes.
Tips for Taking a Day Trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
Follow these tips to make the most of your experience in Tulum:
- Leave early: If you want to experience Tulum fully, I would recommend getting an early start. Leave Playa del Carmen as early as possible to beat the crowds in Tulum. Plus, you’ll have more free time if you want to do multiple activities.
- Be prepared for higher prices: When visiting Tulum, you’ll definitely want to prepare yourself for higher prices and some serious sticker shock! You can expect prices in Tulum to be at least 30% higher than in Playa del Carmen for food, drinks, transportation, and minimum consumption charges at beach clubs.
- Pack sunscreen and a water bottle: You’ll want to pack biodegradable sunscreen for sun protection and a water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Expect poor cell service: Tulum doesn’t have the best infrastructure so expect to have poor cell service or areas with limited connectivity. My cell service is always spotty whenever I visit Tulum.
- Bring cash: Because Tulum’s wifi and connectivity is not the best, it can sometimes be difficult to pay for things with a credit card. It’s best to always have enough cash on hand to cover your expenses in case paying with a credit card is not an option.
FAQs about Tulum Day Trips
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about taking a day trip from Playa del Carmen to Tulum:
Absolutely! Tulum is the perfect place for a day trip from Playa del Carmen as it’s only 1 hour away and has plenty of options for activities and excursions whether you want to relax at the beach, get a history lesson at the ancient Mayan Ruins, or take a dip in one of the beautiful cenotes.
The cost to go from Playa del Carmen to Tulum can vary depending on your chosen transportation method.
Public transportation (colectivos) can be as cheap as $50 pesos (~$2.50 USD) or taxis can cost up to $700 pesos ($35 USD) each way.
The closest thing to a shuttle from Playa del Carmen to Tulum would be the ADO bus, which is a large charter style bus that runs between the two towns.
You can expect a taxi from Playa del Carmen to Tulum to cost around $700 pesos (~$35 USD) each way.
Uber is not available in Tulum. There have been many attempts by Uber to start service but protests from the taxi syndicate and transportation authorities have blocked Uber and other shared ride apps like Lyft from operating in Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
🚕 Related Reading: Where You Can Uber in Mexico
Final Thoughts: Day Trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
Are you ready to take a day trip to Tulum?! I hope this guide was helpful in planning your visit!
If you’ve never been to Tulum, I think it’s definitely worth a visit to see for yourself what the town is like–it’s such a special place with its own unique vibe.
Tulum is one of the most popular day trips from Playa del Carmen and really shouldn’t be missed when visiting Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya.
Check out more of my guides on the best day trips from Playa del Carmen: