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Tulum on a Budget: An Affordable Guide For A Trip to Mexico

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The image shows a sculpture that I visited on my trip to Tulum on a budget.
The image shows cacti against a red wall with a sign that says 'Mexico Mi Amor' in Tulum.

Tulum has made a name for itself in the past few years as an ultra-chic and Instagrammable beach town in Mexico, full of 5-star hotels and influencers.

And while this is all true, what many travellers don’t know is that even if you don’t have a huge budget, then visiting Tulum can be done, and done well! 

Let’s jump straight into this guide so that I can share all of the best budget-friendly things to do, how to get around, and where to eat and stay to get the best bang for your buck on your Tulum budget trip! 

Where is Tulum

The image shows the beach and sea from above.

Tulum is a formerly sleepy beach town turned tourist hub located on Mexico’s stunning Riviera Maya, 2 hours south of the ever-popular Cancun

It’s now easier than ever to get to Tulum as it was recently granted its own airport.

Before that, most travellers would have to make the 2-hour drive from Cancun International Airport to visit Tulum. 

Important: Tulum is split into two sections – the beach zone and downtown. If you’re looking to save some money, then you’ll almost certainly want to be based in downtown and not the beach zone which is around 15 minutes away. I’ll cover more on this in the section about where to stay in Tulum if you’re on a budget.

The best time to visit

The image shows a girl sitting on a swing hanging from a palm tree on a beach in Tulum.
The image shows a girl leaning against a palm tree on a beach in Tulum.

The best time to visit Tulum is during the winter months, which is December through to March.

During this time you can expect a hot, tropical, and mostly dry climate

The worst times to visit Tulum are in the summer during the rainy season, which goes from May to August, and the Hurricane Season, which stretches from Sep-November. 

Although, I’ve visited Tulum in October a few times, and have always been lucky with the weather.

Plus, this meant that the prices where decent and there weren’t too many crowds!

Best things to do in Tulum on a budget

Swim With the Sea turtles at Akumal 

The image shows the sea and beach in Akumal which is one of the best day trips from Tulum if you're on a budget.
The image shows a turtle swimming in the sea in Akumal.

Snorkeling above the wild sea turtles on Akumal Beach, as they graze on the natural seagrass below, is a magical experience to have while in Tulum.

Akumal is only around half an hour away from Tulum, located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen on Highway 307. 

Akumal Beach is the natural territory for wild sea turtles that live off the Mayan Riviera, and as such it’s a protected area.

You’ll be told that you can only visit Akumal Beach via a guided tour to protect the wildlife – and only in a narrow sea corridor that’s famous for sea turtle spotting – and whilst that’s not strictly true, it is the best way to visit.

The journey between Tulum and Akamel isn’t super easy to navigate and you’ll need to leave pretty early in order to get good visibility of the turtles whilst the sea is clear, since it gets murky throughout the day.

Plus you’ll need to get a boat to the correct spot and have snorkel gear etc, so it honestly just makes more sense to take a tour that sorts all of that for you because they’re relatively cheap anyway.

When we were at Akumal Beach we saw not only multiple sea turtles, but also sting rays, and an ancient sunk cannon from a Spanish Galleon ship! 

Check prices: Akumal Snorkeling with Sea Turtles Tour

Go Cenote Hopping

The image shows one of the best budget friendly cenotes in Tulum - Cenote Aldea Zama. There is a girl climbing the ladder which leads into the Cenote and there are people swimming in the water.
The image shows a boy diving into the water of a Cenote.

Cenote” is the Mayan word for “Sinkhole” – and the Mayan Riviera is home to tons of them.

It’s believed that the Cenotes are so present in the Yucatan because it was the site where the asteroid which killed the dinosaurs impacted the earth, millions and millions of years ago.

How wild! 

Cenotes in the modern day are known as nature’s perfect swimming hole – and they really are just an absolute dream to spend the day at.

There’s no current, and the beautiful blue water is made by an underground cave filtration system. 

In the past few years, there has been an over-tourism issue with Mexico’s beautiful cenotes, leading many sites to apply entrance fees.

The only free cenote in Tulum is called Cenote Aldea Zama and it’s pretty small but still a gorgeous spot to spend the day, and obviously if you’re trying not to spend too much money on your trip, then this is a great free thing to do.

Try to visit as early in the morning as possible because it fills up fast

Like most, you’ll be asked to shower off all sunscreens and beauty products before entering in order to protect the fish and other creatures in the water.

If you’re looking for more cenotes to visit from Tulum that aren’t super expensive, then here’s some others I’d recommend checking out:

  • Cenote Calavera 
  • Casa Cenote 
  • Gran Cenote 
  • Cenote Zacil Ha  

The first three on the list above are included on my list of best places to go cenote diving in Tulum!

Spent the Day at Laguna Kaan Luum 

The image shows Laguna Kaan Luum from above.

Laguna Kaan Luum is actually an open-air cenote located just 15 minutes outside of Tulum.

This beautiful lagoon has crystal-clear blue water, and for the most part, is a shallow depth – perfect for non-swimmers and families with kids.

You can spend all day there, hanging out on the hammocks suspended in the water, soaking in the sunshine, or renting a paddle board or kayak to take around the lagoon. 

The image shows Laguna Kaan Luum from above.

You can hop on a Colectivo from downtown Tulum to get to Laguna Kaan Luum for relatively cheap.

If you’re not already familiar with what a Colectivo is, then it’s basically a minivan that only goes when it gets full.

But, they’re one of the most affordable ways to get around Mexico (and many other places around Central and South America).

Alternatively, you can of course take a tour but this is a budget-friendly guide and the tours to this incredible spot aren’t that budget.

But, if you do want to push the boat out for this epic spot then the ‘Lagoon Paddle Boarding Tour in Tulum‘ is one worth spending money on.

I’m not sure why it’s not accurately named, but it’s definitely the right thing!

Tip! Make sure to bring food and drink to Laguna Kaan Luum with you if you plan on spending the day there since there are no cafes on-site

Take a Day Trip to Coba for Ruins & Cenote Hopping 

The image shows the Coba ruins.

Coba, located a 45-minute drive from Tulum, is a hidden gem on the Mayan Riviera.

Home to the famous Coba Ruins, you can enjoy biking around the extensive archaeological zone on bicycles that are rented at the ruin’s entrance for cheap.

There are many ruins on the Mayan Riviera, but the expansiveness of the Coba archaeological zone makes it stand out and the entrance fee is reasonable – 80 MXP at the time of writing which is less than $5.

Coba is also home to some of the best secret cenotes in the area.

Cenote Choo-Ha, Cenote Multum Ha, and Cenote Tankach-Ha are completely closed-off cenotes located inside caves.

You get to descend into their swimming holes via wooden staircases that descend to fresh blue-water swimming spots.  

Excitingly, some of the cenotes in Coba also feature cliff-jumping platforms inside of the caves – an adrenaline junkie’s dream!

If you’re on an ultra-budget then hop on the ADO bus (the big bus company that operates all over Mexico) from Tulum to Coba, and then rent a bicycle for cenote-hopping. 

Or, if you think you can stretch to a tour for this one, then it will undoubtedly be much easier as all three ruins are quite far apart.

Check prices: Coba Ruins & Cenote Tour

Tip: If you attempt this route independently, then make sure to pack plenty of water, as there’s practically nothing along the road leading to the cenotes and it gets extremely hot. 

Visit Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve and Muyil Ruins 

The image shows a pair of legs in the water of Sian Ka'an Bio Reserve.

Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve is a must-do stop from Tulum.

Located only a 10-15 minute drive just outside of Tulum Centro on Highway 307.

You have two options for visiting.

Option one is to visit via the back entryway to the National Reserve that departs from the back of Muyil Ruins.

You will see a boardwalk snaking through the jungle in the back of the archaeological site. 

This is an adventurous route that also features a treehouse along the way.

You pay the small entrance fee to Sian Ka’an National Reserve from the boardwalk. 

At the end of the trek, there is a beach with lots of boats.

The boatmen ferry tourists to a natural lazy river that you can float down in the centre of Sian Ka’an.

The image shows people floating down the river at the Sian Ka'an Bio Reserve.

It’s honestly one of the most unique and underrated excursions from Tulum. 

A second option for visiting Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve can only be accessed via a guided tour.

This is because you will be entering from the ocean side, which is more of a marine wildlife-based excursion.

The ocean side of Sian Ka’an is known for being a place to spot majestic animals like dolphins and stingrays

If you’re looking to keep this a budget trip to Tulum, then you might not want to fork out the money for this day trip, but it’s supposedly one of the best tours in the area that consistently sells out.

Check prices: Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve Tour

Take a Trip to Tulum Ruins 

The image shows the Tulum Ruins.
The image shows the Tulum Ruins.

Tulum Ruins is an impressive budget alternative to Chichen Itza and it’s located right in the center of town!

Fun fact, Tulum was once a bustling city during the Mayan reign, around 500 years ago.

You can still see the remnants of this amazing empire on the Tulum archaeological site, also known as the “Tulum Ruins”. 

If you’re on a strict budget and don’t want to pay the entrance fees to the archaeological zone, you can also see the Tulum Ruins for free from Tulum Beach. 

Best cheap beach clubs in Tulum

The image shows food and drink on the table at one of the affordable beach clubs in Tulum.
The image shows me drinking a coconut at a budget friendly beach club in Tulum.

First off, do know that even though the beach clubs in Tulum charge rather high entrance fees and minimum spend amounts, 100% of the beaches in Mexico are free and open to the public.

The beach clubs in Cabo and Cancun try to do the same, but don’t take any notice.

Some beach clubs and hotels might have walls and security guards put in place to protect the illusion of a private beach, but this is illegal

If you would like to visit a beach club, you’re paying for the club itself and also the entryway it offers to the beach.

Legally, anyone can walk along the beach in Mexico and go swimming wherever they want for free! 

Caleta Tankha

Caleta Tankha Beach Club charges a minimum spend, but it’s the only beach club in Tulum that boasts not one but TWO private cenotes

Bonus, the cenote facing the ocean at Caleta Tankha naturally filters seaweed, so it’s one of the only beaches in Tulum that never experiences nasty Sargassum blooms

Coco Beach Club 

Coco Beach is one of the most Instagramable beach clubs in Tulum.

Featuring all-white decor, and a swingset bar right on the white-sand beaches of Tulum.

Although Coco Beach Club does charge a minimum consumption, it’s less than some of the more upscale sites like Casa Malca.

Plus, your minimum consumption charge works against food and drinks all day long – so if you stay a few hours you can well make up the cost.  

Cheap restaurants

The image shows tacos and sauces in a restaurant in Tulum.

Tulum is home to many 5-star restaurants, but don’t forget that Tulum is still in Mexico – which boasts some of the best budget street food in the entire world!

If you’re on a budget trip to Tulum, there’s no need to worry, you will still have amazing meals. 

Taco Trucks on Avenida Coba 

Right on the intersection of Avenida Coba and the main highway, in front of the Super Aki, there’s a rotation of taco trucks that feed locals and tourists alike every day.  

Matcha Mama 

You can never go wrong with a Matcha! Matcha Mama is the ever-popular and ultimately Instagramabble cafe that has multiple locations in Tulum.

Most items on the menu are around 100 MXP which is about $6, so while it feels like a fancy splurge, you can still visit on a budget. 

Taqueria Honorio

Taqueria Honorio is the most famous, and also the cheapest, place to eat in Tulum.

Located right in the centre of town, Taqueria Honorio is mainly a local eatery that has allowed tourists to visit as guests – meaning, they don’t compromise at all on the local flavours and style.

In the Yucatan fashion, the tacos are only served for breakfast and lunch.

Taqueria Honorio opens at 6:30 AM and closes at 3 PM sharp and usually sells out on the best items well before then. 

The tacos at Taqueria Honorio will be foreign to most palates who aren’t familiar with Mayan cuisine.

Instead of your typical steak and chicken, the tacos heavily feature slow-roasted pork (called Lechon) and turkey dishes and they’re ridiculously delicious.

Affordable hotels and hostels

The image shows a hotel room in Tulum.
The image shows a hammock by a pool at a hotel in Tulum.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, Tulum is split into two sections for tourism – the beach zone and downtown, and they’re weirdly far apart.

Well, like 10-15 minutes apart. But that still feels quite far.

The beach zone is mostly made up of expensive hotels, pricey beach clubs and costly places to eat and drink. It cost me $10 just to park in the beach zone for 1 hour!

So, here’s my list of best recommendations that show it’s so possible to visit Tulum on a budget – including on the beach zone – but just bear in mind the price of other things around here.

Selina Hostel Chain 

The Selina Hostel chain is one of the best-for-all-budget accommodations in Tulum and they have two sites – one in the beach zone and one in downtown.

I stayed in the one in the beach zone.

No one would assume walking into the posh residence that it was actually a hostel, but it is!

It’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck lodgings in Tulum.

If you’re on an ultra-tight budget you can stay in the dorms, and those with a bit more cash to burn can get a private room while still enjoying all the social benefits a hostel has to offer. 

If you’re working remotely, then it’s good to know that Selina offers great amenities to work in their cafe, as well as offering a paid dedicated workspace.

This isn’t unique to Tulum, all the Selina hostels are kitted out with on-site office space for remote workers.  

Check prices: Selina Downtown

Check prices: Selina Beach Zone

Mayan Monkey Hostel 

Mayan Monkey is another ultra-posh hostel that has all the social benefits of shared accommodations, but none of the discomforts!

Similar to Selina, you can book a fancy private room or a dorm.

From the beautiful pool to the all-white decor, no one would suspect Mayan Monkey to be a budget hostel instead of a 5-star resort. 

Check prices: Mayan Monkey Hostel

Bau Tulum

Bau Tulum is located in the downtown area and although it’s considered budget, it doesn’t look very budget.

It’s a 4-star hotel which it’s certainly worthy of, and has that classic ‘Tulum-style’ vibe about it, with the swinging hammock chairs and rustic interior.

It’s also close to the bus station too – which – if you’re on a budget trip to Tulum, then you’ll appreciate this as you won’t have to pay for an expensive Taxi.

This also means that it’s surrounded by heaps of cheap eats – which again, is another bonus.

Check prices: Bau Tulum

Casa Elda

Casa Elda is situated about 6 blocks from downtown Tulum and yet again is a budget place to stay – but really does not look like it.

It features a rooftop pool and a bunch of other excellent facilities such as kitchenettes inside the rooms and barbeque facilities, that make it the perfect budget hotel for travellers.

Plus, this place is perfectly equipped with comfortable chairs and desks – making it one of the best places to stay in Tulum on a budget if you’re planning to work on your trip!

Check prices: Casa Elda


The image shows some bikes in Tulum that are used for getting around cheaply.

What’s the cheapest way to get around Tulum?

There is no Uber in Tulum due to the pervasive Mexican Taxi Mafia driving them out.

This mafia operates in all major tourism hubs, like Cabo San Lucas and Cancun as well.

So, instead of there being affordable transfer services, the tourists are at the whims of local taxi drivers, who tend to charge very high rates.

For a cheaper transportation alternative, tourists can hail a “Colectivo” or shared taxi that the locals use. 

The taxis operate 7 days a week, shuttling tourists down Highway 307, going as far as Cancun.

These shared taxis are unofficial, you just show up and pay a few pesos in cash, and then get off when it’s your stop. 

Colectivos work best for inter-city travel from Tulum to popular day trips outside of the city, like Akumal, Playa del Carmen, or the Xel Ha parks. 

For travel within Tulum, the cheapest way to get around is to rent a beach bike or scooter and drive yourself. 

Is Tulum more expensive than Bali?

Tulum is generally considered more expensive than Bali, especially for US and European travellers due to the exchange rate.

A US dollar or Euro goes further when exchanged to the Indonesian Rupiah than the Mexican Peso. 

Is Cancun or Tulum is more expensive?

Tulum used to be the cheaper alternative to Cancun – the main tourist hub on the Riviera Maya – but nowadays that is no longer true.

You can just as easily find a $ 1,000-per-night hotel stay in either of the two locations as they’re both luxury tourism hubs

Explore beyond Tulum

The image shows a girl swinging into a cenote in Tulum.

If you enjoyed this guide to Tulum on a budget but you’re looking for an exact itinerary to follow, then I’d recommend heading over to my Tulum 3 day itinerary. It’s perfect for those who are looking for a ready-made plan!

Stay Wild Travels.

Author Bio: “Katie Caf, the founder of, is a seasoned travel expert who has explored North, Central, and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia for many years. Originally from New York, she shares travel insights from her experiences in the USA and around the world. Through her blog, she provides quality travel resources and firsthand accounts of what to expect on the road.”