Tulum is a special place. Far less touristy, and much cheaper, than Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Tulum has become THE place to visit on the Mexican Riviera Maya. Tulum used to be a chilled out little fishing town, now it is growing in size and popularity it still manages to maintain that hippy vibe. With picturesque Mayan ruins next to a turquoise ocean, fantastic snorkelling and diving, gorgeous beaches and plenty of excellent restaurants, it’s not hard to see why Tulum is so popular with everyone from backpackers to honeymooners and female solo travellers. I visited Tulum with a friend then came back to spend a couple of weeks here alone, so I’m sharing all my tips for Tulum solo travel.
Is Tulum Safe?
I feel like I need to address this first, as most people who I talk to about Mexico solo travel immediately freak out and assume that you will be murdered the second you land at the airport. YES, Tulum is safe. The Riviera Maya and Cancun have come under scrutiny in the press recently for some safety issues regarding gun violence, but these are isolated incidents, which don’t usually affect tourists. Tulum is not Cancun and is a lot more laid back, there are no issues here with violent crime. Likewise, the horror stories about tainted drinks in all-inclusive resorts won’t don’t affect Tulum either – Tulum is blissfully free of mega-hotels and resorts, instead you will find small boutique hotels and eco-lodges.
Tulum was ranked as the 2nd best place to visit in Mexico by US News, ahead of other top destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Mexico City, and is known as a safe haven for locals and visitors alike.
There are some basic safety tips for solo travellers in Tulum though, like avoid walking on isolated beaches or roads at night, don’t flash expensive jewellery or cash, and don’t end up drunk in a pool of vomit with no one to look after you. Follow the same basic safety tips you would anywhere, and you will be absolutely fine.
No matter where you travel, you should always get travel insurance to cover you in case something does happen. Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
What to Wear in Tulum
Tulum is a chilled out beach destination, so unlike big cities like Mexico City, you can wear pretty much what you like. Comfy sandals are useful for walking around the ruins and cycling to and from the beach, but you’ll probably spend most of your time in flip-flops. The sun is strong here, so a hat is very useful, as well as something to cover your shoulders to protect yourself from sunburn. Comfortable, light dresses, shorts and tops are standard here, and of course you’ll want a bikini or swimsuit for the beach. When you go to eat or go inside, a coverup or top to pull on over your swimsuit is a good idea – I’m no prude but I don’t want to see anyone’s baps out while I’m having lunch!
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Getting to Tulum Safely
Tulum is on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Most visitors to Tulum will fly into Cancun Airport and travel down the coast to Tulum.
It is safe and easy to take a bus from Cancun to Tulum, as there are ADO buses that run directly from Cancun Airport to Tulum, or you may have to change buses at the ADO bus station in Cancun. ADO is the most reliable bus company, and have clean, comfortable buses.
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If you are on a tight budget then there are other cheaper 2nd class buses such as Mayab that also run the route from Cancun bus station, but these take longer as they stop along the way to pick up passengers and aren’t as comfy.
Aim to arrive in Cancun by mid-afternoon at the latest, so you will arrive in Tulum while it is still daylight. I hate arriving in a new place alone in the dark, no matter how safe it is!
The journey takes about 2 hours, so if your flight lands late at night a taxi ride will be expensive, but you can arrange a semi-private transfer at reasonable rates if you prefer.
Where to Stay in Tulum for Solo Female Travellers
Tulum is split into two distinct areas or zones. The cheapest places to eat and stay are in the town centre, which is divided by the main road which runs from Cancun to Belize. Along the beachfront, the Zona Hotelera hotel zone has sprung up, where more expensive restaurants and hotels in Tulum have been built.
Hostels in Tulum
As a solo traveller in Tulum, I preferred to stay in a hostel where I could meet people to socialise with. I stayed at Amorcito Hostel which had a nice little pool on the roof and was very clean, with dorms and private rooms to choose from.
One of the best hostels in Tulum is Hostel Che Tulum, which gets excellent reviews. You can also choose between private rooms and dorm rooms here, take a dip in the pool or join one of the group activities like yoga classes, free tours and BBQ nights.
Avoid staying anywhere too far away from the centre as there are no street lights and it is very dark walking back to the hotel alone! (Or you could get a taxi of course).
Beachfront Hotels in Tulum
The best value hostels and hotels in Tulum are in the ‘town’ centre, but on the beach, you will find plenty of amazing hotels and cabanas with beachfront views if you fancy a splurge, but you might end up spending +$300 USD a night for the privilege.
Airbnb in Tulum
If you like the independent life, check the options for Airbnb in Tulum. You can find some great deals on apartments and rooms in Tulum, like this gorgeous apartment with a roof-top pool. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
What to Do in Tulum Solo
Tulum Mayan Ruins
The Mayan ruins at Tulum are certainly in a spectacular location. Perched on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean, these are probably the most picturesque ruins you will ever see. They are very popular of course and get incredibly busy and overcrowded so arrive as early as you can, for a much quieter, cooler visit! The ruins open at 8am, so aim to be there at opening time.
To get to the ruins, most hotels and hostels in Tulum will offer bike hire so you can cycle to the ruins along the bike paths, then explore for the rest of the day on your bike. Make sure your bike has a lock, you don’t want it wandering off while you’re in the ruins! Also check the brakes and the seat height carefully before you set off.
Bring sunscreen, plenty of water, and your swimsuit, as you can go to the beach for a swim right beneath the ruins.
Tulum Solo Travel Activities: Hit the Beach
The beaches in Tulum are gorgeous, assuming that the sargassum seaweed hasn’t come back. Arguably, the best beach in Tulum is Playa Ruinas at the ruins, for that picture-perfect dip in the water next to ancient Mayan temples.
Other popular spots are Playa Paraíso, and the secluded Las Palmas beach. If you have snorkeling gear then bring it with you, or hire it from one of the dive shops, the sea is crystal clear.
If you’re alone, avoid bringing expensive kit you’ll have to leave on the beach while you’re in the water. Alternatively, try one of [amazon_textlink asin=’B071YTL91K’ text=’these dry bags’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’talesofaback-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1910133d-fcc9-11e8-be2c-55f86e6f1ea3′] to keep your phone safe and dry with you in the water.
Solo Travel Activities in Tulum
Tulum isn’t just about beaches, so if you want to more to do than just relaxing, there are plenty of fun things to do for solo travellers in Tulum. You could take a bike tour, kite boarding lessons or zipline through the jungle!
Swim, Snorkel or Dive in a Cenote
Cenotes are natural swimming holes that are dotted all around the Yucatan Peninsula, and taking a dip in a cenote is one of my favourite things to do in Tulum! I visited Dos Ojos cenote for swimming and snorkelling (which is easy to get to by collectivo), then La Calavera (Temple of Doom) and Casa Cenote for a day of diving in cenotes in Tulum. Diving in a cenote was incredible, although there isn’t as many fish and sea life to see, the water is beautifully clear, and it felt like another world in the caverns with mangrove roots reaching down into the water.
Snorkel with Turtles at Akumal
Sadly, Akumal isn’t the paradise for turtles as it once was, with hotel developments and tourists taking their toll on the fragile habitat of the turtles. If you do snorkel here, make sure you have reef-safe sunscreen, take all your rubbish home with you and do not get too close to the turtles. You can take an official ‘turtle tour’ where you will be led through a cordoned off area close to the beach. Life jackets are mandatory, which you can hire from the many touts on the beach.
However, if you already have snorkel gear, I advise walking straight past all of this, and turn right on the beach to pick a spot to sunbathe. I snorkelled right off the beach and spotted a turtle just hanging out and eating seagrass.
To get here, take a taxi or any collectivo or 2nd class bus from Tulum to Playa del Carmen will drop you off on the main road by Akumal for around $30 pesos, and you then walk to the beach about 800m away. On the way back, flag down a collectivo to head back to Tulum.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
This large natural reserve of jungle, marsh and mangroves is filled with animals and bird species. I didn’t personally go here, but someone at my hostel took a kayak tour to Sian Ka’an and said it was incredible. If you choose to explore, it is best to go with a guide, either arranged from Tulum or Punta Allen.
Looking for tours in Tulum? Check out these options from GetYourGuide:
Tulum Solo Travel: Visiting Mayan Ruins Outside Tulum
If you are visiting Tulum, I highly recommend you spend some more time exploring the Yucatan Peninsula, visiting colonial towns like Merida or Valladolid, and seeing some of the other Mayan ruins here, which are all different and have their own charms. The easiest ones to reach from Tulum are Coba and the world famous Chichen Itza, UNESCO site and one of the new Wonders of the World.
READ MORE: The Best 2 Week Yucatan Itinerary
If you have enough time in Mexico, I’d definitely recommend spending the night somewhere closer to Chichen Itza, in Valladolid or Pisté (the closest village to Chichen Itza), or even staying at the hotel which is inside the ruins. That way, you can visit the ruins in the early morning so it is much quieter and cooler! If you are only in Mexico for short time, then a day trip to Chichen Itza from Tulum is a great way to see this incredible archaeological site from Tulum.
Cobá Archaeological Site
Cobá is a large Maya site about 45 minutes’ drive or bus ride from Tulum, is definitely off the beaten track! You can hire bikes inside the site to ride around and explore, which is a lot quicker than walking, or you can hire pedi-cabs if you’re not up to walking or cycling. It is possible to climb one of the pyramids here, but the steps are uneven and getting down is a lot harder than climbing up!
I spent the night at Cobá in order to visit the Mayan ruins early next morning, then hired a bike to visit several cenotes in the afternoon. I stayed at the basic but reasonable Hotel Sac-bé in Cobá, or you can join a day tour to Coba which usually also include visits to the cenotes.
Foodie Experiences for Solo Travellers in Tulum
I love food, and a great way to meet people when you’re travelling alone is to bond over a shared love of food! Learning to cook authentic Mexican food at a cooking class is an educational, fun and delicious! Riviera Kitchen is one of the popular cooking classes in Tulum and it gets great reviews.
If you prefer to just eat the food, why not try Dining Experience Tulum? This shared dining experience involves eating several courses of incredible Mexican food, together with a group of fellow travellers.
Where to Eat in Tulum
Places to Eat in Tulum Centre
My favourite place to eat in Tulum on a budget is a proper locals place called Antojitos a la Chiapaneca. It’s on Avenida Tulum, not far from the bus station. Here you can choose from cheap and delicious tacos, sopes and other tasty delights, to which you then add your own salad and salsas. No frills but quick and super cheap!
For seafood, head to El Camello Jr for huge plates of ceviche, freshly grilled fish and delicious seafood. This is a popular place so get here early or prepare to wait.
For dessert, it has to be the Cremeria La Campanella, a delicious ice cream parlour a few doors down from La Chiapaneca. Treat yourself!
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Places to Eat by the Beach
Eating anywhere on the beachfront expect to pay a premium for the views, but there are a few gems here which won’t break the bank and are a laid-back option for any solo traveller.
Taqueria La Eufemia is cheaper than most places and won’t stretch your budget too much.
Villa Pescadores serves up a delicious ceviche and won’t charge you extra to chill out on the lounge chairs either, so you can enjoy the beach after you’ve eaten.
If you’re feeling flash, wash down your tacos with a cocktail or two before you take a dip in the ocean – there really is nothing like a colourful cocktail on the beach!
Have you been to Tulum alone? Do you have any other tips to share for solo travel in Tulum? I’d love to hear your experiences, share them in the comments below.
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