Last Updated on January 15, 2021 by Paroma
Are you looking for the”feels-just-right” Tulum itinerary to spend 2 lovely days on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula? Then let this guide help you with lots of fun things to do and delicious food to eat for spending 2 days in Tulum.
A Tulum itinerary for 2 days
Tulum is that eco-resort haven in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that is famous for its Mayan ruins overlooking the Atlantic, its diving scene, hidden cenotes and of course, some of the most sumptuous local food that is there to consume. Plus, unlike Cabo San Lucas on the west coast or the nearby party town Cancun, Tulum is a much quieter place to recharge and rewind. Even if you have only 2 days to spare in Tulum like we did, I have just the perfect Tulum itinerary that packs in some of the best things to do in Tulum to keep you busy.
If you have more time on your hands, you can either visit Cancun (read this post on unique things to do in Cancun) and the majestic Mayan pyramid Chichen Itza (read about visiting Chichen Itza with kids right here). Additionally, Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Yucatan Peninsula is also a perfect getaway and you can read about things to do in Isla Mujeres right here!
Similarly, Isla Holbox is another amazing getaway from Cancun and a very relaxing place to be in as are self planned excursions to Cozumel, another popular island getaway near Cancun! For more Mexico inspiration, read this fantastic post on best places to visit in Mexico. For planning a trip to Mexico, this post on Mexico travel budget is a great resource.
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Where to stay in Tulum
Tulum, albeit quieter than Cancun, is still wilder popular with divers, resort goers and history buffs on the scent of ruins. We arrived during the off-tourist season (November) and therefore were lucky to get a room at the Hotel Zamas, which is right on the narrow road 15 hugging the ocean.
Thanks to it’s great views, a private beach, an awesome thatched roof restaurant, free wifi and a very helpful concierge giving us some very good recommendations on places to eat and things to do, this easily qualifies as one of the best places to stay in Tulum, as do these fantastic Airbnbs in Mexico.
If you are thinking of where to stay in for your 2 days in Tulum, I highly recommend this hotel and can guarantee that you will be not disappointed by the service and hospitality. The wifi works beautifully in the lounge area and the restaurant where you can sit with a drink or two while watching the sun set over the ocean. For honeymooners, here is an excellent post on all inclusive resorts in Mexico, many of which are in Yucatan peninsula in and around Tulum!
2 day Tulum itinerary: the best things to do in Tulum
Tulum itinerary attractions: Visit the Mayan Ruins
Riviera Maya is so named because of the ancient Mayans that once called this peninsula home and were fierce warriors, worshippers of nature, bona-fide scientists and expert seafarers. After the Spanish conquest and cruel decimation of their civilization, all that is left of their existence are the ruins of their temples and other structures that are scattered all over the Yucatan peninsula and are pretty well preserved for modern day tourists to gawk over.
The most famous of all the Mayan ruins in Mexico and the tallest temple is the one at Chichen Itza, two hours west of Cancun (you can read all about a trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun right here). However, owing to our schedule and the extreme reluctance to be trampled by hordes of selfie-obsessed people tripping each other to get a shot of the temple, we decided to give this iconic place a miss.
Instead, we chose to see the next best preserved Mayan ruins in Tulum which is one must do thing that you should include in your Tulum itinerary for 2 days. These ruins are even more special since they face the Atlantic ocean, from where Mayans could keep an eye on their enemies. Although off-season, there was no dearth of tourists swarming all over, so plan to arrive as early as possible.
An hour north of Tulum lies another ruins site called Coba, which has several smaller ruins scattered all over and a main, tall edifice (temple) standing proudly in the center. Unlike Tulum, Coba’s ruins can be climbed upon. But given how tourists have completely taken over this idyllic spot as well, 2016 was supposedly the last year where they would allow people to touch and climb up the ruins.
Finally, the Mayan ruins in the Muyil archaeological site (an easy day tour from Tulum), right next to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, are well worth a visit during your two days in Tulum. These ruins are pretty well preserved and the site is free of crowds.
Things to note: Although the Tulum ruins had bilingual (English/Spanish) signs explaining the ruins and their importance, there were no such signs in Coba or Muyil. There are many so called guides running large at Coba who will approach you for assistance and if you are a true blue history buff or plain very curious, you might benefit from having one of them (we did all the exploring on our own). As for Muyil, we did get a combo guided tour for the biosphere and the archaeological site and therefore had a much more informative experience.
Day trip from Tulum: explore the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve
A trip to the Sian Ka’an biosphere is highly recommended as one of the best things to do in Tulum and makes for an easy half day trip from Tulum. The Sian Ka’an biosphere is a mangrove vegetation and a beautiful biozone filled with fresh water lagoons (created by the Mayans to ferry them across) and resides in the southernmost part of the Riviera Maya.
This reserve is home to hundreds of indigenous plants and birds and has been extremely well preserved by the government. Although not necessary, guided tours are highly recommended to get access to the freshwater lagoons.
The customary approach is a quick tour of the Muyil ruins followed by a motorboat that takes you through the freshwater lagoons, after which you can simply float on one of them using a life vest that is provided and watch the birds as you bob along the water. Your guide will be with you and you will be provided with an additional floatation device to guarantee your safety. Remember to wear eco-friendly sunscreen for this trip!
For those looking to travel to this biosphere reserve, I highly recommend reserving a spot a day before your tour when you arrive in Tulum. I also recommend our tour company “Mexi Divers Tulum” who gave us a fantastic tour that lasted for 4 hours and including transportation, meals, a comprehensive tour of Muyil, boat ride and flotation in the lagoon-all for 95 USD. There is also a full moon tour of the same and I have been told its really magical.
2 days in Tulum: Go for a dip in the Cenotes
We did not cover the Tulum cenotes because neither of us are water babies. But if you need more information on them or scuba diving, read this ultimate guide to scuba diving and wonderful guide to Tulum!
What to do in Tulum: Explore Tulum center
Tulum center/town is the urban, residential part of Tulum lying next to the eco-resort strip along the ocean. It is the epicenter for local businesses, eateries (both touristy and hole in the walls) and for small shopping stores, ranging from quaint ones to those horrifically crammed with tourist souvenirs. I highly recommend getting out of the hipstery resorts and exploring this part of town because it gives you a flavor of local life and has some great hidden hole in the wall eateries.
Beautiful murals lay scattered everywhere, some peeking from the walls in the by-lanes and we were fortunate to discover quite a few. We picked up several things from many of the stores lined along the main street, such as a beautiful painting depicting a local wedding, small gifts and souvenirs. We also stopped by several times for meals in many excellent and unassuming hole in the walls, serving authentic local cuisine.
What to include in your Tulum itinerary: sunrise/sunset at beach
One of the most magical things to include in your Tulum itinerary is to catch a sunrise or sunset at some of its most beautiful beaches such as Playa Paraiso, which was right next to our hotel. Although one can rent our beach chairs with umbrellas, an early morning or a late afternoon trip with simply a beach towel (provided generously by our hotel) is good enough.
If you excuse my shorts and tee (very non-beachy attire but the best my awkward self could muster), this Tulum beach was indeed a piece of paradise and the water was warm and inviting, so unlike what we have back home in San Francisco. You can read this guide with gorgeous photos for more beaches in Tulum!
Must do in Tulum: get a Spa Massage
You have chosen Tulum for some precious R&R, so one of the best things to include in your Tulum itinerary should undoubtedly be a spa massage. And, Tulum is choc-filled with spas although most are high end/luxury since they cater to American tourists.
We got a last minute reservation at the very reasonable Maya Tulum spa resort and got our massages. It was a very relaxing and unwinding experience and something that I highly recommend for even if you are spending only 2 days in Tulum. The spa resort is heavy on yoga and had several sessions advertised for Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar and Kundalini Yoga led by instructors.
Where to eat in Tulum: find authentic, local food
One of the best things to do during your 2 days in Tulum is to eat your heart out and eat right! Tulum might come across as a tourist haven but if you can avoid the obvious tourist traps of Americanized hipster food, there are plenty of places to choose from.
These range from from quiet eateries to hole in the wall gems thronged by locals. Our first night started with a bang at the trendy shack of El Tabano, which was high on seafood, small plates and local flavor followed by subsequent meals at La Nave (Italian with a Mexican twist) and many at our own hotel (they have live music on certain nights).
However, the local joints of El Camello (ceviche and other dishes so yummy that I still drool even thinking about it) and Taqueria Honorio (a tiny locals only joint serving the best tacos ever, cash only) took the cake in dining. Although most of these are either seafood heavy or meat only, we did see quite a few vegan restaurants along the strip, one being a juice bar and vegan spot named Restaurare, right next to El Tabano. For more on Yucatan cuisine, read this guide on 12 must have dishes in the Yucatan peninsula.
Tips for your 2 days in Tulum
1) November is the best month to visit Tulum since Dec-April are peak tourist seasons with a surge in prices in hotels and gets difficult to book tours as well.
2) Its extremely warm and humid here as expected, so better be armed with sunblock, bug spray (if you are extremely sensitive to mosquitoes), sunglasses and of course a hat. Pack in a swimsuit for the beach or the Sian Ka’an reserve for floating (I did not and had to go on a wild swimsuit hunt before our tour).
3) Visit the Punta Laguna nature reserve (largest spider monkey Sanctuary) which lies further north of Coba. We forgot all about it until upon our return to Tulum and then were too lazy to drive all the way up north again and settled for the spa instead.
4) Driving via a rented car is a good option to get around but you do have taxis all over since this is such a popular tourist destination. However, if you can bike then do explore Tulum that way because there is no dearth of bike rental places around.
5) Pay in Mexican pesos wherever possible even if US dollars are accepted. Given the favorable exchange rate now (even in 2021 as I update this post), payment by pesos is way cheaper.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post on crafting the perfect Tulum itinerary for 2 days with lots of ideas to be inspired from! Thanks so much for stopping by!
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