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The Truth About Tulum

Tulum. The word on everybody’s lips. The newest hot spot in an already busy region. Well, I’m sorry to tell y’all but Tulum is not the place you want to go for your Mexican beach vacation. Wildly overpriced and inaccessible,  Tulum (and in Cancun and in Playa del Carmen) only offers disappointment to those interested in a beautiful, authentic, and inexpensive beach vacation. The good news is, Mexico has some wonderful alternative options which I’ve described in this article. But first, why you should skip Tulum and head somewhere else.

1. The beaches suck

Every morning, beachgoers in Tulum are greeted by the smell of rotten eggs emanating from seaweed that chokes the beaches and clogs the ocean. Hotels with private beaches diligently rake the seaweed away every morning. However, if you’re not a guest at one of these resorts, you’re out of luck in terms of having a beach day. If you do buy your way into one of these resorts, you won’t be spending any time swimming in the ocean. The seaweed is so thick that the water is inaccessible. 

The public beach is also plagued with these problems, so you won’t find any luck there. The only way you’re getting into water while in Tulum is through a pool or through one of the cenotes outside of town. 

Okay, so maybe you just go to the beach to have a couple of cocktails and hang out in a hammock. Four cocktails and one cheeseburger later, you’ve spent $75USD and that’s on the public beach! Lord only knows how much it would be to hang out on one of the resort’s beaches. 

2. Tulum is Expensive

If you’re heading to Mexico because you’re looking for a cheap beach vacation, Tulum is not the place to go. Restaurants, alcohol, transportation, and lodgings are all incredibly expensive. There are some cheap places to be found but they are few and far between. 

My girlfriends and I rented a studio AirBnB for $80/night. It had a sleeper couch and a double bed. That’s not bad, you say! However, we were 4 miles from the beach and about 1 mile from the town. A taxi to the beach costs $7-$10 depending on how well you can haggle. It may not sound like much, but it’s highway robbery in Mexico where most taxi rides cost you $1.52. 

Still not convinced? Almost everywhere in Mexico, a domestic Mexican beer costs you between $28-$35 pesos. Roughly translated, that’s $1.42-$1.77 USD per beer. In Tulum, the price almost doubles. A handcrafted Mezcal cocktail will cost you about $5 in most major cities and beach towns. In Tulum, expect to pay $12.50 for a similar drink. A Tequila soda will cost you $5 in Tulum vs. $2 somewhere an hour or two further south. $2.50, $12.50, and $5 may be less than you’d pay for alcohol other parts of the world, but for Mexico, it’s almost absurd! 

3. Cenotes, Ruins, Beaches are inaccessible

Wanna head out of town to Cenote dos Ojos or maybe see the Mayan ruins at Coba ? Be prepared to shell out some serious dough. The entry fee to Cenote dos Ojos is $350 pesos ($18USD). Gran Cenote is a bit cheaper at $180 pesos ($9USD)  but is overrun with people. However, there is one relatively accessible cenote– get yourself to Dos Ojos and walk a little over a mile to the cenote at Nicte-Ha, pay a $100 peso ($5USD) entrance fee, and have the place to yourself. 

There is very little public transportation within the town of Tulum so you have to take a taxi, rent a car, or rent a bicycle. There is one form of public transport, the collectivo, that runs between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Hop on one of these for $30 pesos and ride all the way to the ruins at Coba or any cenote along the way. From Coba, you can ride to the cenote of your choice. Taking the collectivo is the cheapest option. 

The lack of cheap transportation and high cost of going/doing anything makes Tulum one of the most inaccessible Mexican beach towns I’ve ever been to.

4. Mexico has much better beach towns to offer

Ever considered taking a beach vacation to the west coast of Mexico? If you haven’t, then you absolutely should!

The state of Oaxaca offers some amazing options. Start in Puerto Escondido and head south along the coast. Although this region is known for its surfing, it is still home to some beautiful beaches and calm waters. Check out Playa Carrizalillo right outside of Puerto Escondido for a relaxing swim in the ocean. Head to the small island of Chacahua for a truly authentic experience. Mazunte is a charming beach town with incredible views along the cliff side. Huatulco is another beautiful spot with the added bonus of great nightlife.  

A bit closer to the United States, the state of Nayarit boasts some lovely beach towns as well. Sayulita is small but lively. Head a bit further up the coast to Los Ayala and relax in this tiny beach town. 

Have your heart set on the Yucatan? Head to towns like Puerto Morelos or Mahahual for an incredibly relaxing, enchantingly beautiful beach vacation. Don’t expect to party here–these are small, chilled out beach towns. Looking for the total package: cenotes, beaches, and ruins? Check out Campeche. And finally, I highly recommend visiting the town of Bacalar. This place is a treasure trove–cenotes, ruins, and a lake that boasts seven different shades of blue. 

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