Tulum and the Best Beach Ever

Lauren at Tulum

Whenever I visit a new beach, I can’t help but compare it to some of the incredible ones I’ve had the fortune of visiting so far. As much as I battle to retain my childlike excitement when checking out somewhere new, a small part of me is always a little disappointed if it doesn’t live up to expectations. And for Tulum, my expectations were sky high.

I was excited to see how it would compare to some of my favourites: Boracay in the Philippines; the surfing beach in Raglan; and the sandfly-ridden paradise of Cambodia’s Koh Rong.

I was a little startled, then, when I first stepped onto the warm sand in Tulum and realised it was my ultimate beach.

It was the best.

Beach in Tulum

You’ll find Tulum on the Yucatan coast of Mexico, about a 45 minute drive from Playa del Carmen. It’s a huge tourist destination for the country, thanks to its spectacular location overlooking the Caribbean sea, but it’s best known for being home to some gorgeous cliff-top Mayan ruins — some of the last ever inhabited.

I’ll let you in on a secret. If you’re going to be visiting Tulum, you should absolutely be waiting to get inside when the gates open at 8 in the morning. Everything we’d read online had mentioned the heaving crowds and dozens of tour buses, so if we knew that if we were going to stand any chance of avoiding them, we would need to be early. We arranged to meet our friend Brian at 7 a.m., and we were in a colectivo (a shared minivan) just a few moments later.

I couldn’t believe it when we were first in the queue, and we excitedly bought our tickets as soon as we arrived. We rushed through the turnstile, jumping for joy at the sight lay out before us.

We had the entire grounds to ourselves.

Ruins at Tulum
Lauren in Tulum
Beach in Tulum

To be honest, I’m not a huge ruins person, so while I could trawl through archeological websites to find out what the buildings in Tulum were used for, I won’t, because I’m hoping you’re as uncultured as I am.

But in all seriousness, as a ruin-hater, these were some of the best I’ve come across in three years of travel.

The ruins here are a mix of palaces, temples, and pyramids, and Tulum is unique because its the only Mayan site where no signs of human sacrifices were found.

I was most excited by their picturesque location.

Ruins in Tulum
Ruins in Tulum
Ruins in Tulum
Beach in Tulum

And when I saw this beach (can you spot the iguana in the photo above?), I squealed.

Because look at that water! And look at that deserted stretch of sand! And that perfect palm tree!

This was heaven.

With still only a handful of people in the complex and exploring the ruins, nobody had yet to wander onto this perfect beach. I immediately decided I’d had enough rock inspecting for one day and descended the wooden staircase onto the soft, warm sand.

The colour of the water in Tulum
Water in Tulum
Beach in Tulum

With my friends following close behind, I picked out a patch of sand near to the cliff, then set about going for a swim.

Out into the ocean, the sand was soft with not a rock in sight. The water was so clear I could see my chipped toenail polish in neck-deep water, and the temperature was the perfect bathwater-temperature warm. In the patches where the water wasn’t quite as clear, talcum powder sand swirled around me, forming a cocoon against my body.

Back on the beach, I nervously sunbathed amongst roaming iguanas, every now and then squinting skywards to catch a glimpse of the Mayan ruins towering above us.

“This is the best beach I’ve ever been on,” I declared.

“What?” Brian said in disbelief. “But you’ve been to Boracay.” Back in 2011, I had written such a glowing report of Boracay, that after reading it, Brian had headed there himself and fallen just as much in love with that crowded paradise.

“But Boracay has so many people!” I retorted. “We have this beach all to ourselves.”

He rolled his eyes and laughed, and I knew he was thinking I probably say that about every beach I visit. Which is, um, occasionally true.

But this was definitely the best beach ever.

Lauren on the beach in Tulum
Beach and ruins in Tulum
Iguana on the beach in Tulum

But then the tourists came, complete with fanny packs and defining voices.

Crowded beach in Tulum

They came and they came and they came.

Crowds at Tulum

It was time to leave.

How to get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen

Super easy and super cheap! Calle 2 is the place to go. Between 15th and 20th Avenue, you’ll find a row of colectivos with men shouting, “Tulum! Tulum!” Nod your head, jump inside, and you’re good to go. The 45 minute journey costs around $2.50 (40 MXN).

Entrance fee for Tulum: 59 Mexican Pesos, around $3.50.

Where to Stay in Tulum

Not staying in Playa del Carmen? If that’s the case, you’ll be in an even better position to discover the best beach in Tulum. Here are some of the places I recommend staying in.

If you’re on a really tight budget: Tubo Tulum hostel is one of the cheapest spots in Tulum that still receives excellent reviews. You can stay in a tent for just $17 a night, or opt for a private room in the hostel for $32 a night, including a free breakfast. Check availability here.

If you’re looking for romance without breaking the bank: Villas H2O comes in at around $75 a night and is an excellent option for couples who don’t want to splurge on an expensive resort stay. The rooms are sleek, clean, and modern, the staff are welcoming and friendly, it has a kickass swimming pool and spa, and is perfectly located for exploring Tulum and its ruins. Click here to check availability.

Where’s your favourite beach in the world? Does Tulum seem like your kind of place?

Related Articles on Mexico

💰 The Cost of Travel in Mexico: My Detailed Budget Breakdown
🏖 28 Incredible Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
🏝 24 Incredible Things to Do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
☀️ Isla Mujeres: My Mexican Island Paradise
🌈 Guanajuato: The Prettiest City in Mexico
🧐 A Love-Hate Relationship with Playa del Carmen
🙈 That Time I Stayed in a Hotel Without Walls
🏡 Finding An Apartment in Sayulita

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Tulum has the best beach ever -- you just need to know how best to visit the ruins. This post covers the ideal time to visit, and where to head to first.
About the author

Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff is a published author and travel expert who founded Never Ending Footsteps in 2011. She has spent over 12 years travelling the world, sharing in-depth advice from more than 100 countries across six continents.

Lauren's travel advice has been featured in publications like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Cosmopolitan, and her work is read by 200,000 readers each month. Her travel memoir can be found in bookstores across the planet.


  1. July 24, 2015

    FANTASTIC pictures, this place looks amazing! I really want to go here now.

    • July 24, 2015

      Thank you! It would be hard to take a bad photo somewhere this pretty! :-)

  2. July 24, 2015


    First I have to say. What a f**** excellent blog.

    Loved some of your older stories.

    My favorite beaches are in Croatia. Vis Island. You should check it out.

    Srebrna beach is my favorite.


    • July 24, 2015

      Now that’s the type of comment I like to receive! :-) I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Croatia, but never Vis island. Looks beautiful, though! On my list!

      • Timothy Belk
        January 3, 2018

        Which hotel is closest to those nice beaches?

  3. July 25, 2015

    It is definitely a beautiful beach. Tulum has some of the best beaches I have ever seen along with the beaches of the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, Northland in New Zealand and the beaches around Cape Town. Isla Mujeres has a beautiful beach too with even finer sand than Tulum

    • November 26, 2015

      I’m heading to Fiji in a couple of months! I can’t wait to see it :-)

  4. That water looks like a DREAM! I haven’t experienced a clear water beach in soo long. I live in America but I’ve never been to Mexico — hopefully I’ll be able to visit it soon!


    • November 26, 2015

      I hope so, too! The Caribbean side has some amazing beaches.

  5. Bob
    July 25, 2015

    I loved Tulum too — more for the ruins, than the beach. My all time favorite beach is Siesta Key in Sarasota FL. Certainly not as exotic as other places you’ve been, but plenty of room for people. I’ve never felt crowded.

    • November 26, 2015

      I’ve definitely got to explore more of Florida :-)

  6. July 25, 2015

    I enjoyed your photos. Lauren. It brought back memories of my visit to Tulum a decade ago. It was such fun riding with the locals in the colectivo and trying to find the camouflaged iguanas amongst the ruins. Such a fascinating place!!

    • November 22, 2015

      Wow! I bet it was much quieter 10 years ago.

  7. July 25, 2015

    I love your images and your way to write.
    It seems that you’ve made a fantastic trip!

    I was in Sardegna this this year and visited Rom.
    Sardegnas beaches are also amazing.

    My images and story and a recipe you can find on my Blog.


    (Translation: scroll down)

    • July 26, 2015

      Thank you so much, Kat! :-) Sardegna looks beautiful!

  8. July 25, 2015

    Ruins and beach, culture + leisure: it is SO my kind of place! It looks like you have to time it right to enjoy it fully though, I’ll remember the advice about getting there early.

    • July 26, 2015

      It’s pretty perfect, isn’t it? It has something to please everyone! Well, at least until the crowds descend on you :-)

  9. July 26, 2015

    WOW! That’s the sort of place where you have to keep rubbing your eyes, cartoon style, to make sure it’s not some sort of mirage.

    • July 26, 2015

      Exactly! I couldn’t believe we had it mostly to ourselves for the first few hours, too :-)

  10. Anand BV
    July 27, 2015

    Lauren, pics are really amazing!!! If you wouldn’t have shared, I would have never known about this beautiful place. Really want to visit this place once in my life time

  11. July 27, 2015

    Ahhh this post is making me so anxious to get down to Mexico!! I’ve been living in Houston, TX for the past 6 months, and it’s only a 2 hour flight down to that area of Mexico from here. I still can’t believe I haven’t been yet!

    • August 3, 2015

      I love this part of Mexico and highly recommend it! Lots of really pretty places in the Yucatan!

  12. Aisling
    July 27, 2015

    Please tell me you used a filter in these photos….Ive never seen a sky and water so blue!

    • August 3, 2015

      I edit all of my photos in Photoshop before posting, but not drastically so.

  13. July 27, 2015

    Ahhhh it’s SO PRETTY! Great tip on going early – I wouldn’t mind having that beach to myself, either!

    • August 3, 2015

      Isn’t it gorgeous? I couldn’t believe we were the only people on it for a while!

  14. Miriam of Adventurous Miriam
    July 27, 2015

    Oh, Tulum.. Seeing your photos brings back so many good memories. Like you, I loved this place, especially because we had it all to ourselves. Boracay is still my favorite though :)

    • August 3, 2015

      Haha! Boracay is a close second for me :-)

  15. Christian Ostmo
    August 5, 2015

    I’m in Playa del Carmen, and the seaweed has been so bad the last 8 months that you can’t even see the beach…and the water is brown/green, not blue :( You have to go to Isla Mujeres or Cozumel to see a nice beach.

    • November 26, 2015

      Ack, that sucks! I’ve seen some pretty awful photos of it online. Hope it clears soon!

  16. Claudia
    August 6, 2015

    Mmmm. Oh well. I have been to Tulum 3 times (twice to the archeological site).

    The first time I have been there, I had no idea I could actually access the beach from the site, and ended up jumping in the ocean in my undies because I just could not resist.

    Having said that, even then I knew that Tulum is not the best beach I have ever seen. But then, I am from Sardinia so I do have very high expectations when it comes to beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters.

    Then I visited Tulum again in January and in February 2015 and the beach below the site could not even be accessed (and it still is the case, from reports I have been reading online) because it is full of seaweed. It was like that all around the area. I spent a day at the beach in Tulum Playa and did not even get close to the water as I was grossed out with the seaweed and the horrible odor that came from it.

    I think the way we see a beach (and a place) really depends on our mood. Any place looks quite incredible if it is deserted. I’d recommend you visit some of the best Sardinian beaches at 8:00 am to get my point! In fact, I would love it if you visited! You’d love it too!!

    • November 27, 2015

      Ah, that sucks. I can’t believe how much seaweed there is, and how much of the coastline it’s been affecting.

      I’d love to go to Sardinia! Hopefully next year when I’m based in Europe.

  17. August 10, 2015

    It probably only was one of the best beaches ever for you because you came early and beat the crowds. When we went there we didn’t even go down to the beach because there were so many people.

    Best beach we have ever been to is Winnifred Beach in Port Antonio, Jamaica. The water there was even clearer than it was in Tulum and you pretty much have the beach to yourself until late afternoon.

    • November 22, 2015

      Ah, so it’s definitely key to go early! When we were the only people on the beach and in the ocean, it was incredible :-)

  18. September 17, 2015

    Hey…inspires curious imaginings about the Mayans who lived here…this was their super awesome beachfront villa spot! haha

    So, question: what time did those 5 million people show up? The iguana tourists are cool, but your later images do show that the site and beach are really popular.

    • November 13, 2015

      They turned up around an hour after opening. You have to get in there fast!

  19. Hook
    September 22, 2015

    If the seaweed is so prevalent and odorous as well, how could this be your favorite beach? I understand it is a natural thing, and I am sure Tulum is wonderful as a whole, but still.. with all of the beaches you have been to a seagrass-ridden, smelly, crowded beach is your number one?

    • September 22, 2015

      Look at my photos. There was absolutely no seaweed when I was there!

      • Hook
        September 23, 2015

        Right. It seems to come and go. I will be there in a couple of weeks so hopefully it is not a distraction.


  20. Kelly
    February 5, 2016

    Wow! That looks incredible! Now the interesting thing is, is that I was actually in Tulum in August, and I guess that they just began to have a major seaweed problem so when I saw the beach, it was mostly covered in seaweed. but these pictures really encourage me to make the trip back!

    • February 11, 2016

      Seems like the seaweed has been there for the best part of the year. Such a shame considering how beautiful the beach is without it! :-)

  21. Mariedda
    August 13, 2016

    Reading this comments while looking at Tankah Bay in Tulum…I agree with you, one of my favorite beaches, but….you need to check out Los Roques Archipelagos in Venezuela, to bad the country is in such bad shape but still Los Roques is incredible!!

    • August 13, 2016

      I’d love to visit one day when the country is on its way to recovery.

  22. Jesse
    September 20, 2016

    Thanks dear for this great and informative blog post! This excellent post is perfect timing for us as we are just planning to make a beach tour. Once again, thanks for the amazing list.

  23. Julie
    September 25, 2016

    Looks gorgeous. About how long did you have on the beach before the crowds descended?

  24. Analise
    October 10, 2016

    Hey do you know the name of this beach?

    • October 11, 2016

      I don’t think it has one.

      • Gayathri
        October 19, 2016

        Your pictures are splendidddd and it is like a heaven on earth!!
        Is this the Playa paraiso beach?? I am planning for a trip to Cancun on Nov12,2016 and i would want to spend 1 full day in Tulum.
        Any suggestions??
        Thanks in advance :)

        • October 19, 2016

          No, it’s the beach inside the Mayan ruins. Just head to the ruins early in the morning (if possible) and you’ll have the beach to yourself. Playa Paraiso looks gorgeous, though — I didn’t manage to get there, but I’d definitely check it out if I return!

  25. James Reardon
    December 21, 2016

    Gorgeous but seaweed! Oh no. Any new reports on the current status of the seaweed problem? Planning a trip in a few weeks and am having hesitations. FYI, Sardinia beaches are amazing. Not only was the water the clearest I have ever seen it was like a magnifying glass.

    • January 4, 2017

      It sounds like the seaweed is all cleared up now, so you should be good to go! :-)

  26. TN
    December 29, 2016

    This is so gorgeous! What month did you go?

  27. Mario
    February 28, 2017

    I love your site and the way you describe Tulum. Actualy is my favorite beach by far too.
    best wishes.

  28. Lisa Cirilli
    March 6, 2017

    Do you have any recommendations as to where to stay in Tulum? Are all of the beaches equally as nice? I’m looking to go in April with my kids. I’m looking for a place blindly online, which is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Great blog!

  29. June 20, 2017

    Lauren, you are a refreshing fountain of information. I love Mexico! I am currently planning our trip for August and every town I google brings me to one of your blogs. Thank you! I already have my accommodations for 4 nights in Playa, but I am considering adding 2 in Tulum. We are a family of 5. Girls are 8,11,13 and very adventurous. 11 and 13 year old are SCUBA certified. 8 Year old will be when her cardiovascular is more mature. If you had t extra days to spend in that vicinity, where would you suggest? Thank you so much for your help.

  30. Mirna
    January 20, 2019

    Hi, what time of the year did you visit? I’m curious because the water is so clear and beautiful. I’d like to go during a time when the beaches look like this.

  31. March 8, 2020

    You are right on the money! My wife and I went to Tulum for the first time in 1989. The beach next to the temple is spectacular. Back in 1989, Tulum had little development. The only other place that I have been to that has the combination of beautiful sand and spectacular water is Bora Bora, but that was little difficult to get to from the east coast.
    I was once at the old hotel bora bora where the sand was so fine that your feet would sink about 3 or 4 inches into the white sand. What an experience. Bora Bora is essentially a sunken volcano with tips of the mountain ridge creating a protected lagoon that acts as a giant aquarium. We stayed at the BoraBora Lagoon resort located on a “motu” or little island across the lagoon from the main town on the island of bora bora which was accessed by a speed boat that constantly drove back and forth between the hotel and the main island. Absolutely great experience using the resort as a base to explore bora bora islands. Michener said it is the most beautiful place on earth,
    As beautiful as Bora Bore and Hawsii is, I love the combination of Mexico’s quintana Roos unsurpassed aqua marine and turquoise water, pristine and un crowded white sand beaches, and outstanding hotels restaurants and entertainment. It is an unsurpassed combination that is readily accessible to the east coast, or any US location for that matter. My two cents. Mike

  32. Carl
    May 27, 2024

    Wow your expertise could not be more different from ours. We hated every minute of Tulum beach, from the gross overpriced beach bars, to the 24 hour generators and open surge. It was all too much for us so we left after two days for Merida. Did you not notice all of the price gouging and the corruption? As for the beach, it was hard enough to get access without having to stay at the beach bars with their lame house music but the beach itself was covered in seaweed and it stank.
    There is a reason why almost EVERY Tulum beach review on trip advisor post 2021 is one star. Paradise lost!

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