Tulum in Mexico has a spectacular coastline and vibe that a lot of travelers seek. As a destination, it is considered to have 3 zones: (Tulum Hotel Area)
- Tulum Pueblo: The town center which lies along Highway 307 wherein most restaurants are found alongside hotels and other shops.
- Zona Hotelera: This is the Tulum hotel area or hotel zone which has just one major road and it is east of Tulum Pueblo. You’ll find most of the expensive hotels and beach clubs here.
- Tulum Ruins: Found on the area originally referred to as “zama” (dawn), this is where its Mayan inhabitants built their temples for worship. The ruins are a must to visit during your stay but this area is basically just an attraction site.
Most people who are traveling on a budget choose to stay in Tulum Pueblo due to the significantly more affordable Tulum accommodations, but for people who are looking to escape the bustle and be at a closer distance to the beach, the Tulum hotel area is more of an appealing choice.
However, the distance between the two can be quite far at about 5 kilometers in between – or even further especially if you want to reach the middle part of Zona Hotelera. So in this article, I will be discussing the number of ways that you can transit between the two especially if you want to escape the heat, go around on a budget, or are carrying luggage with you.
Tulum City Center to Hotel Zone & Back
» By Foot
Walking is definitely an option especially if you don’t mind going on foot for 5 kilometers (or even more) — but do take into account the heat during the day when choosing this option.
And of course, exercise caution when walking long distances alone at night. After all, Tulum occasionally suffers from violent crime; but, even if it’s not usually done against tourists, it’s still important to stay street smart at all times.
Personally, I don’t recommend walking because it will take up too much of your time especially if you’re staying for a short time.
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» By Bicycle
Photo by: Shutterstock
This is one of the tourists’ favorite modes of transportation when going around Tulum and if you don’t mind doing a bit of exercise, you can rent a bike or bicycle for as low as $100 MXN per day (around $5 USD) and this price can go up to to $200 MXN. But if you’re lucky, your hotel might offer complimentary use of their bikes, so do check with them first!
A lot of bike rental shops will require a deposit and a piece of identification from you — for this, please refrain from providing your passport for as much as possible. If you’re looking for cheaper options, rent a bike from any shop in the city center instead of the hotel zone.
Tigre Tulum is a great bike rental shop that I’ve tried during my stay in Tulum and they only charged me MXN$100/day whilst asking for a MXN$500 deposit only (others often ask for MXN$1,000 and up). For identification, I gave them a supermarket membership ID that I had and they accepted it as long as I had my photo in it. They even gave me their Whatsapp number so that I can easily contact them if I ever encounter any problems with the bike.
To get to the Tulum hotel area from the city center, simply follow Google Maps‘ directions when you pick the cycle option. Rest assured, there is a great bike lane that runs from Tulum Pueblo to Avenue Coba and until the first part of the hotel zone.
After that, the bike lane ends and you will have to bike on the narrow roads by the beach. Traffic is often slow so it’s still relatively safe to bike but still, do exercise caution at all times. When nighttime comes, unless your bike has built-in lights, I advise that you refrain from using it because the hotel or beach road can get quite dark.
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» By Scooter or Moped
If you want a bit more freedom as well as gain the ability to go by yourself to far places like Reserva de la Biósfera Sian Ka’an, renting a moped motorbike or scooter is a great option.
There aren’t a lot of shops that rent out scooters but you can find a majority of them in the town center such as Tigre Tulum. Prices vary but they usually start at $500 MXN per day and $250 MXN for half a day. Take note that prices can go up especially during peak season (December to February).
Most scooters or moped bikes that they offer are either the 125cc or 150cc type. To rent, you would need to show your driver’s license (they’ll take a photo of it or just use it as a reference for filling out paperwork) and then leave your passport OR a deposit.
I suggest steering clear of shops that require you to leave your passport. As for the deposit, it could start at $1,500 MXN or more.
It is illegal to drive a scooter or moped without a helmet in Mexico, so do ensure that you wear it at all times. Bring your driver’s license or passport when driving as well because though it is rare, the police might do some random checks sometimes.
Also, if you go further down the Tulum hotel area’s road, there are some stretches where there are a lot of potholes so beware.
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» By Taxi
Uber is not available in Tulum but there is an abundance of taxis (they are white cars with red stripes). They are quite overpriced and the minimum fare per one-way journey can start at around $100 MXN.
So if you’re somewhere in the city center and you intend to the Tulum hotel area to, let’s say, a beach club called Ziggy’s, it would cost about $130 MXN. Make sure to set the price with the taxi driver before getting in so that the price is clear beforehand.
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» By Car Rental
To make the most of your time, driving a car rental is an amazing way to go around Tulum. Be wary though if you make your way to the Tulum hotel area because there can be slow traffic especially during lunchtime.
Nevertheless, it is safe to drive around in a car and it can help you reach far distances like Coba from Tulum at a faster pace than when you’re riding a scooter or moped. To rent one, it is best to reserve via RentalCars wherein the rental fee can start at only $15 USD a day (a more common price point outside the peak season).
When claiming your car rental, refrain from agreeing to any upselling tactics that they have such as additional car rental insurance — a common tactic in all car rental companies worldwide. Of course, you need insurance but you often already have good minimum coverage with them, or your credit card might already have a good policy so it’s best to check first. But in case you do want the added coverage, you can accept the added insurance cost or just get it from cheaper sources like RentalCover.
Another thing they will ask is a credit card hold which might sound scary at first but it’s a normal procedure. Just make sure this hold is properly documented with your rental company.
TIP: Gas stations are not self-service in Mexico and a good tip is to state the cash amount you’re handing over to the attendant so as to eliminate any chance of them scamming you.
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» By Colectivo
A “colectivo” is basically a local shared shuttle van that serves as some sort of hop-on-hop-off public transportation in Mexico. As you can see in the photo above, the space inside can get a bit cramped but it is the cheapest way to go around.
It is also the cheapest way to get to the Tulum hotel area from the city center. To do this, you just need to go to Parque Rotario‘s Venus Ote. street side and there you will find the colectivos (they are basically white vans with red strips as you can see in this photo).
It is important to note that this is a local colectivo that mainly aims to transport locals who are working at the hotel zone, but unlike what most people think, tourists CAN also ride these colectivos.
However, if you have big luggage with you, they won’t allow you to get on the vehicle because as you can see, it is small and there won’t be enough space to put your stuff in. (If you’re only traveling with a backpack like I was [I had a 40L bag], you will be allowed to take the colectivo).
You pay the driver before getting on the colectivo. Locals only have to pay $20 MXN or less, whereas foreigners need to pay $30 MXN for the ride. It’s best to have smaller bills when paying this fare.
The colectivo will leave only when the vehicle is filled up with people. You can tell the driver beforehand as to where your stop is, otherwise, you can just shout ‘bajo aquí‘ if you want to get off at a certain spot on the road during the ride.
To go back to the city center from the Tulum hotel area, you just need to flag down any colectivo that will pass down the beach road. They don’t operate on a fixed schedule so you just need to wait until you see one (rest assured, they pass by frequently).
A word of advice, it is up to the discretion of the driver if they want to pick you up or not especially when it’s rush hour. Of course, they won’t stop for you if the vehicle is already full.
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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Yes, there are. You can easily catch a colectivo if you see them running through the main road (Highway 307). Just flag them down and they will stop for you (they don’t operate on a fixed schedule). The cost will be around $30 MXN; just tell the driver where you want to go and you can pay once you reach the ruins.
The Tulum Ruins are just about 4km from the city center and 3km from the hotel zone. From the city center, simply take the bike lane that runs along Highway 307; whereas from the hotel zone, just go straight up the road of La Costera (sometimes, Google Maps’ cycle option tells you to go the long way, but rest assured, the entrance to the ruins near Playa Santa Fe is open).
You’ll need to go to Parque Rotario‘s Venus Ote. street side and there you will find the colectivos that travel to the hotel zone. For more information on this, read the rest of this article.
It is relatively safe especially with the presence of bike lanes along Avenue Coba and Highway 307. Once you reach the beach road at the hotel area, there’s a certain point where the bike lane ends and you will have to maneuver your way through the traffic — which is often slow. Nevertheless, it is still important to exercise caution at all times to avoid collisions with other bikes, scooters, or cars.
You can bike to the nearby cenotes but take note that you will be biking beside the highway given that there is no proper bike lane. A lot of tourists do this (I did it as well) but please be careful because cars and trucks tend to run quite wild.
When it comes to price, there might not be a huge difference between the two. However, if you want a hassle-free experience when it comes to parking and traffic, a scooter is a better option. But of course, when it comes to day trips outside of Tulum, a car is best to travel with.
Yes, you can and the fee starts at around $1,500 MXN. You can usually rent them from shops that offer ATV tours.
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I hope this article helps you as you navigate your way around the Tulum hotel area and city center! Let me know if you have other tips to share.