Tulum has become the go-to destination in Mexico over the last decade. Influencers, celebrities, and world-renowned DJs have flocked to this boho beachside city blowing it up on social media. After visiting Tulum along with 26 Mexican states and countless cities in Mexico, we often get asked is Tulum worth visiting?
In our opinion, no.
This isn’t to say Tulum doesn’t have a lot to offer. It’s home to Mayan ruins, epic cenotes, some of the coolest nightclubs, and the best DJ events along with stunning beaches. But it’s hardly our favorite place and it’s unlikely we’ll be returning.
For some people (more on who they might be later), Tulum is a destination worth visiting. But personally, we recommend skipping it – here’s why.
It’s outrageously expensive
Mexico is revered for being a low-cost vacation with luxury beach resorts and stunning scenery. While you can visit many parts of Mexico on a budget and vacation comfortably. Tulum is not one of those places.
Tulum is outrageously expensive with prices for food, drinks, and experiences often exceeding big city prices like Paris or New York City. Shops selling “boho chic” clothing were priced around $100 to $300 USD for a single item.
At first, we didn’t understand why it was so expensive here. But after walking around we realized the people Tulum was attracting had the money to blow. We saw one eccentric guy spend over $500 on a headdress that was made with eagle feathers. 🪶😳
We tried to visit KinToh Rooftop bar, one of the most famous spots for sunset on Tulum Beach and were shocked to hear it was $600 MXP or roughly $35 to get in. This fee included one drink with views from the rooftop, but we refused to pay that price.
It’s not uncommon for a cocktail to be $400 MXP or around $20 USD, and a dinner at a moderate to nicer restaurant along the beach to be $40 to $50 or more per dish.
Tulum hotels cost a minimum of $400 to stay per night. There are a few hostels and Airbnb’s in the town center that you can get by for $200 or less, but it’s few and far between.
Some of the higher-end luxury hotels are $800 to $1,200 per night. 😳 These prices are simply unattainable for the majority and a poor reflection of what Mexico can be. It’s now a playground for the rich and famous and a destination to “boast that you went there”.
Tulum grew too big too fast. After it started gaining attention from international tourists, and eventually wealthy influencers and celebrities millions of investment dollars started pouring into it. New hotels, eco-lodges, condos, and co-living communities popped up.
But the city wasn’t ready for it. Its water systems, sewage systems, and roads weren’t able to handle the surge in population and it’s put a strain on the locals who have lived here for decades as well as the environment.
The fresh drinking water sources from the underground aquifers have been strained so badly that the city is now sourcing drinking water outside of this region (something it’s never had to do before).
The hotels are notorious for dumping their sewage into the beaches. Those who have a cistern for sewage still face issues of leakage in the limestone bedrock that sits below Tulum. And is one of the big reasons there’s an unhealthy level of E. coli in many of the top tourist cenotes that surround Tulum.
The study took water samples from 10 of the most popular cenotes around the city. The test analyzed the MPN of E. coli per 100 ml of water. For reference, 100 MPN is considered high risk. 🚨 Eight of the ten had more than 2,400 MPN per 100ml during the rainy season and the other two had 253 MPN (which is still well above “high-risk levels”). 🤢
The roads are also ill-equipped to handle the number of cars it sees. There is little to no parking in the hotel beach zone and the road out to the beach zone gets so backed up it can take more than an hour to get from the town center to the beach by car.
There were no sidewalks on the beach side, making it very dangerous and inconvenient when walking to different hotels, restaurants, or businesses.
It’s one of the least authentic places in Mexico
We realize not everyone wants “authenticity” when they go on vacation. Some simply want a place to unplug and relax sipping cocktails under an umbrella. But that’s not how we like to travel.
We like to immerse ourselves in the culture, practice the language, talk with locals, and try new exotic foods. And Tulum is limited in what it has to offer in terms of authenticity. The hotel zone is a complete tourist trap. It prides itself on being sustainable and hippie, with eco-lodges and wellness retreats.
But it’s completely greenwashed.
As I walked the beach zone I could hear the oh-so-peaceful sound of diesel generators running at the “eco-lodges” so guests could have their morning lattes and non-stop A/C.
Everything about it was built on giving the persona of “eco-focused” while not upholding those standards.
This doesn’t mean Tulum has no authentic places to visit, but you have to actively seek out these places and you need to stick to the town center, not the beach zone. There were areas in the Tulum town center (city, not beach side) that had awesome, affordable, local taquerias and street vendors.
Find the good hole-in-the-wall spots that serve tasty Mexican food for cheap. They exist. We found an amazing street vendor that sold some of the best carnitas tacos we’ve ever eaten in a year and a half in Mexico!
Crime has increased recently
Unfortunately when a place receives a lot of hype, and thus a lot of money from tourists, it gains attention from some of the cartels in the country. We believe Mexico is safe to visit, but areas with lots of money tend to see upticks in gang and drug-related crimes.
Over the last few years, there have been more reported incidents of cartel-related crimes. In 2021, two tourists were killed in the crossfire between two rival cartels on Tulum beach. While no other tourist-related accidents have been reported like this, crime like this wasn’t an issue for Tulum before it blew up as the hottest city in Mexico to visit.
Why Tulum is worth visiting
The one reason we feel Tulum is worth visiting is to visit the Archeological zone. It’s one of the few Mayan ruins that was directly on the ocean. We have visited a ton of different archeological zones in Mexico and the Tulum ruins remain at the top of our list.
If your goal is to go to Tulum to experience the ruins and learn about its history and importance to the Mayan culture, I think you will be happy you went. But many visitors come here just to get the “Insta shot” and move on without taking the time to appreciate this sacred site.
There’s way better places to visit in Mexico
I rarely write a negative post about a destination. I know my opinion is not the end all be all, but wanted to share the side of the coin rarely spoken about Tulum. I also wanted to give my genuine answer as to whether or not I felt is Tulum worth visiting. Which is mostly no, aside from the Tulum ruins.
Tulum might be an attractive destination if you want an in-authentic getaway where you do much of what you would do in your home country. Love acai blows, smoothies, and avocado toast? Want expensive hotel rooms in chic “eco-lodges” or to do a yoga retreat surrounded by almost all English speakers? Looking for a party where you can drink all day by the beach listening to electronic music?
Awesome, you’ll love Tulum.
If you are going to Tulum check out some of the top tours in the area. This can help you learn more about the history and do unique activities to enhance your overall trip. Just make sure to choose eco-companies when possible!
But you can find us relaxing in the quieter more authentic towns of Mahuahal, or Bacalar, or Todos Santos. Or better yet, really diving into the Mexican culture in hubs like Valladolid, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de Las Casas, or Tepotzlan.