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Cheap Things to do in Tulum: Tulum on a Budget

Face Guy in Tulum
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Tulum is Mexico’s hotspot at the moment. Everyone wants to visit Tulum. It is hopping with digital nomads, hipsters, and travelers from all over the world.

Full of great bars, beaches, ruins, and cenotes, there are plenty of things to do in Tulum. However, Tulum can be expensive.

So what cheap things to do in Tulum, can you actually do?

Located on Mexicos Yucatán Peninsula, it is not only known for its beautiful beaches, rich Mayan history, and amazing snorkeling in the Mesoamerican reef.

The coastal city was also once an ancient port and walled town for the Mayans which is where its name came from because Tulum” in Maya stands for the wall.

However, its powdery, white beaches helped put Tulum on the map as a popular and luxurious destination among tourists.  Tulum is the perfect place to add to any Mexican itinerary

There is so much that Tulum offers its visitors but this is a list of some of the must-visit and must-try activities while in Tulum.

 

Pro Tip: Before you arrive in Tulum be sure to book your transportation beforehand as Uber doesn’t work from the Cancun airport. This will also help avoid you from being hassled right as you walk off the plane

Cheap Things to do in Tulum

Things to do in Tulum visit the Mayan Ruins

Mayan Ruins in Tulum

1. The Mayan Ruins

Though the Mayan ruins in Tulum are not the largest of Mexico’s well-preserved, 13th-century historic sites, they are arguably the most beautiful.

Located on the top of a 15-meter high cliff overlooking the vast ocean, theyre absolutely stunning. This site is one of the most photographed and picturesque spots in Mexico.

These ruins are important artifacts of history because they help tell the story of an ancient and gifted civilization.

Visiting these ruins makes for a great day trip to explore the area and imagine what life mightve looked like during this time. 

The ruins were strategically built on this cliff to provide protection. With walls on 3 sides and the cliff on the other, it was a seaport fortress and popular trading center.

Now, the structures are somewhat covered in lush greenery and visitors are encouraged to walk around and find a quiet spot to reflect and enjoy the beautiful history. 

One of the main structures at the Tulum Mayan ruins is El Castillo which is the most prominent and pyramid-like structure.

You can climb to the top for amazing views of the rest of the ruins or the ocean. Other ruins include a temple and a few houses that had various uses.

After or before exploring the ruins you can even swim in the ocean below by accessing a trail from El Castillo down to the beach.

The secluded shore has amazing views of the ruins on the cliff-top above. It is a great cheap way to spend your day in Tulum. 

Cenotes Tulum one of the many things to do

Fresh Water Cenotes in Tulum

2. Visit the Cenotes

Cenotes are underground bodies of freshwater that are formed from a collapse of limestone rock to create a groundwater sinkhole.

There are thousands in the Yucatan Peninsula and they can be completely underground caves, semi-open to let the sunshine and fresh air in, or open pools of water.

Tulum has some of the best and most popular cenotes. Including one free one.

The rest are pretty cheap, but will still cost a few dollars to get in.

They are perfect for spending a hungover afternoon in. Nothing beats their cold refreshing water to rinse away the booze from the night before.

Free Cenote to visit in Tulum is located at the Grans Bambu Hostel

Other cheap Cenotes to visit.

2a. Gran Cenote 

This is a popular location because it consists of a few cenotes which makes it fun to try them all. Theyre connected by a wooden walkway so you can swim in each, and it also makes for a great Instagram shot.

Snorkeling is very popular at this cenote and its only an 8-minute drive from downtown Tulum.

2b. Cenote Calavera

This cenote is great for scuba divers and adventurous swimmers.

Its surrounded by the jungle and has a swing and platform for jumping in the water.

Its a bit quieter than other cenotes because its more popular among divers than anything else but that makes it all the better for relaxing and its only a 6-minute drive for Tulum.

2c. Cenote Carwash

Carwash is a very large and open cenote that has an almost pond-like feel with its lily pads floating on the water and beautiful lush exterior.

Its a popular snorkeling location because of the many plants and fish and its an exciting experience to uncover this underwater world and only a 10-minute drive away.

Visiting the cenotes is not only some of the best cheap things to do in Tulum, but they are also some of the more popular things to do in the Riviera Maya

Snorkeling in Cenotes, Tulum
3. Snorkeling or Diving

Snorkeling is a very popular activity in Tulum and a great place for it. Not only does Tulum have a wonderful reef to dive, but its cenotes are also amazing for diving or snorkeling.

Tulum’s reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System which is the second-largest in the world.

There are so many options when it comes to snorkeling and diving in Tulum.

Various boat tours will take you on a beautiful ride and to some really cool spots to snorkel or you can swim out a bit and snorkel off the shore.

But those will be more expensive than if you just go out on your own.

Playa Maya Public Beach is a good spot for offshore snorkeling because it has amazing sea life. It is a great cheap thing to do in Tulum.

Also, Tulum’s wonderful cenotes make a great spot for either diving or snorkeling

If you visit cenotes while in Tulum, make sure to bring your snorkeling gear!

These freshwater caves have rare species which are so exciting to discover.

All cenotes are different and some are completely underground while others see a lot of sunshine so youll find different things at all of them.

 

Beach with blue water in Tulum, Mexico4. Relax on the Beach

Tulum is known for its soft, powdery white sand beaches. They look and feel luxurious to the touch and part of a trip to Tulum must include relaxing days spent on the beach.

You can’t come to Tulum and not spend at least one day on the beach.

Also, if you are not one to camp out on the beach with a book, Tulum has plenty of beach bars where you can mingle and meet fellow travelers, but they are not going to be cheap.

The Caribbean sun is so warm and inviting, the ocean is always a comfortable temperature and the sand is soft and serene.

You definitely need to spend some time on the beach.

Plan a day to spend at the beach and pack a lunch and bring your own drinks to save money.

Beach Recommendations

Playa Ruina 

This is the Beach under the Mayan Ruins. From the ruins, there are stunning cliff-top views. It’s a private beach that can only be accessed when visiting El Castillo, so it tends to be less crowded.

Playa Paraiso 

Is a more popular beach, but it is an open wide long stretch so it still doesn’t feel crowded. It is great if you are going to want to eat in a restaurant during the day. 

 

Kaan Luum Lagoon, Mexico5. Kaan Luum Lagoon

If you are coming to Tulum, you have to visit Kann Luum Lagoon. It is surrounded by the jungle, and is a great off-the-beaten-path attraction that is absolutely worth the trip.

The best part is, its only a 13-minute car ride from downtown Tulum and you can take a local bus to get there.

Its a large body of water with many layers of blue to enjoy swimming in.

The color of the water is just absolutely stunning.

At the center of the lagoon is an underwater cenote but its roped off because the current can be strong and it’s only safe for divers.

As long as you stay on the outskirts of the lagoon, youll enjoy the warm shallow waters and the secluded feel it has. 

It is a great cheap way to spend the day.

People Standing outside a busy Taco Stand in Tulum

6. Eat Tacos at Horingo

One of my favorite things about Mexico is the food. There is no doubt about that. I love it.

The food in Tulum is delicious and fresh and hot and trendy. There are so many hot spots to check out. Including amazing street food.

This taco place is always pumping with locals and tourists.

By far the best tacos in town.

If you are looking for a cheap thing to do in Tulum, why not create your own taco tour tasting all the street tacos in town?

Be sure to stay away from the hotel zones where the meals are more expensive and the food is less authentic.

Walk into town, and off the popular street to find more casual and affordable options.

There are some great street vendors that usually sell tacos for very cheap and will probably be a more memorable meal than any trendy restaurants on the beach.

Bikes on Tulum Beach

7. Rent a Bike or Stroll Around

Tulum is full of colorful buildings and beautiful views.

Renting a bike or walking around town is a great way to spend a slow morning during your stay or before dinner spends some time building up your appetite and stroll around to sightsee.

Renting a bike and checking out the town is far cheaper than taking taxis everywhere.

Tulum is a big spread-out town, so you are going to want to have some form of transportation.

Rent a bike and do some beach or taco hopping around town. You won’t regret it!

Its a great perspective on Tulum and it provides a more cultural experience.

8. Akumal

Akumal is about 30 minutes by car from downtown Tulum but its a very popular spot to visit. Its known for being an amazing snorkeling location especially because its a hub among turtles.

It’s a fun cheap way to swim with turtles.

Theres a good chance youll spot one while youre out looking at all the marine life. You can snorkel right off the beach and its a popular nesting area among turtles and other sea life which is what makes it so special. 

So if you are a bug turtle fan like myself you won’t want to miss this hot spot.

Catch the local bus to save on transportation. Want to save even more, bring your own snorkel gear with you.

9. Visit Mystika

If normal museums put you to sleep, you will want to check out Mystika. It is an interactive museum that triggers all your senses.

It is designed to not only stimulate your eyes but also your ears.

Mystika brings art to life. Enjoy different rooms and different sensations as you walk through an interactive art studio.

Forget what you have thought about art museums in the past. This is bringing art into the 21st century.

The best part is tickets are under $20, which might be a little out of your price range. However, it is still far cheaper than ordering 1 drink from any beach club.

Girl Standing in front of wooden man at night in Tulum

10. Take Trendy Instagram Photos

Tulum is full of influencers taking trendy photos all over the place. This a great free activity to do, although be aware that you might have to wait your turn to get the photo you want.

Lines can be long and you can wait up to an hour, just to have your turn to get the shot you want.

But it is free and they say a picture is worth 1000 words.

Why not spend the day hoping around taking great Instagram shots? Here is a list of places to take the best Instagram spots in Tulum to help inspire you.

Couple salsa dancing

11. Free Salsa Lessons

Free is always better than cheap. Why not enjoy some free salsa lessons from La Zebra hotel on Sunday nights?

La Zebra Hotel offers free salsa lessons from 6:30pm – 7:30 pm every Sunday night that follows with a live band.

Embrace the culture and enjoy doing something for free.

Conclusions 

Tulum is a beautiful and lively city for tourists to spend a vacation. However, it can be very expensive as it appeals to trendy travelers.

There are still plenty of cheap things to do in Tulum.

So if youre just looking for a relaxing getaway with the opportunity to live like a beach bum, youve definitely come to the right place.

Furthermore, if youre hoping for a mix of relaxation and adventure its also a suitable location.

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