Despite its recent transformation from a cheap hippie hideaway to a pricey influencer paradise, it's still possible to visit Tulum on a budget.
Sure, the arrival of vegan smoothie spots, eco-friendly wellness centers, and exclusive beach clubs has earned Tulum the unofficial title of 'Bali of the Americas.' But Tulum also still boasts plenty of cheap and tasty tacos, beautiful public beaches, and unique, affordable accommodation options to suit any budget.
From the best cheap eats to must-see attractions, here's our budget travel guide to visiting Tulum without going broke.
Tulum on a budget: Know before you go
You can't fly directly into Tulum
You'll have to fly into Cancun, which is 1.5-2 hours away, depending on whether you rent a car or take the bus. If you don't want to spend money on a rental car, you can take the ADO Bus to Tulum for about $15 on-site or $16.50 + tax if you buy from the Cancun Airport website.
Cash is king
Specifically pesos. While there are places that accept US dollars and even a few that accept credit cards (but not as many as in Cancun), you lose money to poor conversion rates when paying in USD. Instead, take out pesos from an airport ATM when you arrive or your local bank before your trip. There are plenty of ATMs located around Tulum but they can be out of order or inconvenient depending on where you're staying.
The environment is having a hard time keeping up
Rapid development and an increase in waste have put a strain on the local environment in Tulum. Try to do your part and adopt some sustainable tourism practices on your Tulum trip, like bringing reusable water bottles, cutting down on single-use plastic, and choosing eco-friendly accommodation.
Look out for seaweed before you go
Over the last few years, beaches from Cancun to Tulum have dealt with a sizable increase in sargassum, a smelly seaweed-like algae, washing ashore. Depending on the timing of your visit, there may be blankets of the stuff or none at all. Do a quick search and see what the current situation is like before planning your trip.
Free and cheap things to do in Tulum
Take a refreshing dip in Tulum's best cenotes
Tulum is home to some of Mexico's best cenotes (sey-no-tays), natural water-filled sinkholes made of limestone, some of which are completely underground. Most cenotes charge a small fee, ranging from $2-10 but the experience of swimming in these Mexican marvels is certainly worth the cheap price tag. Some of the best cenotes in Tulum include Centote Carwash, Cenote Zacil-Ha, and the frequently Instagrammed Cenote Suytun.
Soak up the sun and seek out the free beaches
To enjoy many of the main beaches in Tulum, you'll be required to stay at select beachfront hotels or meet the minimum food & drink spend at one of the many beach clubs. But Tulum does in fact have free public beaches, the most popular being the stunning Playa Paraiso. Other favorites include Playa Ruinas, directly below the Tulum Ruins Archeological Site, and Playa Las Palmas, complete with a beach gym.
Wander through the Tulum Ruins
Also known as the Tulum Archeological Zone, the Tulum Ruins are uniquely situated right on a high cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea (thank goodness for ocean breezes). The entrance fee is a budget friendly 80 pesos ($4 – cash only). A word to the wise: Be sure to go early to beat the heat and the crowds.
Snorkel with sea turtles at Akumal Beach
Just a short drive from Tulum, Akumal Beach offers a wonderful opportunity to get up close in personal with green sea turtles. You can snorkel right off the beach and swim alongside the turtles in their natural habitat – just be sure to keep your hands to yourself. As a bonus, Akumal Beach's powdery white sand and crystal clear waters make it a great place to unwind once you're done.
Strike a pose at the top Tulum Instagram spots
Like it or not, social media has played a sizable role in Tulum's rise in popularity over the last few years. From the world-famous 'Ven a la Luz' (Come into the light) art installation by Daniel Popper or the practically-made-for-Instagram 'Follow That Dream' sign outside Lolita & Lolita Boutique, you can get in on the fun at the best Instagram spots in Tulum – we're not here to judge.
Where to stay on a budget in Tulum
From Lisbon and London to New Orleans and Miami, Selina has become synonymous with quality, reliable, budget-friendly accommodation – especially among digital nomads. Their Tulum outpost is no different, offering shared, private, and premium room options, as well as a stylish coworking space.
Mimosa Tulum Boutique Hotel & Hostel
Mimosa is an incredibly chic hostel that replaces backpacker grittiness with a luxury feel – without the luxury price tag. The budget friendly property is designed with thoughtful touches throughout, from the serene pool and garden to the minimalist rooms with natural wooden elements.
Hostel Che Tulum
It's hard to argue with Hostelworld's "9th most desired hostel to visit in the world" – as long as you don't mind being a bit social. Che Tulum is definitely one of Tulum's most well-known hostels and with its recently remodeled rooms, a convenient downtown location, and a lively poolside bar, this spot truly is the ultimate backpacker hangout.
Cheap flights to Tulum
Fortunately, Cancun's popularity means that we regularly find cheap flights to Tulum from most major American cities like Boston, Chicago, and even Philadelphia. Recently, Dollar Flight Club members have saved between 70-90% on cheap flights to Tulum. On average, our members spent $515 on their tickets and saved over $300 per ticket. Here are a few samples of cheap flight deals that Dollar Flight Club members have received recently.
Philadelphia (PHL) to Cancun (CUN)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $190
Average Price: $315
Dallas (DFW) to Cancun (CUN)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $179
Average Price: $300
Seattle (SEA) to Cancun (CUN)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $220
Average Price: $450
Pro Tip: Cheap flights to Tulum come up pretty frequently. You should also set up fare alerts on sites like Google Flights, Momondo, or Skyscanner, which will send you an email once prices for your chosen dates have dropped.
Best cheap eats in Tulum
In true Tulum fashion, Burrito Amor offers a menu that everyone can fall in love with, including the vegan and gluten-free crowds. Take your pick of banana-leaf-wrapped burritos, savory salads, or a sweet (& healthy) treat. Then, wash it down with one of their fresh juices or a local craft beer. While Burrito Amor isn't the cheapest place in Tulum, it's surprisingly budget friendly for such a health-focused eatery, with burritos starting around 45 pesos (about $2.25).
Tired of Tulum's healthy hippie vibes? Hit up Taquería Honorio, where you'll find a long line of hungry patrons hoping to get their hands on what might be the Yucatan's best chochinita pibil tacos. And at just 22 pesos (about $1) per taco, it's doesn't get much more budget friendly.
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Sliced right off the rotating spit, the mouthwatering al pastor tacos are the undisputed star of the show at Antojitos La Chiapaneca. As one of Tulum's most respected taco spots, you'll find a healthy amount of both locals and tourists alike here. These cheap and delicious tacos start at the incredibly reasonable price of just 10 pesos (about 50 cents).
Start planning your trip to Tulum
While it may not be the cheap, hidden gem that it once was, you can still find plenty of ways to enjoy Tulum on a budget. With its free beaches, cheap eats, and incredible sights, it's the perfect place to relax and recharge without breaking the bank.
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.