Hola Amigos! Welcome to my travel guide on the one-and-only Tulum in Mexico. My name is Leo Cavazzana and I was born in Sao Paulo but moved to the countryside of Brazil with my family when I was just three years old.
I grew up in the countryside having plenty of connection and time with nature. The reason I fell in love with travel and photography was because I was inspired in large part by my parents. They always took me traveling when I was a little kid and it was never to places like Disneyland!
We always traveled to exciting new countries, went camping in nature or visited interesting museums. They really showed me that there was a wider world out there and that I could conquer it. When I got older my parents started to encourage me to take my own adventures and travel.
They planted ideas in my head like buying a cheap car and road trippin’ to Patagonia. As soon as I turned 18, I started traveling and then working while I traveled. The more I saw of the world, the more I fell in love. It wasn’t always easy but it was an enriching experience that I cherish to this day.
And there’s no better way for me to tell stories than through photography. Stories and photos are one and the same. Each picture tells a 1000 words.
Second Time Visiting Tulum in 2020
This year I decided to visit Tulum for the second time. The first time was in May, 2019 for a diving with whale sharks trip. My first visit was a bit rushed – so this time I wanted to give myself more time to relax into the Tulum way of life. I also wanted to visit some friends that I have in Tulum.
Tulum is one of those places that stays on your bucket-list long after visiting. My desire to come back only grew stronger over time. I knew there would be more to see and explore. Coming back for a second experience felt similar to the first – immersed in a jungle with nature everywhere.
Three Week Holiday in Tulum
I had the pleasure of staying in Tulum for three weeks because I wanted to take things slow and enjoy time with my friends. But I believe 10-14 days would be plenty of time to explore Tulum and its beautiful surroundings.
Cenotes were top of my list and why not? They are natural swimming pools with crystal-clear water. My favorite one was Taak Bi Ha because it’s low profile and every time I visited I had the place to myself. Plus they are super chill about entering with camera gear which made it ideal for me.
I explored other famous cenotes such as Dos Ojos Cenote which was a beautiful place to swim. However, they were more strict with photography gear and charge you extra for it. Besides that, I did enter the Sian Ka’an Biosphere a few times and it’s a place that not many people visit.
If you drive to the end of the Tulum Hotel Zone you will see a gate. Crossing that gate and driving through leads you to the most beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters. Hands down the best beaches in Tulum.
Another couple of gems of Tulum were the Pink and Orange Lakes that look pretty unreal. These lakes are bursting with wildlife such as flamingos. I also visited Valladolid and Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza doesn’t require explanation – it’s a famous and amazing Mayan ruin.
Valladolid, on the other hand, is a place that I really recommend for a stop by. It’s such a beautiful city with amazing colors and restaurants and is not touristy. You get the chance to see real people living their everyday lives. I found it to be a fascinating place to practice my passion for photography.
Favorite Places: Sian Ka’an Biosphere & Taak Bi Ha Cenote
Sian Ka’an Biosphere and Taak Bi Ha Cenote were my favorites because they are places that tourists don’t often visit. Both of these spots gave me a chance to be alone with nature. Plus for photography they were amazing. It’s incredible to think places like this actually exist in the world.
10 Best Things To Do in Tulum
1. Discover the Amazing Cenotes of Tulum
Cenotes should be the one thing that everyone experiences in Tulum. These amazing underground reservoirs of water are surrounded by jungles and caves. It doesn’t get any better than exploring Cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula! I recommend starting with Dos Ojos and Taak Bi Ha.
2. Go Diving with Whale Sharks
This is one of those activities that has to be done in a certain season. Nonetheless, if you’ve come at the right time of year then it gives you the opportunity to see the biggest fish in the ocean. Being in the water with these creatures is such a humbling experience. It blows your mind!
3. Explore the Sublime Sian Ka’an Biosphere
Sian Ka’an is a place of sublime beauty. It’s protected by UNESCO and is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. Explore thousands of species of flora and fauna and enjoy the natural setting.
4. Road Trip to Chichen Itza from Tulum
Road trippin’ to Chichen Itza takes two hours if you have rented a car or slightly longer if you go by bus. Chichen Itza has been classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and it’s easy to see why when you arrive. Explore this Mayan ruin and take plenty of photos!
5. Stay in a Cool Hotel by the Sea
There are many hotels in Tulum with mind-blowing architecture. Staying in one is a unique experience. Most of these hotels have organic farms that blend with nature – so it’s like being hosted in the middle of the jungle. Papaya Playa Project, Azulik Resort and Be Tulum are some of the best.
6. Sail to the Beautiful Isla Mujeres
Jumping on a catamaran or sailboat to Isla Mujeres is one of the best experiences you can do from Tulum. Just picture yourself sailing on the Mexican Caribbean – does life get any better than that? The crystal-clear water, bright sun, fresh food and sea breeze. It’s an amazing experience.
7. Scuba Dive in the Cenotes of Tulum
The cenotes of Tulum are amazing and exploring them underwater is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Discover this hidden underwater world where caves and dazzling colorful lights beam down to guide your path.
8. Try the Local Food Downtown
Located by the sea, you have all the international beach clubs (with international prices). They are cool and fun but going downtown and trying the local restaurants is more worth it. The locals of Tulum know how to make Mexican food and venturing here gives you an immersive feel.
9. Visit Valladolid for a Superb Day Trip
As I mentioned before, Valladolid is worth a visit. It’s a colorful city with amazing food. You leave the jungle Caribbean vibes of Tulum and get transported to the countryside of Mexico. I highly recommend this day trip as Valladolid is located less than 1 hour and 30 minutes from Tulum.
10. Uncover the Local Ruins of Tulum
The local ruins in Tulum are not as incredible as Chichen Itza but are still full of history and are worth checking out. Discover how people lived back in the Mayan times and learn all about this fascinating ancient civilisation.
People, Culture & Food of Tulum
I didn’t meet many locals but everyone I met was kind. Tulum is a real international spot – so I recommend going downtown to experience the real Tulum. People are welcoming, fun and hardworking. The food and the music is amazing. It’s a beautiful little corner of Mexico.
The food scene really is epic in Tulum. We did a lot of cooking at home but went out to a few restaurants that we really liked. There were three that I can recommend. One is called Taqueria La Eufemia. It’s located just by the beach with cheap and delicious tacos. A great place to spend an afternoon!
Another favorite of ours was Bonita Burger Bar. They make delicious burgers (vegetarian options too) for a good price. And finally one called Kai. This spot is more expensive but the food is extraordinary. Located right next to the sea with sand at your feet, this is a must-visit!
Need to Know Before you Go
Firstly, getting cash out at the ATMs can be tricky, so I recommend bringing some cash with you. Secondly, try the local restaurants in the downtown area to taste the real food of Mexico and escape the tourist prices. This is a great way to have a meal in an immersive setting – seeing the real Tulum.
The heat can be overwhelming at times. I recommend buying a strong sunblock and bug spray. Also, make sure that your hotel has air conditioning. Sometimes all you need to do is step inside and cool down.
Be aware of fake bills which some taxi drivers in Cancun International Airport can give you. Cenotes can get crowded on weekends which means weekdays are better. And lastly, just go with an open mind and have fun! Tulum is a marvellous place to reconnect with nature in its purest form.