From the best hostels in Tulum to backpacking Tulum, get my top tips for visiting Tulum on a budget!
Backpacking Mexico but not sure if you can swing Instagram’s favorite beach town? From cheap eats in Tulum to the best places to stay in Tulum on a budget, this guide has everything you need to experience Tulum without breaking the bank!
Backpacking Brunette updated this post on March 7, 2019.
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Why is Tulum so expensive?
Is it just me, or is Tulum ALL over Instagram? If I was guessing this year’s hottest destinations based on the ‘gram alone, Tulum, Mexico, would definitely make the list.
Located less than an hour south of Cancun, Tulum is a longtime favorite of backpackers and hippies (and hippie backpackers) seeking chill beach town vibes. In recent years though, thanks to tourism efforts and word of mouth, Tulum’s popularity has exploded.
With so many travelers and influencers (and travel influencers) flocking to its white sand beaches and crystal clear cenotes, businesses are raising prices making it difficult to visit Tulum on a budget.
Difficult but not impossible!
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula but aren’t sure if you can swing Instagram’s fave beach town, have no fear! It’s easier than you think to visit Tulum on a budget.
Even if you’re a traveler with lots of pesos to spend (color me celosa), these tips will help organize your Tulum itinerary and ensure a more authentic experience.
Tulum has two main tourist areas: Tulum pueblo (town) and the Zona Hotelera (hotel zone). Along Tulum town’s main drag, you’ll find lots of restaurants, bars, tour companies and souvenir shops. Along the strip itself and as you move back into the neighborhoods, you’ll find the best places to stay on a budget in Tulum. Think hostels and budget hotels.
>> This Mexico Yucatan backpacking guide has all the info you need to map out your itinerary! Budget travelers will want to check out typical costs! <<
Best hostels in Tulum
One mile east of downtown, the hotel zone runs parallel to the coast. As the name suggests, there are many accommodation options, but if you want to visit Tulum on a budget, these boutique hotels and mini-resorts probably aren’t for you.
For travelers with their hearts set on staying on the beach, some places offer hammocks for $10 USD per night. But, that’s as cheap as it gets.
Where to stay in Tulum on a budget
For couples or anyone traveling with a buddy they don’t mind sharing a bed with, I recommend Joy Tulum. Opened just this year, Joy Tulum is priced to attract guests as it builds its reputation. With only a handful of reviews on Hostelworld, I took a chance and booked a night in one of its 24 bungalows.
Between the private room, pool, complimentary bike rental and free continental breakfast, Joy Tulum gives you a lot of bang for your buck ($30 USD per night). The only downside is its a bit outside Tulum town, but if you have a rental car (which is affordable in the Yucatan!), the location isn’t an issue.
For more centrally-located accommodation, check out Pueblo Magico Tulum. It’s within walking distance of the bus station and main drag. The hostel rents bikes, and it’s an easy 15-minute ride to the Tulum ruins. Rafa, the owner, does everything he can to make guests feel at home. He speaks English and is very knowledgeable about the area. Private rooms cost $25 USD per night while dorm beds are $10 USD per night.
Casa del Sol
This is my favorite hostel in Tulum! It’s a fantastic option for budget travelers who want a little bit of privacy. Like Joy Tulum, Casa del Solo has cabañas for rent. There is also a standard multi-bed dorm which is great for solo travelers. But, what really stands out about Casa del Sol is the staff.
Every single morning of my stay there, Eric (one of the owners) was up at 8 a.m. to cook EVERYONE in the hostel breakfast. One day, he made oatmeal. Another, crepes. And, he did it all with a smile on his face. By the way, these fantastic homemade breakfasts are included in the price. Private rooms cost $36 USD per night while dorm beds are $15 USD per night.
>> The Yucatan isn’t the only place in Mexico worth backpacking! This Oaxaca backpacking guide has everything you need to know about visitng one of Mexico’s most incredible states on a budget! <<
Cheap eats in Tulum
My very first night in Tulum, I asked the guy working Joy Tulum’s front desk for a dinner recommendation. He asked if I wanted something delicioso y barato. What kind of question is that?! Of course, I want something delicious and cheap.
He sent me to La Chiapaneca, and my life hasn’t been the same since. You think I’m kidding? Whether you’re backpacking Tulum or not, you MUST eat here. While I was in Tulum, I ate at La Chiapaneca at every single day. One day I even ate there twice!
Scared of street food? Check out these Mexico travel tips for how to avoid getting food poisoning.
Address and hours
- Avenida Tulum
- Look for the orange building, thatched overhang, vertical rotisserie and satisfied customers.
- Open Tuesday – Sunday; 9 a.m. – 1 a.m. Closed Monday.
What to order
I lost count of how many times I ate at La Chiapaneca, but I do know I always ordered the same thing: tacos al pastor. Hot off the spit, I could usually put away between three and five pork tacos. La Chiapenca doesn’t sell alcohol, but I found the house-made horchata (rice milk) to be the perfect complement. Like everything else, the guacamole is fantastic, and the tortilla chips are made fresh when you order. My entire meal plus tip cost $5 USD.
Ditch the Tulum hotel zone
When I learned some of the popular beach clubs in the hotel zone required $30 USD food/drink minimums, I was like, UMMM NOOOOO! That was my budget for the entire day, and I wasn’t about to spend every last peso on a place just because I’d seen it on Instagram. So, I forgot about the hotel zone and went out in search of more budget-friendly options.
>> Curious about Mexico’s Pacific Coast beaches? Check out this Puerto Escondido guide for everything you need to know about the most beautiful beach town in Oaxaca! <<
About halfway between Tulum and Akumal, Soliman’s Bay is a gorgeous stretch of beach off the beaten tourist track. For just $8 USD, I spent a relaxing day at the Caleta Tankah resort. It’s a five-minute drive or so off the main highway and down a dirt road. The entrance fee includes access to the beach, a cenote and the clubhouse. Food and drink cost extra but is not mandatory. As an added bonus, the beach has a view of the Tulum ruins.
Kaan Luum Lagoon
While it doesn’t have the white sand beaches Tulum is famous for, this hidden gem also doesn’t have the hoards of tourists that flock to them. Situated in the middle of a nature reserve just south of Tulum, Kaan Luum is very much a local hangout. For $5 USD, it’s a great way to cool off on a hot day and get off the beaten path in Tulum. Plus, it has that boardwalk your Insta grid so desperately wants.
Find the best cenotes in Tulum, Mexico
No trip to the Yucatan would be complete without spending quality time at some cenotes. At first glance, visiting cenotes might sound like a budget-friendly activity, but with entrance fees at $5 USD a pop, costs can really start to add up if you’re visiting more than one each day.
Rather than spending those precious pesos just anywhere, do some homework to figure out which cenotes best fit your vibe. Where can I take the best pics with the fewest people? Which ones should I spring for snorkel gear? Make a plan! I used Anna Everywhere’re Ultimate Cenote Guide.
Skip the guided tours at the Tulum Ruins
Like cenotes, visiting Mayan ruins are a quintessential part of any Yucatan adventure. Both the Tulum and Coba ruins are easily reached from Tulum. You can get to Tulum ruins by bike while Coba, which is 40 minutes away, while require you to catch a ride in a colectivo (shared taxi).
It won’t cost you much to get in, but I recommend skipping the guided tour, which costs $600-1,000 MXN ($31-53 USD), if you’re backpacking Tulum on a tight budget.
Instead, spend some time beforehand reading about the ruins. Even Wikipedia can give you enough information to better understand what it is you’re seeing.
If tours are your thing, find other English speakers to split the price of a guide. The bigger your group the cheaper it costs per person.
How much does it cost to go to Tulum ruins?
- Tulum Ruins
- Hours: Open daily 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Entrance fee: 70 pesos ($4 USD); 100 pesos ($5 USD) parking fee.
- Coba Ruins
- Hours: Open daily 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Entrance fee: 70 pesos ($4 USD); 50 pesos ($3 USD) parking fee.
How to visit Tulum on a budget
Even though Tulum has gotten more and more expensive over the years, it’s still possible to visit Tulum on a budget.
- Stay in Tulum Town
- Eat at La Chiapeneca (then send me a note so we can talk about how AMAZING it is)
- Ditch Tulum’s Zona Hotelera
- Research to find the best cenotes in Tulum for YOU
- Skip the guided tours at the Tulum and Coba ruins
To make the most of your trip to Tulum, it’s helpful to know some Spanish. Whether you’re a complete beginner or just need to brush up, this Ultimate Spanish Learner’s Resource Guide has everything you need to take your language skills to the next level. Best of all, it’s FREE!
Got questions about Tulum? Leave them in the comments or send me a DM on Instagram (@alexnotemily)!
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