Mistakes Tourists Make While Visiting Tulum

If you're planning to visit this popular Mexican destination, don't make these errors on your trip.

Tulum has emerged in recent years as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico.

Put simply, it makes sense. This vibrant town in the Yucatán Peninsula’s Riviera Maya is full of natural beauty with its beaches and cenotes ― as well as remarkable archaeological sites, delicious food and plenty of opportunities for relaxation.

But the masses of tourists who flock to Tulum year after year tend to get a few things wrong. We asked locals and hospitality experts to share the biggest errors and faux pas they’ve observed. From sticking to the beach to disrespecting the environment, here are 15 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Tulum ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.

Assuming All Hotels Are Close To The Beach

“Tulum has one beach zone ― it’s a narrow strip, actually. That’s where the popular beach clubs and restaurants are located. Most hotels and Airbnbs are located in Centro or other hip and growing neighborhoods like Aldea Zama or La Veleta. It can take up to 45 minutes to get from Centro to Tulum Beach, since the only two roads leading to the beach get jammed during rush hours. Our tip: Know the location of your hotel and plan for transportation to the beach and elsewhere in and around Tulum.” ― Betty Nguyen, founder of Go Tulum Travel

“Take a look at Google maps, so you can know where your hotel is, and you will have a better idea of the distances and places to visit nearby. In Tulum, locals don’t work with street names and numbers, to find your way you will need to know the name of the hotels or local shops.” ― Paola Vazquez, Tulum tourism professional with Mexico Kan Tours

Showing Up Without Pesos

“In Mexico, there are few ATMs and high commission rates. A lot of tourists think that they can pay for everything with credit cards, however, our advice is to come with USD or pesos in order to save up money.” ― Océane Soupey, head of marketing and business development manager at Mexico Kan Tours

“Pay for everything in the local currency. Restaurants, hotels and clubs often will not exchange the dollar at market value. So even if you pay with a credit card, pay in pesos and you will see the price difference in what your bank exchange rate is versus the establishment.” ― Jon Robert, co-founder of Yacht Club Company

Disrespecting The Environment

“Many tourists forget that they are stepping onto sacred and protected lands of the Mayan biosphere. We encourage guests to avoid single-use plastic, use reef-friendly beauty products and recycle. Keeping Tulum intact and protected is an essential element of coming here in the first place. We are also one of the few places in the world for turtle nesting (May-October) and it is of utmost importance to keep our beaches clean, safe and ready to make a home for the caguama turtles.” ― Angelika Pokovba, a storyteller with Namron Hospitality

“Respect the signs of not climbing, not feeding wildlife, not touching. If a place has rules, please respect them and follow them. Do not participate in activities that affect you or others or it may be illegal, such as taking pictures with cubs on the 5th avenue in Playa del Carmen ... ” ― Vazquez

“Use rash guards and long-sleeved shirts instead of sunscreens when you go to waters/lagoons/cenotes ― or use sunscreen after your swim ― to protect the environment, coral and natural water wells.” ― Susana Von Arx, Tulum tourism professional with Mexico Kan Tours

It's important for tourists to keep sustainability in mind when visiting Tulum.
M Swiet Productions via Getty Images
It's important for tourists to keep sustainability in mind when visiting Tulum.

Not Leaving Your Hotel

“Tulum is a vibrant destination that has countless mind-expanding activities to offer. While Tulum has become a digital nomad hotspot, we encourage people to step away from their computer screens and immerse themselves in the destination, opening their hearts and minds to new cultures and experiences. Two activities we highly recommend for guests are checking out the historic Tulum Archaeological Zone and swimming in the breathtaking cenotes.” ― Sergio Parra, managing director of Aloft Tulum

Overpaying For Taxis

“Taxis in Tulum are notoriously pricey and unpredictable. Even agreeing on fares upfront does not protect you from having to pay extra if the taxi gets stuck in traffic. Plus, with new hotel and Airbnb developments popping up almost daily, your driver might get lost on top of increasing your fare. Our tip, especially for groups: Book private transportation before you arrive (including to and from the airport), so you are protected against shady practices.” ― Nguyen

“Always ask a taxi how much the fare will be, before you get in, so you don’t get overcharged.” ― Ray Kanevsky, CEO of Two Travel

“[R]ecently taxis in Tulum have been charging $50 for one trip to the hotel zone from the city. When I first moved to Tulum, that ride was $10. Taxis have been pushing the limits on what they charge and because people pay, it’s created a huge price gauge. The average price to travel from Cancun to Tulum is approximately $60 one way, per person. Where the average rate for a rental car is $15 a day, so even if you only used the car to drive from city to city, renting a car is a saving.” ― Robert


“Perhaps the biggest mistake that we have seen is over-planning. Tulum is a kind of place to let go and flow with the local energy. [An] expert concierge is glad to craft bespoke experiences into the Yucatan ― exploring cenotes, watching dolphins in the wild and getting to know the intrinsic part of this land. On the other hand, you may just want to saunter on the beach and enjoy a massage instead. It’s about listening to your body and mind and enjoying Tulum your way.” ― Pokovba

Sticking To The Beach

“True, the popular beach clubs and restaurants are on the beach. However, let’s show some love to the nearby local neighborhoods, too. Experience jungle yoga, street tacos and tamales for under $1, an actual cenote day club serving craft cocktails, or artisanal boutiques. The non-beach areas have so much to offer, capturing the cultural spirit of Tulum.” ― Nguyen

“Everyone thinks the hotel zone on the beach is the only Tulum, but we have a thriving Pueblo where the locals live and things are more affordable and traditional.” ― Andrew Nicolls, co-founder of Tulumio and Tulum Inside Out

“We believe that an essential element of Tulum is its community. Skipping the ‘Pueblo’ would be a mistake as it offers so much color and an insight into the lives of the locals. Here you can discover artisanal goods, eat cheap tacos on the street, and have fun salsa dancing on a given evening. The town is where the heart of our little corner of paradise beats.” ― Pokovba

Drinking Tap Water

“Tap water is not drinkable in Mexico. To avoid food poisoning, tourists should not use tap water to wash their fruits and vegetables. Also it is better to wash your teeth with bottled water and even if you boil the water for coffee, it is important to only use purified water. Tip to avoid buying small bottled water: Buy a 20-liter ‘garrafon’ that you can give back to the store.” ― Von Arx

Missing the local culture

“Most people make the mistake of disregarding the true and fabulous native culture that is so present, and choose to spend time in superficial ‘hot spots’ ― so missing completely the true magic and wisdom that this ancient land has to offer. And lately there is a big foreign cultural push, with new places being built that one can find almost anywhere. My questions is: what would be the point of visiting Tulum and doing exactly what one does in their hometown? I just don’t get it.” ― Ana Lucia Alves, founder of Ciné Tribe

“The people native to the area are the best guides to authentic experiences you will never be able to live anywhere else. Tulum is full of nature to explore and at the same time support the locals. Go visit archeological sites, dive into the nature reserves, use public transport, shop in the little fruit store around the corner and look out for unique tips of the ones living here - don’t just follow the mass. Also, there’s the opportunity to leave something good behind by donating to the amazing NGOs in Tulum like Los Amigos de la Esquina, Movida Maya or Sendero Verde. Conscious tourism isn’t only about you ― it’s about the community of the place you’re visiting!” ― Marietta, tour guide with Tuluminina

Trying To Get Everywhere On Foot Or Via Car

“One of the biggest mistakes when visiting Tulum is exploring on foot — we suggest using bikes or scooters instead to get around more quickly, but pay close attention to the crosswalks!” ― Parra

“In high season, the traffic can be ridiculous ... get a bike, as the beach is a long way from town! You will get fit.” ― Nicolls

Misunderstanding Scuba Diving Rules

“Some people are willing to scuba with whale shark, which isn’t allowed. Only snorkeling is permitted. Others want to scuba in the famous cenote Dos Ojos (or any other cavern cenote) without the right scuba certification. A lot of people will be attracted to reef diving in winter, but this isn’t absolutely the best moment of the year. In winter, there are often big waves, strong winds and currents, which don’t make the reef dives enjoyable. Better choosing a cenote dive, which is amazing all year round.” ― Hélène Gapin, owner of La Calypso Dive Center

Not Being Prepared For Bugs

“Tulum is located inside tropical forest and vegetation. Bugs and insects are everywhere which isn’t a problem except if you didn’t expect it. Houses and hotels are treated and fumigated to help control it, but it is impossible to eradicate bugs.” ― Cédric Callebaut of Tulum Private Tours

Wearing Heels

“One for the ladies ― don’t bring high heels! The roads and venues aren’t cut out for heels.” ― Karen Young, owner of Wild

Visiting During High Season

“Aside from obviously mentioning not missing all the must-sees like the Mayan Ruins, the cenotes and Tulum beach, and must eats, I would say, visit Tulum during the summer season for the best deals, restaurant availability and pure enjoyment! So many people come in high season and it’s overcrowded, super expensive and difficult to get bookings, so I say go low season!” ― Young

Setting Unrealistic Expectations

“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make regarding Tulum is assuming what they saw on Instagram is what they will get. When it comes to Tulum, you have to manage your expectations — think Instagram vs. reality. To really enjoy Tulum, you have to accept that it’s not a fairy tale, or a heavily edited IG photo. Rather, Tulum is a small, rustic town, with a lot of people and higher-than-average prices for Mexico. It’s beautiful and bohemian, yes, but also crowded and expensive, and you have to take the good with the bad.” ― Shelley Marmor, owner of Travel Mexico Solo

“Know what kind of vacation you want, and set your budget, before you arrive in Tulum. Riviera Maya is a popular place to visit and there are options for all budgets, but it’s easy to overspend if you don’t plan ahead. Work with a local concierge, who can get you the best deals on the ground and recommend places you might not have otherwise found because the big brand names are always front and center.” ― Kanevsky

“We live in the youngest state in Mexico. Things are not perfect here. We sometimes don’t have electricity, one wreck can clog traffic down the whole highway for hours, and the internet ― sometimes we don’t have it. But we are blessed with this amazing location and pretty great people.” ― Andrea Salazar of Riviera Maya Catamarans

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