By now you’ve probably noticed that Tulum is basically split into two separate areas: the beach and the downtown, sometimes referred to as “centro” or “pueblo” which literally means town in Spanish
Downtown Tulum is not to be missed, with tons of amazing restaurants, shops, budget accommodation, and nightlife options to explore during your stay. Don’t let the fact that the town is far away from the beach (1-hour walk) deter you – it’s definitely worth checking out.
Downtown Tulum is rapidly developing as more and more tourists make their way to this beach town every year. What was once a small town with dirt roads a decade ago is not a bustling town with almost 50,000 inhabitants year-round.
Tulum was one of the last cities the Maya ever built and eventually abandoned the spot in the 16th century, leaving amazing ruins and artifacts throughout the jungle and along the beach.
Not only is there tons to do in this small little town – but it’s also an excellent base to take day trips from, with cenotes and Mayan ruins surrounding the area. If you’re planning on staying in downtown Tulum and need a basic overview then take a look at our extensive guide below.
Downtown Tulum Areas
Tulum Centro is essentially divided into four areas, the main downtown area, La Veleta, Aldea Zone, and the residential area in the north of the town which is popular with the locals.
You’ll find most of the hotels and hostels around the downtown central area – as well as most of the popular bars, restaurants, and shops running along highway 307. This is also the oldest area of Tulum
La Veleta and Aldea are the newest areas of Tulum with modern-style apartments and shops, popular with ex-pats and people moving to Tulum. These areas are great for longer stays as they are a little cheaper (and nicer) than the downtown area and of course the beach.
In La Veleta, there is a cool dining and restaurant scene along Palenque and Kulkulkan avenues to check out with cute boutique cafes and also excellent seafood restaurants to try.
The residential area to the north is more popular with the local Mexican population and those that have been living in Tulum for a while. This area is probably not the most ideal to stay in as it’s the furthest from the beach and also a little far from the main street. Airbnbs may be the cheapest in this area.
Getting Around Downtown Tulum
The town of Tulum is quite small so getting around shouldn’t be an issue. You can walk pretty much everywhere, but we recommend renting a bicycle from either your hotel/hostel or a bicycle rental shop located all over the town.
Biking is also a great way to get to the beach – it’s a beautiful bike ride only around 30 minutes and you’ll see lots of interesting sites along the way.
You can also of course get a taxi to drive you around, but that’s going to cost quite a lot. Car rental options are also popular and a good idea if you’re planning on doing day trips to nearby sites and attractions.
What to do in Downtown Tulum
Both the beach zone and the town area have an array of fantastic restaurants, from authentic Mexican cuisine to American and European-inspired dishes. The beach zone is going to have more upscale and fancy dining restaurants with international cuisine, whereas the town is geared more towards local Mexican food.
Of course, food in the town is much cheaper than on the beach – for obvious reasons. We recommend the following places to try in downtown Tulum:
One of the most popular places to eat in downtown Tulum, we recommend coming here early for breakfast and trying the amazing breakfast tacos!
One of our favourite spots and one of the cheapest places to eat in Tulum. They have an amazing variety of local Mexican dishes such as the mouth-watering tacos al pastor and much more!
A must-visit for desserts and sweets, they serve up some of the best gelato and waffles!
Taqueria La Chiapaneca
Amazing Chiapas-inspired food found right downtown, a very popular spot amongst the locals – which means it’s good.
While Tulum is not really known for its shopping malls compared to Playa Del Carmen or Cancun, you can still find some unique boutique shops selling Tulum-inspired clothing, artwork, antiques and souvenirs.
Mercado Tulum is a popular Mexican style market selling all kinds of budget clothing and household items, and of course, selling local fresh produce and there are tons of delicious restaurants inside to check out.
Drinks & Nightlife
A visit to Tulum isn’t complete without having a few drinks and going out with friends. There is a great variety of nightlife to experience in Tulum, both on the beach and in town.
Batey is a happening place right in the center of town, famous for its freshly squeezed sugarcane Mojitos and street parties that grow larger into the night. Enjoy live music in one of the coolest spots to party in downtown Tulum.
Straw Hat is a crazy party hostel that is actually open to visitors in their rooftop bar and pool. It’s a younger crowd and can get wild at times with an endless amount of drinking games, but it’s definitely a fun time and a great place to meet others.
Another place in downtown Tulum that is affordable and fun, is a great place to eat, drink and dance with friends to reggaeton music on their lively dancefloor. They are popular for their cheap and delicious cocktails.
Parque Dos Aguas
This park is situated in the center of downtown Tulum with much happening. They have food stalls, little boutique street markets, and even the Museo de la Cultura Maya Park, which features replicas of Mayan statues all over the place. Going to a museum or park is not something that first comes to mind when one thinks of Tulum, however, it’s a unique thing to do and you may be surprised at what you discover.