24 hours in Tulum, Mexico-1
24 hours in Tulum, Mexico-2
24 hours in Tulum, Mexico-3

24 hours in Tulum, Mexico

From the best villas and beaches to the best restaurants and shops, our guide to Tulum maps out the perfect day in this effortlessly stylish and historically rich corner of Mexico

The secret is out.
Tulum, Mexico, a charming town that was once known only for its Mayan ruins, is fast becoming a must-visit spot for savvy travelers.

Go there today and you’ll experience incredible food, entertainment and activities, not to mention luxurious accommodations. But rest assured, this isn’t at the expense of what brought us to Tulum in the first place. Expats and locals alike who have upped the ante to accommodate the new wave of tourists have also meticulously preserved the town’s character, marrying rich history with modernity to create an enchanting destination.

So how to navigate the many options at your fingertips in Tulum? Here’s our 24-hour guide (yes, you’re still going to the ruins).


tulumvilla_WPStop One—Zen and Eggs, Your Villa

When: 8am
Why: When the soft morning sun is shining and you can hear the Caribbean sea from your bed, rising early to get in a little yoga doesn’t seem like a workout at all. At Turtle Heart villa, that boasts an expansive outdoor space complete with outdoor canopy bed and adjacent beach, roll out your yoga mat and work through a few invigorating asanas. After you’ve worked up a sweat, cool off in the pool before indulging in a delicious, fresh breakfast made by your private chef. Don’t have your yoga routine quite down yet? We can bring in a yoga instructor too. Good morning indeed.


Stop Two – Ruins of Tulum city

When: 10am
Why: From town, the ancient ruins are a convenient 10-minute drive away, and are considered one of the best-preserved historical sites in Mexico. You’ll find the remains of what was once a bustling walled city 800 years ago, set against 40-ft cliffs and sparkling turquoise water. Experience El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes and the Temple of the Descending God first hand, and get a sense of the storied history of the Yucatan Peninsula.


Adelita_WPStop Three –Lunch, Bar Adelita

When: 12pm
Why: Warning – if you’ve already been to Tulum, you might have to book a flight back if just for the fish tacos at Bar Adelita. This eclectic, rustic and comfortable spot is right on the soft white sands, with friendly service and a beautiful ocean view to match. To complete the experience, the food is mouthwatering, made with fresh local ingredients. Aside from fish tacos, the red ceviche is also to die for, and they mix a mean cocktail too. Situated on the North Beach, it’s nearby the ruins on your way back to town.


Stop Four—Browsing, Coqui Coqui Perfumes

coqui_cropped_WPWhen: 2pm
Why: If you favor earthy scents over super-strong perfume, you’ll love what you find at Coqui Coqui Perfumeria. Inspired by the area, at least a hint of coconut is present within each of the products, and what better way to remember your vacation than discovering a new signature scent? The boutique itself epitomizes the town’s blend of history and modernity – and is the perfect spot to snatch all of those souvenirs you promised: luxurious bath goodies, candles, body oils and more. After you browse, have a cocktail and the next door beach bar and relax on the daybeds. Because shopping for perfume can be exhausting.


Stop Five – La Cena, Hartwood Restaurant

When: 5pm
Why: 5pm might seem a little early for dinner – this is not about recommending the early-bird special however, but to beat the inevitable (and highly justified) line out the door. The New York Times has raved about Chef Eric Werner, a Brooklyn expat who’s come to Tulum and done it all right, and with good reason. He scours the countryside to find the freshest and best ingredients for his restaurant, Hartwood, formulating a menu that derives from the landscape yet is far from what’s considered “Mexican” cuisine. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.


Stop Six— Sundowners at Sunset, Mateo’s

matteos_sunset_WPWhen: 8pm
Why: After dinner, head over to Mateo’s to watch the sunset. It’s literally made for this: take a seat in the sunset lounge and watch the sun descend into the sea. With live music and a vast drink selection, including mango margaritas, “hippie smoothies”, and of course, ice cold beer, it’s the perfect way to mark the end of the day. When the live music’s on break, there’s even a station where you can connect your own tunes–so this might be the chance to live your DJ fantasy life, too. What could be better than a glorious sunset, a couple of cold beers and having (at least momentary) control over the tunes?


Stop Seven—Sassy Salsa-ing, La Zebra 

When: 11:00pm
Why: If you love dancing with a side of people watching and a whole lot of energy, La Zebra is the place for you. You’ll be nicely primed for fun after Mateo’s, and La Zebra is the ideal place to dance it all off. Want to give the other kind of salsa a whirl? Sunday is salsa night: the Sabbath, Mexican style. Rest assured after a night on the dancefloor you’ll be ready to lay your head down on your lush bed back at the villa, ready for another day of sun, sea and sand tomorrow.


See all of our Tulum villas

Thanks to Stephanie Bannock for photographs and recommendations. For fashion, travel and everything aesthetic, see her Pinterest and follow her on Instagram;  Photograph: Josh Nielson/ Mateo’s
Colleen McNamara