A Guide to Biking in Tulum
Prior to coming to Tulum, Mexico we asked ourselves: is Tulum truly a bike-friendly destination or do people just rent bikes to take cool photos for social media? Can we ride bicycles to the cenotes or the beach? We spent three full days finding out the answers to all of these questions.
We are just going to get this out of the way -- we worked hard for this blog. We rode just over 40 miles (65 km) in the span of three days. We couldn't sit on a hard surface for two days afterwards for this blog. We can confidently say that we wouldn't have wanted to see Tulum any other way than by bicycle. We discovered the most breathtaking beaches, cheap and delicious tacos, toured some unique Mayan ruins, and jumped in those famously blue cenotes.
When biking from Tulum town (or Tulum Pueblo Magico) as we did, you'll head out southeast towards the coast on Highway 15. This road has a nice bike path off the right side of the road. After a while, you'll hit a roundabout where you can either head north (left) or south (right). We've divided our activities into the north and south coastlines.
Zona Archaeological de Tulum - We must say these are some of our favorite Mayan ruins that we've seen. For this set of ruins, the Mayans chose a beautiful rocky coastline with white sandy beaches below to call home. The site is so well preserved and includes informational signage describing each of the remaining buildings. Out front near the ticket booth, you'll see plenty of bike parking. The cash-only cost to enter the archaeological site is 80 pesos/person (~$4.25 USD) with the option to hire a guide at the gate. Note: the ticket booth doesn't accept bills larger than 20's, so make sure you bring small bills. We had to leave the site and find some water to purchase in order to have exact change.
Playa Santa Fe - After likely becoming overheated touring the archaeological site, you will want to find the nearest clear blue water to dive into. This public beach was our favorite beach in Tulum and you will not be disappointed by its views. Turn left once you see the sign for Playa Santa Fe, just three minutes south of the archaeological site. Pick a tree, lock your bike up, and head for the beach. From the beach, you can even see some of the old buildings of the archaeological site. There are fewer amenities at this beach, but there are a couple of little restaurants and beach vendors with snacks. If a man walks by selling paletas (popsicles), get one! The coconut was the tastiest popsicle we've ever had. There aren't a lot of shade trees, so you'll likely spend most of your time in the water. We felt safe leaving our backpack on the beach and keeping an eye on it from the water.
Las Palmas Public Beach - This a beautiful beach with a lot more amenities and people. It is the closest beach to Tulum town just ~1 km south of Santa Fe Beach. This beach offers several beach clubs that are typically ~500 pesos a day to rent a large day bed with shade and a waiter to bring you food and drinks. The beach also has a bit more of a party scene than Santa Fe beach but without the high cost of the exclusive beach clubs on the south coastline.
Shop in Playa Tulum town - The south side of the roundabout is the trendy Instagram-worthy Tulum that we're used to seeing online. The narrow road is lined on both sides with beach clubs, shops selling boho clothing and fringy home decor, smoothie bowl cafes, art installations, and dozens of swimsuit stores. Spend some time browsing the town and popping into shops. We promise you there is a lot to see even if you're not looking for souvenirs.
Hang out at Taqueria La Eufemia - Accessing the beach from the south coastline seems nearly impossible at first. In fact, we spent two hours our first day in Tulum, drenched in sweat, trying to find somewhere we could jump into the turquoise sea. We were surprised to realize that the beach isn't visible from the road. Hotels have purchased land between the road and the beach, completely blocking off public access. While this was super frustrating to us, we eventually found a gem called Taqueria La Eufemia. After following a path through a narrow concrete tunnel, the path opened up and we found ourselves in paradise. This taco shop has affordable tacos (hard to come by in Tulum), margaritas, live music, plenty of places to lounge, and beach access. Once you're on the beach, you're free to roam as you please. Don't miss this spot!
Beach club (if that's your thing) - As mentioned above, exclusive beach clubs line the south coastline. Each club has designated bike parking across the street from their location. The beach clubs are typically 500 pesos ($26 USD) to enter, although some can be as pricey as 1,000 pesos. This gives you all-day beach access with a lounge chair and umbrella. Each club has food and drink available for purchase. We never visited a beach club because we couldn't swallow the fact that we'd likely spend $100+ USD for one day at the beach. Had we been on vacation, we might've looked into the beach clubs further.
Cenote Hopping - If you read our last blog, you'll know that cenotes are probably our favorite aspect of the Yucatán peninsula. Our third full day in Tulum, we somehow managed to sit down on our bikes once again and pedal to two slices of paradise. Our first stop was Gran Cenote. This is probably the most popular cenote in Tulum, but we knew we couldn't miss it. The ride was only about two miles from our place along Highway 109. By the time we arrived at 9:00am, the first round of tour buses were on their way out, so it was surprisingly quiet. The entry price of 200 pesos ($10 USD) was a bit steep in our opinion. The cenote is home to lots of turtles, which was a unique experience to swim with the turtles. Overall, we liked Gran Cenote but honestly feel like we could've skipped it. After we left there, we continued down Highway 109 for another 2.5 miles to Cenote Zacil-Ha. This property, which costs 100 pesos to enter, has a restaurant and multiple swimming pools on site. Most of the tours stop at the nearby Cenote Carwash and not Zacil-Ha, so we were nearly the only ones there for most of the afternoon. Although the cenote doesn't look very deep due to crystal-clear water, it's perfectly safe to jump from the decks into the water.
How did you divide your days in Tulum?
If you're feeling adventurous and up to a lot of biking, we've listed out our itinerary below. We will warn that if you don't exercise somewhat regularly or if you get easily exhausted, we don't necessarily recommend this itinerary. We were definitely tired at the end of each day, but had a blast and personally loved the challenge.
Maka Boutique > Playa Tulum Town
Walked Around + Checked out Shops
Biked South to the "Follow Your Dreams" Sign (in front of Lolita Lolita Tulum)
Lolita Lolita Tulum > Las Palmas Public Beach
Las Palmas Public Beach > Maka Boutique
Total: 13 miles, 21 km
Maka Boutique > Zona Archaeological de Tulum
Zona Archaeological de Tulum > Playa Santa Fe
Playa Santa Fe > Taqueria La Eufemia (beach location)
Taqueria La Eufemia > Maka Boutique
16 miles, 26 km
Maka Boutique > Gran Cenote
Gran Cenote > Cenote Zacil-Ha
Cenote Zacil-Ha > Maka Boutique
11 miles, 17 km
Where can I rent a bike?
A lot of accommodations include bicycle rentals in their room rates. Our bikes were included in our room rate (we stayed at Maka Boutique), which was a selling point for us. However, the bikes we received every day were hit or miss and in need of some basic repairs. Basically, we ended up fighting our bikes every day. The first day, our chains wouldn't stay on and we had to hop off every 2-3 minutes to put them back on. The second day, Bre switched to a different bike that had a non-adjustable seat. The seat was all the way down, so she looked like a gangster on one of those tiny bicycles. Tulum is pretty pricey, so we're still thankful that we had bikes for "free" and didn't have the added cost of renting.
If you need to rent a bike, we suggest Ola Bike Tulum. We saw many of their bikes around town and most of them looked to be in very good condition. They also receive very good reviews from their customers online.
Is it safe to bike Tulum?
We would both agree that overall it is very safe to ride bikes around Tulum. We have a few tips to help ensure your safety. First of all, helmets aren't a thing in Tulum. We didn't see a single bike helmet in our four days in Tulum. This is just the way it is and you have to be okay with that if you're interested in biking.
Make sure you always lock your bike up! Everyone locks their bikes up, even if running into the convenience store for a cold drink. We've never heard of anyone having their bike stolen, but make sure you lock up.
To ensure your safety, ride on the sidewalk whenever possible. Some roads, like Highway 15 to the beach, have a separate bike sidewalk but not all do. Highway 109 out to the cenotes doesn't have a bike lane, but has a pretty wide shoulder. This is a busy highway with lots of tour buses, semi trucks, etc so use extreme caution and stay as far over in the shoulder (away from traffic) as possible. We didn't feel unsafe by any means on this highway.
Stay tuned for a Tulum video coming soon.
For love and adventure,
Bre & Daniel