Best Free Things to Do in Tulum: A Local’s Guide

As someone who’s had the incredible opportunity to live in Tulum, I want to share with you my insider tips on the best free things to do in Tulum so you don’t have to spend a fortune. 

Whether you are staying in Tulum for 4 days or 3 months, Tulum is a paradise for everyone to enjoy. From lounging on the beach to walking around town, I’m going to take you through my personal favorites and hidden gems in Tulum that you can enjoy for FREE!

best free things to do in Tulum

What are the best free Beaches in Tulum?

Playa Las Palmas:

If you’re in search of a serene spot to unwind and take a refreshing dip, look no further than Playa Las Palmas. It’s open to the public and beautifully encapsulates the essence of Tulum’s natural charm. This beach has always been one of my favorite spots – a little slice of paradise where I’ve spent hours enjoying the sea and the sun.

  • Location: Playa Las Palmas
  • Parking: Conveniently located directly on the beach, making access easy and stress-free.
  • Extras:
    • Lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent.
    • Beachside restaurants where you can savor local flavors with a view of the ocean.
    • Facilities like changing rooms, showers, and toilets for your convenience.
    • Nearby daily boat rental service, perfect for those looking to explore the waters further.
    • Opportunities for snorkeling and sea kayaking.

Playa Pescadores:

If you want to experience the essence of Tulum, head to Playa Pescadores. Here, I’ve spent countless hours soaking up the sun and enjoying the laid-back vibe. It’s easily reachable and always welcoming.

  • Location: Playa Pescadores
  • Access & Parking: Reachable by car, bike, or a leisurely walk from the Tulum Ruins. Parking is available near Tulum Beach Road, but can be limited during peak times. Bike parking is also available but bring a security lock.
  • Features: Pristine white sand and crystal-clear waters, fringed by inviting palm trees that offer plenty of natural shade.
  • Atmosphere: Though tranquil and less crowded, Playa Pescadores has a vibrant feel, popular among both tourists and locals.
  • Activities: Offers a range of activities including snorkeling tours to the Tulum reef and swimming with sea turtles. Local fishermen also frequent the area, adding to the authentic beach experience.
  • Amenities: Scuba diving, beach sports, beachside massages, and a variety of beach clubs offering loungers, umbrellas, and other amenities for rent.
  • Dining: Several beachside restaurants offer meals with a stunning view, enhancing the overall beach experience.

Best free beach in Tulum: Playa Pescadores

Playa Ruinas:

I want to include Playa Ruinas in this list of free beaches, but there’s a catch – it’s technically ‘not free’. To access it, you need to go through the Tulum Archeological Park

Although there’s a small fee to enter the ruins and access the beach, I find it’s completely worth it. The beach provides a splendid view of El Castillo, and the friendly iguanas that roam around add a quirky charm to the whole experience. 

  • Location: Playa Ruinas, within the Tulum Archeological Park.
  • Access: To get to the beach, head towards the ruins. Remember, there’s a fee for access, so bring some pesos.
  • Fees:
    • 95 pesos per person for the INAH ticket to the Ruins.
    • 60 pesos per person for the CONAP bracelet to access the ruins (mandatory), free for children under 12.
  • Parking: If driving, you can use the entrance at Tulum Tower. Due to recent road changes, be wary that Google Maps might not be up-to-date. Alternatively, there’s free parking on Tulum Boca Paila Road, but it gets busy during peak times.
  • Tip: Bring cash in pesos as they don’t often have change and don’t accept USD, Euros, or cards.

Visiting Playa Ruinas in Tulum

Best Free Walkable Art Exhibits in Tulum

Vibrant Street Art in Tulum Pueblo

Take a stroll through Tulum Pueblo (aka Tulum Centro) and witness the vibrant street art. These murals are more than just art; they tell stories and bring the streets to life. Each piece has a unique story, and discovering them is always an adventure. Rent a bike or just walk on foot to discover the beautiful street art. 

Art and Nature Walk at Holistika

Holistika is a unique blend of art and nature, offering a serene retreat that connects you with both creativity and the natural world. This peaceful sanctuary is open to the public and is an absolute must-visit in Tulum!

Each visit to Holistika brings new discoveries and experiences. Beyond the free art walk, they also offer yoga, pottery-making classes, and cacao ceremonies, adding to the holistic experience. The on-site eatery, along with a juice bar and charming little shops, make it an ideal place to spend a relaxing day. 

I’ve spent countless peaceful hours at Holistika, and it remains one of my favorite places in Tulum. 

Location: 📍 Holistika Art Walk

Best Free outdoor market in Tulum

Tulum, Mexico, is a treasure trove for food lovers, boasting a diverse range of dining options from simple taco stands to upscale organic cafes. Amidst this culinary diversity, there’s a unique spot that often escapes the food blog radar but is an absolute must-visit: Palma Central, a bustling food truck park offering an array of delectable dishes.

Located just off the main hustle of downtown Tulum, Palma Central is a delightful secret worth discovering. Home to around 15 food trucks, each offering its own culinary specialty, the choices are endless. Whether you’re craving a slice of pizza, fancy some crepes, or want to try a variety of international cuisines, Palma Central has it all.

The setup at Palma Central is perfect for a relaxed evening. Food trucks are arranged around a central courtyard, creating a cozy and communal dining atmosphere. Every evening, the vibe is further enhanced with live music and local artisans showcasing their jewelry and textiles – perfect for a bit of after-dinner shopping and entertainment. It’s an ideal spot for a family outing or a casual night out, thanks to its laid-back, local ambiance.

KEY INFO FOR VISITORS:

  • Location: Palma Central | Instagram
  • Operating Hours: Open daily from 5 pm to 11 pm.
  • Entrance Fee: Free entry before 7 pm.
  • Special Events: Enjoy live music from 8 pm to 10 pm and free salsa classes every Tuesday.

Palma Central isn’t just a place to eat; it’s an experience that captures the essence of Tulum’s vibrant and eclectic food scene. Make sure to add it to your Tulum itinerary for an evening filled with good food, lively music, and a taste of local culture.

Best free market in Tulum: Palma Centro Market

Instagram-Famous Spots: Best Free things to do in Tulum

Tulum is home to some iconic Instagram spots that have become a hallmark of the town’s vibrant and photogenic culture.

‘Follow That Dream’ Sign

One of the most photographed locations in Tulum is the ‘Follow That Dream’ sign. This inspirational sign is right outside the Lolita Lolita Tulum Gift Boutique on Tulum Beach Road. Due to its popularity, be prepared to wait in line for your turn to snap a picture.

One of the best free things to do in Tulum is take a photo at the Follow That Dream sign in Tulum Hotel Zone

Matcha Mama: Hotel Zone

Matcha Mama, located in Tulum’s Hotel Zone, is not only famous for its delightful matcha drinks but also for its Instagram-worthy swings and the catchy ‘I Love Tulum So Matcha’ sign. This café is a haven for smoothie bowl lovers, coffee enthusiasts, and matcha aficionados. 

While capturing photos is free, it’s a nice gesture to buy a drink or a snack to enjoy the ambiance and thank the café for its picturesque setup.

Enjoying a matcha drink at Matcha Mama in Tulum, Mexico

Are There Free Cenotes in Tulum?

Yes! Only one cenote is free in Tulum and that cenote is Cenote Aldea Zama.

Tucked away in Tulum is Cenote Aldea Zama, a beautiful natural swimming spot and the only cenote you can visit for free. Surrounded by vibrant greenery, it offers a serene and refreshing experience, away from the typical tourist trails.

For those looking to explore more cenotes near Tulum, I’d highly recommend VESICA cenote sanctuary – it’s a personal favorite and well worth a visit.

Cenote Aldea Zama is particularly loved by locals, which adds a genuine, welcoming atmosphere. It’s located within easy walking distance from Tulum Centro, making it a convenient option for those who prefer not to travel far.

What makes Cenote Aldea Zama stand out is not just its free entry but also its cozy size, perfect for swimming and even a little cliff-jumping if you’re feeling adventurous. Since it doesn’t have fixed operating hours, you can visit at your leisure.

However, for a more peaceful experience, I suggest visiting on weekdays, or during the early morning or late afternoon on weekends. This way, you can avoid the larger crowds and enjoy the cenote’s tranquil beauty.

Also Read: Best Cenotes Near Tulum

Free Cenote Aldea Zama- one of the best things to do in Tulum

Tips from a Tulum Insider

When visiting Tulum, remember that many of the best experiences will not break the bank. From lounging on beautiful beaches to exploring nature and immersing in local art, Tulum offers an array of free activities that are sure to enrich your experience.

Carrying Cash: Especially in Mexican Pesos

Many places in Tulum are cash-only. Card transactions can be difficult due to Wifi issues at times. Most restaurants and stores will take cards but it’s always a good idea to carry cash, just in case.

  • The best and safest place to get cash from ATMs is at Chedraui – the largest supermarket in downtown Tulum. 

Budget-Friendly Transportation: Exploring Tulum by Bike

If you’re looking to save money while exploring Tulum, consider renting a bike. It’s an affordable and enjoyable way to see the town. Here are a few recommended bike rental shops:

You’ll find many more rental options throughout Tulum, and it’s common for hotels and hostels to offer bike rentals too.

Also Read: Explore Tulum On A Bike

Staying Hydrated but don’t drink the faucet water!

It’s important to remember that Mexico’s water system contains contaminants, so it’s crucial to avoid drinking directly from the tap. ALWAYS use filtered water for drinking, filling ice-cube trays, brushing your teeth, and washing your fruits and vegetables to ensure your health and safety.

TIP: Don’t underestimate Tulum’s tropical climate; always keep bottled water handy to stay hydrated.

Shopping Tips for Your Trip to Tulum

When stocking up on groceries at Chedraui or Super Aki, make sure to bring a reusable bag! Tulum faces significant challenges with plastic waste, and by bringing your own bag—or purchasing one at the store—you’ll contribute to preserving the area’s natural beauty.

Additionally, try to minimize your plastic use when buying fruits, vegetables, and water bottles. Small actions like these help protect the environment, making your visit more sustainable.

Carry Sunscreen & Mosquito Repellent: 

Always carry eco-friendly mosquito repellent and biodegradable sunscreen with you. This way, you stay protected while also respecting Tulum’s delicate ecosystem.

Concluding Thoughts

Living in Tulum as a Digital Nomad has taught me that the true essence of this place lies in its natural beauty and cultural richness, which are available to everyone. If you’re planning a trip to Tulum or just dreaming of one, discover the best free things to do in Tulum that will make your journey unforgettable.

If you have any questions or need more local tips, feel free to reach out in the comments below. Stay tuned for more Tulum travel tips with Aqua Apple!

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