There are four areas tourists consider “Tulum.”
First, there are the ruins on the sea. This is what Tulum was initially known for by the tourists. You have seen this image all over on travel advertisements and vacation photos on social media.
Next, there is Tulum Pueblo. This is the town, further south on Highway 307. This is where the Mexicans live and work and cater to the tourist industry – really the only industry here. This is where I live.
Third, and currently the most ‘hip’, are the beaches near the town. There is one main road that goes out of town to the beach to the beach road (there are other ways to the beach road, but right now there is only one main, paved road).
When you get to the beach road, you turn left at the circle (and small police checkpoint) for the more public parts of the beach – such as Playa Maya. You turn right for the more exclusive hotels, cabanas and restaurant,s and a few shops. This is where things like “Bikini Boot Camp” are held and where Mezcals happen.
Side note, at the end on the south side of the beach road is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. It’s basically a Mexican National Park.
Fourth, and last is ‘Resort Tulum’. This isn’t really Tulum – these are all inclusive resort hotels along the Riviera Maya, which is a region of beach south of Playa del Carmen, and north of Tulum. Two of these resorts fairly close to Tulum – Dreams Tulum and Bahia Principe. They may have a Tulum mailing address, but they are north of the ruins and generally not considered to be part of Tulum ‘proper’ by the locals.
So the first three areas are all a part of the region that makes up Tulum. I hope this helps visitors like me understand the lay of the land a bit more.
Now you know there is more to Tulum than the ruins. If you are staying in one of these mega resorts, which are usually owned by international mega-companies, why not come to Tulum Pueblo or the beach south of the ruins to explore and shop and eat and drink at least once? Leave the gated all-inclusive resort and help to boost the local economy. You can see more of the region where you are staying. It’s safe. People are friendly. You are so close to the real Tulum – and – we only live once.