Thinking about visiting Tulum with your kids? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know.
Tulum, Mexico is a wonderful little beachside town about one hour south of Cancun. This bohemian jungle town is a far cry from the mega resorts to its north. Tulum has become a hotspot in the last several years, and we decided it would be the perfect place to spend some time during our maternity/paternity leave. Yep, that’s right. We went to Tulum with kids: a three year old and a 12 week old. Sound crazy? Let me set the scene.
First child: Every day is met with a million little self doubts and questions as to whether you can keep her alive. When should I feed her again? Is she warm enough? Too hot? Too cold? Most new parents (us included) never even consider a vacation with a young baby.
Second child: Why don’t we go to the Mexican jungle when he’s 12 weeks old? Welcome to the family, kid.
By the time we had our second, we realized that traveling with a very young baby can be pretty easy with all the round-the-clock sleeping. It also became pretty evident that you don’t need all of those baby gadgets. Before he was born we spent time preparing for our sweet boy to arrive, but we also worked on mapping out how to spend our maternity/ paternity leave. PS- you can check out this post for our tips on going to Mexico with a baby.
David was fortunate to have six weeks of paid leave from his company, and we wanted to maximize our time off as a family. Certain that six weeks at home would drive us stir-crazy, we wanted to spend some of our time traveling. While Tulum has been wildly popular with stylish jet setters in recent years, we saw no reason to keep it from being a family destination. Beautiful beaches and wonderfully preserved Mayan ruins along with the family-centric Mexican culture were enough to convince us.
Getting There and Around
This little bohemian oasis is only about a 90 minute drive from the Cancun airport. You can rent a car and drive, but due to some recent safety concerns** we decided to get a private driver. Our hotel facilitated the reservations for us through a company called Bob Transfers.
Mexico doesn’t have child safety seat laws. At the time of travel our daughter was just shy of three and he was about 11 weeks old, so we decided to take our own seats. Luckily, her Diono carseat folds up easily and has carry straps like a backpack for easy travel (something we looked for while shopping for carseats). We carried little man as a lap child, so we gate checked his seat and packed the base in our luggage.
Once at our hotel we arranged to rent a car for a three days in the middle of our trip. This gave us some time to do some sightseeing around the area. Our hotel was so helpful to store our car seats when not in use.
Town and the Beach Road
Tulum is divided up into the town and the beach area. From the main town, you drive about four miles to the beach area. This is good keep in mind as some restaurants are not located within walking distance of the beach hotels. Super Aki Tulum, a large grocery store, is located at the main intersection coming into town. There is also a Hertz car rental in the same parking lot. Another supermarket is just down the road, but I can’t speak to it, as we found the few items we needed in the Super Aki Tulum.
**a note about safety – At the time we went there had been several reports of the police pulling tourists over then blackmailing them with large cash fines due on the spot. We decided with the road from Cancun airport to Tulum being a major tourist thoroughfare to use a private driver. Once in Tulum, we did rent a car and spent several days driving around the area. Not once did we feel unsafe. We are parents first and foremost, and never would knowingly put our kids in danger. Use common sense, and stay to the areas you feel comfortable with.
Where to Stay in Tulum with Kids
Most places here are smaller scale hotels, no more than a story or two in height. La Zebra is a beachfront boutique hotel that is extremely kid friendly. (It would also be an amazing couples getaway). You’re greeted at the check-in desk with a homemade margarita, which, after a flight with two kids- regardless of how well behaved- was a welcome treat. After getting checked in and walking through the doors you are surrounded by the lush greenery of the gardens. Ahead, the sounds of the ocean waves make you never want to leave, and vacation has only just begun.
The Rooms at La Zebra
The hotel only has about 20 rooms, arranged in a v-shape, extending out from the restaurant and pool areas. This lends at least a small glimpse of the ocean from almost all of the rooms, even the “garden view rooms”. We chose a garden view with a plunge pool. The rooms at La Zebra are all air conditioned. This is a big factor to consider when comparing properties, as many of them are not. Air conditioning was a must for us. No way was I going to stay in the jungle with a baby and a toddler without AC!!
The room featured a king bed and a daybed with a trundle, so it could easily accommodate a family of four- or possibly five with small kids. The hotel was also able to provide a pack and play for little man. The sliding patio doors allowed a full view of the trees and beach. Opening the doors helped our room to feel so much larger, especially with the baby bed set up in the corner. The plunge pool was about 4 feet at the deepest part and could be heated upon request. We loved being able to convert it to a hot tub in the evenings after putting the kids to bed.
The one downside to the garden rooms: the mosquitos. They were always lurking around the doors during the early morning and late afternoon hours, often flying in if we left the doors open too long. Again, this wasn’t really problematic, more of a nuisance. An ocean view room would’ve allowed more airflow to keep them at bay, but the ground floor location meant that we stepped immediately onto the sand, merely 50 steps from the beach.
The Grounds at La Zebra
The beach bar is extremely popular as a daytime beach club for those staying in other hotels. It never got super crowded, and luckily the beach cabanas are reserved for guests only. For kids, there is a small playground area located directly in the sand just to the side of the dining area. We loved that we could lay in our cabana and let our daughter go back and forth between the sand and the playground. The hotel also had a few beach toys they sat out everyday for the children to enjoy.
The pool is located upstairs on the rooftop bar area above the kitchen and reception. It is only for guests, and, most of the time, we were the only ones there. Again, as everything is so close it was easy to go back and forth at the whim of a three year old.
The best part about this hotel is the staff. They were so friendly and accommodating. There were multiple times we needed advice or help and they all went above and beyond to figure it out for us. One of the guys at reception helped us find a great local lunch spot that was our favorite meal of the trip. Most of them remembered our names after only a day or two.
Where to Eat in Tulum with Kids
Although Tulum is essentially located in the middle of the jungle, it has quickly become a tourist hot spot. The resulting surge of tourists has given the area an over the top food scene. California chic meets hippie beach decor with everything from authentic Mexican favorites to vegan and Italian. With the exception of only a few, all of these hip open-air restaurants are extremely kid friendly. Here are a few of the ones we tried:
Campanella Creamerie is located on the main road in the town of Tulum. It looks more like a trendy open air coffee shop. They serve specialty waffles – about nine different options- along with croissants and other baked goods, including artisanal sandwiches. Their specialty is gelato, which is delicious and super creamy. Since it is located in the main town, the prices are much more reasonable than the beach area. Breakfast and specialty espresso drinks here (including a gelato for our daughter’s dessert) was less than $20!
Posada Margherita is always highly ranked on most lists you see for Tulum. The shabby chic decor and homemade Italian favorites make it a traveler favorite. While the food was good, we didn’t think it was anything to rave about. We both enjoyed our meals, but we had terrible service so I’m willing to admit that may have skewed our judgement. We’d read so many great things about it, but I was a little disappointed. I don’t want to count it out, though, as so many others love it.
Cenzontle is on the jungle side of the road in the beach area, so make sure to layer up with bug spray before you go, and you will be treated with a fantastic meal in a beautiful setting. The sand floor is scattered with a few tables, and you are surrounded by jungle and candlelight. Even with the seemingly romantic atmosphere, they still allowed and welcomed our kids. The menu is small, but everything we tried was amazing. We split a few appetizers and an entree, and there wasn’t a bite left on our plates.
The Real Coconut, located inside Sanara, is so serene that you may forget your little ones are with you. It takes zen to a whole other level. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast here overlooking the water. Everything on the menu is gluten, refined sugar, grain, and dairy free, so you can feel refreshed and healthy before drinking your daily margaritas. The avocado toast and yogurt bowls are both delicious.
We went to Mateo’s for breakfast and loved it. The smoothies are amazing, especially the coffee banana smoothie. Even David, who hates coffee, loved it!
Casa Banana is located almost directly across from La Zebra, so we ate here several times for breakfast. Everything was always fresh and cooked to order. They were always so nice to bring our daughter a gorgeous plate of fruit before we even ordered. The yogurt parfait and huevos rancheros were our favorites.
Taqueria Honorio was probably our favorite find of the trip. After asking several different people at our hotel and around town we finally landed at this little roadside stand. They are known for their tacos, which did not disapoint. However, we fell in love with the cochinita pibil torta. It is a slow cooked pork marinated in spices and orange juices. This isn’t just any pulled pork. As we say in the south it, “it’s so good you’ll want to slap yo mama”. I ordered mine as a torta (sandwich), but you can get it on tacos. Holy cow, this sandwich seriously melts in your mouth. It was so good that a few hours later, driving back through town, we stopped to get another for dinner. Using sign language and my terrible attempt at the few Spanish words I know, I was able to order. This place is a local hangout, afterall, so they aren’t fluent in English. It can be confusing, but since you will clearly stand out as tourist, the friendly workers will try to help as best they can. Sitting at the plastic table and chairs underneath the canopy made from tarps, you know you’ve landed somewhere that most tourists won’t venture. One note: they only accept cash, but it is super inexensive so you won’t need much.
La Zebra– The restaurant at our hotel was fabulous, too. We tried almost everything on the menu over our ten days and loved it all . The guacamolé and tacos were our go-to by the end of the trip.
What to do in Tulum with Kids
Visit the Mayan Ruins
- The Tulum ruins are easily accessible, as they are right outside of town just near the road leading to the beaches. We didn’t visit, but the pictures look stunning as it is located directly on the coast. The only reason we opted not to visit these is the lack of shade. With a newborn, I didn’t want to be in the scorching sun without an option to cool off.
- We chose to visit the Coba ruins that are located about 30 minutes from Tulum. It is an easy drive that is mostly interstate. You can do a group tour, but we always prefer going on our own. Try to get there when they open at 8am to avoid the crowds at much as possible. Once inside you can walk self-guided. You can also pay a small fee to rent a bicycle or take a rickshaw. With kids, this was a no-brainer. It cut out about an hour or two of walking. Climbing the main pyramid of the Coba ruins is still allowed, and there is a guide rope to help you out. It is fairly easy as our three year old did it with David, but note that the pyramid is 137 feet tall. So people with fear of heights (me) or those with mobility issues may want to refrain. Remember, this is in the jungle. It is hot and humid, and mosquitos abound. Take sunscreen, wear insect repellant, and pack plenty of water in your bag.
- If you’re willing to spend more time, Chichen Itza is about 3 hours away. We wanted to visit these ruins, but weren’t sure about spending all day in the car. We hope to go back when the kids are a little older.
Visit a Cenote: There are several cenotes in the area, most within a short drive from town. All cenotes aren’t created equal when kids are involved. Read more here about the most toddler-friendly cenote near Tulum.
Visit the Shops: There are lots of cute little shops along the beach road selling everything from swimwear to cute handmade jewelry
Enjoy the beach and relax (as much as possible with two babes)
If you’re looking for a beach a little closer to home, be sure to check out our guide to Amelia Island, Florida!