I always knew I wanted to celebrate big and travel for my 30th birthday. Being limited by COVID travel restrictions though, there was pretty much only one country that was available for US Citizens: Mexico!
And as the days were getting longer and the sun was out shining, all I wanted to do was lay on the warm beach and drink my body weight in margaritas.
To celebrate the big 3-0, I decided to go on a 1.5 week trip exploring different parts of Mexico, including:
Tulum, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta
In this post, I’ll cover what to expect when traveling to Tulum, as well as places to see and visit that will make your trip worthwhile.
Budget Breakdown for Tulum
Celebrating my 30th birthday in Tulum ended up being more expensive than I expected. Here’s a breakdown of how much I spent in Tulum:
- Flight: $207 to Cancun from Seattle (One way)
- Shuttle to and from our hotel: $260 (including tip)
- Hotel: $708 for 3 nights for 2 people
- Taxi rides: $63 for 4 days
- Average meal: $50/meal
Exchange rate: 19 MXN / $1 USDFrom April 2021
When exchanging my USD to MXN, I was fine with exchanging $100 to Mexican pesos for all 4 days, which included taxi rides, tips for restaurants and taxi rides, and the entrance fee for Gran Cenote. Majority, if not all, of the restaurants that we visited took card.
Map of Places We Visited in Tulum
Where We Stayed in Tulum
For 3 nights, we stayed in the beach zone at Amansala Resort Hotel, which originally costed us $588 when we booked a month in advance. When we arrived, they offered us to check out the other available rooms, if we’d like to upgrade. We ended up doing so for the first floor, garden view, since it was a larger room, easier access (there are no elevators), and closer to the oceanfront and beach access. At the end, our hotel room costed $708.
In summary, Amansala is quiet and an overall nice hotel stay, including free breakfast and comfortable beds with bug net.
Are there better options? Definitely.
There are definitely hotels in better locations (around the Middle Beach Zone) with much more to offer, such as Kanan Tulum. We were planning to reserve this Tulum beach hotel, but when it came down to it, they were all booked a month in advance.
Where We Ate in Tulum
- Ziggy’s | Come here for the food, live music, and ambiance. We LOVED their ahi tuna nachos and their signature drink, Kala’an. Wish we had time to check Ziggy’s out during the day.
- Taboo Tulum | I liked the vibes during the day rather than at night, but note that the food is crazy expensive! For 2 plates of octopus tacos, beef tartare to share, and 2 piña coladas with double shots, it cost us about $150. They offered beachfront seating for the day club for $140 (which included a $70 food credit) – hard pass. We sat at the restaurant seating instead, where there was shade.
- Papaya Playa Project | Would not recommend for dinner, but rather during the day. For our dinner reservation, we basically had dinner in the dark and could not see anything. Food was okay, nothing notable. Plus it was cold sitting outdoors. The full course meal was $86 per person. Not worth.
- Kitchen Table | Cute little spot if you’re just looking for a quick bite and nice ambiance, plus they have free chips and salsa. Right across Amansala.
- El Mariachi Loco | Located on the main street in the pueblo. We liked their ceviche, plus they had cheap drinks.
- Mina | Best Happy Hour we found in Tulum. Not the largest and most poppin’ place, but it was a hidden gem price point-wise.
- Taquería La Eufemia | Divey bar with super cheap tacos. They have chicharron tacos – my fave.
Nightlife in Tulum
- Taboo Tulum | If you’re looking for a place that’s lit, ratchet, all of the above, go to Taboo Tulum. Personally though, my cousin and I were not feeling it, especially during COVID. The servers were not wearing masks, and I felt like I was at a college party. Like I said, I’d recommend the day.
- Ziggy’s | LOVED Ziggy’s! If you’re looking for a place where you want to chill, listen to live music, and eat and drink delicious cocktails, I’d recommend going. Cute ambience and great service.
- Rosa Negra | While sitting at Ziggy’s, we heard loud music next door and asked our server where that was coming from. As we walked by, all the dinner tables were filled, lights were dim, music was loud, and honestly, it looked pretty fun in there. If I were to visit Tulum again, I’d definitely try to get a reservation.
Visiting Gran Cenote in Tulum
Celebrating my 30th birthday in Tulum, of course we had to visit a cenote! We visited Gran Cenote for the first half of the day, so we could make it to our 1pm reservation at Taboo Tulum. Here was our experience.
- Transportation: Rental mini Jeep $50 ($40 for rental; $10 for gas)
- Time to and from Beach Zone: 2 hours
- Entrance fee: $15 (they accept USD)
Important Notes When Visiting Gran Cenote
- You MUST shower at their showers before entering the cenote. If you don’t, they will ask you to keep your clothes on, even if you’re planning to not go in the water.
- You can stay there as long as you want. Picnic tables are available, if you’d like to stay for lunch.
- Life vests and lockers are available with purchase. Personally I didn’t need it; we set our stuff on the side.
- If you want less people around, I’d advise going early. Usually in the morning before noon.
Our Transportation to Gran Cenote
Before our trip, I had recommendations from friends, who previously visited Tulum, to rent a car. To be honest, renting a car internationally is a little nerve racking for me, and I couldn’t justify the price point, especially because some hotels and locations charge for parking.
In my opinion, I don’t think it’s worth renting for the whole trip, if you are planning to stay in the general beach zone. It is worth it though, if you are planning to visit multiple cenotes, possibly for multiple days.
What we ended up doing was renting one of these little jeeps to drive to Gran Cenote and back to the beach zone. Would I recommend doing this? Suuuper fun, but I would recommend renting an ATV or a buggy instead, because it’s bigger and probably more safe.
Other Tips When Traveling to Tulum
Before I planned my trip celebrating my 30th birthday in Tulum, I wish I knew these tips on what to expect.
- Expect INSANE traffic on the weekends along the beach. The street on the beach is two-way traffic with no parking, so you can only imagine how much backup there will be.
- Don’t drink the tap water. Since the water system isn’t filtrated, you will need to buy water every time you eat at a restaurant. There are pharmacies or little shops everywhere, so you’ll be able to replenish easily.
- Not worth bringing heels. The beach zone is so sandy, and you’re going to do a lot of walking if you don’t want to sit in car traffic.
- Bring your own sunblock. We ended up forgetting to pack a bottle from home. Buying a full bottle at the pharmacy was an expensive $20, and they didn’t sell travel sizes.
- Check the weather. During our trip in mid-April, the majority of the time was overcast, but it was still very hot around 80°F. Pack accordingly.
Celebrating my 30th birthday in Tulum was nice, but overall, I think Tulum is overrated and overly priced. Maybe it’s because it’s overhyped on TikTok or from IG influencers? Nonetheless, I’m still so happy I traveled and rang in my 30s with an international trip to Mexico.
After I turned 30, a lot of people asked me,
“Do you feel any different?”
Honestly, the short answer is no. There was no pivotal moment, no “glowing door” to enter this new decade of my 30s. But as I look back on my 20s and think of all the highs and lows, I can’t help but feel super grateful.
- Grateful for all the friendships I’ve made and grown throughout the years.
- Grateful for my family, who provided me with a strong foundation and support.
- Grateful for all the amazing, unique, and special experiences.
- Grateful for all my wins, big or small.
- Grateful for all the hardships and setbacks.
Being at this stage in my life, I know what I want in life, where I want to go career-wise and with my personal passions, where I want to visit next in the world, all the goals and “bucket lists” I want to accomplish, and lastly, what and who I want to spend my time with. Because it’s true what they say:
Time is so valuable, and how you spend your time may make you or break you. And I’ve learned that.
So, the long answer is: Yeah, I do feel different… compared to where I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even last year. The thought of turning 30 didn’t scare me, but helped me come to a point of gratitude.
I can’t wait to see what my 30s will bring, and with that said: Cheers to another amazing decade.