Tulum in a nutshell is this: A small, but rapidly growing pueblo with a super hip, boho chic, eco conscious, beautiful beach strip. The thing to keep in mind when visiting Tulum is the pueblo is not within walking distance to the beach.
The total beach stretch of Tulum is approximately 9 km and this is the zone that makes Tulum, Tulum. When you reach Tulum from PDC by car, you turn left at the first stop light you come to. This road goes toward the ocean. You will then come to a roundabout. Ideally, you want to vere right and stay at a hotel on this side of the beach. This is where most of the hotels, restaurants, and shopping are. If you’re on a time constraint, I think 2 full days and nights is sufficient.
Bring a full wallet on your visit. Tulum’s beach strip is not cheap and the ATM’s are often empty.
The beach road is small and congested with cars, collectivos, taxis, bikes, and people walking. Understand, it’s one small road for everybody. There is also not a lot of immediate parking when you see a store or restaurant you want to go into. In my opinion, map it out. A taxi in between walking is your best bet. Biking is an option as well, just be careful.
If you’re on a budget, get a hotel in the pueblo and taxi to the beach. I’ve stayed at Tres Palmas and would definitely recommend it. Most of the beach hotels will let you use their loungers/umbrellas for a price (if it’s not high season and they’re not full). One of my personal favorites is Las Estrellas Hotel. It has a good location, funky vibe, and delicious healthy food.
If you’re on a day trip, go to the south beach side first. I personally would park in the pueblo, and take a taxi to whatever point on the beach strip, then walk my way back via shops, restaurants and beach. If you still have time after that, then go into the pueblo.
If you don’t have a car, the ADO bus is economical from PDC and Cancun. The cheapest way is via Collectivo, but this option that’s popular with the locals can get very crowded at times.
If you like a boho-chic or hippie vibe, you will love Tulum. However, if you are easily frustrated with crowded roads/streets, it might not be worth it. Personally, I love Tulum.