Tulum is an ancient Mayan city, the ruins of which are located spectacularly on the so-called “Mayan Riviera”, a fantastic coastline stretching from the border with Belize in the south to the famous tourist of Cancun on the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula. It’s no wonder this area is popular with tourists – the beach here is the best I found in Latin America – gorgeous turquoise water safe to swim in and soft white sand to curl your toes in.
The modern town of Tulum, however, is located inland, a good 20 min bike ride from the beach. This is where you find budget accommodation and the best eating options. There is accommodation on the beach: back in the day, it was just hippies and camping. These days, Tulum has been discovered by the yuppies from New York and basic bungalows with no electricity can go for well over $100 per night. The pretentious attitude of the staff is for free, however ;-).
Tulum also makes a good base to explore other parts of the Yucatan. You can swim, snorkel, or scuba dive in Cenotes, great sinkholes made from collapsed limestone. You can also make a tour to the most famous Mayan site of all, Chichen Itza, but be prepared to share the ruins with hundreds of other tourists, who are bused in every day from Cancun and surrounding resorts.
The Riviera Maya is famous for its large scale all-inclusive resorts and a historical tourism base of smaller boutique hotels as well as the many fine-dining restaurants available along the highway 307 and on or near the beaches. Luxury travel entities have been instrumental in increasing luxury villa rentals and yacht charters in the area however these only represent a small fraction of the total tourism accommodation available.