Short History Lesson of Tulum

Originally called Zama (city of the dawn), the walled city of Tulum was one of the last major cities to be built and inhabited by the Maya. It played an important role as a port city, trade hub and centre of worship. Abandoned in the late 16th century, it is now a well-preserved archaeological site visited by millions of tourists annually.

About 2 kms from the ruins is the modern, thriving town of Tulum. It straddles the federal highway 307, which runs north to south from Chetumal to Cancun, in the easternmost Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

Modern Tulum has grown steadily in population since the 1990’s. Its economy relies mainly on tourism and fishing. The Maya population is still present; with several Mayan villages scattered along the highway to Chetumal and inland toward Merida.

Tulum Visitor Information

Tulum has a diverse population of locals and ex-pats who have made this bohemian town their home. Many of the locals work in the tourist industry; whether as dive instructors, tour guides or staffing the large all-inclusive resorts nearby. Many are employed as fishermen and construction workers. It is truly an international blend of residents, and the numbers rise and fall with high season (December – April), and low season.

You enter Tulum Pueblo on Federal Highway 307, which becomes Avenue Tulum. This runs right through the town of Tulum and then once again becomes Highway 307. Flanking Avenue Tulum are cobblestoned side roads with restaurants and colorful shops. These are one-way and offer angle parking.

Between the archaeological site and the town of Tulum are several banks and gas stations. There are two main grocery stores. San Francisco de Assis is located at the highway and Boca Paila road junction, and Chedraui is located on the Boca Pail road heading just a few kms east.


The Police station and Mayor’s Office are located next to the HSBC bank [on the East side of Tulum Avenue]. In this area [Southwest of the town center] there is a huge sports park with baseball, soccer fields, basket ball and tennis courts.


Lining the main boulevard in the town of Tulum are several banks, including HSBC and Scotiabank. You will find the highest concentration of banks around the first major intersection, where Highway 307 meets with the Boca Paila beach access road. Most of the banks have 24-hour ATMs and offer withdrawals in pesos or American dollars. The fees are reasonable.

You’ll also find ATMs at both main supermarkets–at the Chedraui (on your way to the Boca Paila beach road) and at the San Francisco de Assis grocery store located at the main highway junction.

For the best exchange rate, bring your foreign currency along with your passport to one of the banks during regular hours.