Pema, SafetyWing’s Nomadic Content Creator, is paid to travel and document 10 amazing coworking destinations from around the world. If you want to see her diving adventures in Tulum, check out her YouTube video!
Tulum is one of the fastest-growing digital nomad hubs in the world. During the pandemic, remote workers flocked to the Mayan Riviera in droves, establishing the once-sleepy beach town as the Bali of Mexico. But despite the influencer culture and inflated cost of living (compared to the rest of Mexico), coworking in Tulum is still a great option.
Tulum was already popular pre-pandemic, but the migration of digital nomads and influencers during the lockdowns was exorbitant. It's now cemented as the most popular destination of the Riviera Maya, with prices to match. That said, the infrastructure to support a nomadic workforce also improved. Aside from more reliable wifi in the Pueblo (downtown) zone, there are a number of new coworking spaces.
There's also a very international crowd who call Tulum home. It's, unfortunately, a bit priced out for locals, so you'll find a lot of well-established expats and fellow digital nomads and travelers in the area. Most locals there speak English as well. That can mean plenty of opportunities to connect with cool people, and I ran into several nomadic friends passing through Tulum.
As far as visas go, most digital nomads enter Mexico on a 6-month tourist visa. Those who qualify can apply for a temporary residence visa, but this comes with significant financial requirements. Meanwhile, the cost of living can be lower than in most developed nations, but Tulum is very pricey by Mexican standards. It's very easy to blow through your budget depending on your tastes.
To be honest, my time in Tulum was a bit underwhelming. I was pretty jet-lagged through most of it and started the trip with the most expensive taxi ride of my life. It cost almost as much as my 10 days of accommodation. This probably gave me a negative bias so please judge my words accordingly.
The activities I did were surprisingly expensive, and the Tulum town itself felt pretty devoid of Mexican culture. I like to travel to experience a new culture or way of life, but I felt like I'd found my least favorite parts of LA and Bali transplanted along a Mexican beachfront.
I spent most of my time in a quieter neighborhood near Downtown (Pueblo). The hotel zone was a bit far by bike ride, so I generally stayed around my place, Joy Tulum. Luckily, I was across the street from one of the best cafes in Tulum. I spent most afternoons there working with fast internet and great food. It was also a short walk from there to one of the largest coworking spaces in Tulum, with other coworking-friendly cafes a bike ride away. It was very convenient to have several good workspaces close by as well as plenty of food options. Many nomads either cowork or attend networking events in Selina.
There are a few different options for digital nomads based in Tulum. Most people gravitate towards the hotel zone, but it's very expensive for long-term stays. Internet connection has a reputation for being unreliable. Most nomads choose to stay in a neighborhood near Pueblo, like I did. La Veleta and Aldea Zama are quite popular, with beautiful Airbnbs.
Among a few things to note, police extortion can be an issue in the affluent, quiet parts of Aldea Zama & La Veleta. And construction has also been an issue. Access to convenience stores/groceries is not great there, but I rode my bike to the superstore Chedraui on Avenida Coba. There's also an organic grocery store in La Veleta called Gypsea Market.
In terms of things to do and places to see, Tulum is a great base. There are plenty of restaurants, food stalls, and upscale dining. And considering there are always people on holiday, the nightlife is perpetually on. Aside from the social scene, there are the beautiful beaches, Cancun, Mayan ruins close and far, and the neighboring Yucatán close enough to explore on a day trip. You shouldn’t miss Mexico City either if you get a chance to visit during your trip, and Playa del Carmen is only an hour away.
If you're a freediver, scuba diver, or interested in exploring either, make sure you visit the cenotes. Some shallow cenotes are free to explore via snorkelers, but some require a licensed freediving or scuba diving instructor, and need to be booked in advance. Bringing a camera (even a GoPro) is often an additional cost, so just make sure to check the requirements and fees before rocking up to your favorite Instagram cenote. I highly recommend taking a course in either if you're up for the challenge.
I preferred to spend my money at work-friendly cafes instead of at coworking spaces. I tried a few different spots, but Ki'bok Coffee was my favorite. Their old location had a coworking floor, but the new location does not. They do, however, have fast internet, good food, and friendly staff. I never felt like they wanted me to hurry out, even when I'd spend 4 hours at a table. Not all tables have power outlets though, but you can still find some. It’s open-air so not all tables have sun cover, but most do. I'd recommend coming early or in between meal times to get a good spot.
I also visited Babel Cafe, which had been mentioned in quite a few nomad lists. It's the most central cafe to work from downtown. At this time, they had a large table out front specifically for laptop work. Given they put all their remote workers together in one spot, there was no pressure to wrap up quickly. As mentioned earlier, the location is quite convenient and the food was also pretty good value. It’s also a great way to chat and meet others from the local digital nomad community.
Another cafe that made it into numerous digital nomad guides was Italdo. They serve pastries, pizzas, and coffee, with an extensive menu. It features a very pretty and laid-back outdoor seating area in La Veleta. The only issue was the lack of power points outside. There are some indoors but along the very thin bar. If your laptop battery is full, it's a nice option for a long lunch.
Just down the street from Italdo is the Digital Jungle coworking space. It's beautifully decorated in the typical Tulum style, and aims to provide a fresh space for individuals or collaborative work. Amenities include conference rooms, zoom booth, hot desks and monthly private desks, with free coffee and fruit bar. Hours are 7:00 am to 9:00 pm Mon - Fri, with reduced hours on Saturdays. Memberships start at $16 USD per half day to $260 USD per month, with options in between. Perks include the Vesica Cafe serving wholesome farm-to-table eats on the property, and Monday Movie nights.
While I don't think life as a digital nomad in Tulum is for me, it's a great year-round digital nomad hotspot for many. There are endless opportunities to explore the Tulum beaches, cenotes, and nearby Mexican culture, and tons of like-minded people to adventure with. It's easy to network with other remote workers, entrepreneurs, and expats, with a myriad of coworking and coliving spaces to choose from, along with active local Facebook groups. Just keep in mind its popularity comes with some headaches as well, and appreciate the rest.
For more digital nomad destinations, check out Pema's previous guide on working remotely from Queenstown, New Zealand