Tulum outfit guide and packing list for your Mexican vacation

If Tulum is on your travel bucket list, then this post is for you! I very briefly touched on what to wear in Tulum in my Tulum travel tips post, but I want to give you more detailed information to help you plan and pack appropriately.

This post focuses solely on what to wear in Tulum. Tulum is a very special place in Mexico and its vibe is very different from touristy spots such as Cabo or Cancun. If you’re headed to Tulum and wondering what to pack, read on! I’m not going to bore you with the obvious essentials such as your passport etc.

Your ultimate guide for what to wear in Tulum
Everything you need to know about what to wear in Tulum

Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links I receive a small commission that enables me to continue providing you with awesome and informative blog posts like this one.

If you’re the type who tends to forget things, please check out my list of essential items as well as this comprehensive packing checklist. Both of these are generic but will help ensure you don’t forget everyday items.

What to wear in Tulum

The weather is nice and warm all year round so you don’t have to worry about bringing heavy layers or a winter coat. I have been there in November, December and March, and I still lived in my bikinis every single time.

Typically, January is the coldest month with an average low of 16°C/62°F and a high of 28°C/83°F. For this Vancouverite, that is NOT cold, lol! For more detailed information, read my post about the best time to visit Tulum.

Tulum is half beach, half jungle, and all chill vibes. It is an extremely bohemian and very laid-back town. It is truly a very different experience than any other part of Mexico. To help you best plan out your outfits, I’m going to break it down for you by day and night, as well as what to wear if you’re going on an excursion.

How to dress in Tulum during the day

In one word – minimally. Most days I wore a bikini and a cover-up. It’s one of the few places I’ve visited where you can go shopping in your bikini and it’s perfectly normal. You can also work out in your bikini should you visit the Tulum Jungle Gym. Of course, you can wear a tank top and shorts, or a sundress, but the point is that casual reigns supreme here.

Wearing a bikini and coverup during the day in Tulum is very common

The stunning teal, silk wrap I’m wearing above was a purchase from a local lady who makes them in Bacalar. I couldn’t resist buying it since teal is one of my favourite colours. Plus, I love supporting locals when I travel.

Because Tulum is positioned between the jungle and the ocean, neutral tones and colours work best here. White crochet dresses and coverups are everywhere. Animal prints also work well and you’ll see a lot of those.

Neutral bikinis are perfect to wear in Tulum to match the jungle colours

When it comes to what fabrics to choose for your tropical vacation, think natural. Natural fabrics breathe and let the heat escape from your body. Synthetic materials, such as polyester or nylon, do the opposite.

While crochet dresses and bikini cover-ups are everywhere, be wary of what material they are made of and how thick they are. The crochet cover-up I am wearing in the photo below was too hot for most days. While it looked cute, I was dying! I have since given it away as it isn’t one I’d wear again.

Fabrics to wear:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Silk
  • Bamboo
  • Hemp
  • Thin, light crochet

Fabrics to avoid:

  • Polyester
  • Wool
  • Nylon
  • Acrylic
  • Thick or heavy crochet
Kat wearing a white crochet swimsuit coverup in Tulum

Now that you know what materials to look for, here are some suggestions for what to wear in Tulum during the day:

  • Bathing suit and cover-up
  • Sundress
  • Tank top and shorts
  • Romper
  • Neutral tones and animal prints
  • Light, airy fabrics
Neutral bikinis that match nature are ideal to wear in Tulum

You get the idea; Tulum is a place for bohemian vibes that are neutral and casual. A classic white tunic can easily take you from day to night. If you’re not sure where to shop for this style, Cupshe has tons of great options. Or you can wait and shop when you arrive. There is no shortage of shops selling crochet cover-ups in Tulum.

Essential accessories for daytime in Tulum

It should go without saying that you need to bring a sunhat and sunglasses, but I’m going to mention it anyway. The sun in Mexico is very hot and nobody needs a bout of heat stroke or a painful sunburn to ruin their day. Plus, wearing a hat is a great way to tame wavy, sunkissed hair.

A sunhat is a must-have item to wear in Tulum

While you may be tempted to purchase sunglasses along the beach or from local vendors, don’t. I am all for supporting the locals and buying local when I travel, but the cheap knock-off sunglasses don’t offer any UV protection for your eyes.

Do yourself – and your eyes – a favour and purchase sunglasses from a reputable store that offer legitimate protection.

If you are someone who loves watersports as I do, and you plan on doing some while in Tulum, I highly recommend getting a cord for your sunglasses. This has saved my expensive sunnies from winding up at the bottom of the ocean more than once.

What to wear in Tulum at night

Nighttime outfits are still very casual in Tulum. I tend to opt for longer sundresses, rompers or pantsuits. A word of caution if you love dresses as I do. If you are going somewhere by the ocean, like one of my favourite restaurants Habitas, be wary of how flowy your sundress is. I learned this one the hard way when a gust of wind picked up my dress 🙈

My purple 100-ways travel dress is my favourite travel dress

Locations on the water are subject to warm ocean breezes, and when the wind picks up so does your dress. I spent a good portion of one evening holding my dress down. Now I know better, and I wear rompers or pantsuits if I know I’ll be spending the evening by the water.

Casual pantsuits are the perfect item to wear in the evening in Tulum

Rompers and pantsuits are perfect options for what to wear for an evening in Tulum if you’re anywhere along the beach road. I brought dresses with me that I never ended up wearing because it was too windy at night. However, you could wear it when you go to a Tulum beach club that is in town.

Speaking from experience, I now swear by light pants or rompers for evenings. The outfit in the image above is actually a pantsuit that looks like a dress. It’s casual, dressy and comfortable. It’s also made out of silk, making it the ideal outfit for Mexico’s warm and breezy nights.

If you are staying in town or dining at an indoor restaurant, by all means, wear a long dress and you’ll be fine. I suggest checking your dining location or wearing a long dress that won’t be affected by wind if you’re unsure. High slits on long dresses can also be problematic so dress accordingly.

Slim fitting long dresses are ideal to wear in Tulum at night

It is warm in Tulum at night so I suggest bringing outfits in the same natural and breathable fabrics mentioned above. The main difference in temperature is that the ocean breeze can be quite strong and cool. For this reason, I recommend bringing a light cardigan or cotton wrap sweater along.

Suggestions for what to wear in Tulum at night:

  • Long dresses
  • Short, tight dresses
  • Light pants and a tank top
  • Rompers
  • Pantsuits
  • Shorts with a cute top

What shoes to wear in Tulum

Flats! I cannot stress this enough. The roads are very uneven and the majority of places, including restaurants, are on the sand – see the above and below pictures. I love dining with my toes in the sand so I spent a lot of time barefoot.

You will likely spend a fair amount of time taking your shoes off and putting them back on. For this reason, the best kind of sandals to bring are those that easily slip off. I brought one pair of sandals that buckled up and they became very annoying to constantly take off and put back on. I highly recommend slip-on sandals, they will make your life a lot easier.

Wearing flat sandals in Tulum is best because the ground is often justsand.

As you can see in the image above, the ground is sand. This is very common in Tulum, especially along the beach road, most places have sand as the ground. While I swore I would never buy Crocs, they make some really cute sandals that are both waterproof and comfortable. Never say never. I ate my words and ended up living in mine. These sandals are aptly named and are perfect for Tulum, or any beach vacation.

What to wear for visiting the Mayan Ruins in Tulum

Any time I am sightseeing for the day, and especially if I’m visiting Mayan Ruins, I wear runners. I highly recommend bringing one pair of running shoes for going on excursions. Nothing is worse than trying to scale over broken rocks while in sandals. I know because I’ve done it and swore I’d never forget to bring runners again.

Black and white outfit for touring around Mexico

I often travel with my white Adidas Superstars, but Tulum is a fairly dirty place so I opted to bring my black Nike shoes on this trip. The roads in Tulum are not paved so I don’t recommend bringing white or another light-coloured running shoe. It rained several days during our trip and any white shoes would have ended up a very muddy brown.

If you plan to visit a cenote, check out these 10 Helpful Tips For Visiting Cenotes in Mexico. In this post, you’ll learn what to bring and wear when visiting a cenote. It’s a very comprehensive post that details everything you need to know before you go.

A black crochet beach coverup is the ideal outfit for wearing in Tulum

How to pack for Tulum

Now that you know what to wear, let’s figure out how you’re going to pack it all. Because the road surfaces are very uneven in Tulum if you bring a suitcase (like I did) be sure that the wheels are sturdy and that you can lift and carry it. This isn’t the trip to lug around your largest 50lb suitcase!

If you prefer to travel with a backpack, even better! This isn’t my style so I made sure that I could easily lift my suitcase and carry it when needed. They don’t roll very well on sand or through potholes.

No matter where I’m headed, I always use packing cubes. I swear by them! They are the absolute best way to stay organized while travelling. First, I separate my outfits into day and evening. Next, I tightly roll up my clothing into each packing cube.

For Tulum, here is how I used my packing cubes:

  • Bikinis
  • Swimwear cover-ups
  • Daytime shorts and tanks
  • Dresses
  • Pants and a cardigan for evenings
  • Undergarments

For additional help with effectively packing for your trip, check out these awesome travel packing hacks (number 5 is a game-changer!) If you aren’t doing this yet, I highly recommend it.

Love sign in Tulum

What not to wear in Tulum, Mexico

Now that we’ve covered what to wear in Tulum to have the best vacation, let’s discuss what not to wear. I am not normally one to tell you what you should or should not wear, but these travel tips are for your own good. I am not here to alter your style so take these for what they are, mere suggestions.

Don’t bring high heels to Tulum

The first thing to leave at home is your high heels. Please do not try and wear heels in Tulum. If you do, you’re likely to roll your ankle. Tulum consists of the beach on one side, and the jungle on the other. In other words, you’re either walking on sand or dirt and tree roots, all of which are very uneven surfaces.

Even a high-heel pro such as myself didn’t dare bother. Aside from safety, you won’t see anyone else wearing heels. If you really can’t stand wearing flats, opt for wedges or platform-style heels. Tulum is not stiletto-friendly at all.

Kat wearing a black romper during the day in Mexico

Vegas-style sparkles

Even the fanciest night out in Tulum is devoid of sequins and sparkles. Leave your glittery gowns for Vegas and don’t bring them to Tulum. Neutrals and animal prints are optimal even during the evening hours.

Expensive, flashy jewelry

This is a travel tip that I suggest no matter where you are travelling. Nobody wants to lose their expensive jewelry while on vacation. When you are visiting another country, it’s always best to not stand out by having the appearance of a rich tourist. This fact aside, you’ll stick out in Tulum because it’s not a flashy place.

Neutral and bohemian vibes rein in Tulum

And there you have it – my comprehensive list of what to wear in Tulum and what not to wear. I hope you found this post helpful! At the end of the day, it’s your vacation and I want you to do YOU.

Tulum is a vibrant yet rustic town that hasn’t yet been overrun by tourists or chain restaurants. Embrace its charm and positive, bohemian vibes. Happy travels my friends.

Now that you know what to wear, be sure to check out this list of 15 crazy awesome things to do in Tulum. Number four is my favourite activity to do in Mexico and I’ll bet that you didn’t even know number one is in Tulum!