Tulum is the subject of a thousand postcards, and justly so. It’s hard to know if the name is more closely associated with the ancient Maya ruins —perched dramatically on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean—or the idyllic beaches  and oceanfront cabañas that have long been the jewel of the Riviera Maya .
What’s certain is that Tulum manages to capture both the ancient mystery and modern allure of Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Tulum has definitely grown and changed, with more changes on the way. The beach used to be a haven for backpackers and bohemians, with simple cabañas facing beautiful untouched beaches.
The beaches are still beautiful, but the prices have long since gone through the palapa roof, catering more to urban escapists and upscale yoga groups. It’s still a lovely place to stay, no matter who you are, just not as cheap as it used to be.
One consequence of the spike in prices on the beach is that the inland village of Tulum (aka Tulum Pueblo) has perked up significantly. Long a dumpy roadside town, it now has a growing number of bed-and-breakfasts and fine restaurants catering to independent travelers who have been priced out of the beachfront hotels.
To be sure, a beachside cabaña will always be the most appealing place to stay—and there are a handful of bargains still to be had—but staying in town is no longer the huge step down that it once was.
The name Tulum is used for three separate and different areas. The first is Tulum Archaeological Zone , the scenic and popular Maya ruins, and the first area you pass driving south from Cancún . A kilometer and a half (1 mile) farther south (and well inland) is Tulum Pueblo, where you’ll find the bus terminal, supermarket, and numerous restaurants, hotels, Internet cafés, and other shops.
The third part is the Zona Hotelera, or Hotel Zone—east of Tulum Pueblo, where Tulum’s famous beach  and beachfront hotels are located, hugging the coast for almost 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Maya ruins to the entrance of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve . (In case you’re wondering, there’s a walking path, but no road, connecting the ruins to the upper end of the Zona Hotelera.)
Tulum’s bus terminal (Av. Tulum btwn Calles Alfa and Jupiter, tel. 984/871-2122) is at the south end of town, a block from the main plaza.
Combis are white collective vans that zip between Tulum and Playa del Carmen  all day, every day (US$3, 1 hour, 5 a.m.–10 p.m., every 10 minutes). They leave more frequently than buses and are handier for intermediate stops, like Hidden Worlds, Dos Ojos , Akumal , and Xpu-Há . Flag them down anywhere on Avenida Tulum or Highway 307.
Combis also go to Cobá , stopping along the way, albeit less frequently. Catch those at the intersection of Highway 307 and the Cobá/Zona Hotelera road (US$2.50, 1 hour).
Tukan Kin (tel. 984/134-7535, www.fromcancunairport.com ) operates an airport shuttle from Tulum to Cancún airport (US$24 per adult, US$12 per child), with six designated pickup stops around Tulum town and door-to-door service from the Zona Hotelera. Service from the airport to Tulum also is available (US$29 per adult, US$14.50 per child). The trip takes just under two hours; advance reservations are required.
Highway 307 passes right through the middle of Tulum Pueblo, where it is referred to as Avenida Tulum. Coming south from Cancún or Playa del Carmen, you’ll first pass the entrance to Tulum archaeological site , on your left. A kilometer and a half later (1 mile) you’ll reach a large intersection, where you can turn left (east) toward the beach and Zona Hotelera, or right (west) toward Cobá. Continuing straight ahead takes you into Tulum Pueblo, then onward to the Costa Maya .
There is a daily colectivo (US$1) that leaves Tulum town at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. and heads south along the Zona Hotelera road as far as the entrance to Sian Ka’an . In town, the best place to pick it up is in the central plaza, in the parking lot behind the tourist information kiosk. In the Zona Hotelera, look for (and flag down) a white minivan with a number nine and Colectivo Local written on it. The last shuttle back to town leaves around 5 p.m.
The Weary Traveler Hostel (Av. Tulum near Calle Acuario, tel. 984/871-2390, www.wearytravelerhostel.com , US$1) operates a beach shuttle that goes north along the Zona Hotelera road. Its final stop is the beach at Zazil Kin, near the Tulum ruins. Shuttles leave from the hostel at 9 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and 4:45 p.m.; it returns at 9:10 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:55 p.m.