Tulum pueblo (130km/80 miles from Cancún) is a small town on Hwy. 307 where it intersects the road to Cobá. Nearby is an incredible beach, which has become the Tulum hotel zone -- a collection of about 30 palapa hotels stretching from the Tulum ruins southward, along the Punta Allen Peninsula, all the way to the entrance to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. All must generate their own electricity, but recently, someone politically connected managed to build a larger property -- a small all-inclusive -- and connect it to the town's electrical grid. It has been the object of several legal challenges. I don't know what will come of all this, but it may well represent the end of an era for the Tulum hotel zone.
The Tulum ruins are a walled Maya city of the post-Classic age perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the Caribbean. Tulum beach used to be a destination for backpackers, but the palapa hotels have gone upscale, and the beach now attracts a well-heeled crowd that seeks to get away from the bustle of the big hotels and resorts. The town of Tulum has several modest hotels, more than a dozen restaurants, several stores and pharmacies, three cybercafes, a few dive shops, a bank, two ATMs, and a new bus station.
For those who really want to leave the modern world behind, there's the Punta Allen Peninsula. Getting to the end of the peninsula from Tulum can take 1 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on the condition of the road, which can be downright ugly. It's a quiet, out-of-the-way place; the generator (if there is one) shuts down at 10pm. For most people, Tulum will be far enough away from the crowds. But in Punta Allen, you'll find great fishing and snorkeling, the natural riches of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, and a chance to rest up at what truly feels like the end of the road. A few beach cabañas offer reliable power, telephones, and hot showers.