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Tulum: Real Estate Boom Raises Red Flags for Planning, Regulation, and Infrastructure

Tulum is a popular tourist destination in Mexico, known for its beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and eco-friendly resorts. But behind the idyllic facade, there is a dark side to the real estate boom that is threatening the sustainability and quality of life of the town and its inhabitants.

tulum playa

Lack of planning and regulation

One of the main problems that Tulum faces is the lack of planning and regulation. Tulum does not have a comprehensive urban plan or zoning regulations, which means that developers can build without proper permits or oversight. This leads to problems such as land disputes, illegal construction, and encroachment on protected areas.

Between 2020 and 2023, the number of condos in Tulum skyrocketed by a staggering 150%. However, many of these properties were built on the coastal zone, which is a natural reserve and a World Heritage Site. In 2018, the federal government ordered the demolition of 97 properties that were built illegally on this area, but only 16 of them were actually demolished, and the rest remain standing, posing a threat to the environment and the local communities.

The need for stricter regulations and oversight to ensure quality construction and environmental sustainability is more important than ever. Experts like Wilberth J. Gutiérrez, president of the National Association of the Mexican Real Estate Industry (AMII), warn about the consequences of the lack of proper planning and infrastructure to support this growth.

Tulum's Inadequate Infrastructure

Another problem that Tulum faces is the inadequate infrastructure. Tulum’s infrastructure is not designed to handle the increasing demand for water, electricity, sewage, and waste management. The town relies on diesel generators for power, which are expensive and polluting.

The sewage system is outdated and often leaks into the groundwater, contaminating the aquifer and the nearby cenotes (natural sinkholes). The waste management system is also insufficient, resulting in piles of garbage and plastic on the streets and beaches.

These infrastructure problems have serious consequences for the environment and the health of the people. For instance, in 2019, a study found that many cenotes in Tulum had high levels of fecal bacteria, making them unsafe for swimming and drinking.

With all this shiny new construction, you’d think the infrastructure would be keeping pace, right?

Wrong! Traffic congestion is a growing nightmare, with wait times on major highways tripling during peak season. Water shortages are becoming more frequent, with some areas relying on bottled water for daily needs. This is a recipe for inconvenience, not the tranquil retirement haven you might be envisioning.

Experts like Marcelo Ramírez, president of AMII Cancún, emphasize the need for investing in sustainable infrastructure development, and prioritizing long-term planning over short-term profits.

Social inequality

A third problem that Tulum faces is the social inequality. Tulum’s real estate boom has also created a gap between the wealthy investors and the local residents. Many of the properties are owned by foreigners or corporations, who often do not pay taxes or contribute to the community.

The locals, on the other hand, face rising costs of living, displacement, and loss of cultural identity.

For example, the average price of a home in Tulum is $350,000, which is unaffordable for most of the locals, who earn less than $10 a day. As a result, many of them have to move to the outskirts of the town, where the living conditions are poor and the services are scarce. Furthermore, the influx of tourists and expats has also eroded the traditional culture and values of the town, making it lose its authenticity and charm.

Some of the indigenous Maya people, who have lived in the region for centuries, have been marginalized and excluded from the benefits of the development. They have been forced to sell their lands, abandon their customs, and adapt to a new way of life that is often incompatible with their worldview and beliefs.

Finding a balance

These are some of the problems that Tulum faces as a result of its real estate boom. If left unchecked, they could jeopardize the sustainability and quality of life of the town and its inhabitants.

Therefore, it is important to find a balance between economic growth and environmental and social responsibility, and to involve all the stakeholders in the process.

Some of the possible solutions include:

  • Developing a comprehensive urban plan and zoning regulations that respect the natural and cultural heritage of the area, and that ensure the participation and consultation of the local communities.

  • Investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and to lower the carbon footprint of the town.

  • Improving the sewage and waste management systems, and implementing measures to reduce, reuse, and recycle the waste generated by the residents and the visitors.

  • Promoting responsible tourism and consumption, and encouraging the tourists and the expats to respect the environment and the culture of the town, and to support the local businesses and initiatives.

By taking these steps, Tulum can become a model of sustainable development, and a place where everyone can enjoy its beauty and diversity.


Tulum is a beautiful and unique destination, but it also faces many challenges as a result of its real estate boom. The lack of planning and regulation, the inadequate infrastructure, and the social inequality are some of the problems that need to be addressed.

By finding a balance between economic growth and sustainability, and by involving all the stakeholders in the process, Tulum can preserve its natural and cultural richness, and ensure a better future for itself and its people.

What do you think about Tulum’s situation? Have you visited or lived in Tulum? Do you have any suggestions or experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this article with your friends and family, and to follow us for more interesting and informative content. Thank you for reading! 😊

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