Tulum is one of those charming places you have to visit at least once in your life. From nightclubs to beautiful nature, beach parties, camping, and whatever fulfills your soul, you can always find activities to do in Tulum.
Don’t forget to check out my post covering the eleven best restaurants in Tulum, Mexico, where you can taste some of the best food in the country. Sampling amazing Mexican cuisine is just one of the many attractions in Tulum.
- Best Things To Do in Tulum, Mexico
- What to Consider Before Visiting
Best Things To Do in Tulum, Mexico
Located just outside of Tulum, Mexico is a stunning swimming hole called the Cenote Calavera. The mouth of the Cenote is what makes it so beautiful, as the sunlight shines in and illuminates the crystal blue waters. Visitors can swim above, within, and below this gorgeous natural creation, and some have even been known to cliff jump from above!
The Cenote Calavera open water dive is made up of three sections, the Bat Cave, the Patio, and an enormous cavern. The Bat Cave is so-named because thousands of bats hang upside-down inside the stalactites, making it difficult to swim through.
Once past the Bat Cave, you step out onto the Patio, and there you’ll see enormous stalactites hanging from the roof of this spectacular cavern.
Calavera Cenote is one of the closest to town, but least visited, making it a true hidden gem. The cenote entrance is located on the highway about ten minutes south of Valladolid. Diving and swimming are permitted here all day; however, you must return to the same entry point and exit the water before 6 pm to avoid parking fees after 5 pm.
A unique feature of this dive is that you can choose between jumping from a cliff or platform into the clear water below or use ladders to descend about 20 feet onto the sandy bottom. There are also some wooden steps.
I recommend wearing a swimsuit under your clothes because Cenote Calavera is underwater for most of the cave and cold to the touch (but very clear!) There’s also a low ceiling, which makes it difficult for those who are tall. It was exhilarating to jump into the water and travel through the cave, but be sure you can do it safely. You would not want anything to mar the memory of one of the most fun things to do in Tulum.
Muyil is located at the north edge of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and is home to a variety of ancient structures. The most prominent among them is El Castillo (also known as the Castle), an impressive 55-foot pyramid and one of the tallest buildings in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Other important Mayan ruins include Las Monjas, Mural de las Pinturas, Mural de los Pintores, and La Iglesia ruins. Muyil was once inhabited by a group of people known as the Kayabíes, who lived their daily lives in harmony with nature.
I also recommend visiting the museum area on the grounds. The vast collection of artifacts offers a close-up look at what life was like in ancient Mayan civilization. You can also view hieroglyphic readings in the nearby pyramid.
Located in a mangrove lagoon two miles from downtown Tulum, Muyil is one of the greatest Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula. The site is named after the original Mayan name for its lagoon, Miiyél, a place where you can see crocodiles.
Here you’ll find ceremonial structures, including several stelas (huge monoliths carved with hieroglyphics), a ball court, and an ancient Maya pier discovered in 2011 and believed to be more than 1,500 years old. There are also pyramids, altars, and terraces.
Though the temple ruins are free to access, there is an admission charge for climbing the steps to the summit. The site has not yet been fully excavated (only 20 percent of it has been) and hikers should expect to see stone carvings, walls, and towers along their trek. If you want a closer look at them, take a boat tour of the lagoon (with access to floating among the mangroves).
As is customary at other archaeological sites in Mexico, visitors need to respect the sites and historical significance by being quiet when within them.
The ruins at Tulum can be quite demanding, so make sure to either bring water or buy some once you are there. There are no facilities for tourists, so plan to wear sunscreen and appropriate walking shoes. Many tours in Cancun offer combo tours of this and other places within the area. Keep this on your shortlist of things to do in Tulum.
Whether it’s one of your daily adventures or a special date to remember, Dos Ojos is the perfect place for you and your friends. The crystal clear waters will take your breath away. A wooden deck at both ends of the cenote makes swimming more relaxing and enjoyable. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular pastimes here too.
Visitors frequently don these set-ups so they can move around underwater safely. And there are plenty of places nearby to see as well.
The Cenote Dos Ojos is a great place to snorkel or scuba. The crystal clear blue waters will take your breath away. Everyone loves this scenic spot and its opportunities for adventure. It makes a wonderful addition to anyone’s Cancun vacation package and one that you will remember forever.
Cenote Dos Ojos is one of the most popular cenotes in the area. Dozens of small limestone caves surround a large open water space. The north side of the cenote features a natural rock formation that resembles a giant elephant holding its trunk high into the air. Alternatively, the south side of the cenote features an enormous tubular cave that divers often explore.
It is located 14 kilometers north of Tulum on Highway 307 Cancun – Chetumal. This spectacular cenote is well worth the price and time. A restaurant and bathroom facilities are on-site. You can book your tour here. Make sure to check out this Tulum excursion.
In Tulum, you can eat the freshest seafood and traditional dishes that come with a twist. The area is known for its cuisine that is bursting with spicy, sweet, and savory flavors. Don’t skip on the salbutes, panuchos, and tamales.
You’ll find an array of local food, both for tourists and locals. You’re better off getting it straight from the source, not only because it’s cheaper, but because the food is amazing!
From the moment I arrived in Tulum and saw a taco stand on the side of the road, I knew I was in for a treat. The freshness of local ingredients, cheap street tacos on the go, and the social atmosphere that comes with eating such delicious meals with family and friends made me fall in love with food in Mexico.
I just recently came back from Tulum. To my surprise, there is a fantastic fruteria in the town of Tulum called Huerto del Eden with fresh juices, hand-ground coffee, and eggs cooked to order.
All of the produce is fresh from local farms, it is locally run, and the guys working there are so nice and accommodating. Plus, it’s authentic and the price matches to leave a respectable tip for the kind service. For an authentic dip into Mexican cuisine, local food is one of the best things to do in Tulum.
Cobá Ruins (also known as Mayan)
Cobá is a small, undeveloped Mayan ruin about 30 miles northwest of Tulum, near the town of Playa del Carmen. It’s a good option for those who want to get off the beaten track and experience some more authentic Mayan ruins than those at Tulum and Chichén Itzá. But Cobá has none of the former’s popularity or crowds, so you can still view some impressive ruins without having to wait in line or deal with tour groups.
This Mayan ruin is a popular site for tourists due to its accessibility to the public, its size, and its proximity to Cancún. However, many are unaware that Cobá contains some of the most pristine ruins in all of the Yucatán.
In fact, unlike the Yucatán’s more visited ruins at Chichén Itzá and Tulum, these Cobá ruins have never been even partly refurbished or changed since their abandonment. Millions of tourists every year travel miles and pay hefty sums to see the spectacular pieces of Mayan history.
The Archaeological Ruins of Uxmal are one of the most impressive sights in the Yucatan peninsula. The ruins spread over 30 square miles, with nearly 50 roads that spool out from the site’s temples. But the top attraction is Nohoch Mul – the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula. Visitors can climb up all 120 of the pyramid’s steep, narrow steps to enjoy an excellent and unrivaled view of the surrounding jungle.
On your way to the ruins, you’ll pass through a small village and a school in the area. It’s a good idea to stop and give at least a few pesos to the children at this point. If you have enough time, enjoy a short walk through the village before or after visiting the ruins (best early or late in the day, as it’s hot in the middle of the day). Make sure to check this out as one of many great historical activities in Tulum.
Playa Paraíso is the perfect place for a day by the sea. With palm trees swaying in the breeze and coarse sand giving way to smoother sandbanks as you near the water’s edge, this beach is just south of Tulum, but far enough away that most tourists stay away.
The crystal freshwater lagoon is home to hundreds of colorful fish, while the protected Caribbean waters on either side offer snorkeling and diving opportunities. After a day at one of the many nearby ruins or cenotes around Tulum, this beach makes a relaxing end to your day.
While quiet, this beach is hardly deserted. Nearby are snorkel and scuba-diving outfitters, a variety of seaside restaurants, a waterfront bar, and some hammocks and lounge chairs down the path from the ruins. Be forewarned that like many parts of popular destinations, this beach is often crowded with tourists.
A visit to Playa Paraiso is best combined with a trip to the Maya ruins since the two attractions are a little more than a mile from each other. You can also easily rent a bike to reach this beach from town. The beach club is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Playa Paraiso is one of the best places to go in Tulum if you just want a day to chill.
Tulum means “wall” in the Mayan language and that’s precisely what you’ll find; walls. In this case, those walls aren’t for keeping unwelcome intruders out, but rather for letting in a captivating view of the Caribbean Sea after an hour hike.
Built by the ancient Mayans between A.D. 700 and 900 as a ceremonial site, Tulum is most famous for its intricate carvings. Driven by the arrival of tourists on cruise ships, several restaurants have popped up in recent years to accommodate visitors to both the restaurant and ruins.
If you have already been to Chichén Itzá, Tulum might prove a bit lackluster, as recent visitors said the ruins do not compare. The area isn’t necessarily large, nor is the architecture the most grandiose. But the scenery is dramatic; the ruins sit over the sea atop a small cliff, offering visitors beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.
Many travelers recommend that you pack a sun hat and sneakers since you’ll likely be walking around on the ruins for most of the day. Don’t forget your swimsuit either, since this is one of the best swimming opportunities on all of Santa Cruz Island. You’ll also want to bring plenty of water and possibly a snack or two if you plan on spending the whole day here.
Hotel Zone to Chichen Itza Tour – Enjoy your adventure! You will be picked up at your hotel in the Hotel Zone area and head to Chichen Itza by private transportation. Along the way, you may be able to spot Mexican woodpeckers, or “Yuk Kaax”, as they sit on the side of telephone poles and trees looking for a carrier.
On arrival, you will be greeted by the Adventure Guide who will introduce you to the ruins before setting off on a hiking adventure that includes climbing and descending multiple steps, climbing a ladder, walking through uneven terrain, and crossing over rough terrain. If you love the outdoors and outdoor sports, make sure you plan a day at this fabulous attraction in Tulum.
Wondering how to get to Tulum, Mexico from the airport?
Take a private transfer if you’re a group – sharing is caring but with your own party! Every driver is bilingual so he will be more than happy to answer any questions you have along the way regarding the surroundings.
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Tulum has majestic ruins along the southeastern coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. The best thing about these ancient ruins is that they are still surrounded by Mayan people who still speak their indigenous language, dress in traditional clothing, and sell handmade crafts to tourists.
Take a day off from exploring the ruins to taking an introductory Mayan language class, just minutes from your hotel. Or try your hand at making some traditional arts and crafts with your kids. You’ll have a lot of fun, and will learn more about this amazing culture. These are just a couple more things to do in Tulum.
The Maya people work with some of the most modern technology, but they also hold very firm to their ancient cultural and spiritual beliefs.
The Temazcal ceremony is a modern version of an ancient practice that is meant to cleanse a person spiritually, physically, and mentally. It’s a combination of old Mayan traditions and some new methods of healing.
El Gran Cenote
The Grand Cenote in Tulum is the most famous of them all. The turquoise water is crystal clear and ideal for snorkeling. Both smaller fish and turtles are swimming in the beautiful cenote. You can reach different depths of water due to the wooden deck that has been created over centuries by the local people reaching the water.
The Gran Cenote in Tulum was discovered in the year 1991 by two men looking over the cenotes from limestone rock. All tourists who visit Tulum, Mexico for the first time must see this cenote.
In the middle of the jungle, an ancient Mayan well was discovered. This natural spring connects to a large cave that is home to an impressive number of fish and turtles, whose population keeps growing as more fish find their way in overtime. An elongated cave connected to the main part of the cenote allows for additional exploration.
Diving here is currently at its peak. Due to the good visibility, the current is minimal. There are fantastic fish and corals to see, including turtles and rays. The dive boat will take you to both Santa Rosa and Gordo Banks, which have unique marine life particularly aimed at macro photography fans.
Above the cenote there is clean, mowed grass, so you can sunbathe and relax here. In addition to clean toilets, showers are also available so that no sunscreen gets into the water. These must be used before swimming, thereby impurities should be avoided.
You can use lockers to keep your valuables safe; otherwise, you should keep an eye on them instead of the beautiful nature. There are also hammocks in the shade, which are very inviting for relaxing. To reiterate what we said above, this is one of the must-do activities in Tulum.
What to Consider Before Visiting
- Currency: Pesos
- Language: Spanish, some English spoken
- Best time to visit Tulum: May, June, or October, with November to December being the busiest time of the year, as many North American and European tourists seek warm-weather escapes. Take note that July and August can be very hot.
- Drive on the right side of the highway.
- Tap water is generally unsafe to drink.
Stay in Town if You’re on a Budget
The beaches of Tulum are beautiful, but often a little too busy or even hard to access for those on a real budget. By staying in town, you can choose from cheaper food options and restaurants, and be close to all the shops, bars, and clubs.
The center is also where most of the hostels are located and available at a respectable price for most people.
Rent a Bike to Explore
There are plenty of independent bike-hire shops in and around Tulum where you can rent a bike for as little as 50 pesos. Hotels and hostels often offer their own bike hire service, including helmets, locks, and repair kits.
If you want to keep costs down even further, you can often borrow a bike from your hostel for free while you’re staying there.
Bike-hire shops in and around Tulum offer a variety of options, from mountain bikes to hybrids, cruisers, or children’s bikes. Prices range from 50 to 200 pesos per day – feel free to arrange an informal barter system with your hosts rather than paying the daily rate.
Some hotels and hostels provide bikes for free or at a reduced rate. The more popular roads tend to be flat, tarmacked tracks leading north toward Coba and Cancun, or south toward Playa del Carmen.
Use Pesos Instead of Dollars
I can’t recommend enough using pesos here, especially because the smallest bill is 20 pesos (bills are in denominations of 1 – 500), which means that you can get at least some small change back out when tipping someone.
Many shops and restaurants are happy to take USD, but the exchange rate is awful. Be sure to take out all the pesos you might need before heading to the beach road, as ATMs are in short supply there and the ones you can find only dispense USD at some of the worst rates in all of Mexico.
There are many ATMs in town, so withdrawing some pesos isn’t an ordeal at all.
Don’t Miss the Ruins
Don’t miss out. The Mayan ruins at Tulum are one of the few ancient sites located on the beach, making it the perfect way to experience Mexican culture – and the perfect backdrop for your Instagram photo.
Avoid long lines by getting there early before the crowds come, or simply head there in the afternoon when most of the day-trippers have left.
The Mayan Ruins of Tulum are located on the Caribbean coast, along a crescent of Caribbean beaches and lagoons in the state of Quintana Roo. These Mayan ruins and their surrounding jungle environment have been preserved as a visitable archaeological site.
The main attraction is the Temple of the Frescoes, which houses extraordinary Mayan frescoes that tell stories about the culture and people who used to live here.
Explore What Ancient Tulum Used to be Like
The ancient seaside city of Tulum occupies one of the most stunning parts of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. In addition to its seashore location, its relative isolation has ensured the integrity of this UNESCO World Heritage site, which includes an opulent, ancient Mayan palace and temple complex. Today, the city is also a popular resort town for scuba diving and snorkeling, one more thing to do while visiting Tulum.
The ceremonial complex of Tulum, built on a 12-meter high limestone cliff, was surrounded on three sides by fortification walls, while the fourth side faces the Caribbean Sea. Indeed, the very name Tulum is a colonial one and means “wall.”
The original local name may have been Zama, meaning “dawn,” in reference to the site’s position facing east across the sea. At one time, as many as 400 structures covered almost 2 square kilometers in the area around Tulum. Today, more than 30 buildings remain; most of them are grouped together around three great plazas on the eastern side.
What is Tulum Known for?
Laid-back, tranquil, and set amid lush tropical foliage, Tulum is the perfect spot for those looking for an alternative to the more central resorts. The whole of the Yucatan Peninsula has beautiful white sand beaches, but many believe Tulum to be the crown jewel of Mexican beaches.
This town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast is one of the oldest settlements in the Americas and has a potpourri of ancient Mayan buildings as well as little cafes, shops, and galleries.
Once called Mexico’s best-kept secret, Tulum is a tranquil tropical paradise. It’s a destination unto itself, and a gateway to the beautiful region of Riviera Maya. Just north of Playa del Carmen, Tulum feels even more remote and untouched than its neighbor, but word is out; people are now starting to flock to Tulum like they did Playa del Carmen in years past.
Thanks to the lovely coral reef just off the coast, Tulum serves as an excellent base for deep-sea fishing and snorkeling tours. And that crystal-clear water provides you with some of the most gorgeous sunsets imaginable.
Known as both a Mayan ruin and a contemporary artist colony, Tulum is Mexico’s most popular ecotourism destination. Surf the hippy-style waves at nearby Playa del Carmen, snorkel in the beautiful Caribbean waters of Sian Ka’an, or just sit back and relax at one of the many world-class resorts that border Tulum. No matter your likes or dislikes, you will always find something to do in Tulum.
What About ATMs?
The smart traveler is always prepared. Make sure you have enough cash for your trip to Tulum because most vendors only accept local currency.
And especially if you plan to go on a longer trip and explore the lands by foot having more money withdrawn than originally planned is always a good thing.
Be sure to take all the pesos you may need while you’re in town because the beach road ATMs only dispense USD, and at an awful exchange rate. Then, you’ll be charged a second awful exchange rate to use those bills.
Pro tip – if you’re not staying in town, hit the ATMs in the Chedraui grocery store at the entrance to the beach road. They have ATMs from several different banks inside, and it’s also a great place to stock up on essentials like sunscreen, which are way more expensive on the beach road.
Also, if you want to save some more money you can grab bottles of alcohol here to pregame in your hotel room before going out for more expensive drinks at restaurants and nightclubs!
What About Airport Transportation?
On arrival at the Cancun Airport, you have many options to choose from on how to get to your final destination. You can take a taxi, private transportation, bus, etc. If you have difficulties finding one of these, there is always the information desk available, and they will be more than happy to help.
There is no Uber in Cancun.
What are you waiting for? Have you not come to a decision yet on where to go next? Go and book your trip to Tulum ASAP and do all the things you’ve been reading about!
Try as many foods as possible, and go to as many places as you can. From the ruins to the cenotes, to the beaches, and the world-class restaurants- there is something to do in Tulum for everyone!