Tulum is a chill beach town located on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The free spirit ambiance in combination with it’s interesting history of Mayan remains, the white powdered beaches and plenty of cenotes provide Tulum with a wide array of things to do. In Tulum you can combine the chill beach life with culture, history, wellness and nature adventures. There are plenty of luxury hotels, top notch restaurants, boho chique beach clubs and many great day trips to do from Tulum. So in this complete guide you will find all the best things to do in Tulum!
How to get to Tulum
The nearest airport from Tulum is Cancun. The easiest way to get to your hotel hassle free is booking your airport transfer beforehand. If you’re planning on making a road trip in Yucatan, then you can easily rent a car at the airport. Another option is to go by bus to Tulum.
Best time to visit Tulum
The best time to go to Mexico is between December and April when there is almost no rain. But because this is high season, the prices for hotels will be (much) higher and it will be busier with tourists. November and May can be a good option if you want to avoid those crowds but take into account that you might have some rain and seaweed. We went to Tulum in June, actually because we found a very cheap flight from Amsterdam. But we were unlucky and had almost one full week of tropical storms. Also the beaches were full of seaweed. Yes, we just want to be real with you and not only share the best side of Tulum.
Tulum was built to be a seaport fortress for Quintana Roo, with steep ocean cliffs providing protection from the East, and a large limestone wall enclosing the rest of the city on three sides. The population of Tulum was once 1.600 people and was an important trading center for the Mayan world. Goods like turquoise, jade, cotton, food, copper bells, axes, and cacao beans were traded here. Nowadays, Tulum has evolved into a very popular beach get away. Especially for people who like the boho-chic vibes combined with a Mexican influence. One of the fun Tulum quotes is ‘ If you’re not barefoot, you’re overdressed’, and that’s what Tulum is all about. Unwind in this hip but relaxed beach town without shoes and leave your worries at home!
There are many luxury resorts and boutique hotels to find in Tulum making it a perfect getaway for honeymooners and people that love a more luxury vacation. With palm fringed beaches and surrounded by jungle, trendy Tulum has many things to offer. From relaxing on the Tulum beaches with beautiful beach clubs, to exploring the Tulum cenotes and impressive Mayan history. Counting down the days to go on vacation? Find here all the best things to do in Tulum and near Tulum.
10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN TULUM
There are over 6000 different cenotes in Yucatan alone. But Suytun cenote was our favorite cenote of all because of several reasons. The first reason is the magical light ray shining through a hole from the roof at a specific time. Also, the impressive stalagmites and stalactites are amazing to see and interesting for photography. Last but not least, it looks like this cenote is not that overrun by tourists as the others we went to. We were the only ones there which gave an extra magical feeling to the experience. Especially when I captured the light ray while Atiba was standing on the platform of the cenote. This was for sure one of our most exciting things to do around Tulum! Find here more awesome cenotes in Tulum to visit.
Getting there: Just a short drive outside of Valladolid, this cenote can be combined easily with the others around Valladolid. Drive all the way down the dirt road until you see a parking lot where you have to buy a ticket at the restaurant to enter the cenote.
Entrance fee: 70 pesos per person.
Best time to go for photos: If you want to catch the light ray in your shot you have to come in between 11 AM and 1 PM when the sun is at its highest point and will shine straight down through the roof. You have to be lucky with the weather conditions because even when it’s a little bit cloudy, there will be no light ray.
Photo tip: The best angle is from the stairs with the big stalactites framed in your picture. Set your aperture completely open and if necessary put your ISO a bit higher.
Relax at the Tulum beach clubs
Tulum has some next level beach clubs with boho chique interior and stunning views on the azure blue ocean and white powdered sandy beaches. There is so much choice of Tulum beach clubs that it can feel overwhelming to pick the right one. Which Tulum beach club is the best for you depends a bit on the budget you’d like to spend. Some beach clubs in Tulum have a minimum spend policy, while others have an entry fee excluding food and drinks.
- Ahau ($50 USD minimum spend)
- Papaya Playa Project (entry is $30 USD which excludes food and drinks)
- Habitas ($50 USD minimum spend to relax by the ocean front pool)
- Nomade ($100 USD minimum spend per person)
- Rosa del Viento ($20 USD minimum spend per person)
Relax at the Tulum beaches
If Tulum is famous for one thing, it must be the beautiful beaches. The soft white sand and crystal clear blue waters invite you to relax, swim or even go scuba diving as the Riviera Maya diving is just incredible! With plenty of beach clubs but also quiet areas to unwind, the Tulum beaches are must to experience.
The main beach in Tulum is called Playa Paraiso, which translates to “Paradise Beach.” It is a long stretch of white sand with turquoise waters and is popular for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. Playa Paraiso is lined with restaurants and bars that offer food and drinks, making it a great spot for relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
Another popular beach in Tulum is Playa Ruinas, which is located below the Mayan ruins. It is a smaller beach, but it offers a unique and stunning view of the ruins from the water. Playa Ruinas is also known for its calm waters, making it a great spot for swimming and snorkeling.
Other notable beaches in Tulum include Playa Santa Fe, which is known for its laid-back vibe, and Playa Pescadores, which is a small fishing beach that is popular for its fresh seafood.
Maybe a bit obvious, yet a must visit when you’re in Yucatan. One of the seven world wonders, the famous ancient Mayan city Chichen Itza. So impressive to realize that the Maya people build this site thousands of years ago. When visiting the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site Chichen Itza you have to take into account that it might be very busy, depending the time of the day and week. If you are not interested in archaeological sites or photographing them, and you’re getting stressed of too many tourists, then don’t go to this place. For us it was a ‘must visit’ on our Tulum itinerary.
Getting there: Very easily with a bus, tour or your rental car.
Entrance fee: There are rumors that the entrance fee of Chichen Itza is doubled in 2019, from 242 pesos to 480 pesos per person. Please check this before you go, because ATM machines might not work there, so take enough cash with you.
Best time to go for photos: The best time for photos is also the best time of the day to visit this site because of the heat, being early in the morning. Of course, the afternoon is also possible when the light gets softer before sunset. Be aware that you can’t bring a tripod or gimbal inside!! You even have to pay extra if you have ‘professional camera gear’. So be sure to put everything in your backpack so you’re not attracting attention to your gear from the security. Of course a drone is strictly forbidden!
Photo tip: Try to be creative with the framing and angles of your photos. There are enough plants or trees where you can frame the Chichen Itza in.
There are many amazing restaurants in Tulum. The food in in Tulum is generally very good and tasty. One of the spots that we really loved to get our breakfast was at Matcha Mama. This is the perfect Instagram spot in Tulum to snap your instagrammable picture while eating a smoothie bowl and sipping your morning coffee or smoothie. This cafe has swings as chairs and is so nicely decorated. The food is also very tasty and beautifully decorated. Prices for a smoothie bowl are around $9.
Visit Holbox Island
If you want to relax on a paradise island pretty close to Tulum, you’ll have two options. Go to Cozumel or Isla Holbox. Cozumel is the perfect island for dive lovers. But if you just want to relax, and maybe go snorkeling with whale sharks (only if it’s the season for that), then Isla Holbox is your place to go! We choose to go to Isla Holbox as we’d heard it is such a tranquil island without many tourists. And yes we can agree now! If you want to get away from the busier tourist areas as Cancun, Playa del Carmen or even Tulum, then you definitely need to go to Holbox Island! Find here all the details and best things to do in Holbox.
Getting there: You can only get to Holbox Island with the ferry from Chiquila. It’s a short 15 min ride away from the mainland and you can buy tickets at the harbor counter. Find the time schedule and up to date prices here.
Cool off at Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote dos Ojos is a perfect day trip from Tulum. You can eventually combine a visit on your way from or to Playa del Carmen. Dos Ojos cenote is located inside the Dos Ojos Cenote park where you can also find other cool cenotes. The incredible rock formations, crystal clear blue water and many opportunities for scuba diving or snorkeling makes it one of the best Tulum cenotes. Dos Ojos means two eyes in Spanish because it’s actually two cenotes who are connected by a 400-meter long underwater cave system.
General tips for visiting Cenote Dos Ojos
Getting there: You can get to Dos Ojos with a colectivo (shared taxi in Spanish) if you don’t have your own transport. Tell the driver your destination when you get on and pay when you get off, it’s usually around 40 pesos. Careful though, from the entrance it takes about 30 minutes walking on a 2km dirt path without transportation possibilities. So make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
Entrance fee: The entrance is quite expensive, 350 pesos per person.
Best time for photos: The best timing to get to Dos Ojos and have some time alone is right after it opens at 8 AM. Also one of the two Ojos gets direct light in the morning which contributes to even more crystal clear water!
Visit the Coba Ruins
Visiting the ancient Mayan Ruins of Coba is an interesting day trip from Tulum. What makes the Coba ruins so different from Chichen Itza, Ek Balam or the Tulum ruins is that Coba is not a single site but a large group of pyramids connected to the central pyramid. Archaeologists even believe that Cobá was one of the most important Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. You can climb the main pyramid at Coba, called Nohoch Mul (meaning large hill) and overlook the lush green jungle of the Yucatan. This 42 meters tall (137 feet) pyramid takes 120 steps to reach the top.
Visit Laguna Kaan Luum
Laguna Kaan Luum is a lesser known Tulum Cenote but absolutely worth a visit. Because it’s not as popular as the Gran Cenote or other cenotes in Tulum, you can expect it to be much quieter. Perfect for peace seekers. Another great thing about Kaan Luum lagoon is that the water is super calm and the color beautifully crystal clear! Therefore it is a great spot to go kayaking or paddle boarding which is some of the best private tours in Tulum you can do.
Exploring Tulum with a guided tour is a great way to see the best spots without having to worry about anything. Choose a tour that suites you the best. For example including visiting the Coba ruins, Tulum archeological site or a Mayan village tour and taking a refreshing dip in some of the Tulum cenotes. All of these tours include air conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and the entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
- Tulum, Coba and cenote full day excursion. History, culture and nature all packed in one tour. Visit not one, but two unique Maya ruins sites and swim in a refreshing cenote.
- Tulum and Cenote Chaak Tun tour. During this full-day tour you can explore the Tulum archeological site and learn about the Maya history and culture. Afterwards you can swim and cool off in the Chaak Tun cenote.
- Tulum, Coba, and Tulum Cenote Tour. This guided tour takes your to the Tulum ruins where you’ll learn more about the history of one of the largest cities built by the Maya civilization. In Coba you will visit the majestic Nohoch-Mul Temple which you can climb for panoramic views. After that you will have lunch and do a Mayan Chocolate experience. Then it’s time to go for a dip in the sacred Tankach-Ha cenote before going back to your hotel.
- Coba, Tulum Cenote and Mayan Village Tour. This complete tour gives you the best highlights of the Riveira Maya region. Climb the tallest pyramid in Coba, swim in a crystal clear cenote, see the Mayan lighthouse and Tulum archeological site.
- Tulum Cenote guided tour and visit the Tulum archeological site. During this tour you will learn about the Mayan civilization and their culture and visit some of the beautiful cenotes near Tulum to take a dip in.
Visit the Tulum Ruins
The Tulum ruins are perched on tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The archaeological ruins of Tulum are one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites in Mexico, as well as one of the most photogenic and popular spots among tourists. The Tulum ruins were a major trading and religious center between the 11th and 16th centuries and is one of the coolest Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico, just like the other popular ruins like Chichen Itza and Coba.
Getting there: You can rent a bike if you’re coming from Tulum, or go with a colectivo to get to the ruins. Once you arrive at the site, you will need to walk about 500 meters from the site car park to the ticket booth. There is a small tram that shuttles visitors back and forth throughout the entire day if it’s too hot to walk. Getting a lift on the tram costs 20 pesos.
Entrance fee: 65 pesos per person. If you’re planning on bringing a camera (even something as small as a GoPro), note that you will need to pay an additional photography fee of 45 pesos at the ticket booth.
Best time to go for photos: There are many reasons why you have to go early. It is too hot to walk around during midday, there is no shade at the ruins so go as soon as the site opens at 8 AM. The most tour buses arrive around 10 – 11 AM, so you will be alone for hopefully an hour with some other early birds. This will also give you the opportunity to photograph the ruins without too many tourists in your shot. Also the light is still soft and there are no hard shadows.
Photo tip: Frame your shot behind something to create depth and of course don’t forget your wide angle lens here!
Best places to stay in Tulum
Tulum has many great hotels and luxury resorts where you can stay. Of course it depends on your budget, logically the Tulum hotels in the hotel zone along the beach are much more expensive then, for example, apartments in Tulum Pueblo. You can also experience glamping at Habitas where you can stay in a luxury tent with aircon in the jungle that is situated along the beach. Other famous luxury hotels and resorts in the Tulum beach area are Papaya Playa Project, Ahau Tulum, La Valise and Azulik.
Hotels in Tulum
There are many luxury boutique hotels along the coast of Tulum. But you can also find more affordable apartments in Tulum town. Usually, all the hotels near the beach in Tulum are expensive. But if you go to Tulum in low season as we did, you can get great deals! Sometimes it even is 50% cheaper than during the peak season.
Because we had a special occasion as it was my birthday while staying in Tulum, we choose to stay a few days at a beachside luxury glamping boutique hotel. I wrote a review of our experience as it was very special to camp (read glamp) in the jungle so close to the beach! Read the hotel review combined with photos about Habitas glamping boutique hotel here!
Via Booking.com or Airbnb you will find many possibilities for luxury or more affordable accommodations in Tulum.
How to get around in Tulum
The public transport in Tulum is reliable and cheap, but it is not our recommendation to travel through Mexico with public transport. You will lose a lot of time this way, and you are not flexible in where and when you want to go. If you rent a car you can go your own way, and of course, if you want to take photos with the best light and fewer people, you have to arrive early at the hotspots. We enjoyed our road trip through Yucatan a lot. The roads are good, Google maps works perfectly and we felt safe everywhere we drove.
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