In the past decade, Tulum has grown into a coveted vacation for luxury travelers (or, as the New York Times says, the "Yoga tourist"). But it still tempts bargain-hunters who remember when this tucked-away jewel of Mexico's east coast was more of a secluded getaway. Here, you'll find some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in the Western Hemisphere, ruins that have the cerulean waters of the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. And there ... continue»
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The best time to visit Tulum is between October and December. You'll get the benefit of post hurricane-season breezes, plus the hotel prices are reasonable. Not to say that it's hard to find good room rates at other times of year -- this small pocket of the Yucatán has one of the widest ranges of price points on Mexico's Caribbean coast. If you're concerned about crowds, however, avoid the region from January to March.Best Times to Visit Tulum»
Tulum consists of three zones: Tulum Pueblo, the town center where you can find numerous restaurants; Zona Hotelera, the hotel zone near most of the beaches; and the Tulum Ruins, home to many of the area's old Mayan structures.
Tulum Pueblo lies along Highway 307, an area Lonely Planet considers more "like a truckstop than a tropical paradise." In previous years the Pueblo had a decidedly "dumpy" feel (as Moon Travel Guides so eloquently points out), but there are some new cafés, restaurants and hotels that have lately redeemed the area.
Zona Hotelera is just east of the Tulum Pueblo and houses the more upscale and expensive hotels, resorts and beach clubs. It used to be more isolated and home to independent-minded travelers, but in recent years the beach area has turned ritzy. The beaches are accessible by bike, small bus (colectivos) and by taxi. To avoid theft, don't bring anything valuable on to the beach.
The Tulum Ruins are right on the beach and of the late post-classical design, constructed roughly around 1200 to 1450. The area was originally known as "Zama" (or Dawn) to its Mayan inhabitants and remained a Mayan worship area until the early twentieth century. One of its most popular sites, the Temple of the Frescoes, contains a number of frescoes that represent the rain gods Chaac and Ixchel. Travelers cannot enter the building, but the frescoes are visible from a viewing area. We also recommend the Temple of the Descending God and the Kukulcán Group, which holds several smaller structures, including the Temple of the God of the Wind.
Writers also recommend the nearby Cobá ruins, located north of Tulum along Highway 307. Playa.info says that many tour companies offer trips to Cobá from Playa del Carmen. Writers also recommend seeing the Gran Cenote, a large open-water pool with impressive rock formations, caves and caverns. The Gran Cenote is accessible along the highway between Tulum and Cobá. Just follow road signs.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
Touring the ruins by the seaside won't take too long, so use some of your Tulum time to explore Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve to the south. A non-profit eco-tourism team, CESiaK offers an assortment of tours throughout this federally protected UNESCO site, which features an assortment of dunes, lagoons, beaches and protected habitats and ecosystems. Fishing-, biking- and archeological-dig tours are also available, and you can also explore the ruins of Muyil, another Mayan ruin site and the home of El Castillo, one of the largest buildings in the Yucatán.
While Mexico has experienced a surge in drug-related violence, Tulum has remained a relatively safe travel destination. Travelers should exercise common sense when traveling in the downtown area. Don't walk around alone at night. If you're staying in a beachside cabana, be sure to lock your doors (many writers note that travelers frequently sleep with the door open). Don't walk on isolated areas of the beach at night. Driving during the daytime is relatively safe, but writers warn travelers against driving at night, as some foreign travelers have experienced robbery.
You should avoid the tap water in Tulum, but the food is generally safe to eat.
The best way to get around Tulum is in a taxi. You can walk or bike to the beaches, to the ruins and to Tulum Pueblo, but there's a chance of overexerting yourself. If you'd like a car you'll have to rent one in Cancún or Playa del Carmen, but we don't recommend driving because of reported auto crimes. Buses aren't a viable option either -- the only ones available are the shuttles that take vacationers to and from the other Riviera Maya areas, and to and from CUN airport in Cancún.Getting Around Tulum»