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Courtesy of Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Tulum Area Map

Neighborhoods

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. Thanks to some new cafes, restaurants and hotels that have redeemed the area in recent years, it's becoming more popular for tourists. But if you want to be within easy reach of the shore, avoid staying in this part of town. You'll save significantly on accommodation rates, but you'll also have a bit of a trek to the beach.

Zona Hotelera is just east of Tulum Pueblo and houses the more upscale and expensive hotels, resorts and beach clubs. It used to be more isolated and home to independently minded travelers, but in recent years, the beach area has become quite ritzy. The beaches are accessible by bike, small bus (colectivos) and by taxi. To avoid theft, don't bring anything valuable to the beach.

The Tulum Ruins are right on the beach and are styled in 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 20th 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. Also recommended are the Temple of the Descending God and the Kukulcán Group, which holds several smaller structures, including the Temple of the God of the Wind.

Also recommended are the nearby Cobá Ruins, located north of Tulum along Highway 307, as well as 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 the road signs.

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. The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a federally protected UNESCO World Heritage site that 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.

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