Best Things To Do in Tulum
You can't visit Tulum without checking out the Mayan ruins, but take a morning tour to free up your afternoon for sunbathing and swimming in the bright blue water of Playa Paraíso. Also, try snorkeling at one of the several cenotes (or subterranean swimming holes), or take a canal trip through the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.
Updated January 8, 2019
- #1View all PhotosfreePlaya Paraiso#1 in TulumBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Just south of the Tulum ruins, the wide Playa Paraíso makes a relaxing end to a day exploring the area. With the recent arrival of the Playa Paraíso Beach Club, this stretch of sand has grown extremely popular with Playa del Carmen and Cancún daytrippers, as well as Tulum vacationers. But what it doesn't boast in seclusion it makes up for in activity – you'll find plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving, plus a few hammocks, lounge chairs and umbrellas to choose from (if you get to the ruins early, you'll arrive at the beach in time to secure one), and a few beach bars should you want refreshment.
Reviewers were divided on the necessity of paying for access to the beach club. Some said the price (250 pesos, or about $13 for two beach chairs) isn't worth it, while others found the cost reasonable for the convenience. To save a little money, you can pack your own towels, chairs and snacks. As for the beach itself, some travelers described the shoreline as "beautiful," while others were disappointed with the amount of smelly seaweed.
- #2View all Photos#2 in TulumNatural Wonders, Swimming/PoolsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Swimming/PoolsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Considered sacred waters by the Mayans, the expansive El Gran Cenote is an underground cavern that is ideal for swimming and diving. Here you can swim, snorkel and dive amid some pretty cool geological features, including stalagmites and stalactites, while bats and birds flutter overhead.
Located about 10 minutes outside of central Tulum, this cenote can get particularly crowded, so arrive early for the best atmosphere. To get there, drive or take a taxi toward Cobá until you see the Gran Cenote sign on your right. Despite the crowds and the high prices, most travelers were pleased with their experience and recommended devoting a couple of hours to a stop here. Many said this was the perfect antidote to the heat and humidity of the Coba ruins. However, if you're looking for a less crowded atmosphere, consider other spots like the Dos Ojos Cenote or the Cenote Cristal.
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The source of Tulum's popularity (and probably the reason you'll visit the area) are the Tulum ruins, one of the most popular Mayan archaeological sites along the Riviera Maya. Sitting on a patch of rocky coastline just south of Tulum's downtown, the ruins showcase several templos (temples) and castillos (castles) from the once-thriving pre-Colombian Mayans.
If you've already been to Chichen Itza, 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.
- #4View all Photos#4 in TulumNatural Wonders, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The Yucatán contains an abundance of eco-parks and natural reserves, but few compare to the breadth and natural wonder of Sian Ka'an. Just south of Tulum, the reserve contains more than 1.3 million acres of estuaries, reefs, cenotes and wetlands. Within the park, you can take tours of the local wildlife, take part in a diving or snorkeling tour or simply just walk around the beautiful and expansive park.
Recent visitors remarked that the park is well worth the visit, calling it a must-see experience. Many stayed the entire day, but some even took two days to explore the expansive area. Several visitors recommend taking a boat ride into the wetlands of the reserve. You can rent a charter in the park, go fly fishing or go bird watching. Other tours are also available. If you're visiting later in the day, heed the advice of past visitors and bring mosquito repellent.
- #5View all Photos#5 in TulumNatural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Less than 40 miles north of Tulum, Punta Laguna Nature Reserve offers one of the most unique sightseeing attractions in all of the Yucatán: spider monkeys. The creatures are a top draw for the reserve, which also showcases jaguars, pumas, howler monkeys and dozens of bird species.
The nearby Mayan village also allows travelers a glimpse of indigenous Mexican lifestyle, where you can tour thatched roof houses and watch people cook over open fires.
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Located on the northern edge of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (just off Highway 307), the Muyil archaeological site offers a quiet respite from the super popular, but slightly overrated, Tulum Ruins (which are located near the downtown area). The verdant site is home to a variety of ancient structures (it's believed to have been established as early as 300 B.C.), the most prominent among them being El Castillo, an impressive 55-foot pyramid and one of the tallest buildings in the Yucatán. Another must-see is the observation deck, which offers a bird's-eye view of the lagoon. If you continue along the path past the observation deck, you'll reach the lagoon, where boat tours are offered. Among the lush jungle setting, you'll find a variety of smaller pyramids, paths and ceremonial structures.
Many past visitors described their experience at Muyil as "relaxing" and "quiet" thanks to the lack of tourist crowds. According to reviewers, admission to the site costs 45 pesos (less than $2.50) per person. To access the trail that leads to the observation deck, you'll need to pay an additional 50 pesos (around $2.50). Parking is free and restrooms are located at the entrance. Though there is no guidebook available to provide context to the structures, travelers reported that there are signs stationed around the site in both English and Spanish that provide background to the area's most significant structures.
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If you're on a Mayan ruins kick, you should also check out the small site at Cobá, about 30 miles north of Tulum. Cobá doesn't feature the restored, pristine sites of Tulum, nor does it sit atop an awe-inspiring coastal setting, but it still offers history buffs a glimpse of some authentic Mayan ruins. In fact, some argue these ruins are more authentic than those in Tulum because Cobá's have never been extensively refurbished or restored, simply cleared away for the enjoyment of the public. What's more, according to recent visitors, it sees far fewer crowds than the more famous ruins.
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.
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