Tulum is on the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico. It is one of the earliest resorts in Mexico, offering a place of worship and solitude for the Mayan kings and clergy in early times.
The tropical beach backdrop is the main attraction of this picturesque, much-visited small ruin on the shore of the Caribbean Sea.
Things To Do In Tulum
There are really three different areas referred to as Tulum. You can either take taxi or bus to travel from one place to another. There are only few minutes away from each other but also not that close enough for walking with your totes, camera, backpack, and all.
Tip: Taxis have a near monopoly on transport to and from the playa. Buses come from time to time, but hitchhiking can also get you where you need to go.
Related: 5 Places in Mexico that are better than Cancun (including Tulum)
This section of town has a definite feel of existing mostly to cater to the Tulum ruins. Tulum pueblo is indeed a destination for shopping, great restaurants, a modest night life, studying the language at Instituto Chac-Mool Spanish School, booking tours, banking, shopping for food, local vegetables, fruits, cafes, and local flavor. Do not miss it.
Moreover, this area is cheap and best of all you are just 2 miles from the Tulum beach (which is why you came here isn’t it?).
Tulum Playa nests along the coastline that leads into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere [Ecological Reserve], the Caribbean white sandy beaches to the east, an impressive mangrove & wetland reserve to the south.
Tulum Playa embraces many of the fancier, ecological, boutique and spa hotels, and it has a decent to excellent selection of restaurants and night spots.
There are also a number of affordable beach front cabana-type lodging locations. Walk the beach and step in and inquire about accommodations and rates. You will be surprised and delighted.
Most of these establishments are ecofriendly and do not provide electricity past midnight. Toilet paper can not be flushed and it is asked that water and other resources be used sparingly.
The hotels in Tulum aim to keep Tulum as it is and stop the ecological problems that have already taken hold in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
If you are staying on the beach and trying to save money, it is wise to stock up on food and drinks in the pueblo. There are not too many restaurant options on the beach, and the ones that are operational are comparatively quite expensive.
Mayan Ruins in Tulum
Tulum is mostly known for its ruins, which strike an impressive image next to the sea, but were constructed during a time period of Maya culture that was waning.
Tulum Ruinas is the archaeological site where the Maya ruins of Tulum stand. It is conformed by a-mile-long road leading into the ruins from highway 307. The road is flanked by several restaurants, a commercial area geared to one-day visitors, a huge parking lot, a small bus station that operates part-time and a handful of middle range hotels.
The site is notable for a small cenote, beautiful beach below the ruin laden cliffs and some well preserved stellae in only one of its structures. After visiting other ruins in the area such as Coba, Chichen Itza, and Ek Balam, Tulum’s main claim is the sea-side setting.
It is best visited on a clear, bright day or at sunrise. Bring your swimming suit.
Muyil archaeological site
Muyil archaeological site is also called Chunyaxche. The ruins can be found at 25 km south of Tulum.
It is an underground cave River tour is a must, don’t just but the tickets to the 4 cenotes, the cave tour is your reason for coming here.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere
The reserve features acres upon acres of pristine mangrove swamp and wetlands. Just past the information center pull into the dirt lot on the left and walk out to the beach.
There are a few fishermen that dock here and are willing to take you on a tour that is much cheaper than the organized tours offered in the area.
The fishermen will take you on an hour to two hour boat tour of the reserve anyt time of day. Near sunset is a great option. They will often work for hire for M$100-200.
A large and vast lagoon with white sand and calm water, which is located at 2-3 hours ride from Tulum.
Be sure to visit the Coba ruins. They are not in as pristine shape as the Tulum Ruins, however they feature “el castillo” the tallest of the Mayan ruins that juts up above the treetops in the jungle.
You can still climb El Castillo in Coba and the sight from the top is spectacular. A fun and efficient way of exploring the ruins is renting a bike (M$50); just go to the rental place inside the ruins.
You can also rent bikes to get around Coba. Coba is only a 30 minute drive west of Tulum on the main road off 307. Just follow the signs to Coba!
One of the most beautiful and largest coral reefs in the world.
Tulum Sports Festival
Tulum Sports Festival is a sports event held annually at Tulum Beach and is open registration. Live music, beach volleyball, paddle boards, kayaks, swimming, kite boarding.
You can also take your own self-guided tour of the reefs right off the beach from the Hotel Zone. Tulum sits on the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Over 30 species of fish and some spectacular coral. If you take a guided tour, the cheapest in the area is located at Zamas Hotel. Zamas is located about 10 establishments in from the beginning of the hotel zone.
In much of the Yucatan, rainwater collects in a system of underground caves and tunnels. Where these tunnels reach the surface is known as a cenote (pronounced seh-NOH-teh). Cenotes usually allow swimming and diving, and rent related equipment. They are fresh water and are often quite cold (24°C).
Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park
Hidden Worlds is situated on the most extensive system of underwater caves and caverns on Earth. The park is home to some of the most incredible cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula. Timing: Su-F 9 AM-6 PM; Sa 9 AM-1:30 PM.
Casa Cenote in TanKah III Bay goes underground 90 m (100 yards) before the beach, and emerges as an ‘underwater’ water spring about 18 m (20 yards) of the beach in the ocean. Tanka III Bay is 7 km (5 miles) north of the intersection to the ruins. Take a cab.
Great places to eat and stay or scuba too. One of the ways to make sure you also visit and dive is to arrange taking a diving course there and it will take just 3 hours in total.
Cenote Cristal & Cenote Escondido
The two cenotes are about 4 km south of the city center. It is an easy ride by bicycle to get there. Once you reach Cenote Cristal on the right side of the street go there to buy the entrance for both cenotes.
In Cenote Cristal you have a nice platform to jump into the water. On the opposite side of the road is Cenote Escondido. Also nice for swimming and it has a rope to jump into the water. Maybe not so great for diving and snorkeling but a great spot to cool off and have some fun close to Tulum.
- Cenotes X’kekén y Samula
- Dos Ojos Cenote
- Grand Cenote
- Cenote Calaveras
- El Gran Cenote
Where to Stay
If you aren’t spending the big bucks to stay right in the beach, stay in town to the east of Ado bus stop on the main drag, keep within 2 blocks north or south of that main Street, it gets darker and sketchier the further you venture out at night.
Another safer feeling area is anywhere along the main road to the beach, but keep on the south end of the main road, especially if riding a bike, that hwy is a pain to cross.
Set your cellphone to airplane mode, enable calls over WiFi, disable data roaming, many/most restaurants, bars, hotels have wifi, easy and free to make calls this way.
Note: You may encounter problems if you try to make phone calls from the beach. Payphones are sparse and often broken, and they are all owned by one company.
These phones require you to purchase a special proprietary card of at least M$100, and the cards cannot be used at regular payphones. A better alternative is to use a normal payphone in the pueblo, or use a Mexican cellphone (There is reception on the beach, but make sure to recharge in the pueblo beforehand.)
Getting around in Tulum
Bikes are available for rent from various shops in Pueblo. Iguana Bikes M$150-250 for 24 hours, Kelly M$100 for 24 hours (July 2017). Bikes are a convenient way to get around town and to/from cenotes and the beach. Please be careful when riding a bike on the highway. Bring a headlamp/flashlight if biking at night.
If cenotes and revival ruins are more your thing renting a car is advisable. There are more cenotes here than anywhere else in the world (4,000 are known to be on the Yucatan!) Renting a car makes life easier.
Bike riding is fun, but that beach is far from town and that sun is pounding down. Spring for the car rental. One tip: be aware of gas station scamming, make sure you watch the pesos you give them and that the screen is set on $0 before they start to fill.
Taxis are an inexpensive way to get around but for the most part, Tulum ‘Pueblo’ is so small that walking is a simple, though often dusty, option. Taxis from ‘Pueblo’ to the coast is M$70-90.
It is advisable to either take a taxi or rent a bike when traveling between the ‘Pueblo’ and the beach, as the walk is rather long, dusty and unattractive. It is highly recommended to have Mexican pesos upon arrival, as taxi drivers may charge you more if you carry dollars only and pay in dollars. You can exchange money in the most banks upon arrival, too.
There is a public bus which leaves Tulum Pueblo around 9 AM and noon and goes to the beach and ruins, and returns from there at 12:15 PM and 5 PM. Ticket prices should be around M$5 one way.
May 14, 2018 4:08 pm
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