Tulum is nowadays getting more and more popular with more tourists, who want to taste the Carribien atmosphere in Mexico. Even though it is not completely off the beaten path, it is still worth to visit. And why? Because there is a lot of things to do in Tulum. And you can choose here from a lot of options from beautiful pyramids to cenotes and more. In general, Tulum is a great city to stay in whether you want to be there just for a weekend or make it your base and make day trips from here.
10 Best things to do in Tulum
This town isn’t as big as Cancun, one of the main hubs on the Yucatan peninsula. However, Tulum is rapidly growing and just waiting to be explored. Tulum has it’s own ruins, right on a beach, cenotes all around and generally it is a nice and relaxed destination. Except for that, there is cool nightlife and morning yoga. So there are all kinds of attractions for every enthusiast.
1, Tulum ruins
It is not necessary to go out of Tulum if you want to see some ruins. If you want to see pyramids, they are right here. And very close to the beach. The Tulum Ruins comes from the post-classical era, similar to Chichen Itza and is the pride of this little town. You can find there all the buildings that you might be looking for – like a temple for wind, sun, fertility building, cenote house, and some other ruins.
As I mentioned before, Tulum ruins are a bit special because they are very close to cliffs and the beach. That creates a very special atmosphere and general experience. You will have an opportunity to go down to the beach right under the Ruins, but it is a relatively wild beach, with mainly rocks and plants around, so don’t expect too much of it.
Here are a couple of interesting facts about Tulum. Unlike other pyramids in Yucatan, Tulum wasn’t build to be a big city. It was supposed to be a fortress where only 1600 people lived at the time. It served religious rituals and so it was rather a religious place instead of a big town with a massive population.
These ruins are open every day from 8 am until 5 pm. I would certainly recommend coming as soon as possible to be able to see most of these ruins without crowds. Around the entrance, it is also possible to get a guide here. We took a guided tour because it was our first pyramid and we wanted to know more about it. The difference is that the guide will take you to the main houses and tell you all about them. It will take about an hour. It cost 140 pesos per person with a guide. If you want to go alone, it cost only 80 pesos.
2, Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is part of UNESCO heritage and one of the new world wonders. It is one of the biggest pyramids in Yucatan. Because the recognition it is constantly crowded. However, the spaces around Chichen Itza are really big and chances are that you will manage to see some of the places alone in the end anyway.
The main pyramid is very well preserved and up till now, you can see how it is built for astronomical purposes. Another building that you can see here would be a Square of thousand pillars, platform of Eagles and Jaguars, warrior temple, astronomical observatory, Temple of Tables and platform for Venus. All of these are well preserved. You can go around them and see for yourself why were they built. There are usually ropes, so you wouldn’t fall into some pit, that Mayans built a long time ago. You can also see there some signs, that will tell you all about the building that you are currently looking at.
We went to see Chichen Itza in the afternoon, which I don’t recommend too much. If you come here int he afternoon, you will face a lot of direct suns and a really big crowd of tourists. Of course, the ruins are so big, you can hide in some sort of shadow. But it is much easier in the morning when there aren’t too many people.
You can visit Chichen Itza by yourself if you rent a car. It is a little bit confusing, but you will need to buy 2 tickets. I didn’t get any explanation of why. But the first one cost 72 pesos and the second one is for 172 pesos. So 242 pesos in total, which is only something around 13 dollars.
Coba is different than other pyramids that I have mentioned. While both Chichen Itza and Tulum are both from the post-classical era of Mayan civilization, Coba is from classical time. The ruins of this Mayan town are hidden deep in the forest and are a little bit further away from each other than in other ruins. All of the sights that you will see here are much older than the previous one. And that is also the reason, why you cannot recognize so many ornaments on different buildings. They fade away a little bit with time.
The main gem here is, of course, the pyramid itself. It has one specialty. And that is that you can climb the pyramid. It is a relatively steep climb. It works best if you climb it using all of your limbs. The pyramid is pretty high and the hardest thing isn’t to climb it but to get down. That is why there is the rope, so you have something to hold up to.
It is not necessary to visit Coba with a guide, but it is recommended and it is not too expensive to get one at the entrance. What you should get is a bike to move between the ruins. You can rent one for 50 pesos per day.
4, Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos is one of the most popular cenotes in the area and when you get there, you will get why. The thing is that Dos Ojos is two cenotes in one place. They are down in the ground so if you would fly over them, you would see them as two big eyes. You can bathe in both of them. The first eye is more interesting for divers because the cave isn’t too big if you want to just swim around.
The second eye is pretty much for everyone. And that would be because the second eye is one big circle, with caves and water all around it. So you can bathe and swim in it all around. If you come here with a guide, you can also visit here bat cave. There is a tunnel in the second Eye cenote, to another cave. The cave is filled with stones and bats. It is not scary at all, but you need a guide to be able to come here and back.
Dos Ojos is very close to Tulum. With a car, it is only about 10 minutes of drive. The entrance fee is 200 pesos per day. And believe me, the whole day is worth it.
Another great cenote park. Yaxmuul isn’t as known as Dos Ojos. But that might be one of the best things about it. When we get there, we manage to be there completely alone without any other people than the guys who were in charge of the cenotes. If you go there, they will offer you something called Maya ritual for going to the cenotes. We did that, but I’m not too impressed by that. It felt very touristic and just played.
Other than that, Yaxmuul is a park of cenotes. So there are three cenotes. Small, medium one and a big one. You can snorkel there or just swim without any problems. One of the guys will come with you as a guide to show you around all of the cenotes. It is not necessary. The main risk that you will be facing is just when you are swimming, sometimes the stones look further away than they are and you can scratch yourself. But that is about it.
Yuxmuul is only about 10 minutes by car from Tulum. However, it is private property, so for entrance, you will have to pay 600 pesos per person. That is rather high when you compare it to other cenotes, but you can be there all alone.
6, Choo ha Cenote
One of the very best cenote. From the beginning, you will open stairs that will lead you down to the water. The water is pristine blue. It is a massive area where you can swim all around. Even if you are not a strong swimmer, there is a rope in the middle of the cave, that you can hold on to and swim around.
The water is rather deep and quite cold. But it is still a nice thing to do for an hour. Very refreshing. If you are not too afraid, you can even jump to the water from one of the stands that are leading from the stairs. There are two of them. The first one that you will meet on your way down is in heigh of 10 meters. Another one is 5 meters above the water.
This cenote is relatively popular, but not crowded. We were there in the middle of February and we met there only about 20 people, which is not too bad, comparing to the well-known cenotes. The area offers a shower and dressing room, so you don’t have to worry about your things. At the same time, there is a possibility to rent swimming vests. The entrance fee is 75 pesos per person.
Enjoy the Carribien in Tulum
7, Public beach
The public beach might sound a little bit cheap. But that is not the reality in Tulum. The public beach Santa Fe is still one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen. This white beach is about a kilometer long with different restaurants and hotels around. If you want to have your mattress, people are usually happy to keep you there, if you pay a little bit extra. We paid about 200 for mattress per day. Which is quite alright. But that was only one day when we decided to stay on the beach for the whole day.
Generally, it is more than fine to stay just on the sand. At the moment when we were there (February 2020), there wasn’t too much seaweed and generally, the beach was just fine. Besides, it is not every beach, where you can see pyramids right from the beach.
There is a lot of restaurants and hotels around. The restaurants that you can find here are not the cheapest, but also not the most expensive ones either. If you decide to come here, it is a relatively long way to the city center or the private beach. So if you are not accommodated in this part of the city, you should think about checking out this beach after you visit the pyramids nearby.
8, Private beach
The private beach is also a little bit further from the city center. However, it has better services than the public one. People are saying that it is cleaner, but to be honest, I didn’t find the public beach dirty. Both of them are gorgeous. There is also a lot of hotels and restaurants in this part of the city. But if you come here, you have to remember, that this is probably the most expensive part of the city. Everything here is kind of expensive. And if your hotel is not in this area, you will have to buy here drinks or some food. Otherwise, they won’t let you stay. This beach belongs strictly to local hotels and restaurants.
9, Snorkeling and diving in Tulum reef
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If you feel more adventurous, you can even go for snorkeling on a reef. And if you have a license, you can even go for scuba diving. The Tulum reef has corals and gorgeous underwater life. So a lot of little colorful fishes. If you are diving, you will have a chance to see not only that but also bull sharks, that are around the area. They are not dangerous and are relatively small kinds of sharks. Here is the best thing about the sharks around Tulum. You can see them all year round. If you come from October to February, you are more likely to see Bull sharks. If you come from March to September, you can see here mostly whale sharks.
For snorkeling, there will be a lot of people asking you if you want to go. Especially if you are visiting the public beach. Otherwise, it is easy just to ask and go. For an hour of snorkeling, you would usually pay around 50 dollars. Scuba divers will need guidance. And one Scuba dive tour usually costs around 150 dollars.
10, Explore the city center
Tulum isn’t a big town, but it is very alive. Especially in the city center, which is full of markets, restaurants, and clubs. The restaurants here have amazing local food and sometimes even live music in the evening.
If you come here in the evening, you can experience a lot from local nightlife. A lot of dancing on Latino songs, live music on almost every corner and very cheap drinks.
You will also meet here a lot of little markets, where they will try to sell you anything. From paintings to things that you will need on a beach. Or even postcards and other souvenirs. If you feel like shopping for souvenirs, there are also a couple of outlets. They are usually less expensive than whatever they can offer you in the markets, where you will have to bargain about it.
Where to stay in Tulum
Tulum has three main areas, where most tourists are staying. The first one is around Private beach. The private beach area is perhaps the most expensive place in the whole Tulum with a lot of nightlife. The nights are almost never-ending and the atmosphere there is very nice, but mainly for young people who want to have fun and don’t mind spending some money.
Another bit pricey area would be a public beach. The public beach isn’t as expensive as the private one, but it is not the cheapest part either. On the other hand, you will still have the comfort of all the restaurants around. Besides the public beach is closer to the city center. In case you will want to do some shopping.
The city center is potentially the cheapest area to find a hotel in Tulum. At the same time, there is a lot of hotels to choose from. You can find here both luxury hotels but also budget hostels for backpackers.
We stayed at hotel Crucero, which is supposed to be one of the oldest hotels in Tulum. Crucero is only about 400 meters from the pyramids and perhaps 800 meters from the public beach. At the same time, it is close to the main road, which means that it is easy to get to the city center. As a bonus, they would borrow your bike for free, which is not just nice but also super useful.
If you want to stay at the beach then I can recommend Zazil Kin, which is a hotel right on the public beach. In the hotel, you would get your own little house with all the necessities. Besides the hotel has a restaurant, so you can spend the whole day on the beach.
Where to eat in Tulum
There are a bunch of restaurants that we liked.
Zazil kin – I mentioned it previously as a place where to stay. However, Zazil kin has a great restaurant right on the beach. They offer basic local food and as a bonus some international cuisine as well. You can experience here all kinds of food. But a very nice one for a reasonable price. The restaurant is great if you want to have a nice meal at the beach.
Pink Lobster – Pink Lobster is a little bit more specific cuisine. Mostly you can experience here some seafood. So a lot of crevets, lobsters, all different meals from the sea. Great fishes as well. If you are not into that sort of thing, there are a couple of international dishes as well, so you wouldn’t feel too pressed into food like this.
Don Cafeto – And finally my most favorite restaurant. Don Cafeto offers only Mexican food but a great one. You can find here all kinds of Mexican food, so not just tacos but also some dishes that you might have not heard before. At the same time, they take pride in having great coffee.
What to pack
Bug spray – We didn’t realize how terrible the mosquitos are before we went there. But Tulum is very humid and hot and mosquitos love it. I have never been so badly bitten before. Pack one with you.
Biodegradable sunscreen – This is important. When you go to any Tulum beach, you are basically in the national reserve. The same thing for cenotes. It is almost on every sign that you will find. Only biodegradable sunscreens are allowed. The reason for it is because the environment around is rather vulnerable and chemistry in regular sunscreen can damage them badly.
Hat – Or generally something on your hat. Tulum can get very hot and especially on the beach it is necessary.
Water shoes – Those are mainly for cenotes. Some rocks can be pretty sharp.
Evening dresses – Even though Tulum is a mostly relaxed area, some clubs on a private beach and in the city center require that you dress up. So pack up something fancy too!
Sports shorts – The best way to get around Tulum is on the bike. So choose something comfortable. At the same time, Tulum has a lot of places where you can do yoga and it is good to be prepared for that as well.
Swimming glasses or Snorkeling mask – You can swim or snorkel basically everywhere. In Tulum beach, you can still see the little fishes and crabs around. In cenotes, you can see whole different thing.
How to get to Tulum
I guess you just came to Cancun airport and want to get to Tulum. Great! In that case, there are several options. The first would be to take a bus to Tulum. They are going regularly, every three hours. It might not be too much, but it is still the cheapest option. It takes only about 2 hours to get from Cancun to Tulum. But from the station, you will need to find your own way to the hotel.
Another option would be either to ask your hotel for a shuttle or go for a taxi. It is, of course, more expensive, but you can do it any time of the day and don’t have to wait. It takes only about an hour and a half with a taxi. But the price is about 100 dollars.
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