Mexico’s famed Caribbean town, Tulum, has only recently been garnering attention amongst travelers and tourists, and rightly so. The Mexican destination is a tropical paradise providing an island and jungle experience that will make you feel like you’re on another planet.
Located on the Yucatán Peninsula, Tulum is just an hour away from the south of Cancun. The Yucatán Peninsula is made of limestone rock, alluding to the unique nature of Tulum. The town is famous for its well-preserved Maya ruins, white sand beaches, and charming cenotes.
Here, luxury meets affordable traveling and ecotourism. So, you can choose to go cheap and cheerful or spend lavishly on your accommodation, food, and activities. This post lists all the beautiful places to see in Tulum, along with all the adventurous activities available.
Check out this Tulum travel guide for more information and travel tips.
Tulum Activities and Adventures
From discovering jungles to indulging in traditional gastronomy, and rejuvenating at the beach with cold coconut water, Tulum has it all.
Keep scrolling to find out more on what to do in Tulum, Mexico!
1. Explore the Jungles
Consider staying at a little hut in the jungle, even if just for a night, to fall asleep to the sounds of animals and the sight of glittery stars sprinkled in the night sky. The road to Cobá is filled with jungle retreats and fancy hotels.
For environmentally-conscious travelers, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve offers plenty of jungle adventure and wildlife escapade opportunities. The reserve is a preserved piece of land and is home to many species of flora and fauna and different fish and birds, including dolphins and turtles. You can also float for an hour on the pristine blue water of an ancient Maya canal.
Another ecological park to visit is the Parque Ecológico & Cenotes LabnaHa. Also known as Mundo Mágico Maya (or the Mayan Magic World), this park is a family-friendly spot that offers zip-lining, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.
2. Dive in the Ocean
Beneath the glistening blue waves is a vast world of colorful aquatic creatures and plant life. You can participate in various water activities like kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet-skiing, and standup paddle surfing at Tulum’s beaches.
Unless you’re staying at a beach hotel or resort, accessing private beaches in Tulum is quite expensive. Most of the hotels and resorts on the main beachfront area offer private access to the ocean. Luckily for you, the city has some beautiful public beaches too:
- Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach) has been awarded “TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice” for being the best beach in Mexico. With its white sand and turquoise water, the beach packs a punch.
- Playa Pocna is another public beach you can visit without breaking the bank.
- Santa Fe Beach, near the Tulum Ruins, has a laid-back vibe and many small bars and restaurants to keep you hydrated and fed.
Or, if you don’t mind splurging, pick a day to cool off at one of the fabulous beach clubs. Popular choices amongst tourists include the likes of Nomade, Villa Pescadores, and Papaya Playa.
Look out for the beach flags that will be present on most beaches to signal water conditions. A black flag means no swimming allowed. A red suggests dangerous conditions, so swim with caution. If the flag is yellow, it indicates no immediate danger, and green obviously means that it’s completely safe to swim.
3. Say Hi to the Turtles
Between the months of May and October, Tulum’s coastline is home to a sea turtle nesting season. After the sun sets, you can see mother turtles make their way to the beach to lay their eggs before returning to the waves.
4. Try Kiteboarding
This extreme sport isn’t for everyone. But if you’ve never done kiteboarding and would now like to do so, it’s never too late. Tulum not only offers the sport but also has schools that offer lessons on how to kiteboard.
The Mexican Caribbean Kitesurf & Paddlesurf school at the Ahau Tulum hotel is a good option. They offer kite gear and kitesurfing lessons for kids and adults. While you’re there, consider attempting paddle surfing, for which the school also offers classes and rents paddleboards.
5. Align Your Chakras
Tulum is a haven for yogis, shamans, spiritual travelers, and hippies. This could be because of the town’s free and laidback spirit and its history of being a sacred ground for the Maya people. People find themselves gravitating to Tulum for its peaceful stillness and natural diversity.
Many hotels offer yoga classes, but if yours doesn’t, there are plenty of yoga studios scattered all across Tulum where you can align your chakras and find peace of mind. Some of these famous studios include Sanara, Yaan Wellness Energy Healing Spa, Yoga Shala, and Amansala.
One of the most popular places to break a sweat is Holistika. It’s famous for its holistic health offerings, yoga, and meditation training. Just one class is enough to provide a calming, rejuvenating experience. They also have a cute cafe with delicious breakfast items, smoothies, and hot drinks.
6. Learn About the Maya Culture
Many Maya people still speak their indigenous language. Explore the Maya culture by taking a Maya language class and learn about their special glyphs and numbering system.
Temazcales are igloo-shaped huts, also referred to as “sweat lodges,” that host the Temazcal ceremony. This Mesoamerican practice is believed to purify the mind and body through sweating, chanting, and singing.
Participate in a rich cultural experience where a trained shaman will guide you through the cleansing ceremony. Your hotel may have a Temazcal onsite so enquire about it before seeking an external lodge.
7. Treat Yourself at the Centro
The Centro is the hub for locals as it was the original town before Tulum began expanding. It now serves as the town’s main center. It has everything you could possibly need, like cafes, restaurants, pharmacies, convenience stores, bike and car rentals, and much more.
There are plenty of fun things to do, including shopping at the Tulum Bazaar and feasting on divine food at popular restaurants.
Book a table in advance at El Asadero to treat yourself to Mexican BBQ. Try the restaurant’s special dish, the Arrachera steak. There are also vegetarian options on the menu, along with tacos and cocktails.
Grab a drink, or a few drinks, at Batey’s Mojito and Guarapo Bar. The bar has a dynamic atmosphere with live music featuring local bands and thirst-quenching mojitos.
Cara Feliz, a cute bookstore cafe, hosts painting nights, live music, and many cultural events throughout the year. The cafe is also home to some adorable rescue cats.
8. Indulge in Tulum’s Gastronomy
You can either opt for the food meant for tourists or indulge in the local authentic menu items comprising delectable flavorful dishes. The tourist-friendly food usually has an American or English-themed menu and also tends to be pricier.
Local eateries serve affordable authentic dishes like panuchos, salbutes, and tamales. Burrito Amor is an affordable place serving breakfast items and burritos on Tulum’s main road. Their specialty is a vegan burrito made with banana leaves.
Treat Yourself to Street Food
The highlight of Mexican gastronomy is street tacos. They are cheap, flavorsome, and easy to find almost anywhere in Tulum. Some popular places with insanely delicious tacos are Loco, Hitanos, Taqueria Honorio, Taqueria La Eufemia, and Antojitos La Chiapaneca (situated in the town’s center). Other street foods also include corn in a cup, crepes, and fresh fruit juices.
Be a Part of a Food Adventure
For people with a wild-palette, try Mexican Experience Tulum. This is a communal dinner where 21 guests are taken on an adventurous food journey. Mexican classics are combined with local delicacies and served with cocktails. You can get free refills, too. There’s also a lesson on how to make authentic Mexican salsa.
Satiate Your Appetite at These Restaurants
If you like freshly-pressed juices, hand-ground coffee, and food made from fresh produce, put Huerto del Eden on your list of must-see food places. La Reyna de Michoacan offers authentic Mexican cuisine. El Camello Jr serves fresh and flavorful ceviche and seafood every day, while Bonita Burgers serves the best burgers in town with exquisite desserts. Further, satisfy your sweet cravings with mouthwatering gelato from Origami.
Other more pricey restaurants include Kitchen Table for meat and seafood platters; Ukami for fantastic sushi; and Meze for Mediterranean food like baba ganoush and hummus.
9. Enjoy the Nightlife and Bar Hopping
If you’re a fan of concerts, beachside parties, or Caribbean salsa, Tulum has plenty of options to choose from. Downtown Tulum has a lively club scene on weekends. Head to Batey for live music or Papaya Playa Project for beach parties.
Fore more on Tulum nightlife and the best bars, clubs and parties in town, click here.
10. Rent a Bike
Renting a bike in Tulum is common, easy, and affordable. Many people use bikes to get around town – to a beach, cenote, central town, or the jungle. Most hotels in town rent bikes.
Since Tulum’s beaches are east-facing, they make for incredible sunrises. Choose a day to wake up extra early, before dusk, and bike to the beach in time for a glorious sunrise. Using a bike is more fun and will also help you burn some calories gained from all the street food you’ll be eating in Tulum.
11. Take a Photo at the Tulum Sign
Taking a photo at the city’s name sign sounds so cliché, but the trip seems incomplete without it. If you’re okay with waiting in a long line for one picture, visit the Tulum sign in the main square downtown. Don’t just stand there; get creative! Sit on top of the letter “T,” poke your face out of “U,” do a yoga pose on “L,” or lean against “M.”
12. Be Amazed by the Architecture
Tulum architecture is a reflection of ancient Maya methods and designs, incorporated with today’s contemporary, bohemian, and whimsical styles. Many architects from all over the world take inspiration from Tulum’s Maya architecture and even its flourishing jungles.
Escape to the Azulik Hotel
The Azulik hotel is an eco-resort famous for its jungle setting and outlandish attractions. The hotel itself appears to be suspended amongst the dense tree canopies, and the rooms have a rustic, whimsical vibe.
There’s a floating crystal pool, trails leading to the jungle, an art gallery, a holistic spa, and a boutique. If you order a drink at the restaurant, you can watch the action unfold as a diving sommelier swims through a clear tube to access the underwater wine cellar. The treetop restaurant also has elevated “nest” tables.
The entire experience feels like you’re on another dimension, far from the rest of the world, in an Avatar-like scene.
See the Ven a La Luz at Ahau Tulum Hotel
Visit the Ahau Tulum hotel to check out the Ven a La Luz, an enormous and impressive sculpture. Initially constructed for the first Art with Me event in 2018, the sculpture is now permanently displayed at the hotel. It is made from wood, steel, rope, and greenery to depict our connection with nature.
The brainchild behind the Ven a La Luz (meaning, “Come Into The Light) is Daniel Popper, a multidisciplinary artist renowned for his larger-than-life masterpieces. Many see a resemblance of the goddess Te Fiti from the Disney film Moana in this spectacular structure.
Check Out the Mural Art
If you’re a fervent fan of art, take a Tulum mural tour to see the aesthetic, colorful murals that paint the town a vibrant personality.
Things to Do: Best Places in Tulum
One of the best things to do in Tulum is to visit the spectacular sights and attractions. These destinations offer a window into Mayan history and culture, as well as the town’s gastronomy and blissful nature.
Tulum is home to hundreds of cenotes (geological formations that are natural pools or wells of fresh water). The Mayas considered cenotes to be sacred with healing properties. Taking a dip in the cool water of a cenote is the most refreshing and rejuvenating thing you can do here.
Most tourist attractions require an entrance fee. Some sites also require additional payment if you want to use your DSLR camera or a drone. Since Tulum has gained popularity on social media and amongst travelers, tourist spots get crowded quickly.
Early in the mornings, the cenotes and most of Tulum’s attractions are usually void of any people. If you get there just before or at the opening time, you can get picture-perfect photos without any people in the background. The early bird gets the best shot in Tulum.
Below is a list of some of the best cenotes in Tulum, along with other attractions that you should definitely visit!
1. Visit Gran Cenote
One of the most popular tourist sites in Tulum, the Gran Cenote, is a part of the massive Sistema Sac Actun (an underwater cave system beside the Caribbean Coast). The site has a limestone cenote and cavern with a big open ceiling, so there’s an abundance of natural light coming in.
The most exciting thing about the Gran Cenote is that you can swim alongside the many turtles here in the clear water and explore the fascinating cave. Arrive early if you don’t want to share the space with a crowd of people. It’s also conveniently close to Tulum Centro, only about five minutes away.
2. Don’t Miss the Tulum Ruins
A trip to Tulum is incomplete without first-hand experiencing the Maya civilization’s 13th Century walled city ruins. Although the Maya people spread over most of the northwestern part of the isthmus of Central America, the Tulum location served as a religious and ceremonial ground for them.
The Tulum ruins are a part of the Yucatán Peninsula and are easily accessible from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. These ruins look majestically graceful against a stunning backdrop of the white sand beach and the jewel-toned water. The ruins are made up of a castle perched on the edge of a cliff (the Castillo) and the Temple of the Frescoes.
Take the steps beside the castle to get to a platform where you can look back at the castle from a better height. The platform also boasts a stunning view of the ruins against the yellow sand and the turquoise Caribbean sea. This spot produces the best Gram-worthy pictures of the ruins.
3. Check Out the Choo-ha Cenote
The Choo-ha is less popular than the Gran Cenote and, consequently, less commercial too. As opposed to having a massive open ceiling, it has a small opening on top. Visitors access the cenote by going down a narrow staircase.
The small opening makes the cenote darker, giving it a mysterious alien-planet vibe. The luminescent blue of the water reflects off the surface and onto the cave walls creating a captivating aquatic atmosphere.
4. Follow the Path at the Muyil Ruins
Muyil is an archeological site located approximately 10-15 minutes from the south of Tulum. You can spend the day exploring the history of the Maya civilization, who were once settled here, and see a part of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
There are many ancient structures to see, and the largest of them all is the castle (the Castillo) which is approximately 56 feet tall. Behind the castle is a trail that leads to a small hut. Pay a small fee here to access the path that leads to the Sian Ka’an area. The path is well-maintained, easy to follow, and provides a peaceful experience. At the end of the trail is a lagoon where pre-booked tours take off in small motorboats.
5. Dive at the Tamcach-ha Cenote
The Tamcach-ha Cenote is located less than 10-minutes from the Cobá Archeological Site. It has a round pool area, and the color of the water is a deep blue, which takes many tourists by surprise. No natural daylight enters the cave.
Go up the spiral staircase descending into the water to dive beneath the surface from the two jumping platforms. Life jackets are available, and a lifeguard is always present at the site. The water is also clear enough for snorkeling.
6. Climb the Nohoch Mul Pyramid
Have you ever had this sudden urge to climb a pyramid? Good news, you can! At the one and only Nohoch Mul Pyramid located between the towns of Tulum and Valladolid, at the archeological site of Cobá.
Bring out your inner Lara Croft and climb the 137-feet tall (120 steps) Nohoch Mul Pyramid. This is the tallest Maya pyramid on the Yucatán Peninsula and the second tallest in the world. Once you reach the top, you can catch some exhilarating panoramic views of the lush green jungle.
The entire site is quite big, so if you get tired, rent a bike or hire a chauffeured tricycle pedicab and have the drive pedal you around. Keep your senses open to take in the greenery, fresh air, and the sound of creatures in the jungle.
7. Marvel at the Multum-ha Cenote
Another beautiful cenote in Cobá, the Multum-ha is a wonder of nature. It has fascinating stalactite formations and plenty of space to swim. This underground cenote is approximately 59 feet deep and has crystal-clear water. Life jackets are available to rent.
Visitors take a spiral staircase that descends downwards into the cenote. The opening in the ceiling is small, so natural light is limited, but flashlights light up the scene inside. Time spent at the Multum-ha Cenote feels surreal and out of this world.
8. Take a Day Trip to Punta Allen
Punta Allen is the largest village in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Many say that visiting this town gives you a glimpse into what Tulum may have been like more than twenty years back.
There’s plenty to see, and it’s pretty affordable too. The town is mostly quiet with no traffic noise. There are a few mini-stores and one or two ATMs. Electricity is only available for a few hours every day in intervals. Cell phone coverage is also limited.
It’s tough to get to Punta Allen because of poor road conditions, but once there, you’re closer to the ocean and saltwater lagoons. Explore the mangroves and open ocean and make acquaintance with manatees, crocodiles, dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and more.
9. Catch the Sunshine at the Suytun Cenote
Approximately one hour away from Tulum, Suytun is located in Valladolid and definitely worth the drive. It’s one of the most dreamlike, magical cenotes with a stone pier that’s stationed in the middle of the cenote and directly underneath the opening in the ceiling. At the right time of the day, along with suitable weather conditions, the sunrays hit the stone pier, making for a picture-perfect moment.
Swimming is only allowed with a life jacket, which you can rent on site. Since the water is shallow, diving is impossible. You can also snorkel with black catfish and let them nibble on your hands and feet. Gear for snorkeling is also available for hire on-site. Space is limited, so small groups of people go in for a set amount of time.
10. Meet Turtles at Cenote Aktun Ha
Funnily enough, Aktun Ha used to be called the “Carwash Cenote ” because, as the name speaks for itself, this cenote was used to wash cars. Specifically, taxi drivers from Tulum and Cobá would wash their taxis at Aktun Ha.
The cenote is about 15-minutes away from Tulum, on the road that leads to Cobá. Beneath the surface of the open-air pool lies a big world of wildlife, including turtles and fish. Swim, snorkel, or scuba dive in this 50-foot cenote. Many don’t know that the cenote can actually change color depending on the season.
11. Spend Some Time at Laguna de Kaan Luum
Laguna de Kaan Luum is a turquoise-colored shallow lake surrounding a cobalt-colored deep pool (the cenote). The water in the lagoon gets deeper as you go further in towards the direction of the pool. Swimming is not allowed in the cenote because of strong currents, but it can be used for scuba diving.
The beauty lies in the contrasting blue shades of the lagoon and the cenote. The lagoon’s water is also warm and calm throughout the year, making it perfect for swimming and paddleboarding. It’s speculated that the cenote in the middle is approximately 270 feet deep.
Laguna de Kaan Luum is a hidden gem. It’s usually less popular amongst tourists, but it can still get busy during peak season.
12. Dine and Dive at the Same Time at Clan Destino
Clan Destino is a convenient choice if you want to visit a cenote that’s not too far away. The cenote is about a 17-20 minute drive from Tulum Centro. It’s a restaurant surrounded by the jungle with a cenote inside. You can get a seat right beside the cenote.
Treat yourself to some delectable dishes from a wide-ranging menu. Choose from hamburgers, potatoes, seafood, and more delicious items including vegetarian options. Cool off the heat by taking a dip in the cenote’s cool water while waiting for your food.
How to Get Around Tulum
Getting around Tulum is easy because many taxis and tour companies are available to get you to your desired location.
If you like freedom and flexibility when it comes to mobility, you can easily rent a car. Most car rentals are extremely cheap. Make sure to double-check if insurance is included with the vehicle you’re renting, or they might bill you on this later on.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Thinking of where to stay in Tulum? The town caters to all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re looking for a luxuriously rich getaway or a budgeted vacation trip, Tulum can meet any traveling style and needs.
The Yucatan peninsula, in general, is suitable for all types of travelers. There are many options, some affordable and some highly-priced, to choose from. The beachfront hotel zone is much more expensive than the hotels in the main town Tulum area.
1. El Pez a Colibri Boutique Hotel
El Pez a Colibri Boutique Hotel is one of the best choices in the hotel zone. The hidden gem has rooms with amazing views of the waves with incredible service. It’s definitely worth the money.
2. Casa Santiago Hotel
For a more affordable option, Casa Santiago is a small boutique hotel near the main street of Tulum town. The hotel is eco-sustainable and has a low environmental impact. You can get a clean, modern room here at a reasonable price.
3. Lumapi Jungle Eco Lodge
There are also cute cabanas and tree huts to choose from. The Lumapi Jungle Eco Lodge is an eco-friendly jungle hut. The materials used in the making of the huts already exist in the jungle. Moreover, the huts run on solar power. If you’re looking for a secluded setting close to nature, this place is perfect.
If you like glamping, you can pick one of the deluxe accommodations set in the thriving jungle or on the beach. Alternatively, you can stay in a hacienda for an authentic cultural experience. Ancient haciendas have been modified to function as luxury hotels in a historic area just a short while away from Tulum towards Merida and there are even some near and in Cobá.
Final Thoughts On What to Do in Tulum
By now, you should be fully convinced that Tulum is the escape you need. This highly-underrated bohemian town is slowly getting the recognition it deserves, so visit it soon before everyone gets here before you.
Dive into cenotes, discover caves, dine with friends, and adopt a zen-like state of mind while stretching with the masters of yoga. Take day trips to the surrounding areas and walk the ancient Maya walled cities that were once home to the Maya nation.
From free and inexpensive to luxurious settings and tourist hotspots, every day spent in Tulum will be worth it.