17 Best Things to do in Tulum
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Famous for its pristine beaches, crystal clear cenotes, Mayan ruins and achingly hip vibe, there are lots of fun and unique things to do in Tulum.
Once a sleepy beach town, Tulum is a now an eclectic mix of modern and ancient where the coexistence of super luxury with budget backpacking attracts a diverse crowd and makes for an amazing experience. Having used Tulum as a base during our Yucatan adventures we’ve put together this list of the best 15 things to do in Tulum. We hope you have as much fun exploring Tulum as we did!
17 Best Things to do in Tulum
From glamourous parties to crystal clear cenotes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and some of the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, Tulum has something for everyone.
If you are planning a Yucatan trip, make sure to check out our Yucatan road trip itinerary for more inspiration.
Sim Card and Internet
There are lots of options on arrival at Cancun Airport – our Telcel sim had excellent coverage in Tulum and throughout most of the country.
Things to do in Tulum tip: save time at the airport and pick up a Telcel sim card on Amazon before you travel. It doesn’t come with any credit so make sure to top up online before you depart.
Where to stay in Tulum
Tulum’s accommodation options are split between exclusive resorts with private beach access, lodgings near the public beaches and hotels and hostels in the town itself. All three options are great. In terms of budget, the very expensive hotels tend to be located on the beach in the hotel-zone while you can get much better bang for your peso in Tulum town.
- Casa Santiago – This small boutique hotel is a perfect little oasis located close to the main street of Tulum town. We stayed here and loved the modern, clean rooms and reasonable prices – check prices now!
- El Pez a Colibri Boutique Hotel – Located next to Sunrise Beach, El Pez a Colibri is one of the best hotels in the hotel zone. The views fare incredible and it’s one of the best options on the beach – check prices now!
- Hotel Poc Na Tulum – this is a great option for those looking for a stunning beachfront hotel away from the busy hotel-zone. Hotel Poc Na Tulum is located on the beach and inside the Tulum Archeological site. – check prices now!
1 | Tulum Ruins
With their spectacular cliffside location, Tulum boasts one of the most incredible and unique Mayan sites in the Yucatan. The 13th Century walled city ruins include the Castillo, a castle perched on the cliff edge that was once a watchtower, and the well preserved Temple of the Frescoes.
The steps alongside the castle lead to a stunning, and much photographed, viewt of the Tulum ruins. The viewing platform looks back at the Castle and showcases both the ruins and their backdrop of yellow sand and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. It’s a stunning contrast between nature and history.
Things to do in Tulum tip: the Tulum ruins are easily accessible from Cancun and Playa Del Carmen and, as a result are extremely popular. It’s a much nicer experience when crowds are low so plan to visit at opening. As with most government sights, there is free entry for Mexican Nationals on Sunday’s and crowds are typically higher on this day.
The Beach at the Tulum Ruins
After checking out this spectacular view of the ruins, descend the wooden stairs to the tiny Playita Tortuga beach for a swim in its clear blue waters. The beach is protected during the summer months for nesting sea turtles but it is possible to swim at other times of the year.
2 | Si’an Khan Biosphere
Located just 10km south of Tulum, the Si’an Khan Biosphere is a remarkably quiet and untouched escape from the vibrant town. Its name translates as ‘Where the sky is born’ and the reserve is home to secluded Muyil Mayan ruins, quiet beaches, a coral reef and an animal population which includes turtles, land crabs and crocodiles. The biosphere is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Things to do in Tulum tip: it is possible to explore parts of the Si’an Khan reserve independently – we were able to drive just south of the visitors center from the Tulum entrance gate, make stops at the beaches and viewpoints and even spotted a sunbathing crocodile. However, if you want to experience the reserve more fully you will need to join a guided tour. Si’an Khan tours tend to be expensive but it is a remarkable place to experience.
3 | Playa Pariso and Santa Fe Beach
Tulum’s beach road is split between north, where there are great public beaches, and south, where extravagant resorts lead to private beaches.
With its turquoise waters and white sands, Playa Pariso, or Paradise Beach, is one of the best public beaches in Tulum. The beach is lined with great food and drink options and has a fun, laid back vibe. Snorkelling is a popular activity at Playa Pariso, as are boat trips which take in a view of the Tulum Ruins from the sea.
The crooked palm tree
Playa Pariso is home to Tulum’s most famous palm tree! Located close to the El Pariso Hotel, shimmy up the crooked palm tree for a perfect Instagram pic!
Things to do in Tulum tip: sunbeds and umbrellas are available to rent from vendors on the beach. They usually require a rental fee and a minimum food and drink spend depending on how long you wish to use them for. You can use beach towels without cost.
Santa Fe Beach
The quieter Santa Fe Beach is located north of Playa Pariso, closer to the Tulum ruins. While still popular, the vibe at Santa Fe tends to be more laid back. The beach is dotted with small bars and restaurants adorned with the requisite Tulum swing seats!
4 | Swim in a Cenote
A cenote is a naturally occurring water filled sinkhole and Tulum boasts some of the best in the Yucatan Peninsula. A swim in the cool, clear waters of a Cenote is one of our absolute favourite things to do in Tulum.
Easily accessible from Tulum, the small and chilled Cenote Ak Tun Ha is a fantastic chose. The cenote was given the Carwash Cenote as it was once used for exactly that, washing cars! There is a large open air pool which is just feet from the car park and under its waters lies a world of wildlife. Cenote Carwash reaches up to 50 feet in depth and it is common to see divers emerging from its waters.
Other great options include the open air Cenote Zacil-Ha, a neighbor to the Carwash Cenote.
The cave system at the incredibly popular Gran Cenote is remarkable to explore and the the double sinkhole at Cenote Dos Ojos, is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Cenote Azul, one of the best Playa Del Carmen cenotes, is a popular open air cenote where the swimming area is open to the sky. Its shallow waters make it a great option for families and the natural platform is great for some jumping fun.
5 | Kaan Luum Lagoon
Surrounded by lush green jungle the Lagoon is a picturesque and laid back local swimming spot and a great place to escape the Tulum crowds. The shallow and calm waters of the lagoon are warm all year round and are perfect for swimming, paddle boarding and floating an afternoon away.
Things to do in Tulum tip: A cenote sits in the middle of the lagoon’s turquoise waters but it is typically roped off due to strong currents. Do not use bug spray or sunscreen if you are swimming in the lagoon.
6 | Matcha Mama
Located on Tulum’s south beach road, the tiny Matcha Mama shack packs a huge punch and is both Instagram and food heaven. Serving plant based, gluten free delights including smoothie bowls, juices, acai bowls and kombuchas in cute surroundings adorned with matcha puns and swing seats.
We returned everyday in the hope that the delicious offerings would somehow offset the tacos and margaritas that were sure to follow later in the Tulum evening!
7 | Burrito Amor
The patio style open air Burrito Amor is another Tulum foodie favorite. Burrito Amor operates a healthy and clean eating concept and the flour tortillas, made in house, are served in banana leaves. The food is delicious and comforting and we returned multiple times during our Tulum days. Even our two year old could tell it was another level and got excited about his fish burrito as soon as we pulled up outside!
8 | Follow that dream
Tulum’s south beach road is dotted with kitschy boutiques and laid back shack style food options which sit opposite the private resorts and hotels. Keep a look out for the ‘Follow that Dream’ street sign, one of the cutest sights in town.
Things to do in Tulum tip: set your map for the Lolita & Lolita Boutique and you will find the Follow that Dream sign right next to it.
9 | Coba
Considered one of the most important Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula, Coba is believed to hold over 5,000 structures although only 3 settlements are open to visitors. It’s still possible to climb, Nohoch Mul, Coba’s 137 foot tall pyramid, and most visitors are keen to make the 120 step climb to the top. The reward is incredible views over the surrounding jungle and lagoon.
Things to do in Tulum tip: Coba is a 45 minute drive from Tulum.
10 | Chichen Itza
The most famous sight in the Yucatan, Chichen Itza is a 2 hour drive from Tulum but it is absolutely worth a day trip from the town. The instantly recognizable Mayan ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
11 | Browse the Tulum boutiques
Tulum is home to a beautiful mix of clothes, home and jewellery boutiques which sell unique pieces which perfectly capture the Tulum vibe. The fashion options are incredible, from on trend beach dresses to a dizzying array of straw hats, making it entirely possible to kit yourself out with a whole new beach wardrobe.
Things to do in Tulum tip: many of the shops in Tulum are high end and prices can be high but the pieces are beautiful.
12 | Palo Volador, ‘The Dance of the Flyers’
Palo Volador, or the dance of the flyers, is an ancient Mexican fertility ritual. The cermony involves four dancers scaling a high wooden pole before securing themselves to a platform and gradually spinning and twirling back to the ground. A fifth person remains on the top platform playing musical instruments.
Things to do in Tulum tip: the dancers perform at the entrance to the Tulum ruins.
13 | Explore the resorts and beach clubs
The Tulum hotel strip on the south end of Beach road is home to some incredible and exclusive boutique hotels and resorts where rooms cost hundreds, or thousands, of dollars a night. If you opt to stay elsewhere, it’s still possible to access the glamourous hideaways through their beach clubs or restaurants.
The extravagant adults only Azulik Tulum, with its elevated wooden walkways and incredible architecture, is accessible via its restaurants and museum.
Casa Malca, once a hideaway of Pablo Escobar and now a boutique hotel, is like walking into a photo shoot. The hotel is filled with incredible art and sculptures and there is even an antique chair swing which acts as an Instagram favorite. Day access is usually available via a minimum spend.
If you’ve come to Tulum to party then make sure to check out one of beach clubs! Many of the Tulum resorts host beach clubs which allow day access to some of the private beaches and pool, restaurants and day beds. Ziggy Beach Club and Coco Tulum are both awesome options.
15 | Check out the entrances to Ahau Tulum and Mia Beach Restaurant
The luxury Ahau Tulum Beach Hotel has one of the most incredible entrances that we’ve ever seen on our travels.
Visitors to the hotel walk through a huge wood and rope sculpture created by South African artist Daniel Popper. The female torso of Ven a Luz, or ‘Come into the Light’, creates a dramatic archway and makes for a spectacular introduction to the hotel.
The wooden fanned entrance to the Mia Beach Restaurant is another remarkable artwork.
16 | Tulum sign
Huge colorful letters spelling out the name of towns, cities and tourist attractions are a common sighting across the Yucatan. Constructed as part of a tourism campaign, they make for great photo opportunities while exploring Mexico. Keep an eye out for one of the colorful Tulum signs and grab a pic!
17 | Sunrise Beach
Sunrise Beach is a Tulum gem located just south of the resorts and hotels along the Beach Road. We discovered it as we were driving south to Si’an Khan and a small stretch of ocean suddenly appeared. Perfect for early morning walks, the picturesque beach showcases a quieter side of Tulum.
Things to do in Tulum tip: often, at sunset, local fishermen feed their leftover bait to the pelican’s which flock for an evening treat.
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