Located right on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is a gem to explore in Mexico. With a perfect mix of Mayan ruins, heavenly beaches, and cozy seaside towns, there are tons of the best things to do in Tulum scattered across the city and the wider region.
In all honesty, Tulum is a place where you can easily spend your entire vacation. We loved our visit to the Yucatan Peninsula and flew to Cancun and explored so much of the coastline and inner historical places.
Instead of bothering with all of the planning, I wanted to share some of our favorite places to visit in Tulum. All are easy to get to from Tulum and the best part is that you can easily organize tours even when you are not driving!
Check out the best things to do in Tulum below. Have an Epic Time in Mexico!
1.) See the ancient Maya city
The centuries-old Mayan ruins in Tulum are amazing to see. Not only that, it’s one of the best things to do in Tulum if you really want to explore Mayan civilization and learn more about their huge cities in Mexico.
High up on the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the beautiful ruins stand proud and can still be walked around to this day.
Now, if you really want to learn more about the ruins and the individual attractions, hire a guide for a tour. We’re glad we did as there are very limited signs inside.
Remember to take some water with you! We forgot and I was so dehydrated that it got really hot around noon.
Read More: What To Know Before Visiting Tulum
2.) Visit the cenotes around Tulum
When visiting Tulum, you need to organize a trip to the area’s legendary cenotes that are scattered throughout the region. These huge sinkholes are probably best described as an underground cave with the ceiling collapsed! They are amazing to see and one of the best things to do in Tulum that you really cannot miss.
Now the Gran Cenote has to be one of the most popular sights. Just a 10 minute drive from the Mayan ruins, it’s really easy to visit. There’s an entrance fee to get in, and it’s also worth renting a locker for peace of mind.
The water here is absolutely pristine; We could have spent all day paddling around!
Another great place is the Casa Cenote, where the water is crystal clear again. This is a great place for snorkeling and it’s quite a long cenote that you can spend hours exploring.
For snorkeling, go to Cenotes Sac Actun, about 30 minutes’ drive from central Tulum. Here you can take a swim tour (with life jacket and wetsuit) through the cenote and see the incredible stalactites inside.
A note, with all the cenotes, try not to take too many valuables with you. Minor thefts (from lockers / cars / bags) sometimes happen and it is best to leave excess cash and jewelry at your hotel.
Read more: Activities around Cancun
3.) Visit Tulum’s beaches
Who doesn’t love a good beach, especially when in Mexico?
Now there are a few local gems that you won’t want to miss out on, especially when you have a few hours to relax in the surf and sand.
Paradise Beach is probably one of the most popular (but still pristine) beaches in the region.
That doesn’t make it bad, in fact I would probably say it’s good if you want the convenience of having a few foodie eateries, loungers, and easy access to Tulum itself. Be aware, however, that it can attract more people than some of the other beaches in the area. If that’s not your idea of a good beach, try another location.
On the same route, Santa Fe Beach is closer to the Mayan ruins, where you can find and enjoy small bars and restaurants. The local vendors love to dine with you and relax at their venue – so be ready to negotiate!
If you have the time and are a total beach lover, check out Las Palmas Beach, Akumal Beach (along the coast, with many larger hotels), and Secret Beach.
You might even see some turtles along the coast! Remember to wear plenty of UV block or water t-shirt when looking for turtles.
I burned my back raw red while snorkeling on the coast (also with sun protection factor).
4.) Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most popular locations and historical sites, about a 2-hour drive from Tulum. Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city with a colossal pyramid (El Castillo) that you cannot miss.
Now you can easily spend a few hours exploring the Chichen Itza protected site and learning about its prosperous past. It’s impressive to see; we loved it.
Oh, and remember, you can haggle with the tour guides when you visit. They tend to raise their prices for visitors, but it’s worth it. It brings the entire site to life as the “on-site” information is limited.
5.) Lake Bacalar
Over 25 miles long, Lake Bacalar is huge and one of the best things to do in Tulum while traveling south of the city. Yes, it takes about 2.5 hours to get here from Tulum itself, but it’s great for a day trip, especially if you’re looking for something different.
As you can see, it is known locally as the “Lake of the Seven Colors”. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the blue and green hues that make the water here so special.
Aside from lying in the sun and relaxing all day, there are tons of other activities to fill your day. From kayaking, boat tours, or paddling, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
Read more: Activities around Cancun
6.) Mexican dishes
Okay, for me after all the Mayan sites, it’s Mexican food that I love the most!
From the tastiest; A feast awaits you with birrias (meat stew), burritos, pozole (corn broth) and guacamole whips.
Of course there are plenty of vendors on the streets of Tulum, but there are also plenty of delicious restaurants and beach bars where you can grab a bite to eat.
For a delicious and chic dinner, visit BAL NAK ‘for their incredible cocktails and moles. So good!
For some of the best tacos, head straight to Taqueria Honorio. The places themselves don’t look like a gem (warn in advance) but trust me, their tacos are so tasty and totally fresh.
7.) Visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, visiting the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is one of the best things to do in Tulum if you love a good adventure.
It is considered one of the best places in Mexico for biodiversity in this wetland region. However, it can be difficult to navigate yourself. If you are thinking of visiting, be sure to book a tour in Tulum and make the visit easier as the roads can be quite bad at times and navigation is not that easy.
Once here it’s a stunning place to swim and you can even spot some green turtles and dolphins!
8.) See Kaan Luum
About a 15-minute drive from Tulum, Kaan Luum is a huge circular lake inland from the Caribbean coast that is too beautiful to miss.
It’s one of the best things to do in Tulum, especially if you want to see a completely unique part of this region. Note, however, that you are not allowed to wear sunscreen in the lake itself. This means you should grab a good UV wet shirt for snorkeling or kayaking.
Oh and have a packed lunch and some ice cold drinks; You’ll thank me after a few hours of paddling!
You wanna beat the crowd Go first thing in the morning, it’s noticeably quieter (but there’s room for everyone).
9.) Old Mayan city of Coba
Coba is another ancient Mayan city not to be missed. It has a history of over 1,600 years. In fact, the Nohoch Mul pyramid is one of the tallest in all of the Yucatan!
About a 40-minute drive from Tulum, it’s one of the best things to do in Tulum if you’re looking to explore more of the Yucatan’s Mayan heritage. Plus, you’ll have the Multum Ha Cenote and Choo Ha Caves just a stone’s throw from the ancient city.
10.) The Mayan site of Muyil (Chunyaxché)
If you have time, drive from Tulum to the ruins of Muyil (about 20 minutes from Tulum). It’s so impressive and a must see if you love Mayan history as it is one of the earliest Mayan settlements in the entire Yucatan region.
You can easily combine this with a visit to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, especially on an arranged tour. This makes it a perfect day trip and a breeze!
Read more: Activities around Cancun
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