World-renowned for its Mayan ruins, pristine beaches, clear cenotes, and hip vibe, there are so many unique and fun things to do in Tulum. If you are going to vacation in Cancun you in this post you will find all you need to know about this hip town in Mexico.
Once a laid-back beach town, Tulum Mexico is now popular as an eclectic combination of Mexican heritage and modern culture. Its trendy (and outragiously expensive) hotels, fancy international restaurants, but also a local cuisine, a yogi community, and a boho-chic culture, together with the nearby Mayan Ruins and a breathtaking endless white sand beach, attracts thousands of visitors who want to experience and enjoy this trendy Mexican Town.
I need to point out, though, that It seems to me that due to the extreme exploitation of natural resources and the rapidly growing developments, Tulum’s reputation and popularity as the top destinations for style-conscious travelers, has been declining in the past months. Not to mention the increase of crime and shootings that seem to have become more common these days. Although it’s not involving tourists and Tulum is still a safe place to travel, it’s not really an encouraging situation.
So much so that many expatriates among the pioneers of the trendy Tulum are slowly moving away and choosing quieter and more laidback places, which is why they chose Tulum as their home 10 years ago, in the first place.
If you are now wondering, the new trendy towns where people are considering moving are, Puerto Aventura on the Riviera Maya, Todos Santos in Baja California, and San Pancho on the Riviera Nayarit.
Having said that, Tulum still remains an amazing place to spend a few days vacationing and enjoying some of the best beaches in Mexico, take a refreshing dip in a cenote, visiting the Mayan Ruins, and many other things to do in Tulum.
Before moving forward with that information, I thought I should share some practical information that may be useful to you before traveling.
Where is Tulum?
Want to find out where is Tulum in Mexico? You will find Tulum town in Quintana Roo, Mexico, lying on Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coastline. We can say that Tulum is split into two main areas, Tulum Playa (the beachside) and Tulum Pueblo (downtown Tulum) where the people live and the majority of the restaurants, shop supermarket and all the commercial activities are located.
In Down Town Tulum you can find amazing amazing apartments, or simple and more affordable accommodations, restaurants of all sorts of price and cuisine and everything else you may need.
The beach side is mainly one road, with beach hotels and apartments on the seaside and restaurants , apartments and trendy shops on the Jungle side,
How to Get to Tulum Mexico
The nearest airport to Tulum is Cancun International Airport (CUN), which is around 1.5 hours away. Here are a few ways to get from Cancun to Tulum, which is better explained in my full article, linked above.
- Take ADO bus – coach bus line that runs around the country, and it offers a route from Cancun to Playa del Carmen to Tulum – run every 1 or 2 hours
- Take Colectivo mini van -small busses that run all day long non-stop. You need to connect it in Playa del Carmen (Halfway)
- Hire a taxi – around 1500 MXN
- Book a transportation service from Cancun Airport
Why Tulum in Mexico is So Popular
Tulum was originally popular for being a laid-back hippie town with just a few beach hotels and an endless wild beach. Obviously, I am talking about 20 years ago. The white-sand Tulum Mexico beaches give you the ultimate Caribbean experience, attracting tourists to Mexico Tulum from across the globe. But also the Tulum Beach Clubs are a unique experience that you have to try, especially if you are not staying in one of the Tulum Beach Hotels, but also in that case.
In fact, you have to know that Tulum beach is about 22 km of white sand most of that lined with stylish laid-back luxury hotels, made in wood and polished cement besides incredible local art. They are one of the landmarks of Tulu. Some of those hotels offer a day pass where non-guests can enjoy the beach facility as long as they spend a minimum amount at the restaurants. It is indeed a great deal, considering that those restaurants offer most of the time world-class cuisine.
Climate in Tulum Mexico
Tulum has a tropical climate that remains hot throughout the year. May to October is relatively cooler with occasional rains. The months from November through April are dry months. So, the best time to visit Tulum would be from late October to December when the weather in Tulum Mexico is ideal for Tulum excursions. Avoid January to March to stay away from crowds. If you want to enjoy Tulum, plan at least a 3-day trip. A week would be much better. So you can alternate some relaxing time with day trips from Tulum. I will share some itinerary-samples in another post.
You may also like: The best time to visit Cancun
25 Things to Do in Tulum
Here we have finally got to the core. I am going to finally share all the amazing things to do in Tulum (not in any specific order)
Visit one of the amazing Cenotes in Tulum
There are so many cenotes in Tulum and the surrounding areas that you absolutely cannot miss a visit or two during your stay in Tulum. Whether you want to dive, snorkel, or swim, some of the best cenotes are Tulum Gran Cenote, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Cenote Azul. If you are not familiar with what cenotes are you can check out my post on the Cenotes of Yucatan.
Visiting the Tulum Ruins
You cannot miss a visit to one of the most picturesque and scenic archeological sites of the ancient Maya Mayan civilization. Even if you are not much into history and archeology, the Tulum Ruins are a must-see. Perched on the rocky beachside of the Tulum National Park, this picture-worthy site is totally worth a visit. Make sure you go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the heat.
Taking a Day Trip to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its amazing biodiversity of flora and fauna. If you love nature this is one of the great and most popular places to visit in the area. You can choose between Jeep tours or boat tours. I would go for the latter, which will take you on a boat ride in the lagoon through mangroves bushes where you can spot different bird species and crocodiles. Once you get to the small village you will have some time to walk around before hopping on another boat and navigate offshore in the ocean to spot the beautiful dolphins. This is the best way for me to spot dolphins as they are wild in their natural environment and not kept in captivity.
Coba is another archaeological site located at 45 minutes drive from Tulum. The site is huge but you can rent bicycles at the entrance to make your trip easier and cooler.
If you have kids or you don’t want to make any effort you can also hire a bici-taxi (only 2 persons per ride including kids). Among all the usual temples Coba has one of the tallest pyramids in the Yucatan peninsula that you can also climb. Make sure you don’t get vertigo, though. The view from above is amazing!
But Coba is also a small village built around a lagoon (where you can see crocodiles) where you can relax and spend a couple of nights in one of the lovely hotels, including the trendy COQUI COQUI if you are ready to splurge. You can also visit the cenotes hiding in the jungle around Coba.
That’s why I believe the best way to visit is by renting a car and drive on your own. This way you are free to move around at your convenience and schedule.
Rent A Car in Mexico
Browse among international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
Going On A Day Trip to Chichen Itza
Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichen-Itza has also named one of the world’s seven wonders. How can you not go? I just have to warn you it’s super crowded and full of vendors which takes away the charm of the magnificent site. Although there are many tours available that will take you there with a certified guide, it would be much advisable if you could rent a car and get on your own. Either leave early from Tulum, or sleep in the nearby colonial town of Valladolid, enjoy the town at night, and then make sure you are at the gate when they open at 8 am. This way you will avoid the impossible crowd.
Enjoying the Tulum Beaches
In Tulum, there is actually just one beach that stretches from the Tulum Ruins all the way to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. The incredible white sand beach is one of the best beaches of the Riviera Maya and makes Tulum one of the best beach destinations in Mexico. We can in fact identify some specific spots on Tulum beach, that are easy to reach. Playa Paraiso is no doubt the best beach in Tulum with the whitest sand and palm trees. Playa Ruinas is another excellent beach in Tulum to visit, while Las Palmas Public Beach is a secluded, less commercialized beach where you can enjoy some water activities in the turquoise waves.
If you want to enjoy the comfort of a beach club, Cinco Tulum is my favorite, but also Papaya Playa Project is quite popular.
You may also like The best beaches in Mexico.
Visit Isla Mujeres
It may be a little far away but a day trip in Isla Mujeres must definitely be included in your Tulum bucket list, if you love the sea and if you want to see a little corner of Paradise. You may want to choose a combined tour with Isla Contoy as well. The water is so blue on that side of the sea that only the ferry ride will make the tour worth it. But once on Isla Mujeres, you will find many other things to fall in love with. Many travelers choose to stay on the island for a few days and stay in one of the cute Isla Mujeres hotels. But it depends on how much time you have of course. If you are short of time a boat tour to Isla Mujeres will do.
Read also how to get to Isla Mujeres from Cancun
Take a day trip to Cozumel
Cozumel is a beautiful island located right in front of Playa del Carmen at 1-hour drive and 30 minutes ferry from Playa del Carmen. The island is one of the big cruise stops, so you may want to go on a day where there are none, to make sure it’s less crowded. There are so many things to do in Cozumel, that you may want to decide to stay for a few days, as I did. If you just want to be there for an entire day you may want to either rent a bike or a scooter and ride around to have a panoramic view of the island. You can stop on the Caribbean side for some snorkeling or on the Ocean site for amazing views of the rough Sea crashing on the rocky shore.
Visit Kaan Lum Lagoon
A hidden secret of Tulum, this lagoon has a gigantic cenote where water is pretty warm and perfect for a mud bath. The unique color of its water changes in the center from the shore due to depth changes. It’s worth a visit for sure!
Learning how to cook Mexican Food
Your visit to Mexico would be incomplete if you do not indulge yourself in local food and the best Mexican dishes. In Tulum, you can find incredible Mexican restaurants, local and authentic. But you could also learn how to cook Mexican food yourself and bring some Mexican heritage home. Here below some Mexican Cooking class options. Click on the link to read more.
Taco Workshop & Degustation in Tulum with Local Chef & Taco Expert
Traditional Mexican Cooking with Seasonal Ingredients in the Jungle of Tulum
Mexican & Yucatan Cooking Class and Margarita tasting
Depths of the Yucatan: Valladolid Market Tour & Street Food + Cenote + Cooking Class (Transportation Included)
Relax in one of the Tulum Beach Club
Sure, visiting a beach in Tulum Mexico is free, but if you wish to upgrade your experience, you may consider spending the day in one of the fancy beach clubs of the Boho Chic Tulum. Luxury hotels usually open to the public when they are not at full occupancy. You can pay an entry fee which in some cases can be used as a credit towards drinks and food. You should check out before entering though. Rates start from 1000 MXN (50 USD). One of the most popular beach clubs nowadays is the Papaya project but prepare to music and a party ambiance. My favorite place to go is on the left side of the beach, towards the ruins. It’s called Cinco Tulum, a beautiful glamping spot and beach club, with soft music, and a quiet and chilled ambiance. You should definitely check it out. Rates are reasonable and go up on weekends. It’s much better to make a reservation.
Admiring the Exotic Colors of Bacalar Lagoon
Located near the Belize border, Bacalar has a popular lagoon known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors. It’s named so because of the different shades of blue of its water. Unfortunately has been through some contamination issues in the past years but that’s not impacting its magic. The pretty town of Bacalar is also worth a visit. However please consider that it takes around 3 hours drive from Tulum to Bacalar. Therefore I would consider staying at least 2 nights if you want to explore and enjoy it fully. I will write a full guide to Bacalar, next. Stay tuned.
Although Cancun may not be the place where you would vacation, we cannot deny that Cancun beach is one of a kind. Just like in Tulum, Cancun beach is one endless tongue of sand lined with the big luxurious all-inclusive hotels and washed by a bright turquoise ocean. The colors of the water are sometimes just breathtaking. A day spent on one of the Cancun beaches will definitely be a remarkable one. Check out my guide on how to get to Cancun from Tulum and vice-versa. I can anticipate that although there are many ways to get to Cancun from Tulum renting a car is the best option because you will be free to drive around and make different stops to your liking.
Biking around Tulum
Renting a bike in Tulum is the best and cheapest way to exploring around, besides being so much fun! I can find bike rentals everywhere, sometimes even in your hotel or home rentals. By bike, you can get from downtown to the beach or roam around the town center as well. However make sure you protect yourself from the sun, wearing a hat and sunscreen, sunglasses, and always take a bottle of water with you. The heat sometimes is unbearable!
Scuba Diving in the Ocean or Cenotes
Scuba diving is one of the most sought-after Tulum activities to enjoy. However, more than diving in the ocean, which is still great, Tulum diving centers are more popular for taking you to do cenote diving. Although great all year round it’s best from May to September for better visibility. The most popular cenotes for diving are Cenote Calavera, Carwash, and Taak-bi-ha, and The Pit, the deepest and most spectacular.
Shopping in Tulum
Tulum Beach has lots of shops and boutiques where you can buy stylish clothes and chic kaftans, artisanal crafts, handwoven hats, handmade jewelry, but also locally handmade homeware. My favorites are Wanderlust Tulum for amazing woman clothing and jewelry, In the Middle for men, and La Tiendita for your home. There you will find some unique items to buy include pillows, textiles, towels, accessories, jewelry, and amazing sexy beach wear of the best quality and latest fashion trends.
Enjoying the nightlife of Tulum
Tulum’s nightlife is not as crowded and loud as Cancun’s. It’s more chilled and laid back. There are no gigantic clubs, but you can have a great time at their beach clubs and bars. End your day with a cocktail or get some tequila shots for the real Mexican experience. Some of the must-visit places include Papaya Playa Project, Gitano, La Zebra Beach Restaurant, and Batey Mojito, among others.
Practicing Yoga and Meditation
Opposite to the wild nightlife, you can also find amazing wellness places and retreats where you can participate to full immersion yoga and wellness practices or just pay for your class. Among others, Sanara Tulum is an eco-chic luxury hotel that offers yoga retreats in beautiful settings right on the beach. Another place that I love is Holistika, not on the beach but with an amazing mystical vibe in the jungle.
Enjoy some of the nicest coffee shops in Tulum
Tulum is not all about beaches and archaeological ruins. It is also a peculiar destination for creators and artists. And that also manifests in beautiful artsy places like restaurants and cafes. My two favorites are Tulum Art Club in downtown Tulum, where besides drinking coffee or other delicious drinks you can sit and work or chat with a friend surrounded by artworks from different local artists. The other favorite place is Botanica Garden, also downtown. Located in a beautiful garden you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this lush courtyard. On Sundays, they may have an art class that you can join for a couple of hundred pesos.
If you have some extra time in Tulum, why not use it to learn the Spanish language? English is not spoken everywhere in Mexico, especially in less touristy areas of the country. So, if you are planning to travel to other parts of Mexico after Yucatan, learning their language will prove to be of great help. Many long-term travelers decide to come to this area not only to enjoy the amazing Tulum attractions but also to take some Spanish classes and be able to mingle with locals. It’s definitely helpful.
Enjoying Water Sports
Located by the Caribbean Sea, you can get in a variety of water sport activities in Tulum. From Snorkeling, scuba diving, Paddleboarding, surfing, and most of all Kitesurfing, you will find a variety of activities in the water to keep you busy and fit.
Visiting Punta Laguna
Punta Laguna natural reserve in Tulum is home to spider monkeys, jaguars, future butterflies, and several other interesting animals. You can also take a boat tour around a lagoon in a small boat, rappelling down to a cenote, or simply enjoy looking for the funny monkeys. There is no direct transportation to Punta Laguna. You may want to hire a taxi or rent a car in Tulum. (Best option) Punta Laguna Reserve is located at 1 hour from Tulum on the way to Valladolid.
Enjoy a Drink at the Tulum Tower
How do you feel about enjoying a drink 35 meters up in the sky? Located near the ruins, Tulum Tower has a sky bar that was recently opened in 2018. From here, you will gain an all-new perspective of the iconic pyramids, ruins, and ocean views. You are safely harnessed to your seat and the tower ascends slowly upwards. Once you reach the maximum height, the tower starts spinning to give you a 360° view. This 10–15-minute experience is definitely a Mexico must-do. I didn’t do it, to be honest, and I am not sure if I would. But many love it, so I thought I would include it in the list of the things to do in Tulum.
Splurge in one of the trendy hotels in Tulum on the Beach
If you are not on a strict budget and you love to travel in style, you will fall in love with Tulum beach hotels for their unique laidback chic style, high-end amenities, and spectacular location with the blu ocean in front and the vibrating jungle as a backdrop. There are many stylish places. My top favorites are Nomade, Casa Malca, Delek.
We have come to the end of my list of favorite things to do in Tulum. Did I miss anything? Or did you follow some of my tips? Let me know how was your vacation! I would love to hear from you!