Things to do in Tulum
Tulum is Mexico’s hotspot at the moment. Everyone wants to visit Tulum. It is hopping with digital nomads, hipsters, and travelers from all over the world. Full of great bars, beaches, ruins, and cenotes, there are plenty of things to do in Tulum.
Located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, it is not only known for its beautiful beaches, rich Mayan history, and amazing snorkeling in the Mesoamerican reef.
The coastal city was also once an ancient port and walled town for the Mayans which is where its name came from because “Tulum” in Maya stands for the wall.
However, its powdery, white beaches helped put Tulum on the map as a popular and luxurious destination among tourists.
There is so much that Tulum offers its visitors but this is a list of some of the must-visit and must-try activities while in Tulum.
- Let’s Dive into all the Things to do in Tulum
- 1. The Mayan Ruins
- 2. Cenotes
- 2a. Gran Cenote
- 2b. Cenote Calavera
- 2c. Cenote Carwash
- 3. Snorkeling or Diving
- 4. Xel Ha Aquatic Theme Park
- 5. Relax on the Beach or Hit Up a Beach Club
- 6. Sian Ka’an Reserve
- 7. Kaan Luum Lagoon
- 8. Enjoy Mexican Cuisine
- 9. Rent a Bike or Stroll Around
- 10. Akumal
- 11. Visit Mystika
Let’s Dive into all the Things to do in Tulum
1. The Mayan Ruins
Though the Mayan ruins in Tulum are not the largest of Mexico’s well-preserved, 13th-century historic sites, they are arguably the most beautiful.
Located on the top of a 15-meter high cliff overlooking the vast ocean, they’re absolutely stunning. This site is one of the most photographed and picturesque spots in Mexico.
These ruins are important artifacts of history because they help tell the story of an ancient and gifted civilization.
Visiting these ruins makes for a great day trip to explore the area and imagine what life might’ve looked like during this time.
The ruins were strategically built on this cliff to provide protection. With walls on 3 sides and the cliff on the other, it was a seaport fortress and popular trading center.
Now, the structures are somewhat covered in lush greenery and visitors are encouraged to walk around and find a quiet spot to reflect and enjoy the beautiful history.
One of the main structures at the Tulum Mayan ruins is El Castillo which is the most prominent and pyramid-like structure.
You can climb to the top for amazing views of the rest of the ruins or the ocean. Other ruins include a temple and a few houses that had various uses.
After or before exploring the ruins you can even swim in the ocean below by accessing a trail from El Castillo down to the beach. The secluded shore has amazing views of the ruins on the cliff-top above.
- If you enjoy visiting the ruins check out the other Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula
Cenotes are underground bodies of freshwater that are formed from a collapse of limestone rock to create a groundwater sinkhole.
There are thousands in the Yucatan Peninsula and they can be completely underground caves, semi-open to let the sunshine and fresh air in, or open pools of water. Tulum has some of the best and most popular cenotes.
They are perfect for spending a hungover afternoon in. Nothing beats their cold refreshing water to rinse away the booze from the night before.
Some of the most popular cenotes in Tulum are
- Gran Cenote
- Cenota Calavera
- Cenote Carwash
2a. Gran Cenote
This is a popular location because it consists of a few cenotes which makes it fun to try them all. They’re connected by a wooden walkway so you can swim in each, and it also makes for a great Instagram shot.
Snorkeling is very popular at this cenote and it’s only an 8-minute drive from downtown Tulum.
2b. Cenote Calavera
This cenote is great for scuba divers and adventurous swimmers.
It’s surrounded by the jungle and has a swing and platform for jumping in the water.
It’s a bit quieter than other cenotes because it’s more popular among divers than anything else but that makes it all the better for relaxing and it’s only a 6-minute drive for Tulum.
2c. Cenote Carwash
Carwash is a very large and open cenote that has an almost pond-like feel with its lily pads floating on the water and beautiful lush exterior.
It’s a popular snorkeling location because of the many plants and fish and it’s an exciting experience to uncover this underwater world and only a 10-minute drive away.
3. Snorkeling or Diving
Snorkeling is a very popular activity in Tulum and a great place for it. Not only does Tulum have a wonderful reef to dive, but its cenotes are also amazing for diving or snorkeling.
Tulum’s reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System which is the second-largest in the world.
There are so many options when it comes to snorkeling and diving in Tulum.
Various boat tours will take you on a beautiful ride and to some really cool spots to snorkel or you can swim out a bit and snorkel off the shore.
Playa Maya Public Beach is a good spot for offshore snorkeling because it has amazing sea life.
Also, Tulum’s wonderful cenotes make a great spot for either diving or snorkeling
If you visit cenotes while in Tulum, make sure to bring your snorkeling gear!
These freshwater caves have rare species which are so exciting to discover.
All cenotes are different and some are completely underground while others see a lot of sunshine so you’ll find different things at all of them.
4. Xel Ha Aquatic Theme Park
Xel Ha is less than 20 minutes from Tulum and a popular place to explore among visitors.
It’s a very large aquatic theme park that takes the environment seriously.
Not only will they not let you in unless you have biodegradable sunscreen, but it also doesn’t provide straws, use paper maps or paper napkins to keep the animals safe and help the environment. So if you are worried about if not being eco-friendly, rest assure it is.
The park is huge and there is so much to do so it’s definitely important to plan ahead so you can take advantage of your time if you’ll only be in Xel Ha for a day.
With the price of entry, all food and drink are provided and there are many restaurants, bars, and shacks to choose from.
It’s great for people of all ages. Let your inner child shine and spend the day at an outdoor natural water park. If you have kids as well, bring them along as they will also love it.
You can raft or snorkel down the river with opportunities to cliff jump, zip line into the water, or try out the rope obstacle course.
There is an observation boat that has a glass bottom to check out the fish, a cave to swim through, cenotes to explore, and jungle trails for biking.
These are just a few options among the many things to do in Xel Ha. The natural inlet and lagoon created the perfect spot for an amazing park with so many activities for people of all ages to enjoy.
5. Relax on the Beach or Hit Up a Beach Club
Tulum is known for its soft, powdery white sand beaches. They look and feel luxurious to the touch and part of a trip to Tulum must include relaxing days spent on the beach.
You can’t come to Tulum and not spend at least one day on the beach. Also, if you are not one to camp out on the beach with a book, Tulum has plenty of beach bars where you can mingle and meet fellow travelers.
The Caribbean sun is so warm and inviting, the ocean is always a comfortable temperature and the sand is soft and serene.
You definitely need to spend some time on the beach.
This is the Beach under the Mayan Ruins. From the ruins, there are stunning cliff-top views. It’s a private beach that can only be accessed when visiting El Castillo, so it tends to be less crowded.
Is a more popular beach, but it is an open wide long stretch so it still doesn’t feel crowded. It is great if you are going to want to eat in a restaurant during the day.
6. Sian Ka’an Reserve
One of the most beautiful places in the area is most definitely this highly protected UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the reserve of Sian Ka’an.
Not only can visit the Mayan site of Muyil, but you can take a boat tour across the lagoons. There you can climb to the top of a watchtower for amazing views, among many other activities.
I highly suggest that you float down the lazy river while you are there.
It’s a beautiful and relaxing experience and one of my favorite things to do in Tulum.
- Want to Book a boat tour in Sian Ka’an Reserve
7. Kaan Luum Lagoon
If you are coming to Tulum, you have to visit Kann Luum Lagoon. It is surrounded by the jungle, and is a great off-the-beaten-path attraction that is absolutely worth the trip.
The best part is, it’s only a 13-minute car ride from downtown Tulum. It’s a large body of water with many layers of blue to enjoy swimming in.
The color of the water is just absolutely stunning.
At the center of the lagoon is an underwater cenote but it’s roped off because the current can be strong and it’s only safe for divers.
As long as you stay on the outskirts of the lagoon, you’ll enjoy the warm shallow waters and the secluded feel it has.
8. Enjoy Mexican Cuisine
One of my favorite things about Mexico is the food. There is no doubt about that. I love it.
The food in Tulum is delicious and fresh and hot and trendy. There are so many hot spots to check out. Including amazing street food.
However, I tend to stay away from the hotel zone where the meals are more expensive and the food is less authentic.
Walk into town, and off the popular street to find more casual and affordable options. It’s definitely enjoyable to eat at a restaurant on the beach or get drinks at the beachside bar but it’s worth mixing in some more affordable and authentic meals during your stay.
There are some great street vendors that usually sell tacos for very cheap and one of the most popular vendors is Antojitos la Chiapaneca which has tacos for roughly 50 cents each!
9. Rent a Bike or Stroll Around
Tulum is full of colorful buildings and beautiful views. Renting a bike or walking around town is a great way to spend a slow morning during your stay or before dinner spend some time building up your appetite and stroll around to sightsee.
Plus is if fun and you can get to more places in a day. Why not rent a bike and do some beach or taco hopping around town. You won’t regret it!
It’s a great perspective on Tulum and it provides a more cultural experience.
Akumal is about 30 minutes by car from downtown Tulum but it’s a very popular spot to visit. It’s known for being an amazing snorkeling location especially because it’s a hub among turtles.
There’s a good chance you’ll spot one while you’re out looking at all the marine life. You can snorkel right off the beach and it’s a popular nesting area among turtles and other sea life which is what makes it so special.
So if you are a bug turtle fan like myself you won’t want to miss this hot spot.
11. Visit Mystika
If normal museums put you to sleep, you will want to check out Mystika. It is an interactive museum that triggers all your senories. It is designed to not only stimulate your eyes but also your ears.
Mystika brings art to life. Enjoy different rooms and different sensations as you walk through an interactive art studio. Forget what you have thought about art museums in the past. This is bringing art into the 21st century.
Trust me you will not mind taking a break from the beach to enjoy and experience this place. It is a must-see for anyone coming to Tulum.
Tulum is a beautiful and lively city for tourists to spend a vacation. If you’re just looking for a relaxing getaway with the opportunity to live like a beach bum, you’ve definitely come to the right place.
Furthermore, if you’re hoping for a mix of relaxation and adventure it’s also a suitable location. There are plenty of things to do in Tulum or not do if that is what you enjoy.
- Make sure not to miss this Tulum Packing List