Tulum is a destination where you can explore ancient cultures and ruins, bask in some of the world’s most prestigious beaches, and delve deep into the untouched jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, all within a short drive from the heart of town.
There is plenty to see and do, and it can be difficult to pack it all into a single trip. That is why I have comprised this list of 12 of my personal favorite things to do in Tulum to help you get the most out of your holiday to the beautiful centerpiece of the Riviera Maya.
The 12 Best Things to Do in Tulum, Mexico
1. Visit the Tulum Archeological Site
Explore Centuries of History at the Tulum Ruins.
The Yucatan Peninsula is full of wondrous ancient Mayan ruins to explore, but the most famous of these sites is the Tulum Archeological Site.
Nestled along the shoreline, the Tulum ruins were once a bustling trading hub dating back to the 13th century and continue to attract thousands of visitors each year thanks to their preserved monuments overlooking the turquoise water of its beautiful white sand beach.
The archaeological site offers several guided tours, including this ruin and cenote tour package. However, the site also offers self-guided admission for exploring the grounds at your own pace.
While the site isn’t the largest complex of ancient ruins in the Yucatan, it has become one of the most popular in recent years and can often become crowded during the high season.
Be sure to arrive at the archeological site early in the morning to avoid the afternoon crowds.
2. Lounge in the Sun at a World Class Beach
Enjoy the Tropical Caribbean Setting Along a Pristine Beach.
Located along the Riviera Maya, Tulum offers several ways for visitors to dip into the crystal-clear water of the Caribbean, ranging from easy access to public beaches to private beach clubs.
Known to be one of the most beautiful beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa Paraiso is the perfect place to soak in the Mexican sun and offers free public access to the region’s breathtaking coast. While the beach is free to access, it does feature several beach clubs and restaurants offering beach chairs and umbrellas for an extra cost.
Alternatively, Tulum’s South Beach offers a pristine coastal setting free from the crowding of the more open beaches. Located along Tulum’s South Beach Road, this stretch of white sand is more difficult to access and requires visitors to stay at one of the area’s luxury hotels or rent a daybed at a beach club.
3. Explore a Cenote
Dip Into the World’s Largest Underground River System in a Natural Sinkhole.
Beyond its beaches and historic ruins, one of the top things to do in Tulum is to swim in one of its many natural cenotes.
Dozens of these wondrous sinkholes are found across the Yucatan Peninsula and offer visitors access to the world’s largest underground river system, which weaves its way underneath the Riviera Maya.
Several of these cenotes are easily accessible from Tulum, and each offers a unique experience. While these cenotes make for great swimming sites, some offer an even more immersive experience and the best way to see them is via a cenotes tour which can include archeological sites, relics, and even diving centers.
Some of the best cenotes near Tulum include;
- Gran Cenote – Tulum’s most popular cenote, great for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
- Cenote dos Ojos – Popular for its cave diving.
- Casa Cenote – Great for a natural swimming experience.
- Cenote Calavera – Offers a more active swimming experience with diving and rope swings.
4. Take a Ziplining Tour
Explore the Canopies along an Adrenaline Pumping Adventure.
One of the most fun things to do in Tulum and a great way to explore the Yucatan is to tour the region along an adrenaline-pumping zipline weaving its way through the lush jungle canopies.
While ziplining can be found in several nearby spots, including at several of the region’s cenotes, the best place to experience this thrilling adventure is the Selva Maya Eco Adventure Park.
The adventure park features four hours of fun over nine ziplines, each offering breathtaking jungle views.
After exploring the treetops, visitors to the park explore five rooftop bridges and partake in rock climbing and grappling before finishing their trip with a cooling dip in the onsite cenote.
5. Day Trip to Chichen Itza
Marvel at One of the New Wonders of the World.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, Chichen Itza is a world-famous ancient Mayan complex dating back over a millennium and is even considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
While exact dates are unknown, it is believed that Chichen Itza thrived as a central city of the region between the fifth century and 13th century A.D. before its rapid decline into centuries-long obscurity until it was rediscovered in 1841.
Chichen Itza is about a two-hour drive from Tulum and can be reached via a rental car. Alternatively, visitors can also arrange for a Chichen Itza Tour from Tulum, which often includes transportation, entrance to the park, and an informative guide.
6. Visit the Coba Ruins
Escape the Crowds at Tulum’s Most Underrated Ruins.
While Chichen Itza is Mexico’s most famous ruins, it is also the most crowded. Instead, visitors looking to escape the tourist swarms can visit off-the-beaten-path destinations, such as the Coba Ruins, less than 50 kilometers from Tulum town.
Boasting far fewer crowds than at the more popular Tulum Archeological Site or Chichen Itza, the Coba Ruins are a great place to get up close and personal with the region’s ancient cultural landmarks.
Like Chichen Itza, the ruins of Coba date back to between the 5th century and 9th century A.D. However, the area has been inhabited since 50 B.C. and boasts over two thousand years of ancient traditions.
Even better, it is one of the only places in Mexico where visitors are permitted to climb up the large Mayan pyramid at its heart.
7. Day Trip to Playa del Carmen
Enjoy the Upscale Beach Vibes of Mexico’s Famous Resort Town.
Playa del Carmen may be known for its all-inclusive resorts, but it also serves as a fantastic day trip destination from Tulum for those looking to experience its blue waters and white sands without dishing over the expense of staying at a luxury hotel.
Located about a one-hour drive from Tulum, Playa del Carmen features much more development and is the best place in the Yucatan for enjoying a relaxing beach day with many onsite amenities, such as shopping centers, beach clubs, and attractions.
The city’s downtown shopping area is a great spot for picking up souvenirs, while other nearby attractions and activities include the Frida Kahlo Museum, the Parque Los Fundadores, the 3D Museum of Wonders, and the Xcaret Water Park.
With so much to see and do, Playa del Carmen promises a full day of adventures and is easily explored via a day trip from Tulum.
8. Swim with Sea Turtles at Akumal Beach
Snorkel with the Aquatic Life in a Breathtaking Bay
Tulum’s Caribbean waters are renowned for their varied and vibrant sea life. And thanks to its shallow shores and warm waters, Akumal Bay is the best spot in the area for getting up close and personal with the aquatic life and is even home to one of the region’s largest populations of sea turtles.
Visitors are permitted to snorkel within the bay independently or as part of a guided snorkeling tour. However, if you do plan on visiting on your own, be sure to arrive early enough to avoid the larger tour groups,
9. Rent a Bike and Explore Tulum Town
Explore Tulum’s Highlights at Your Own Pace.
While the Tulum Ruins and Tulum Beach seem to get all of the glory when talking about the popular Riviera Maya destination, there is also a third area of the region: Tulum Town.
Also known as Tulum Pueblo, Tulum Town is the heart of the modern community of Tulum and is home to the region’s businesses, restaurants, cafes, and stores.
While many of the town’s most popular facilities can be reached on foot, renting a bicycle is the best way to explore the entire region. Not only will you be able to get to all of the community’s most famous establishments, but you can also combine your biking tour with a trip over to one of the nearby beaches or the ancient ruins.
While you can easily explore the area by bike on your own, booking a guided bike tour is the best way to ensure you see all of the top highlights, enjoy the best street tacos, and explore the local culture.
10. Explore the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Connect with the Yucatan’s Natural Side.
Translating to “Entrance to the Sky” in English, Sian Ka’an is another of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites near Tulum and is a must-visit attraction as one of the Riviera Maya’s largest protected habitats, covering 5280 square kilometers.
Home to some of the most abundant biodiversity in the country, Sian Ka’an offers an in-depth exploration of the region’s natural landscapes and indigenous species. It is home to a wide array of flora and fauna, including monkeys, dolphins, sea turtles, and over 300 bird species.
Beyond the local wildlife, the natural preserve also features over 23 Mayan archeological sites, each overgrown with vegetation, providing an untouched exploration of the ancient Mayan culture.
11. Swim in Laguna Kaan Luum
Cool Off in a Large Freshwater Swimming Hole.
While technically a large open-air cenote fed from the underground river system, the Laguna Kaan Luum is more like a small lake perfect for freshwater swimming.
Surrounded by dense jungle, Laguna Kaan Luum promises an exotic setting for enjoying the cooling swimming hole, which is divided into varying depths, promising every shade of blue imaginable.
Thanks to its natural setting, the popular swimming spot does not feature much development and boasts only basic amenities such as a boardwalk reaching the center of the pool, a picture-perfect wood swing, and several sitting spots around the pool.
While the lagoon is just slightly out of walking distance, at about 10 kilometers from town, it is easily accessible by bike or car, making it one of the most popular places to swim near Tulum.
12. Take a Dip with Tulum’s Whale Sharks.
Swim Alongside the World’s Largest Shark Species.
Among the region’s most alluring marine species is the enigmatic whale shark, famous as the largest shark species in the world. However, don’t let their size deter you. Whale sharks are docile creatures that feed on plankton and small fish.
To ensure safe swimming practices, be sure to book a guided snorkeling tour before submerging with the magnificent creatures.