Perched right on the coastline of the Yucatan peninsular, Tulum is a gem of a place to explore when in Mexico. With a perfect mix of Mayan ruins, paradise beaches and cosy coastal towns, there’s a shed load of the best things to do in Tulum that are dotted all around the town and wider region.
Honestly, Tulum is the kind of place you can easily spend your whole holiday. We loved our visit to the Yucatan Peninsular and flew into Cancun and explored so much of the coastline and inner historic spots.
So, rather than getting bogged down with all the planning, I wanted to share some of our very favourite spots you have to visit when in Tulum. All are within easy reach of Tulum and, best of all, you can easily organise tours even if you’re not driving!
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Tulum. Have an epic time in Mexico!
1.) See the ancient Mayan City
Steeped in hundreds of years of history, the ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum are incredible to see.
Not only that, it’s one of the best things to do in Tulum if you want to explore Mayan civilisation and learn more about their vast cities in Mexico.
Perched high on the cliffs, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the gorgeous ruins stand proudly and can be still walked around to this day.
To make things easier, book this Tulum Ruins tour that will pick you up from Playa del Carmen (and other places). This way, you don’t need to worry about any of the faff of getting there; or queuing for tickets once you arrive in Tulum.
Not only that, you’ll get to swim with turtles on this Tulum tour.
If you’re doing it alone (still a great option), make sure to buy your National Park tickets as you enter the site. You will be given a wristband to enter the Tulum National Park site and then you need to pay again to enter the ruins. The latter payment only takes cash and they don’t give change; so a heads up on this.
Now, if you want to learn more about the ruins and the individual sites, hire a guide for a tour that you can pick up just outside the entrance. We’re glad we did this as there are quite limited signs once inside. Also, they do barter on price slightly, so it’s not a fixed cost as it says on their laminates.
Just remember to take some water around with you! We forgot and I was so parched as it gets really hot around midday.
2.) Visit the Cenotes around Tulum
If you are visiting Tulum, you have to organise a trip to the region’s iconic cenotes that are dotted all across the area. These vast sinkholes are probably best described as an underground cave where the ceiling has caved in! They’re incredible to see and one of the best things to do in Tulum that you really cannot miss.
Now, one of the most popular to visit has to be the Gran Cenote. Only a 10-minute drive from the Mayan ruins, it’s really easy to visit. There’s an entry fee to get inside and it’s worth renting a locker for peace of mind, too.
The water is totally pristine here; we could have spent all day paddling around!
Another great spot is the Casa Cenote where the water is, once again, crystal clear. This is a great spot for snorkelling and it’s a pretty long cenote where you can spend hours exploring.
For some great snorkelling, head over to Cenotes Sac Actún that’s around a 30-minute drive from the centre of Tulum. Here, you can head on a swimming tour (with a life jacket and wetsuit) through the cenote and see the incredible stalactites inside.
One note, with all cenotes, try not to take too many valuables with you. Petty theft (from lockers/cars/bags) does sometimes happen and it’s best to leave excess cash, and jewellery at your hotel.
To make things easier, book this cenote cycle tour from Tulum that’s so incredible. It’s a five-hour tour and not too hard at all as the area around Tulum is nice and flat. You’ll get to see two gorgeous cenotes and have lunch in the countryside, too.
Alternatively, book this cenote and Coba Mayan ruins tour which is gorgeous. You’ll get to go swimming in a gorgeous cenote and stop off at Coba to explore the nearby ruins.
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 wanna miss, especially if you’ve got a good few hours to chill in the surf and sand.
Paradise Beach is probably one of the more popular (but still pristine) beaches in the area. This doesn’t make it bad I’d probably say it’s good if you want the convenience of having some foodie spots, loungers and easy access to Tulum itself.
Though, just be aware it can draw bigger crowds than some of the other beaches in the area.
On the same stretch, Santa Fe Beach is closer to the Mayan ruins where you can find and enjoy small bars and restaurants. The local vendors love a good haggle to get you to eat and chill at their venue – so be prepared to bargain!
You might even spot some turtles along the coast! Just remember to wear plenty of UV block or water t-shirts when looking for turtles. I burnt my back red-raw (even with SPF) when snorkelling the shoreline.
Alternatively, head slightly further south to the Tulum Beach Strip. This is where the likes of Bagatelle and many of the cool beach clubs and restaurants are located. Ilios is a great restaurant on ‘the strip’ and so is Arca.
Though, they can get busy at peak times; so book a table in advance.
Oh, and don’t forget you can see the famous statue created by the artist Daniel Popper called Ven a la Luz. You do need to pay a small fee (around 5 USD) to see the statue and be prepared for a queue in the heat and sun.
Typically, queues can be anywhere from 15-90 minutes.
4.) Chichen Itza
Yes, I know… it’s not Tulum but you really can’t miss this spot when in the Yucatan Peninsular.
Chichen Itza is one of the most popular spots to see in Mexico and a historical site that’s around a 2-hour drive from Tulum. With well over a thousand years of history, Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city with a colossal pyramid (El Castillo) that you can’t miss.
Now, you can easily spend a good few hours wandering the protected Chichen Itza site and learning more about its thriving past. It’s awe-inspiring to see; we loved it.
Oh, and Just remember, you can haggle with the tour guides when you visit. They tend to inflate their prices for visitors but it’s well worth it. It brings the whole site to life as information is limited ‘on the ground’.
5.) Lake Bacalar
Over 40km long, Lake Bacalar is massive and one of the best things to do in Tulum if you’re heading south of the town. Yes, it will take around 2.5 hours to get here from Tulum itself but it’s great for a day trip, especially if you’re looking for something a little different.
You see, it’s known locally as the ‘lake of seven colours’, it’s a spot that’s great to chill and take in the blue and green hues that make the waters so special here.
Apart from soaking in the sun and relaxing all day, there’s a heap of other activities to fill your day. From kayaking, boat tours or paddle boarding, it’s stunning.
6.) Mexican dishes
Okay, for me, after all the Mayan sites it’s the Mexican food that I love most!
From the most delicious; birrias (meat stew), burritos, pozole (corn broth) and lashings of guacamole, you’ll be in for a feast.
Of course, you’ll find lots of vendors across the streets of Tulum but there’s also a heap of tasty restaurants and beachside spots to grab a tasty bite.
For a tasty dinner, in a cool bar in Tulum Central, then head to La Guarida.
Their incredible cocktails and mole are so good. Plus, the whole venue has such a vibe and is like a rabbit warren of little rooms and live music to explore into the early hours of the morning.
Also, for some of the best tacos, head straight to Taqueria Honorio. The place itself doesn’t look like a gem, but trust me their tacos are so delicious and fresh.
7.) Visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere
Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visiting the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is easily one of the best things to do in Tulum if you love a good adventure.
It is considered one of the best spots in Mexico for biodiversity in this wetland region. Though, it can be tough to navigate yourself. If you’re thinking of visiting, be sure to book this incredible tour from Riviera Maya and make it easier to visit as the roads can be quite bad in parts and it’s not the easiest to navigate.
Once here, it’s a stunning place for a swim and you might even spot some green turtles and dolphins, too!
8.) See Kaan Luum
Around a 15-minute drive from Tulum, Kaan Luum is a huge round lake inland from the Caribbean shoreline that’s too beautiful to miss.
It’s one of the best things to do in Tulum, especially if you want to see a unique part of this region. Just be aware, you’re not allowed to wear sunscreen inside the lake itself. This means you should grab a good UV wet shirt to wear whilst snorkelling or kayaking.
To make things easier, book this Kaan Luun tour from Riviera Maya that will take out all the hassle of transport. Plus, you’ll stop off for a delicious lunch all before heading back to your hotel.
Want to beat the crowds? Go first thing in the morning, it’s significantly quieter (though, there’s room for everyone).
9.) Ancient Mayan City of Coba
Roughly a 40-minute drive from Tulum, it’s one of the best things to do in Tulum when you want to explore more Mayan heritage of the Yucatan peninsular.
This tour lasts around 12 hours and takes you all around Coba before stopping off at a unique cenote. Just be sure to book this tour in advance; tickets sell out fast at peak times.
10.) The Mayan site of Muyil (Chunyaxché)
If you’ve got time, head out of Tulum to the ruins of Muyil (about 20 minutes away from Tulum). It’s so impressive and a total must if you love Mayan history as it’s one of the earliest Mayan settlements in the whole area around Yucatan.
You can easily partner this up with a visit to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, especially on an arranged tour. This makes it a perfect day trip and a total breeze!