Tulum is far from just a sleepy fishing village. Tulum’s Yucatan Peninsula is a haven of thick jungle, Mayan ruins, and paradisiacal white sand beaches – essentially everything you want in a beautiful holiday to Mexico. There are so many things to do in Tulum, including that loveably cheesy photoshoot spot near the Tulum sign. You can visit ancient Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza, go cave diving in beautiful cenotes, or kick back at a beach club of your choice. Tulum adventures are everywhere.
In this guide, we’ll cover the very best things to do in Tulum. Tulum is fantastic for getting that ‘classic’ itinerary when visiting Mexico; Tulum is perfect for ticking off all the best Mayan ruins and beaches. We’ve got tons of great activities coming up for you – so sit tight and get ready to take note of these top Tulum things to do.
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Below are some of the top tours in Tulum. Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Mexico!
Top Activities and Tours in Tulum:
Chichen Itza is a big deal – consider it a celebrity status attraction. It is easily one of the most popular things to do in Tulum, albeit accessed by day trip. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a world-famous site of ancient Mayan ruins. When planning a Tulum itinerary, skipping Chichen Itza would be a crime. The complex was once an ancient Mayan city full of Mayan ruins, including the stunning step Temple of Kukulkan (the postcard picture of Chichen Itza). Many people mistakenly think that Chichen Itza is just a single temple. Still, the complex can take half a day to explore and fully appreciate.
This attraction is a 2-hour drive inland from Tulum. Be prepared to hire a car or book an experience, including public transportation. It is further, if not the furthest, of all the day trips. However, it is definitely the most famous and, as one of the 7 New Wonders of the World, worth carving out time to visit.
Tulum might be small, but it is mighty in terms of diving opportunities. Get off Tulum Beach and experience scuba diving; you can’t visit Tulum without truly experiencing its underwater world, and a scuba dive experience is much more immersive than snorkeling. News flash – scuba diving is incredible in Tulum. Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is offshore of Tulum; the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second largest coral reef in the world. It’s second only to the Barrier Reef in Australia. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is a breeding ground for a flurry of brightly colored tropical fish and larger animals like sharks, turtles, manta rays, and dolphins.
You can book diving tours from Tulum town to see the coral reefs. Many of these trips include transportation to a dive center; otherwise, you can just grab a taxi. It is easy to squeeze into a short period if you already have your PADI qualification, and if not, allocate a few days of your itinerary to getting the qualification first.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a massive natural park of 5,280 km2. It is just south of Tulum, further down into the state of Quintana Roo. Despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts fewer tourists. It is somewhere to visit for a real jungle experience, out in the remotest areas of Tulum’s coastline. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is one of the best things to do in Tulum to get ‘off the beaten track’. And it offers a more intense jungle experience than short hikes to cenotes and Tulum ruins.
The best way to experience the reserve is by guided tour. The park is so massive; you want some direction from a knowledgeable guide.
Playa del Carmen is known for its amazing beaches and resort city buzz. Only some people are cut out for days and days in a relatively sleepy town, so if you need a city fix, Playa del Carmen is where to take a day trip to. Consider this one of the best things to do in Tulum to get away from actual Tulum. We’d suggest walking Quinta Avenida – a promenade meets thoroughfare along the beachfront with restaurants and bars. You can enjoy significant museums and attractions like the 3D Museum of Wonders and Playacar Mayan Ruins.
Playa del Carmen is only a 50-minute drive north of Tulum. You can book a taxi or just organize a rental car or shuttle. By 2024, a train will connect the two major Yucatan destinations, so watch this space. Make sure to check out all the Best Things to do in Palya Del Carmen before you go.
Playa Paraiso translates exactly to Paradise Beach, and if that doesn’t sell you, we don’t know what will. The beach, we can attest, does look like paradise. Picture those slanted palm trees just made for climbing, white sand, and lulling waves – it is one of the best beaches in Mexico. You can grab food and snap pictures by its huge multi-colored sign; Paradise Beach is the main Tulum Beach, and it’s easy to see why it made our list of Best Beaches in Mexico.
Playa Paraiso is a 20-minute drive or an hour’s walk from the town center. If you choose to walk, you’ll pass through the Parque Nacional Tulum on foot. You could easily combine this with a visit to the Playa Ruinas, El Castillo, Casa de Cenote, and the beloved turtle beach, Playita Tortuga.
When it comes to beach clubs, head out of Tulum Pueblo instead of Tulum Beach. This neighborhood is packed with beach bars and clubs, and you can easily spend a day (or night) hopping between them before finally booking a taxi back to your hotel. This is the die-hard party strip, and you can expect extravagant cocktails and music at all hours. If you are a partier, beach club hopping is easily one of the most fun things to do in Tulum. A taxi ride will take as little as 10 minutes.
Chocolate lovers, leave Tulum Pueblo and head through the surrounding jungle to visit Chococacao Maya. This attraction takes you on an immersive experience where you transform your own cacao beans into a delicious chocolate dish. The experience is led by a knowledgeable guide. The most valuable part of this is the cultural exchange and insight into the importance of cacao and chocolate in Mayan history that you’ll leave with.
Chococacao Maya is a 40-minute drive from Tulum. However, it is located right next to the Nohoch Mul Pyramid and multiple cenotes – so it is easy to combine.
Cenote Calavera is a famous cenote that you’ve very likely seen before. The cenote is sat in a massive sinkhole with a wooden ladder teetering down the edge into the water. Of Tulum town’s nearby cenotes, Cenote Calavera is the one that is the most covered by the rock above. It has a natural cavern feel, which is atmospheric and makes for a unique swimming spot. Cenote Calavera is also just a 10-minute drive from Tulum Pueblo center if you need any more persuading.
Tulum Tower is like something out of War of the Worlds. The great spider-looking structure is more alien-looking than something a human has designed. For an entry ticket of around $40, you can scale the building to the top for a beautiful view over Tulum. If you visit Tulum and love scenic views, you know where to visit. Better yet, Tulum Tower is just a 10-minute drive or 40-minute walk from Tulum town center.
Parque Nacional Tulum is the best place for the underconfident driver to tackle a single-day road trip. You’ll be stopping and starting constantly with a full list of to-dos, many of which already feature in this guide. It neatly combines so many attractions into a single day, making it one of the best things to do in Tulum. There’s Playa Ruinas, the turtles at Playita Tortugas, and the infamous Tulum ruins. The total driving time will be less than an hour, but you’ll have so much to see that you can dedicate an entire day to the experience.
Parque dos Aguas is right in the middle of Tulum Center – so an easy fit into even the most packed of your itineraries. The little park is a constant hive of activity, with public sports areas and street food vendors selling tasty, traditional Mexican food and ice cream. Parque dos Aguas is a brilliant place to connect with the community. And the park gets even better when it hosts one of its regular street markets where you can buy handicrafts and splurge on souvenirs. Check out the schedule when you visit Tulum.
Tulum has a lot of gorgeous beaches, but Playa Ruinas takes the biscuit when it comes to dramatic appeal. This beach is a tiny strip of bright white sand with the remains of an ancient Mayan city overlooking it from a grassy cliff top. Visitors have both the beach and ruins to appreciate, and the beach is just 20 minutes from Tulum by car or an hour on foot through the Parque Nacional Tulum.
Escultura Ven a la Luz is an influencer’s paradise. The whole venue is designed for one big photoshoot, and you can snap pictures next to colossal statues made from rustic materials. While this attraction sits inside Ahau Hotel, you can pay a tiny fee to enter and see the best statues. If you are planning a beach day, it is a must-detour attraction.
Escultura Ven a la Luz is 20 minutes away from Tulum town by car or 30 minutes by bike. Situated in the Tulum Beach district, getting away from the town center for a bit of coastal buzz is brilliant.
The Muyil ruins are situated just on the outskirts of the vast Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. If you want old Mayan architecture, visiting these ruins is some of the best things to do in Tulum. The steep-walled pyramids are a much lesser photographed site, an ideal solution to avoiding the crowds that inevitably accrue outside sites like Chichen Itza. The Muyil ruins are quieter and much less trampled. And the actual site dates back as far as 300 BCE to 1500 CE.
The Muyil ruins are a 20-minute drive south of Tulum. Combine it with a visit to the biosphere reserve and Santuario de Cenotes – a beautiful cenote with barely any crowds compared to the cenotes scattered around Tulum Center.
Cenote Azul is one of the most incredible Mexican cenotes and things to do in Tulum. This cenote is 30 minutes from Tulum by car, but well worth the extra miles. The water is (as you might guess) a bright, bright blue. Despite its tinted color’s strength, you can also see all the way to the bottom. It is so clear. It is so clear, in fact, that you’ll be able to count all the tiny fish that inevitably give you a pedicure experience. Surrounded by tropical jungle, Cenote Azul is a top day trip from Tulum. It has that jungle aesthetic that many people pursue on a Tulum holiday.
Tankah is one of the prettiest things to do in Tulum. Absolutely breathtaking, the nature park is a beautiful collection of crystal-clear lagoons. You venture around the different lagoons using an exciting mix of trails – and even zip lines – with Mayan ruins and jungle dotted around the park to greet you as you walk. It is a beautiful place to spend a few hours, especially in the morning when the weather is cooler and less humid. Tankah perfectly blends together excitement and natural beauty.
Tankah is just a 20-minute drive from the town center. If you feel energetic, you can easily catch a taxi or bike there in about 30 minutes.
Seemingly arising out of just jungle and mangrove swamps, Cenote Escondido is one of Tulum’s most magical cenotes. Despite its proximity to the town center, Cenote Escondido feels remote and isolated – only accessible by a pretty rugged-looking hiking trail that takes 15 minutes to tackle.
Of course, all of these factors add to the adventurous element of visiting this cenote tenfold. You pay a fee at the trailhead and get unlimited daily access to the swimming hole. And at the cenote, there is a rope swing to jump into the water, plus changing rooms for the more shy tourists. While minimalistic, it definitely has everything you need for a refreshing afternoon.
Cenote Escondido is one of the best things to do in Tulum; beautiful, reasonably quiet, isolated, and just a 10-minute drive from Tulum town; it is a must for your Tulum itinerary. You can even cycle there in less than 15 minutes if you prefer to bike.
Casa Cenote is one of the all-time favorite cenotes near Tulum. While it is further away from the town center – 20 minutes by car – it is one of the largest cenotes in the area and is famous for diving and snorkeling. You can visit independently or on a guided tour. We’d suggest taking a scuba diving or snorkeling tour to get the most out of the experience; getting extra direction will help you engage better with wildlife and understand more about the cenote. Go for a swim, snorkel, or scuba dive and enjoy one of Tulum’s largest, most exciting cenotes.
Casa Cenote has the ‘big wide world factor’ and is an amplified version of other smaller cenotes. There is even a local crocodile called “Panchito” that you can see from a distance, and most tours take you to visit him before you finish. He is said to be very friendly, but we wouldn’t get too close. Aside from Panchito, there are tons of fish and wildlife in the surrounding jungle, too, often including little raccoons venturing down to look for a snack.
Tulum Centro is the main Downtown Tulum area and where you’ll find the best lowkey things to do in Tulum. This area has regular live music, Tulum shopping opportunities, and sometimes street parties. But despite its trendy oomph, it is also where to head when you fancy a relaxing day. Perhaps a day of shopping, casual cocktails, and kicking back with some traditional food. Tulum Centro is the ideal place to retreat once you’ve done your fair share of day trips and edge-of-your-seat-style activities in Tulum.
You can take a walking tour of Tulum Centro or visit by yourself. It is really fun to get lost in, and if you download Google Maps offline in case you need extra help with directions, you can’t go wrong with a good wander. We vote for including a few hours in Tulum Centro for a lazy morning when visiting Tulum.
Coba is an ancient Mayan city, and its full name is Zona Archeologica de Coba. The preservation is home to the highest pyramid in the Tulum area, Nohoch Mul, which sits dramatically in a jungle clearing. To reach Nohoch Mul, you’ll first need to hike for nearly 40 minutes through the jungle. It is one of the most active things to do on a day trip from Tulum, and super adventurous and atmospheric. If you want an active experience of a Mayan pyramid, the Coba ruins are your best choice. These Mayan ruins are also much quieter than Chichen Itza – keep that in mind when crowd dodging.
Coba is a 45-minute drive inland from Tulum. It is a scenic drive through heaps of jungle and past many major cenotes. You can always rent a car and make a full day of it, combing cenote hopping with the Coba ruins. Otherwise, book a guided tour with roundtrip transport included from Tulum.
Speaking of significant cenotes, Gran Cenote is one of the most beautiful things to do in Tulum. And, only a 10-minute drive or 15-minute cycle from the town center, this cenote is also one of the most convenient things to do in Tulum. This cenote is a glass-blue pool with limestone rock and a spectacular cavern. You access the cenote via a flight of steep steps, stepping down into the pool partially underground in a massive sink-hole-type-structure. To visit the cenote, you can swim and snorkel or stay on the main boardwalk, providing a beautiful, scenic view.
Gran Cenote has incredible wildlife. If you opt to swim, you can see turtles, fish, and even bats or birds if you take a peak into the cavern. We don’t throw the word magical around often, but the cenote ticks that box. Climbing down into the cenote adds to that mystical allure, creating one of the most unique swimming spots you’ll ever experience.
Okay, let’s take a brief pause from all these beautiful cenotes. Next up is a pastel-turquoise lake called Laguna de Kaan Luum. Laguna de Kaan Luum is stunning, stretching as far as the eye can see in a vast expanse of shallow, pastel-blue water. The lake is shallow and perfect for swimming – people use the nearby swimming pier when not admiring the water from a swinging hammock. There are also tons of traditional beach huts with food and drink available. Laguna de Kaan Luum’s winning quality is best appreciated aerially, though; in the lake’s center, there is a vast dark blue patch of deeper water. Laguna de Kaan Luum has a beautiful natural coloring, and the different depths create a characteristic pattern of varying color blues.
The lake is just a 15-minute drive from Tulum or a (quite challenging) 40-minute bike ride. You’ll pass a few cenotes on your way. It is a brilliant spot to spend a handful of hours, especially in the late afternoon when you want a refreshing dip.
Punta Laguna nature reserve is another spectacular lake near Tulum. However, instead of stunning watercolor patterns, you can expect two specific animals – howler and spider monkeys at this attraction. Visiting Punta Laguna nature reserve is one of the best things to do in Tulum for any animal lover. The spider monkeys at the reserve are completely free, and it is a really ethical way to get up close to them. You can also take ziplines around the reserve as an extra fun touch.
A 50-minute drive from Tulum town, this nature reserve is the place for ethical wildlife watching and a great day trip. We recommend it for families as a zoo alternative.
By now, we have established that Tulum has a lot of things to do. You’ll be twitching in your seats – absolutely ready to sightsee Tulum with a vigor that would impress even the hardiest of sightseeing tourists. Let’s face it. The allure of cave diving into one of Tulum’s awesome cenotes is hard to resist.
Before you go, though, take note of this essential section on the practicalities of enjoying your visit to Tulum.
Tulum is most easily reached via a direct flight to Cancun International Airport. Cancun Airport has a regularly scheduled flight fleet, connecting Mexico with major countries like the US and many cities across Europe and South America. It is an absolute hub for arriving in Mexico by plane and only a 2-hour shuttle away from Tulum. You can land at Cancun Airport and then book a taxi or shuttle or hire a car to get to Tulum.
Another option is to road trip to Tulum if you are already within driving distance. If this sounds like the idea for you, just keep an eye on regular Mexico security updates so you can avoid any areas of particular unrest. The options are limitless, though. Some people even road trip from the US to Mexico – exciting.
Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming train line being built to connect Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum too. A new Mayan train will connect all the major Yucatan Peninsula hubs and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023. This will make traveling from Cancun International Airport massively more straightforward. And it will also mean that you can get to Tulum from numerous points on the peninsula without needing a car or expensive shuttle.
Tulum is super easy to get around. The town center is so compact that it is easily fully experienced on foot. At the same time, the outskirts can be reached by hiring bikes – keeping things as eco-friendly as possible. The town center is where you’ll find all the Tulum shopping and central facilities, while the beach area is where you’ll find all your clubs and beach day opportunities. The two main areas of Tulum are split by Avenida Coba, which you can tackle by bike or taxi.
Getting around Tulum is manageable without a car, but we’d suggest hiring a car if you want to do day trips. With a rental car, you’ll have complete freedom and can head to some of the most exciting attractions in the surrounding area. Otherwise, you can use Tulum taxis and organize excursions for day trips. Most tours include roundtrip transportation, eliminating the whole ‘how do I get there’ conundrum.
The general consensus is that Tulum is best visited in November. Or at a push, very early December. This season is in the shoulder season, meaning it comes just before the December to April frenzy of partiers and flashing cameras. You get the warm weather and beautiful sights without all the mania. Prices are slightly cheaper as well.
Many people question ‘is Tulum safe,’ and the answer is that it is much safer out of hurricane season (September and October) and peak tourist season when crowds make it easier for pickpocketers and petty criminals. And if you want to tick off many things to do in Tulum, planning a trip with fewer crowds is handy. Therefore, stick to the November shoulder season window, and you’ll have a wonderful time visiting Tulum.
Tulum is known for Mayan ruins and natural wonders. You’ll spend mornings on Tulum Beach or Tulum Pueblo and then take day trips to adventure in the Mayan jungle and cenotes.
3 days are just enough in Tulum. You’ll be able to visit Chichen Itza and a handful of main attractions, but not enjoy the endless day trips and really get a taste of Mexican culture in Tulum. 5 to 7 days in Tulum is much better if you want to get ‘enough’ of the town and all it offers.
We’d say definitely. Tulum is miles more authentic than Cancun and is not ruined by a glossy strip with thousands of tourists arriving daily. For a beach town alternative, it is a must.
In two days in Tulum, you should visit one of the cenotes or Chichen Itza. You should then enjoy a beach club and Tulum’s beach town culture.
Tulum is impossible not to love. The town is beautiful – from the Tulum ruins to Tulum Beach. And it is the ideal tourist destination for anyone wanting to truly experience Mexico off the Cancun strip.
When it comes to Tulum accommodation, there is a massive selection of luxury hotels and resorts. Just check out our guide on the best Tulum all-inclusive resorts – the beach town even has some of the best adults-only all-inclusive in Mexico. So besides searching for the best things to do in Tulum, dedicate ample time to sifting through its throngs of five-star beach view resorts with white sand beaches and Hollywood-worthy swimming pools. Tulum is such an experience.
And once you’ve visited Tulum, feel free to head across the rest of the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula. A Yucatan Peninsula road trip is one way to see the rest of the region. You can get out for several days, weeks, or even months. With a road trip, you can hop along the best beaches in Mexico and taste the region. It is one of the most exciting ways to experience the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula – so if you are adventurous, set this idea aside as a must.