Top 15 Things to do in Tulum – Complete 2019 Guide

Our first trip to Tulum was almost a decade ago and over the past 10 years, we have visited Tulum more than a dozen times and spent the better part of a year living in Playa del Carmen just north of Tulum. We have seen Tulum change and grow with popularity, but this is still one of our favorite places with some of the best beaches on the planet. There are so many things to do in Tulum we recommend spending the better part of a week here to take in all of the attractions.

Lying on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Tulum is an absolute dream to visit. Tulum offers the perfect mix of history, culture, cuisine, and nature. Awe-inspiring Mayan ruins rise dramatically from amongst the dense jungle, and idyllic white-sand beaches are bordered by the sparkling Caribbean Sea.

A trip to Tulum can be as peaceful or as adventurous as you like. Scuba diving in cenotes and trekking through the jungle can be balanced out with lazy days spent lying on the beach. As you can imagine, it really does make for an incredible holiday destination!

The charming town of Tulum has a sleepy, laidback vibe to it, and Tulum feels a million miles away from its two popular neighbors, Playa del Carmen and Cancun, which lie to the north. Consequently, Tulum is the perfect place for people who are looking to get to know the more authentic side of Mexico while still enjoying beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, and much, much more.

Make sure to read our how to get to Tulum guide for the easiest ways from the Cancun airport.

With so much to see and do, we came up with a list of our favorite things to do in Tulum to help you make the most of your time in this part of the world. Let’s take a look and see what Tulum has on offer!


woman cliff jumping at Calavera Cenote - Tulum Mexico

1. Visit a Few Cenotes in Tulum

No trip to Tulum would be complete without visiting at least a few of its incredible cenotes in Tulum. There are a number of these amazing sinkholes located not far from Tulum, and each of them has its own unique attraction.

Some are better for swimming and snorkeling in, while others are located in a more stunning setting such as in a cave or amongst the thick, overgrown jungle. It is well worth doing a little bit of research before setting off, just so you know what’s in store for you, so you can head to the one, two or three cenotes which most appeal to you!

Among the most popular cenotes in Tulum are El Gran Cenote and Casa Cenote. Both have breathtakingly beautiful scenery for you to enjoy as you swim in their glistening turquoise waters.

Due to their popularity, they can get a bit crowded, however, so it is also well worth stopping by a couple of less well-known cenotes. The three cenotes of Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha, and Multum-Ha are all clustered together and make for a lovely day out, as they are each set in amazing craggy caves.

woman standing in a sunbeam inside Cenote Suytun near Valladolid mexico

Our undoubted favorite cenote in Mexico of all though was Cenote Suytun. Where a gigantic cave surrounds the cenote’s tranquil turquoise waters – definitely check it out if you have the chance! Another one of our favorites Cenote Calavera is located just outside of Tulum and can be easily biked to from town. The only way to enter this cenote is by jumping in either two small holes or the giant opening and then climbing back out on the rope.

Make sure to only use reef safe sunscreen, get a bottle on Amazon online here. Most cenotes will not allow regular sunscreen

Cenote Tours in Tulum

If you want to visit more than one cenote, or don’t want to rent a car in Mexico consider joining a cenote tour. There are several tours in Tulum that combine many of Tulum’s attractions.


Diver Swimming along the top of El Pit Cenote near Tulum Mexico

2. Go Scuba Diving in a Cenote

If all the incredible scenery above ground at the cenotes wasn’t enough, you could also go scuba diving in some of them. Cenote diving really does make for a unique and unforgettable experience! Despite the inhospitable look to the cenotes’ caves and caverns, the waters below the surface are often home to lots of amazing marine life.

Adam went scuba diving in Cenote El Pit, and it turned out to be one of his favorites things to do in Tulum, as the underwater scenery was simply spectacular. With cave walls surrounding us and beams of light piercing down into the cenote’s deep waters, scuba diving in El Pit made for an eerie yet magical dive that we certainly won’t forget any time soon!

If you are not dive certified there are cenote dives for first-time diver’s! There are several different cenote dive options, here are some of the best options:


Woman standing at the tulum ruins near Grand Palladium Riviera Maya

3. Explore the only Sea Side Tulum Ruins

Perched on a clifftop overlooking glorious golden beaches and the sparkling waters of the Caribbean, the Tulum Ruins are set in a stunning location and are a must-see when in town. With verdant jungle rising around them, the well-preserved ruins make for some fantastic photos; the Mayan Pyramid is the highlight of what’s on show, alongside the Temple of the Frescoes.

Wandering around the fascinating archaeological site is one of the main things to do in Tulum, and one of the reasons why more and more people are starting to visit the laidback town. We’d advise going early in the morning, as the midday heat can get a bit oppressive.

Visiting Tulum Ruin Tips

  1. Go early! – Tulum Ruins are one of the most visited places in the Yucatan and the most popular thing to do in Tulum. The sooner you can get in the better shot you have at visiting before the tour buses.
  2. Apply Sunscreen – Sadly there isn’t much shade in the ruins, so apply tons of sunscreen.
  3. Bring Water – No matter what time of year or day you visit, it’ll be hot. Make sure to stay hydrated and bring water with you.
  4. Pack a swimsuit – After exploring the ruins make sure to head down to the beach and cool off.

4. Head to Mateo’s treehouse bar for a sunset you won’t forget anytime soon!

If you love sunsets & happy hours like us, there is no better place than Mateo’s. Mateo’s Mexican Grill is one of the best restaurants in Tulum that you have to head to at least once. It is renowned for its fabulous sunsets. Located on the beachfront, the restaurant/bar has a fun, friendly, and festive feel. The best spot to head to is its beautiful treehouse.

Sitting on the treehouse’s terrace while watching the sunset over the jungle and the Caribbean is the perfect way to end another great day in paradise. As well as the lively atmosphere and chilled out feel to Mateo’s, the food is also worth checking out if you’re after some good Tex Mex!


5. Enjoy a Sumptuous Dinner at El Asadero

Located in the center of Tulum, El Asadero is definitely one of the best restaurants in Tulum that we came across and is very popular amongst locals and tourists alike. We’ve celebrated two wedding anniversaries here. El Asadero serves up delicious Mexican BBQ, the restaurant’s signature dish, Arrachera steak, will melt in your mouth it is that good! One of us always orders the Arrachera steak, it’s our favorite dish in Tulum.

As well as all the amazing meat dishes, the atmospheric El Asadero also has some great tacos, vegetarian meals, and cocktails for you to sample. Due to its popularity, you may have to book in advance if you don’t want to end up queuing for one of its indoor or outdoor tables. We also call ahead and reserve a table, there is always a wait but it’s worth the wait. Average dinner for two with four drinks $20-40 USD depending on mains and beverages.


Woman swimming with sea turtles in Akumal

6. Swim with the Sea Turtles in Akumal Bay!

If you’re after a magical experience, you just can’t miss out on swimming with sea turtles at Akumal Bay! While Akumal is also home to a beautiful beach, the majestic sea turtles are what most people come to Akumal Beach for. Swimming with sea turtles next to them as they peacefully make their way beneath the waves is an incredible thing to do.

There is lots of beautiful marine life on show in the bay; as well as sea turtles, and you’ll also see beautiful corals, parrotfish, and more. Remarkably enough, swimming with the turtles is free, so all you need to do is bring some snorkeling gear with you!

Tips For Swimming with the Sea Turtles in Akumal

  1. Bring your own snorkel gear – If you can bring your own mask & snorkel, you can get a cheap set on Amazon here OR you can rent some at the Akumal Dive Center.
  2. Sea Turtle Tours are Optional – You will be told you must join a tour in order to go swimming with the sea turtles. This is NOT true! You can go swimming on your own and
  3. Respect the Turtles – Keep your distance and DO NOT touch the sea turtles.
  4. Bring Reef Safe Sunscreen – Make sure to only use reef safe sunscreen, which is sunscreen without the ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate. These two chemicals are harmful to sea life and believed to cause coral bleaching. Purchase a bottle here on Amazon for, our favorite brand is Sun Bum.

7. Explore the Amazing Coba Ruins

While the Coba Ruins may not be quite as impressive as those found in Tulum, they are still well worth checking out if you have the chance. Because fewer visitors stop by the archaeological site, you’ll get to explore the Coba Ruins in peace and quiet.

Located just a short drive away from the town center, you’ll discover crumbling pyramids emerging before you from the thick jungle. Visiting Coba ended up being one of our favorite day trips from Tulum!

Can you still climb Coba Ruins? YES! Make sure to climb to the top of the tallest pyramid for a spectacular view of the surrounding jungle.

You can book a private tour and go at your own pace or join a group tour for the best price. There are tons of Coba Ruins tours that visit some of the best things to do in Tulum and the surrounding area. Here are some of the best value tours:


Drone photo of El Canal de los Piratas - Bacalar Mexico - Pirates Canal from above

8. Take a Day Trip to Bacalar

Lying around a two and a half-hour drive to the south of Tulum, the chilled out town of Bacalar is a delightful place to visit if you have the time. Located on the shores of the glistening Lake Bacalar and surrounded by beautiful jungle vegetation.

Bacalar is a peaceful and relaxing spot that is more authentic and traditional Mexican than many other places along the coast. Make sure to read our in-depth Bacalar guide before traveling.

Bacalar makes for a great day trip from Tulum for those interested in learning a bit more about Mexico’s rich cultural heritage. In addition to all the culture and nature on show, Bacalar has lots of exciting water sports for you to try out, as well as its own amazing cenotes and archaeological sites.

If you opt to not rent a car in Mexico, you can book a day trip to Bacalar from Tulum or Playa del Carmen.


Playa del Carmen travel guide - Things to do in Playa del Carmen - Valladolid Red building with a woman standing

9. Explore More of the Yucatan Peninsula by taking a Day Trip to Valladolid

Valladolid is located in the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula just an hour and a half’s drive from Tulum. The small city of Valladolid has a ton of great things for you to see and do. With its beautiful colonial-era center, just one of its many highlights.

Wandering around Valladolid is a perfect way to spend the day. We love all the gorgeous old churches, fantastic architecture, and interesting museums, you’ll sample some delicious local cuisine.

While it is undoubtedly a charming place, Valladolid is also located not too far from many other amazing attractions in Mexico. Some people use Valladolid as a base from which to visit the best ruins in Mexico like Chichen Itza or one of the other incredible archaeological sites such as Ek Balam.

Well off the beaten path, Valladolid certainly has enough to keep you entertained for at least a day or two!

Every time we take a day trip to Coba, Chichen Itza, or the pink lake we spend a few hours in Valladolid. We always have lunch at El Meson del Marques, their tableside guacamole is a MUST.


10. Learn Spanish!

If you’ve been meaning to learn Spanish but haven’t got around to it, then why not try and make a start in Tulum? There are several language schools in Tulum scattered around town.

While some people take just week-long courses, other visitors end up staying for months. We took a week of private one on one Spanish classes. Our classes were in the morning, which left our afternoons and evening open to exploring.

Tulum is the perfect place to learn Spanish, or at least make a good go of it! Native Spanish speakers surround you, and there are many things to do in Tulum before or after class with all the beautiful natural attractions.

Spanish Schools in Tulum


11. Rent a Bike and Explore the Beaches

As Tulum is kind of split up into three different parts, it is worth renting a bike to get around while you’re there. The first place you’ll want to head to is almost certainly one of its breathtakingly beautiful and best beaches in Mexico!

While there are many lovely beaches in the surrounding area, the two you have to visit are Playa Ruinas, with its incredible Mayan ruins, and the aptly named Playa Paraiso, which is as idyllic as they come.

Relaxing on the beach after a short cycle ride is one of the best things to do in Tulum. You’ll find it hard to drag yourself away from the dazzling white sand and glimmering turquoise waters once it comes time to head home.

If renting a bike isn’t your thing there are plenty of taxi’s that run back and forth from Tulum town to the beaches. Make sure to agree on a set price ahead of time, and have exact change when possible.


12. Enjoy Fresh Fish Tacos at Taqueria La Eufemia on Tulum Beach

For some of the best fresh fish tacos we’ve ever come across, you should head to the fantastic Taqueria La Eufemia! The small beachside taco stand is hidden away amongst the trees along the beachfront, with the Caribbean Sea lying right before it. It really does make for an incredible setting.

With a lovely, laidback feel to it, Taqueria La Eufemia has lots of hammocks and canopied beds for you to kick back and relax in, all while enjoying a delicious taco or two. If you aren’t a fish eater don’t worry, they have other meat & veggie options.

Tacos are priced individually, so you can try several different ones. Sample menu: shrimp taco 40 pesos, fish taco 30 pesos, steak taco 30 pesos, veggie taco 20 pesos, quesadilla 25 pesos, etc. They have a great happy hour special with 2 for 1 drinks, roughly 100 pesos for 2 drinks.

There is a parking lot right across the street from the entrance. When we visited last it was 100 pesos to park.


Xpu Ha beach glamping tents

13. Instead of a Hotel in Tulum, Why Not Glamping in Tulum?!

In general, Tulum is quite a laidback and eco-friendly place. There are now more and more glamping in Mexico places. Set in beautiful locations surrounded by nature, these fantastic places are certainly a step up from camping, and staying in one of them really will feel like you’re in paradise.

Here are a few of the best glamping hotels in Tulum to check out.

Best Glamping in Tulum

  1. Nativus Tulum: A luxurious place to stay, Nativus is surrounded by a beautiful forest, and guests stay in elegant tents with a bathroom that opens out into the jungle. With its own private pier on a cenote, staying at Nativus promises to be an experience like no other.
  2. Nomade: Located right on the beach, Nomade is the perfect place to stay in Tulum for beach lovers. There is a laidback, natural look and feel to Nomade, as everything is made out of sustainably sourced materials. After a wonderful night’s sleep in one of the tents, guests can wake up amongst the glorious natural surroundings, and take part in one of the Ancient Mayan rituals, ceremonies, or treatments on offer. There is also an excellent spa for you to enjoy, as well as two fantastic restaurants.
  3. Harmony Glamping Tulum: For those traveling to Tulum on a budget but want to try glamping should consider Harmony. Lying between the beach and the jungle, Harmony certainly makes for a memorable stay. Guests sleep in small, pod-like tents that are just as eco-friendly as they are luxurious and funky. With lots of yoga classes and community projects for you to take part in, staying at Harmony can be as relaxing or energetic as you desire.

Related Article: Glamping at Xpu Ha Beach – Mexico’s Hidden Gem


14. Sip on a Delicious Mojito at Batey’s

If you’re after a fun night out in Tulum, you’ll almost certainly stop off at Batey’s Mojito and Guarapo Bar at some point. The only question once you arrive is if you will ever head on to your next destination!

With an eclectic look and feel, Batey’s is a popular place to grab a drink; the lively atmosphere is infectious. If you’re looking for the best nightlife in Tulum you’ll love Batey’s.

There is nothing better than sipping on one of their renowned mojitos while listening to a local band pump out some great local music and reflecting on another great day in Tulum! Mojito’s start at 100 pesos.


As you can see, there really is a wealth of amazing things for you to see and do in Tulum; the only question is where to begin. Do you first head to the cenotes or the beautiful beaches and magnificent Mayan ruins?

Tulum is an awesome holiday destination that has something for everyone to enjoy; you can’t go wrong, as paradise lies all around you. With so many things to do in Tulum, you’re sure to keep coming back, time and time again!


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