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Top 15 Things to Do in Tulum – Complete Guide

Top 15 Things to Do in Tulum – Complete Guide

Our first trip to Tulum was over 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.

You could say we love Tulum and know a thing or two about all the things to do in Tulum.

We have seen Tulum change and grow in 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 in Tulum 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 the sparkling Caribbean Sea borders idyllic white-sand beaches.

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 with lazy days spent lying on the beach. As you can imagine, it 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 looking to get to know the more authentic side of Mexico while still enjoying beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, and much more.

Read our how to get to Tulum guide for the easiest ways from the Cancun airport.

With so much to see and do in Tulum, 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 to offer!

woman cliff jumping at Calavera Cenote - Tulum Mexico

1. Visit a Few Tulum Cenotes

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, 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 that most appeal to you!

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

Due to their popularity, they can get a bit crowded, 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, 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 only to use reef-safe sunscreen. Get a bottle on Amazon online here. Most cenotes will not allow regular sunscreen.

Tulun Cenote Tours

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.

a couple sitting on the roof of a rental jeep in Aruba during a honeymoon
Explore on your own
#1 Tip – Rent a car in Mexico
Have ultimate freedom and save tons of money on tours with your own rental car! Don’t worry – It’s safe (we’ve rented 20+ times), the roads are good, and it’s easier than you think! We always rent from Discover Cars, it’s easy & they have the best prices.

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 of 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 favorite 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!

Another great cenote to dive even closer to Tulum is Cenote Angelita, with an eerie cloud layer nearly 100 feet below the surface.

If you are not dive certified, there are cenote dives for first-time divers! 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 Mayan 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 inside 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, head down to the beach and cool off.

Related: Best Places & Things To Do In Riviera Maya

4. Head to Mateo’s Treehouse bar for a sunset you won’t forget

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. Along with the lively atmosphere and chilled-out feel of Mateo’s, the food is also worth checking out if you’re after some good Tex-Mex!

Tulum Packing List – Pack This & Not That

Attachera steak at El Asadero Tulum restaurant

5. Enjoy an upscale authentic dinner at El Asadero

Located in the center of Tulum, El Asadero is one of the best restaurants in Tulum that we have 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 queue 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. The average dinner for two people with four drinks is $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 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 incredible.

There are lots of beautiful marine life in the bay and 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 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 are believed to cause coral bleaching. Purchase a bottle here on Amazon. Our favorite brand is Sun Bum.

Related Article: Top Things to do in Cozumel

Three tiered stone Mayan Pyramid - Coba Ruins - Mayan Ruins Mexico

7. Explore the Amazing Coba Ruins

While the Coba Ruins may not be 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. Make sure to take a lake tour, read our laguna Bacalar tour guide here.

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 amazing cenotes and archaeological sites.

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

Related Post: Bucket List Places to Visit in Mexico

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 has a ton of great things to see and do in Valladolid. Its beautiful colonial-era center is 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 gotten around to it, 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 stay 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

tulum bikes mexico

11. Rent a Bike and Explore the Beaches

As Tulum is split up into three 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, plenty of taxis 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.

fresh grilled prawns in Mexcio

12. Enjoy Fresh Fish Tacos on Tulum Beach

For some of the best fresh seafood in Tulum. On my recent trip, I had some of the best prawns ever at the Hip Hotel Restaurant.

They have fresh seafood daily. They will have fresh seafood displayed on ice in the restaurants. If you are staying at the hotel, they often will bring some of the seafood options out on the beach to show you the live menu.

Eating fresh seafood on the beach and hearing the waves crash is an incredible setting for a delicious meal.

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 is 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.

Read our where to stay in Tulum article before booking your accommodation. If you are traveling with kids, make sure to check out our best resorts in Tulum for families.

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. | Check Rates Online Now -Prices as low as $100 a night
  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 in 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. | Check Rates Online Now
  3. Harmony Glamping Tulum: Those traveling to Tulum on a budget but wanting 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, Tulum has a wealth of amazing things to see and do. 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 with something everyone can enjoy; you can’t go wrong, as paradise lies around you. With so many things to do in Tulum, you’re sure to keep coming back continuously!

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