Tulum is a hip resort in the state of Quintana Roo on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. The town owes its fame to the Maya remains and its beautiful beaches. The town is divided into two parts: the center and the hotel-zone on the beach. Along the beach you will find the most beautiful hotels and restaurants. It shows that Tulum is a true eco-destination. You’ll find many eco-friendly accommodations and several vegan restaurants. The center is a bit more basic. Curious about what this town has to offer? Keep reading, because in this blog you can read about things to do in Tulum!
Tip: we stayed in Aruma Hotel & Boutique, a proper and affordable hotel in the center of Tulum.
Visit to the Tulum Maya Ruins
A visit to the Mayan Ruins is a must when staying in Tulum! I find ruins to be remarkable anyway, but the ruins in Tulum are the only ones built by the sea. You can find several remains here and you’ll have a beautiful view over the ocean. When you’ve seen everything at the complex, you can relax on the beach nearby the ruins.
Whether you stay on the beach of Tulum or in the center, the Mayan ruins of Tulum are easily accessible from both places. Rent a bike and follow the beach to the north, and you’ll quickly reach the ruins. If you’ve rented a car just like we did, you drive along the road from Tulum to Cancun to the north and turn right after less than five minutes. You’ll arrive at the car park , where you can park your car. It is also possible to follow the road along the beach. You can park your car for free here, but keep in mind that it can be very crowded, so you’ll need some patience getting in or out.
The entrance fee for the Tulum Maya Ruins is 80 pesos per person. If you want to be there before the crowds, make sure you get there just before 08:00 am. At 08:00 it opens, at 08:10 the big coaches arrive and at 08:30 it is already packed!
Cenote Dos Ojos
I’d never heard the word ‘cenote’ before, until I started researching the sights in Mexico. A cenote is a water cave or pond and the Yucatán peninsula has many of those. In total there are more than 3,000 cenotes on Yucatán.
Cenote Dos Ojos (Two Eyes Cenote) is one of the most famous cenotes of the Riviera Maya and is about half an hour drive from the center of Tulum. You will have to pay an entrance fee on arrival, and you have the option to book a tour. If you do this, you may visit other cenotes besides the Dos Ojos cenote. We only visited the Dos Ojos and this cost 350 pesos per person (quite expensive for a cave you think), but it is definitely worth it. The cenote is open from 09:00 am and we made sure we were there just before 9:00 am. This meant we had both cenotes for ourselves, allowing us to swim and take some nice pictures! The water is very clear, which makes diving in this cave very popular.
Chilling out at a beach club
There are numerous beach clubs on the beach of Tulum. It is difficult to choose the best ones, because you can’t look inside from the road. Our favorite was Aura. Although we’d never have chosen Aura if our hotel didn’t have a partnership with this beach club, I’d still like to recommend it. They have very nice nachos here; the beach club is cheap by Tulum’s standards and it was nice and quiet. Curious about the other restaurants and beach clubs we visited in Tulum? Click here to read more!
Spotting turtles at Akumal Beach
Between Playa del Carmen and Tulum you can find Akumal Beach. Akumal Beach is about 25 minutes’ drive from Tulum. This beach is very popular with tourists, as there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter turtles while snorkeling. Why, you may ask? The seabed at Akumal is covered with eelgrass, the turtles’ favorite food!
To get onto the beach you have to pay 100 pesos per person. The beach of Akumal is very beautiful and is located in a bay, which makes the water very calm. When you enter the beach, a man will come to you to sell you an expensive snorkel tour. According to him you only see turtles when you opt for the tour. Turn this down immediately, because there’s no need to pay to spot turtles. Luckily, we already read about this on the internet. What you have to do is the following:
Walk about 300 meters to the right (south) till you reach the hotels. Here you can enter the water and snorkel. You do need a lifejacket that you can rent for 100 pesos at one of the stalls. The lifejacket is mandatory, since it prevents you from chasing the turtles and standing on the sea grass.
We’ve seen three turtles in 45 minutes of snorkeling. One turtle was huge! It’s majestic to see these animals swimming, so peacefully and gracefully! The only unfortunate thing is that, once you’ve spotted a turtle, you’ll have many tourists swarm it in no time. Of course, we were part of that too. Luckily, we spotted the biggest turtle on a remote piece and we were able to swim alone with this giant for 5 minutes.
Are you going to Akumal Beach by car? There are several parking lots next to the beach, where you can park your car for 50 pesos a day.
Another cenote near Tulum. I just can’t get enough of them! Cenote Calavera, meaning skull, is a five-minute drive from downtown Tulum. This cenote is a lot smaller than cenote Dos Ojos, but definitely worth it. The nice thing about Calavera is that it really is a cave, with the opening at the top, where you can jump in from above. If you prefer not to jump, you can also enter the water via a ladder.
Are you going to visit the cenote? Then make sure to apply mosquito repellent generously. Calavera is surrounded by jungle and there are lots of mosquitoes. The entrance fee for Cenote Calavera is 100 pesos per person.
Eating and sleeping in Tulum Centre
Eating and sleeping in Tulum Centre is cheaper than in the hotel area, but certainly no less fun. You can enjoy delicious food and visit (souvenir)shops. If you have a car, this is a perfect base to visit the beaches and cenotes. It only takes about 10 minutes to drive to the beach area. Since you pay less here, you have more money to spend on other nice things!
Playa Pescadores is a beautiful beach in Tulum and is located between the Mayan Ruins and the hotel area. The beach is long, and the water is blue and crystal clear. Perfect to spend an afternoon or to combine with a visit to the Mayan ruins. There are several hotels and some restaurants on the beach, where you can have a drink.
Tip: Do you want to take a nice picture? This beach is the right place for you. There is a palm tree that is almost horizontal, allowing you to climb in it. Super cool!
Fancy a nice smoothie? There’s a small smoothie stall on the (sandy) path to the beach, where you can buy delicious smoothies! A smoothie a day keeps the doctor away!