Things to Do In and Around Tulum Mexico
From either Tulum Beach or Tulum Pueblo, you are situated, within close proximity to numerous adventures.
It helps to have a car if you really want to do a lot. If your desire is to relax on the beach and take a couple excursions then you can books tours and don’t require a car rental.
Alternatives to renting a car are taxi and colectivo. To use the colectivo you need to get to Tulum Pueblo or Highway 307. You can also take the bus to Akumal, Playa del Carmen or Cancun from Tulum Pueblo.
From Tulum you are close to four Mayan ruins sites worth exploring. We have visited all four of these sites numerous times and continue to be excited at every visit. You can really increase the thrill of your adventure by studying Mayan history and astronomy before you visit.
From anywhere in Tulum you are a short drive from Tulum Ruins. The entrance has a craft market, restaurants and the Mayan Pole Flyers perform regularly. The ruins are approximately 1km East of the entrance and there are trains to take you.
There is a beautiful beach at Tulum Ruins but no change-rooms or bathrooms inside the ruins. Tulum Ruins is not a large site and you could expect to spend a half day there.
For more info & Tours see: Tulum Ruins Tour Info & Tips
Coba Ruins has an interesting history and there are definitely signs existing today that the Mayan who inhabited Coba were firm believers in the Popul Vuh way of life. The temples, courtyards, ballcourts and steles are still there, available for you to explore.
Coba Ruins are approximately a 45 minute drive into the jungle along a straight three lane flat road, which is in perfect condition. The turn off to Coaba Ruins is at the North end of Tulum Pueblo.
TIP: Walk through Coba Ruins to the big pyramid then take a bicycle tax back to the entrance [$6.50 USD].
Close to Coba Ruins are three cenotes, which are a must visit after walking around the ruins for four hours. To get to them you drive out of the ruins and around the lake to the other side. You take a left and drive through the little town. After you drive through town you will hit a fork in the road, go right [there are signs]. From there you follow the road until you hit a palapa on the left side of the road [there is a sign]. There are two centoes there. There is another cenoted further up the road. Most people just visit the two cenote deal.
It is cheaper to buy your tickets from the guys at the cenote entrance booth or at the cenotes than at Coba Ruins, who also sell the tickets to the cenotes.
To get to Coba Ruins you can either:
For more info & Tours see: Coba Ruins Tour Info & Tips
If you are visiting Tulum Ruins and Coba Ruins then you should visit Muyil and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Mulyil is approximately a ? hr drive South of Tulum. The ruin site is on the left side of the road driving south, you can’t miss it.
Muyil Ruins are much less visited than Tulum and Coba but the site is no less significant. Here you will find Mayan temples, laid out astronomically and even a small Temple of the Mat. Muyil also has the highest structure in the region.
The site is not large and you can go through it in a couple hours. BUT, what is interesting is if you walk to the far east side past the ruins there are the remnants of an old Mayan road called a sacbe. If you follow this road it will lead you to an intersection in the jungle path, there is a booth there. From here you pay $4.00 USD to take the special “jungle walk” to the marshes. Half ways through the walk you encounter a high observational tower, which you may climb if you wish. From that point you walk to the marshes where there is another tower. From here you can see how the marshes spread out towards the coast. It was these marshes that the Mayan used to connect to the coastline through an actual canal they built at some time in ancient history.
If you visit Sian Ka’an you can take a kayak-snorkel tour that will take you through the marshes and allow you to snorkel through the man made Mayan canal. There is also a small Mayan Ruin in the marshes.
Muyil was the inland city that was connected to Tulum and Xel-Ha by sea and Coba by sacbes. From Muyil, traders could have gone either North or South trading with others possibly as far away as present day Guatemala.
Xel-Ha is most commonly known for it’s Eco Park, however Xel-Ha was in fact a Mayan settlement that still has visible intact ruins.
There are some minor ruins inside the park but what you want to see is on the other side of Highway 307 just South of the entrance gate to the Eco Park.
Xel-Ha ruins is a small site but interesting never the less. There you will see the ground still littered with conch shells [in some areas], which were ground into powder and burnt and mixed into the paste used for making mortar for construction. There is also a sacbe [Mayan road] and a cenote with sweat-lodges.
Xel-Ha is not far from Tulum and you can take the colectivo to get there or rent a car [or taxi]. Tours only go to the Eco Park.
Chichen Itza is the most popular Mayan ruin site in the Yucatan. It is also the furthest away from Tulum. You can drive to the ruins either up Highway 307 to Cancun, then across [recommended] or you can drive through the jungle via Coba. If you drive through the jungle you risk getting lost. There are no gas stations. Driving to Chichen Itza, visiting the ruins then returning to Tulum is a full day excursion. If you do this during the winter months you will be driving back in the dark.
For more info & Tours see: Chichen Itza Ruins Tour Info & Tips
It is impractical to take the bus unless you plan on staying in Piste overnight. Piste is the town right next to the ruins. The bus station and hotels are in Piste.
Xcaret is like an Eco Maya theme park. We just love this place. It is a paradise for children and you can spend the whole day there.
Some of the attractions include a reenactment of a traditional Maya ballcourt game, butterfly pavilion, traditional Mexican dance and music, small zoo and much more. The swimming here is excellent and the water theme park rivals Disney World; in fact we think it is better.
To get there you can:
If you stay for the big show at night you will have to take a taxi back.
For more info see: Xcaret
Xcaret or Xel-Ha? Which one do you go to?
Xel-Ha is a great place to go snorkeling or swimming. It is a fresh water bay that meets the ocean. Many sea creatures make their home in the bay and its tributaries and a snorkel around the bay will simply blow your mind if you are not an avid diver or snorkeler. It is well worth the price of admission and a great place for kids. There are many well-trained lifeguards on duty.
To get there you can:
For more info see: Xel-Ha
Xcaret or Xel-Ha? Which one do you go to?
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Just south of Tulum is the beautiful Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. The reserve has an abundant amount of flora and fauna and several distinct natural ecosystems.
The reserve contains unexcavated Maya ruins, freshwater canals, cenotes, mangroves, lagoons and inlets.
The fishing village of Boca Paila is within the reserve. The town of Punta Allen is the end of the Maya Riviera found at the southern tip of the reserve.
To get there you can:
For more info visit the official Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve Web Site
We cannot tell you “what cenote is the best to visit”. Over the years we have had the opportunity to visit many cenotes across the Yucatan. The big ones you can swim in are amazing. Each one is different but if there is snorkeling/diving available at the cenote it is worth investigating.
For more info see: Cenotes and Caves
You can take the colectivo to visit cenotes located on Highway 307 or cenotes that have a drive-in service off the highway. To get to the ones in the jungle you need to rent a car or take a taxi.
Hidden Worlds Cenote Park
Hidden Worlds is a great place to take the family for a full day of action packed adventure.
Here you can experience Jungle Zip-lines, Rappelling, Cavern Snorkel Adventures, Skycycle Canopy Ride, and a Cenote Splashdown Zip-line… all the while surrounded by the lush Mayan jungle.
Hidden Worlds is located on Highway 307 [west side] about a 15 minute drive north of Tulum.
For more info visit the official Hidden Worlds Web Site
The best place to snorkel is Akumal or Yal Kul Lagoon. Xel-Ha Eco Park also has snorkeling but is a lot larger and much more expensive, especially if snorkeling is all you really want to do.
You can rent snorkel gear at Yal Ku and can purchase it at Akumal beach.
For more info see: Snorkeling The Mayan Riviera
There are lots of shopping opportunities in Tulum Pueblo for Mayan and Mexican things.
There is a Mayan craft market at Tulum Ruins, which has lots of stalls selling moderately priced items of all description.
The road to Coba has the odd craft store. These stores sell their items for a little less than in town. There is also the odd store that sells crafts made by the store themselves or by people in the area. These items end up in stalls at hotels for three times the price. If you buy a few items off these guys you can bargain for some great deals. There are also a couple small towns along the way and a small town at Coba Ruins where you will find stores selling Mayan and Mexican crafts.
Playa del Carmen has the best shopping along the coast although prices are higher than stores out in the country. Going to Playa del Carmen is a half-day trip from Tulum. There you will find the world renown “5th Avenue”, which over the years has grown into a chic shopping mecca.
To get to Playa del Carmen from Tulum you can take the bus or colectivo. The bus drops you off right on 5th Avenue.
Along the highway driving from Tulum to Playa del Carmen there is the odd roadside stand selling arts & crafts. Prices here are less than in towns and the sellers are more apt to bargain.
For other activities located on the Mayan Riviera within close proximity to Tulum see: Mayan Riviera Attractions
If you are looking to stay somewhere interesting, like in the jungle, then might we recommend La Selva Mariposa B&B located on the road to Coba.