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With its perfect location along Mexico’s coastline, Tulum continues to be a favorite vacation alternative to the more touristy Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The area is absolutely gorgeous and offers plenty of adventure, relaxation, culture, and culinary delights. There’s a central area with shops, restaurants, and budget-friendly hotels that you can stay at instead of being right on the beach as well. But no matter where you stay, here are the best things to add to your Tulum itinerary for an amazing trip!
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One of the very best natural wonders to see when you visit Tulum is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. This site is a bit south of Tulum and spans over a million acres of reefs, cenotes, wetlands, and other landscapes. You can walk around on your own or hire a local guide company to see the resident wildlife or explore the underwater environment. Some of the animals that you may see here include monkeys, pumas, jaguars, and ocelots. It’s also fun to take a boat ride through the wetlands or go kayaking here. If you aren’t renting a car for your trip, you can hop on a bus or in a taxi to get here from Tulum.
The Mayan ruins that date back to the 11th century are another top reason to visit Tulum. The archaeological sites are on the rocky coastline south of downtown Tulum and feature multiple castle and temple structures. The landscape here is dramatic, and the weather is usually warm and sunny. So, make sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat for your day of exploring Tulum’s ruins. When you’re done with your tour or day of exploration on your own, head own to the nearby public beach to relax.
Another popular attraction in Tulum is Playa Pariso, which is just a bit north of the ruins in Tulum. This isn’t exactly a quiet or secluded beach, so come here to be active and socialize. For ultimate relaxation, rent out a beach chair, hammock, or umbrella at the beach. There are also some beach bars here for refreshment. Some beach areas here have campsites that are affordable and perfectly situated to soak in the scenery and sleep right next to the ocean.
Sac Actun is a great place to visit in Tulum if you’re looking to escape some of the tourist crowds. This underwater cave is open to swimming with guided tours and offers nice views of stalactites and stalagmites. Freshwater snorkeling sites exist inside the cave and provide visitors with an unforgettable experience. This is part of the world’s longest underground river network and is sometimes referred to as the “pet cemetery” because of how many animal fossils exist inside.
No matter which site you choose, either snorkeling or scuba diving is a must for adventurous travelers who visit Tulum. That’s because the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest of its kind in the world, is located here and stretches from the Yucatan Peninsula to Belize and further south. There are lots of local dive shops that can set you up with the gear you need, including La Calypso Dive Center, Dream Diving, Koox Diving, and Agua Clara Diving Tulum.
Between Avenue Satellite and Centauro Norte on Avenida Tulum, the Tulum Art Club is a unique and pretty new arts and culture venue with a café, art for sale, an artist-in-residence program, and events like live music and movie screenings. Mexican and international emerging artists are featured here, and the café serves organic artisanal coffee, smoothies, and Mexican dishes. You can even stay at the onsite One Room Hotel, which is a lofted room above the venue that has a queen-size bed and private bathroom. You’ll only be about four kilometers from the beach when you stay here.
Underground caves are very popular in the Tulum area, especially El Gran Cenote. The waters here were considered to be sacred in Mayan culture, and they provide fun and fascinating places to swim and explore today. El Gran Cenote is about 20 miles from Tulum, and it’s a very popular area that can get crowded. Bring your own snorkeling gear if you have it to save some money, and come early in the morning for a more peaceful experience. The fee to enter El Gran Cenote is typically around $10, and you can pay a little extra for a life vest, locker, or snorkel gear. Remember that it’s necessary to shower before you get in the water to keep the swimming hole clean and pollutant-free.
It’s easy to combine exploration of the Mayan ruins with seaside recreation when you visit Mayan Beach. There are many beaches in this part of the Riviera Maya, but this is a great one for seeing ancient fortifications and relaxing as well. Just keep in mind that this tends to be a very busy beach, even on weekdays, but it’s still easy to get in the water for a swim.
This Tulum attraction offers everything from zip lining to diving, snorkeling and more. Come to this cenote for a quiet and less-touristy experience with a local guide. It is enchanting and mysterious, and guests typically take a jeep ride through the jungle to get here. Visitors will tell you that this cenote tour is a bit more expensive than some others in the area, but that it’s definitely worth it because of the incredible scenery and blissful seclusion.
The Muyil Archaeological Site is another impressive area to visit, and it’s near the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. This is a great alternative or addition to the more popular and crowded Tulum ruins near downtown. At Muyil, you’ll see a 51-foot pyramid called El Castillo and the Pink Palace decorated in stucco. Take all the photos you like, but don’t climb on the structures for your safety and to preserve these iconic landmarks.