Last Updated September 10, 2021 9/10/2021

9 Ultimate Things to Do When You Visit Tulum

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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. This top destination 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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Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

What Is It? One of the very best natural wonders to see when you visit Tulum is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. 

Why Do It? 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. 

Good to Know: 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.

See the Mayan Ruins

See the Mayan Ruins

What Is It? The Mayan ruins that date back to the 11th century are another top reason to visit Tulum. 

Why Do It? The archaeological sites are on the rocky coastline south of downtown Tulum and feature multiple castles 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. 

Good to Know: When you’re done with your tour or day of exploration on your own, head own to the nearby public beach to relax.

Playa Paraiso

Playa Paraiso

What Is It? Another popular attraction in Tulum is Playa Pariso, which is just a bit north of the ruins in Tulum. 

Why Do It? 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. 

Good to Know: Some beach areas here have campsites that are affordable and perfectly situated to soak in the scenery and sleep right next to the ocean.

San Actun
Credit: San Actun
San Actun

San Actun

What Is It? Sac Actun is a great place to visit in Tulum if you’re looking to escape some of the tourist crowds. 

Why Do It? 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. 

Good to Know: 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.

Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

What Is It? No matter which site you choose, either snorkeling or scuba diving is a must for adventurous travelers who visit Tulum. 

Why Do It? 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. 

Good to Know: 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.

El Gran Cenote
Snorkeling in Tulum cenote

El Gran Cenote

What Is It? Underground caves are very popular in the Tulum area, especially El Gran Cenote. 

Why Do It? 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. 

Good to Know: 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.

Mayan Beach
Tulum Caribbean beach bicycles in Riviera Maya of Mayan Mexico

Mayan Beach

What Is It? It’s easy to combine exploration of the Mayan ruins with seaside recreation when you visit Mayan Beach. 

Why Do It? 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.

Good to Know: 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.

Cenotes LabnaHa & Eco Park
Cenotes LabnaHa & Eco Park

Cenotes LabnaHa & Eco Park

What Is It? This Tulum attraction offers everything from zip-lining to diving, snorkeling, and more. 

Why Do It? 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. 

Good to Know: 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.

Muyil Archaeological Site
Muyil Archaeological Site

Muyil Archaeological Site

What Is It? The Muyil Archaeological Site is another impressive area to visit, and it’s near the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. 

Why Do It? 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.

Good to Know: Take all the photos you like, but don’t climb on the structures for your safety and to preserve these iconic landmarks.

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