In the beach town of Tulum, the sun shone bright in the sky and the crystal clear water of the ocean made me feel as if I were in paradise. This fabulous spot nestled in the southern side of the Yucatan Peninsula attracts travel adventure seekers, photographers, yoga fans and tourists in general not only because of its astonishing location but also for its chilled atmosphere.
No matter what travel budget you have, Tulum has you covered, you can find a diverse range of accommodation, restaurants, bars and attractions for you and your family that goes from affordable to the luxurious. Tulum is much more than just a beach and in this post we share with you our Top attractions in this stunning place.
Explore the Maya city of Tulum
The archaeological site is situated on the coast. One of the main landmarks, “El Castillo” (The castle) shown in the photograph below was built on the edge of a cliff which gives a spectacular view of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
This Maya site was used primarily as a seaside port, one of the main trade routes for maritime exchange of products, such as textiles, ceramic and a diverse range of objects from all over Yucatan. Furthermore, this unique walled Maya city was also used as a defence barrier from unexpected intruders. An interesting fact is that these structures were the last buildings constructed by the Mayans and survived intact for more than 70 years approximately after the Spanish conquerors arrived until it was abandoned. Take your time to visit the temple of the Frescoes and the temple of the Descending God (picture shown below).
The best time to explore this archaeological site is in the early morning when the doors open or late in the afternoon. Tulum archaeological complex is not very large in comparison with other places like Palenque, Uxmal or Chichen Itza. However, there are some interesting temples to see and if you feel templed out take a break and relax on this beach that is perfectly located within the site and it is open to the public.
Swim in the Ka’an Luum Lagoon
Although Tulum is famous for its white sand beach, this beach town has other more interesting things to offer like The Ka’an Luum Lagoon. A beautiful lagoon of emerald colour that has a big cenote in the middle of it, a very famous spot for dive fans. The water is very calm and it has amazing views of the mangroves that surrounds this beautiful lagoon.
Entry fee is 50 Mexican pesos (2.64 USD approximately).
Snorkel and swim with turtles at Akumal beach
Akumal in the Maya language means “Land of turtles”, if you like snorkelling you can have the opportunity to see corals, fish, turtles and more. There is sea-grass growing in this area which is the turtle’s favourite food. There is an area that has been roped out to prevent tourists approaching too close to the turtles. If you want to swim outside this area, you need a special permission. I recommend to bring your own snorkel gear, fins are not allowed. Be aware that during the month of September iit s forbidden to swim with the turtles because it is the mating season.
The beach is free to access, If you did not bring your own snorkel gear, you can rent it at the dive shop. The seafloor is sand and it is very fine therefore the more people you see in the water, the less visibility you have. A good tip is to arrive as early as possible and avoid the crowds who are going to scare the turtles away.
If you visit the Riviera Maya, you should visit at least one cenote and see for yourself how extraordinary this natural place is. Situated 5 km from Tulum Village and 7km from Tulum ruins you can find The Gran Cenote. The Cenote has beautiful clear water. It has a cave which you can swim through and various areas with shallow and deeper water (for the scuba divers). For the non swimmers, you can sit with your feet in the water watching the turtles. Best to visit very early or late in the afternoon, at 11 am it starts to get a little crowded.
A taxi from Tulum village to the cenote is ~60 Mexican Pesos (~3.35 USD). But I do recommend if you want to do a little bit of exercise and save a bit of money, rent a bike and ride to the place. The entrance fee to Gran Cenote is 180 Mexican Pesos (~10 USD). Bring your own gear(if you have it) and your towel. Otherwise, snorkel masks, fins, life jackets and lockers are available to rent (~5 USD).
Visit Playa Paraiso
Playa Paraiso is located a short distance from Tulum ruins, it is one of the most stunning spots in Riviera Maya. The beach club has beach beds, chairs and umbrellas where visitors can have a day of relaxation, read a book or listen to your favourite music.
Sun chairs cost 100 pesos (~5.28 USD) per person. Prices in restaurant were around 200 pesos (~10.26 USD) per meal approximately. If these prices are out of your budget you can find a free spot under a nice palm tree.
The Maya ruins of Coba
The ruins are located 47 km from Tulum (43 minutes by car). This is the only Maya ruin that you can still climb to the top of the main pyramid, it is likely that in the future is not going to be allowed anymore. The climb isn’t too strenuous and takes less time than you think. Just make sure to wear adequate footwear. Once at the top you will be rewarded with a dazzling view of the whole complex surrounded by the jungle.
You can rent a car and drive to the place, or you can take a bus. The ADO buses (known as First class buses), run from Tulum to Coba almost daily at 10 am, their prices are in Mexican Pesos. If you want to get to the Coba earlier, ask your hostel/hotel reception for the second class buses.
My best tip: to get up to 50% off your First class ADO tickets. If you go to the bus terminal the day before or morning, expect to pay the full price. however, if you book in advance (3 or 4 days prior) you can get a 50% discount.
Enjoy a nice meal near the beach
Besides Mexican tacos, Tulum has a variety of restaurants and bars to welcome visitors with all types of budget. I recommend to visit a few restaurants and always check the menu before you go in to see the prices. Most restaurants and bars has an amazing view of the ocean and are a perfect spot for those people celebrating birthdays or looking for a romantic getaway.
Extra Tips: Where to stay?
There only two places where you can find accomodation: Tulum beach and Tulum town. In town is where most ATMS, banks and restaurants are. If you are looking for a budget hostel, you will find it here. Further south of Tulum’s town, you can many boutiques hotels, clothes shops, bars and restaurants located along the long white pearl sand beach, some of them are affordable and other are very luxurious and expensive. I suggest to have a nice cocktail or a nice dinner in one of these restaurants along the coast and enjoy the view.
A good travel tip, If you would like to save a little bit of money, I recommend to visit Tulum in November or December after the hurricane season, you can find affordable deals. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, avoid visiting it from January to March. This is the time of year with the beast weather and therefore more tourists. I still think it is manageable at this time to have a great time here however prices are a little higher than other months.
Renting a bicycle for the day is also a great option to get from place to place, but there may be extra hassles & costs with “parking” it.
Tell us what you think. Have your visited or planning to visit Tulum? We love to hear from you so please leave your comments below.