The ultimate Travel Guide to Tulum, Mexico (2023)

Tulum is a town on the Caribbean coastline of Mexicos Yucatan peninsula and a popular vacation destination, especially during winter and for Spring Break. It is known for its beautiful beaches and ancient Mayan ruins overlooking the white sand beach and turquoise water.

With its boho-chic laid-back vibe, mild temperatures, and diverse food scene, Tulum really is the perfect spot to spend a few days, unwind and relax in the sun.

Tulum ruins

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I spent a full month in Tulum and it really cast a spell on me. I love the vegan food there, the beautiful “coachellaesque” fashion, and the many opportunities to have fun or just relax on the beach. In this Travel Guide, I want to share with you the 14 best things to do in Tulum.

Before we get started with the best things to do in Tulum read about

The 12 Things you need to know before traveling to Tulum

1. Tulum Archaeological Zone

One of the best things to do in Tulum is to visit the Tulum ruins.

The ruins were one of the last cities inhabited by the Mayan people and the only one overlooking the sea. They were an important trading hub for nearby Mayan cities like Cobá and Chichén Itzá exporting Jade and Obsidian.

Tulum ruins

Today you can visit the well-preserved ruins for less than $5 USD and spot Iguanas in their wild habitat. The backdrop is truly marvelous because the ruins overlook the Caribbean sea and white sand beaches.

2. Go swimming and relax at one of the Beaches

Tulum is a town on the Caribbean sea so there is no better way to relax than going swimming in the turquoise water or hanging out at white-sand beaches and Tulum has multiple to relax at.

Said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, Playa Paraíso attracts a lot of travelers and tourists. It´s the picture-perfect beach and it stretches far across the coast so you don´t have to worry about the beach being too overcrowded.

Tulum beach

You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas or just come with your towel and relax in the sun. Other beaches are Playa las Palmas and Playa Ruinas. It´s one of the best things to do in Tulum and it is completely free if you don´t rent beach chairs.

3. Visit Cobá

Cobá is an ancient Mayan city located 45 minutes outside of Tulum. The site is the nexus of the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Maya world. It´s a perfect day trip from Tulum.

There are various ways of getting there. You can rent a car and drive, go by taxi, bus or colectivo.

If you have a car that’s probably the easiest way of getting there or you can take a taxi but this will be the most expensive way. There are also many buses that operate between Tulum Centro and Cobá. Just check the ADO Bus Terminal for ADO or Mayab buses. There are also colectivos (minivans) that operate between Tulum and Cobá. They are located at the corner of Tulum Ave. (the main street) and Calle Osiris Norte.

Make sure you go early because it´s a popular tourist attraction and can get crowded.

4. Visit nearby Cenotes

Cenotes are sinkholes filled with groundwater. they are beautiful and the perfect place to swim in and cool off from the hot Tulum sun.

Cenote Las Calveras
Cenote Las calveras

Nearby Cenotes are Calveras/ Calavera, Carwash (Aktun Ha), Gran Cenote, Zacil-Ha, and Dos Ojos. There are different types of Cenotes. Some are open to the ground, others semi-open, or closed.

It´s fun to swim in them, just make sure to not wear any sunscreen or make-up to preserve marine life.

5. Xcaret park, Xel-Ha or Xplor

The parks are technically closer to Playa del Carmen than Tulum but they still are one of the best things to do in Tulum. They´re located about an hour’s drive from Tulum and make for the perfect adventurous day trip. The parks offer Zip-lining, ATV rides, rafting, and cenote swims.

Xcaret Park is a theme park, resort, and self-described ecotourism development. Xplor is a Jungle adventure park with zip-lining, amphibious vehicles, rafting & underground rivers, and Xel-Ha is an aquatic theme park.

They all cost a little over 100 USD each to enter and they offer packages where you can visit two or more parks.

6. Visit the Ven a la Luz sculpture

No trip to Tulum is complete without visiting this famous sculpture by Daniel Popper. Ven a la Luz or “Come into the light” symbolizes the deep connection that human beings have with nature and aims to raise awareness about the ecosystem of Tulum.

It is made out of steel, wood, and ropes and is 10 meters tall. It´s truly beautiful and the perfect spot to take a picture.

Ven a la Luz Tulum

The sculpture was part of a festival in 2018 but remained a permanent exhibit at the Ahau Hotel. Because so many people came to take a picture in front of the sculpture, it got moved right next to the Ahau Hotel. It used to be free but costs 3 USD now to take a picture with it.

7. Azulik Resort and Sfer Ik

Azulik is probably one of the most beautiful hotels in Mexico and the rooms are basically private luxury treehouses. It´s a beach resort and Mayan wellness center.

While prices for Azulik start at $1000 USD a night, their restaurants and bars for example Tseen Ja or Kin Toh are open to the public and you can make a reservation to dine there.

Sfer Ik Azulik Tulum

They have a museum called Sfer Ik and it is located right next to the hotel and well worth a visit. The entrance fee is $10 USD per person.

Sfer Ik Azulik
Sfer Ik Tulum

You have to take off your shoes when you go in there and the museum is filled with plants, wood, and stone which creates a truly beautiful and unique atmosphere and is something I´ve never seen anywhere else before. They also have cushions where you can sit on the floor and relax for a bit. It´s a magical place and I would recommend going here.

They have another museum called Uh May about 20 minutes out of Tulum. The entrance fee for that is $20 USD.

8. Eat and drink, one of the best things to do in Tulum

I had to mention Food and Drinks as one of the best things to do in Tulum because Tulum is a foodie heaven! It has a diverse dining scene and a lot of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants and cafes. No matter what food you like, I´m sure you will satisfy your taste buds in Tulum.

Check out the full guide to the best restaurants and cafes in Tulum.

9. Relax in one of the many Beach Clubs

Tulum is known for having the most beautiful beaches and amazing beach clubs to hang out at.

Most of the beach clubs at the luxury hotels have a minimum entrance fee of $50 USD. This fee is usually used as credit for food and drinks. Popular luxury beach clubs are for example Taboo Beach Club and Rosa Negra Beach Club. We went to Rosa Negra Beach Club and had a lot of fun! It is a nice beach club and the music and cocktails were great.

Rosa Negra Beach Club
Rosa Negra Beach Club

If you don´t feel like paying a $50 USD entrance fee to one of the luxurious Beach Clubs, check out the Beach Clubs close to the Tulum ruins for example Playa Paraiso Beach Club. They don´t charge an entrance fee and you pay for renting the furniture which is between $5 to $25 USD.

10. Nightlife and bars

Tulum has an amazing nightlife scene. It ranges from laid-back lounges to rooftop bars to high-end beach parties under the moon.

The hostel where we stayed organized a bar crawl. The best rooftop bars in Tulum Centro are Nana and the Downtown Hotel Rooftop bar.

One night we went to Vagalume and had a great night. We paid about $20 USD entrance fee per person. The drinks were approximately $15 USD each and they offer great cocktails. They had a DJ from Ibiza there and the music was great. We danced under the stars and the full moon and the atmosphere was magical and unlike anything I have experienced before.

So no matter the budget, if you like to party you will be happy in Tulum.

11. Take pictures

Tulum is definitely an Instagrammer’s dream destination because it has so many nice photo spots. There are many signs in Tulum where you can take a picture. One of the most famous ones is the “Follow your Dream” sign which is in front of the Lolita Lolita Boutique. There is also a big Tulum sign in front of Tulum cerveceria.

There are also a lot of sculptures, like the rabbit or the Ven a la Luz sculpture to take nice pictures. When you walk along the beach you can find swings and a lot of Beach Cubs have a nice interior and are therefore great photo spots.

12. Participate in an activity/ event

There are a lot of hotels and hostels hosting and offering different events.

As I mentioned above our hostel organized different events as well. For example one day we had a chess tournament, where you can play chess against other people and we met fun people there. Another day there were free Salsa and Tango classes, so if you want to learn these dances there’s no better way because it is completely free (just make sure you tip your dance instructor).

A lot of hostels and hotels offer yoga and meditation classes you can participate in. There are sunrise and sunset yoga classes or you can do sound healing sessions. There is an abundance of different classes and activities in Tulum and it´s one of the best things to do.

13. Go Shopping, one of the best things to do in Tulum

You can shop until you drop in Tulum. Tulum is known for its boho-chic style and there are many shops and boutiques that sell all kinds of different things. Ranging from crystals and jewelry to hammocks and macrame clothing.

In Tulum Centro, there are many shops that offer souvenirs, hammocks, and macrame clothing. In Tulum Beach, there are many boutiques that offer clothing and jewelry. They often have one-of-a-kind items while the shops in the center often sell the same items.

No matter your budget, you can find some pretty nice things in Tulum if you´re in the mood for shopping.

14. Swim with turtles in Akumal

Akumal is a small city between Playa del Carmen and Tulum and it is a 30-minute drive from each city.

If you´re into nature you should go to Tulum between May and October for turtle nesting season to see turtles in their natural habitat. After sunset mother turtles make their way onto the beach to lay eggs before going back to sea.

There are many programs in place to ensure a safe nesting time for the turtles and if you want to go there to see turtles just keep in mind to keep the beach clean and never touch the turtles.

Photo by Giorgia Doglioni on Unsplash

Alternatively, Akumal beach is a top destination to snorkel with turtles. You do not need to pay for a tour to snorkel with the turtles, no matter how many tour guides try to sell you one. Just easily go to the beach by yourself and just rent the gear there. You can either rent life jackets and your snorkel gear at the beach or bring your own.

Note: fins are banned because they can harm the turtles.

The turtles are an endangered species and the beach is public property. Please make sure you follow the official rules and regulations by the government to protect this species.

These are the 14 best things to do in Tulum. No matter if you just want to relax in the sun, do something adventurous, or want to party all night, Tulum is the perfect spot to do it all.


Let me know what you think. Have you been to Tulum?

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Jessica Buck

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