There are so many fun things to do in Tulum and around the Tulum region of the Riveria Maya. Whether you’re just looking to be a beach bum or you want to explore all of the local ruins and cenotes, there’s plenty to keep you busy (or not at all busy) during your trip to Tulum.
When I first visited Tulum about four years ago, I immediately professed that it was my favorite beach town in Mexico.
And after revisiting this gorgeous little slice of paradise several more times as well as other great beach towns like Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, Isla Mujeres, and La Paz, I have to admit, it’s still up there as one of the best beaches in Mexico.
I’ve written extensively about what to pack for Tulum, where to eat in Tulum, and even just show you lots of pretty photos of Tulum. Now let’s get down to the best part, the best things to do in Tulum.
Weather in Tulum
The weather in Tulum is pretty standard throughout the year – it’s hot.
Like in many parts of Mexico, the hottest time of year in this part of the country is actually late Spring to early Summer, so from about early April until late June.
During this time of year, you can expect temperatures to regularly get above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celcius). It’s also incredibly humid during this time of year (although there is always a decent amount of humidity in the Riveria Maya).
The coolest time of year in Tulum is December and January. The highs during these two winter months are about 85 degrees (29 Celcius) with lows in the evenings of about 62 degrees (16 degrees Celcius).
Most areas of Mexico experience a wet season, which can start as early as June and last until mid-October. This means that it is hot and humid in the mornings and then there are rainstorms in the afternoons or evenings.
This part of the country tends not to get it quite as bad unless there is a storm passing through. So you can have weeks in July with no rain and then all of August could be rainy all day long. There is no real way to know, but for the most part, you can expect plenty of sunshine all year long in Tulum.
Read: What to pack for Tulum
Seaweed Problems in Tulum
You may have heard about the sargassum seaweed that has taken up residence on the beaches around Mexico and Belize in the last year or two.
Unfortunately, it has become quite a large problem and can make relaxing on the beach, well, a little bit smelly.
The local businesses are doing everything they can to clean the seaweed away daily and use it for other purposes. It tends to be worst during the summer months when the wet-season rains and stronger currents bring the seaweed to shore.
The best and cleanest months tend to be January to April, but this isn’t certain and can change at any time.
The best thing to do is to speak to your hotel that you choose to book with and ask how the seaweed has been leading up to your trip. You can still enjoy the sunshine and get out on a boat and away from the seaweed while you’re in the region. It shouldn’t really stop you from having an amazing trip.
Getting to and From Tulum
Getting to Tulum can be a little bit more difficult than other parts of the Riviera Maya simply because it’s between two airports.
The most convenient airport is the Cancun Airport. There are tons of flights from all over the US, Canada and Europe which fly directly to Cancun every day of the week.
Once you arrive at the Cancun airport you have a few options.
The one that I usually opt for is the ADO bus. I take the bus from the airport to the Cancun bus terminal. From here I get on a bus straight to Tulum. The bus takes about 30 minutes from the airport to downtown Cancun. From there the bus to Tulum takes about 2.5-3 hours.
There are a few alternatives. You can take a taxi from the airport to the bus terminal and then the bus to Tulum.
You can also hire a driver to pick you up at the airport and take you directly to your hotel in Tulum. This is the most convenient and as you might expect, the most expensive option.
Some resorts in Tulum offer services as part of the hotel price, but this is quite rare. Usually, they will offer to pick you up for an additional fee. This is convenient, but you will likely save some money if you book your airport pickup through a separate company like eTransfers.
These are usually shared vans with other people who are arriving at the same time and headed in your direction, but they’re very comfortable and very convenient.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Tulum is truly packed with amazing hotels to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a girly spa resort, a romantic hut on the beach, or a serious luxury experience, there’s something for everyone.
There are fantastic all-inclusive family vacation spots and there are even budget hostels located in the town of Tulum, about a 15-minute bike ride from the beach.
- Hotel Holistika: Hotel Holistika is a good budget option for your trip to Tulum. It’s located in the town of Tulum and has private rooms as well as dorms. It may be one of the budget options, but it still feels like a luxury resort with a pool and hammocks hanging over the water. They have on-site yoga and a cute organic and healthy cafe for breakfast and lunch. Private rooms start at $60 per night. Book at a stay at Hotel Holistika here.
- Elements Tulum Boutique Hotel: Elements Tulum is a gorgeous hotel that allows you to experience some of the luxury of Tulum at a fraction of the price. It’s located in the town, not along the beach, which is why it’s more affordable, but you won’t realize you’re missing anything when you’re enjoying their super-fresh breakfast buffet in the outdoor restaurant or while you’re relaxing by the pool in the huge patio area. Rooms start at $130 per night. Book a stay at Elements Tulum here.
- Dune Boutique Hotel: Dune Boutique Hotel is right on the beach and you can even book a room that allows you to wake up to the stunning blue Caribbean Sea. This is one of the nicest luxury hotels along Tulum Beach with a private bar that allows you to sip your cocktail with your toes in the sand. There’s also a pool if you don’t want to swim in the ocean and they have car hire available if you want to get out and explore (which you definitely will!). Rooms start at $280 per night. Book a stay at Dune Boutique Hotel here.
- Ana y Jose Hotel and Spa: If you want a girl’s trip with a great spa or a romantic getaway with all of the luxury available, it doesn’t get much better than Ana y Jose. The rooms are huge, the views are incredible, the private beach in front of the hotel is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. You can have your spa treatment on the beach where you can feel the breeze, listen to the sound of the waves hitting the shore, and reach ultimate relaxation. Rooms start at $300 per night. Book a stay at Ana y Jose here.
- Papaya Playa Project: The Papaya Playa Project is without a doubt my favorite hotel in Tulum. Even if you don’t book a room at this gorgeous spot, be sure to walk down the beach and order a few drinks at their beachside bar. The decor is stylish and minimal. It’s all been designed to help you feel connected to the jungle and ocean that surrounds you while still giving you a luxury feel. The beds are plush and comfortable. The private pools outside of each beach hut are the perfect place to relax and there are hammocks everywhere in case you need more places to relax. Rooms start at $180 per night. Book a stay at the Papaya Playa Project here.
Things to Do in Tulum That You Don’t Want to Miss
If you’re coming to Tulum for the first time, you won’t want to miss out on all of the great things to do in Tulum like the archaeological site, the town, and the nearby cenotes that you can ride bikes to.
However, there are so many amazing places to see and so many things to do in Tulum that are a short drive away that you really won’t want to miss.
The Riviera Maya and the Yucatan Peninsula, in general, is one of the most biodiverse regions of Mexico and is packed with historical sites that will truly amaze the history buffs among us.
Where I can, I’ve included tours that are worth taking and classes that I really enjoy.
1. Tulum Archaeological Zone
No trip to Tulum would be complete with a visit to the Tulum Archaeological Site.
It may not be the largest ruins in Mexico, but it is definitely one of the most beautiful.
The Mayans built these ruins right on the coast, so the striking contrast of the grey stone against the blue skies and the turquoise Caribbean makes for some seriously amazing photos.
You can visit without a tour and simply explore the ruins. Alternatively, if you are already in Tulum, you can simply hire a guide at the entrance to the ruins and learn about each of the buildings this way.
The third option for those that really want to get to know more about the life of the Mayans here (and perhaps visit several sites around Tulum in one easy day), would be to take a day tour.
This tour takes you around the Tulum ruins with a guide and then brings to do the Dos Ojos Cenotes, one of the biggest cenotes in the area.
It’s one of the shorter tour options at only 5 hours, so you still have some of your day left to relax on the beach in the afternoon. Book the Tulum archaeological site and cenote tour here.
2. Rent Bikes
I highly recommend renting bikes to help you explore the area. One of the best things to do in Tulum if you are looking to get some exercise while you explore is to rent a bike and ride between town and beach.
There are also a few cenotes that are all less than five or six miles from the center of town. You can easily ride bikes there and go swimming in the morning or early afternoon (mornings are quietest).
The roads around Tulum are very flat, so beach cruisers are usually the bikes you’ll find. Many hotels, especially those in the town, offer either free bikes with your stay or very affordable bike rental prices. That way you can easily get to the beach.
If your hotel doesn’t offer bikes, there are several bike rental places along the town’s main street as well as from a few shops near the beach.
3. Chichen Itza
But it’s popular for good reason. The main temple of Chichen Itza will take your breath away.
There’s nothing quite like seeing a famous monument in the flesh, especially one as assuming as the temple at Chichen Itza.
There are a few ways to get to Chichen Itza from Tulum, but the easiest option is to take a tour. This is also a nice way to learn more about this huge site and its significance in Mayan culture.
This tour with Get Your Guide (my preferred tour company in this region of Mexico) is a great option, but if you don’t want to pre-book anything, there are several tour companies along the main street in Tulum where you can book a day or two in advance.
For those that would prefer to have an unlimited amount of time to visit Chichen Itza, the best way to do this is to rent a car and visit on your own.
This is what I did when I first visited Chichen Itza and I much preferred the ability to spend about four hours just exploring.
There is a great audio file from a company called mxplor that you can download and use on your phone to learn all about the history of Chichen Itza without needing to take a tour. You can download it for Android and iPhone on their website.
While many people come to Tulum and visit the Tulum ruins and Chichen Itza, for some reason the nearby Coba ruins get skipped.
These ruins are some of the most underrated ruins in all of Mexico. You’ll nearly have the place to yourself, especially if you rent a car and head here first thing in the morning before any tours show up.
The ruins are still being excavated, so not all of the buildings are visible, but the ones that are are pretty spectacular.
Many people say they feel a bit like an explorer as they wander around the ruins of Coba because you can still climb on many of the buildings.
There aren’t really any safety precautions here since it’s not very popular yet. And some even have ropes to help you climb up since there aren’t any steps to get you to the top.
5. Sian Ka’an
If you want to combine learning about the Maya culture of present-day with some of the most beautiful natural beauty, you have to get yourself to Sian Ka-an.
I HIGHLY recommend going with Community Tours Sian Ka’an. They have an office in the center of town in Tulum and you can learn about the different tours they offer by simply walking into their office and chatting to them.
All tours are in English with really fantastic bilingual guides.
This company works directly with the villagers who live in Sian Ka’an so by going on a tour with Community Tours, you are directly giving back to the locals that you are trying to learn more about.
They’re very focused on sustainable tourism in this biosphere because it is truly beautiful and something that should be well cared for (unfortunately this is not something all tour companies focus on).
6. Beach Hopping
There are several areas where you can enjoy the beach in Tulum and I highly recommend touring around while you’re here.
There is a public beach where you can rent chairs and umbrellas at the northern end of the beach. You can simply walk onto the beach and set up a towel as well. This is the best place to go if you want to relax and don’t want to pay for anything.
However, if you are staying at a hotel in Tulum town, you may want to consider heading south along the sand and grabbing a chair at one of the beach clubs that line the beach.
All you have to do is order drinks, some snacks or lunch if you want, and you can enjoy unlimited access to their comfortable beach chairs, umbrellas, sometimes even huge beach beds, and hammocks.
This is also where you’ll want to head if you want to enjoy a beach massage.
Several of the resorts have massage tables on the sand and you don’t have to be a guest of the resort to enjoy the benefits of the spa.
You can simply walk up to some of the hotels that have these beachside spas and enjoy a relaxing massage or facial.
You usually have to pay in cash here and most places accept both Pesos and Dollars.
7. Shopping in Tulum
Tulum is one of the best places in Mexico to find artisan clothing, shoes, and handbags. There are several fantastic boutiques near the beach resorts that I absolutely love going to when I visit Tulum.
- Josa Tulum is one of my favote places for handbags. They have lots of great leather goods in general here and the shop is stylish and chic.
- Mapache is the place to head if you want a gorgeous beach hat that will transition well to exploring Chichen Itza or other Maya ruins around the Yucatan.
- Caravana Montaecristo is the perfect women’s boutique. It was created by the owners of the Coqui Coqui hotel which is another fantastic hotel in Tulum. The shop has been so well curated with perfect pieces that take you from beach chic to summer in the Hamptons.
8. Yoga Classes
When I first visited Tulum a few years ago, there was one little yoga studio in town and it was where all of the hippie backpackers headed on a Sunday morning because it was cheap and the teachers were amazing and downstairs there was a juice bar with cheap green juices.
Now yoga is everywhere in Tulum and you can do it in a jungle studio, out on the beach, on a rooftop as the sun is setting and they’re all perfect (except perhaps the classes are a bit more expensive than they used to be a few years ago).
- Harmony Yoga Tulum – located on the edge of town, this is a gorgeous yoga shala that feels like you’re doing yoga in the jungle (I mean, you sort of are). It’s one of the most relaxing and affordable yoga classes in Tulum. They have classes in both English and Spanish.
- Yoga Dicha – this is a full-blown yoga studio in town with regular classes, teacher training programs, yoga events and workshops, and really fantastic teachers. Everything is available in English.
- Tribal Tulum – this is a great yoga studio that also have wonderful retreats a few months out of the year. If one of the things you want to do in Tulum is more yoga, this is one of my favorite spots.
9. Swim in Cenotes
There are so many cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula and visiting a few is one of the best things to do in Tulum.
If you don’t want to travel too far, rent bikes and ride to the Gran Cenote.
On the road that leads to the Gran Cenote, there are actually about three or four other small cenotes that don’t even make Google Maps.
You’ll just see small signs that point to cenotes and you can pull off and park your bikes outside. They cost significantly less and although are smaller, they usually have zero tourists at them.
If you have a rental car, I highly recommend getting yourself to Dos Ojos Cenotes.
Near Dos Ojos, there are several other small cenotes like El Pit and Taak Bi Ha which are worth checking out if you have time.
If you don’t want to rent a car, you can choose from many of the tour companies that line the main street in Tulum town.
Head to the dive shop on the main street if you want to go diving or snorkeling in a cenote while you’re in Tulum.
Alternatively, Get Your Guide work with local tour companies that can pick you up from your hotel in Tulum and take you to several different cenotes.
This tour takes you on a snorkeling adventure to a few different cenotes. This five-star rated tour is for those that want to scuba dive in a cenote. If you want to combine bike riding with swimming in cenotes, then this is the best tour option for you.
10. Enjoy the restaurant scene
The restaurant scene in Tulum has changed so much in the last few years.
Thanks to the international fame of Hartwood, more and more farm-to-table, or should I say sea-to-table restaurants have popped up in town and along the beach road.
Hartwood is definitely worthy of its reputation. The food is fantastic. But the line and the need to arrive several hours early is a little bit crazy to me.
Other restaurants that are equally fantastic that I recommend while you are in Tulum are these.
- Taboo Tulum: This place is starting to get more attention and it’s well worth trying to get a reservation or heading in for lunch. The food here is outstanding if you love seafood, but they also have plenty of great non-seafood menu items as well.
- Fresco’s Tulum: This is the best place to go if your hotel doesn’t include breakfast (it’s worth skipping breakfast at your hotel for a morning here too to be honest!). The restaurant is open for every meal, though so feel free to try it at any time of day.
- Farm to Table: Farm to Table is not to be missed on your next trip to Tulum. The food is out of this world. The house-made bread goes well with basically everything and they also make stellar cocktails.
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