Some cool things to do in Tulum!
Updated: Sep 28, 2022
Tulum is a destination usually included in the itinerary of travelers that dream of sunny days, white sandy beaches and beautiful turquoise waters, but visiting Tulum is about that and much more. Tulum is a town full of history and a lot more relaxed than its neighbor cities like Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
If Tulum is on your list of places to visit, you will not regret it! Here you will find paradisiac beaches, ecotouristic activities, plenty of history and endless places to discover.
The atmosphere that exists in the town known as Tulum, but that some researchers have proposed that it was known as Zama, “City of Dawn” when in the times of the Mayan civilization it served as a point of exchange of goods, is unique and you would have to come and see for yourself.
Here is a list of ideas of some cool things to do while in Tulum:
1. The first thing that anyone should visit when they’re in Tulum is the archaeological site of Tulum, famous for its wall and its magnificent location next to the Caribbean Sea on top of a cliff. You can visit it in an approximate time of one hour, our recommendation is to arrive early to get in line and buy your tickets before the big buses start arriving (the site opens at 8:00 a.m.). You can rent a bicycle and cycle to the site, only a small portion of the way has a bike path so be careful. The advantages of taking a tour to experience Tulum (the archaeological site as well as the actual culture) are many. Our Classic Tulum Bike Tour includes everything you need: a city bike, tickets to the archaeological site, a meal in an authentic place, a cenote visit and an approach to the culture of the town of Tulum to learn about the different efforts some people are taking for a better Tulum. All this in the company of a guide passionate about the culture and history of the place.
2. After your visit of the archaeological site of Tulum, having eaten lunch and cooled off in a cenote, you will still have the rest of the afternoon to relax at the beach. You can access the beach by heading towards the Parque Nacional Tulum where there are a couple public accesses to the beach. Bring plenty of water to drink, a blanket or something to lay or sit on, a hat and clothes to aid against the sun´s UV rays such as a rash guard, help us protect the second largest coral reef in the world by not using lotions with harmful chemicals.
3. If you want to catch the sunset there are beautiful roof top terraces and observation decks such as the Ciel Rose at Puro Corazón where you can enjoy a delicious mezcal cocktail.
4. One of the many advantages of being in Tulum is the fact that you will be very near other important archaeological sites such as Xel-Ha, Muyil and Coba. Muyil just 30 minutes south of Tulum by car, it is a spectacular site nestled in the jungle next to the beautiful freshwater lagoons of the Sian Ka´an Biosphere Reserve which is another place you must visit while in Tulum. One of the biggest attractions of this ancient trading post is the option to take a boat across two lagoons until you reach a lazy river with crystal clear water where you can float using a life vest as a ¨chair¨ in the water for about 30 minutes among mangroves orchids and bromeliads. The number of boats is limited to control human impact in this beautiful but fragile ecosystem. It is possible that when you get there no boats will be available to take you. If you want to guarantee a place to go floating in the lazy river, enjoy a delicious lunch and learn about the history of Muyil as well as the ecology of the area and the Man and Biosphere (MAB) program do not hesitate to book our Sian Ka´an Muyil tour:
5. For a great example of how the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula adapted and thrived in conditions that were far from ideal (very poor soils on top of the limestone rock), but still managed to achieve an incredible development and build huge cities, you must visit Coba. Located deep in the jungle about 45 minutes west of Tulum by car. Coba has the highest temple in the area. Climb to the top and enjoy the view of a city now covered by jungle (with less than 2% uncovered) which from the year 300 A.D until around 800 A.D was led by powerful rulers of man and woman which you can still appreciate carved on the stelae they left behind. For a more complete experience of the Mayan past and present take a look at our Mayan Inland Expedition tour which includes a visit to Coba, a cenote, a nature reserve where you can participate in different activities such as zip lining, hiking in search of monkeys and other wildlife, canoeing and a Mayan ceremony, also enjoy lunch in the house of a very welcoming Mayan family and contribute to their efforts to protect their land and culture.
6. Another activity you can do is a Temazcal. This type of steam bath ceremony has been alive since ancient times, the Maya as well as other Mesoamerican cultures performed this ritual to purify their body and soul. Learn about the significance of this practice of re birth and enjoy all its benefits. A Temazcal session can take between 25 and 90 minutes, depending on the needs and wishes of the participants and the Temazcalero (guide). The steam bath is usually fragmented into several sessions lasting 15 minutes each. It’s very important to follow the recommendations given to you prior to the ceremony since there are some precautions that need to be taken for example if you are pregnant or if you are on your period. Do this activity with a reputable company to get the most safe and authentic experience possible.
7. You cannot leave Tulum without visiting the Cenotes; they are the natural access to the largest hydrological system in the world. Cenotes come in various forms, some are completely open and look like ponds with crystal clear water; at the bottom you can admire the aquatic life (vegetal and animal) and the rocks which at some point used to be the roof of these caves where you are swimming. Other cenotes are caves (closed and usually flooded) which can be extremely decorated with incredible stalactites and stalagmites, some can have plenty of space between you and the roof of the cave so even if you are a bit claustrophobic you will be all right, some are completely flooded without an air pocket so only cave divers can access those. Cenotes are one of the most incredible natural wonders of the area, we have chosen a beautiful cenote not open to the general public to allow us to have a very intimate and authentic experience. This caves are of huge significance and importance to the area, it is extremely important to follow the guidelines of your guide for your safety and to take care of the cave. Some of the regulations to visit and swim in cenotes ask you to not touch any of the formations, you must shower and rinse off any lotion or even the sweat from your body, keep in mind that the sun can´t reach this caves so nothing bio degrades and this water might reach a village where people are still drinking from the water table and like most rivers do, the water travelling along this underground rivers will also come out in the sea.
8. Tulum is a town with people from around the globe, some visiting for a few days and many that have come to live here indefinitely. As Tulum continues to grow there are many different actors that are pushing towards an orderly and responsible development of the town and contributing in any way they can to keep Tulum beautiful. One of these groups of people who are literally embellishing the town and having a very positive impact in Tulum´s society is Tinasah. Take the time to find all the different murals around Tulum, it is a great way to explore and get familiar with the town. Do it on a bike!
9. The main avenue in the town of Tulum is a great place to shop for souvenirs, but also if your time in Tulum coincides, on the first Sunday of every month from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm, merchants from Tulum and other communities nearby and as far as 3 hours away from Tulum (14 different communities) bring their products to the main square of Tulum next to the city hall. This is a great opportunity to appreciate some of the amazing crafts and products from the area while contributing directly to the local economy.
10. And last but not least don't leave on an empty stomach! We are soooo lucky in Tulum to have such a varied and incredible food with styles, chefs and ingredients from all around the globe, but also Mexican and of course Mayan. There are restaurants for all sorts of pallets, vegan, vegetarian, but also great taquerias. If you want to try something local,these are my three favorites:
1. Tacoqueto.- Very simple, but tasty food… something my mom would cook at home. You can peak into the kitchen to see what they made and choose. Try the pork in salsa verde!
2. Cetli.- Gourmet Mexican Cuisine. Spectacular example of why the UNESCO declared Mexican cuisine an Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Chiles en Nogada are superb!
3. El Asadero.- A Mexican Grill with great food and a great atmosphere.