Things to do in Tulum

Riviera Maya: how to plan a day trip to Tulum

There truly is no shortage of things to do in Tulum: nestled deep in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, with its ancient temples overlooking the stunningly turquoise Caribbean Sea. The Mayan city of Tulum is, rightfully so, one of Mexico’s top attractions, and not just for the sheer, jaw-dropping 700 years of history behind it.

As one of the best-preserved Maya sites in Mexico, Tulum is a must-see, bucket-list-worthy kind of destination. Basically, it’s just one of those places you HAVE to see in a lifetime, because believe it or not, Mexico has a lot more to offer than just luxury resorts (although they don’t hurt, I’ll say that) and guacamole.

The history of Tulum, Mexico

Nestled deep in the Yucatan peninsula, with its ancient temples overlooking the stunningly turquoise Caribbean Sea, this is indeed one of the most popular attractions in the country and not just for its jaw-dropping 700 years of history but also for the dramatic 39-foot-high cliffs alongside it.

And while Tulum is not nearly as ancient as some of the other ruins elsewhere in Mexico — most Mayan sites date back to the 3-9th centuries — Tulum is nonetheless rather unique in that it was a particularly prosperous hub located at the centre of both coastal and land routes, as proven by the thousands of artefacts establishing beyond doubt a formerly flourishing trade with Central America.

And because of this highly strategic significance, Tulum was one of the very few walled cities in the Mayan Empire with massive 5-metres-high, 7-metres-thick limestone walls enclosing three of its sides while the natural fortress of the 11-metres tall coastline granted unobstructed views of sea-faring visitors.

At the height of the empire, Tulum was home to 1500 residents before the Spanish unceremoniously settled here in the late 16th century.

Did you know?
Contrary to popular belief, the Mayans were not annihilated due to territorial battles or hostile conquests, but rather because European settlers brought over several diseases from the old continent that rapidly turned out to be fatal for a majority of natives. Those who survived simply left as the community was slowly, but surely, disrupted.

Tulum travel tips

Keep your visit to the mayan ruins of Tulum, Mexico, a memorable one by following these tips:

  • Arrive before 8 a.m. to avoid waiting in line
  • Bring water, snacks and sunscreen
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • If your hotel doesn’t offer packages, book one that includes transportation to Tulum and admission to the archaeological site.
  • Tulum is located on the east coast of Mexico, about 50 miles south of Cancun.

Between the ruins of El Palacio, served as a residence for Tulum’s most prominent citizens, the beacon that used to be the Castillo and the dozens of massive lizards roaming around freely, one could easily spend a full day on site. There really are tons of things to do in Tulum.

But for visitors that truly can’t be bothered with ancient ruins and Mayan history, there’s always the beach. Indeed, Tulum’s rugged coastline makes for perfectly dreamy patches of sand hidden in intimate coves for a quiet, picture-perfect swim.

Things to do in Tulum

Come on down the creaky wooden stairs leading to the sea and enjoy a refreshing, invigorating swim — just the way Mexico should be enjoyed.

There are a few coatis near the visitor centre in Tulum. They’re diurnal mammals native to South and Central America part of the Procyonids family — they’re basically Mexico’s answer to racoons.

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