20 things to do in Tulum


July 31, 2020

Tulum has become one of the best places to live and vacation in the Riviera Maya. The reason? Its incredible natural beauty.

The beauty of the Mayan jungle combines perfectly with the archaeological site of Tulum, which some years ago was one of the few reasons to visit the area.

However, Tulum, Quintana Roo is no longer a small beach town: it has become an exclusive tourist destination, where nature and the comfort of services and real estate developments meet. Therefore, visiting Tulum is a unique experience.

Whether you are thinking of visiting Tulum or moving in after retirement, here is a list of activities to do in this place.

1. Go to Playa Paraiso

This will undoubtedly be one of the most satisfying experiences you will have in Tulum.

Visiting the beaches of Tulum is a unique experience. The white sand and crystal clear waters contrast with the jungle that surrounds this paradise.

This is one of the reasons that make Tulum one of the favorite destinations to relax and connect with nature.

Playa Paraiso is one of the most famous public beaches in the Riviera Maya and is only one kilometer away from the archaeological site of Tulum.

The emblematic sloping palm tree of Playa Paraiso.
The emblematic sloping palm tree of Playa Paraiso has become an attraction for tourists who wish to take a selfie and upload it to social media.

2. Spend the afternoon in Santa Fe Beach

If you want a beach to enjoy with your family, Santa Fe is the ideal place for you. Here you will be able to relax, swim, as well as taste dishes in the restaurants while you spend the afternoon with your family.

Fun fact: there is no parking lot because only bicycles are allowed on this beach. Touring the place by bike, rent a cabin and spend the night there, are some of the most popular activities.

Beaches like Santa Fe are ideal to go on a retreat, get away from the noise of the big cities, and connect with nature.

3. Diving in the reefs

Did you know that Tulum has one of the largest reefs in the world? This beach town is home to the second largest.

Sports like snorkeling will allow you to enjoy this ecosystem formed by microscopic organisms, which are 25% of marine life.

The sea turtles.
There are tours to observe the sea turtles, since Tulum is one of the places where they lay their eggs.

4. Go to Tulum National Park

The National Park of Tulum, Quintana Roo, has an extension of almost 665 hectares.

Within the Tulum National Park is the archaeological site of Tulum, as well as Muyil, Xelhá, Xcaret, Playa del Carmen, and Cobá.

This is one of the largest protected areas in the Riviera Maya. It is home to species such as the sea turtle, anteater, spider monkey, howler monkey, tepezcuintle, armadillo, weasel, etc.

Archaeological site of Tulum.
Take a guided tour of the National Park and don't forget to respect the ecosystem.

5. Visit the archaeological site of Tulum

The ruins of Tulum are one of the most important tourist attractions of the beach town.

Tulum is a Mayan word that means wall and got its name from the ancient construction that is preserved, however, in the beginning, this site was called Zama, which means morning or dawn.

Archaeological site of Tulum.
From Tulum Castle, you can admire the beauty of the Caribbean Sea and the Mayan jungle.

The opening hours of the Tulum archaeological site are every day from 8:00 to 17:00, and the ticket costs approximately 70 Mexican pesos. By paying your ticket you will have access to the Tulum ruins and the beach.

Tours, boat trips, and snorkel equipment rental are some of the services available in the area.

6. Visit Coba

Although this site is not as popular as the ruins of Tulum, it has a unique charm that attracts tourists from all over the world.

Thanks to its privileged location, near 5 lakes, this used to be one of the most prosperous ancient cities.

It is believed that there are 5 thousand possible undiscovered remains hidden in the Mayan jungle. Besides, some experts point out that this place could be one of the most important Mayan cities.

Ruins of Coba.
Coba has its own charm. The undiscovered vestiges make you feel that you are on an expedition in the Mayan jungle.

Visiting it will be like an archaeological expedition. There is a large number of stelae in this place, which are believed to be monuments documenting the life of the monarchs.

Thanks to these stelae, we know that it was one of the cities with the most female rulers in Mesoamerica.

Exploring Coba is by bike, staying in town and even visiting the lagoon near the archaeological site are some of the activities to do in this place.

7. Discover Muyil, the hidden gem

This is one of 23 archaeological sites within the Sian Ka'an Reserve. 

A part of this area is closed to the public because there are still ruins to be discovered.

Muyil gets its name from the two lakes that surround it: Muyil and Chunyché. So far, the real name of what was one of the most important Mayan cities for trade is not known.

Thanks to the popularity of Sian Ka'an, Muyil is one of the main tourist attractions in Quintana Roo.

Ruins of Muyil.
Muyil is the hidden gem in the middle of the Mayan jungle.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit El Castillo, which is 17 meters high and is one of the main Mayan constructions.

8. Visit Sian Ka'an Reserve

Its name in Mayan means "door of heaven" or "the place where the sky begins", and thanks to the biodiversity that inhabits there, we are sure that it is a paradise on earth.

Sian Ka'an Reserve is famous because it is home to dolphins and thousands of species of flora and fauna. However, the value of the reserve is incalculable: it is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is part of the Yucatan Peninsula's aqueduct system.

Petenes of Sian Ka'an.
The petenes located in Sian Ka'an are fundamental to the ecosystem and are the only ones in Mexico.

Part of what makes Sian Ka'an a world heritage site are its mangroves and "petenes". The petenes -which are unique in their type it only found in Florida and Cuba as well as the Yucatan peninsula- are very sensitive systems, so the presence of urbanization can greatly affect their existence.

Since it is such an important place, tourists should follow the guidelines of qualified personnel so as not to damage the ecosystem.

Applying biodegradable sunscreen, not wearing very colorful clothes or introducing objects or animals that could damage the ecosystem are the main recommendations for visitors.

9. Cave diving at Cenote Dos Ojos

As mentioned in 'The best cenotes to visit in Tulum', Cenote Dos Ojos, also known as Dos Aguas, gets its name from its physical appearance. At first glance, they seem to be two eyes looking at the sky, but in reality, they are two openings connected by a cave.

Dos Ojos is one of the must-visit cenotes thanks to its extensive underground river system.

Cave diving at Cenote Dos Ojos.
This cenote is perfect for cave diving as you can explore its underwater caves. Its clear waters will allow you to see all the detail of the rock formations.

10. Swimming in Gran Cenote

In Gran Cenote, you can explore the caves as well as swim in the open-air area.

This is a semi-open cenote, meaning that one part maintains its dome shape and also has a large entrance opened to the light and surrounded by the Mayan jungle.

It is located about 4 kilometers from Tulum, on the way to the archaeological site of Coba.

Swimming in Gran Cenote.
Gran Cenote is ideal for swimming in freshwater and spending a good afternoon.

11. Observe the stalactites of the Cenote Choo-Ha

Are you in Coba and a little far from the Gran Cenote? Don't worry, you can visit another of the closest cenotes: Cenote Choo-Ha.

To enter this underground cenote in Coba you will have to go down stairs. Choo-Ha is full of stalactites and stalagmites, so visiting it is an opportunity to admire these rock formations.

Stalactites of the Cenote Choo-Ha.
The main advantage of visiting Cho-Haa is that it is not so crowded, allowing you to relax and enjoy to the fullest.  

12. Connect with nature in Xcacelito

Xcacel Beach is one of Tulum's hidden treasures. On this beach, human intervention is kept to a minimum.

Cenote Xcacelito is just a few steps from the beach. In this cenote, you will be able to swim with small fish, enjoy the fresh air, and connect with nature.

Many tourists visit Xcacelito to have a spiritual experience.

13. Take a restaurant tour

By now, you surely know what makes Tulum a place with a bohemian atmosphere.

Surrounding yourself with nature, appreciating the fauna, and visiting the great Mayan constructions, are some activities that relax the tourists and take them away from the stress of the big cities.

After touring the ruins and the tourist attractions of Tulum, you will surely want to rest and do something quieter at night.

As mentioned in 'Everything you need to know about Tulum, Quintana Roo', in this beach town you can find dishes with recipes inspired by the Mayan culture.

Most of these dishes are seafood specialties such as ceviche, shrimp empanadas, fried fish, etc.

But if for some reason, you don't like seafood, you will also find several international food restaurants.

If you want to try something different, try dishes made with turkey, wild boar, and venison.

And if you like Mexican food, you can enjoy cochinita pibil, salbutes, enchiladas, mole and traditional tacos.

14. Festivities and traditions in Tulum

In Tulum, there are several festivities and traditions related to culture and nature, such as the Sea Turtle Festival.

This event is held in October to raise awareness about the preservation of the turtles that nest on Tulum's beaches.

Sea turtles.
Throughout the year there are activities and events to raise awareness about the preservation of marine species.

Another thing you can experience in Tulum is the Carnival. Carnival floats, dances, concerts, contests and the coronation of the carnival kings are the beginning of this celebration that starts in March.

15. Bohemian nightlife

The nightlife in Tulum is much more relaxed than in Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Among the main activities are going out for dinner or drinking at a bar with live music. You can order your favorite drink while enjoying the good atmosphere that only Tulum can offer.

You can order your favorite drink while enjoying the good atmosphere.
Most of the restaurants and bars are just a few steps away from the beach.

16. Doing yoga on the beach

Tulum is one of the best places to do yoga.

There is no more relaxed and spiritual place in the Riviera Maya. Can you imagine closing your eyes, breathing deeply and relaxing after watching a beautiful sunset on the beach?

Doing yoga on the beach.
Whether you decide to do it alone, or join a group session, this is an experience you should not miss.

17. Visit Xel-ha

Xel-ha is an aquatic theme park that is surrounded by the Mayan jungle and it is one of the main tourist attractions in the Riviera Maya.

In Xel-ha you can snorkel, have fun on the waterslides, ride a tire on the river and go ziplining. This place is kid-friendly and of course has restaurants that serve breakfast and lunch.

Banner of real estate developments in Tulum.

18. Swimming with sea turtles in Akumal

Between Playa del Carmen and Tulum there is a must-visit destination: Akumal.

It is one of the main ecotourism destinations in the Riviera Maya and some of the activities you can do here are snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles.

Akumal is considered the land of the turtles, and in fact got its name from the Mayan term meaning "place of the turtles".

Swimming with sea turtles.
Don't forget your underwater camera to take pictures of the turtles, reefs and fish.

19. Go to Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is close to Tulum. So why not visit this city?

There are many things to do in Playa del Carmen, but we suggest you visit the 5th Avenue.

This place is the main tourist attraction in Playa del Carmen and there you will find the best shops, restaurants, bars, art exhibitions, souvenir and craft shops.

Beach of Playa del Carmen.
After touring the 5th Avenue, you can visit the beach which is just a few steps away from the hotels and this famous place.

20. Touring all over the Riviera Maya

One of the reasons why the Riviera Maya is one of the best tourist destinations in Mexico is because there is always something to do.

The most famous places are Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun, but we suggest you the whole Riviera Maya is a paradise worth visiting.

People about to retire are buying condos and townhomes in the Riviera Maya, to make their retirement like having a permanent vacation.

Renting bicycles or kayaks will allow you to travel all along the coast by land or sea.

Visiting Tulum is an experience

Tulum's charm lies in its bohemian atmosphere.

The tourist influx is high because it is within the famous Riviera Maya. However, it is quite different from cities like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, famous for their nightlife.

Since it is a beach town surrounded by nature, this place invites you to connect with yourself and explore and get into the adventure.

That is why investing in Tulum has become one of the best options, for those who want to live in paradise.

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