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TOP THINGS TO DO IN TULUM

A FIRST-TIMER’S GUIDE


On the Yucatan Peninsula, two hours south of Cancun, is the Caribbean coastal town of Tulum. For a small beach town, Tulum is packed with things to do, and based on the construction we saw on our trip, it is only going to continue growing. Tulum boasts tropical beaches, magical cenotes, modern restaurants, cafes and bars, cute boutiques and impressive historical sites.

Top Things To Do in Tulum - Archaeological Zones

 

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CENOTES


One of the most popular and unique things to do on the Yucatan Peninsula is to visit the cenotes. A cenote is a sinkhole formed from the collapse of limestone bedrock, which has filled with water from rain or underground rivers. To the Mayan people, cenotes were considered to be the entrance to the underworld, and on top of being a water source, some Cenotes were also sacred sites where rituals were performed.


Around Tulum, you will find many of the most popular and beautiful cenotes in Mexico. Each cenote offers something different. Some are small, peaceful caverns, some have cave systems to do guided dives through, some have swings, ropes and jumping spots, and one even has a crocodile you can swim alongside (which we were not brave enough to do).


There are a few cenotes close to town, but to reach many of the popular spots, you will need to hire a car, book a taxi or join a tour. We visited Cenote Kuxtal as part of a tour booked through Viator, and besides our group, there was barely anyone else there.
The prices for cenotes vary, but it's best to always bring cash to pay on entry. Many cenotes have mandatory life vests, which are an additional cost on top of admission.


ARCHAEOLOGICAL ZONES


There are many impressive Mayan archaeological sites located on the Yucatan Peninsula. One of our favourite sites is the Tulum Archaeological Zone. While many archaeological sites lie inland, surrounded by dust and dirt, these ruins have the picturesque backdrop of the Caribbean Sea, lush green lawns and swaying palm trees.


This site is only 4 km (2.5 mi) from the town centre. It is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily, and tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the entrance. This set gets very crowded, so we would highly recommend arriving as early as possible.

Another impressive historical site is the Coba Archaeological Zone. Immersed in the jungle, connected by tree-lined pathways, are ruins of temples, carved stone slabs, ball courts, stone causeways and the main pyramid site of Nohoch Mul, which features the tallest pyramid in Coba and on the Yucatan Peninsula.


Coba is around 47 km (29 mi) from Tulum. The site is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily, with the last entry permitted at 4:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the entrance. The site is quite large, so to get around, you can either walk, rent a bike or hire a tricycle with a driver.

One of the most famous archaeological zones on the Yucatan Peninsula is Chichen Itza. UNESCO named the site one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007.


Chichen Itza is located 150 km (93 mi) from Tulum. The site is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily, with the last entry at 4 pm. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the gate. However, since the pandemic, they have capped the number of visitors a day, so to avoid disappointment, it is recommended to book in advance.


THE BEACH


Being on the Caribbean Sea, it is no surprise that one of the top things to do in Tulum is enjoying the beaches. The coastline is expansive, with some sections offering bars and private beach clubs, while others are busy public beaches or peaceful and secluded stretches of white sand.


If you aren’t staying along the beach, you can reach the coast by hiring a car, catching a taxi, renting a bike, or walking. We chose the latter, and it took us around 1 hour to walk from Downtown to Playa Las Palmas. The walk was mostly paved (until we reached La Costera), and Avenue Coba had many restaurants, bars and shops to check out along the way.


FOOD


On top of the beaches, cenotes and historical sites, Tulum is also a top destination for food. There are many amazing restaurants and bars you need to try when visiting this town on the Yucatán Peninsula.


For our 5 top places to eat and drink, check out our guide on Where To Eat in Tulum.

SHOPPING


Downtown Tulum (also known as Tulum Town, Tulum Pueblo or El Centro) is the best place to visit if you are keen to do some shopping. The main street, Avenue Tulum, is littered with stores, including places for souvenirs, clothes, jewellery, shoes, bags and more. In the streets to the south of the main road, you will find smaller, independent boutiques and second-hand shops.



OUR GOOGLE MAPS


When planning our travel destinations, we pin our bucket list of sites to see and recommended places to eat and drink on Google Maps. We are then never lost for ideas when travelling, and can easily share these lists for our friends and family to use too.








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