Most vacations in Mexico are all about sunshine, sand, and sea. You can get that just about anywhere in the country, with a side dish of fresh and flavorful Mexican food.
But if you’re thinking about a trip to Mexico, you’ll get more out of your holiday if you head to the Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula. Think beyond Cancun and Playa del Carmen. We’ve got 11 good reasons to visit Tulum this winter instead.
Here’s why you should visit Tulum.
1. Tulum is easy to get to
Located along the Riviera Maya, Tulum is just one hour (40 miles) away from of Playa del Carmen. You can get to Tulum by colectivo, bus, taxi, and shuttle.
- Colectivo. Unless you’re on your last peso, you should avoid the colectivo. Sure, it’s the cheapest option, but you can only bring what you can fit on your lap. Also, the trip takes longer, because it won’t leave until it’s full. Expect stops along the way to drop off and pick up passengers. Cost: 45 MXN ($2.20)
- Bus. The Playa del Carmen to Tulum bus is far more comfortable than the colectivo, and faster and cheaper than a taxi. Plus, you can bring one large piece of luggage and one hand luggage, just like on an airplane. Cost: $4 to $7.
- Taxi. If you don’t feel like taking public transport, you can take a taxi from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. Prices start from 615 MXN ($30) for the 1-hour ride.
- Shuttle. If you’d prefer to have someone meet you at the airport and help with luggage, choose a private shuttle from Cancun Airport to Tulum. Cost: $70 and up. Price is per vehicle, not per person.
Because the Riviera Maya region is so easy to get to, it’s become a popular wedding destination. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this list of wedding resorts in the Riviera Maya.
|RIVIERA MAYA TRAVEL ESSENTIALS|
|Travel guide: This book is a best-seller.|
Flights: Cancun’s airport code is CUN. Check availability
Hotels: Check prices here.
Airport transfer: Prebook transportation to your hotel
Travel visas: Check visa requirements
Travel insurance: World Nomads is available while you’re traveling!
Getting around: Renting a car is the most convenient
Tickets & tours: Find lots of fun ideas on GetYourGuide and Viator
Organized trips: G Adventures has insanely affordable small-group tours + guaranteed departures.
International SIM card: Drimsim works in 229 countries!
2. Tulum has incredible Mayan ruins and pyramids
The town of Tulum was built by the Mayans in the 13th century. The walled city was built to face the sun, perched atop a limestone cliff overlooking the Caribbean sea.
Many of the traditional Mayan buildings remain intact. We think the well-preserved ruins top the reasons to visit Tulum, more than anything else.
Among the Mayan sites on the Yucatan, the best ones are:
- Chichén Itzá, a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Cobá with a 138-foot pyramid that you can climb, and
- El Rey, which is close to Cancún.
Many of these can be visited as day trips from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. If you’re further south on the Riviera Maya, you can see the Tulum archaeological site as a half-day trip.
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3. It’s not as touristy as Cancun
Don’t get me wrong – Tulum is a popular tourist destination. But unlike Cancun and Play del Carmen, visiting Tulum feels a little more chill and a little less like Party Central.
This beachside town is growing in size but is still relatively untouched by mass development, and there are some nice parks in Tulum as well. So if you’re looking for a relaxed beach getaway, with miles of pristine white sands and glistening waters, this is the town for you.
If you want a destination that leaves you feeling relaxed and in a perfect holiday mood, Tulum. Mexico is ideal.
4. Tulum has miles of incredible beaches
Another reason why people love visiting Tulum is because of its incredible beaches, and Tulum’s beaches stretch for miles!
Imagine swaying palm trees leaning overhead and warm azul waters caressing the white sand. There’s a reason why they named the beach Playa Paraíso, Paradise Beach.
There’s also a fantastic beach below the Tulum ruins. What can be better than powdery white sand, a warm sun and the sound of lapping waves to relax your mind and body?
The untamed jungle with the Tulum ruins in the background just adds a pop of wow to the entire destination.
5. You can swim in dozens of colorful cenotes
Anyone can swim in a pool, but swimming in a cenote is a unique experience. Don’t miss this when you’re visiting Tulum, because it’s one of the top attractions in the Yucatan.
What is a cenote? Cenotes are holes in the ground, formed by groundwater collapsing the surface of the earth. The word cenote comes from dzonot, the Mayan word for “well.” Mayans revered cenotes as a source of water and used some of them for sacrificial offerings.
Most of the cenotes in the Yucatan are filled with fresh water that has been filtered by the earth. This makes the water is so crystal clear that you can see straight to the bottom. Some of the cenotes offer more than 300 feet of underwater visibility, which is why cenotes are a diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise.
Yucatan Peninsula has over 400 cenotes, and each one is unique. Two popular ones are:
- El Gran Cenote (The Big Cenote). You can snorkel and dive here, and there’s a snorkeling area with up-close views of large stalactites. It’s located a little over two miles from Tulum on the road to the Mayan ruins of Coba.
- Dos Ojos (Two Eyes). One of the top 10 longest underwater cave systems in the world, Dos Ojos has the deepest known cave passage in Quintana Roo. It also has a bat cave that visitors can explore. It’s located 10 miles north of Tulum.
6. You can explore a UNESCO biosphere
The ocean and jungle habitats around Tulum are home to diverse wildlife, and Sian Ka’an natural biosphere truly showcases the variety of the region. If you want to visit a national protected park in Mexico, then this is the place for you!
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has nine ecosystems and is home to more than 300 bird species and 100 animal species.
Depending on your travel style and budget, you can either visit Sian Ka’an on your own or book a professionally guided tour. Either way, expect this to be a very full, very enjoyable day trip from Tulum.
7. Tulum has fantastic food
Any trip experience largely depends on the quality of the food you get. And as Mexico is famous for its cuisine, Tulum doesn’t disappoint at all.
When you’re visiting Tulum, make it a point to try the local food. This is the only place you can try Yucatecan cuisine, flavored with a blend of achiote, citrus, habaneros, and smoke, the traditional Mayan seasonings.
But if you’re not a fan, no worries. With everything from gourmet steaks to vegetarian Mexican food, you’ll find something to please everyone’s taste buds. Tulum’s food flavors are spot on and don’t fail to impress you.
And the surroundings just add the perfect vibe. Sit on the beach or in a treehouse, savoring some amazing main course meals with your partner, forgetting about the world. What could be better?
8. You’ll see sea turtles in their natural habitat
If you love animals, Tulum has a surprise for you. Between May and October, thousands of turtles arrive to lay their eggs along the beaches in the area!
When it’s dark, you can watch the mother turtles wade ashore to lay their eggs in the white sand before making their way back to the water. If you want to experience them closely, then you can get a guided tour to Tulum’s national park, where you can have an up-close experience with this place’s natural habitat.
Or you can head to Akumal, 16mi (26km) north of Tulum, where turtles are abundant and used to humans. The bay is protected by a reef that keeps large waves from the area, so you can snorkel with the turtles and see these magnificent creatures up close. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
To get to Akumal from Tulum town center, you can take a taxi colectivo (shared taxi) for 45 pesos (about $3). It’s a 30-minute trip.
ⓘ TIP: The number of tourists allowed in the water each day is limited due to conservation. To avoid disappointment, book an excursion or arrive early.
9. You can soak in the mud at Ka’an Luum Lagoon
Ka’an Luum Lagoon is a natural wonder just a few minutes away from Tulum. What makes it remarkable is that the cenote’s center is 80 meters (262 feet) deep!
Visitors flock to the lagoon on day trips because the rich mud surrounding the turquoise lagoon is believed to have healing properties.
The waters of Ka’an Luum are quite shallow, so it’s easy to get in and cover yourself up in the healing sediment.
But even if a mud bath isn’t your thing, you can just sit and breathe in the beauty of the place.
10. It’s easy to get around by bicycle
Tulum is a great place to get in shape, painlessly. No matter where you stay in Tulum, almost everything is within 3 or so miles. Sure, you could pay 100 pesos for a taxi ride, but you can also stay fit by walking or pedaling your way to the beach.
Tulum is a very bike friendly town. You’ll see most people either walking or roaming around on bicycles. Nearly every hotel or hostel offers bicycles for rent, and At 100 pesos a day (about $6), a bike is the fastest way to get around.
If you want to head to the beach, it’s safe and easy to navigate on the bike paths. You can also head into town and explore Tulum Pueblo’s shops and side streets. Best of all, you can stop whenever you want and snap a selfie!
11. Tulum has great nightlife
Tulum is not all about eye-catching sites and destinations. You can spend the day exploring cenotes and go to the wildlife but during the night, this place has a lot more fun to offer. The beach parties and live music add a completely different vibe to this place.
We recommend the Middle Beach Zone and The Pueblo as two of the best bar areas in Tulum. The Pueblo area is the central part of Tulum and features a string of trendy but casual bars. Depending on your mood, you can spend the evening in The Pueblo, which is more affordable and laid back, or go more upscale in the Middle Beach Zone. Either one is a good way to kick back and relax.
What are you waiting for?
Get away from the hustle and bustle and make a trip to the beach by visiting Tulum.
With an endless beauty unfolding right in front of your eyes, Tulum leaves your mind and body feeling relaxed. It is a traveling experience like none other and you will hold it your memory for years to come.