Being one of the most popular spots in the Riviera Maya in Mexico, Tulum has an endless amount of amazing things to do. But if you’ve been in the town for a while and have grown tired of the beautiful beaches and unforgettable nightlife (unlikely) then perhaps it’s time you start taking some Tulum day trips to awesome spots nearby. How does climbing pyramids, swimming with turtles, and visiting colonial towns sound?
The state of Quintana Roo is quite small and the neighbouring states of Yucatan and Campeche are only a day trip away, making Tulum the perfect base to start exploring these places. Bacalar, Valladolid, Playa Del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, or Coba are just a few of our favourite places that make perfect day trips, or more than one day if you end up loving them.
Best Tulum Day Trips
Witness the Lagoon of 7 Colors in Bacalar
Distance: 215 km (2 hours 30-minute drive)
Two and a half hours south of Tulum you’ll find Bacalar, a small, quiet town situated on a large lagoon sometimes referred to as the “Lagoon of 7 Colors” (Laguna de Siete Colores) though we were only able to spot 5 different colours when we were there.
An eco-tourism-focused town, it’s definitely not as developed as Tulum but has become increasingly popular over the past few years. You can take a boat trip, kayak, or snorkel out to the spectacularly blue-green-turquoise lagoon, or check out the neighbouring Cenote Azul. It’s definitely a quiet town, so if you’re looking for a relaxing day trip then we would recommend coming here.
Go Back in Time at Chichen Itza
Distance: 150 km (2-hour drive)
Without a doubt, the most popular pyramid in Mexico, a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula wouldn’t be complete without visiting this ancient wonder. Once the center of the Mayan world, it’s no wonder the Yucatan is full of amazing pyramids, and Chichen Itza is no exception.
Founded around 600 AD, the main Kukulcán Temple is one of the most instantly recognizable pyramids in the world and makes an excellent Tulum day trip, being only a 2-hour drive away. Around the area are also many spectacular cenotes to explore, along with the colonial town Valladolid which we’ll cover next.
Explore Colonial Valladolid
Distance: 102 km (1 hour and 30-minute drive)
On the way to Chichen Itza, you’ll find the wonderfully quaint colonial town known as Valladolid. The beautiful little town could be a day trip in itself, apart from Chichen Itza. With lots of things to do and explore, including cenotes surrounding the area, some visitors end up staying here for more than a day.
With a rich Spanish Conquistador colonial history, Valladolid contains fantastic examples of early Spanish architecture and sprawling quiet streets with colorful little houses and buildings. It is often compared to its big sister: Merida – the capital of the state of Yucatan. Chichen Itza is only 45 minutes away, so it’s worth a stop here, even if you don’t plan on staying long.
Party it up in Playa Del Carmen
Distance: 64 km (1-hour drive)
If you’re looking for a beach town that’s a little different but has a lot in common with Tulum and also looking to save money – then we recommend Playa Del Carmen, especially if you wanna party. Probably one of the most popular and easiest Tulum day trips, PDC is very easy to reach from Tulum via colectivo or taxi. Most people who find themselves going to Playa Del Carmen for a “day trip” end up staying here for weeks or even months. It’s notorious for sucking you in and not letting you go. If you’re looking for the best nightlife spots, then check out our Playa Del Carmen nightlife guide here.
Famous for its hectic walking street “Quinta Avenida,” it’s lined with all kinds of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and shops vying for your attention – it really overloads the senses. In our opinion PDC has better nightlife than Tulum, it’s not as pretentious and you’ll definitely save more money. If you’re thinking of spending the day at the beach – that’s fine, but don’t expect the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear blue water that Tulum offers unless you consider Cozumel, which we’ll cover next.
Go Snorkeling in Cozumel
Distance: 80km (1-hour drive and 45 min ferry ride)
If you find you don’t enjoy the crowded beaches of Playa Del Carmen then it’s possible you would like the large and spacious island of Cozumel, which is only a 45-minute ferry ride from the PDC ferry.
With charming little walking streets, markets, delicious restaurants, and bars – Cozumel has a lot to offer, including amazing beaches and coral reefs perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. While Cozumel can be done as a day trip from Tulum (If you get up super early) we would really recommend staying a night, at least on the island or in Playa Del Carmen. No point in rushing through such a beautiful island if you have time to spare.
Swim With Turtles in Akumal
Distance: 28 km (26-minute drive)
One of the easiest Tulum day trips to take is Akumal, only a 26-minute drive northeast of Tulum. Also popular for its beaches, snorkeling, diving, and marine wildlife living amongst fantastic colorful coral reefs, including turtles. In fact, the name Akumal translates to “Place of the Turtle” in the Mayan language.
Like Cozumel, it’s a popular place for divers looking to get their PADI certification. If you’re looking to spend the day enjoying the beach, the wonderfully clear water, and swimming alongside majestic sea turtles in a stunning marine ecosystem then we recommend heading here.
Climb the Pyramid at Coba
Distance: 48 km (45-minute drive)
Being so close to Tulum, this might be a better option if you’re looking to go pyramid hunting but don’t have the time to make it to Chichen Itza. The Coba Archaeological Site is one of the popular Tulum day trips for escaping the crowded beaches and hectic nightlife and allowing you to regenerate amongst nature.
The amazing Mayan ruins are hidden deep within the jungle, so deep in fact that you have to bike to get there. At 120 steps, it’s the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula and one of the few you’re actually allowed to climb. Being so close to Tulum and with fewer tourists, we recommend this over any other ruins in the region, hands down.
Trek to Punta Allen
Distance: 55 km (2-3 hour drive)
This is going to be one of the hardest Tulum day trips to take mostly because the road here is full of potholes, unkept and you’ll need a 4×4 to reach it. Nestled far down the coast of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, (which can be multiple day trips in itself) Punta Allen is a quaint little fishing town with spectacular views and quiet, remote sandy beaches.
It costs around 70 pesos to enter the reserve, but well worth it with all of the marine wildlife, reefs, and jungle untouched by humans. We recommend taking a tour here unless you are risky enough to rent a 4×4 and try the journey yourself. If you can’t make it to Punta Allen (it happens) then at least checkout Boca Paila further up, or one of the awesome lagoon ins the Sian Ka’an Reserve.
Go Cenote Exploring
Distance: Depends on the cenote, most are within a few kilometers
The Yucatan Peninsula is full of amazing cenotes to explore and cool off in. It may seem overwhelming to know where to start, but check out our handy guide which should help you figure out which is best for you. Cenotes are basically underground sinkholes formed millions of years ago that have collapsed, exposing usually a crystal clear reserve of cool water underneath. Some are open-air cenotes and some are completely underground.
Most of the cenotes are within a few kilometers of Tulum, so you could reasonably do two or three in one day trip. If you want an even greater variety, then the ones surrounding Valladolid or Merida are also possible to make within a day, although give yourself more time.
Give Cancun a Chance
Distance: 131 km (2-hour drive)
Last but not least is of course – Cancun. Probably the first place you land when arriving in Mexico (if going to Tulum), most people heading to Tulum give it the cold shoulder and not even a second thought. The overall impression of Cancun is just fancy family-oriented resorts, beautifully crowded beaches, and a downtown full of gang violence. Check out our Tulum vs Cancun guide here and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn.
While some of this is true – you should give Cancun a chance. It has wild nightlife, some fun hostels to party at like Mayan Monkey, and stunning beaches, including the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres not far off the coast. You can also explore the town of Cancun itself which is often overlooked and underrated, it has lots to offer such as great restaurants and also a unique take on nightlife – go and party with the locals.