130km south of Cancun you’ll find another amazing resort and beach town that’s less Americanized, a little more authentic, and with amazing beaches: Tulum. While there are a lot of amazing things to do in Tulum, it may seem a little out of your budget at times, or even pretentious with all of the Instagram influencers taking over the place.
Not to worry, after living here in paradise for several years, we’d like to think we’re some sort of experts when it comes to everything related to Tulum. Depending on what you’re looking for, Tulum has something for almost everyone. If you’re looking to just relax on some of the best beaches in Mexico or plan on partying until sunrise, we have you covered.
What was once a pre-Columbian Mayan city, has now become one of the most popular beach destinations in the world. Even in the ’90s, Tulum was a sleepy fishing village unknown to most people, overshadowed by Cancun. Since then the permanent population has increased to almost 47,000 people.
With increasing popularity comes more development, including resorts in the “Zona Hotelera” much to the disappointment of locals who want to keep it a natural, untouched paradise. With that being said, we are still happy to show you the best things to do in Tulum.
1. Check out the Mayan Ruins of Tulum
Besides chilling on the beach, this is of course one of the most popular things to do in Tulum. The Mayan Ruins of Tulum, sometimes just referred to as the “Tulum Pyramids” are an ancient pre-Columbian walled city built by the Mayans in 564 AD.
Open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day, the ruins are easy to reach from Tulum and you can also stroll down the cliffside and enjoy swimming in Playa Ruinas, a beautiful beach with the main “El Castillo” overlooking the white sand and blue water.
2. Cool Off in Some Cenotes
While there are apparently over 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, most are undiscovered or not possible to enter. With that being said, some of the best cenotes in Mexico can be found in and around Tulum. If you’re looking to cool off and relax for the day, then seeking out cenotes in the area may be one of your favourite things to do in Tulum.
3. Experience the Amazing Nightlife
You can’t visit Tulum without experiencing the notorious nightlife. From beach clubs to party hostels to private parties, there’s something for everyone here. Electronic music takes main stage, with famous DJs from around the world rocking the beach or jungle every night.
4. Stay in a Beautiful Resort on the Beach or Jungle
Famous for artistic and authentic Mayan-style resorts, Tulum is not the high-rise coastal beach town you would expect in somewhere like Cancun. If you happen to have the money (you’ll need quite a lot), you can consider staying in one of the many infamous jungle resorts in town.
Far from the backpacker scene in the town center, the resorts are usually full of the “tuluminati” and Instagram influencer culture. Most resorts are all inclusive and typically have private access to the beach. Some popular resorts such as Papaya Playa and Azulik will also regularly host parties or festivals.
5. Explore all of the Stunning Beaches
This is an obvious thing to do in Tulum and probably the main thing you’ll be doing. But what most people don’t know is that Tulum is full of several different beaches, stretching way far south.
Some are tough to get to such as the beaches in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, but others are more popular like Playa Paraiso or Playa Las Palmas. Spend at least a week here to get to know all of the beaches.
6. Take a Day Trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Tulum
Only a 30-minute drive south of Tulum, you’ll find an amazing nature reserve known as the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Within this spectacular natural park, you’ll find amazing things to do such as exploring ancient ruins, snorkeling in the world’s second-largest barrier reef system, seeking out hidden beaches, and making a journey to the remote Punta Allen.
Sian Ka’an is a must-visit and one of the best things you can do in Tulum.
7. While There, Don’t Miss the Muyil Ruins
As mentioned above, the ancient Mayan ruins of Muyil are located within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and are easily reachable from Tulum via colectivo, car, or taxi. One of the oldest and longest-lasting Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s a lot less crowded and more remote than the more popular Mayan Ruins of Tulum.
8. Seek Out the Top Rated Restaurants
Tons of amazing restaurants await you in Tulum, from cheap and delicious street tacos to the fanciest jungle restaurants or beach bars – there’s something for everyone, no matter what your budget.
9. Explore the Underrated Kaan Luum Lagoon
Just north of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, you’ll find a mostly overlooked natural site with a massive blue cenote in the middle of the Mayan jungle. Kaan Luum Lagoon is a great swimming hole or just an excellent place to relax in a hammock enjoying nature. To us, it’s one of the best and one of the most underrated things to do in Tulum.
10. Party at a Hostel
Tulum isn’t always for rich folks, if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a $2000 per night resort on the beach, then a hostel might be the place for you. Even if you don’t stay at the hostel itself, they are an excellent place to party and meet other travellers. Check out our list of the best Hostels in Tulum.
11. Go Day Drinking at a Beach Club
One of the simplest yet most enjoyable things to do in Tulum is simply renting a day bed at one of the many beach clubs in Tulum, sipping on your favourite cocktail, listening to a DJ, and turn off all of your worries. While most beach clubs in Tulum are quite pricey, you can find budget options such as Ziggy’s or Playa Paraiso Beach Club.
12. Day Trip to Coba
No, it’s not Chichen Itza, but Coba is closer to Tulum with fewer tourists and in the middle of the Jungle. The best thing about this place is it’s one of the few pyramids in Mexico that you’re allowed to climb, you also have to bike through the jungle to reach it, at around only 45 pesos to rent a bike.
Once you reach the top of the 120 steps, making it the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll get to enjoy the stunning view of the jungle surrounding you.
13. Spot Monkeys at Punta Laguna Nature Reserve
Run by a local Mayan village, the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve is just a 50-minute drive northwest of Tulum, just after the ruins of Coba. This is one of the best places in the Yucatan jungle to spot wild animals, such as the Spider Monkey, a local population making their home here.
14. Explore Tulum on a Bike
One of the most enjoyable ways to get around Tulum, including to the beach is on a cool, retro-looking bicycle. They can be rented from your hostel or hotel, as well as many rental shops around the center for around 150-250 pesos per day. The beach is only around a 10-minute bike ride from Tulum center, so you’ll save tons of money on taxis.
15. Snorkel Amongst Sea Turtles in Akumal
Only 25 minutes northeast of Tulum is the small beach town of Akumal which is popular for snorkeling and seeing marine wildlife. The bay of Akumal is surrounded by a reef, blocking large waves which makes it a great spot for snorkeling.
You can go snorkeling on your own without a tour, but make sure to arrive early, around 8:00 am to avoid the large tour groups that stir up the sand and muddy the water.
16. Get Lost at a Music Festival
Famous for its music scene and of course music festivals, such as the ever popular Zamna and Departures festivals, they are becoming ever more popular, with more famous DJs attending the events.
With many people travelling to the Yucatan during COVID because of relaxed travel restrictions, it is one of the best places on earth for music festivals on the beach and in the jungle, and for sure one of the best things to do in Tulum.
17. Visit An Adventure Park
Along highway 307 between Cancun and Tulum, you’ll find an array of different themed parks that attract tourists and locals alike. The most popular are Xel Ha, Xcaret, Xplor and Rio Secreto.
You can go ATV’ing, cenote exploring, zip-lining, hiking, caving, and even snorkeling. There are also water parks to cool off in the hot Yucatan sun.
18. Become a Tuluminati
While may not be your idea of one of the best things to do in Tulum, becoming a Tuluminati just for a day or two might reveal unexpected surprises for you. You’ll get to play dress-up and get invited to exclusive parties and events, you’ll find easier access to drugs, and you may even become an Instagram influencer.
19. Take a Picture With The Ahau Tulum Statue
More correctly known as the Ven A La Luz (Come Into the Light) statue located at the Ahau Resort, it’s probably the most famous landmark in Tulum, and one of the most photographed spots in Tulum and Mexico itself.
It’ll cost 60 pesos and possibly up to an hour waiting in line just to get a photo with this iconic sculpture.
20. Mystika Museum
The Mystika Museum is a newer 3D art exhibit located near the Tulum Archeological Zone, by the entrance. It pays tribute to Mayan cosmology, Mexico’s natural sanctuaries, and the spiritual power of horses through four different sections.
The museum offers an unforgettable sensory journey through a 360-degree dome, where visitors can see the ruins of Tulum under a starry sky, as well as Chichen Itza under a night sky full of stars. The museum is open to visitors of all ages and offers free admission for children under five years old.
21. Disconnect with a Yoga Class
Tulum has gained a reputation as a sought-after health-conscious destination in recent years with a plethora of new retreats and yoga classes sprouting up.
Whether it’s rejuvenating yoga studios, tranquil meditation retreats, or other nature-centered activities, you’ll discover everything to restore your balance and connect with your spiritual self. To help you navigate the abundance of options, we’ve curated a straightforward guide to the top yoga retreats, studios, and classes in Tulum.
22. The Tulum Tower
One of the more unique things to do in Tulum is visit the Tulum Tower, a modern architectural marvel that stands as a testament to sustainable design and respect for the natural environment.
Inspired by the spiraling shape of the nautilus shell, this 118 feet high tower offers a unique 360-degree rotating platform experience. As you slowly ascend, enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the Mexican Caribbean coast and the city, all while sipping on a refreshing drink. A guide will also provide insights into the Mayan ruins visible from this vantage point.
Inside the tower, you’ll find a museum showcasing the rich history and culture of the Mayan civilization, a restaurant offering panoramic views and local cuisine, and an observation deck for breathtaking views of Tulum.
The Tulum Tower is not just a sightseeing spot; it’s a place where history, culture, architecture, and sustainability come together in a stunning package. Remember to book your visit in advance here due to limited seating.
Things to do in Tulum Summary
In conclusion, Tulum is a destination that offers a variety of activities that cater to all interests. From exploring ancient Mayan ruins, swimming in crystal-clear cenotes, and relaxing on stunning beaches, to practicing yoga, dining on delicious cuisine, and snorkeling or scuba diving on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, there is something for everyone in Tulum.
The town’s laid-back vibe and natural beauty make it an excellent choice for a vacation in Mexico. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, there are so many things to do in Tulum, and it’s for sure a must-visit destination that promises an unforgettable experience.