The Best Things to do in Tulum are:
- Rent Bikes to Explore the City
- Swim in the Gran Cenote
- Visit Coba and Chichen Itza
- Experience the Tulum Ruins
- Turtle Watch at Akumal Beach
A few hours south of Cancun, Mexico is the Yucatan Peninsula’s new zen-life capital: Tulum. While beach yoga and hippie vibes abound, Tulum is also home to some serious ancient history and authentic Mexican living.
Tulum’s Mayan ruins are the only seaside archaeological site in the country and nearby jaunts to stunning cenotes and turtle-filled beaches provide ample opportunities for adventures near Tulum.
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1. Rent Bikes (to see Tulum’s Beach and Town)
Whether you’re staying at the beach or in Tulum town, renting two wheels is the best way to see both. Tulum is on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coastline, which makes the beach’s appeal obvious. Tulum’s seaside is all about the beach clubs, water-front yoga studios, and ever-perfect turquoise water.
But Tulum town (approx. 5 km in from the beach) has an equally charming – and more authentic – appeal. Colorful, dreamcatcher-filled shops and a variety of restaurants line the main drag. Antojitos La Chiapaneca is home to every kind of Mexican snack you could ever want (namely Tacos al Pastor) and you’ll easily fill yourself up for under $4 USD. Everything is delicious and their habanero hot sauce is a spice-lover’s dream.
2. Gran Cenote
Cenotes are known as sacred places to Mayans on the Yucatan Peninsula and they’re a pleasant, magical surprise for visitors to Quintana Roo. These natural sinkholes create underground pools filled with clear, fresh water and there are _thousands_ all over Mexico, each with its own vibe and secrets.
A short drive (or bike ride!) from Tulum is the Gran Cenote which, as its name suggests, is one of the largest pools– perfect for a leisurely swim or snorkeling to the tune of turtles, fish and underwater stalactites.
3. Visit Ancient Mayan Ruins Coba & Chichen Itza
Coba and Chichen Itza are both a road trip away from Tulum (1 hour and 2 hours, respectively) and cheap rental cars are easy to find. Chichen Itza is home to El Castillo, the massive step-pyramid that earns Chichen Itza its title as a New World Wonder.
The Coba Ruins are also worth a visit for their less-commercialized ambiance and jungle setting. Unlike Chichen Itza, you can climb to the top of Coba’s tallest pyramid and enjoy the stunning view of treetops stretching from horizon to horizon.
Bonus tip near Coba: Nearby, Cenote Tankach-Ha has two jumping platforms from about 15 feet and 30 feet, perfect for thrill-seekers. Cenote Samulá is entirely underground with only a small “sunlight” overhead, letting you swim in and out of the suns rays inside this otherworldly cave.
4. See the Views from the Tulum Ruins
More Mayan ruins are located just a short bike ride from Tulum town, overlooking the white sand and bright blue water of the coast. The ruins themselves are nowhere near as spectacular as Chichen Itza or Coba, but they’re worth an afternoon visit, if only for the views.
5. Swim with Turtles at Akumal Beach
An easy Collectivo (rideshare vans you can hail from the side of the main roads) journey takes you to Akumal beach. Set up in the water is a buoy-pathway designated for snorkelers looking to see turtles in the crystal clear waters near the coral reef. On the beach, multiple bars and cafes are ideal for grabbing a bite with a view.