Relax on the beach
That's a huge duh - right? The main draw is Tulum’s pristine turquoise beach, said to be one of the best in Mexico.
Important: Do be aware that the usual crystal clear water is choking with seaweed at the moment. I would be lying if I said it didn't spoil the views a bit. The seaweed is caused by changing sea currents and apparently is present from Mexico all the way down to Costa Rica. The locals are trying to manage it, with the high-end resorts shoveling it away every couple of hours. (Those poor workers) But, nature is winning and the seaweed is very much noticeable.
Read on: Packing list for Tulum Mexico
Crystal clear fresh water that is always nice and cool where you can swim around surrounded by nature. Need I say more? You can visit certain cenotes on your own or you join a tour and visit private and more exclusive one. I suggest a tour because then you also get them all to yourself! I toured a couple with Edventure Tours in Tulum and highly recommend them! You can read about my full tour here.
Read on: Best Cenotes near Tulum
Swim with Turtles
One of the few places you can swim with wild sea turtles is only 45 minutes outside of Tulum. The beach town is called Akumal and you can do it yourself or join a tour. I've got you covered either way...
Many hotels (especially on the beach) offer yoga in the morning along with your stay. If you aren't staying at one of those hotels check out Maya Tulum and pay $15 to drop in for a class.
Snorkel in a Natural Aquarium
Yal-ku is a gorgeous natural aquarium that is a dream to swim in. You can pay an entry fee and do it yourself (they also have a cenote) or you can join a day trip tour like I did. By the way, Yal-ku is near Akumal and the sea turtles which make it easy to combine the two.
Super major pro tip for the ruins: You'll want to be up bright and early waiting at the gates before they open. This strategy helps you beat the insane crowds and insane mid-day heat. If you’re a big history buff, you’ll be able to explore the ruins for hours at your own pace without getting annoyed at congested passes. If you don't care too much about history you'll be happy you got there early for the fantastic backdrop and views without the crowds in your pics.
A true hidden treasure around 20-ish kilometers outside of Tulum. The color of the water is unique and absolutely gorgeous. As is the wooden deck to dock pier that juts out into said turquoise and emerald water. The cost of entrance 50 pesos for swimming and 150 pesos to dive it. The lagoon is just south of Tulum off the 307 Highway. If you do not have a car you can take public transportation to Kaan Luum. There are colectivos from Tulum to Felipe Carrillo (just past the main entrance, then walk from there). Getting a colectivo back is harder. But just be patient.
Located 22 kilometers north of Tulum, I actually didn’t visit Xel-Ha. It is part of Xcaret Experiencias Group which also owns the Xplor Park, Xcaret Park, and Xenses Park; as well as the Xichen, Xenotes, and Xoximilco tours and activities. See the trend?
I have mixed feelings, they charge entry to nature and have commercialized some beauty, but on the other hand the money is hopefully going towards nature conservation and the likes. Xel-ha describes itself as “a place of unparalleled beauty; you can swim and snorkel among hundreds of multicolored fish that have made the river and the lagoon their home.” The park has caves, zip-lining, snorkeling, swimming, hiking, dolphin swims, multiple restaurants and a lot more. If you’re visiting Tulum with a family or young children, Xel-Ha is probably a good fit as there is something something for everyone.
But it is pricey. Days there start at $80 depending on which package you buy. Here's a price list.
Shopping on beach road
One of the great things about Tulum Jungle/Beach road is the abundance of restaurants and bars you’ll encounter if you walk along the shoreline. Everything is so bright and colorful and it feels like it was made to be a perfect background for Instagram. There is a particularly great stretch of shops, restaurants, and bars between Calaluna Hotel and Zamas Hotel.
If you want authentic Mexican food, you can definitely find it in Tulum. There are so many restaurants I've created a full article. Just seriously, make sure you come hungry to Tulum.
Read on: Best Restaurants Tulum Mexico
If you are staying downtown you'll get to know this area very well. But if you're on the beach make sure you visit the area. The shops here are filled with souvenirs much cheaper than on the jungle/beach road. There's also a bunch of local eateries serving delicious authentic Mexican food for a lot less.
Read on: Full Tulum Travel Guide
Party on a beach
If you want to party, Tulum is a great spot. Honestly, I don't drink much (if ever) so these recommendations are untested. Gitano is one of the best for late night drinks. For a beach club vibe - think Miami - check out nights at Papaya Playa Project. Especially on fridays, saturdays, and during their full moon parties.
Eat at Hartwood
I know, I already said eat everywhere.... but Hartwood is just that good. Make sure you go while in Tulum. Reservations are for dinner only, Wednesday to Sunday. The website says walk-ins are encouraged at any time - but I've heard people start lining up at 3 pm for walk-ins. They accept reservations one month in advance via email: email@example.com
Mayan Ruins in Coba
A great day trip, especially for history buffs, if Coba... only 45-60 minutes outside of Tulum. These ruins are much bigger than the ones in Tulum and once there bike rentals are a must. If you choose to, you can climb all 120 steep steps to the top of the pyramid, the views are spectacular.
Here is a full guide from Expert Vagabond.
Final Thoughts on Tulum
Planning a trip to Tulum (or anywhere really) is stressful but it will be totally worth it once you get there. I promise!
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).