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Our Favorite Things to Do & See in Tulum

Cristal D
14 min read

Jump to: What to Do & See at Night in TulumFamily Fun in TulumUnique Experiences in TulumFun on a BudgetRomance in TulumNatural Wonders in Tulum

Nestled along Mexico's Riviera Maya, the paradise of Tulum perfectly merges the splendor of history, culture, and nature. But how well do you know Tulum?

Think of waking up to the breathtaking sunrise over the Caribbean, exploring centuries-old Mayan ruins, diving into mesmerizing cenotes, and savoring authentic Mexican cuisine. Imagine experiencing the local life in Tulum’s downtown, relaxing on stunning beaches, and treating your soul with holistic wellness activities. Does that sound like your perfect getaway?

Tulum not only offers a wealth of natural and cultural wonders but also serves as a popular cruise port, attracting visitors from around the world. The town's strategic location along the Caribbean coast has made it a favored destination for cruise ships and their passengers. Travelers arriving by cruise ship have the opportunity to explore Tulum's enchanting attractions, making it a must-visit stop on many cruise itineraries.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a frequent traveler to Tulum, navigating through its attractions can be overwhelming. That's where I come in. This comprehensive guide uncovers the best of Tulum and the Riviera Maya, from the mesmerizing ruins, vibrant town, serene beaches, and lively nightlife, to the unique Instagram spots that will make your trip even more magical.

Our Local Experts' Favorite Things About Tulum

In this corner of paradise known as Tulum, I’ve found an abundance of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Here are some highlights of my favorite things about Tulum.

Breathtaking Nature

Top tip: always have your camera ready! The natural beauty here is staggering. Dazzling white sand beaches merge seamlessly with clear turquoise waters. Some of the popular beaches in the area include Playa Paraíso, Playa Ruinas, and Playa Pescadores.

If you’re willing to get off the beaten track, book a tour of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a true paradise for nature lovers. Here you’ll find a diverse range of ecosystems, including mangroves, wetlands, lagoons, and pristine beaches. You can take a boat tour through the reserve's waterways to spot colorful birds, dolphins, turtles, and other wildlife in their natural habitats.

Unforgettable Archaeological Sites

Tulum is an archaeological wonderland. The Tulum Ruins, perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, are a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the ancient Maya civilization.

If that’s not enough, the peninsula is dotted with even more archaeological sites for you to explore. Get Coba, Muyil, and Ek Balam on your radar to really get a sense of the ancient world surrounding Tulum.

Delicious Local Cuisine

If it's your first time visiting Tulum, you're probably wondering, "What's the food like?" Get ready for a culinary adventure that will tantalize your taste buds! This place is a foodie paradise.

Picture this: juicy, slow-roasted pork in achiote marinade, wrapped in banana leaves and infused with incredible flavors. Yep, that's the famous cochinita pibil, a Yucatecan delight you absolutely have to try.

Here are some other Yucatán specialties to look out for at local eateries around the city:

  • Poc chuc is grilled pork bursting with smoky goodness, topped with zesty pickled onions
  • Salbutes are crispy tortillas piled high with shredded chicken or pork, beans, and colorful toppings
  • Panuchos are a stuffed version of slabutes
  • Yucatecan tamales are wrapped up in banana leaves and filled with savory goodness

As you explore Tulum, one of my top tips is if you see a long line of locals waiting at a food vendor, join them! Locals know what’s good and what’s fresh so even if you don’t know what you’re eating (like me most of the time), you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy it.

Tranquil Cenotes

Swimming in the serene cenotes, natural sinkholes filled with crystal clear freshwater, is definitely on my list of 'Best Things to Do in Tulum.' It's an experience unlike any other.

Here are some of the best cenotes in the area, plus a few of my personal favorites:

  • Best for snorkeling: Gran Cenote
  • Best for cave diving: Dos Ojos
  • Best for cliff jumping: Cenote Calavera
  • Best for underwater photography: Cenote Carwash (Aktun Ha)
  • Best for swimming and relaxing: Cenote Zacil-Ha
  • Best for off-the-beaten-path exploration: Cenote Escondido
  • Best for mangrove and cenote combo: Casa Cenote
  • Best for Instagram-worthy photos: Cenote Suytun
  • Best for jungle ambiance: Cenote Multum-Ha
  • Best for crystal-clear waters: Cenote Cristalino

Depending on how much time you have, you can choose a few cenotes to visit or just spend the whole day at one. Dos Ojos and Casa Tortuga cenotes are both great for a full-day trip with lots to do on-site. The latter is even doable on bike!

Yoga on the Beach

For the wellness enthusiasts out there, yoga on the beach is a must-do. Imagine meditating to the gentle sound of waves lapping on the shore. It's a favorite for many locals and visitors.

Amansala Resort is one of my favorite options for organized classes with a sea view. If you’re keen to do your own practice right on the beach, here are some of the most peaceful options:

  • El Ultimo Maya
  • Bahia Soliman
  • Any beach inside Sian Ka'an Biosphere
  • Playa Paraiso in the mornings

Unique Art Scene

Tulum's vibrant streets are adorned with mesmerizing murals and art installations. You don't need to spend a penny to appreciate these public artworks. Here are some pieces to look out for, many on the picturesque Calle Sol Oriente:

  • A giant sea turtle mural, quirky fish people mural, and the "Tulum te amo" mural welcome you as you cruise down Calle Sol Oriente
  • Discover a mural of indigenous Mayan women cooking together on the sidewall of the scooter rental store
  • Don't miss the colorful and whimsical mural by Pelucas on the corner of Calle Orion Sur
  • Find "Agua," a playful mural by Val, depicting feet underwater on the corner of Calle Sol Ote and Geminis Sur
  • The stunning mural of an "old Mayan man" by Emma Rubens is on the corner of Calle Satélite y Calle Mercurio
  • Explore the local cemetery for a wall full of stunning murals symbolic of Mayan culture
  • Enjoy the blue-purple mural of a woman and a deep-sea diver exchanging a kiss on Calle Beta Sur
  • Emma Rubens' mural of a local girl named Belen adorns the backside wall of the Tulum Yoga Studio
  • The colorful "Mother of Geminis" by artist Vexta can be found high on a secret wall on Calle Gemini Sur
  • Finally, make sure to see "Salvemos la selva," a beautiful piece by @alinzart in collaboration with @ericaarndts.

Active Adventures

If you're a thrill-seeker, Tulum's got you covered. From ATV riding through the jungle to kite surfing on the beach, the best things to do in Tulum include a wide range of active adventures.

Here are some of my favorite adventure activities to fill your itinerary with:

  • Scuba diving with bull sharks
  • Snorkeling with turtles in nearby Akumal
  • Cenote exploration
  • Jungle ziplining
  • Kiteboarding
  • Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)
  • Kayaking in Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
  • ATV or off-road vehicle tours through the jungle or to hidden cenotes
  • Caving and cave exploration (check out Rio Secreto for a fun day out)
  • Skydiving on the beach

Brown wooden statue

What to Do & See at Night in Tulum

Every night, Tulum's town center transforms into a lively city filled with local eats and gourmet restaurants. Here's my top tip: go with an empty stomach and an open heart!

As the sun dips below the horizon, a walk along the beach is the perfect way to take in the ethereal beauty. It's an essential thing to do in Tulum and a personal favorite of mine.

One of the best things to do in Tulum is to dine in a jungle restaurant. Picture this: twinkling lights hanging from tropical trees, an exciting menu full of local delicacies, and an ambient soundtrack from the surrounding wildlife. It's pure magic.

Moving to the Rhythm

Tulum's nightlife scene is vibrant and eclectic. From beachfront bars to jungle clubs, there's a spot for every music lover. Grab your dancing shoes, and immerse yourself in the rhythms of salsa, reggaeton, or electronic music.

Ziggy Beach has something on most nights but Friday’s is for salsa and Caribbean rhythms. Saturdays are all about electronic music at Papaya Playa Project on the beach, and Sunday is Salsa Night at La Zebra Hotel in the southern beach area. If you’re visiting during the week, check out Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar downtown and Casa Jaguar at the beach.

Night-time Relaxation

Get away from the lights of town and head towards the beach or the outskirts for some exceptional star-gazing opportunities.

Many local yoga studios offer moonlit classes, allowing you to connect with your inner self while under the starry Tulum sky. It's a truly calming and unique thing to do in Tulum that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Ending the night with a beach bonfire, surrounded by new friends or loved ones, is always a top choice. Warm sand beneath your feet, a cool sea breeze, and stories shared by the fire create unforgettable Tulum nights.

Night-time Adventures: Late-Night Activities

For the adrenaline seekers, night diving in the cenotes is an unforgettable experience. A whole new world comes alive under the moonlight, making it one of the best things to do in Tulum for thrill-seekers.

One of the most magical experiences in Tulum is visiting the Sian Ka'an Biosphere at night. Bioluminescent organisms in the water create a stunning spectacle, lighting up the lagoon like a starry night sky.

sea turtle swimming in clear blue water

Fun for All Ages in Tulum

Embarking on a family vacation in Tulum? Get ready, as this tropical paradise brims with a smorgasbord of activities designed for everyone, from the tiny tots to the seasoned explorers.

Tulum's Natural Playgrounds

Diving into the sparkling waters of a cenote tops my list of fun activities for all ages in Tulum. These natural sinkholes are a delight to explore, a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.

There are several cenotes near Tulum that are great for families with kids. Here are some of the best ones:

  • Cenote Zacil-Ha is known as one of the best family-friendly cenotes on the Yucatan
  • Cenote Azul has shallow areas where babies can splash around, and it's also great for older kids who want to jump off the cliffs into the water
  • Gran Cenote is popular and has a sand bottom and shallow side
  • Cenote Carwash has a shallow area for kids to play in and is also great for snorkeling
  • Cenote Jardin Del Eden has a shallow area for kids to play in and is also known for its crystal-clear water

If your kids aren’t strong swimmers, most of these cenotes provide life jackets to rent. Alternatively, if you opt to visit on a tour, your tour guide should be able to provide some as well.

Say Hello to the Turtles

Did you know Tulum's beaches are a favorite nesting spot for sea turtles? Try to catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures. Just remember to respect their space - we're the visitors here.

For a guaranteed sighting, you can book a tour to Akumal Beach where you can snorkel next to these beautiful creatures with the help of a guide.

Sandcastle Architectures

Time on the beach isn't just about swimming. The white sands of Tulum's beaches are a dream for building sandcastles. Who can build the tallest one? It's competition time!

Most of Tulum’s beaches are very family-friendly but if you’re looking for some comfort while the little ones play, my top beach club recommendations for families are La Zebra Tulum, Panamera Beach Club, and Caleta Tankah.

Sailing Into the Sunset

Book a catamaran cruise and watch the sun set over the Caribbean Sea. This experience brings a splash of luxury to your family vacation and is fun for both kids and adults.

Cooking Up Mexican Magic

Want to learn the secret behind delicious Mexican cuisine? Sign up for a cooking class. It's a fun-filled, hands-on experience that everyone can enjoy. Plus, you'll have some tasty new recipes to try at home.

Unique Experiences in Tulum

If you're seeking more than just the usual beach bumming and sightseeing, Tulum is the right place. Dive into the unique offerings of this vibrant city, where every corner has an unforgettable experience waiting for you.

Bio-luminescence Magic

Ever wanted to swim in starlight? Tulum’s Sian Ka'an biosphere is a must-visit. At night, the water comes alive with bio-luminescence, a truly unique spectacle.

Top Tip: Be sure to check the lunar calendar, bio-luminescence is best seen on a dark night with little or no moon showing.

Diving Into History

Scuba diving takes on a whole new dimension in Tulum. Here, you can dive into the ancient underwater caves, known as cenotes, and get up close and personal with history.

I’m only new to cenote diving but here are some of my favourites so far:

  • Cenote El Pit
  • Gran Cenote
  • Dream Gate Cenote
  • Cenote Dos Ojos
  • Casa Cenote (best for beginners)

Authentic Mayan Spa Experience

Nothing screams unique like an authentic Mayan spa. Indulge in traditional treatments like a temazcal, a Mayan sweat lodge ceremony. It's relaxation with a cultural twist.

Here are some of the top experiences to try:

  • A full moon or new moon temazcal ceremony at Yaan Healing Sanctuary
  • The community temazcal at Delek Tulum
  • Temazcal in the jungle with Holistika Hotel

Gourmet Glamping

Take camping up a notch. Tulum offers glamping experiences that combine the best of nature with the luxury of a top-notch hotel. Think gourmet meals, plush beds, and the starriest skies you've ever seen. Check out Serena Tulum, Nativus Glamping Tulum, and Casa Nawal Tulum for some of the most unique offerings.

Kite Surfing

Add a splash of adventure to your Tulum trip with kite surfing. There's nothing quite like the thrill of harnessing the wind and the waves. This is easily one of the things to do in Tulum if you're seeking a little adrenaline.

Maya Ruins Exploration

Exploring the ancient Maya ruins around Tulum is a unique experience that you won't want to miss. After you've seen the Tulum ruins, which although spectacular are no longer a hidden gem, you can explore some of these lesser-known archaeological sites:

  • Coba: Tucked away in the jungle, Coba captivates with its towering pyramids and ancient stone causeways
  • Muyil: Discover a slice of Mayan history at Muyil, where lush vegetation encircles smaller, yet intriguing ruins
  • Ek Balam: Marvel at Ek Balam, famed for its well-preserved carvings and the tomb of a Mayan king
  • Chacchoben: Known as the "Place of Red Corn," Chacchoben enchants with its grand temples and rich backstory

Aerial image of a Tulum beach.

Fun on a Budget in Tulum

Sometimes the best things in life are, indeed, free. Or, at least, they don't cost much. Here are my go-to low-budget picks for Tulum.

Beach Bliss

Tulum's powdery white sand beaches are some of the best in the world. The clear turquoise waters are absolutely free for all to enjoy.

Mexico’s beaches are all public but in Tulum, sometimes it can be difficult to find a public access point to get to the beach. My best tip is to walk through the beach clubs that act as a barrier between you and the water. If you get stopped, just tell them you’re buying a drink. Not ideal, but it works in a pinch.

Bike Around Tulum Town

Renting a bicycle is an affordable way to see Tulum. This eco-friendly mode of transport gets you around town, to the beach, and even to nearby ruins.

Don't forget your helmet! Drivers are used to bikers but accidents still happen, especially when it rains as there’s low visibility.

Experience Street Food

Sampling Tulum's street food scene is a must. It's inexpensive and gives you a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine. The city boasts a vibrant and diverse food scene, showcasing the rich gastronomic heritage of Mexico's 32 states. Each state has its own unique culinary traditions, resulting in a smorgasbord of regional delicacies waiting to be savored.

One of the great things about Tulum is that it brings the best of each region's specialties to fortunate visitors. You'll have the opportunity to savor traditional dishes from different parts of Mexico without leaving this tropical paradise. From the bold and spicy flavors of Oaxaca to the fresh seafood of the coastal regions, Tulum showcases the diverse culinary heritage of the country.

Taco stands are a local favorite. I suggest trying Antojitos La Chiapaneca for great tacos in general, El Asadero for steak tacos, and Taqueria Honorio if you want to have tacos the way the locals do, at breakfast time! Once you’ve had your fill of tacos, here are some lesser-known but just as delicious, Mexican street food to try in Tulum:

  • Birria
  • Chayote
  • Chicharrónes
  • Elotes And esquites
  • Gorditas
  • Quesadilla
  • Tortas
  • Tamales
  • Tostadas

Tacos with jalapeños.

Free Yoga on the Beach

Some beach clubs in Tulum offer free yoga classes at sunrise. Stretch, breathe, and start your day in perfect harmony with nature. The Beach Hotel Tulum is one of the most impressive and they put on a free yoga class every morning at 9 am.

Alternatively, look for yoga classes that are paid “by donation”. The pay-what-you-can model ensures that everyone can enjoy yoga, no matter how much money they have.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

While guided tours cost money, you can explore the outskirts of this UNESCO World Heritage Site independently. Just respect the environment and leave no trace.

Volunteer Opportunities

Spend a day volunteering at local organizations. It's a wonderful way to give back to the community and experience Tulum's culture in a meaningful way.

Here are some suggestions to start with:

  • Flora, Fauna, y Cultura de Mexico and Centro Ecológico Akumal are both sea turtle conservation programs that include training, monitoring, and patrolling the beaches at night
  • Alma Animal always needs people to help walk, bathe, and socialize with their dogs.
  • Flight angels are always needed by the animal rescue groups
  • Participate in a beach clean up or just pick up some trash on your own
  • Ask your accommodation for advice on more local organizations that could use some help

Romantic Things to Do for Couples in Tulum

For those seeking a sprinkle of romance, Tulum doesn’t disappoint. Let's explore the amorous escapades Tulum has to offer.

Dine Under the Stars

Tulum boasts an array of exquisite open-air restaurants. They offer a unique combination of delicious cuisine and breathtaking night sky views. I suggest Norita Tulum or Kokoro Tulum for an unforgettable dinner with a date.

Sunset Sailing

Book a sunset sailing tour. Nothing screams romance like watching the sun set over the water with your beloved.

Couples Spa Experience

Relax with a couples massage at one of Tulum’s top-notch wellness centers. The sound of the waves makes it even more serene. Check out Azulik Spa if you want a truly eco-experience or Leaf Spa for a luxury spa day.

Private Beach Picnic

Organize a private picnic on the beach. Enjoy the soft sand, crystal clear waters, and each other's company. Most restaurants will be happy to put together your meal to go or you can contact Picnic Events Co who can put together a picnic for you.

Explore Cenotes

Tulum's surrounding cenotes provide the perfect setting for a romantic adventure. Swimming in these natural pools is an unforgettable experience. Here are some of my top recommendations for lesser-known cenotes to avoid the crowds:

  • Cenote Cristalino: Less crowded than its famous counterparts, its clear, crystal-like waters make it perfect for a tranquil swim with your loved one
  • Cenote Encantado: Nestled in the jungle near Tulum, Cenote Encantado offers a more secluded and intimate setting and it's particularly magical at sunrise
  • Cenote Zacil-Ha: This cenote is a bit of a hidden gem, complete with a jumping platform for those feeling adventurous
  • Cenote Carwash: This cenote offers a serene setting ideal for couples and its surrounding lush vegetation and vibrant aquatic life add to the charm
  • Cenote Escondido: Just as the name implies, this 'hidden' cenote offers a more secluded and private ambiance, perfect for a romantic escape

A forest with green trees and plants.

Natural Wonders in Tulum

Tulum is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Let's dive into the natural beauty this place has to offer.

Explore the Cenotes

Cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with crystal-clear water. They're perfect for snorkeling and swimming.

Visit Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to an astonishing diversity of plants and wildlife. It's a true paradise for nature lovers.

Tulum Beach

The white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and waving palm trees of Tulum Beach are iconic. Don't miss this natural wonder.

Muyil Forest

Immerse yourself in the dense, lush greenery of the Muyil Forest. It's an ideal spot for bird-watching and hiking.

Where to Find More Tulum Insider Info

Looking for more Tulum travel advice from our local experts? Check out our detailed guides on Weather, When to Visit, Visitor's Guide, and Transportation & Navigation to make the most of your trip to Tulum. Our comprehensive information hub ensures you're fully prepared for an adventure like no other.

Cristal D
Local Writer, Global Traveler
Cristal Dyer was born in the Caribbean and has spent the last several decades travelling and writing, including several stints in Latin America. Currently based in Australia, she owns and operates her own travel site tofutraveler.com and is an expert travel writer, editor and photographer with a focus on solo budget travel and food tourism.