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Playa Ruinas: Our Expert Visitor's Guide

8 min read

Did you know that the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum attract over a million visitors each year? With so many visitors, I’m guessing that many don’t know there's a nearby hidden gem that offers a slice of paradise away from the crowds: Playa Ruinas.

Imagine sunbathing on soft, white sand with the mystic ruins serving as your backdrop. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Welcome to this expert guide on visiting Playa Ruinas. As a Riviera Maya local, I’m thrilled to share the ins and outs of this extraordinary beach, located in the heart of the region.

Whether you're an adventurer, a history buff, or someone who just wants to sip a tropical drink and take some Insta-worthy pictures, I’ve got you covered. Are you ready to experience a day at Playa Ruinas like a seasoned traveler? Keep reading to unlock my best tips.

What and Where is Playa Ruinas?

A beach in Tulum. Playa Ruinas is part of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula, snuggled close to Tulum, a beach town you might have heard of for its own merits. But don’t confuse this with your usual beachside experience; we’re talking about a historic beach here.

In fact, Playa Ruinas used to serve as a landing point for traders in hollowed-out wooden canoes during the heyday of the Mayan civilization. Imagine lying on the same sand where ancient traders once bartered goods. Certainly sets the scene for a better-than-average beach day, right?

So how do you get to this wonder? Well, you have to enter through the Tulum Archaeological Park, and yes, that involves a small fee of around $8.50. This covers your access to the Tulum Ruins as well as a fee that’s required to enter the Tulum National Park, a CONANP Protected Area.

Okay, here comes the tricky part—actually locating the beach once you're in the park. Hidden behind cliffs and ruins, you’ll need to descend a steep staircase to find this sandy paradise.

A word of advice? It's a somewhat rustic experience so don’t expect facilities like shops or toilets. For this adventure, bring everything you'll need and use the restroom before you head down. It’s a long walk back up!

Our Tips for Visiting Playa Ruinas

Ruins in Tulum. Like any travel experience, a little planning goes a long way. Here are my golden tips to make your journey unforgettable.

The Early Bird Gets the Best Ruin Views

Ever tried capturing the perfect photo, only to have a horde of tourists walk into the frame? I get it, it's annoying. So if serenity is what you're after, aim to visit Playa Ruinas before midday or an hour before the site closes.

Tour buses tend to roll in around 10 a.m. which can make the area much less peaceful. The earlier you get there, the better your chances of staking out a prime spot at the beach.

Know Before You Park

Exploring the coast in a rented car? There's parking available near the ruins. Yes, it comes with a small fee and a 10-minute walk, but it's convenient. If you're feeling adventurous, there's also free parking on Tulum Boca Paila road, although this fills up quickly during peak season.

Best Time to Go

The weather can be a make-or-break factor for any beach trip. For Playa Ruinas, the sweet spot is the period between December and April. This is the dry season when the skies are perpetually blue, and the sun kisses your skin just right. Temperatures hover around a comfortable 75-80°F which will allow you to bask in the warmth without melting into a puddle.

If you're a fan of fewer crowds and don't mind trading that for a bit of humidity, consider visiting during the shoulder season in late November or early May. The occasional showers won't put too much of a damper on your beach lounging, and hey, rainforests need their rain, right?

But if constant showers and humidity aren't your jam, it’s best to avoid the wet season from May to October. While the tropical landscape is at its lushest, the weather can be a beach day buzzkill.

Watch for High Tides and Seaweed Alerts

Before you plan your beach day, it might be helpful to check for high tide or seaweed alerts. Sometimes, Playa Ruinas gets closed off because of these natural occurrences. Tide times are easy to find online but you might need to do some more snooping if you’re visiting Tulum during the season known for an excess of seaweed.

How to Get to Playa Ruinas

A beach near the ruins in Tulum. If you’re unfamiliar with the region, I promise getting there is easier than you might think. Whether you're journeying from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, or even Cozumel, there are travel options aplenty to fit your style and budget.

Going the Rental Car Route

If you're setting off from Cancun, you'll want to head south on the main Highway 307. Drive for around two hours and keep your eyes peeled for a sign sporting the "Ruinas" symbol. Take that left turn at the sign, and boom—you're at the main entrance. Parking near the site is available for about $160 pesos, which converts to around $8 USD.

Now, if Playa Del Carmen is your starting point, it's pretty much the same drill. You’ll only need to drive for about an hour, though.

The ADO Bus

Not a fan of driving in unfamiliar territory? I get it. Opt for the ADO bus which you can find at the main bus station in most cities and towns in the region. From Cancun or Playa Del Carmen, you'll want to get a bus to the Tulum archaeological site, also known as Tulum Zona Arqueologica.

The cost works out to be around $6.50 USD for a comfy and relatively straightforward ride.

The Colectivo Option

Feeling adventurous? Colectivos, or shared vans, are an affordable way to make the trip from Playa Del Carmen. The ride is just under an hour and sets you back only $45 pesos—about two bucks in USD. To find the ruins, follow the same signage as you would if driving. If you’re unsure, let the driver know when you jump on and they do a pretty good job of remembering where to let you off. They haven’t failed me yet, anyway!

Starting from Cozumel? Grab a Ferry First

For those of you visiting from Cozumel, the first leg of your journey is a ferry ride to Playa Del Carmen. Once there, you’ll find the ADO bus terminal just a short walk from the ferry terminal.

What to Pack for a Visit to Playa Ruinas

Playas Ruinas So, you're ready to bask in the sun, explore ancient ruins, and sip on refreshing margaritas at Playa Ruinas. But wait, what goes into your suitcase? Let's demystify the packing puzzle so you can focus on the fun part: the actual vacation.

Keep the Sun at Bay

First off, you can’t flirt with the tropics without adequate sun protection. Grab yourself some reef-safe sunscreen—remember, we're aiming to be eco-conscious tourists here. Alongside that, add a protective sun hat and some top-notch UVA/UVB sunglasses to your packing list. The sun in Tulum doesn't mess around!

Cash is King

The charm of local beachside bars and taco stands beckons. Just note that not all places will accept your credit card. Stash some pesos in your wallet so you can chomp on a taco or sip a cold drink without having to hunt for an ATM. They can be few and far between!

Comfort and Style

If you're planning on hopping between the ruins and the beach, consider footwear that can easily transition from sand to stone. Water shoes or sturdy sandals could be a good option. Walking around ruins in flimsy flip-flops might not be the best idea this time around.

Also, don't forget a beach cover-up; it’s the multitasker you didn't know you needed. Perfect for those moments when you're moving between the beach and nearby cafes.

Tech and Tools

Now, would you really visit a place as picturesque as Playa Ruinas without a camera? Think of all those Instagram likes you’d be missing out on! Slide your phone or a reliable camera into your bag and maybe even a tripod if you’re feeling ambitious.

Quench and Munch

Here’s a tip many overlook: bring your own water bottle. Not only is it eco-friendly, but staying hydrated is also crucial in the tropical heat. Plus, if you're planning a long day out exploring, toss in some travel-friendly snacks like protein bars or trail mix.

Places to Eat at and Around Playa Ruinas

Before we dive into a culinary exploration, let's get one thing straight: You won't find eateries right inside Playa Ruinas. But don't fret! Just a stone's throw away, you'll discover an array of dining options that'll satisfy everything from your comfort food cravings to your adventurous taste buds. Here are some of the best nearby spots to consider.

Playa Paraiso Beach Club

This place is a must-visit for any beachgoer. Its beachfront location complements a broad menu, ranging from crisp salads to sumptuous Mexican dishes. And let’s talk drinks. Their fresh coconut water is the perfect refresher after a day exploring the ruins. Or, take it up a notch with a passionfruit margarita.

Revolucion Pancho Villa

For the spice aficionados, this joint offers a range of Mexican sauces, varying from mild to 'can-I-get-some-ice?' levels of heat. Tucked under a large palapa, it's a culinary homage to Mexican cuisine and seafood.

Matcha Mama Ikal

Health-conscious? You'll love this spot. A haven for plant-based and gluten-free options, Matcha Mama Ikal offers everything from matcha teas to cold-pressed juices. Ideal for cooling down on a hot beach day with a smoothie bowl.


Walk a little, and you’ll hit Ziggy's, renowned for its beachfront breakfasts. Their fish tacos have their own fan following, and their evening seafood grill is as delightful as it sounds.

El Camello Jr

If you're all about authentic local flavor, this spot serves up the freshest ceviche around. The setting is simple, the vibe is unpretentious, and the food speaks for itself.

Tulum Food Stalls

For those with adventurous palates, wander a bit from the beach to find local food stalls serving everything from spicy tamales to sweet churros. It’s street food at its finest.

Antojitos La Chiapaneca

Venture into Tulum Pueblo for some of the best Yucatán-style tacos de al pastor. No frills, just pure flavor.

Encanto Cantina

Located in downtown Tulum, this bar offers a charming garden setting and a wide range of Mexican spirits. Mezcal, anyone?

Discover the Charms of Tulum’s ‘Secret Beach’

It's clear that Playa Ruinas offers more than just another beach experience. It's a place where history whispers through the ruins and where the natural beauty has been mostly preserved, away from the commercial trappings. A visit here isn't just a tick off a touristy checklist, but an encounter with a location that has managed to sustain its authentic allure. If you're keen to learn more about Tulum and its secret gems, check out our comprehensive Tulum guide for more hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.

Written by: Cristal

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. 

All of our content at Tourbase is written by experienced travel writers who have visited all of the locations we recommend. And our review board of local tourism experts ensure that all the information we provide is accurate, current and helpful

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