One look at Tulum’s impossibly beautiful beaches and you’ll already be booking your plane ticket to Mexico. Need more than a sun lounger to hold your attention? This coastal town on the Yucatán Peninsula has perfectly preserved Mayan ruins, exotic wildlife encounters, jungle thrills, top-notch shopping, wellness facilities and a food scene worth the trip alone. Here are all the reasons you should not miss a trip to this magical Riviera Maya destination.
Intrigued? Experience all that Tulum has to offer – and more – by booking Culture Trip’s small-group, nine-day tour around Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
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Discover the ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum
History hunters are spoiled for choice in Tulum. The town was once the location of a Mayan walled city, situated on a cliff facing the sun, and the astonishingly well-preserved ruins can be followed by a dip in the sea on the beach below. There are plenty of other sites to visit on day trips from Tulum, too, including the spectacular Chichén Itzá, Cobá and El Rey, close to Cancún.
Relax on a picture-perfect beach
From jungle adventures to Mayan ruins, Tulum packs in plenty of breathtaking moments. Yet, it’s the beaches that remain the real draw here thanks to sand as soft as flour, gently rustling palm trees and glittering cobalt blue water. Throw in barefoot seafood shacks, waterfront yoga sessions at sunrise and kaleidoscopic sea life for unforgettable snorkeling, and you’ll realize you’ve just pitched up in paradise.
Catch a glimpse of local wildlife
The trees, caves and beaches of Tulum are alive with all sorts of animals and birds, from the small but dangerous scorpions to the big and even more dangerous jaguars. More commonly, you’re likely to spot spider monkeys swinging through the trees, stately iguanas perched on Mayan ruins, crocodiles on the banks of lakes and colorful birds calling from the jungle canopy for a truly spellbinding experience.
Swim and snorkel in cenotes
Anyone can take a dip in a swimming pool. But the Yucatán Peninsula has the world’s largest number of cenotes, underwater sinkholes considered sacred by the Maya and known for their brilliantly clear blue water. They’re formed when limestone is eroded above and make magical pools for snorkeling, diving and swimming, often under an ancient ceiling of stalactites and stalagmites. Keep your eyes peeled for bashful wildlife in some cenotes, too, including turtles and bats.
Soar over treetops on zip-lines
See the jungle from the sky when you fly over the treetops on thrilling zip-lines in Tulum. Sign up for a group trip or head independently to Xplor, the most visited zip-line park in the world. There are two circuits with seven zip-lines each to tackle, plus a waterslide and two water landings for splashdown, so dress to get wet. Along the way, you’ll soar over idyllic rainforest landscapes and spot the Caribbean Sea in the distance – if you’re brave enough to keep your eyes open, of course.
Sign up for an authentic dining experience
From beachfront seafood shacks to high-end dining in the jungle, Tulum is an unexpected foodie treasure trove. Seafood, Mexican and vegan restaurants all take some beating, but you’ll also find excellent spots to feast on Italian, steak and tapas. Whatever you fancy, try to make it to must-dine Hartwood at least once during your stay for flavor-packed seasonal dishes in a restaurant with no roof or electricity. Trust us on this one.
Try delicious Mexican street food
Like to grab and go? Tulum has some of the best street food in the world, so you’ll never go hungry – and won’t need to spend a fortune. Eat piled-high pork tacos with one hand from the street corner stand Antojitos La Chiapaneca, or sample a bit of everything at Palma Central, the first food-truck park in Tulum. Craving something sweet? Get in line at Origami on Tulum Beach and choose a coconut ice made from local palm trees.
Reconnect with yourself through yoga
Yoga devotees are drawn to Tulum’s connection to ancient Mayan spirituality, so classes can be combined with traditional temazcal, chakra meditation and holistic treatments using natural ingredients. Many hotels have yoga studios, but there are plenty of drop-in centers available for an occasional class. Join a session by candlelight or one overlooking the sea at sunrise for a truly unforgettable experience.
Go shopping at local boutiques
Bring home a one-of-a-kind souvenir by hitting the equally unique boutiques, which showcase local handicrafts, homespun designers and chic Mexican accessories. Head back to the beach after picking up a chic kaftan from Wanderlust, pick up brightly colored ceramics and souvenirs at the thatched Mixik or stock up on covetable handmade jewelry at Mr Blackbird in a cabana on the sands. You definitely won’t go home empty-handed.
Swim alongside sea turtles
Tourists aren’t the only ones who love the sugar-soft vanilla sands of Tulum. Between May and November, loggerhead and green turtles come ashore to nest on the beaches under the cover of darkness. To swim alongside them, head to Akumal, 16mi (26km) north of Tulum, where you can snorkel with these magnificent creatures for a closer look. The number of tourists allowed in the water each day is limited due to conservation, so be sure to book a group trip or arrive early.
Looking for more Tulum tips? Take your relaxation to the next level with a trip to one of these yoga studios or immerse yourself in local history and explore some of the best ruins near Tulum. When evening rolls around, unwind with a drink at one of the best bars in Tulum.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Stephen Woodman.
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