15 Reasons Why You Should Visit Tulum at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Conch shell blowing in Tulum | © ToddonFlickr/Flickr
Conch shell blowing in Tulum | © ToddonFlickr/Flickr
Photo of Stephen Woodman
19 March 2020

Mexico’s Tulum has become, thanks to its white-sand beaches and Mayan ruins, a great alternative to a Cabo vacation. Here are Culture Trip’s 15 reasons for visiting this laid-back beach town.

Tulum has gorgeous white sand and aqua blue beaches | © Helmut Corneli / Alamy Stock Photo

In recent years, Tulum has rightly established itself as one of the world’s premier beach destinations. Boasting spectacular Mayan ruins overlooking the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, you would be hard-pressed to find a more Instagram-worthy spot anywhere in the Americas. Here are 15 reasons why the town should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Enjoy the astounding ruins

The 13th-century Mayan archaeological ruins are not Mexico’s largest, but their beachfront location makes them a truly jaw-dropping sight. The clifftop watchtower, or Castillo, is a vestige from when the area was used as a port and is one of the country’s most photographed sites.

The Mayan ruins in Tulum directly overlook the ocean | © Brian Jannsen / Alamy Stock Photo

Soak up the sun at one of Tulum’s incredible beaches

Although Playa Ruinas is the region’s most famous beach, there are plenty of other options. Playa Paraíso, or Paradise Beach, is never far from the top of any local’s recommendation list. Tulum’s near-transparent water, pristine white sand, bars and restaurants makes it a coastal destination for relaxation.

Enjoy the spectacular wildlife

Tulum is home to an amazing array of animals, from monkeys and jaguars to sea turtles and iguanas. One place to get a closer glimpse at all of them is at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean and one of the world’s top ecotourism destinations. Sian Ka’an offers refuge to thousands of species of flora and fauna, which is why, in 1987, it was granted a World Heritage site designation by UNESCO.

The Rosetta Spoonbill is just one rare animal you can see at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve | © scott sady/tahoelight.com / Alamy Stock Photo

Check out sea turtles in their natural habitat

From May to October, Tulum’s coastline sees the arrival of thousands of nesting turtles. After the sun sets each night (Tulum faces east, which is why it’s believed that the Mayans called it Zama, meaning sunrise), the mother turtles make their way to the beach to lay their eggs before slowly journeying back to the water.

Explore the cenotes

Tulum is surrounded by cenotes, or underwater sinkholes, attracting divers, swimmers and adventurers year-round. Once revered as sacred by the ancient Mayans, Gran Cenote, located about 4mi (7km) inland from the beach, is a particularly popular location. And don’t fret, snorkels and other scuba-diving equipment are available to rent on-site.

Gran Cenote is a popular destination | © Reinhard Dirscherl / Alamy Stock Photo

Zip-line through paradise

Don’t want to dip into the water? That’s okay – you can fly above it. Sports companies such as Aventuras Mayas offer more adventurous travelers the opportunity to speedily travel through the jungle on its Riviera Maya zip lines. The company provides tours that take around six hours and can also include a chance to rappel down a 60ft (18m) rock face and snorkel through an underground cenote.

Sample the local cuisine

Tulum has established itself as one of Mexico’s numerous food hubs with trendy restaurants like Mur Mur offering exciting gastronomic experiences. Dedicated to sourcing all of its ingredients from local producers, the critically acclaimed restaurant opened in December 2015 and has already made its mark on the Mexican culinary scene. Taquerías such as Don Beto and Antojitos La Chiapaneca offer up traditional flavors such as juicy al pastor tacos.

Discover the delicious street food

Whether it’s delicious roadside tacos, fresh coconut water or refreshing ice pops, Tulum is one of Mexico’s top street-food destinations. The laid-back restaurant Taqueria La Eufemia specializes in delicious fish and shrimp tacos.

Enjoy the incredible selection of fruits

Tulum offers delicious fruits in abundance, with coconut standing out as a particular favorite for tourists. After a night at the bar, nothing will rehydrate you as quickly as the juice of a young, green coconut or a fruit salad with a delicious coconut milk dip.

Barhop through town

The nightlife options in Tulum are plentiful and include excellent beach parties and live music joints. We recommend Batey for its laid-back atmosphere, cocktails and live music. Papaya Playa Project is another great option if a beach club vibe is more your thing.

Unwind in a luxury hotel

Over the past decade, boutique accommodation options have been springing up in Tulum at an incredible rate. While some bemoan the rising prices and pace of development, there’s no doubt that luxury hotels are a great place to relax. The Mezzanine Colibri Boutique Hotel is one of the region’s finest, boasting thatched-roof suites in a stunning beachside setting.

Stretch out the stress in the yoga capital of Mexico

Tulum is Mexico’s top yoga destination and hosts a huge range of spiritual retreats, wellness spas and yoga studios. The Yoga Dicha Studio is a popular spot for serious practitioners, offering both teacher training courses and excellent daily classes. Not as experienced? Here’s a helpful guide to a slew of other studios.

Indulge yourself with a full-body massage

Holistic massages are one of many therapeutic treatments on offer at the Yäan Wellness Center. The luxurious spa forms a part of the Be Tulum Hotel and is open to outside visitors as well as guests. The venue offers individual treatments such as massages, reiki or hot stone therapy and also allows visitors to craft their own individual packages.

Try a traditional therapy

The Mayan practice of steam baths is growing ever more popular with visitors to Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Many hotels and spas in Tulum, including the Yäan Wellness Center, are reviving the healing steam ceremonies, which are performed in an igloo-shaped structure called a temazcal.

Explore the local area on a bike

Tulum has a unique layout, with most hotels and bars clustered along the shoreline. It’s a great idea to rent a bike for your stay so you can get around quickly without having to rely on taxis. In addition to being convenient, Tulum is a very bike-friendly town, making it a pleasure to explore on two wheels.

Alex Wexelman contributed additional reporting to this article.

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