Reasons You Should Visit Tulum, Mexico, at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Tulum offers a stunning combo of Mayan ruins and Caribbean white-sand beaches
Tulum offers a stunning combo of Mayan ruins and Caribbean white-sand beaches | © Helmut Corneli / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Siobhan Grogan
6 September 2021

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.

Discover the ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum

Ruins of the Mayan temple grounds at Tulum, Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Mexico
© Brian Jannsen / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Natural Feature
Crystal clear turquoise water on a Mexican sandy beach under palm trees - tourist attraction and holiday destination in Tulum, Mexico, Caribbean Sea
© Oliver Rein / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Mexico, Quintana Roo, Tulum, Xcaret nature park, Jaguar. Panthera Onca.
© frans lemmens / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Natural Feature
Scenic view of cenotes caves with fresh water in Mexico perfect place to swim
© PhotoSpirit / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Amusement Park, Natural Feature, Sports Center
Zip-lining, Xplor,  Riviera Maya, Yucatan, Mexico.
© Charles O. Cecil / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Restaurant, Mexican, Seafood, Central American
Mexican food. Homemade tacos with shrimp, avocado and salsa sauce on a dark rustic background.
© Yulia Gusterina / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Restaurant, Mexican, Street Food
A street vendor selling food in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
© Gina Kelly / Alamy Stock Photo

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 Studio
Yoga Dicha
Courtesy of Yoga Dicha
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

Store, Shop
Colourful pottery on sale at street market and souvenir shop in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.
© R.M. Nunes / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Natural Feature
Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas, Akumal, Tulum, Mexico
© WaterFrame / Alamy Stock Photo

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? Finding the perfect stay is easy when Tulum has a hotel for every traveler type or, if you’re traveling in a big group, a stylish villa to fit your needs. Best of all, you can book your next stay right here on Culture Trip. During the day, 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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