Tulum and the Riviera Maya are home to idyllic beaches, as well as stunning nature and a fascinating cultural heritage that you will love. Come here!
The Tulum ruins speak for themselves. They clearly define what travelers can expect to find in this part of the Riviera Maya. In addition to the wonderful beaches, the well-preserved nature and the fascinating cultural heritage of the region also invite visitors to discover more and more about the traditions, the local gastronomy, the ancestral rituals, and the mysterious constructions. You won’t miss anything with this guide.
Everything you should do on a trip to Tulum
1- Visiting the Tulum archaeological site:
The best thing to do on a trip to Tulum is to visit one of the famous Mayan ruins in the region. The city of Tulum arose during the decline of civilization (in the Late Postclassic period: 1200-1520 AD), which means that as the rest of the empire declined, this city was able to expand thanks to trade. Although Tulum was much more modest than other large cities such as Uxmal or Chichén, it has a particularity that the others lack: its location, overlooking the Caribbean, which has made it a national icon.
The original Mayan name, Zama, means “city of the dawn” and alludes to the impressive sunrise that is witnessed here. This is reason enough to arrive early, in addition to enjoying the temples with fewer people and less heat.
The current name Tulum translates to “fence”, which is fitting as it is the site of a ceremonial area surrounded by thick, colorful walls. Nowadays, iguanas can be found sunbathing on the walls. Inside the walls lies a fascinating series of temples including the House of Chultun, the House of Columns, the Great Palace, the House of Halach Uinic or Great Lord, the Temple of Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God, and the iconic Castle, which overlooks the sea. The Castle had ceremonial and cosmological purposes, as well as serving as a beacon to guide ships near the second largest coral reef in the world.
2- Biking around the Cobá ruins:
There is another pre-Columbian archaeological site about 40 kilometers inland from Tulum, and although it is much less well known, it also has a majestic backdrop. Once a huge and prosperous city, Cobá (which means “muddy water” in Mayan) is located in the jungle instead of the Caribbean Sea. In the year 1100 he traveled 70 km2 and had about 55,000 inhabitants. The city disappeared in the 16th century and was absorbed by the jungle until its discovery at the end of the 19th century. The surrounding network of trails can be explored by bike. The essential ones are the Cobá group, the Macanxoc group (ball game), the set of paintings and Nohoch Mul (great pyramid), which offers the best views.
3- Live adventures in the Labnaha Ecological Park:
To make the most of the ecosystem of the Riviera Maya, a great alternative is to visit this ecotourism park and enjoy the jungle that surrounds it and the underground world. Learn about the Mayan culture while doing sports activities: dive in natural springs, walk thematic trails, explore underwater rivers, fly on zip lines and more.
4- Discover the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a spectacular nature preserve located along Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Spanning 1.3 million acres of tropical forests, mangroves, lagoons, and wetlands, this massive reserve is home to a variety of species, including jaguars, howler monkeys, and countless birds. Visitors to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve can explore the lush vegetation, snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, canoe through the mangrove forests, and even spot some of the local wildlife. With its untouched beauty and abundance of wildlife, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is an ideal destination for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers.
5- Dive with rays, barracudas… and even bull sharks.
We mentioned earlier that the second largest coral reef in the world is found here, stretching from the Yucatan peninsula to Honduras, so it’s no surprise that the Riviera Maya offers world-class diving. This, combined with the incredible weather and excellent visibility, makes it possible for divers to swim with barracudas, moray eels, schools of fish, rays, turtles and more. During the winter (between November and February), bull sharks it can be seen in Playa del Carmen (50 minutes from Tulum). It is easy to organize convenient departures for these dives from Allegro Playacar Hotel.
6- Enjoy the nightlife.
The daytime at Tulum is just as captivating as the nightlife; go out to a beach bar for dinner and enjoy a refreshing drink with a view of the ocean. There are also full moon celebrations with bonfires on the shore.
7- Swim in natural springs.
The Maya viewed natural springs, which are formed by subterranean rivers, as holy sites and a source of water. Three such springs, Cristal, Escondido and El Calavera, can be found near Tulum.
8- See sea turtles lay their eggs in the Xcacel-Xcacelito Sea Turtle Sanctuary.
Those visiting the marine sanctuary can partake in a range of activities, like viewing sea turtles laying eggs, setting baby turtles free, and taking part in the sea turtle celebration.
9- Eat cochinita pibil tacos.
This regional dish from Yucatan is known for its humorous name. It consists of pork that is slow cooked with achiote and wrapped in banana leaves, served with red onion and habanero pepper. What makes it special is that it is cooked in an earthen oven (in the Mayan language, “pepita” means “roasted inside”). The meat is enveloped in leaves and placed on stone slabs over a pit with a wood fire. People usually eat it in the form of tacos, among other options.
10- Down some balché shots.
This particular alcoholic beverage, which is set out during funerals in many regions of Mexico, was once served at Mayan rituals thousands of years ago. It is made by fermenting the bark of a legume tree, then combining it with water, syrup, and sweeteners such as corn or anise. It is often used in steam bath rituals.