One of the most spectacular beaches on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum boasts everything from beautiful beaches to ancient Mayan fortresses to a bohemian yoga scene. Most visitors to Tulum are only there for a day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen; however, if you’re willing to go a bit off the beaten path and hunker down here for a few days, you’ll find there is plenty to Tulum and the surrounding area to love.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Visit the Mayan Ruins of Tulum
Okay, so the ruins of Tulum aren’t exactly off the beaten path. This is the attraction that entices most visitors to come to Tulum in the first place, and for good reason. Tulum is located on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and it is nothing less than gorgeous. The site was likely once a walled city used as a temple, trading port, and navigational guide; much of what archeologists know about Mayan décor comes from the Temple of Frescoes on the Tulum grounds.
When you come, be sure you don’t forget your bathing suit! After you brush up on your Mayan knowledge, you can go for a swim at the lovely (but crowded) beach at the base of the temple. It gets hot walking around the ruin ground, so you’ll definitely want to cool off here.
Experience the Mystical Cenotes Sac Actun
There are over 6,000 cenotes in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A visit to these unique bodies of water is a must, both for their alluring beauty and the insight they offer to Mayan religious beliefs. Sac Actun is a particularly stunning cenote due to its unique caverns, cave-like formations and impeccably clear water. Other popular cenotes in the area are Temple of Doom and Cenote Dos Ojos, where it is also possible to scuba dive.
Swim with Turtles at Akumal
If you’re ever dreamed of swimming alongside graceful sea turtles, then this is the place for you. Akumal isn’t far from Tulum, but at this beach you are virtually guaranteed an intimate encounter with a variety of turtles that flock to the region to munch on the special sea grass. On my last visit to Akumal, I witnessed seven sea turtles along with two stingrays and plenty of fish and coral. It is free to snorkel here, but for a more unique experience, hire a local guide. He can take you outside the area that the swimmers are confined to (and subsequently where you’ll find more sea turtles chomping their grass in peace).
Laze Along the Sian Ka’an Ancient Canals
The Sian Ka’an canals are an ancient Mayan canal system located in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It’s the largest protected area in Mexico’s Caribbean and has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. The biosphere has 23 known archeological sites, shelters hundreds of species of birds and mammals (including two species of endangered turtles), and boasts remains that are nearly 2,300 years old. The best part about the canals though is that you don’t need to do anything at all to experience it! Just strap on your life vest and let the river’s current carry you down the stream.
Lay Your Head at Azulik
Sleeping at Azulik is an experience in and of itself. These unique, adult-only beachfront villas are constructed of fine local hardwoods, with a private deck and ceiling-to-floor windows that allow guests to enjoy the spectacular ocean views out front. But what really makes these villas unique are that they are without any electricity. Talk about having to unplug! Don’t miss a stop at the Mayan spa for a traditional Maya massage—the sounds of the waves crashing in the background were enough to lull me straight to sleep!
How have you spent your time in Tulum?