We just spent a week in Tulum visiting the archaeological site of Tulum, snorkeling in Gran Cenote, getting an epic dive experience at The Pit and Cenote Dos Ojos, relaxing at the nearby beach, swimming with big sea turtles at Akumal and on our last day we made a worthwhile trip to the famous Chichen Itza.
On our first day my boyfriend and I took the bikes and tried to find the nearby beach of Tulum. It was a bit disappointing at first because of all the seaweed laying on the beach and the ambient which was perhaps a bit too quiet for our taste. We missed some music and some vibe, but the water indeed was fantastic – it was crystal clear. There were many waves and we got to play around with them while taking a swim.
The second day in Tulum we woke up so god damn early, probably due to our jet-lag, that we decided to cycle to the ruins of Tulum and try to spot the sunrise. It was about 7am when the sun started to peek above the ocean and the ruins of Tulum looked truly magical. We were not sure before we went into the archaeological park if it was worth paying the entrance fee of MEX215 per person just to see the sunrise, but we did spend a good hour all alone on the archaeological site exploring, taking pictures and reading the descriptions of the ruins. There were some coatis playing in the trees as we left the site and headed back to our posada for breakfast.
We cycled up to the Gran Cenote to spend the afternoon in fresh water with beautiful fish and tiny turtles swimming around us. A cenote is a water tavern with lots of stalactites and stalagmites. Pretty cool!
The following two days were existing of beach time at Akumal. Such a nice place! A couple that was staying at the same posada recommended it and so did the owner of the posada, so our decision was made easy. After a couple of days at Akumal we decided to spend some money on the Cenote diving which was totally worth it and finished our stay in Tulum with a trip to the famous Chichen Itza.
Here is our top 5 for activities in or near Tulum.
top 5 favorite things to do in Tulum
If you’re not familiar with a cenote than a term more common might be a sinkhole. Once limestone collapses it can expose the groundwater underneath the surface and create a cenote with massive underground cave systems. A great thing to do is to go snorkeling, or even better diving, at one of the cenotes in Tulum.
2. Snorkeling with turtles at Akumal
Akumal has a beautiful beach where you can swim with green sea turtles. You can spot them easiest with your snorkeling gear which you can rent cheapest for MEX$50 at the beach itself from the locals. The locals will try to sell you their snorkeling tour, but unless you want to be in a group of people all wearing an orange life vest, you can do it perfectly fine on your own. To get to Akumal you only have to take the “colectivo” van on the main street of Tulum and pay the driver MEX$30 for the ride. Even if you’ve seen enough turtles by now, the Akumal beach is a great place for a relaxed day underneath a palm tree.
3. Visit Chichen Itza (or Coba) with the local bus
Nobody enjoys paying big money for tours and still when it comes to places like the famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza we are almost all prepared to pull out our big fat wallet and go on a tour. If you’re a backpacker and you’re on a budget then the cheaper option is to take a local ADO bus from Tulum to Chichen Itza. It only costs MEX$396 for a round-way bus ticket and you’ll get dropped off straight in front of the entrance. You’ll have about 5 hours to explore the site if you do it this way which gives you plenty of time to stroll around all the amazing ruins. If you’re interested in a guide – the local guides cost MEX$750 per tour and walk around with you. Making a deal with one of them and getting the information on site might be pretty handy since there are not so many signs at Chichen Itza with information.
If you’d enjoy it more to go to a less famous and less crowded Mayan site you should visit Coba. It’s the only archeological site where you still get to climb the pyramid to the top! Read more about it by clicking here.
4. Watch the sunrise at the ruins of Tulum
The word “Tulum” in Maya means “wall” and knowing this you can probably imagine how the Maya people used Tulum as a fortress overlooking the sea. If you visit the ruins of the well-preserved ancient Maya city on the coast you can read the signs and learn about the local history. Tip! Visit the archaeological site very early to avoid tour bus crowds and to watch the sun rising out underneath the ocean.
5. Take a dip at Playa Paraiso
Get yourself a bicycle and ride down to the beach of Tulum to find Playa Paraiso, or “Paradise Beach.” The name already gives it away, so you get to enjoy the white sandy beach and the crystal clear water. The nearby El Paraiso Hotel is one of the places offering changing rooms, showers and a restaurant where you can get yourself some refreshing drinks for on the beach. It won’t cost you a thing if you just decide to lay your beach towel down on the sandy beach area near the water.
This post was originally published on December 2, 2015.