Things to Do in Tulum
Tulum is one of the top-draw destinations on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, where the Yucatan Peninsula fronts the aquamarine splendor of the Caribbean. There’s a spectacular spectrum of activities and sights to take in, from glorious tropical ecosystems and plush white-sand beaches to some epic archeological ruins that can still evoke the pre-
The breadth of Tulum’s attractions and appeal means a wide range of travelers—from family groups and honeymooning couples to solo globetrotters and thrill-seekers—can enjoy unforgettable vacations here.
But how to figure out just what to do in Tulum and where to go?
In this guide, we’ll help you scheme the perfect Tulum travel experience for your wants and needs. You will find tips for everything from kid-friendly fun zones and cultural experiences to spots nature lovers and adventure travelers will want to prioritize.
Let's dive in and survey the best things to do in Tulum, Mexico!
Top 12 Things to Do in Tulum
From hardcore leisure and historical sightseeing to adventurous, out-and-about ecotourism and outdoor recreation, Tulum’s rich spread of activities makes it easy to scheme up any number of incredible itineraries. Read on to learn about the top things to do in Tulum!
1. Visit El Gran Cenote: Spectacular Flooded Cavern
Overview: The limestone bedrock of the Yucatan is famed for its many cenotes: sinkholes and caves filled with sparkling clear water. Worshiped by the Maya as portals to the underworld, cenotes are transfixing places. And the Tulum vicinity includes numerous examples. Perhaps the best-known is the Gran Cenote, an impressively large and scenic one that's only partly exposed to the surface. It’s well-developed, too, with restrooms, equipment rentals, and concessions on-site.
Duration: A few hours
Perfect For: Everyone from solo travelers to families and groups, with particular interest for photographers and ecotourists
Why Go: The Gran Cenote’s extensive cavern portion harbors intricate stalagmites and stalactites, including underwater formations viewable to snorkelers and divers. There’s wildlife to see, too: from small fish in the cenote depths to bats wheeling around the ceiling.
Insider Tip: While El Gran Cenote is well worth visiting for its special features regardless, some travelers may find it a bit on the busy side. Less-crowded cenotes in Tulum’s backyard include the Dos Ojos Cenote, the Cenote Calavera, and the Cenote Cristal.
2. Go Beach-Hopping: Enjoy Tulum’s Sublime Caribbean Sands
Overview: Tulum’s share of the glorious Riviera Maya coastline includes some fine beachfronts with gleaming sands and friendly surf. None is more celebrated than Playa Paraiso, popular but expansive enough not to feel overcrowded. Keep an eye peeled for iguanas while you enjoy some grade-A Caribbean sunbathing and seaside yoga at this aptly named “Paradise Beach.
Other excellent options include the quieter expanse of Playa Las Palmas, plus Playa Pescadores and Playa Ruinas closer to the famous Tulum pre-Columbian city. Beach clubs provide day visitors access, while many Tulum hotels and villas set you up for beachgoing as well.
Duration: Couple hours to half a day
Perfect For: Families, couples
Why Go: Beachgoing’s top on the priority list for most visitors to the Riviera Maya, and no visit to Tulum is complete without some quality time on its white sands. Many of the beaches offer water sports rentals so you can easily get out into those turquoise Caribbean waters.
Insider Tip: Their east-facing orientation makes Tulum’s beaches fabulous choices for sunrise.
See WIMCO’s selection of all the top beaches in Tulum.
3. Explore the Great Mayan Reef: An Internationally Significant Natural Wonder
Overview: The Great Mayan Reef—also known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System—is a must-see ecological complex. This is the largest reef system in the Western Hemisphere and the second-longest barrier reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Great Mayan Reef encompasses spectacular and life-rich coral gardens, plus offshore cays, a mangrove jungle, and seagrass flats.
Besides hosting more than 500 fish and several dolphin species, the Great Mayan Reef is one of the global strongholds for manatees and provides essential habitat for American and Morelet’s crocodiles (which, by the way, pose little threat to humans in this region). Among the protected areas falling within the reef system’s bounds are the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve immediately south of Tulum, plus the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park not far away.
Duration: Half-day to full-day tours; could soak up days of exploration, though!
Perfect For: Solo travelers to groups; snorkelers, divers
Why Go: The Great Mayan Reef is easily one of the top things to see in Tulum and an honest-to-goodness ecotourist’s paradise, with world-class snorkeling and scuba-diving. Opportunities to see tropical fish, sea turtles, dolphins, and more abound.
4. Visit the Tulum Mayan Ruins: Stunning Seaside Temples
Overview: Nicely preserved and boasting an incredible location overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the ancient Mayan site of Tulum ranks among the signature archaeological treasures of the Riviera Maya. Among the last of the Maya civilization’s great pre-Columbian cities, fortressed by sea cliffs and an imposingly thick wall, Tulum includes some striking ruins, including the Temple of the Great Descending God. It’s open daily for a small fee, with guided tours available at an additional cost.
Duration: Several hours
Perfect For: Solo travelers, families, couples, groups
Why Go: The well-preserved Mayan ruins themselves are worth the price of admission. But the setting right on the Caribbean seafront really takes this place into magical territory. Without question, it's a Tulum must-see destination.
Insider Tip: The Tulum site is heavily frequented by tour buses coming down from the Cancun vicinity. If you’d like to check out the ruins with fewer crowds, aim for a first-thing-in-the-morning or late-afternoon visit.
5. Experience Daniel Popper’s Monumental Tulum Sculpture: The Mesmerizing Ven a La Luz
Overview: In 2018, the well-known South African artist Daniel Popper designed one of his grand-scale figurative sculptures for Tulum’s inaugural Art With Me festival: Ven a La Luz, or "Come Into the Light."
This astonishing creation, built from wood, steel, and rope, depicts the upper part of a monumental female figure some 33 feet (10 meters) high, with living greenery forming an archway through her chest. According to Popper, Ven a La Luz symbolizes humanity’s intrinsic connection with the natural world and draws attention to the Riviera Maya’s precious ecological fabric.
You can visit Ven a La Luz on the beachfront grounds of the eco-friendly Ahau Tulum resort. This is where Popper’s gorgeous, supersized work forms the centerpiece of a sculpture garden unveiled in October 2021.
Duration: Half-hour or so
Perfect For: Photographers, art lovers, couples
Why Go: Popper is an internationally known artist, and it’s a treat to have one of his works in Tulum. Ven a La Luz is a gripping, moving, mysterious piece that’s well worth seeing in the flesh. The lush archway has become one of the premier places to go in Tulum for a selfie!
Insider Tip: You can grab eats and drinks at the Ahau Tulum sculpture garden.
6. Dining Out (and Going Out): Sample Tulum’s Culinary & Nightlife Scenes
Overview: Tulum has an excellent range of eateries, cafes, and bars. That includes around the seaside hotel zone, with multiple beach bars to choose from by day and a lively foodie-friendly nightlife vibe.
While many high-profile restaurants await at the hotels, resorts, and beach clubs, you’ll find plenty of gems in the downtown of Tulum Pueblo as well. Whether you’re looking for an upscale dinner, a laidback watering hole, or a hopping late-night club with DJ sets or live music, you’ve got options.
Duration: Very much up to you!
Perfect For: Foodies, night owls
Why Go: There’s quite a range of culinary experiences on offer in the Tulum area, with lots of international fare (including of the fine-dining kind) as well as delicious local cuisine. And if you're looking for things to do in Tulum at night, exploring the beachfront and town eateries and clubs nicely fits the bill!
Insider Tip: For a great double-header sampling of Tulum’s dining, check out Taqueria Honorio in town and Posada Margherita along the beachfront.
See WIMCO’s selection of the top restaurants in Tulum.
7. Tour the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve: Spot the Wild Monkeys!
Overview: Less than an hour northwest and inland of Tulum, the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve is a special place. It is a fine example of both tropical Yucatan ecology and sustainable community conservation in action.
A local Maya village manages the reserve. The official name is Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Koo, “Home of the Spider Monkey & Puma.” Indeed, Yucatan spider monkeys are the most famous native wildlife here, and much more easily seen than the resident pumas. Though they share the canopy with Guatemalan black howler monkeys and a bevy of birds. Jaguars and crocodiles are also part of the faunal lineup.
Punta Laguna Nature Reserve also offers opportunities for ecotourism activities and explorations of local culture.
Duration: Half-day or more
Perfect For: Ecotourists, wildlife enthusiasts/birdwatchers
Why Go: Although you can explore the reserve in a self-directed fashion, it’s worth hiring a local guide for an expert introduction to Punta Laguna’s flora and fauna. Walking with a guide also greatly increases your chance of seeing spider monkeys or howlers. There’s a lagoon for paddling and ziplining, a cenote, and village tours, with opportunities to buy locally made handicrafts and souvenirs.
Insider Tip: Wear sturdy walking shoes to visit Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, as the trails can be uneven (and include exposed limestone).
8. Have a Blast at Xel-Há Park: A Perfect Tulum Family Destination With All-Ages Appeal
Overview: A mere-half hour or so from Tulum, Xel-Há Park serves as one of the region’s top draws for family vacationers. This all-inclusive themed waterpark and aquarium is situated on a Caribbean inlet and named after an ancient Mayan city. It offers a wide range of amusement and outdoor activities, from river-tubing, cliff-jumping, ziplining, and bicycling to snorkeling, cenote-diving, and swimming with dolphins and manatees. All set in quite the attractive jungle-scape. Don’t miss the view from the 131-foot-tall lighthouse!
Duration: Half-day to full day
Perfect For: Families, couples
Why Go: Xel-Há Park isn’t only dedicated to fun, but also ecological awareness and sustainability. It’s a waterpark where you can get a good sense of place as well, from the native mangroves on display along the tubing river to the conservation efforts underway at the Queen Conch Sanctuary and the on-site native-plant nursery.
Insider Tip: Your admission fee includes the food and drink on offer at Xel-Há’s multiple on-site restaurants and bars.
9. Indulge in a Wellness Experience: Blissing Out, Riviera Maya-Style
Overview: The dreamy Caribbean setting and wide array of resorts make Tulum a fine destination for Riviera Maya wellness getaways. Such a getaway can take many forms: from a decked-out spa session in one of the hotels or villas to a sunrise round of beach yoga at Playa Paraiso or an introduction to a traditional Mayan clay treatment.
Duration: Hour to half-day
Perfect For: Solo travelers, couples
Why Go: Some deep, slowed-down relaxation on a massage table or in a clay tub refreshes and rejuvenates in between sightseeing tours, watersports, and other faster-paced Tulum-area activities.
Insider Tip: The Xen-Há Park mentioned above includes among its attractions an on-site spa, mighty appealing for the grownups visiting this popular waterpark complex.
10. Take a Hike: Immerse Yourself in the Yucatan Tropical Forest
Overview: Hiking may not be first and foremost on the minds of many Tulum visitors. And indeed, the best-known ecotourism and outdoor recreation in the area are more of the on-the-water and under-the-water varieties. But some mesmerizing trails can be explored in the vicinity, taking you from the hustle-and-bustle of the beachfront into the deep shade, ringing birdsong, and botanical luxuriance of the Riviera Maya’s tropical forest.
Duration: Several hours
Perfect For: Nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers
Why Go: Hiking in Tulum is a nice change of pace from beach-hopping and snorkeling. And you’ve got a range of places to pursue: from the wilder paths of Punta Laguna Nature Reserve with its monkeys and the jungle boardwalk of the magnificent Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve just south of Tulum to the forest walkways of Xen-Há Park.
11. Snorkel & Scuba Dive Amid Tulum’s Wonderful Waters: From Crystalline Cenotes to the Great Mayan Reef
Overview: Strapping on a pair of fins in Tulum and its vicinity is highly recommended! After all, some of the finest snorkeling and diving on the planet awaits here. The coral banks and seagrass pastures of the Great Mayan Reef are just offshore. The barrier reef and mangrove lagoons are extraordinary. Add the freshwater dips and dives you can enjoy in the region’s numerous dreamlike cenotes. With the sinkholes’ intriguing limestone formations and crystal-clear depths, and you’ve got a genuinely world-class setup for underwater wonderment.
Whether renting snorkeling equipment at El Gran Cenote, enjoying Xen-Há Park’s snorkeling and “Snuba” experiences; or joining a guided diving tour of the Great Mayan Reef, you’ve got plentiful opportunities to sample the area’s liquid beauty, whatever your skill and experience level.
Duration: An hour to a full day
Perfect For: Couples, families, ecotourists
Why Go: You can see some amazing sea life in Riviera Maya’s coastal waters with a Tulum home base. That includes everything from vividly colored reef fish and camouflaged octopuses to sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and rays. Among the globe’s most notable congregations of whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, and harmless filter-feeders. All this takes place off the stretch of the Yucatan coast during the summer, offering almost unrivaled opportunities to snorkel with these gorgeous giants.
Insider Tip: The summertime whale-shark gathering off the Riviera Maya is world-renowned. But there’s a lesser-known seasonal spectacle snorkelers and divers can seek out: the astonishing schools of sailfish that show up in January and February to hunt sardines.
12. Pursue Some Local Shopping: Fun Local Gift Shops, Funky Boutiques, Traditional Vendors
Overview: Whether you’re seeking a souvenir or memorable gift or on the lookout for locally made handicrafts or artwork, Tulum offers a diverse array of shopping opportunities. From the outdoor stalls of the Tulum Market and the mall complex of Tulum Bazaar to the eclectic shops and boutiques of the beach district, there’s a lot of shop-till-you-drop potential at hand!
Duration: Hours to full day
Perfect For: Collectors, holiday shoppers
Why Go: Shopping for traditional-style Mexican crafts among the area’s shops, marketplaces, and roadside stands is another of the best things to do in Tulum. Silver and onyx jewelry, glazed and unglazed pottery, weavings, and sugar skulls are among the commonly seen wares.
Insider Tip: For better deals and some authentic local products, be sure to explore away from the pricier beachfront among the town shops of Tulum Pueblo.
Top Excursions in Tulum
A villa or hotel in Tulum provides the perfect springboard for guided trips and tours of the Riviera Maya’s many famed attractions, from its Mayan ruins to the spectacular Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Here are some of the top Tulum excursions!
Chichen Itza & Tulum Private Tour
Many companies provide one-day tours of both the coastal pre-Columbian ruins of Tulum and, only a couple of hours away, the magnificent Chichen Itza, one of the greatest of all Mayan cities and host to the iconic El Castillo step-pyramid.
Cenotes Exclusive Guided Tour
Get a sense of the sheer diversity of settings, sizes, and ambiances encompassed by the flooded caverns and sinkholes of the Riviera Maya. An exclusive guided tour of multiple cenotes is a truly must-do Tulum, Mexico excursion.
Isla Holbox Adventure Tour
Tulum can serve as a jumping-off point for a journey to the seductive Isla Holbox off the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s well known for its secluded beaches and golf-cart touring, and a sought-out spot for swimming with whale sharks.
You have absolutely no shortage of tour companies and outfitters offering guided snorkeling trips out on the Great Mayan Reef, the Tulum coast’s preeminent natural treasure.
Private Sailing Cruise
Whether you’re kicking back for sea-breeze R&R on a private charter or renting your own yacht, private sailing cruises out of the Tulum seaboard put untouched beaches, remote cays, and all-around top-tier Caribbean scenery at your fingertips.
Best Things to Do in Tulum for Families
From waterparks to beachgoing, Tulum makes a fine destination for family getaways. Here are several top picks for where to go and what to do: the best Tulum, Mexico activities for the whole crew!
Day Trip to Akumal Bay
Not far north up the coast, take the kids to Akumal Bay and its sea turtle sanctuary, where a set of snorkel gear yields up-close looks at these marine reptiles in their natural habitat.
Swim With Dolphins in a Natural Lagoon
Among the most popular experiences at Xen-Há Park are its various swimming-with-dolphin programs. Young and old alike delight in the dolphin kisses, fin shakes, and foot-pushes involved!
Visit Tulum’s Beaches & Beach Clubs
The white-sand beaches of Tulum’s Caribbean seashore are just about universally appealing, as are the surfside eats and drinks available at establishments such as Ziggy’s Beach Club.
Stroll Avenida Tulum
Take a day trip to Cancun and stroll its downtown Avenida Tulum, a great place to enjoy some ice cream.
Look for Monkeys at Punta Laguna
Give the younger crowd a taste for the natural side of the Riviera Maya with a guided hike at the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, where a glimpse of spider monkeys—maybe even a howler or two—will surely become a highlight of your Caribbean vacation.
Top Romantic Activities in Tulum
It’s easy to fall in love—or deepen a longtime romantic connection—when you’ve got a backdrop of Caribbean beaches, palm groves, and vivid green jungle. Tulum is tailor-made for couples’ getaways!
Dine by Candlelight
From private beachside tables and jungle-immersed dining to white-tablecloth dinners, Tulum’s varied restaurants include many establishments ideal for date nights. Among them, the beautifully decorated Norita with its sensuous dishes and the candlelit Italian meals of Parole Tulum are just two to try.
Take a Diving Tour
Share an adventurous afternoon with your special somebody on the Great Mayan Reef via a guided diving tour: likely to make memories to last a lifetime.
Indulge in a Mayan Clay Treatment & Massage Together
Dive deep into side-by-side relaxation with a traditional Mayan clay treatment. At the Mayan Clay Spa, you and your significant other can enjoy clay massages and mineral baths soak. Then follow it up by lounging in king-side hammocks amid tropical lushness. Couples wellness at its best!
Swim in Magical Cenotes
The Tulum area’s cenotes cast an undeniable spell, and taking a dip hand-in-hand within their sparklingly clear waters is sublime.
Uniquely Tulum Experiences
Certain places and activities distill the magic of Tulum to its essence. Here are some of those quintessential Tulum adventures that exemplify why this is such a special corner of the Riviera Maya to visit.
Go Swimming in the Crystal-clear Waters of a Cenote
Tulum’s limestone cenotes’, where impeccable freshwater pools come fringed by greenery, constitute iconic Yucatan scenery—and a bucket-list opportunity for snorkelers.
Explore an Ancient Maya City—on the Seacoast
Its cliff- and wall-edged perch surveying the postcard-perfect Caribbean Sea makes the temple- and Castillo-complex of Tulum one of the most dramatically situated archeological sites of the Maya civilization.
Discover the Great Mayan Reef
To have the world’s second-largest barrier reef—and one of the most extraordinary snorkeling, diving, and paddling destinations in the Americas—at your doorstep is one of the chief reasons to make the trip to Tulum.