I am always getting requests for suggestions to Tulum, Mexico. By now you’ve seen the photos and heard all about the glamour and vibes that is Tulum. The ancient Mayan jungle paradise sits along the coast of the beautiful Carribean blue waters and has everything you could want or need. Come for a relaxing yoga retreat or to experience the nightlife and parties. Tulum boasts authentic cuisines, beautiful beaches, cenotes, and so much more to easily keep this at the top of your travel bucket list.
Places to see:
If you've never heard of it, you will certainly find hundreds of them in Tulum. They are natural sinkholes. Tulum is made up of a lot underwater rivers connected by these Cenote entrances. These are popular for swimmers and scuba divers that will swim in these connected waterways. Most of them are on private land so be sure to bring some cash to enter (typically less than $5 USD). Some are more commercial with large parking lots and bathrooms and some are just beautiful (and sketchy) holes in the ground behind an abandoned building.
PRO TIP: Get to the cenotes first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. Cenotes look better when you're the only one in the photo and not sitting behind a tour bus from Cancun.
THE GRAND CENOTE
This is by far the most popular and one of the biggest cenotes in the city. There are two main swimming sections each with multiple entrances. Make sure you go to the back cenote entrance which is a little quieter and more picturesque. There are also great places to lay out and have a picnic when you get out of the water.
A few minutes down the road from the Grand Cenote is Cenote Zacil-Ha. This is another larger and more commercialized cenote. The coolest and most unique part of this cenote is the short zip line ride you can take before jumping in. Tip the lifeguard a few USD and you will have a few ride/jumps to capture that perfect photo before you cannonball in to the water. Or if you get here early you can just relax and swim in the cenote by yourself.
This is one of the sketchier cenotes as you walk on a path behind a bunch of buildings. After a few hundred feet you arrive to this majestic hole in the ground. There are 2 smaller holes for those brave souls who want to jump in. There is also a rope hanging in the larger hole so you can sit on it and do it for the gram (note: it is harder to get on that rope when the water level is low!)
TIP: Just do it. It looks sketchy and you may even see some bats flying around the cave but it was totally worth it.
If you are staying in the hotel zone a simple bike ride will take you down the road to the Tulum Ruins / Archaeological Zone of Tulum. These amazing stone structures are built right along the beautiful Caribbean coastline. It makes sense they built a watchtower here in addition to their temples. This is a major tourist spots and tends to get crowded as well so get here early. There is a beach you can swim in but if you get there later in the day you will be swimming with the crowds.
TIP: save your beach swimming when you leave and go to public beach or swim at one of the beautiful hotel beach/pools.
The Beach / Tulum Resorts
Pick a beach. Any beach. Chances are you will stay for a long time. Most of the beaches are behind the private gates of the resorts but most of them are friendly with restaurants and bars looking for new friendly customers.
Places to eat:
Amansala (great for Lunch)
Matteo's (great for Lunch or Dinner)
*Any restaurant at Azulik for the amazing ambiance
Places to Stay:
Amansala - an eco chic resort with awesome rooms and food and easy beach and pool access
Azulik - an expensive but stunning resort on the beach. Built to make any of your friends jealous
Papaya Playa Project - a beautiful resort on the beach with more nightlife
Cancun / Playa Del Carmen - more "normal" resorts you would come to expect from a large hotel chain but will require a bus or rental car to explore Tulum. 1/2 a Stay In Tulum and 1/2 a Stay in Cancun is always a good recommendation to get the best of both worlds.
Places to checkout for an extended trip:
Northwest of Tulum
Cenote Calavera | Grand Cenote
Coba Ruins | Choo-Ha Cenote
Tamcach-Ha Cenote | Mulum-Ha Cenote
North of Tulum
Tulum Ruins | Cenote Labnaha
Xel Ha PArk | Akumal Beach
Casa Cenote | Aktun Chen Cenote
Dos Ojos Cenote | Cenote Cracol
Xcaret Park | Cenote Nicte-Ha
Southwest of Tulum
Laguan Kaan Luum
Muyil Archaeological Site
Outside of Tulum
Playa Del Carmen