Hi people! I’m back at it with another Tulum blog post after getting more requests on what to do / see. Tulum, Mexico truly has a little slice of my heart. And while Tulum has developed a reputation for its food scene, fancy yoga retreats, and eco-chic boutiques, there’s still much to do for the adventure traveler. You can camp or glamp next to a cenote on the fringes of Tulum or spend your afternoon zip-lining through the jungle. We spent our days hopping from cenote to cenote, exploring the hotel zones finest views, and snorkeling the sea. I’ve had a ton of questions surrounding Tulum activities, so read on and check out these exciting things to do in Tulum, Mexico.
1 SWIM IN CENOTES
Cenotes are above-and-beyond your average swimming hole. A cenote is technically a sink hole, where the earth has given way and revealed the massive underground river running through the Riviera Maya. Some cenotes are ground level, so you can swim, snorkel and dive in the sun. Others are deep underground, where you’ll have to go down a long set of stairs to reach the water, surrounded by a cave of stalactites and stalagmites.
Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos are the two most popular cenotes near Tulum, also likely to be the most crowded, but I put together a guide for the best cenotes you won’t find on the top 10 lists.
2 SCUBA DIVE IN (AND BETWEEN) CENOTES
I learned most about scuba diving through research for Ben. I can’t scuba dive because of past ear surgeries, so i’ll forever be sad I can’t do this adventure. However, if swimming or snorkeling in a cenote isn’t enough of a thrill for you, then book a dive. Three of the longest underwater cave systems are right in this area, so there’s no better place to do some cave diving. Many of the routes are rich with rock formations, so most aren’t beginner dives as you’ll have to carefully control your buoyancy to not destroy the fragile stalactites and stalagmites.
Also, I read that some dives enter and exit from the same cenote, but others will take you through the underground river where you’ll pop out in another place! Check out Cenote Calavera for this.
3 EXPLORE THE SIAN KA’AN BIOSPHERE RESERVE
Looking for an all day adventure? Just south of Tulum lies the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a protected area with tropical forests, mangroves, and lagoons. Basically one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet. It also includes over 120 kilometers of coastline protected by a barrier reef and covers over 5,000 square miles, so you’ll probably only be able to explore a portion of it. Just a few fun facts about the Biosphere: It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s home to over 300 species of birds, has an incredible marine population, plus plenty of land animals call it home too, like jaguars, pumas, and ocelots. Don’t forget to bring a waterproof camera for this adventure!
There are a ton of tours for the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve offered in Tulum and Cancun. Through most of the tours, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Mayan ruins, float through the Mayan Canal, go snorkeling along the barrier reef, visit remote beaches, and explore a bit the lagoons and mangrove forests on a kayak or SUP board.
I’ve included a list of tour companies offering excursions on TripAdvisor here.
Pro tip: If you prefer to visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on your own, there are two access points. The closest one to Tulum is called Muyil. Muyil is only about 20 minutes by car, or you can take an ADO bus. Once you’re at Muyil, you can explore the ruins, walk along the boardwalks through the marshes, and then head to the boat dock for a boat tour of the lagoons and canals. This is the inland portion of the reserve, so you’ll be going through freshwater lagoons, mangrove forests, and even a Mayan canal. The boat tours last about 2 hours and cost 700 pesos per person.
4 KAYAK OR SUP BOARD IN CENOTES OR LAGOONS
Most SUP rentals will cost you $80 a day, and a tour will cost you more. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve also has a plethora of kyacks or SUP boards, but there are a few cenotes closer to Tulum where you can also paddle around.
There are a few companies that offer tours or rentals in cenotes or lagoons near Tulum. Mexican Caribbean Kitesurf, Extreme Control, and Yucatan Outdoors all offer SUP board tours and rentals at spots including Casa Cenote and Kaan Loom Lagoon near Tulum.
5 GO ZIP LINING THROUGH THE MAYAN JUNGLE
Inland from the beautiful beaches of Tulum, you’ll find a thick lush jungle where one of the best ways to explore is from above! While Ben & I were unable to do this, we still highly recommend going. It’s one of the more popular exursions in Tulum. Check out Selva Maya Eco Adventure, which is just a few minutes out of Tulum. The zip lines are at the very tops of the trees, so you will be able to swing over the canopy of the jungle.
RECOMENDED TRIP: You can combine this activity with ATV’s spending your day visiting a monkey plantation, riding ATV’s through the jungle, and zip lining through the canopies- just click here to book.
6 SNORKEL WITH SEA TURTLES IN AKUMAL
Anthor activity I was unable to complete because of our short trip. However, this is quickly moved to the top of my bucket list. Akumal, located about 30 minutes north of Tulum town, is well-known for turtle sightings because they come to feed on the tall sea grass that blankets the calm bay. Due to so many visitors, the turtles’ habitat and food sources were threatened, so there’s been more regulation surrounding Akumal Bay in recent years.
Because there are so many restrictions, the best way to visit snorkel in Akumal Bay is with a tour. We saw at least ten sea turtles while snorkeling around the bay, swimming around and feeding on the grasses.
RECOMMENDED TRIP: You can do both the ziplinig tour and the turtles in one day with Edventure Tours Tulum. The Xtreme tour includes zip lining, swimming in the two cenotes on private property, snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal Bay, and snorkeling in Yal-ku. Worth every dollar if you ask me.
7 VISIT TULUM RUINS OR ONE OF THE 7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD
The Mayan Ruins in Tulum are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area, with bus tours coming on day trips from Playa del Carmen and Cancun. If you’re already staying in Tulum, get there first thing in the morning so you can explore the ruins in its stunning seaside setting before the crowds come. Plus, this area has little shade and gets really hot once the sun is overhead, so it’s better to get out before you start baking.
Afterward, head down to the beach below. This stretch of sand is one of the prettiest beaches we visited in the Riviera Maya.
If you’re really interested in ancient civilizations, you’ll want to spend a day checking out Chichén Itzá, one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Chichén Itzá is about 1 hr 1/2 drive along the highway. This is another incredibly popular tourist spot, so it’s also best to get here first thing in the morning (aka getting up SUPER early). Or if you want to split up the long drive from Tulum, I’d recommend staying the night before in Valladolid, a fun and colorful town about 45 minutes away.
Be sure to read my INSIDERS GUIDE TO TULUM which covers everything you need to know from transportation to the best spots to sleep, eat and drink. Or witness the beauty of Tulum first hand with TULUMS MOST INSTAGRAM WORTHY DESTINATIONS.