With what seems like an endless shoreline of pristine beaches and vibrant marine life, the Riviera Maya is home to some of the world’s most sought after travel destinations. Well-known vacation spots such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel are among some of the most frequented in the region, while other less known (yet equally impressive) locations such as Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos, and Bacalar are quickly gaining the world’s attention. Among other destination spots making a name for themselves is that of the ancient Mayan port city of Tulum.
Not too long ago, the city of Tulum, Mexico was rather meek, with most visitors pouring into the city via tour busses and minivans headed to the famous Tulum Mayan Ruins. Today, after years of remaining a local secret, resorts and hotels line the beaches that stretch both north and south of the monumental archeological site.
Home to some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches, it’s a miracle that they weren’t developed sooner. Still calmer than nearby Riviera Maya giants Cancun and Playa del Carmen, the beaches of Tulum offer guests a more relaxed, tropical get-away. Said to have a “hippie” vibe, this is the ideal destination for those truly looking to escape the chaos of everyday life, disconnect, and rejuvenate.
Situated just 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of Playa del Carmen, the city of Tulum has what many consider one of the most optimal locations in all of the Riviera Maya. Within close proximity to ancient Mayan archeological sites, mystic cenotes, exquisite Caribbean waters, and nature parks, this Mexican destination has something to offer visitors of all ages and types.
When planning your trip be sure to allow yourself enough time to experience the incredibly diverse activities that call this region home. To help you get started, below you will find the six best day trips from Tulum.
1. Playa Paraiso
One of Tulum’s most famed stretches of coastline, Playa Paraíso (Paradise Beach), is home to – well – a tropical paradise! With crystal-like teal waters, picture perfect palms, and extremely fine sand, the atmosphere at Playa Paraiso is quintessential for travelers on the hunt for perfection.
Home to uncommonly tranquil waters and vivacious marine life, this beach is ideal for both visitors looking to escape and relax, and those looking to do a little exploring. With a bounteous coral reefs just offshore, adventurous snorkeling is a highly popular activity among visitors. In addition, the sun shines brightly for nearly 290 days out of the year, giving its waters a delightful average temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). While there are many beaches worth exploring in the area, Playa Paraiso is one that you won’t want to miss.
2. Tulum Mayan Ruins
Arguably the biggest cultural pull of Tulum, other than its astonishing natural beauty and pristine beaches, are its superbly preserved Mayan ruins. Perched on a 40 foot (12 meter) cliff with sweeping views of the turquoise waters below, this ancient port city has been mesmerizing visitors for years. The city of Tulum is one of the very few ancient walled-cities. In fact, Tulum in Mayan means, “wall”, surely derived from the city’s structure. After exploring the pyramids, feel free to take a swim at the beach below its foundations. It is truly the perfect two-in-one day excursion.
3. Coba Mayan Ruins
Said to have been home to over 50,000 inhabitants at its peak, the ancient Mayan city of Coba is another Mexican gem. Believed to have played an important role in Mayan trade, the city consists of the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Mayan world, with over 50 roads already exposed – 16 of which are open to the public.
Due to less traffic than larger, more well-known sites such as Chichen Itza and Tulum, Coba offers visitors the opportunity to climb its ancient structures, including the famous Ixmoja. With a height of 138 feet (42 meters), Ixmoja once stood tall at the heart of the city. After climbing its 120 stone steps, you will be overtaken by panoramic views once seen only by the cities native inhabitants. Here, visitors will truly see the world through the eyes of the ancient Maya – something unique to those visiting Coba ruins.
4. Cenote Dos Ojos
When thinking about visiting cenotes close to Tulum, there is one in particular that you need to consider. Quite possibly the most famous cenote in the world, the Riviera Maya’s Cenote Dos Ojos is home to bright blue waters, striking rock formations, and exotic marine life, making it a hot spot for both snorkeling and diving activities.
As a part of the largest underwater cave network in the world, this unique sinkhole consists of two conjoining cenotes, or caverns, connected by a 1,312-foot (400 meter) long underwater passageway. With average water temperatures of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) visitors can comfortably enjoy exploring the caverns incredible stalagmite and stalactites formations or taking a dive down under to catch a glimpse of unique marine life. With tours to this local favorite leaving from Tulum regularly between the hours of 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, there’s no reason for anyone to miss out on this spectacular experience with nature.
5. Akumal and the Sea Turtle Experience
One of the oldest resort towns in the Riviera Maya and home to some the most desirable beaches in the region, the town of Akumal, which means “place of the turtle”, is everything that visitors looking for a relaxed, secluded stay on the beach can imagine. Located only 16 miles (27 kilometers) from Tulum, it is well worth a visit. With long and wide pristine beaches, visitors can enjoy more space as they take in the sun. Not to mention, Akumal is home to one of the most unique, interactive underwater activities – swimming with sea turtles!
As one of the only places in the world where you can get an up close and personal experience with these beautiful sea creatures, Akumal attracts turtle lovers from near and far. With the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef nearby and plentiful amounts of seagrass on the seafloor, Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles (both of which are endangered) call the water’s of Akumal home. The turtles aren’t alone – in nearby Yal-Ku Lagoon, visitors can witness diverse flora and fauna, making it an ideal site for snorkeling and diving activities. Don’t miss out this once in a lifetime experience – take a day trip and live an incredible moment with some of the sea’s most admired creatures.
6. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is home to thousands – yes, thousands – of vibrant species of flora and fauna. Considered the most astonishing region of the entire Yucatan Peninsula, Sian Ka’an, which means “origin of the sky”, contains exquisite natural landscapes such as tropical forests, mangroves, marshes, beaches, and sections of the great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
Truly every nature lover and adrenaline enthusiast’s dream, Sian Ka’an is home to some of Mexico’s most exotic wildlife, including the Jaguar, Puma, Central American Tapir, West Indian Manatee, Sea Turtle, Dolphins, Crocodiles, Manta Rays, and over 300 species of birds. With such diversity in both landscape and wildlife, visitors have the opportunity to partake in almost any activity available at all other Riviera Maya sites, including nature encounters, archaeological excursions, underwater snorkeling and diving activities, bird watching, fly fishing, and of course, a day at the beach. Located 38 miles (62 kilometers) south of Tulum, this is the perfect day drip for those who wish to have a jam-pack day of unforgettable experiences.
It should be apparent – it’s quite difficult to visit only one destination when traveling to Mexico’s stunning Riviera Maya. Luckily, guests have no reason to stress! Whether they desire to spend their days sprawled out on the beach, climbing ancient Mayan ruins, experiencing a Temazcal ceremony, or diving below the water’ surface, the towns and cities of the Riviera Maya are close enough in proximity to achieve it all. However, there is one particular town whose location is hard to beat – the city of Tulum. Be sure to visit this truly remarkable Mexican treasure and to experience all that the area has to offer – you won’t be disappointed!