Tulum Mexico is a vacation hot spot that has become a coveted jet set locale, attracting visitors from all over the world to its small town charm, exquisitely white, powder sand beaches and the very long list of Tulum tours and activities on offer.
It is Tulum’s singular beauty, a rare blend of ancient and modern Maya culture that meets the allure of a laid back Caribbean lifestyle against the backdrop of Mexico, that has quickly positioned Tulum as one of the most Instagrammed places on the planet.
To prepare you for this unforgettable adventure our team has compiled an essential guide to the top 7 Instagrammable places to visit in Tulum.
You may have heard about the arrival of the Sargassum (a type of free floating seaweed) that began accumulating in large quantities along the shores of many countries on the Caribbean Sea, including Mexico’s Riviera Maya (this started around 2012). This may disappoint some visitors who came dreaming of discovering a tropical beach paradise.
Do not fear. If there is Sargassum on the beach, making sunbathing and swimming less than idyllic, look elsewhere for what to do in Tulum. Our first suggestion is to explore one of the unique geographical identifiers of the region: ‘cenotes’.
Cenotes (in Maya ‘dzonot’) are geological formations that occur due to erosion of the limestone bedrock that makes up the entire Yucatan Peninsula. The rock caves inwards and leaves behind a natural pit, or sinkhole, thus exposing the groundwater underneath.
There are several different types of cenotes, and thousands are spread out all across the Yucatan Peninsula, from open to semi-open cenotes, each with their own unique formations and surrounding natural environment. This amazing treasure trove of sinkholes, caves, caverns, tunnels and underground rivers of beautiful blue freshwater is the perfect playground for nature lovers and definitely utopia for photographers.
Cenote tours from Tulum are readily available for the whole family to enjoy and if you are a little more adventurous and want to go it alone the following cenotes are recommended:
Gran Cenote is a very popular cenote for the whole family as it has a sandy bottom for easy walking. The central garden boasts palm trees and water lilies with a wooden deck for sunbathing. Keep an eye out for toucans if you happen to be visiting during January or February. You will also see numerous bats hanging from the rock ceiling inside the caves.
It is a strange name for a cenote but it is so called due to the fact that years ago taxi drivers would wash their cars here (this doesn’t happen anymore). Carwash boasts some incredibly extensive caves and is a great place for scuba divers to explore. However, even if you snorkel you’ll see a lot of beautiful water lilies, turtles, and tropical fish.
Located 5 minutes by car from Tulum, Cenote Dos Ojos is one of the largest and probably one of the most famous cenotes in Mexico. The cave system of the cenote is known to be at least 40 miles (61 kilometers) and 385 feet (118 meters) deep. As the name Dos Ojos (in English ‘two eyes’) indicates this cenote is divided into two sections, one with transparent blue waters perfect for snorkeling and the other deeper in the system which is reserved for scuba diving.
Be sure to take along fully charged batteries as many cenotes are off the beaten track, and water protection for your camera as you will want to take pictures while you swim and snorkel.
2. Archaeological Sites
There is no doubt that Tulum is one of the best locations from which to explore the many Mayan ruins in the region. Not everyone is a history fan but here you can be swept away by the truly magical tales of ancient Mayan history, from early settlements many centuries ago through the various conquests they had to endure up until a more modern, colorful culture in constant transition.
We suggest three important sites that you can see on tours that offer round trip transportation from your hotel or lodging.
This ruin site is iconic to the region. It is here that history provides Instagram enthusiasts with a perfect setting for those singular money shots. Built in the 13th century for the purpose of sea trading (mainly turquoise and jade) this walled seaport boasts a field of gently rolling hills dotted with black and grey stone outcroppings which were once buildings. The highlight of the site is El Castillo (in English “the castle”) which is perched on the edge of a 40 foot (12 meter) high limestone cliff that overlooks the Caribbean coastline.
Located around two lagoons deep in the Yucatan’s subtropical rainforest, Coba boasts an extensive network of elevated stone roads that connect the main pyramid to various smaller sites. Climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid is worth every one of the 120 stone stairs to get to the top, from where you will be able to see for miles over the forest’s canopy. Make sure you there as early as possible as early walks give you the opportunity to see numerous species of birds, butterflies and other animals, including spider monkeys.
One of the oldest archaeological sites in the region, Muyil is also one of the least visited. Built around 300 B.C. and set in the rainforest of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (a UNESCO protected reserve of more than 1.3 million acres / 525,000 hectares), the many buildings hidden in the forest are all incredibly photogenic. The natural setting itself is perfect for Instagrammars as it is home to more than 350 bird species, spider and howler monkeys, beautifully colored butterfly species and more.
3. Taco Restaurant
For those who have not yet discovered the delights of Mexican cuisine a taco is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling.
Traditionally locals may use a variety of fillings (this differs by region) from beef to pork, chicken, seafood, vegetables and cheese. In Tulum, because of its location on the Caribbean coastline, most popular are marlin, crab, deep fried fish, octopus and shrimp. The taco is eaten without utensils and is always accompanied by different salsas (in this region really hot habanero chilli is a favorite), guacamole, cilantro (coriander), tomatoes and onions.
Be sure to try the ‘Tacos al Pastor’ (in English, shepherds’ style) which is marinated pork that has been grilled on a vertical spit.
Tulum has fast become one of the most popular beach destinations worldwide. Beyond its powder white sand and turquoise blue waters lie natural and cultural treasures that boggle the mind. Things to do include the very popular Tulum catamaran tour, visiting Mayan villages, snorkeling and scuba diving, visiting archaeological sites and even some of the best fishing in Mexico. So pack your camera and all your equipment, and explore an amazing region that will leave you wanting to come back for more.